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Saturday, 4 July 2015

The Flavour Exchange Mystery Tour

Photo by Andrew Rushton

We gathered at Birmingham Moor Street Station to begin our walk in a mystery destination.
Still Walking had arranged a lovely souvenir ticket with a pot to collect things in on the journey, which worked really well with our ideas for interventions along the route.

A diverse group of walkers, different ages and backgrounds, we set off on the train, having discussed the idea of visiting all the senses on our walk.

Immediately, on arrival at our destination at Earlswood, we became aware of the different sounds in this place from the centre of Birmingham, only a 20 minute train ride away.

Photo by Andrew Rushton

We set off along the road but soon jumped over a stile to walk through a beautiful tree lined path and into a field of chest high rapeseed.

Through the gap and into the woods
a sense of squeezing through 
then an invitation to relax and breathe

Stumbling out of the field we entered the woodland of Clowes Wood. Again the sounds changed. Here we stopped for a while and listened, with our blindfolds on, without speaking for three minutes. Each person gave a word from their experience.


Time to Listen

Hum hum
Chatter behind
Pleasant drift 

Hand stitched dry oak leaf offering bowl

A little further on, as we became aware of the softness of the ground beneath our feet, we came across a beautiful oak tree that had grown to form a bowl in the middle of its trunks. We enjoyed the embrace of it, and began to place things in the hollows of its trunk roots.

People have always had a deep connection to forests, woodlands, trees; for the food, shelter and materials they provide, the symbolic and imaginative potential they hold, the habitats they provide for fungi, moss, lichen, other creatures and insects. During our scoping walk we decided it would be appropriate to make an offering / libation vessel to offer to the coppiced oak.

After the Listen Intervention we gathered by the tree and participants were asked to decide how they would like to use the bowl and what they would like to place in it. We brought a foraged oak sapling, water, birdseed, a plinth / stand. Eventually the group decided to fill the bowl with bird seed and that Richard should keep the sapling to plant in a spot of his choosing to replace the one he'd lost in his own garden.

Photo by Andrew Rushton

Wandering on through the woods, we came into a wider clearer space with tall slender beech trees. The wonderful dens that had been here when Carole, Jo and Ben had visited previously had collapsed, leaving a bundle of large sticks on the ground. And so we set about recreating something from the logs, allowing their shapes to lead us.

Photo by Andrew Rushton

A quiet enclosure, and other place to Listen

We found an empty concrete pillar that looked like it had once housed a plaque. Looking up, we could see the plaque high up on the tree above the pillar! So high it was hard to read - we speculated: had it been placed up there high, or nailed to the tree further down which had then grown and lifted it?

Further along our route through the woods, we discovered another empty post. This time we were prepared and fixed a new wooden plaque to the post. We decided on the words we wanted on the sign, and printed them using the blocks Carole had in her bag.



We finally reached the other side of the woods, opening out into the Lakes. We followed the path around the lakes, looking out for the kingfisher that had been spotted on a previous visit. Small markers intrigued us, mounted on posts and remnants from old lock systems.

Where the two lakes are split by a pathway through the middle of the water, we stopped for our final intervention: the Flavour Exchange. We all set out on a picnic blanket the home made and foraged foods that we had brought with us to share - what an excellent spread!

Well satisfied from the mutual generosity of everybody's flavour gifts, we then wrote luggage labels about our day, and tied them to a rusted fence that looked like it needed our attention! We left them hanging there as an intrigue for other visitors, and made our way to The Lakes station, where we were just in time to view each other's collection jars on the platform and then catch the train back to Birmingham.

Labels and thoughts

The beautiful tickets created by Pei, Wanting, Fotis and Bink, MA students at BCU on the VisCom course. The tickets joined together to create the title of our walk on the reverse.

The Ticket jars filled with all the items we collected
On the train we asked a passenger to draw the winner of our Outdoor Art Kit - our winner was Anna, who couldn't quite believe she had won!  We hope she enjoys the kit.

Our winners!

Thanks to everybody for their generosity in sharing flavours and sensory experiences. And huge thanks to Ben and the Still Walking team for allowing our walk to happen.

If you would like to see more of the Interventions and images from the walk follow this link

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