Wilding Transformations & Great Expectations.... (Personal Diary 2)
What follows is an edited diary of events, theoretical speculation and conflicts with authority as they happened some of which is alluded to in Nameless Wilding
A young guy on the bridge seeing us with a spade and a rake in our hands said “be careful lads, there’s a patch of ice ont’ t’other end of t’bridge.” He knew who we were and was impressed by our spirit. We obviously are being talked about but nothing like we will be. We then collected some pedunculatus pods and quite a harvest it proved to be; all this in the middle of February! I shall take a particular pleasure in planting (and germinating) their seeds. Somehow it is “Against Nature” but in a good way.
Above: Although Huysmans book contains fascinating descriptions of a natural world gone strange and awry the exact translation in English should be Against the Grain
20th February 2011: Seeded “the humps” or mounds next to the industrial Chicken Itza. Exhausting work. From a distance we noticed a young dad and his son enter on the path we had created. He appeared to be trying to bend the wild privet trees to the ground. A naturalist (of sorts) perhaps introducing his son to nature. Later we saw him on the garage site looking at the ground. Again our ludicrously shaped mockery of a grand project is clearly preferable to the grand puddle in the centre of Bradford and written about in today’s Guardian. I wondered if a Dingy Skipper might eventually perch on a twisted metal bar like it was an ‘industrial’ branch. D said no, “but Iain Sinclair might eventually perch on it. “Yesterday picked up a most peculiar object. It was made of aluminium and hadn’t rusted though moss was now growing on it. “What is it” I asked. The reply came back: “An early Sinclair.”
21st February 2011: Two trips to the vicinity of Trench Meadows to collect around twenty plants of knapweed. Pleased to note that some of the roots contained sorrel the food plant of the Small Copper which really is increasing its presence on sites around Shipley Station. This trip wasn’t tiring and nothing like the Gaisby trek. So come four thirty neither of us felt tired in fact rather exhilarated. We hadn’t planned on doing this. Coming back on the 576 bus to Halifax there was an altercation between some Asian gals. A Muslim gal wearing a hi-jab got uptight about some free lifestyle rip-roaring Asian gals at the back of the bus who at times were swearing their heads off. So did an African gal who was shocked at the effing and blinding. It was a case of Fundamentalist Christianity and Islam at one with each other over this liberating display. When we got up to dismount I turned to smile at the effers and blinders and one raised her arm in clenched salute. Great.
24th Feb. 2012, a dark night. Tonight though was altogether more nerve wracking. Digitised train announcements have been cancelled – probably a cost saving measure – but because of this a couple of trains crept upon us unaware. Only the dark night saved us. Still we managed to put down some birds foot trefoil seed but the path now seems pretty much full with hop trefoil. And we must be extra special careful as the papers are full of reports about stealing copper wire and we were carrying enough lethal tools with us that wouldn’t have stood up well in court. Then we quickly moved onto the ‘hard core’ ballast platform where we cut down some invasive buddleia. None of the passers-by in the car park took any notice even when carrying all the cut branches across the car park stacking them in the rough patches behind the Morecambe platform.
16th March 2012: Went on to clear the copse on the garage site. Suddenly the entire project is threatened. We started by drilling tree stumps and pouring brake fluid down the holes capping them with soil and moss, all in the hope this will kill the roots. Can these areas be saved from some rubbish development? We have somehow to involve the Windhillies; the proly tenants. More and more people are using the Lanolin site walking down the paths we have opened up. But will these people be prepared to support us? And does it mean we have to approach the Windhill Tenants Committee first? We are just so isolated.
17th March 2012: Noticed a hoodie with a dog. He briefly stopped on the bridge, looking into the beck, turned and went onto the Lanolin site. The spaces we have opened up are being increasingly used. Coming back we noticed a car parked on the asphalt of the old anal. Had to be his. It was.
Once back in Great Horton headed to the vicinity of the Village Hall to dig up doves foot cranesbill. In Ward St we were approached by a very young woman who wanted to know what we were doing. Her partner was an Indonesian guy who hovered in the background. She has lived there for six years. Immediately invited us to the local urban farm she helps out in. True, she was somewhat fluffy yet it was a genuine encounter. We described some of the rough and tumble confrontations with authority we have had recently and how in exasperation we had mockingly described our seeds as bombs which explode in the middle of the night as, almost by rote, authority immediately regards us as terrorists. She somewhat haughtily said we should not joke about wayside bombs and we knew instantly she hadn’t got a clue about the state’s strategy of terror and its long and murky history.
19th March 2012: Then moved on to the Baildon Holmes site. First though took a look at the “Tasty Fillings” site noting that some sections of ready fencing have been pulled down making access that much easier. Everywhere it seems security is being increasingly withdrawn. On Baildon Holmes the tin fencing is also still down and the goosander are still on the River Aire. We seeded on the Otley Road end of the site, a combination of cornunculatus and pedunculatus. Also scattered some trefoil chaff after doing a quick break up of the skeletal, stony soil as it was just too windy to add a mix of red fescue. An easy chair has been left at the ‘illegal’ entrance to the site from the bridge to Dockfield Road suggesting people are increasingly using it as a recreational area, especially a place where they can let their dogs roam free from the leash and maybe throw balls for the dog to catch.
21st March 2011: Susan visited our imitation grande projet in Bradford. Her immediate objection was to all the rubbish, saying she could not possibly take ‘Yvonne’ of Shipley in Bloom around this sprawling site of industrial dereliction whilst the offensive litter was still there. The aesthetics of appearance was what mattered objecting to the abandoned tyres around the former Bradford Canal. She then somewhat changed her mind when I pointed out that we had planted some of the tyre interiors with trefoil and were looking forward to the day seeing trefoil overflowing the big rubber wheels. I also showed her the cut leaf cranesbill growing in some tyres. By degrees she began to change he mind, a change utterly obvious at the end of the tour. On the Lanolin site we were approached by a refuse collector wearing a Bradford Council hi-viz jacket. Trouble coming our way (?) - the usual response - but no, he was really curious and wanted to know some of the history of the old canal, details of which, by the by, fascinated him. Like when we got stuck into some of the most lurid facts such as when the canal would periodically catch-a-fire big time burning for a mile at least! People always love that story. All of this incidentally helped persuade Susan even more as we blathered on and on!
That night we returned to Shipley Station imagining the next day’s headlines in the local rag “Night Raid on Shipley Station.” Black humour and blacked-up and then off we went to cut down buddleia on the hard core area of the Forster Square to Skipton platform. The place though was over-run with security and police and we were lucky to escape arrest. But it pulled us up sharpish: do police have unscheduled security blitzes? Is this a question of doing more with less security also maybe involving pay cuts? The community copper who unexpectedly came out the Transport Police HQ would have caught us red-handed. In fact we thought we were faced with an “enforcers” moment and we briefly left the croppers and axe in the disability lift. However the copper continued walking across the footbridge and we hadn’t been rumbled at all.
