We are looking for contacts, local community groups, interested individuals, routes into funding, places to exhibit, support, volunteers, publicity and people to network with in order to develop our projects.
Please contact us by emailing milesanddacombe@virginmedia.com.

Monday 25 April 2011

Aps and Mapping...or One Carole on a Bike

With the onset of good weather I have been out and about on my bike after a gap of about 6 months and having resisted for about 8 years I now have a new phone, one with a camera, mobile internet access and a raft of Apps to delight and bemuse! There is a compass, which has an old school look to it

One of the nice features connected with the phone’s camera is that it will drop a pin in a map every place you take a picture on the phone,

by pulling out the screen you can see the locations in greater detail and it’s a lovely record of a journey, you just need to remember to capture an image at each place you stop!

You can make a screen grab of the map / maps to keep as a record after you’ve downloaded the photos to store elsewhere.

There is a Find My Phone app – very handy so long as someone else’s phone can find mine! There are loads of walking, fitness and calorie counting tools, many of which are free. Many of the walking, cycling apps will also calculate how many calories have been burnt during an outing.

Map My Ride is a very handy app and can also be accessed on the Internet. The app enables you to create a route as you are doing it but it is quite heavy on the battery. Yesterday’s cycle is incomplete as the phone ran out of charge 2 miles before the end and we forgot to add the extra information before saving.

It is also possible to look at the route in satellite format, there are other map options :- Hybrid, Open Street, Terrain, Traffic which gives even more information about unfamiliar locations, the little walking man makes it possible to take the street view.

I have to confess that Map Man has been responsible for designing the routes so far and still loves to mark things out on a good old ordinance survey map. As I am a relative cycling novice I do whinge a bit about hills (well the really big ones) and am not a great fan of cycling through traffic, but my confidence is growing.

Until I feel totally road savvy we have been trying out the most local cycle paths, what a great asset they are! Our last cycle was just over 23 miles at a leisurely pace with stops for exploration, investigation and a spot of picnicking.

The route took us across two different bridle paths one of which was very close to the local railway line; sadly I wasn’t quick enough to catch an image of a train as it coursed through the landscape.

We came across a ruined farm building sitting in a field of oilseed rape, it’s only moments away from being completely consumed by nature. The ground is incredibly dry, there’s been so little rain and yet there is still an incredible lushness everywhere.

We broke our ride in Finedon, in St Mary’s Churchyard, a beautifully kept, romantic place with a fantastic array of time worn head stones,

gargoyles gulping mouthfuls of blue and sun soaked ironstone walls, which spoke of other times and a different pace of life,

a Red Kite circled low enough to make out it’s wing markings.

Over the low walls, in the distance you catch a tantalising glimpse of Finedon Hall, a building which so nearly fell into complete ruin. You can read more and see archive photographs here

Whilst trying to catch a clearer view of the Hall we discovered cottage gardens, drying washing, the tantalising aroma of Sunday lunches, chickens, huge horse chestnut trees in full bloom, a disused scout building and the entrance to Finedon Pocket Park which bears the remains of the railway line that transported the iron ore quarried there between 1939 and 1949. Ironstone is characteristic of Northamptonshire and you can read more about the mining that took place in Burton Latimer (another point on our route) here

This building on the housing development behind the Church was one of the most curious meetings of ancient and modern

Rather than taking the short route home we backtracked across the second bridle path, catching sight of small groups, or couples out walking. We came across what looked as though it might have been some sort of railway building, bearing the ghosts of windows past

and found a row of houses, which might have been railway cottages as they were very close to the existing line

In some ways the whole day felt very Enid Blyton, but in a good way, choosing a slower mode of transport somehow takes you out of present time and creates spaces for contemplation, which may lead to future actions. The past is never the cosy postcard we send to ourselves but these cycling links are well worth a watch if you’re thirsty for a drop of nostalgia.

Cyclists' Special - part one

Cyclists' Special - part two

Monday 18 April 2011

Snibston Lines and Connections

My third and final walk to Snibston started at the pink gates of Belvoirdale School near Coalville's town centre, and followed the route of the old railway line that used to transport coal from the mines.

Our walk took us along these lines, noticing the crossings of bridges and paths, and then climbing the hill through the country park.

Our first clue to where we were was the long straight path from the car park at the supermarket which goes towards town and then crosses over, eventually linking to the old rail track that Snibston still use for steam train rides.  The straightness of the path immediately made us wonder if it had been a rail line, when one of the children, Reuben, being sharp eyed, spotted the rail gate that is still at the end of the path, which confirmed our suspicions!

When I look at maps of Coalville, no matter what era the map is from I can always orientate where Snibston is by identifying the shape of the railway.  For me, the gentle curve of the rail line has become the signature of Snibston.

