John Muir Residency Blog 4 With Endings

John Muir Residency Blog 4 With Endings

Blog 4 | With Endings

Sitting on East beach, enjoying a breakfast of porridge on my last day in Dunbar.

The Sun is bright, the sand white and the air fresh. It is 8am and the Saturday silence is a gift.

Walking down the High Street there are but a few early risers around as I make my final journey to Garden Lane. The Cornflowers and Poppys that were sown back in May are in full force, tucked up in their triangular beds. They cascade onto the pathway, beckoning lane visitors to gaze at their surroundings.

sml-dsc01944Directly opposite the most flourishing triangles, lay the hexagonally arranged stonework that we installed back in July, with Craig & Kate (The Ridge) and Lizzy (North Light Arts). I am forever grateful for their help.

sml-img_0694Dunbar’s coastline geology is referenced within the forms, and use of local rock, in the hexagons. In Dunbar’s harbour, if you look closely, you can see a subtle collection of Basalt Columns. While on the other side of the Harbour wall, to the left of the Battery, lie some fascinating erosions of similar columns that have been engulfed by the waves and taken on some beautiful organic textures.

sml-taming-the-lane-1The design for hexagon detailing was dubbed ‘Taming Garden Lane’ as the lane was once a thicket of overgrown shrubbery.

Taming the Lane
sml-taming-the-lane-2Just as the sea rises up immersing the geometric columns, so too will the hedgerow wild flowers that we’re about to sow around the shapes. As Spring comes the flowers will largely hide the hexagon borders and as they die back again in the Autumn, the form will once again be revealed. Just as the rising tide embraces and releases the basalt columns.

The aforementioned Poppy’s and Cornflowers also gently reference some of Dunbar’s historic qualities (See blog post 2 for details)
sml-taming-the-lane-3These expressions of the John Muir Artist Residency 2016 are a fraction of the activity that took place and you can hear more about how we arrived at this conclusion in previous blogs.

Crucially ‘ Taming Garden Lane’ is one of three designs created for The Ridge’s Backlands development in collaboration with North Light Arts. The designs are based on the community needs and wishes which were expressed during a public engagement process. This represented the majority of the residency. You can scroll through the research document to see the full process below.

Designs visualise these learnings and are suggestions for the site, but also a flexible blueprint from which to work from for future funding applications. You can scroll through the site suggestions below also.

We hang A2 prints of the site suggestions in the log cabin on site. Today, for the last time (for now at least), I work with the Earth here at Garden Lane. The ground is compact underneath the Apple and Plum trees and, as the Sun strengthens, I vigorously hoe the ground in preparation for a woodland wild flower mix.

The site is open to the public today, with a local crafts market on the decking and acoustic sounds echoing around the traditional red sandstone walls.


I invite families and children to join me in sowing as they pass by, ask them to help me spread the the seed on the ground in the lane around the hexagons and underneath the fruit trees. We speak of providing fodder for the pollinators, whose populations are diminishing and, creating a natural habitat whose beauty we humans can enjoy as well.

sml-img_0717With the sowing complete, I head home to Glasgow exhausted but fulfilled. On the way I stop in Edinburgh and having briefly visited Holyrood Park recently, I feel compelled to climb Arthur’s Seat.

Locking my bike, I head off on foot. As I ascend through the craggy scenery, various views take my breath away. I have never been up here before.

At the top I look over to Dunbar. Now breathing deeply, I feel gratitude for the residency experience.

I look over to the city and see an interlocking hexagonal building. I smile, then look down to the rock beneath my feet. Somehow feeling a sense that it’s all connected.

An additional note:

Given Garden Lane’s context, 90% of the materials we used were biodegradable, and not only that but they were living as well. We worked almost entirely within the ‘biological cycle’ and, as described above, final designs used reclaimed local stone, seeds, plants, trees and soil. The materials we worked with were of the Earth, who can therefore take care of their de-composition when necessary.

Globally we are adding materials to the land which we have re-worked to such an extent that the Earth does not know how to process them on a biological level. I am left satisfied to know that the negative impact this project has had is minimal – instead I know that it has contributed to biodiversity and serves life. I ask:

What is our responsibility as creative practitioners to avoid the use of ‘un-cyclable’ resources and work in collaboration with the Earth?

How do we prioritise this in our fast paced culture?

Though the following questions are not new to me, they feel more prominent than ever.