22nd March 2012: Trip to Bradshaw just out from Halifax. Found mounds of doves foot cranesbill growing on a dry stone wall though it was all entwined with moss, which meant it was easy to dig out and transport to the Lanolin site about ten miles away as we proceeded to bus hop.
The police were still in occupation of Transport Police HQ on Shipley Station meaning another fucking failed commando raid. Are they there because of car theft? We are observing their movements like old style guerrillas or the militants of the French Resistance monitoring an occupying force.
Went to a BUWG meeting. It was a talk on South Bingley Bog. There is nothing inspiring here. This approach cannot enthuse. It’s all about sponsorship and seventy thousand pounds has been spent on paths, railings, and olde worlde hanging gates. It is the herbilandia of wild nature and I would not like ‘our’ site to be taken over and developed like South Bingley Bog. Who the fuck wants special picnic areas, who wants to control movement? What we’ve ‘created’ is wide open; it attracts not repels. It is not a passive site as it is rich in features, far, far, far more so than Bingley South Bog. Reverence for hierarchy rules conservation groups. Here nature flourishes through bureaucratic dispensation; figures lead and businesses give life to nature and middle class women look on adoringly. The philistinism of this approach to nature springs from the philistinism of their everyday lives as Mayakovsky almost put it. Where are THE PEOPLE in all of this? We don’t need picnic areas; we need areas for alcoholics - now that’s much more authentic. Thus the Laura Oldfield Ford’s and the Sinclair’s will always have the drop on these nowhere people.
The improvised railing we made to assist people descending from the bridge from The Big Field to the garage site via the coppice has been untied at one end and laid aslant to stop people using the primitive steps we made. Feel this is the handiwork of some banal jobsworth of a suit. A proper manual council worker would have been much more thorough. Of course such a trifling obstacle does tend to deter the middle class but then this transforming site is not for them. For them everything has either to be paved or unpacked before they will take timid steps. They have no spirit of adventure.
Listened in on a mobile conversation on the 576 bus from Halifax. Though the woman had a job she was going to have to walk back from work. It was only Monday and she was already skint waiting for payday on Thursday, and how very like the 1930s. Walking actually is now a rediscovered activity in Bradford, or rather a necessity. It is maybe why people are tending to use the Lanolin site more and more. Certainly I have noticed more people leaning over the fence on Briggate above looking at the transformation taking place. Walking as a necessity is also opening peoples’ eyes.
3rd April 2012: The bottom of the rock face has been cleaned up in front of the Carters Arms adjacent to Shipley Station. There are three green disposal bags filled with ‘weeds’ for the council garden rubbish collection. Why? Did Shipley in (bloody) Bloom have anything to do with it, seeing all the eponymous ‘Yvonne’ could do was complain about the rubbish on Stead St. Horticulture and herbicide go together – they murder anything natural. Horticulture and unofficial nature are at war.
The concrete blocks on the approach to the tarmaced covered former Bradford Canal from the Leeds Road have become an installation. Someone has sprayed BANKSY in fluorescent green paint on one of them; obviously a complete naïve, possibly hooligan artiste. A piece of table leg, a plastic carton partially filled with water containing a piece of wood, a broken DVD player, leylandia branches have been placed on the blocks. The fly tipping is being used as aesthetic material, a combination of installation, vandalism, fly tipping and feeble attempts by council suits at stopping us - all this is now coming into play.
6th April 2012: Dinnington Colliery again. A heavy day removing carr woodland. The paths we opened up last year are still being used by bikers. One guy on a quad bike stopped to talk. People are wondering who is doing the clearing and for why? We told him about the need to protect the Dingy Skipper and that his quad bike by churning up the earth was providing the bare ground essential to the butterfly’s survival. Ten years ago he would have been hostile regarding the ground as his own private territory now he was more than interested. Indeed bikers and walkers paths diverge; walkers choosing the less muddy paths which in any case the bikers find difficult to ride along. Interestingly, local people appreciate the new freedom of movement we are providing. Unlike Shipley no one thinks to use it as a basis for installation. This is more utilitarian than ‘creative’ but nonetheless really liked by this ex-mining community. They love the fact we are ignoring the rules set out by Rotherham Council forbidding any such actions and prominently displayed on spoil heap entrance notice boards.
Above: The only memory of a dead and gone Dinnington colliery and its vibrant community. A useless semi pit-wheel memorial set in an equally useless and dead municipal park
7th April 2012: Previously we had gone onto the Tesco site along the Otley Road pulling up buddleia over a largish area. Returned today to complete seeding combining dwarf trefoil with red fescue. There are two varieties of hop trefoil already residing. Again how did it get here? Why this trefoil explosion? But no cut leafed cranesbill not even one plant. How long will it take to arrive? (There has for instance been a considerable increase behind Ilkley platform and sufficient to support a small colony of Brown Argus if and when they arrive). We scattered trefoil chaff around and about. It a fascinating site and we even chaffed-up part of a builders’ soil pyramid. This visual demonstration of what could be done wit a heap of earth on flatland could become a model for the now virtually useless flatland official butterfly meadow on Shipley Station. On one of the pyramids a pair of boots was sticking out, like someone had been comically buried. It was an absolute delight; a supreme visual joke especially when combined with the natural potential of the site. It is things like this that make abandoned building sites and sites of industrial dereliction so interesting.
29th April 2012: An eventful week. Discovered an easier run from the top of Gaisby Quarry. It is easier here to lift the trefoil in its entirety, the plants being smaller and the ground was soaked meaning the top roots were less inclined to break. We planted the majority in the old sidings, dummy end platform on Station Road, Shipley. Whilst clearing up part of it a couple of Rail Response Unit employees passed by looking a trifle puzzled. Eventually they returned only to affably ask if we were digging for gold. We laughed and then explained what we were doing adding some bullshit that we were working under the auspices of Shipley in Bloom. We had decided on this strategy beforehand in case we were challenged. The Rail Response guys seemed impressed and had we slagged-off the ‘blue roses’ of Shipley in Bloom they might have been more so, especially if we had said they were only deferring to the example of Harrogate, or rather Bradford with GCSE’s!
The Paribas site has been welded firmly shut. It is no longer merely a matter of deterring travellers and caravans but people in general. The buddleia has been chopped down to prevent the place becoming carr woodland. The reason for securing the site are those of Health & Safety, a sign reading, “Warning: slips, trips, falls, hazards. Danger: Keep Out. This site contains multiple hazards.” Of course it does. However the infirm footpath alongside the River Aire (now in spate) contains many more though no comment is made about that. However this counter insurgency has made us even more determined to enter the Paribas site, even if necessary creating a new footpath down the Aire bank which a security firm will find impossible to block off.
