Dan Robinson – Cabin for Duke’s Wood


Hunt cabin on Lorraine regional nature reserve, France. Photo: Dan Robinson

I first encountered this hunt cabin in 2010 whilst preparing for an artist residency as Mud Office[1] with Synagogue de Delme contemporary art centre. The cabin’s architecture is not dissimilar to several bird-hides nearby. These structures – for looking and waiting – variously conceal wildlife observers, telescopic devices, books, snacks and guns. During our three month residency this cabin site also served as a sort of studio annexe where objects, actions, sound and video were processed, assembled and broadcast.

Today, a near-identical cabin is being built in Dukes Wood, Nottinghamshire. Its potential use will be tested as part of Ordinary Culture’s spring – autumn programme. The cabin is not open to the general public, but may be used and/or appropriated by staff, volunteers or guests of The Wildlife Trust, Dukes Wood Oil Museum or Ordinary Culture[2]. The cabin is being built in a small patch of undergrowth at the northern boundary of Dukes Wood, with distant views north across fields, and discreet viewing of Dukes Wood’s flora, fauna and users.

Building the structure at the start of the programme allows time to see if uses may or may not develop over the summer. Following this, further adaptations to the cabin could be possible in the autumn. My residency period at Dukes will be probably be largely spent near the cabin seeing what might happen.


Newspaper insert for Black Dogs Quarterly. Dan Robinson, 2013


An oversized camera for recording and projecting. Drawing on whiteboard: Dan Robinson, 2013

Related links:


Wild Boar in Britain

Dan Robinson

Mirador de chasse

Stuctures, children and safety

Mud Office

CAC Synagogue de Delme

The Wildlife Trust

Dukes Wood Oil Museum

[1] Mud Office (Dan Robinson & Charlie Jeffery) http://www.mudoffice.eu

[2] At their own risk.

Louise K. Wilson – Best Kept Secret

Weed Louise

The twentieth century industrial history of Dukes Wood is a fascinating one.  Fact mixes with anecdote in accounts of the story behind the drilling that began in 1943 – the voyage of the oil that was extracted (suited to the Rolls Royce Merlin Engine apparently) and the vital presence of the Texas/ Oklahoma ‘roughnecks’ (bizarrely billeted in the nearby Anglican monastery at Kelham Hall). Their quantity is now reduced down to the singularity of the Oil Patch Warrior statue. I wonder if oral histories were gathered when some of the survivors attended its unveiling?

These narratives echo my interest in industrial archaeology (and what can be seen from the air). The nodding donkeys were apparently painted to merge with the foliage – and while only a few remain, still appear odd intruders. But how far could the woodland absorb the cacophonous sound of the drilling?

Louise Oil Man

At ground level, I am curious to find the ‘inaudible’ that can be brought to attention. I wonder about the wells – the sheer number (two hundred at least) that were drilled. Can any enclosed air be sampled from these remaining fissures, to be treated as material (with all its connotations)? Arguably sound is intrinsically suited to an investigation of the relationship between ourselves and between spaces because, to quote Steven Connor ‘where vision only ever gives us information about the surface of things, sound can inform us about otherwise invisible interiorities – the sturdiness of a wall, the state of the lungs…’. The likelihood of extracting this sonic material is of course fanciful but I wonder if an auditory archaeology of sorts could be practiced.

I am reminded of the work of auditory archaeologist[1] Dr Steve Mills who some years ago made a study of a post-medieval mining landscape in Cornwall. He created GIS (Geographical Information Systems) maps to provide a digital interface for the unveiling of sonic layers: the sounds of the past – captured from machines relocated elsewhere – combined with contemporary literary accounts -and his own accumulated recordings (‘data’). It was an endeavour to study the importance of sound in the everyday and importantly to consider the memory of what is heard.

