Richard White

explorations in place and time

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Ironies of Stonehenge

Second visit since the new visitors centre.

It wasn’t raining. With warm summer sun the wind tunnel effect was reduced and we flowed through the invisible turnstyle intent on walking to the stones. Already a small queue developing for the land train. No invitation to walk at the gate and no signage.

Back onto the road where many summers ago I had roared on once stopping to see and touch. Picnics of the imagination. Even the cats eyes are still there. But the road is closed and for that at least we gave thanks. On the official map strange icons only made sense to those of us who had been before or knew about the landownership patterns and rivalry between the different organisations. Some overarching branding consistency but it seemed that for each the other is an absence not to be mentioned. NT signs blank EH signs and vice versa. And a farmer waiting for the right price, perhaps.

So we walked. Two of the first that summers morning crossing the silent road and imagining a route out along the Cursus to meet the Avenue and thus approach the stones on a route we imagined as ancient and appropriate. Swallows swooped low feeding and buzzing a predatory hawk. The sun already high but not so warm and a cool wind behind us we followed the line of the Cursus. Talking myths and imaging the land as it once might have been.

At last we dropped down out of the wind into that warm sensual hollow below the stones out of which The Avenue rises. The sheep were using the interpretation panel for shade. Two lost lambs reconnected with their mothers. Big baas and bleats.

Finding the cambered edges of the path and imagining it wintry and we climbed. This was the way to arrive.


A greenhaze on the horizon turned into a curtain.

keep out

And as we got closer two lines of fences and a strip of sand. Olympic games or that about to be footprinted sand at the Berlin Wall in Wings of Desire. A designation of territory, where once there was a road…on top of the road there is a beach!

no unauthorised

Personally sandy beaches offer only fear of grit in my teeth and the deadly vision of greyblack exposed dead egg flesh as hard boiled shell is picked away. Here where we once came for picnics and ate such eggs the beach has followed.

Inside crowds queued to the photo vantage points. A clumsy selfie or an attempt to capture the stones in the palm of a subject’s hand. Zombie visitors with headsets on. Off the bus and onto the bus. Next stop Jane Austen’s Bath. Filleted history.

By the fence another guardian of the site sat with stick and dog and we shared our sadness at the continued loss of the site, the lack of space for any other interpretation that the spectacle. Powerful expressions of powerlessness.The dog looked up at me hopefully wanting a stick thrown. I declined. We walked round to the edge on the Permissive Path to an indeterminate space …building site, old road, bus stop, entrance zone…we wondered if one day walkers would get in free and but the road transport paid….or the virtual turnstile is still to come…?



We walked out up the grit track towards Normanton Downs but the traffic on the A303 a 60 mile an hour traffic jam pushed us back. We turned to see other walkers on the skyline following a desire path to the site of the old vistors centre. Without map or signage none were heading towards that sensual hollow where the old path turned.

One day that old tunnel will be excavated and the eggshells of picnics long ago will not be found. The memories of our times embedded here have been erased for the coach party fast turnaround.

building site


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Sounding the City

Missed the workshop back in June so intrigued to see/hear what became of this.

From half way up half way down the multistory carpark echoes of builders, memories of glam fans and bands in the concert halls below. Panoramic views out over the city to the hills beyond. Onto the road where I once skip dived for space invader arcade machine debris. Roaring road. Ambulances and an angle grinder screeching cutting a post for a new Esso sign opposite.

The Edwardian Cloakroom

Old public toilet squashed midway between the site of His Masters Voice and the University.

The Edwardian Cloakroom.
In the Ladies, the Explanation somehow seemed appropriate. Representations of the city in insignia in the porcelain. In the Ladies Lavatories the sound of a great breathless Vertigo remembering climb up up to the view opening out  to voices as it reached the top.

In the Gents loud and hard on the old tiled surfaces a mix of the city. Wonderful. A mini city symphony. The bells of the hours, voices and calls and traffic hooting roaring ebb and flow..mixing in with the live now sound of the street outside

Representations of the city mixing with its present. We shouted at each other as if standing at a street corner.

Then on to Jeremy Deller in another Edwardian space, English Magic, and indeed it was. David Bowie and all.

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Lost Walks of Rochford 1

sign in water10463726_678554298865844_5815400363804782186_o

On the trail of the Lost Walks of Rochford today with intrepid explorers not quite pith helmeted and machete wielding but once again at the mercy of head height stinging nettles, flaying brambles and wind driven briars. Ali Pretty, Mike Johnston, Roxie and more from Rochford we set out to discover a couple of lost walks and some stories and thoughts to go with.


A great day of walking, lovely people and good talk.

We found samphires and fennel, onions and potato fields and set off a local recipes string on twitter. We heard of the ostriches that used to roam the Ford factory at Dagenham, reared especially for their feathers. We talked about community and history and regeneration.

mudflats10460751_678554508865823_1013456041885572155_nWe found out about the great brickworks that supplied the brick to build London and drank beer in its name. Someone had died and we lunched on the edge of a small local funeral. Sounds of the wind in the reeds and the trees, distant explosions.




People pushed out of the metropolis.

People resisting distantly.

Entering the territory of cynicism….


Lost Walks of Rochford 2

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Nirvana in Essex


warning signThe second day of uncovering The Lost Walks of Rochford took us back to the river and along crumbling sea defences. More sections of the route lost to cars than lost to the sea. Out past piles of old fridges, moss covered caravans and emerging to pasture and marinas. We found Nirvana just across from a pub full of witches, where the King Canute and the tide story is told in reverse.



The intricacies of the tides and the drifting still moments when river force meets tidal return. Thinking about flags and buoys catching and expressing the knowledge of the ferry man. Once again we learned and got confused about many things including King Canute, the Danes and the Saxons, and Haloween when, we were told, if you run round St Nicholas ( Old Nicks?) church and bang on the door you will see him.


Ghost smugglers drinking rum and talking about the old days. More talk abut arts and heritage and funding for regeneration and place making. Are these not places already?
Finally arriving in drizzle and tracking down the anchor of Darwin’s Beagle (well hmm). The Beagle ended its days in the mud after a last career stage being used to catch smugglers in the myriad of inlets and creeks off this bit of England.