Our chief delight on this rain-drenched day was to find at least fifteen trefoil plants where the old signal box used to be on Shipley Station. D had scattered trefoil ‘tumbleweed’ on this patch a year ago. The success of this illegal venture has exceeded our wildest expectations. The seeds may well have been protected from last year’s drought by the crushed granite stones, moisture forming underneath. We scattered further chaff here and at the other end of the platform, heavy rain providing perfect protection. The train staff are now far less security conscious. Perhaps there is no one to ring on the station, security staff the first to face the cuts. We also amazingly found four young trefoil plants poking through the tarmac on the ballast platform.
Finally felt some sense of victory compensating for the setback on the Paribas site on Dockfield Road. This area had formerly been Shipley’s industrial belt – and still just to say - is. However, right next to the Paribas site there was industrial building that has been converted into a dance / theatre academy. Calling itself the Q20 Theatre, Creative Arts lab, a banner had been hung above the red door which read NYDZA School of Dance for Ballet, Jazz, Stagecraft, Singing & Workshops. Is Bradford poised to receive the artistic makeover that was Newcastle’s fate? Perhaps it is now just too late in the day. But if so, are we destined to play a similar role in bringing this faux creative transformation as we unwittingly did in Newcastle –Upon –Tyne?
Last year it was ‘the fire’, this year ‘the water’. All biblical in apocalyptic description covering the fact that suicide capitalism is largely to blame for this crisis.
Our balustrades and handrails have been taken down. We initially thought the council was the culprit, however on reflection we think it was garage man in retaliation for our environmental crime scene stickers. The balustrades are going back though this time bolted through the trees. He also sought to destroy the steps leaving a concrete lump in front of the steps. The council would never have done this, as it would have constituted a hazard. If garage man wants war he will get it. We must work out our next move – perhaps dumping his plasterboard which he fly tipped in the wood in front of his gates with a message saying he has been filmed doing it and that we intend to notify the council.
4th May 2012: No it was the council after all. Garage man exonerated, as he was too fearful to remove handrails. Returning across the wooden bridge over the Bradford Beck we noticed the big, green plastic council refuse bin had been retrieved from the water. The most likely sub-contracted gang that retrieved it hadn’t the gumption to realise the fly tipping and our improvised steps and tree trunk handrails were two separate things. In fact they may well have thought the steps etc were there to facilitate fly tipping. The tree bent across our labyrinth path through the carr woodland would never deter a fly tipper nor will the stones across the tarmaced surface of the old canal stop a truck driving around them.
Above: vandals and green council bins. Later we removed the ply boards pictured above as beneath lay perfect areas of cleared cloth soils where trefoil was to flourish
20th May 2012: Visiting the site and further ideas spark. I become aware of small, minute changes. I ‘disintegrate’ as I respond to these shiftings. I also start to expand into the environment, like it’s a new me. In so doing that ever-present melancholia begins to lift, as I become a ‘different’ person, like I am also the habitat.
I had run to this site like a lover to their beloved, consumed by an obsession, which is almost an illness. But I lose myself in it and true love is also a forgetting of self.
Stopped off at the City centre to visit the Westfield’s occupation; there is now a mass of birds foot trefoil and possibly the Common Blue is already here. We were allowed through the gates by the guys holding the fort but none of our seeding from late last year has taken which we had chucked over the security fence. It was then that D had an idea. Why not spread the seed chaff around the site, telling the occupiers why we were doing it. Clearly there is an overlap between what we are doing and the occupation movement. In this we get noticed but in a good way. The occupiers welcome the media but we don’t! Still there is contact here.
2nd June 2012, The Respect Party. Occupation is almost certainly a George Galloway ‘Respect’ front; party political manipulation at its worst. The usual stuff – pretending the movement is autonomous when it is in fact organised from ‘on top’ i.e. by George Galloway. Explained something of what we were doing “that we wanted to seed the big hole.” I didn’t realise but I was talking to the Respect councillor from Bradford Moor, Faisal Khan. He was adept at trotting out the party line (i.e. the big hole was bad for business) but privately thinking capitalism itself was in a hole from which there was no chance of getting out of in the immediate future. So why pretend there was? Should Westfield’s come back to Bradford; Respect obviously hopes to claim credit for that. I could feel Faisal Khan was not being honest with me accustomed as he was to holding back exceedingly careful of what he said. It was almost as if he wanted rid of me for I was an embarrassment.
I was going to go back to the ‘open’ assembly at 7 pm to put forward my argument but seeing I was going to be at cross purposes on the lines of the above paragraph I decided to defy this manipulated, ‘democratic’ assembly and simply chuck seed over the fence in defiance of ‘Occupy’ pseudo protocol. So basically I am reacting to them in the same way I do to Network Rail, the council or the land banks. The occupation of Westfield’s marks the decadence of the recent occupy movement, a parody of its former strengths. While I had been talking to Faisal Kahn, someone welcomely interrupted to say they like ‘the big hole’ and the truth is it is a million times better, more interesting than a Westfield’s Mall. It is a symbol of failure, of endemic crises from which there is no exit within capitalist paradigms. It is the objective correlative at the heart of peoples’ lives. This absent centre is us.
Above: Where we could we have thrown seeds through the by now typical blue fencing which surrounds land banks like Bradford’s ‘big hole’. An embarrassed council putting a gloss on this disastrous experiment which, historically it has been so adept at, has taken a leaf out of Incredible Edible’s book making gurky podiums to grow free garden vegetables in the midst of mown lawns. Interestingly nobody seems to take this ready food on offer.
3rd June 2012: It is like we are the anonymous ‘disappeared’ gardeners an invisible force of nature. Within the space of only two years we have created many viable butterfly meadows, a post-industrial butterfly meadow. And it all began with the contents of a packet of green manure from a garden centre in Brigg in Lincs. If it wasn’t for that, I rather think the red and white clover would not be there. Finally we felt a sense of achievement as we waited soaked to the skin under the railway bridge on Leeds Rd. We had carried out a major work of transformation, we had shaped something, left our mark on a landscape. Waiting at the bus stop noticed how many of the huge 19th century York stones holding up the bridge have fossil imprints. Also on each stone there were a couple of deep indentations, which would have been used to lift the stone into place. Inevitably thought about the stonemasons who had constructed the bridge and how different things would have looked 160 years ago. And what of our ‘project’ 160 years hence? A wasteland of fire and brimstone with nothing left to show?
