Following the installation of a yellow line connecting the Wasdale Oak to the shores of Wastwater, we’ve had a strong reaction – both positive and negative. One of the important roles of art is to provoke debate and discussion, so this isn’t unexpected, but our intention was never to cause an upset. We thought it would be useful to reiterate the context for this piece.
The line will be in place for less than two weeks. It is 1.5 metres wide and just over a hundred metres long. This is tiny in proportion of the landscape, yet it does disrupt the accepted view of Wasdale Screes. It is a trigger for a consideration of the way we view and celebrate our stunning landscapes and how we are inspired by them and care for them. Fittingly enough, these are the main subjects that have arisen in the debate about the line. By highlighting a very small part of the vast, dramatic screes it invites attention to the smaller details – in this case a single tree – in the wide sweeping hills that so many people love passionately.
The Lake District has for centuries been the inspiration for artists and writers. Our own response to this part of Wasdale follows our encounters with it over several years, and builds on our wider contemplation of one particular tree, an oak that is thriving in a harsh environment. We have become particularly interested in the way that everything is connected and offer the line as a reflection of nature’s interconnections, with a suggestion (through the break in the line) that it is humans, rather than other aspects of the natural world, that have the ability to disturb these connections. If you take the age of the earth as 24 hours, humans have been on this planet for what amounts to little more than a few minutes, with the enormous evolution of industry and pollution occurring in just a few seconds of that time. The impact that this very slim line has on the much larger backdrop of the screes is illustrative of this global story.
In the National Park there is continued effort by organisations, by farmers and by individuals, through passionate personal work and by communal endeavours, to protect this landscape and to accommodate many different demands on it. Our attention to trees through The Long View is one that allows us to examine the small details of how each tree behaves through the seasons, as well as the much larger picture of how trees fit in the landscape, how we enjoy walking through this national park and spending time in its popular areas as well as its hidden corners, and the stories it holds in its rich history of farming, industry, walking, climbing, conservation movements, literature and art.
The combined purpose of the line was to draw attention to the details within a wonderful and dramatic landscape, and to invite people to join in a debate about the evolution of the national park in the twenty-first century, including the management of land to accommodate trees, grazing areas for the county’s many hill farmers, and access for walkers and tourists.
The line will not last but the debate continues and with a long-term project like this questions and points for discussion emerge as the project evolves. If you would like to get involved please let us know what it is that you value. One way of doing this is to fill in the survey about the way you like landscapes to appear here in the National Park. Another is to share your stories with us, about trees or woods that have inspired you. Thank you.
Please note: if you choose to go and see the installation please view it from the roadside. The paths on the scree side of the lake cross steep and unstable slopes and in parts are extremely challenging. Although there is a public right of way access is very difficult.
The words on the cloth
time circled inside this oak
future in the smooth trust of acorns
land falling into lake
earth into water
water into earth
certain and tenuous as breath
we are woven in
a part and yet apart
not knowing what will happen
when we break the line