Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Littlebredy Tour

Little Bredy or Littlebredy, the village gets spelt both ways, is indeed little. It's a village in South Dorset that I was shown around in preparation for the arts festival Inside Out that will be held there next September. I shall be constructing a tour for the festival which takes the South Dorset Ridgeway as its frame and Littlebredy as its focus. 

The day began in the village hall with talks about the area and an opportunity to meet the other artists. We assembled outside later in the afternoon to take a walking tour.

This tour led us past a number of points that the artists had selected to site their work in. Here for example is one of the artists with a plan of the landscape artwork she will create showing it to us and describing how it will sit upon the side of the hill. 

There was no precise tour guide leading this walk so there was no group commentary but instead a straggle of artists following a route that had been more or less decided in advance. The leader at the front of the group changed from time to time but was always one of the festival team who knew the route. As there was no ongoing commentary it was far more a chance to walk around the village and ridgeway and talk with the other artists. The going underfoot became increasingly muddy as it had been raining recently. There was much sidestepping of puddles.

We encountered our first real obstacle with a series of gates, this being one of them. We had to clamber over them but when it came to the dog in our group this variously meant coaxing it to squat under the gate or lifting it up and passing it over the gate. Undignified.

We then met the livestock. They took us for intruders and a showdown ensued. After a few nervous advances they scattered and let us pass. This was one of those moments that divided the group into those of us familiar with animals and farms and those of us more familiar with the Coffee Republic and city life.

We then came to an impasse by a farm at the bottom of a hill. There ensued much consultation of maps and smart phones, which started failing as we drove deeper into the folds of the South Dorset Ridgeway. Finally we had to ask the farmer.

Our path was an unlikely overgrown one that passed beside the cow shed. They eyed us keenly, they don't get many walkers coming this way.

And where you have cows you have cow slurry. Our path passed directly through several ankle deep, hold-your-nose stretches of manure and mud. There was no alternative but stoically soldiering on and hopping that it did not get any deeper.  

We reached an abandoned chapel in the woods some distance from Littlebedy as the light was failing. Later than expected with the night closing in we took it in and made an exit for the road which seemed to be some distance still.

By the time we reached the road it was a dark and not long after a taxi arrived to whisk us through the winding roads back to the village. This ended the first day and first part of the village tour but there was more to follow the next day.

As I had expressed an interest in tours I was offered a tour around the village's visitor attraction, The Walled Garden. I was joined by some of the artists and our guide was both responsible for maintaining the garden and showing people around so she knew the place very well.

She told us that various people visited the garden such as ramblers and horticultural societies from as far away as Somerset. I asked her if she could offer her standard visitor tour so I could get a sense of it and she agreed however as we started looking around I realised that what I was experiencing was something quite different. The artists were asking about the buildings and looking inside in order to see if they might be useful locations to site artworks and events in. Our guide was obliging and shared what she knew about the places and I realised that I was not on a normal visitor's tour but was instead getting a different sort of tour: the artist's site visit tour. Once I realised this was what was happening I relaxed more into it and took it for what it was rather than wishing it to be a different sort of tour.

With a storm forecast for the next day there were preparations afoot to limit possible damage to the garden by taking down temporary structures such as this gazebo. The approaching storm was a bit of a conversation topic in general over the weekend as it was being talked up as if it was going to be a devastating hurricane when in fact it turned out to be far less.  

Perhaps as a nod to our curiosity and the nature of the group we were treated to the ghost story. While our guide acknowledged she was not a believer in the ghost she did not disappoint us by omitting the fact that a ghost was said to haunt the garden. Coming on the back of the Haunted Holborn Tour I'm starting to see a strange connection between ghosts and tourism. This will have to be investigated a whole lot more. 

Overall then, this was a very relaxed and informative introduction to the village for what will be a new commission for The Tour of All Tours. I'll be returning here next year to develop the project and have many ideas of tours to reference. As it is not a saturated site I will have to be creative and this may in fact mean the work refers out into the society more than it might do in a place where there is an overwhelming amount of tours already in place. The festival will take place in September next year, details and updates will stream in before then. 

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