4th June 2012, Penistone station. Sunny intervals were forecast so we took off for the railway junction high on the hills near to Barnsley. The former goods yard has changed but not for the better. The mounds of old blast furnace clinker have gone; the place levelled and cleaned up. Still a number of Dingy Skippers were evident. However, Yorkshire Butterfly Conservation estimates that the butterfly is doing well here though in truth it is nothing more than their usual dose of rash optimism. We would estimate that the colony has declined around 70% since we first discovered it here around 2003. Mostly this is to due to the unchecked growth of carr woodland. The clean up, probably for a proposed park ‘n’ ride scheme has robbed the site of interest – the fly tipping, the thrown away TV sets, the abandoned massive heavy duty tyres. It has become a dull site and therefore of maximum appeal to an unimaginative Butterfly Conservation that fears industrial dereliction, that fears abandoned places because they are ‘lawless’ and anything goes, even for nature. The Common Blue was also flying and we must have seen twenty plus. Most of the Dingy Skippers still looked quite fresh.
Above: Penistone Station in the early noughties before the carr woodland became invasive
Next day Ccoming back through the spinney on the garage site we noticed someone had recently lit a little fire by the beck around a primitive type of hearth and the wood for burning had been neatly stacked against the wall. This is just what we want for it shows people are actively using the place. This practise would be forbidden in an official nature reserve.
Above: Imitation of a Native American powwow communal fireplace on a Bradford Beck wall below The Big Field?
5th June 2012: It was a heavy day’s work bringing with it though the onset of enormous satisfaction. We are truly creating and shaping. This is how life should be lived and the beginning of a new person inside your own body becomes apparent. Unfortunately the feeling does not last because the rest of the world refuses to change.
7th June 2012: Went around The Big Field with a botanist and counted over 60 species of plants and grasses. Typically she never knew of its existence and neither did Susan until a couple of years ago. I think Susan feels upstaged by us and also Shipley in Bloom who are perhaps a bit more abrasive with Network Rail than she is. We pointed to the steel fencing that separates The Big Field from the back of the Ilkley platform. Susan said it had been put there because the railway had been electrified ignoring the fact that it was a symbol of privatisation as against the ideology of public ownership. I said that kids are able to jump the fence. The botanist also immediately assumed it was to avoid paying fares. “No” we replied, “It is to save 10 to 15 minutes because otherwise it means going right around the station approaches.” Before these ridiculous fences went up older people too used this convenient short cut.
13th June 2012, Huddersfield Stn. When I was waiting for the train on Huddersfield station I became an object of suspicion. I stood on the edge of the platform to note the ‘weeds’. A security officer (female) alerted by CCTV came to check me out though she was careful not to confront me.
3rd July 2012, Valley Rd. This is like no other meadow I have ever been in. There is something excitingly unnatural about it. There is a clash of primary and secondary colours. The purple blue of bugle, the yellow of birds foot trefoil and of buttercup, the flaming orange red of orange hawksbit, the pink of the red clover and the dirty magnolia of white clover. It is a living palette, a creation of post-industrial and quite breathtaking in its contrasts and unexpectedness ‘made’ yet not made, something that has been left to grow naturally in a way that has never happened before.
6th July 2012, Monsoon rain. The downpour appeared to be ceasing around 1pm so we decided to hit Shipley and dig some squares in The Big Field where later we could put in clumps of pedunculatus. We though were to be hit in turn by the devastation we found there. The Bradford Beck was in spate (and how!) and horror of horrors had overflowed its banks and swept through the garage site and down Perseverance Road even uprooting parked cars transforming them into floating boats. At first we thought the grasses and trefoil had been laid low like crops are following torrential storms but closer inspection of the debris left behind by the flood confirmed our worst fears. The wood or rather the spinney on the approach to the garage site from the bridge was standing in water like a temperate mangrove swamp, or a miniature Florida Everglade, a morphing environmental frighteningly innovative feature of climate change. Is this the type of flooding event likely to become more frequent with global warming? Is there much more to come, much much worse? This would be like the effects of drizzle should the planet warm by 6 degrees.
Onto the Lanolin site: it looked like a temperate rain forest but minus the wild life particularly insects and birds. The dock, thistles, parsley and grasses grown rank were twice their normal size, more like aberrant creatures waiting to pounce; potential triffids as it were. The clumps of parsley towered above the site like giant hogweed. It presented an unnatural, depressing picture, very green but very dead. We were worried the trefoil was being more than shaded out and that shortly it will die due to lack of sunlight. Again the dreaded thought that forces we cannot control or effect would reduce all our immense effort to nothing. We decided to take a closer look at the raging beck accessing it through the concreted area where the site in general goes out onto Canal Road. There was still a surprising amount of birds foot trefoil, one plant even flowering well over a year since the area was seeded.
Above: The beck in flood and car parts strewn across our creative path
Venturing onto the unofficial path we had cut through the undergrowth last winter by the side of the beck, it was obvious efforts had been made to block it by the council, possibly prompted by the river authority, which monitors the beck. Where before branches and thinnish tree trunks we had cut down had been dragged from the undergrowth and placed across the impromptu path, now car fenders had been used as obstacles! The stakes were being upped. The obstacles had been mechanised and obviously brought in. We initially thought it was an installation as so bizarre; a secret security happening not meant to be looked at, almost an artistic negation. The council dump must have been ransacked for suitable material and what more suitable than car fenders!!! They seemed to sum up the madness of the age, madness beyond redemption exceeding that of all other ages. This unconscious metaphor seemed to be saying do what you will; the car will triumph over the wilding of cities. To make matters worse one of us this very morning had become aware the great saviour of peak oil was now a thing of the past and that shale oil and oil shale would more than make good the deficit. To show our contempt and inject some slight rationality into the situation we threw the car parts into the foaming, angry beck where they were swept away, mechanical porpoises floating on the flood tide. Who knows if the car parts weren’t eventually swept into the River Aire a mile downstream?
We walked back along the former Bradford Canal. Only now it was a sheet of water several inches deep. The water would have flowed over walking boots so we were obliged to pick our way along the inclined, council manicured bank side. The battery on the camera needed recharging. Damn. Although had photographed Mallard’s on a brief pond formed here a few weeks ago in this most atrocious of summers this could have passed as a recreating, a simulacra of the former canal which so fascinated John Ruskin in the latter half of the 19th century. A simulacra care of the achievement of global warming able perhaps to realise that essential part of the failed Aire Valley Regeneration Plan, the third opening of the Bradford Canal!
Above: Mallard's on the tarmaced unintentional 'new' Bradford Canal!
