Guest artist blog – Jo Dacombe

 Seeking the Land Unknown in Hinckley

I once read a book by Lucy Lippard called “The Lure of the Local”, about returning to places that she knows and how people have relationships to places. So when I set out on a walk with the Friday group from Beauty & Utility Arts, to explore the local area in Hinckley, I was intrigued to see how they might look at their local place and how I, as an outsider, might see it.

Before I came I sent the group a map of the area around the Atkins Building, our starting point, with suggestions for several walks that they might like to do. I asked them to choose one. I was hugely encouraged when the message came back that, no, they had not opted for exploring the picturesque or pretty parks or gardens, they had chosen to go through the Industrial Estate to a brook intriguingly named the “Battling Brook”! At that point I knew that this group were true explorers after my own heart!

And what an adventure it was! We had a road map to guide us, but if you look on the road map the area that we were interested in was a big blank space, no features mapped there at all. We talked about how, when the first maps were being drawn up and areas of the world remained undiscovered, early mapmakers would leave huge areas blank and simply write “terra incognita” there (meaning “land unknown”). We were in search of our own local terra incognita.

It was tricky to locate the exact area of the terra incognita. Many old factories stood there, the old sock factory, and behind it an impressive radio tower which turned out to be part of the National Grid. We had a brief run-in with National Grid’s security who were not amused by our attempts to photograph the tower, and we had to delete the pictures! Feeling rather excited by our new status as agents of espionage, we then went on to explore: through a hole in a fence a vast concrete wasteland, spying a bridge in the distance; we admired a campervan for sale and dreamt of the freedom of the road; we followed a path along a hedge of blackberries promising good foraging for the autumn; and finally located the brook, with tales of boats, one of us had a lovely tale about a boat he nearly bought but returned to find it half submerged, where he believes it still is.

Having found the Battling Brook and speculating on how it got its name, we continued by following our noses to find a way back. Katherine was adamant that we must make a circular route and not go back on ourselves, so we wound our way through alleyways (more naming games here, should we call them jetties, passageways, alleys or cut-throughs, and what’s the difference?) and around houses, past a beautiful old church and a dilapidated building with broken windows and rusted panels, until we made it back to the Atkins Building.

Going through our photos we started to put together a map of where we had found all these “moments of beauty”, which I hope the group will continue to work on.  We discussed the idea of beauty and how different people find different things beautiful. We had found beauty in nature, decay, industrial structures, old buildings, water, fences, stories… and all within less than a mile of our starting point! It just goes to show that, when you look at the world like an artist, trying to find those “moments of beauty”, even what you thought were familiar surroundings can reveal surprising richness and an astonishing amount of interesting detail.

There is so much more to explore in Hinckley! We hope to do some more walks in the future to further explore the “lure of the local”, and I look forward to that… what will we find next time?

Find out more about joining our Points of Interest group by contacting Katherine on 07908 750187 and find out more about Jo Dacombe at http://jodacombe.blogspot.com

                             

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