Rural safety by Karen Alderson

Walk 4

This is the penultimate walk and I drive up to The Raggalds pub at the top of Roper Lane and park in the car park next to a steel container that has CCTV notices emblazoned on it. It’s a beautiful sunny morning and I begin my journey by walking down Green Lane, the road is busy, traffic hurtling down the hill, I find myself noticing the patterns at the road edge. I go up Taylor Lane, it is surfaced with cobbles which takes me back to my childhood in Nelson, Lancashire. Halfway up Taylor Lane a tractor comes down leaving tyre prints.p1080358p1080386p1080387p1080450p1080360

At the top of Ned Lane I meet Ken Oldfield, a cyclist, he’s lived on this road for 41 years, he’s in his 70’s and tells me that most of the roads in the area have traffic calming measures: speed bumps, marks on the road, 20 mph zones, traffic cameras, but not this one.  “Once they see the white circle with the black line through it they think it’s a freeway and some of them race at 70—80mph, 3 abreast.”  Ken’s daughter was clipped & knocked down by a car when she was 9 years old,  “She was OK, Thank God.” His daughter is now 40 yet the relief is still palpable.  Accidents on this stretch of the road are common with walls frequently being hit and knocked down.

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We talked about the experience of driving and the trance-like state it invokes: cut off from the outside world, heater on; it’s conducive to daydreaming & parts of our personalities coming out and acting in ways we wouldn’t normally do outside the vehicle. Ken asks me to pass his concerns onto the council, I tell him that I have nothing to do with them but hopefully someone will read the blog. This is the first person I have spoken to whilst out walking but we are on a country road and I feel safer in this environment than in an urban setting. I am also wearing a rucksack and look like an archetypal walker photographing the countryside, something that is culturally depicted as beautiful and an acceptable activity. A couple of years ago I did an SIA security course and we were instructed to approach anyone taking photos of buildings and treat it as suspect activity. Art students are now perceived as potential terrorists, which, I suppose, is at the nub of my anxiety when filming and photographing in urban areas where CCTV cameras sprout from every building. Activity that once was seen as eccentric is now considered dangerous. The course was 3 days brainwashing into the culture of fear.

I’ve brought my Lumix camera. My Go Pro filming skills leave a lot to be desired and my ideas far outrun what I am able to do technically. But I’m feeling positive as I walk down Syke Lane and look across the valley and see a deep gorge which reminds me of the original contour map, it feels like I’m sewing together the old map and my present physical experience which gives me an enormous sense of satisfaction. I feel embedded in the physical world; alive, present, the inner and outer landscape merging.

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I’m reading the Tao of Pooh which encourages one to stop striving and over stimulating the mind and be mindful of the beauty that is already in one’s life, however simple and transient. What we realise is beautiful is what we we are not really looking at. I decide that the road edges are beautiful and really look at them.

Towards the end of the walk I begin to look up and become interested in the electric masts, they remind me of trees I saw 10 years ago when I visited an art retreat in Lemba, Cyprus, there were not many of them. We tend to notice things that become scarce whereas everyday objects seem to become invisible until we really look at them.

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As I write my notes up in the car park the landlord comes out and moves three traffic cones over the uneven ground, I wonder if he thinks that I am an undercover health and safety officer from the council doing an unannounced check. I drive off, I don’t want to make him nervous or implicate myself as a bogus security guard.

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