Perhaps it is now too late to even wild cities? Perhaps it is just too late for anything? This is unnatural nature, nature grown strange, alien, metaphysical, malevolent, a monstrosity like Moby Dick defying scientific nomenclature that will take us all down – though this time not one naturalist or ‘human being’ will survive to tell the tale.
2nd August 2012. Nonetheless, we were able to get on with out tasks clearing around some big old stones and ripping up nettle roots and buried bits of carpets which had become soiled over. This is the strangest, most contradictory of landscapes. Nature has not created this – or ever could. It is “un-natural” habitat, something new and inspiring and without precedent; nature conservation with an edge.
3rd August 2012. On the Lanolin site the drain gang were still completing their work. We were there when they pulled off giving the thumbs up salute. The problem had been tyres blocking drains. “Why should kids want to chuck tyres down drains?” a Geordie queried. We explained there had been an immense flood only a month or so and the tyres most likely would have been forced up the drains by the floodwater. Amazingly the drain company had not been given this important fact by Bradford Council when hired to do the job. Talk about un-joined up thinking, no wonder these engineers spent days trying to crack a problem without any background information! Moreover, The Geordie guy said in any case the problems they had to deal with nowadays were increasingly out of the ordinary and global warming and consequent freak weather was to blame. As a drains engineer he was at the sharp end of weather weirding and needed no persuading drastic changes were taking place up there in the heavens.
Above: The Dutch Vandervalk & Degroot company’s drain gang on the lanolin site in Summer 2012
4th August 2012. The Garage site. Because of the brick-stone substrate, the roots of the nettles ran along the shallow, covering soil and could be pulled up in mat –like formation. As usual, we also found ourselves pulling up bits of rotting fabric and even disturbed nests of wood lice that had found shelter between layers of something like Bakelite plastic. This is nature but also post nature. Prior to the industrial revolution nothing like it would ever have been found.
5th of August 2012. The exposed bank sides at the station are ideal for sowing with trefoil. Seeing it was Sunday it was possible to cut down the buddleia on the ballast platform without fear of attracting police and security. The point is to pre-empt the use of herbicidal sprays, and thus in a way, doing the job of subcontracted staff or something like the goons who identify with Cameron’s “Big Society”. So are we mugs? Or rather are we not thinking like the enemy in order to anticipate the enemy’s moves, getting inside their skin in order to thwart them, to make them stumble, to dis-empower them; to take over.
20th August 2012. Return to Bradford and the great disaster. Shock horror! Never in my wildest imaginings could I have nightmarishly dreamt of such a thing happening. Yet it did – and I still cannot believe it.
The beck has flooded once more, driving right through the garage site. Yesterday’s flood was a mere trickle compared to this. It literally broke concrete, tossing it around like it was polystyrene. A double course brick wall had been thrown against the fringe of birch trees we had left when cutting back the wood to make a copse, crushing some of the alder buckthorn we’d planted. This is the fury of the elements and we are powerless to combat it. We can fight the council, we can fight land banks, we can do something about official sponsored herbicide spraying maniacs but we cannot personally combat climate change, well not until the example of ours (and others) anti car, anti spectacular consumption life style is taken up by millions in the highly developed world instigating a mission creep we proudly urge people to adopt everywhere we go. In the meantime despairing thoughts can grip your throat: is it even possible to create habitat now?
I was stunned that water could do this? This time it had even flowed over our “industrial rockery”. Trees we had cut down had even been deposited at the far end of the garage site. Everywhere the effluvia of a somewhat toxic, raging torrent wrapped around tree trunks, the woodland floor washed clean obliterating all footprints, animal and human. Is it even possible to even create habitat now? The vision of a wildlife paradise fades forever. This is the fall of nature and with it human kind.
Will the council construct a floodwall? The cost will be colossal and will require steel pile driving and reinforced concrete. But at least, as it now stand – or floats - the site is safe from re-development. Or will the council treat the garage site as a new water meadow prone to periodic flooding but relieving pressure down stream where the beck flows under the railway line and Leeds Road?
The creation of habitat – what? – no more than the expenditure of colossal effort on a vain endeavour. Our hope is too much like despair; the last desperate dice throw of humanity an odyssey of defeat but an odyssey nonetheless.
But to return to the copse. Again I searched for adequate language – a suitable metaphor even – to describe this scene of desolation on the spot we now call “the copse”. It looked artificial, like an installation artist had mounted it. Formerly we had described it as looking like a mangrove swamp but it was an inept metaphor. The look of a mangrove swamp is natural made familiar to us by film, TV, photos. This though was a scene of devastation – and a touch theatrical - meant to be “larger than life.”
It could have been a backdrop to a kiddie’s panto, a burlesque of a swamp straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. Yet I could only think of the Japanese tsunami still hardly a year old. There was the sound of distant thunder, a rumbling somewhere up stream. Might it not be the thunder of another bore crashing down the beck? I kept nervously looking over my shoulder, half expecting to see a wall of water coming towards me at breakneck speed. The repose has gone forever out of the site; no longer a gentle oasis of wildlife, a postindustrial oasis just off Leeds Rd won from the surrounding desolation. The threat of climate change hangs over it. Might not last week’s flood be a mere trickle compared to what’s coming? Could 20 ft walls of water eventually sweep down the beck, a reverse tsunami? When uploading photos of the first “post delirium” flood, my attention was drawn to the photos of the Japanese tsunami of 2011 which were on the same memory stick. The parallel was obvious. For the first time in my life I had witnessed what raging water could do, its power invincible. Those unforgettable images of large boats leisurely crossing motor lanes as if traffic lights had turned green to make way for water craft not cars – were they not the projections of our apocalyptic psyche, an anticipation of what nature will become in a world warmed by anything up to six degrees?
On the garage site each trunk was like an installation sculpture. A matrix of twigs and branches of right angles to the perpendicular trunk had collected around the base. Stuck to this matrix like it was a notice board were bits of plastic, lino, PVC, empty goody bags, their saturated industrial colours gleaming like jewels in the gloom – crisp packets, chocolate wrappers, glossy cartoons reading “sesame sticks”. Yes, it did look like a theatrical backdrop or an exhibit of rubbish for fools – yet inevitably more sobering, horrible, fascinating because it was so over-poweringly real – no price, unnoticed, no foot prints in the damp earth not even those of a fox – and I was the first to set foot in this post flood world, the first inhabitant of an altered world.
It also seemed like an “occupation”, like this matrix of flotsam and jetsam had been an attempt to improvise walls of sticks, mud, bits of plastic, anything – a reinvention of the wall. Someone had attempted, not that long ago, to construct a yurt in the carr woodland, stringing abandoned electric cable from tree to tree, bending the saplings to serve as ribs over which others, deploying scrounged material, would be thrown. Now the sheer force of the water had done the same, saplings bent over in an arc, their tips touching the ground held down by this detritus of a different soil – torn off branches, rocks, bricks etc. that had been carried along by a mighty surge. Nature’s fury had become the final constructor, the ultimate ‘recuperation’ of a failed revolution against which no redress is possible.
