Harriet Sams
Barnard Castle
2019

Story Info

Bearing Witness to Baseline Creep

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Story & Experience

The day of June 22nd dawned bright and fair after weeks of cold and dismal rain. A lovely day for sitting in the woods.

A small group of people met in the woods around Barnard Castle in the north of England, answering the call to bear witness to baseline creep. Two children and two adults, here to listen to each other and to allow space for whatever came up.

We walked to the woods in silence, listening to the birds, the distant (but not very distant) noises from the town and to the rustle of the trees. The sun shone down from a blue sky.

As we sat, we invited each participant to talk a little about what the woods meant to them. One person told us of memories they had of the clear cut of these very woods, right at the time of the Chernobyl disaster. The trees that then grew, the ones that surrounded us now, held radioactive fallout captured in their bodies. We looked around, sobered.

One of the children said how the woods made them feel so calm. The other said how the woods made them feel like eating candy!

Each participant was then invited to spend around half an hour in the woods in silence, to allow whatever happened to happen, and then to return to the camp and tell the story of their time.

One participant said how they walked around, exploring. They made a spiral out of a young twig and gave it to the wood, as a thank you for the gifts. I invited her to bring it to the group to make the Rad Joy bird and she said no, she wanted to leave it for the trees.

Another young participant drew leaves and candy! (See picture).

The adult participant lay down on a bench and watched some wood pigeons for the time, as they cooed and wooed each other, accepting and rejecting the advances. Bearing witness to their antics was a joy.

When we had all told our stories, we made the rad joy bird out of wood, wool, bits of half-burned academic papers they were lying around, and rubbish. We then held hands over the bird and offered it out thanks. We all felt good that it was going to be left in the woods, to return to it in its own way.

The purpose of the GEx was to bear witness to baseline creep, yet the woods themselves offered up a different story; of wounds and pain, of human poisoning. Yet also of joy and calm, of antics and of creativity

Why this Place?

Barnard Castle

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