Friday 26 October, a really cold, crisp day I did some work on mulching the fruit trees and pruning any sprouting rootstocks with a local volunteer and her young children and hosted the first of the BacktoBack walks. I’m inviting academics, researchers, artists and poets to explore the Fruit Route in different ways through walks, performances, activities with each event linking with and shifting away from the one before.
BacktoBack One was co-hosted by Ed Derby, ecologist and Paul Conneally, artist/poet and ‘cultural forager’. Ed talked us around the Route from the perspective of other foragers – the animals and insects who also feast on or make use of the plants on campus. He pointed out that part of our first route takes in a campus bat highway. Paul took the words of Ralph Emerson’s 1836 essay ‘Nature’ as his starting point. Each of us was invited to ‘twoot’ a brief response to an Emerson quote which Paul had hand-picked. This led to a broad range of thoughts and meditations which were then read out by each of us to the rest of the group and then tied to the branches of the young trees in one of our orchard areas (now called the Transcendental Orchard).
We then went to join in the apple pressing on Transition Loughborough’s beautiful hand-made apple press using the apples we had picked earlier in the month which had stored really well. We took a team to go and pick some extra windfalls.
On Saturday lunchtime BacktoBack was co-hosted by Jo Dacombe, a regional artist and myself. Twenty people joined us including local residents, undergrads, postgrads and staff. Jo’s walk took us further into the realm of our campus co-inhabitants using beautifully constructed Tracking Kits. The kits contained mapping materials – pegs, string, a pencil and a labels and using these simple tools we were invited to observe a creature in the orchard and then trace or map out its pattern of moving. This task required acute observation and attention and in small groups we tracked squirrels, wasps, an ant, a bee, a magpie.
My walk started with a shared celebration of the first fruits of the Fruit Route. In front of a quince tree growing up the side of the David Davies building, and basking in the warming winter sun, we shared quince cheese which I had made from this year’s six fruit. A piece of the sweet jelly was buried in the ground to give thanks. I invited people to answer the question What is harvesting?
At another location on the route, the Bat Walk, I teamed the walkers up in pairs with someone new and inviting one to lead the other blindfolded along a stretch of the route. Decisions about where to go, what to touch, feel and taste lay in the hands of the guiding partner and everyone took their own meandering pathway to join back together.