24th August 2012. A forever changed Bradford Beck wall. We demolished the brick wall that had been swept there by the storm surge and now partially covering a couple of the alder buckthorns we had planted. Could I have ever imagined when planting the buckthorn earlier this year that a brick wall weighing well over a ton would be hurled at them? Snapped off by kids or even torn up by the roots by malicious council officials but this, never! This is the sort of world we live in, the unpredictable the norm, the lightening that strikes from a clear blue sky.
Above: The broken brick wall
24th August 2012. The cloth oils of Bradford’s industrially derelict sites – bits of carpet, webbing, stuffing etc. are intertwined with plant roots. Compost heaps of soil, vegetation, cloth, decaying slivers of wood. This is post industrial nature and we are neo-neolithic agriculturalists in a reverse mode reaching out to the Palaeolithic past.
And then the contrast with Bradford – the empty streets boarded up shops – a city pushed to the brink – yet making imaginative unofficial leaps beyond the capability of Leeds.
28th August 2012. Encounters, human and animal…Cleared tarmaced edges of the Lanolin site with an adze a task made so much easier because of it. It’s a heavy tool to handle and I also begin to feel my age. Again it was a case of tearing up cloth soils – sheets of cardid sheep’s wool. They act like weed mats – beneath them a tangled mass of roots, particularly nettle roots and above them a layer of soil made from leaf mould on which grass grows. Tearing it up is like rolling back a carpet mat, though requiring considerably more effort.
30th August 2012 Orange Tip Hill and Shipley Stn. Over the tannoy came the announcement “police to the booking hall” Ah, we had been spotted! But had I heard correctly – perhaps the announcement had been “please go to the booking hall”! But you have to continually break, or rather, at the very least continually bend the law to understand what surveillance culture - continually avoiding CCTV cameras – can do to an engaged subversive.
2nd September 2012. Visit to the inner city farm in Great Horton. We were only able to look through the chicken wire fence. Some 50 hens and cockerels ran towards us thinking it was feeding time. Otherwise this neo-farm was horrible with a terrain of clearly defined paths bordered with strips of tanalised timber. A wooden circle – an ersatz of a Woodhenge – a wooden pavilion, a bird hide, a mound of earth and trees planted at regular intervals. It was just so arranged as to be unbearable. One of the instigators of this project had picked me up when collecting dove foots cranesbill from Ward St in Great Horton. I had told her about the trouble we had experienced with authority when planting seeds. To increase the paranoia of security we had said they were exploding seeds. “You shouldn’t say things like that” she had snapped back. Political Correctness is the opposite of city wilding.
Above: The unbearable twee inner city farm, Great Horton, Bradford 7
5th September 2012. Nutters. Sprayed Round-up on one of the piles of heaped up stones on the Lanolin site. A nutter was sitting in the informal field area we have created. Were this official country park, a character like this would have given it a wide berth. This is countryside for marginals; a marginal’s childscape. For nutters. For suicides. For revolutionaries.
6th September 2012, Valley Rd, Bradford. It looks as if Bradford Council has seeded the intersection of Leeds Rd and Sticker Lane. I cannot help but feel it was the letter I sent to the local paper, the Telegraph and Argus, wot done it. (The letter was a complaint about a council herbicide outfit, which had deliberately sprayed and killed off a flourishing cinnabar caterpillar population by the side of the main Leeds Road.) The letter probably won’t be published simply because it will attract too much interest and trigger a response which will embarrass Bradford Council. One can only surmise what happened behind closed doors – as with so many things we do. Perhaps the T&A were frightened of the Respect party getting hold of it or Profs’ reading it in Bradford’s Ecoversity. Intelligent liberalism is even suspect these days. (Postscript: In fact the letter was published much later but only after the council had tried to rectify the damage by a re-seeding.)
24th of September 2012 Dread Redevelopment. It poured down all day so I went through back copies of the Telegraph and Argus and was disturbed to find the Baildon Holmes site is going to be developed as this is the best Common Blue site on the banks of the Aire. Elland based building company Marshall CDP has revealed proposals for a big Wickes DIY store and a KFC at Baildon Holmes Mills. I was in despair but then thought here is an opportunity to expose the role of Bradford Council in opting for development of a useless sort over conservation and also to expose the greenwash of building company, Wickes and KFC, for they will soap themselves in greenwash. However, we must continue with the seeding concentrating on the area adjacent to the River Aire. The point is how to make as much telling publicity as possible and force the hand of eco-minded people and in that make many, many more enemies. Oh, that it were otherwise. But ecology is, almost in its entirety, in bed with capitalism.
Took some footage of the beck in spate. Tomorrow I intend filming the Aire which I hope will be close to bursting its banks. Further info: Baildon Holmes site was home to British Mohair Spinners for more than 240 years until the company moved its operations abroad in 2004. Large parts of the mill have since been demolished and permission was granted in 2008 to Mondale Construction for 78 apartments and 8 work units. Nothing has happened since, nor is likely to in the immediate future. It seems Ian Lyons is the planning spokesman for Baildon Residents against Inappropriate Development. He said, “The area is badly in need of tidying up and infrastructure improvements. As long as the development comes with section 106 benefits for Lower, or Baildon Holmes junction, it can only be a good thing.” Tony Lipton is the managing director of Beckwith Design Associates, the architect for the proposed retail development.
I get the feeling the residents of the two terraces on Baildon Holmes (built to house the mill workers) aren’t much bothered by the ‘derelict’ site. It is ‘Tory’ Baildon that is most upset by it. It is fear of “Baildon residents against inappropriate development” that may have spurred on Stainforth Construction to chop down the buddleia and so unwittingly assist us in clearing the site.
27th September 2012. The cunts at BNP Paribas. Saw two Common Blues on Baildon Holmes. The male was partially dished. How come they are so difficult to follow once they take to the air? Blue against a straw background should be easy. It isn’t. What is the optics behind this disappearing trick? Will I ever get another chance to film the blues up close on the Otley Rd sites? Sad at leaving the site I was losing something deeply personal to me. I was. But it was nothing compared to the shock to come. Not only have BNP Paribas welded up the entrance to the site, they have sprayed it with Round-up with the ain of killing off the Common Blue colony. It’s an act of pure evil. They had read our web which highlights this colony and is now top of the Google listings on Paribas, West Yorks. Not content with ruining the lives of sub-prime mortgage holders, nature now has to be destroyed. Cunts, cunts, cunts was all I could say.
