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Building the landscape gallery: Engineering social change

John Lindsay, Reader in Information Systems Design, Kingston University, UK

Paper for the Tourism and Cultural Change Conference, Sheffield, 2005 (draft)

1. Absence

Reading the call for papers for this conference, I was struck by the absence of any account for what might happen when you returned from a tour. This emphasis was underlined by the keynote speaker, who spoke of narratives, but not of actually doing anything. There was also an absence of paragraphs breaks in the published abstracts. It seems to me that when you go on a tour, you bring back ideas which clash with your home experience. The ones I will consider I will call sustainable development, cultural diversity, and engineering social change. The latter two unpack the cultural change in the title of the conference for that seems to me to conflate the actor and the action. I want to try to investigate some of these interactions by describing the building of the landscape gallery. The particular thread that I add, which no one else in the world might be interested in, is the role of the new information and communication technologies contributing to the construction of the scholarly apparatus, the assembly of references to documents.

2. Agencies

The Higher Education Funding Council or England now has an action plan and strategy for sustainable development, the Archives, Libraries and Museums Council in London has a cultural diversity strategy. The Arts and Humanities Research Council now has a strategy for landscape and environment, access and ownership. Are these innovations, or continuations of practices of the past? Where have the ideas come from?

3. Sheffield

Letıs use these categories to attempt to build a landscape gallery for Sheffield. We implement sustainable development saying that we want public transport and walking. We arrive at the railway station with an Ordnance Survey map. We visit the railway station concourse, then the public transport interchange for Sheffield, at which we acquire only one of the hundreds of leaflets, then we walk through the Winter Gardens where we find the tourism information centre, which tells us about the Botanic Gardens, which we visit. In a shop we pick up the Sheffield A-Z, which is a good job, for otherwise we would never have found the Botanic Gardens. We have a pamphlet which tells us in categories separate, in order alphabetical, over an are of perhaps 1,000 sq miles, places worth visiting, but we have to work out an order realistic. We have now a collection of leaflets dealing with public transport and a collection dealing with places possibility, but nothing joins them together. We visit also a couple of galleries during which we find Jones, J&M, historic parks and gardens in and around South Yorkshire, complete with a scholarly appartus, and we find a leaflet which announces:

But where are they, these 150?

We could go further, Pevnser in 1959 tells us that ³None of the big cities of England has such majestic surroundings as Sheffield². I can see them, but how do I get to walk in them?

We find the new Pevsner, for Sheffield, the consequence of a marketing break with the past. But it is still the buildings, not the spaces in between, not the gardens and landscapes or walks, or 'green corridors which penetrate down to the very edge of the city centre.'

But we have also something in our mind, for we know that around 1900 was founded the Sheffield Clarion. This was an early Ramblersı club, founded by G.H.B.Ward, who published a handbook every year and involved the group in increasingly illegal activity, culminating in the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1936. This begat, in some manner, the idea of the national park, the country park, right up to the Countryside Rights of Way Act implemented over the last couple of years.

In the public library there is an extensive local history collection which has a complete set of the Clarion. I open the volume for 1935, and my mindıs eye sees a reference to Edward Carpenter commemorative walk, with its route, and a quote from one of his works. I check back to 1934, the walk happened that year too. Carpenter died in 1929. What is going on? Why on earth were the Sheffield Clarion commemorating Carpenter? I donıt have time to follow this any further, but this connects with another activity so I shall have to return to this matter.

All the Clarion walks were from public transport and skimming through the couple of volumes I see references to what must have been a now destroyed tram system, which might in some parts be paralleled by the modern one, to journeys by train, by bus, though I donıt see any which start in the city centre. I was presuming someone would have done all of this.

There is such a substantial collection in the local history collection that nothing jumps out, none of the material I have collected already. It will be a substantial work of bibliography to work through.

But I was presuming there would be more on the Clarion than this, there is after all a commemorative plaque on the entrance of the Town Hall, though I didnıt know this either until I saw it while attending the Lordly Mayoral Reception.

The library also has a Sheffield Information Centre next to the library. I ask there whether anyone has been through the walks of the Clarion and brought them up to date? I am given the address of the local Ramblersı Association. There is a leaflet of the Strollers, who stroll everywhere by motor car, a leaflet on women walkers, but none of the material I have already collected.

They donıt have the local theses from the local universities.

I am going to have to do a lot of work if I want to make something of this. Building a green and smart will not be easy.

A green and smart is a knowledge base in which I combine the walks, the public transport access, into a notation and visualisation so that walking in and around a place becomes much less work than the collection of leaflets which I already have. This combined with the scholarly apparatus for places of great landscape interest or beauty makes the landscape gallery.

The landscape gallery on the other hand doesnıt need the completeness of a green and smart, I might have simply one exhibit in the landscape gallery, and so it shall be with Sheffield, well slightly more than one.