Louise Tree

In considering the collision of the natural world with industrial remnants etc. I have a thought about making an audio map of Dukes Wood. I plan to scavenge off the path (carefully) and do some tests with different microphones. Geophones (ie contact microphones in the ground) might pick up soundwaves through the earth (since these can detect sound waves in solid materials).  The placement of these being akin to ‘drilling’ down … recording human activity – perhaps extending inside other structures… I need to try some things out. The intention is not to import the sound that apparently displaced the woodland ambience however but to consider the traces of this past and the dynamics of the Wood as it is now. How might it be to spend the night listening (availing oneself of Alec Finlay’s welcoming bowers?): to describe, and to score the shifting terrain of heard and imagined sounds.

[1] “An approach that studies the important influence and significance of the sound environment in past daily life” from http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/share/contactsandpeople/academicstaff/K-O/mills-steve-dr-overview_new.html

Alec Finlay – Jamie’s Bower

Honeysuckle crop
word-drawing (honeysuckle), AF, 2012

The method of the bower project is to work from the made thing
of poetry to the woven construction, in situ.

This poem by Kathleen Jamie seems to perfectly encapsulate the
potentiality of name-becoming-form. I thank her for permission
to include it here.

The Bower

Neither born nor gifted
crafted, nor bequeathed
this forest dwelling’s little
but a warp or tease
in the pliant light trees
soften and confine.
Though it’s nothing
but an attitude of mind
mere breath rising in staves,
the winds assail
its right to exist, this anchorage
or musical-box, veiled

Kathleen Jamie
first published, Irish Review 28 (2001)

Kathleen Jamie is Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Stirling

Alison Lloyd – ‘Walking Out’


Wider ‘contouring’ of Dukes Wood and Dukeries for Ordinary Culture. Beech trees in Dilliner Wood North and Silver Birch at Black Hill Clump within Clumber and Hardwick CP – image – Alison Lloyd

If you look at the Sherwood Forest Mansfield, Worksop & Edwinstowe OS Map 270 you will see that there is no ‘Dukes’ Wood.  There is Pudding Poke Wood, Redgate Wood leading to Crowhill Wood, Nut Wood, Roe Wood, Dillner Wood, Hagley’s Plantation and Mansey Common.  If you follow the right of way footpath between Nut Wood and Roe Wood along this narrow strip of woodland you can look out south to Broadclose Wood, along the Robin Hood Way.  I have begun to ‘contour’ these woodland boundaries between sunset and moonrise.


My preferred walking terrain is a mountainous area, and if I cannot get out on to the hills in the Lakes, Snowdonia or Scotland I like to stride out across the bleak moorland in the Dark Peak in Derbyshire. I have also taken to walking at night with my head torch and spare batteries in lower lying areas, to re-enact some of my experiences hiking in geographically ‘remote’ places such as Glen Brittle in Skye, and the Cairngorms.  Places that could be viewed as some of the few remaining ‘wilderness’ areas in the UK.



During these walks I am exploring my understanding of ‘wilderness’ and take with me a book by Paul Shepheard, ‘The Cultivated Wilderness – or what is Landscape’ and a paper written by David Reason, ‘Reflections of Wilderness and Pike Lane Pond’.

Walking in an area bound by fences, walls and hedges and private woods I am constrained from wandering freely, unlike my walking areas of choice.  I could ignore the boundaries and climb over the fences and once more ‘stride out’ across the fields or meander through the private woods. I have chosen to follow the boundaries, which contradicts my particular excitement in finding places where I can easily roam and ‘contour’ off the beaten track to any point on the map.


We do not so much need to understand the form and nature of our emotional relationship with wilderness, as to recognise that the nature of wilderness is itself formed from our emotional being.

David Reason, Reflections of Wilderness and Pike Land Pond

The wilderness is not a landscape you visit, it is all around you, wherever you are.

Paul Shepheard, The Cultivated Wilderness – or what is Landscape


I will walk during periods of darkness to experience the site at times of discomfort, if not quite anxiety and fear.

Dukes Wood car park is about 1 kilometre from the nearest village (Eakring).  The car park is regularly used for ‘Car Sex’ so there are times when I am not so sure that I want to be parked up there and walking solo and find myself accused of ‘Dogging’. Walking the area through 24 hours in an informal, disjointed way seems to go well with my desire to walk off the beaten track and to re-claim, a place as a lone woman walking artist.