Above: BNP Paribas site in autumn and summer before Round Up. Note the mat of hop trefoil.
Below: BNP Paribas site after Round up. Death to nature!
16th October 2012. Removed the clods from the squares we dug in the Big Field. These squares are one large ants nest (myramica rubra) and we found hundreds of ant’s eggs everywhere when turning over the sods. I accidentally dug into an ant’s nest but the ants were so docile they barely moved. We were going to sling the old turf by the side of the steel fencing separating Shipley Stn from the Big Field. However, in an instant I decided to create visible mounds of turf in the field. The topography is thus altered, a sort of wartime-like installation we would hide behind – yet also planted. We never planned on doing this as the idea suddenly flashed into my mind and we acted upon it. This sort of thing must have happened on a daily basis on the old commons of yore.
Seeded some more of the Lanolin site – around the exposed rocks and up by the Briggate entrance. Underneath the thin layer of soil was tarmac. We decided this was not a basin after all but a quay where carters would draw up, load up from the barges and take their carts out onto Briggate over the canal bridge. What a transformation is being wrought here. And yet the past matters, not just because of the man-made ‘anti-natural’ topography but also because of the effect it has upon the wildlife that has colonised it. After finishing the seed under the railway bridges we went on to seed across the Leeds Rd. Someone from Killipps carpet shop came across to ask us what we were doing. He was curious, genial even though initially we were expecting hostility. We explained to him adding, “We aren’t planting marijuana seed”. “That wouldn’t stay long around here” he smilingly replied and how different from the hi-viz “I’m calling the police” responses.
Above: The birds foot trefoil seed is planted in the foreground area
17th October 2012. Attempted to dig up full-grown pedunctulatus plants from the Canal Rd entrance to the Boars Well. It was a depressing experience – the stems were much longer than last year’s and were scarcely anchored in the ground their stems coming away in handfuls making it difficult to locate where the plant was rooted. This all had to do with rain sodden months producing vegetation mass with little flower. Nevertheless we got about ten plants away, bagging and replanting them in the far corner of The Big Field in Shipley. Felt somewhat better for doing this. We will try clearing around the remaining trefoil then adzing the plants out. Once the squares are filled with trefoil then the fake starts of the last couple of years may be overcome – and trefoil will forever reign triumphal in The Big Field and the Common Blue with it. But even 2 degrees warming could scotch this reasonable hope.
We then moved on to Valley Rd to carry out the final translocation. The builders’ merchants, Uriah Woodhead had purchased a postage-sized piece of land to much fanfare proclaiming their purchase everywhere in advertising frenzy. They had even placed puny branches of elder across the concrete road barrier blocking one entrance to what is, after all, a public road they’ve illegally seized. Infuriated, we immediately removed them as if they were likely to deter anyone except an inveterate suburbanite who won’t even venture outside if there is a chance of a shower.
As we walked the length of the left hand side of the strip of land by the railway that is Valley Rd I noticed a spectral tree trunk in the distance. Was it an effect of light? As we got near it, I realised someone had sprayed it with silver paint. Artists have followed our intervention as in Shipley though also by authority for there were deep tyre tracks running the length of this part of the site. Had we also attracted the attention of Network Rail just as we had the council on the garage site? In this three cornered dance not one ‘performer’ is entirely sure of the motives of the other two, or there reasons for being there. The ‘artist’ who had spray painted the still living stump silver would not have noticed the wild strawberry plants surrounding it – and therefore sussed that the reason we lopped the goat willow – in order to expose the small strawberry plants to sunlight.
Anyway we dug up about eight plants of cornunctulatus and transported them to the other end of the site towards Frizinghall to where I had seen Common Blues sporting on a sunlit patch devoid of trefoil in September. There is no need to do any more translocating here as the birds foot trefoil we translocated last year is doing very well here. So at least this part of the project is finished. We then dug up several plants of Michaelmas daisies filling three heavy duty sacks leaving them behind an abandoned armchair to be taken tomorrow to The Big Field.
18th October 2012. Translocated the Michaelmas daisies from Valley Rd. What a performance! The minibus went all round the houses and at each turn of the road I was looking to see if a mother with a pram was waiting at a bus stop. In Wrose a wheel chair user got on pushed by a youth whom I reckon was not a relative or volunteer but a workfare victim. This is hardly the ‘big’ caring society but brute coercion instead.
We shoved the daisies into a small patch of the far end of The Big Field. I jumped out of my skin when someone suddenly said “Hello” – a long-haired somewhat refined guy, very definitely a Shipleyite alternative but with a workers’ outlook he could remember when this area was all railway sidings and when as a youth he would take coal from the rail trucks drawn up in sidings. This was his playground just as ours had been railway sidings too. He had like us sold scrap metal even like us too attempting to sell lengths of rail track and again like us, the scrap dealers refusing to buy them even in those far off mid 1950s days. As Crossley’s scrap metal dealers bordered the Bradford Beck what he and others did was to chuck the scrap metal out of Crossley’s yard then take it back into the yard – and sell it back to them! The Bradford Beck had also been a storage depot for purloined metal and he would regularly tread its banks looking for metal. Later (as we remembered) this was also a place where stolen cars were dumped and set on fire remembering when not too long ago five cars had been driven into the beck. We indeed remembered over ten years ago when young teenagers would assemble at the top of the bank sides and view the burnt out wreckage in the stream below. Word would get out fast. Now there are bollards at the entrance to Leeds Rd, which acts as a barrier though also stops the field from becoming a traveller’s encampment. However, it does not stop us from reshaping this marginal area, the fact that it has such a history making it easier for us to do so. This no-go area was now liked by middle class naturalists precisely for this reason, though for us it was an opportunity for reinvention in an anti aesthetic, anti commercial way.
Thanks to our scrap metal ‘thief’ a distant memory erupted deep from within. The cash that I got from selling scrap metal when a kid I put in a box hiding it on top of the outhouse roof in nearby Ossett promptly forgetting about it. Later a roofer who then gave it to my mother found it. As children then money held no attraction even though we were prepared to sell scrap metal. But then what to do with it as couldn’t purchase anything we wanted for we had dreams money couldn’t buy and we lived for these dreams. Entire weeks would pass without any of us touching money or carrying any in our pockets apart from school dinner money. Later the entirely practicable notion of a world without money came very natural to us……I asked our scrap metal guy on the Big Field if he had seen the Eric Francis ad on the back of local Bradford Arriva buses (Eric Francis is a present day scrap dealer in Ossett – and dares to depict an alluring bling-obsessed woman to advertise his firm. All tit and bum with a leg on the table beside her are not diamond rings and jewels but lengths of copper tubing!) A self-promo form of send advertising we all laughed at it, our scrap metal chancer more aware than even we were, the metal market had collapsed. The reason? – the approaching end of the Chinese property boom. On a hoped for urban commons, everything was up for discussion – in front of recently planted stands of tansy and Michaelmas daisies.
