WALK 4: GARDEN PARK TO WERRINGTON
‘The Pacific Atoll may not be available, but there are other islands far nearer to home, some of them only a few steps from the pavements we tread every day. They are surrounded, not by sea, but by concrete, ringed by chain-mail fences and walled off by bombproof glass’. – J.G.Ballard – Concrete Island
I decided to walk further than usual on the fourth walk. I had noticed that on previous walks the effect of exploring areas on the edge of the city had a particular effect. As the walk continued my experiment revealed the extent to which extended exposure to interstitial spaces, appears to create some kind of hauntological reverberation even when back in ‘normal’ territory. Previously I have considered what it is that constitutes the effect of interstitial spaces. Numerous other writers and artists have been drawn to edgeland spaces, using them to tap into their odd and anti-social energies.
Could the experience of traversing these areas become addictive? If you were to increase the frequency of the walks, could the reverberations become stronger and take longer to fade? Is it possible to turn the appreciation or utilization of such areas into a life’s work (Perhaps Nick Papadimitriou or Ian Sinclair are examples)
Handwriting these notes on the train journeys to and from Peterborough, the reductionist nature of the activity clearly has some effect – even the long lost art of extended hand-writing is becoming easier and my writing clearer.
On this particular walk, it has become apparent that there could be an ideal outskirts area. The required area has to sit between where a man-made element such as a parkway and the rural, such as a field meet. In Peterborough the effect is heightened in that generally you will be near to the Parkway, meters from frenetic noise and human presence. Trespassing into the scrubland areas that circle the city, quite quickly you can be alone with your thoughts yet meters from the white noise and human activity of the constant traffic on the parkways. Many of these areas are wild –woodlands or scrublands – but are surprisingly still littered with the evidence of human activity.
It is perhaps to be considered that in these areas there is some opposing force present between the natural landscape and built environment, which is influenced by the presence of an intruder focusing attention upon it.
Ballard’s Concrete Island is a modern (1970’s) version of a book he could never quite forget – Robinson Crusoe. Coincidently, I remember first reading the book in Peterborough library as a teenager. I was an unusual truant from School and College and would spend my time reading books in the library or aimlessly wandering the suburbs and areas between Peterborough and Yaxley where my family lived. I would walk for miles until it was safe to return home. My parents to this day presumed that I was at school, not wandering muddy fields and endless estates for no apparent reason.
Concrete Island’s setting is similar to the areas that parallel the Paston Parkway as it flows north past Werrington. The countryside here is more defined at this northeasterly side where farms, woodland and dykes can be found. Occasionally a pedestrian subway or crossing reveals itself. As a child cycling along and through these areas they seemed like slightly futuristic racetracks offering a safe way of exploring and viewing the city. Many of the pedestrian bridges are now, however, in the process of being taken down and the slightly tired and neglected subways have a threatening nature.
The walk begins at Green Park again. I notice this time that some of the outlets at Green Park are empty and I am slightly bemused by the piped music and neat seating areas that appear to serve no purpose. Other than the Van Hage Garden Centre there doesn’t seem to be anything unique about the other shops, which perhaps explains why there are empty outlets. There is a display in one of the empty shop windows remembering the war dead. Perhaps its strange to find a memorial site here, but it reflects the way in which shopping centers have to establish their community engagement and need. As I leave the area, I notice a couple sitting in one of the small parks laughing and embracing oblivious to the artificial garden they have chosen to relax in.
A length of small woods parallels the Paston Parkway. Near Welland Road and the refuse tip is a strange cut off car park. Despite the proximity of the tip, the area has become a dumping ground and play area for adventurous children. Although there are no public footpaths in these areas – well-trodden routes have been established. Fences have been kicked down and course hedges and woodland slashed aside. These desire paths allow me to cross the Parkway and down Newborough Road near to where a Gypsy park has been established. I cross an old Roman bridge and trace a dyke where another new housing development is being built. A group of horses gather round me as I reach the road. I continue to trace the parkway through another woodland, following a desire path made by the horses. This is a far less explored area and seems to have been left relatively untouched and cleared only by the animal’s hooves and bodies.
A severe looking metal gate, fence and barbed wire prevent me from exploring two large man-made lakes – forcing me to cross the Parkway again where I reach the current northern end of Peterborough. This strange looking intersection of paths, parkway and rail lines links with Glinton and Peakirk. A new pedestrian walkway has been built by Greater Anglia who also funded the development of the new Peterborough station and the extension of its train platforms. A middle-aged gentleman stands guard on the new walkway and busily writes notes in response to the passing freight trains. He is concerned about the noise pollution. Rail distribution is big business these days and Greater Anglia have been allowed to increase the frequency of freight trains, much to the annoyance of local Werrington residents. The recently introduced pedestrian crossing (a child was killed crossing the track), is frequently also used by streams of school children on their way home.
This crossroads is a symbolic area for Peterborough between old and possibly new suburbs and confirms its importance as a distribution hub. These once quiet suburban streets of Werrington Village are now at the mercy of a wider influence of market economics and commerce.