I imagine that I am going against the grain, rebelling, redressing the balance of women artist’s striding out across the landscape; the lone figure in the landscape in what could be seen as an aggressive act.

I have been ‘walking out’ to eight ring contours around Alport Moor and Dale west of Derwent Reservoir and south of Bleaklow in the Dark Peak. The terrain is rough moorland and extends to five square kilometres.


image courtesy of Julian Hughes

Alport Moor is an area known for its Mountain or Arctic Hares. Its plateau-like contours were chosen because I felt it could stand in for the Cairngorm Plateau; a remote place that I could visit over and over again as a lone woman walker. I aim to re-claim this, ‘romantic territory’, which has been mainly associated with male artists who have walked out alone and focused to make their work. I am striding out on my own in way that could be described as an aggressive act of walking, to my own ‘summit’ and the eight remote ‘ring contours’.

In an email exchange with John Hammersley we discussed my reflection on fear, anxiety and awkwardness, and Petrach’s ascent of Ventoux, where there is something of the spirit of doubt and uncertainty in his journey. There is also doubt that he actually walked up the mountain and that his description of his journey was a metaphorical one.



image by Colette Ayers

I am noticing my fear, anxiety, and awkwardness in relationship to these places where getting lost or feeling lost can happen. I have also noticed a difference between fearing you are lost and fearing you have lost a walking companion – lost or abandoned. The paths to get lost on are the circular paths I am making in the ‘marking’ of the contours in the Dark Peak.  A circular path that reflects the hermeneutic circle is non-linear and often a path for getting oneself lost on.

by Alison Lloyd

Charles Watkins – Ash and elm at Dukes Wood

What do the trees found growing in Dukes Wood tell us of its history and future? Spring is a good time to consider the growth forms of deciduous trees as leaves do not disguise the shape of branches and trunks. Last week it was possible to identify a good range of different tree species. Many of the largest trees were ash, with several significant oaks, but there were also many elm trees and several field maples, goat willows, wild cherries, alders and elders. Many of the older trees had once been coppiced.


Large coppiced ash, CW, 2/3/2013

This large ash tree has six main stems and was probably last coppiced in the 1960s. We know that traditionally ash was favoured and planted in Dukes Wood and the neighbouring woods to grow hop poles on a coppice cycle of 15-20 years. In Robert Monteath’s book The Forester’s Guide and Profitable Planter of 1824 there is an engraving which shows the growth of ash coppice at 15, 20, 25 and 30 years following coppicing:


Robert Monteath 1824, Plate VII, Coppicing

Coppicing also produced firewood and many useful wooden products. But by the beginning of the twentieth century the markets for most of these products had disappeared. Many of the characters in Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders (1887) gained their living from coppice trades. In a new introduction to the novel of 1912 Hardy wrote: ‘in respect of the occupations of the characters, the adoption of iron utensils and implements in agriculture, and the discontinuance of thatched roofs for cottages, have almost extinguished the handicrafts classed formerly as ‘copsework’ and the type of men who engaged in them.’ The final collapse of coppicing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was brought about by the further substitution of wood products by new metal and chemical products and changes in agriculture. Many woods like Dukes Wood became uneconomic and tended to be more important for preserving game than producing income from coppicing. Once abandoned the growth of large stems from old coppice stools often makes them unstable, and eventually some or all of the stems are likely to collapse. One way to encourage the longevity of such stools is to re-coppice them, and this has become a standard nature conservation practice. Moreover recently the market for ash firewood has become more buoyant than for many years.


Young ash natural regeneration, CW 2/3/13

There is also an enormous number of young ash trees naturally regenerating throughout Dukes Wood. Ash trees produce many ‘ash keys’ in the summer, and these germinate and grow easily in the clay soils here. The ability for ash trees to regenerate freely, the increase in the demand for firewood and the potential for growing high quality ash timber meant that the future for ash silviculture was very optimistic until very recently. However, with the identification of ash die back disease (Chalara fraxinea) for the first time in the UK in the summer of 2012, the future of the tree is a matter of some trepidation. The disease was first noticed in Poland in 1992 and it spread rapidly. The Forestry Commission note that it ‘is believed to have entered Great Britain on plants for planting imported from nurseries in Continental Europe.’ But now that they have ‘found infected older trees in East Anglia, Kent and Essex with no apparent connection with plants supplied by nurseries’ they also think it might have ‘entered Britain by natural means. These include being carried on the wind or on birds coming across the North Sea and English Channel, or on items such as footwear, clothing or vehicles of people who had been in infected sites in Continental Europe.’ A complete history of spread of this disease and its identification, with a distribution map is at http://www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara


Confirmed infection sites, Chalara fraxinea 4/3/13 Forestry Commission

The map shows that Nottinghamshire has so far been little affected by the disease. The red dots show areas where infection has been confirmed in the wider environment while the orange ones show where the disease has affected young, probably imported trees in new plantations. No one knows how the spread of the disease will develop later in 2013, but taking into account what has happened in other countries, it is highly likely that the spread of Chalara fraxinea will be rapid and affect many trees. But there is some hope as the Forestry Commission considers that ‘not all trees die of the infection, and some are likely to have genetic resistance.’

Elm trees are frequent in Dukes Wood today; most are fairly young, around 20-30 years of age, and many appear in rude health. But these trees are also subject to a virulent disease. Those growing today have sprung up since the arrival of Dutch Elm Disease in Nottinghamshire in the early 1970s. By the late 1970s almost all elm trees, whether in hedgerows or woods, or whether the English Elm (Ulmus procera) or the Wych elm (Ulmus glabra) were dead or dying. But since that time many elm trees have regrown, as at Dukes Wood.


Healthy elm trees, CW, 2/3/13

The disease has by no means disappeared however: it tends to reappear once the new generation of elm trees has become large enough to support the breeding of the beetles which carry the disease. This is what is now happening at Dukes Wood. A fair number of the new generation of elm trees are dead or dying and there is clear evidence of the tunnels bored by elm beetles in bark which has fallen away from the trees.


Dead elm with characteristic bark loss; bark, CW 2/3/13

The recent history of two of the principal tree species in Dukes wood emphasises the complex relationship between humans and trees. People select and plant trees for particular markets and shape the form of individual trees through management but they also help spread virulent tree diseases. Clive Brasier[1] has pointed out that ‘woodlands and landscapes in the UK and across the world are suffering from pathogens introduced by human activities’ and there is little that can be done to stop this spread. The death of most ash trees in Dukes Wood would bring about significant changes in the short term, but in the longer term it would provide space for other species such as alder, birch, field maple and oak to regenerate.

Charles Watkins

School of Geography, University of Nottingham, 11 March 2013



[1] Clive Brasier (2008) The biosecurity threat to the UK and global environment from international trade in plants, Plant Pathology, 57, 792–808

Alec Finlay – A Posie

tryst twist entwine
twined, Roslin Glen, photograph Hanna Tuulikki, 2013
////////////////////E //// I
////////////////////E ///T
The Songs of Robert Burns, Serge Hovey & Jean Redpath

I first discovered Serge Hovey’s settings of the songs of Robert Burns, sung by the great Scottish folk-singer Jean Redpath, in the mid-1990s. They have been as much of an influence on the way I understand love as the poems of Robert Creeley or the pop songs of Paddy McAloon, particular phrases casting a flash of recognition over some half-understood aspect of the interplay of eros, romance, and sentiment.

love for love is the bargain with me

mine for hers, hers for mine

I’ve got six things on my mind, you’re no longer one of them

Although not as celebrated as some of Burns’s love songs, I have a fondness for ‘The Posie’. Hovey’s arrangement and Redpath’s interpretation plies a serpentine line between piano – played by Keith Jarrett – woodwind, and vocals, as if each flower were in turn being bound in.

word-drawing the posie
word-drawing (the posie), AF, 2012

The Posie

O luve will venture in where it daur na weel be seen,
O luve will venture in where wisdom ance has been;
But I will down yon river rove, amang the woods sae green,
And a’ to pu’ a posie to my ain dear May.