I have re-organised all the material collected so far, and grouped the Cathedral, Lady Bridge, castle site, Town Hall, Grave Gallery, Public Library, Peace Garden, Winter Garden, bus interchange and railway interchange into one.

The Botanic Garden makes the centre of a second but I donıt have time to extend that, though extending it is needed, even working out the public transport access I havenıt done yet, and only when the work on Weston Park is complete will I be able to see whether it works.

4. Malin's Bridge

Beyond the centre, where should we look? At this stage remember, I donıt yet know about Jones. The logic is to look at the tram line, for that will give me two outcomes. There appears to be no leaflet describing what may be done from the tram. One thing is the Five Weirs Walk, but that leaflet says nothing about which tram stops to walk. I take the tram to Meadow Hall and back, but donıt have the enthusiasm, this is all too built up. I take the tram to Middlewood, perhaps a Don River Valley Walk, but this is a depressing estate. I take the tram to Malinıs Bridge.

Walk from the last stop up to the bridge, and bliss, a river, sparkling, and a small reserve.

Take a road, on speculation, slightly up hill and round corner, past a disused mill with still its water wheel in place. In London this would have been a desirable residence, here derelict. But I have found the next set of weirs. I am becoming fascinated by Sheffieldıs weirs. They are a beauty and an industry. Something could be made of these weirs. The sound of the water is enough to dull out the traffic, the sparkle, the movement, the patterns of light.

There is a footpath, and I am back down by the stream, and footpath through woods, serpentine line, this is it, up a hill, and wonder and bliss. A lake. Or a dam as it is called here, and a sublime, sluice with drop into the river valley, all so simple. The walk continues up the valley, up the hill, and later I find, I am in the Loxley Valley.

So I found one of Pevsnerıs greatest natural assets, a green corridor stretching, well not quite right into the centre, but to the end of the tram line.

Why are these not promoted, health, green, walking, nature, picturesque, these are all buttons for up market tourism?

5. Sheffield Park

Sheffield Park was the hunting park of the Earls of Shrewsbury, then an estate of the Dukes of Norfolk (that explains the Norfolk and Surrey streets), from the castle across the hills. This is a complete surprise to me, I had no idea so much of it survives, including the site of the hunting lodge, located for view, aspect and prospect, as so often. My argument that the landscape is a recognised aesthetic much earlier than writers allow. Park Hill flats were indeed wonderfully placed. There is a Norfolk Park, one of the earliest our Jones tells us, given by the Duke. There is an obelisk to the dead of the cholera epidemic of 1832, that I knew nothing about, and a Shrewsbury Hospital, an almshouse, these matters all joined together in one leaflet I found on walking the Norfolk trail. This starts from the Lodge then tells you how to return to it, thus presuming motorism. I take the tram to Spring Lane, past the Travellers Rest, and find an area of the parkland returning to its medieval form, except the young knights are now roaming around on power machines. The lodge where Mary Queen of Scots was a prisoner is there still, a section of wall reminiscent of Hardwick Hall, and indeed, Bess was the wife of the prison keeper earl. Apparently it is open one Sunday a month. Norfolk Park has an elaborate new centre with café, closed at 4.30pm on a sunny Sunday in July.

We are in the South Yorkshire Community Forest another sign somewhere has told me. Here is a genuine hunting park from the middle ages, with a genuine hunting lodge, a stunning vista, and all the signs of dereliction, with plenty of locked gates and high fences.

Norfolk Park is part of the original estate, given by the Duke of Norfolk as a gardenesque municipal park, recently restored at great expense, with a centre and café closed by 4.30 on a July Sunday. Around it all sorts of blocked off by high walls part of the impermeable public domain, all of which could be much better integrated. Beyond it the Shrewsbury Hospital and then the land given to the burial of the cholera victims of 1832 with a restored monument. Then a walk to the cathedrsl.

So the only need for change in that leaflet is the removal of the return and the addition of the tram. Then another five perhaps and we have the simple beginning of a green and smart.

6. Wentworth Woodhouse

Pevsner for Sheffield stops at the municipal boundary. Pevsner for the old form, we need the West Riding, for there is South Yorkshire. Just donıt ask.

Remember, at the Tourism Information Centre I has asked for the best places to visit within a day or so and had been given the Botanic Garden? I was rather surprised they hadnıt mentioned Chatsworth, for that is in Derbyshire? In the Jones, I had found the surroundings, including one on another list of mine, from Repton Recovered. As part of building the landscape gallery I am trying to find the Humpfry Repton landscapes, the Red Books, and what is there now, knit these altogether as lessons in cultural diversity and sustainable development. Daniels tells me, as does the Loudon version of Reptonıs work, that Wentworth Woodhouse is one of his. It is also in Turner. Indeed Turner has a county index, so by going through that, you can work out, with the OS map (remember, Sheffield is on the border so we need four), which is closest to Sheffield. But at this stage we still know nothing about the public transport so spatial closest might not be transportly closest.

