number 3WALK 3: PARNWELL TO EYE ROAD

The Kings Gate community church represents people with different backgrounds, all ages and over 50 different nationalities. The 84,000sq ft. venue was established in 2006, at the cost of £7m, and now boasts a congregation of 1600. A growing multi-faith community in Peterborough has allowed this modern church to flourish at the margins. The design of the Kings Gate centre is similar in style to a modern business headquarters, with little hint of the spiritual activities within.

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Beside the Kings Gate is an area of abandoned development area where wild flowers have covered over initial excavations and building remnants to create a series of small man-made hills and pools. The area is scattered with building materials and abandoned garden landscaping, which all in the process of being dissolved back down through rot into the surrounding habitat. The particularities of the place have created a beautifully boggy microclimate over seen by a gathering of bobbing thistles.

Nearby is a large distribution centre, which looks out over fields at the edge of this side of the city.

The nearby field is guarded by an array of scarecrows built as much from modern materials such as plastic bags as they are of straw. If you choose to explore the outskirts further into these areas, you may feel a kind of electric spark that brings thoughts and possibly images back into your mind. These latent energies feel as if they are rising up from beneath your feet and bring back to life snippets from the past if only for a brief few moments. Staring across a freshly ploughed field, I often think it is possible to look down through the earth, through a kind of topographic window, to the transformational subsets below. The field reflects on time making visible transience in its churned over folds and spaces. Depending on the time of year you can watch the farmer plough his field moving back and forth in mesmeric waves. The trance like effect can make you imagine all of the past landscapes that may have existed before. Sometimes the act of solitary walking and the isolation of the areas can be overwhelming. I think about all the people who lived and will live on this land. Of the buildings that have crumbled and that have yet to be built, of the thousands of events both past, present and yet to come. The apparitions crumble like the earth under my feet, but their residue remains a lucid marker on my own dream map made up of the thousands of different times and places I have visited.

A newish development sits at the junction between Peterborough Road and the Parkway. Named Garden Park, it is an out of town attraction of stores and other leisure facilities that opened in 2010. As well as the shops, there are areas to sit and relax, children’s play areas and you can also have your car washed while you shop. Parks are always managed and artificial, but here the notion of a park combined with shopping is slightly surreal. The construction of so many out-of-town shopping developments like Garden Park, suggests the extent to which the outer edges have become increasingly favored for commercial developments. Retail developments usually come with a package of community benefits meant to assuage local residents from blocking purely commercial building projects in the consultation process. Garden Park is set to be expanded further and will offer another supermarket alongside a skills centre and cycle hub.  Garden Park is listed on Trip Advisor as an ‘attraction’ and number 20 on the list of things to do in Peterborough. It highlights the extent that shopping centers have become our primary social spaces and destinations for family outings.

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At odds with the image of Garden Park, a large refuse site glowers over it, circled by crows and scavenging seagulls. The refuse site is a fascinating synthesis of natural and constructed landscape materials and is infested with black tubing and valves to release the hidden gas beneath. The refuse was placed here, as it was originally the site of large excavated pits formed by the Dogsthorpe brickworks.

Other industries now abound in the scrubland and small woods between Garden Park, and the refuse site. Abandoned clothes and belongings and meters of tubing and wire casing are shed across the grounds. They have been burnt, torn and harvested by those industrious and desperate enough to know how. These sad and lonely sites, where in the past only animals and adventurous children might have explored, are only minutes from oblivious shoppers and workers.

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The odd London brick can still be found scattered across the area reaffirming a line from Robert Macfarlane’s book The Old Ways  ‘…the old persisted alongside and despite the new surviving as echoes and shadows detectable by an acute mind and eye’.

It makes sense that it is easier to tap into an interstitial sense of space and time in locations, which are in themselves in-between one thing and another. In some sense it is as if my presence is an electrical spark, which when entering certain spaces can bring the latent energies of a past place back into consciousness if perhaps only for a brief few moments.

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Parnwell

Eye Road