The primrose I will pu’, the firstling o’ the year;
And I will pu’ the pink, the emblem o’ my Dear,
For she is the pink o’ womankind, and blooms without a peer;
And a’ to be a posie to my ain dear May.

I’ll pu’ the budding rose when Phebus peeps in view,
For it’s like a baumy kiss o’ her sweet, bonie mou;
The hyacinth’s for constancy, wi’ it’s unchanging blue,
And a’ to be a posie to my ain dear May.

The lily it is pure, and the lily it is fair,
And in her lovely bosom I’ll place the lily there;
The daisy’s for simplicity and unaffected air,
And a’ to be a posy to my ain dear May.

The hawthorn I will pu’, wi’ its locks o’ siller grey,
Where like an aged man it stands at break o’ day;
But the songster’s nest within the bush I winna tak away;
And a’ to be a posie to my ain dear May.

The woodbine I will pu’ when the e’ening star is near,
And the diamond draps o’ dew shall be her een sae clear;
The violet’s for modesty which weel she fa’s to wear,
And a’ to be a posie to my ain dear May.

I’ll tie the posie round wi’ the silken band o’ luve,
And I’ll place it in her breast, and I’ll swear by a’ abuve,
That to my latest draught o’ life the band shall ne’er remove,
And this will be a posie to my ain dear May.
Phebus reflects on the flitting waters of the Afton. Spartan hyacinth, Hyakinthos, blends together with May, the Scots hawthorn, which is bawmed to mark the Spring.

The lyric is one of Burns’s pastorals, an imitative reworking of found melodies and lyrics which he laughed off as so much ‘trash’.

The tenderness of the phrasing weaves a bower, a secluded shelter set apart, made for love, made from love.

word-drawing shelter-lover-bower-flowers
word-drawing (shelter-lover-bower-flowers), AF, 2013

The phrases are a set of signatures reciting traditional flower symbolism. This song is a spell, a work of lyb-lac, plant magic.

The posie welcomes us into the wild wood, infused with a potion of inherited meanings heightened by the sharp surprise of shaded feelings, love’s unreason, a blackbird calling at dusk.

Honeysuckle Tryst, crop
word-drawing (Honeysuckle Tryst), AF 2012

Charms are recipes. Sentiment is antique and, as MacAloon would have it, obsolete, as warships in the Baltic.

What poetry remembers is magic. Each flower was once an active element, whether its effect lay in the repetition of spoken syllables, or the biochemical properties of parts of a plant.

After our first walk through the wood we sat on some benches chatting. The first ideas for shared works emerged without any knots. After my bower came Stephen’s infusion, a blend of essential oils, for the bower, distilled from flowers that grow here.

word-drawing (bower-boudoir
word-drawing (bower-boudoir), AF, 2012

I wonder, which of the species named in ‘The Posie’ are present in Duke’s Wood? Which extracts would be effective? How would the blend smell?

Perhaps Alison would like to collect a posie on one of her walks, or scatter some seeds?

‘The sunset makes a fence out of the forest’. We need to find shelter from danger. Love dare not be seen, or named. Take the posie, strew the petals over the floor of the bower. The flowers that Burns scatters are for no ordinary lover: her name is given, May, the spirit of nature, Spring, Flora, Bride, Demeter, Anaitis, emblematized in the hawthorn, fair among flowers.

The hawthorn is traditionally known to bloom the smell of female.

The H of the Hawthorn is an arch, through which we bow down to enter.


A first design for our bower then, two trees and their interlocking branches. In Duke’s Wood the way to the bower will begin from the entwined hawthorn.

///////flower emblems

hawthorn: Alexander Maris, 2009


Burns explained the sources of ‘The Posie’, which was typical of his songs in being a reworking within the carrying stream of the folk tradition: ‘The Posie’ is my composition; the air was taken down from Mrs. Burns’s voice. It is well known in the West Country, but the old words are trash. By-the-bye, take a look at the tune again, and tell me if you do not think it is the original from which “Roslin Castle” is composed. The second part in particular, for the first two or three bars, is exactly the old air.’ Also, all too typically for Burns, another version of the song exists with the name of his own wife, Jean, rather than May, given as the beloved.

Alec Finlay
March 2013