Archives for the month of: April, 2011

A double whammy this week, as it’s almost time for environmental artists Simon and Caitlin to start work on their latest creation at Harting Down…

Well here we are less than a week to go before we start building our first temporary structure on Harting Down. Last week, standing on the rise overlooking Witcombe bottom, I was quietly overwhelmed by the deeply rooted beauty of this place. No deer that day (I’ve seen hundreds here); the occasional conversations of birds were the only sound to break the phenomenal silence of the place. This was one of those moments when, yet again, I thought ‘why build anything here? This place is perfect.’ A question you may well imagine gets asked of us often enough. Our answer is hard to put into words.

We see ourselves as facilitators, asking people to be aware of deep worlds hidden in nature. By altering the landscape, adding to it, just for a while, we can highlight, question and explore different aspects of the world around us currently concealed by our own familiarity. Even if you are lucky enough to walk this place every day, or every week, there are still ways of seeing, ways of experiencing a place which people never knew existed.

An example of Red Earth's work

Red Earth's work is inspired by their surroundings

Our installations are not meant to detract from a landscape. They are made from it, respond to it, highlight one or more of its hidden elements. And in the end, they’re temporary. This one gone by October, leaving, we hope, a good and lasting memory of a place changed – even enhanced – by our efforts.

Over 20 years Caitlin and I have been exploring the landscape, especially the South Downs, through sculptures and performances, and now with our three lively boys in tow. We’re just a couple of folk, working with some other talented artists and craftspeople, attempting to make something happen which stays with people a long time. We still don’t quite know what it is we manage to create. But it seems to work. And after all the ins and outs of planning and logistics and emails and press releases and re-planning, at last here we are. Only a few days of panic and madness before we can spend two weeks just working solidly in a fantastic space, on the wonderful task of making physical something that currently exists only in our imaginations.

Visit www.redearth.co.uk to find out more about this project and how you can get involved.

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How time flies. We apologies for the lack of blogs latley. It is a busy time here as all our houses and gardens open. Now however, Mark councludes his short blogging stint by telling you how you can become a volunteer shepherd.

We have very recently set up a scheme for visitors to Reigate Hill in Surrey to help the wardens check the sheep and cattle that graze here.

The sheep and cattle help us by grazing the rare chalk downland habitat and stop it reverting back to scrub and eventually woodland. On the steeper slopes of the hill they are invaluable as it’s impossible to get any machinery on the slopes to clear the regrowth. We use Belted Galloway cows and Black Welsh Mountain sheep as these breeds thrive on grazing the poorer types of habitat found at Reigate and are also very friendly to visitors.

One of our newest recruits, Antonia, wanted to share her reasons for volunteering:

“I spend a lot of time looking for my Border Terrier Loki. I sit and wait patiently while he counts the rabbit population on the side of Reigate Hill and checks whether any small holes are really too small for a dog of his size and doubtful intelligence. It was on one of these occasions that I spotted the pink poster asking for volunteer stockpeople for the National Trust. I have a secret yearning to be a vet but haven’t the sheer animal vitality (excuse the pun) not to mention the brains to embark on the years of training. I’ve volunteered for animal charities but they always involve domestic pets. Here was my chance to get up close(ish) and personal with cows and sheep. The top of Reigate Hill is so beautiful whatever the weather and now I have a perfect reason to push myself up the side, rewarding myself with a brief one-sided chat with Billy and the girls, while I run an eye over them. It’s a great opportunity to get to know the animals and feel I am doing something worthwhile whilst enjoying myself.”

So if you interested in becoming a volunteer shepherd or even just want to find more about the scheme them please email Marc Russell at marc.russell@nationaltrust.org.uk or telephone us on 01342 843 225. No experience is necessary and basic training is given. You can volunteer as often as you like – even if its just every now and then – anything is a great help.