Sherds Shards Shorelines

East Coast

With Holocene sunsets


New materials wash


our shores

Beach Sediments

Continued sedimentation of humanity

Diverse Materials

Ancient intermingling






Cast wide –

a strange catch of sherds


Cast deep –

a strange haul of shards

Worn Faces

Fragmentary people


With broken vessels

Sherd deposits

Cross the line,

tread with care


Tide hides,

washes removes

different ways

Sherd and Shard

Tide Reveals,

recedes deposits

new realities



plastic in our hands

mould marine disrespects.


The Sherds and Shards were found in July 2017 on the shoreline of a small cove on the east side of Eilean Na Hearadh (Isle of Harris) in the Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles).   Overlooking the cove is a house, that originates from the late 18th century, the waste from which was probably flung by its residents into the sea for over two hundred years.    The sherds and shards have remained upon the shoreline and have become transformed by tidal rhythms and storms, scoured and smoothed, sharp edges blunted and bright surfaces dulled, all now more rounded and pebble like.

What I found most striking was the high proportion of materials, which were clearly worked through the beach deposits.  Two hundred years of human refuse disposal from one dwelling had transformed the shoreline geo-morphological sediments of the cove.   The pieces of ceramic and glass forming the installation on the shoreline were only collected from the surface of the beach, below the surface are much greater numbers of sherds and shards.

Sherds of ceramic and shards of glass are relatively stable as materials, unlike the floating and volatile plastic containers, nurdles and microbeads, which are now permeating our water and littering our beaches, the chemicals from which are extending through the food chain with building levels of toxicity to all life forms.

We walk upon the sherds and shards of different shorelines now …



Monuments to the Future


Stonehenge, imagine being there, about 5000 years ago, when people first started building the earthwork enclosure.  If you could linger, perhaps five hundred years later, you may have witnessed the first stone circle being erected.  If you were able to revisit in another two hundred years time, you could have helped remodel the monument and created the unique arrangement of hanging stones which are celebrated to this day.

Earth Avenue

Yet, it is easy to focus on the construction, physical representations of a will to transform, and overlook the long moments of reality when monuments were actively used. Monumental statements (fetishistic moments of monumentality) sit comfortably with contemporary concerns for master plans and iconic buildings : architect-planner-deity.    Perhaps monuments such as Stonehenge, dangerously legitimise the short term political gestures (remember the difficult birth of the Millennium Dome !), grand projects of great people, and as such belittle the everyday, annual or generational uses of places we value?


So it is with interest  I have watched over the past few years the emergence of a new complex of stones at Crawick : which if witnessed by the monument obsessed archaeologist of the future could readily, mirroring contemporary archaeo-parlance, be described as a ‘monumental landscape’ but in the absence of overt function be easily classed as a ‘ceremonial landscape’ or ‘ritual landscape’.  Yet Crawick is of its time, as post-industrial imagineering, an overt expression of regeneration, a cosmological dream beyond the short half-life of industrial decay.

Industrial Shadow

A solution to the problem of the blasted legacies of open cast coal extraction.



New Mound


So again, like Stonehenge, we are encouraged to focus on the monumentality of the project, the grand vision of the architect god.  Yet it may represent a moment in time which is worth studying, as a contemporary archaeology, as an unfolding of possible futures.  Crawick landforming (phase 1) completed 2015, how will decades and centuries of humanity respond to this new space ?


Our opportunity is to engage in the moments between monumentality : phase 1 completed 2015 and Crawick landforming (phase 2) due to be commenced in 2215 !  What potentials lie in new birthed spaces, what opportunities to explore and express in the longer flow of time ?

So perhaps at generational monuments like Stonehenge, what sang through the ages, was the joy of the use of the space, dance and music, life and death transforming to place.

Perhaps such monumental places should be other worldly, liminal zones.  Places where we can encounter a pantheon of archetypes, explore the boundaries of humanity and through activities (perhaps challenging our definitions of art, culture and heritage) find pathways to revitalise earth from disturbed ground.


Sound Around


Ascent Sky Epiphany


In the line

I found my ... on Silbury Hill













Place is made, not by those who assert their will upon space,


but by the people who dwell there.

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Following an encounter with another Land Formation by Charles Jencks, I learned about the plans for Crawick and visited in May 2014 when ‘land-forming’ works were underway.  A subsequent visit was undertaken in June 2014 when we were kindly allowed in the site to see the work in progress.  The next encounter with Crawick was when it was launched in June 2015.  The opening weekend was alive with the wonderful performance by Alex Rigg and Oceanallover which forms the basis of the peopled images above : and the only time when the monument made sense !

