Day 12: walking dogs

The southern-most point of the Park Pale was busy on Bank Holiday Monday, only easing briefly around late lunchtime. I hope some of the dog walkers will follow the stone northward to some of the quieter parts of the Slindon Estate as the weather improves. The humps and hollows of the pale show up well next to the bluebells – some pits and mounds indicative of past storm windthrow; other cleaner-sided pits perhaps from wartime activity.

Most were approaching the stone in bewilderment or wonderment; one thought it might be sheep shearing going on behind the hurdles, from a distance. The bright white and the now-curved edges of the block make that perfectly understandable.

Many today commented on the therapeutic qualities of trying carving. The words ‘meditative’ and ‘in the present’ cropped up, and one added that it ‘might be nice to have a block at home’. Was this all a reaction to a typical British Bank Holiday Monday? Or just continuing the good that bluebells do for us, perhaps.

I do question visitors as to have they seen or discussed the stone before. One young boy had walked past the lone stone (i.e. when not being worked) and had asked his mother to come back to it. He quietly and diligently worked using both mallet & chisel and file, exploring the surface.

Most are starting out with the brief of exploring the tools and how a rhythm can be found for their sustained use, rather than woodpecker-style activity then long rests. The efficent way of working means finding how the minimum energy expended can be translated into the explosion which separates chip (small) from rock (large). Slipping chisels and gradual hole-making all waste energy through kinetic energy (movement) or the stone’s structure absorbing the blows if they are under the threshold required to shear the bonds in the rock.

A characterful large head emerges, but doesn’t seem relevant to the Rise of Northwood. A short youtube film from a passing cyclist clip here, while we were talking about this emergent imagery in the improvisation process; which might ‘be useful’ and which will fade through further carving.

Weather planning has been more luck than judgement, but I can assure you that wearing two fleeces, raincoat and wellingtons for the day DOES guarantee full sunshine.

See you all again at Downe’s Barn on Sat May 16th. Easy access from near the entrance to Slindon College and National Trust Regional Office. The stone will be ‘up’ on to one of its ends for the first time!

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