I had planned to get here to Milford house last week but Storm Agnes reared her head and meant it was not safe to make the drive. Its exactly 1 and a half hours from my house to Milford house, allowing for the odd sojourn behind a livestock truck or tractor.
I am here to start work on my Soil and Grass residency. My family means that I cant do stay away residencies, and come and stay here at Milford House for 2 or 3 weeks, but instead I am breaking down the residency into day trips or 2 day long visits over October and early November. It’s an interesting way to approach it, as this way, nothing ever gets too familiar.
Today I wanted to to walk the grounds, and spend some time in the nooks, crannies, grasses, trees, etc. The bumpy ground spaces and the nettle filled corner spaces. The broken branches on the ground covered in moss spaces and the squelchy leaf filled ditch spaces. The tree canopy spaces and the high wet grass spaces.
I spent 2 hours walking around the grounds. The beauty of Milford House to me is its unmanicured grounds, with huge old deciduous trees, fields of grass and nettle filled brambly corners. I was struck by the smell of rotting wood underfoot, carpeted ivy and beech nuts, flies buzzing about and everywhere ivy, brambles, nettles, tall wet grass. I do like this time of year, October, when everything starts to die- the leaves, the plants, etc. You can see the tree branches properly as they become bare.. And this dying process of the plants is to me their most aesthetically pleasing phase, when they shrivel up and twist (see the not great photos above.) It feels like if it got the chance, nature would quite quickly swallow up the whole place again. I remember Mark Newell, late partner of Deej, saying that they had to be careful not to let the house and the grounds ‘eat them up’. I felt I understood what he meant.
When I was down for Culture Night a couple of weeks before there had been a different atmosphere, a still, magical, atmosphere in the darkness of the evening. Today, the wind is blowing and of course the rain is misting in and out, not too heavy though. So you could really hear the trees rustling and talking as I tramped around and through them. I was drawn to the Arthur Rackham-esque twisted tree branches, some which had fallen off and were resting at odd angles within the nettles and ivy, others which were dropping under their own weight towards the ground.
I was walking just to give myself the luxury of seeing with no agenda, and to seek out potential performance spaces also, but not putting myself under pressure to identify these as a task. I enjoyed the myriad of textures and patterns the trees and branches and weeds made, and the ecological complexity of the area- by which I mean the trees, their relationship with the soil, the air, each other and the other organisms around them and growing beneath, around and on them, the other plants growing underfoot and in between, and how visually it could be viewed in its entirety as one big system. I sat down and made some drawing of the branches, viewed from below, looking up.
I had a different idea of how I was going to develop the residency, through a performance lens, but it may not turn out that way. I have some ideas to try out and I wont know of course if they will work or not until I try them. Planning to return at the end of next week for visit no 2.