A further visit was undertaken in February 2016 with Kenny Brophy and Public Humanities students from University of Glasgow during which we had a heated debate about the cosmological frame of reference of the monument forms.  A parallel perspective on this contemporary cosmological space was produced by the Urban Prehistorian.

Collectively these visits, revealed the obvious, it is not the monument that matters or who conceived of it or who built it (sorry !), rather it is how it is used and by who and for how long – and that transcends the meaning assigned by the architect.  Thus the stage has been created and the meaning will be writ in the long term by those who perform upon it and dwell with it.

I wonder how the monument might change in use with Crawick landforming (phase 2), provisionally due to be commenced in 2215… … !



Community Land Art

Severn-Side Snowballs

Severn-Side Snowballs by The Snowball Gang – image from website
by kind permission of the artist

I love the spirit of this,

it is a great example of co-production,

and snowballs make it seasonal at this time of year,

but the joy is you can make snowballs all year round and contribute to a land art project.

For other examples of snowball land art and to find out how to contribute, please go to:

The Snowball Gang – A community Art Project by Sybil Edwards.

Please let me know if you send a snowball.

Now where is the paper and water…?

Landforming – Marks on the Landscape

A few months ago while driving along the M90 in Fife the car nearly left the road…!

It was because I was so surprised at spotting massive earthworks from the motorway where last time I had driven passed there was a surface coal mine.  I later established it was the land restoration project Scottish World following opencast coal mining at St Ninians Mine.  As opposed to restoring the land to forestry or agriculture Fife Council has given planning consent to create a major land art project.  The first phase of the project is due to be completed by 2014 but there are animations of how the whole site is visualized at the client website, Scottish Resource Group.

The site has been designed by artist Charles Jencks.  There is some good information at the Education Scotland portal Marks on the Landscape about the concept and design process and the practice of ‘land forming’.  It also includes an interesting set of photos of the changing use from coal extraction through ‘landforming’ to emerging land art at St Ninians mine.

Further marks on the land are currently being made at a second restoration project of an opencast coal mining site in Scotland, Crawick Artland.  The process of design and construction at Crawick Artland will have a first phase of major works, with marking out having taken place in May 2012, and in a second phase other artists will respond to the site producing further elements.

It is interesting that there are two major regeneration projects in Scotland, both with the same artist, and a third recently opened in Northumberland.  In each case there is an aspiration to create new open and green space, establish hubs of cultural and social activity, bring health benefits, and increase economic activity by attracting tourists: rather than land art, perhaps what is being created are multi-functional places?

I wonder if this is the start of a growing trend towards more ambitious / imaginative land art / restoration projects?  I am not sure whether there have been any design competitions for these sites and what designs others would have produced.  In future, should communities who live closest to such sites have the responsibility for conceiving and designing such places?  Clearly with their scale such art interventions will be features in the landscape for centuries,  I wonder how they will be viewed by subsequent generations…?

Long Distance Art – Waymerks

There is a strong tradition of artistic practices, such as the work of Richard Long, which are mediated through walking.  Equally, long distance walking routes are an increasingly important way for people to explore the diversity of landscapes which can be found in many countries.  On many of these routes signage plays a significant role in guiding the walker.  In some cases, these routes are also the focus of other art works.

One example, is the Southern Upland Way in Scotland, which is the first and, at 212 miles, one of the longest distance coast to coast routes in Britain.

The Southern Upland Way has been the focus of an interesting arts project, Waymerks, which drew inspiration from archaeological sites along the route.  Ten years ago, ‘kists’ (stone or metal boxes) were placed at thirteen locations along the route within which could be found hoards of metal coin (merk) like tokens.  They were designed and produced by sculpture John Behm, who incorporated images into the tokens of a range of artefacts and sites that related to the landscapes the Southern Upland Way runs through.

Way Merks Poem from Border Sculptures

A New Hoard of Waymerks was established in 2007 with a new set of thirteen tokens with designs produced by school children (details can be seen from a trail leaflet) and artist designed ‘Kists’.   It would appear that the supply of Waymerks ran out a couple of years ago but it has been a few years since I have walked along the route, so I do not know what can be found still….

Has any body found a Waymerk recently ?