Cuckmere Haven / 2012
My companion and I were ushered off the A259 between Seaford and Friston by a series of signs and retroreflective vest-wearing individuals. Just before the bridge over the river Cuckmere we made a sharp right turn into the car park stopping in front of The Golden Galleon pub. After a quick change out of shoes into boots, engaging a battery-powered lantern, pocketing a 1-litre thermos of tea and semi-knotting woolen neck-wraps about us, we made our way to the gated entrance. We were greeted politely and calmly warned of rabbit-holes, the lightly flooded, uneven causeway and of the grabby trees. We were handed a neatly printed, A5-sized programme that contained details on the Peace Camp project. On the cover was a colour print of a photograph; an architectural wonder! A sculptural sound work comprised of 50 or so specially designed orange and cream-coloured fabric shelters ensconced for a few days more in the valley of Cuckmere Haven.
After a cautious trudge from the gate, we wound our way along an uneven track. The route before us was marked with bright canisters of light, half-sunk into the wet ground at various points along both edges of the path. As we walked further along, the meandering river Cuckmere on our right appeared as a sheer surface of blue-tinted glass, revealing in its dark still waters the blurred ghostly twins of slow moving sheep trotting on a grass bank above. The glassy relations doubled in number the wooly queue of livestock, making the river Cuckmere seem a busy, and vital thoroughfare. In the distance the faint murmur of traffic sidling up over the East Dean road could be heard, and could be seen, picking its way behind a row of silhouetted trees, following orbs of orange light.
Holding our lantern aloft revealed a pathway of casual hazards before us; loosed wood slats half-sunk across sink-sized muddy pools, overhanging tree branches, and a thick shroud of shrubs. The path banked to the right, and then to the left, it became narrow, then sloped upwards, then again to the left. On occasion floating before us, growing ever larger, were the gleeful swings of other lanterns, the head or hand torches of visitors on the return journey from Peace Camp. Warm thanks arose from above and below calmly nodding lamplight.
A warm glowing orange barnacle (appearing to us the size of a child’s closed hand) situated on a sloping hillock far off in the distance reveals itself as the Peace Camp installation. But after walking only a short distance towards it, the barnacle then vanished, disappearing behind a copse of blackened trees.
15 more minutes of walking now meant that neither the orange glow of Peace Camp nor the crawling traffic behind us could be seen. Switching off the lantern allowed for quiet contemplation in the cool damp evening air. We looked upwards, and as our eyes adjusted to this new gradation of darkness, we saw a star-filled night sky seemingly so over-pipped with bright spheres of plasma, that it seemed ablaze with a frenzied clashing of tiny lights. This alternative lighting system high above assembled from clusters of stars, compounded the surrounding atmosphere, making it seem a wholly vital. The light breathing of my companion, who, upon looking upwards, proposed that just one of the glowing objects could well be a satellite. Perhaps one strayed from a fleet of many others, arcing across the blanket of a million other stars...
Re-lighting the lantern we proceeded along the path. Peace Camp had now come into view yet again, but had grown since we last saw it. The once diminutive orange barnacle had now become a much larger and fairly disparate bloom of orange opaline jellyfish, stuck fast on a sloping bed of pitch. As we banked right, the umbrella-shaped creatures disappeared yet again, engulfed in the inky blackness of nighttime summer trees.
To our left, raised slightly on a hill beyond a non-rabbit proof fence, stood a trailing copse of trees that I thought resembled a nightmarish, oversized slug-like leafy creature (something akin to the mythical beasts drawn so lucidly by the Japanese artist Miyazaki) A creature so dark and massive its arching spine rose up and blocked out parts of the moonlit horizon. But it wasn’t sinister. It was merely a quiet watcher, and one of many we discovered along our path...
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