in this circle of land's bones
moments gather into wood
seeds, ideas, earth, light,
the slow graft of time
roots deep, years weathered
taking the long view
In Spring 2017 we were delighted to be commissioned to carry out one of eight Charter Art residencies being curated by Common Ground to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the original Forest Charter and the creation of the new Charter for Trees, Woods and People. This nationwide arts initiative driven by creativity, participation, conversations and debates, has created legacies across the UK.
The concept of a treefold continues the process that has been at the heart of The Long View: inviting people to pause with a tree while celebrating trees, for their own sake, and for what they provide for us and for other elements of an interconnected environment that is also rich in human cultures of stone wall building, stockmanship and woodland management.
The three treefolds embody something that’s fundamental to Cumbria and, let’s face it, many other places: the relationship between people and trees, the bringing together of art and tradition, and the twinning of constancy and change.
Each treefold is built to the same measurements, with an internal diameter of seven foot, and with stone found locally, using techniques that go back hundreds, if not thousands of years (no cement – just stones, air, and hard work). Around the centre of each treefold a line of poetry has been carved into stone. Each line stands alone when read in isolation but the three lines, read in the order from east, to centre, to north, form the complete poem that Harriet has written for the purpose.
The three treefolds were built in 2017 - you can read more about the process, including the gathering of storm-scattered stones and the five days it took to build each one, at the Common Ground website here, and by following the links below.
The treefolds only reached completion once their trees were rooted inside. Even this, though, is not really completion - as the trees grow and the environments around them change the scene will be constantly evolving; there will be no final definitive form to capture or experience, rather a series of moments determined by weather, season and each tree's gathering of age.
The trees planted within the treefolds are all Legacy Trees, markers of the Tree Charter that was launched in November 2017; we planted them in February 2018 with the help of local residents, school children and other visitors. treefold:north has an oak, carefully uprooted from nearby where it had grown up naturally, continuing the strong genetic heritage of its veteran and ancient ancestors that gather in the beautifuil wood pasture of Glencoyne Park. In Grizedale Forest, treefold:centre has been planted with an aspen tree, one of thousands that have been planted on this patch of hillside, among a new patch of mixed-species forest made up of 30,000 trees. On Little Asby Common, treefold:east encircles two trees, an oak (as chosen by the commoners) and a rowan, to keep it company (this area of land has very few trees, so, knowing that trees tend to work well in partnership, we chose to put two together here).
At first, each of the trees will be small – but over the years they will grow and the landscape around each treefold will change as well. We can imagine ourselves and others returning year after year to watch these changes, and to contemplate what’s happening in the wider environment, locally and globally. Perhaps, after several decades, these trees will foster new trees.
We have been able to make the treefolds a reality only through team work. Master stone waller, Andrew Mason, has crafted the treefolds, carver Pip Hall has chiselled the words into stones, and we've been supported by Common Ground, the Forestry Commission, the curatorial team at Grizedale Forest, the National Trust, the Lake District National Park Authority, Friends of the Lake District and the Woodland Trust. For more information on what we've been up to, and the story behind the inspiration for the treefolds, follow this link to The Long View website.
What is a treefold?
A new word, a thing of curiosity
A thing of beauty, a place to sit
The work of hand over hand
A commitment, protector for a tree
A solid end point from the small beginnings of an idea
A place for poetry
A wrap-around for the play of time in wood and leaf and seasons
A invitation to pause
A holder of thoughts, a trigger for thoughts
The holder of a diagram, a pivot, a point in time, where the future of the planet’s species may continue to look bleak, or could take a turn for the better
A reminder that it is up to us, humans, what happens next, and the importance of taking the long view
(Words written on the final day of the build of treefold:north)