3rd November 2012. Woolley Colliery. Again collected several big bags of continental trefoil seed pods to deposit in the nearby old pit sluicing pans which are now dry and at the entrance to the spoil heaps from the Darton / Woolley Grange Road. In fact there was far more trefoil in the pans than I had ever dared hope. All three ex-pit ponds should be covered in birds foot trefoil in three years time and hopefully will bring the threatened Dingy Skipper with it. I am pretty certain the Common Blue is already here. Actually there are two types of birds foot trefoil here, the cornunculatus and pedunctulatus. But why has it taken so long to get here? There are also considerable amounts of hop trefoil and black medick. I spent sometime filming the old sluicing pans, as they are amazing. They are like a post industrial painted desert, the base of the third pan painted grey with ochre (in fact sand) interspersed with blotches of green (hop trefoil). It was like a living palette as if paint had been spilt across it like something from Abstract Expressionism or real life Rothko’s. The shapes are not natural either and yet these spaces breathe with remarkable life.
The contrast between this and the soulless, manicured landscaping of Woolley Grange could not be greater. And yet the residents will most likely think these beautiful manufactured landscape depressions are nothing but unfortunate eyesores. And to think I had watched the rare Little Ringed Plover hop around the perimeter of the sluicing pans and behind it the necro walls of Woolley Grange housing the suburban living dead. There is nothing remotely social about this estate – no pavements or pathways, just road surface, hard standing, parked cars and no people plus no shops! There’s no greater contrast between life and death, hope and despair anywhere in the county.
In the pans the encroaching carr woodland will have to be monitored. If we begin to fell trees we cannot do so discreetly. Chances are the police will be called -------. The memory of these amazing pans lingered on hours after we had left, raising our spirits, the three rectangular squares imprinted on our memories. Unforgettable --- an inspiration --- a promise of what could be the most amazing Dingy Skipper site in the country. However, ignored by naturalists and especially Butterfly Conservation because they have no feeling for the new beauty of industrial dereliction.
We finished the day off by scattering pedunctulatis trefoil seed pods around the upper entrance of the Darton / Woolley Rd. Photographed a strange installation on the way back from the spoil heap to Darton Stn. Someone had sprayed fly-agaric mushrooms plus the bowl of a birch tree with silver paint just like someone had done with the stump of a goat willow on the Valley Rd site in Bradford. Basically both ‘interventions’ were indistinguishable in style. Was it the same person? Are we being shadowed? Or rather than ‘Pitman Painters’ were these examples evidence of ‘Post Pitmen Conceptualists’? Or was installation ceasing to be a conscious ‘artistic’ act and becoming a more random activity? A sort of posting of meaningless signs; signs posting a gathering madness, which will never end up on a gallery wall even as a photograph. And yet we were both sure this ‘still life’ had been photographed. Is it the fashion for edgelands that attracts? Or is this the direction tags and pieces are now taking, something which is local and not done by art students from Sheffield and Leeds?
4th November 2012. As it was a Sunday and security generally absent and fewer trains we decided to clear bracken from the back of the Ilkley platform on Shipley Stn and then seed with birds foot trefoil. It was relatively easy to turn the soil over once the bracken had been cleared and much easier than if it had been covered in grass, which through its roots tends to mat the soil together. We dug up both sides of a culvert containing signalling cable. It was very visible work and certainly the most visible alterations we have ever carried out around the station. We provoked things further by piling up stones and slabs into a bogus installation deliberately to attract attention. If it goes unnoticed it will tell us much, namely that there has been a considerable decrease in surveillance due to lay-offs. Or perhaps if noticed, station staff will be afraid to do anything about it because it looks artistic but also eco and the station staff do not want to be accused of philistinism and, more importantly, wasting Network Rail’s money by drawing attention to it, especially as the latter’s finances are deeply in the red!
From a pile of stones (which will provide essential basking habitat for the Dingy Skipper) it became ‘installation’ when I stuck a shattered piece of rusting drain pipe in it and then adding to it by piling a regular grid of oblong block of concrete on the pile. Meanwhile I had found an abandoned bike saddle which Duchampian-like I deliberately stuck in the ground (never thankfully to get into an art gallery) and the rest of the bike looked as though it was buried beneath the soil, though also looking like a huge manufactured autumnal fungus. D around the same time had found an old platform 4 sign that had been chucked away over the platform wall which he then put behind a length of old cabling strung out over the wall’s stonework. Officials if they inspect it will notice this and possibly may feel out of their depth, non-plussed as if the rug had been pulled out from under their feet.
This is a war game with a purpose and we are playing with their cop minds, learning how to subvert their dead cells from within rather than ceaseless direct confrontation, which they would most likely win, by deploying restraining orders and stopping us from ever entering again the precincts of Shipley Stn. But sooner or later their patience will probably snap and enough will be enough. When this happens not an eco voice will be raised in our support to a man – or rather woman – and the doors of Bradford’s pathetic eco groups will be shut on us.
23rd November 2012, Valley Rd. Last time I was in Bradford I had seen smoke rising from the piece of adjacent land purchased by the builder’s merchants Uriah Woodhead. It was an ominous sign something like the smoke signals deployed by Native Americans prophesying war. I was not wrong. Getting off the bus with our trollies we had intended digging up some Michaelmas daisies and o turning the corner we found the road had been completely fenced off. The bastards. So we were forced to go up to the railway bridge which added a further half a mile each way. My mind was in turmoil: what if the entire Valley Rd site had been completely sealed off. But this response was OTT because we need not have worried.
However there is now no way we can seed the Rapley’s land bank site because Uriah Woodhead has sealed all access to this public thoroughfare linking Valley Rd to Canal Rd. To me it looks like an illegal act of enclosure but with the connivance of the council. The tiny triangle of land Woodhead has purchased is an East European drinking den. It seems the building merchant’s vindictiveness did not just stop here. It looks to us that they had crossed Valley Rd into the old sidings site running parallel with the railway line and had maliciously destroyed the couch and easy chair that had been dumped there and used by the drinkers as an outdoor living room. Not content to turn the chair over, they had ripped-out the stuffing making them impossible to sit on. To me it was the equivalent of destroying the cottages of the poor from centuries ago so all that was left are fences and desolation. We then noticed someone had sprayed up in silver paint “Wake Up Sheeples” about a quarter of a mile away a stump of goat willow had been sprayed with the same paint. Are we being shadowed? This is art drifting into genuine contestation.
Written by: The John Clare Collective (Winter 2013)