As part of the project each contributor was invited to write an essay that would be included in the book.
They were all to be loosely based around the notions of place, space and memory and draw upon their own experiences of the Sefton Coast in relation to their work.
The essays and introduction to the publication are available as downloads on this page.
‘Much of the work I make myself (and with WALK) is based around my practice of walking or, more properly, meandering, with a group of people, often led by a natural historian. Moving slowly (or meandering) through an environment affects our experience in ways that are not immediately apparent. It allows the walker time to stop whenever and wherever they find something interesting to explore, and time to respond to the weather patterns and soundscapes of an environment. For me, the relationship between walking and artistic practice is a complex one, involving collaboration, participation and conversational exchange.’
‘We think of the rebranding of towns and resorts as a relatively modern concept but the Sefton coast, and Southport in particular, has consciously refashioned its identity many times in the last 200 years. In the mid-1820s Southport was being described as ‘The Montpellier of England’. The French University town was a centre for advanced medical research and there was a very conscious attempt by Southport’s councillors and medical professionals to adopt the identity of a health resort, as Margate had done very successfully as early as 1750.’
‘Now it is not so straightforward—the more I learn about the history of the place, the more I find it difficult to look at any element of the coast in isolation—maritime history, botany, world wars, trade, habitat damage, ecology, habitat management, pollution, agriculture, conservation, climate change, erosion—they all start merging together. I still spend way too long looking at birds, sure, but now when I watch a Leach’s Petrel sailing through the terrifying swell of raging autumn gales, links start leaping across the synapses … I see the remote massif of St Kilda where these diminutive seabirds breed; I try to imagine what it must have been like for crews on stricken ships when hurricane-force winds turned the bay into a maelstrom in the Victorian era.’
‘Yet further strata accrue through more meditative moments. Simply sitting quietly as the day unfolds, alone, watching and waiting for whatever might present itself; standing next to prehistoric footprints of deer and more astonishingly our own ancestry, revealed momentarily as the shifting sands give glimpses of a landscape inhabited by hunter-gatherers some 7,000 years ago (figure 28); wondering how so many wrecks have gone to ground on a seemingly benign coast, no jagged rocks here; walking gingerly through stumps of ancient forests at low tide, lying low with them to get a new sense of perspective as they rise, mountain-like, from the silt banks.’
‘Almost anywhere that there is a drop of water, you will find diatoms and they are extremely important for many animals as they form the base of the food chain. We can’t see these ‘plants’ without a microscope, yet because of their huge abundance they are of enormous ecological importance. Being single cells they respond rapidly to changes in the environment and scientists use diatoms as tools to assess the quality of water. By looking for the presence of key species, they are able to tell if the water body has been polluted or infer things about the chemistry of the water.’
‘At various points, participants were invited to listen to the soundscape using headphones and a stereo directional microphone. It was clear to me from people’s responses that the audio framing provided by these relatively commonplace pieces of technology profoundly altered their perception of the soundscape. The focused listening engendered by these technologies allowed participants not only to hear elements of the audio world that they would otherwise have missed, but also to interpret and experience the soundscape in new ways.’
‘Nowhere is ephemeralness more apparent than in littoral zones, on the beach. I came to this project as a ‘Sand-dancer’, from South Shields, whose shores are quite different to those of the Sefton Coast. One of my intentions during Ghosts of the Restless Shore was to calibrate my understanding of my native coastline; to place it within the dual contexts of something similar yet different. When I blogged, initially, after having walked the Sefton Coastal path last summer, I noted that Liverpool, which is to Sefton as Newcastle is to South Tyneside, is a city whose similarities bear a startling resemblance to that of its north-eastern counterpart. In socio-historic, economic, geographic and sporting terms, the cities are nearly one and the same. But much like taking the twenty-minute Metro ride out to the coast in Newcastle, to reach the Sefton Coast you must also leave behind the city for something quite different.’
‘The colloquial names for flora and fauna are often a poetic reminder of a closer understanding and feeling for the natural environment we once had, and they frequently refer to the look, behaviour or sound of the bird. For instance one of the many colloquial names for a swift is DEVILING—perhaps because of its inaccessibility—its speed in flight. The name WASHTAIL (Pied Wagtail) arises from the similarity between the constant up-and-down movement of the bird’s tail and the action of dipping and lifting made by a person washing or scrubbing clothes (or dishes) by the waterside. Avocets utter loud yelping cries when disturbed, hence YARWHELP. SPARLING makes reference to the harsh call of the Common Tern and LAVEROCK (Skylark) is from Middle English laverok and Old English lawerce.’