Wentworth Woodhouse is on the OS map I have, though just, on the border. There is a railway line with a station near, though in OS world of course, stations donıt have names.

The line is the line to Barnsley, the station looks to be Elsecar. I like that, an irony. One train an hour. Well this looks doable, though it will depend on the amount of traffic on the roads and whether there is any pavement. With three trains an hour to Barnsley, it might be that going there then returning doubles the frequency?

We will leave from this how we organise all the material, for that is an exercise in information systems design, simply that we got there, and found that Wentworth has a bus an hour in either direction between Rotherham and Barnsley.

It turns out that Elsecar has a preserved railway, an industrial estate from the eighteenth century, now a heritage park, and nothing of this was in any of the leaflets I found in Sheffield. The preserved railway says it is running but there is no evidence and there doesnıt seem to be a leaflet. There is a board saying this is all paid for by the local authority. Almost totally empty, on a Monday in July, sunny.

Signs tell me this was the source of the wealth of the Fitzwilliams, builders of the Wentworth Woodhouse I am visiting. Money from industry. Canal, disused but kept in good condition parallel the railway.

I walk by footpath up the wooded hill, creasting, a view of the steeple of the church I had seen far across the valley from the train, only a drive, past the new industry, timber and garden sheds, to the old church and the new church, then the walk to the estate wall. Garden centre in the walled garden and much of the later gardens being restored. Huge car park. Shop will all sorts of stuff, packed. Lots of craft stalls, all in a jumble. Wentworth conservatories selling small garden ones, not the memory of what had been here. Would it be worth restoring? Show the Winter Garden in Sheffield what they really were like?

Out of the walled garden, round the corner, into the main drive, past the stables, accidently open, and I thought this was, as apparently others have, the house, then round a corner in the drive and the wow.

This is Repton.

The view down the valley is stunning.

This is what I come for. I donıt know why. But this pushes the buttons.

Then I glance to my right, and wow.

The whole vista, from an angle, of the east front of the great house, the longest palladian vista in the world. This is Repton.

The surprise.

There is a sign saying private, another saying police dog handling training.

Well, if it has to be done.

Around you glimpse the Rockingham monuments. I should have mentioned that in the garden centre shop I had found a booklet of walks in Wentworth, which had no mention of Elsecar station, presuming everyone will drive, but which tells me enough for now. Back in London with my Loudon I will read Repton describing his design principles. But for now I simply look.

The walk continues down the drive, there is a footpath to the lakes (which Repton illustrates with line drawings in Loudon, or Loundon illustrates in Repton), and much else besides, but because when I set out on this a couple of weeks before, I didnıt know what I was doing, my train ticket is timed and I donıt have all day. I must plan the return to Elsecar, the catching of a train, the return to the hotel to collect pack, return to the station, and train to London.

So Wentworth Woodhouse I leave, see views of the monuments, along a road with a pavement, then a lane without too much traffic, down to the canal and the preserved railway, through the preserved industrial estate and find the time, the train I have missed, and so visit the reservoir, industrial water of the late eighteenth century, past all the pubs, closed, up to the Elsecar station, beyond it, a couple of shops and another pub, about to shut.

To the station, and the heavens open. A torrential downpour. Somehow I made it to the bus shelter on the station.

Train, Sheffield, hotel through building works, back to station, seven minutes to spare, London. That is tourism.

Now I have a collection of photographs, those used during the presentation at the conference, a collection of maps, books, and leaflets, those used during the presentaion at the conference, and all this material must be organised, along with all the other that I have, as I build the landscape gallery.

7. Aston

It is only after I return to London, to Turner, to the newly acquired A-Z of Sheffield, and West Ridiing Yorkshire Pevsner, that I put three and three together, completely by accident, for my eye falls on Aston. We are off the OS map that I had with me, though had I had the Sheffield Doncaster instead I might have found it.

This is what I should have been looking for, but my note taking and note keeping, and indexing systems were not subtle enough to discriminate far enough.

Aston is Brown.

The hall is apparently called Aughton, so some more than simple indexing problems. It is apparently now an hotel. There is a nearby motorway, and a main road, but what look like the lakes. There are housing estates perhaps to the edge, from the A-Z I can tell nothing of the shape of the land, but here we may have Arcadia? A return to Sheffield.

8. Arcadia

This Sheffield landscape gallery is just at the beginning of its building. I still donıt know anything like enough. I could have told the story of Herdings Park, of several booklets I bought, all of which are deficient in the most elementary matters, or of the google I did which gave me Sissonıs The Best of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblersı Handbook which I hadnıt found anywhere in Sheffield or any of its information services. Sheffield Clarion Ramblers google gave me 22,000 hits so there might be more to explore.

But to return to the beginning, the walk in the Brente and the origin of the landscape gallery along the 281 bus route in Surbiton.

This got me to the building, the garden and the landscape. The building is architecture, the garden is flower arranging, but what is the combination with the landscape?

To be continued

Last update: 30 September 2005 | Impressum—Imprint