The shape of the walk from Belvoirdale with railway line
The walk took on the theme of lines:  we noticed the rail lines but also a ladder on a roof that seemed to lead nowhere.  We noticed cracks in glass panes or paintwork that suggested maps.  We found paths that connected to other paths, creating networks and straight lines.

Once at Snibston I showed the group how to make prints, and we all drew things that we had found on the walk.  Their drawings and prints were great!

My third map is inspired by this print by Liam, aged 7:

Liam made a print of the ladder we had seen that led nowhere.  He then repeated his print, and made another one for the corner shapes, so the print turned back on itself and joined up again.

Liam's print looks like a ladder.  But it could also be a railway line.  It could also be a map.  I love that it almost echoes the shape of our walk, returning back to the beginning, just as we walked back to where we started.

My final map will be about following lines and connecting back to the routes we discovered.

Tuesday 12 April 2011


As we walked further out from the station, the feel of Perry Barr started to change dramatically.
Like Corby, Perry Barr has undergone a programme of regeneration and the One Stop Shopping Centre seems to be the flagship for the new, the clean, the modern and the convenient. The shops are full, the place is busy, it’s functional and like many other out of town retail complexes but its aspect and orientation does much to combat the impression made by Perry Barr when you alight from the station. There is energy and hustle, students and locals add to the hum of energy.
We decided to explore the University Campus, once again the nicest spaces were sheltered, curled inside, tree lined walk ways, small, planted courtyards, intimate study areas not immediately obvious from the outside view. From the steps leading up to the Student Union building you could see a sculptural conglomeration of pipe and ducting – reminiscent of a Paolozzi design or sculpture.  Jo particualrly liked this as an gritty industrial backdrop to the shiny newness of the University piazza.

We continued walking, trying to find the edge of Perry Barr, or at least get a sense of its size.  We asked how large Perry Barr was?  We were directed towards a park, it seemed to imply this was as far as "Perry Barr" went.  So we carried on down the road in search of the park.

On the way we passed the Greyhound Stadium.  We already knew there was a Greyhound Stadium here and were quite excited as Carole owns a whippet.  But of course when we got there the Stadium was empty.  It was really strange, a place that would be a hive of excitement and atmosphere when the races are on, but when empty it had a weird feeling of loneliness and abandonment.

We stumbled upon the zigzag bridge, now dwarfed by a newer bridge just upstream which carries the traffic. The zigzag bridge itself is just for pedestrians, providing a really rather lovely, surprising and odd little path.
It was a long walk to Perry Park and we weren’t really sure if the park we came upon was the park we’d been looking for. They were building a new skate park, men and diggers were busy moving earth and reshaping the landscape. A lone skater practised his moves on a relatively new skate ramp. A path wound past the heavy vehicles and busy men, there was an expanse of grass punctuated by trees and drifts of crocuses. 

A bowling green awaited bowlers and spaces cried out for parents and children, picnics and play. 
We peered over a wrought iron railing and saw a drainage channel lined with Victorian blue brick. A man in a suit picked his way along the channel, measuring stick in one hand, camera in the other. He told us this was the first time the water had run so free and clear in many years, his face was a picture of pride and happiness at the completion of a job well done.  We all agreed that the structure did have its own beauty about it.
We were particularly struck by the park, how beautiful it was after the business and urbanity of the part of Perry Barr that we first arrived at, and yet it was practically empty of people even on that glorious sunny day.  Another man working on clearing the channel told us that the park was always this empty.  We felt an urge to adopt the park, draw people to it, fill it with noise and laughter.

In the distance, on the far edge of the park, we could see a large construction project underway.  This, we were told, is the new stadium, due to open as part of the Olympics.  Obviously there were big plans for this area and we wondered how the stadium would affect the park - would it draw more people to use it?  We realised that the "Be a Star in Perry Barr" campaign must be part of this project, to involve local people in the Olympic event.

So what next?   - We want to come back, meet more people, and explore more of the area.  Our visit gave us lots to think about and the great thing about train journeys is that short amount of time to reflect on where you have just been.  

We discussed our impressions and the idea that Perry Barr had many friendly and positive things but these were underlying and hidden away, like the people, sense of community, the park and the zigzag bridge.  We wondered, where is the heart of Perry Barr?  This idea is something we would like to develop into a proposal for the town.  A way of mapping and networking Perry Barr and the impressions of people who live there - where do they think the heart is?  Does each person have a different location for their heart?  Is it a very personal thing?  Where do people get together?  What potential is there for community celebration?

 If you live in Perry Barr, send us your thoughts on Where is the Heart of Perry Barr?