Road for the Future

April 2017

Road for the Future Anna Lucas

I wanted to get past the classic pastoral beauty of the landscape and find out more about the people who’s passion and expertise helps to sustain it.
The three men I filmed are as much part of their landscape as the plants and animals they work with, and I was fascinated by the temporal rythmn and directness of their activity alongside the underlying complexities of rural life.

22/10/2012

22/10/2012

04/07/2012

04/07/2012

anna lucas film installation distant view

30/04/2012

Anna Lucas has made a film within which she observes and portrays three men at work, a deer stalker and squirrel trapper and an activist who utilises road kill skins. Who are they, why are we told so little, unanswered questions evoke a palpable atmosphere and take us to a place outside the verbal.   In previous work Lucas has explored social networks and group relationships. This new work departs to focus on the solitary activities the men pursue, their relationship with animals and the land. Their aloneness echoes the fact that pre-oil the land was full of people working, and how at the same time the gentry had themselves painted in empty pastoral scenes, which have fed our notions of how the countryside should look. The almost stealthy quality of the men’s activity in Lucas’s film reiterates and questions this state of affairs. The film will be shown off grid using pedal power with Magnificent Revolution.

30/04/2012

31/08/2011

Nests

31/08/2011

10/08/2011

Enter between two circular spiral timber sculptures, drive slowly along a drive curving through young trees, past temporary structures built as tests. Two halves of a platform or stage are folded up in a small clearing. An open workshop site with shipping containers full of tools, tarp covered timber and concrete structural joints. The indoor workshop is a double bubble of white plastic. Lo-fi futurist, sodium lit giving an orange glow from inside. Large scale machines and international students. A tent roof covers an angular structure adjacent. This is the communal kitchen dining room. The doors lean outwards, at an angle, and have to be pushed hard inwards to open them into a clean functional kitchen, and on to a dining room with raw timber structure ceiling.

Next to this building is a small garden, old kids climbing frames and toys now form homes for bantam hens. A green painted caravan with a balcony and chimes and glass beads in the window.

The squirrel trapper comes out of here in camoflage trousers a long sleeved t- shirt and heavy boots.

We walk and talk. The first trap is not far off the gravel track behind the caravan. A small wooden box about 60cm long and 20cm wide under a tree with a couple of logs either side of it, and two sticks across each open end.

He removes the sticks and uses one to pull out a metal trap. It’s empty but he demonstrates the mechanism, which springs with a loud snap. Pushes it back into the box and releases the safety catch. Replaces the sticks across the entrance. Squirrels are curious, so changes to this little environment will attract their attention.

It is the end of the season. In May there were around three a day from the twenty or so traps laid all around the site. Now it is rare to find one. The traps need checking every day and it takes about an hour by foot and mountain bike.

Squirrels are destructive to the trees. They ‘ring’ them by chewing a strip of bark around the base of the tree and it gradually dies. Some of the trees have evidence beneath them of pine-cones stripped back and bark curling off the trunk.

The land was purchased cheap in the late sixties by Makepeace, an architect from the Architectural Association. He was interested in finding a use for the saplings that needed thinning to manage the woodland. He set up the space for students to experiment with using the timber from the site to create buildings. The squirrel trapper is the son of the site workshop manager, and his mother runs the dining room. He does the job for three months of the year, a tenner a round, plus he cleans and helps on site.

The circuit leads up through long grass and older beech and oak trees. Each box is slightly different, same structure and principle, some numbered, some exposed on earthy ground, some almost hidden. The trapper dashes in and out of the woods, half running to check each one. One hand gets covered in ticks after disturbing some soil near one trap. He brushes them off before they get lodged. Further on thin pines up a steep bank covered with bracken and foxgloves. A high seat attached to a low pine overlooking the path we have taken. Deer run from a clearing of beech trees where the last trap is checked. Also empty.

10/08/2011

10/07/2011

He calls whilst I am recording the dawn chorus. His two year old son has hidden his keys so he is late. He finds them in the funnel of the toy train, and arrives in a pick up at the head of the drive at six. We drive to the top of the hill, park and walk to the Warren, a large open field recently mown with bales dotted across it.

We stalk and talk.

He tries to kill two and a half does for every buck. You have to keep the female population under control otherwise they take over. They breed you see. They have twins or even triplets. Two this year had triplets.

Will leave a buck until he’s about six and then take him out. That’s the best age, if he’s a good one, let him pass on his genes.

If the antlers don’t grow up above the ears in the first year then we’ll take them. But we’ve got one roe buck who’s a six pointer already after only a year.

He looks after 25 – 30,000 acres. There’s no-where like this. They don’t fertilise here because it’s SSSI land, so you get so many butterflies and flowers here. Orchids that you’ll find nowhere else. Just up on the Dorchester road where it’s commercial farming, there’s nothing like what you’ve got here.

He’s going to have his ashes buried under a high seat in a field just over the road. Mapperton. Already squared it with her ladyship.

I hate squirrels, and foxes and badgers. Shoot them or poison them. Get rid of them, grey squirrels. Ninety percent of the trees they took out of the woods there were ruined by squirrels. They ring ‘em.

 

When he has shot an animal, he’ll hang it straightaway in a tree or on a fence, and then come back with bike or truck with a winch, grollock it right there, and then winch it out. He takes them back and hangs them in the larder for a month and butchers them for burgers, sausages and meat which he sells from a trailer at fairs. You have to check them from the diapraghm down. He has a man who comes once a week to take the innards and the legs to be incinerated.

He saves some of the bits. All the light pulls in his house are made from antler bits. There’s a factory that still make coat toggles out of the antler ends. He knows a guy who builds furniture out of antlers. He’s a real artist. He carves a stag head onto the end where the antler joins the head at the end of the armrest.

 

He talks about a millionaire he knows in the states who has a trophy room the size of a football pitch with a retractable roof that he used to crane in two elephants. He has everything he shoots taxidermied. He has built a fiberglass mountain in there for all the goats and sheep. He has two Marco- Polo longhorns in there, the rarest thing you can shoot, they cost quarter of a million each.

 

 

 


10/07/2011

30/06/2011

White pick-up truck, grey morning. Blue tongue and black foot are the livestock diseases to inoculate against. This is done through a chase. Thirty or so steer, handled three times a year and thus quite wild. Two age groups who separate. They might be thirty yards from you and you wouldn’t know.

Their sperm tubes get crushed by a specific tool at around five months old and their bollocks then shrivel up. They get a good five months growth before this happens which helps make them strong enough to cope with it.  Their horns will be corterised too, and that act of both this and the castration keeps them calmer animals.  They are still quite wild because they are infrequently handled.

A lot goes on at night. The poachers know where to find the key – it’s easier than repairing the gate. They will vandalise it if they can’t get in with the key. It’s not like a managed cull because they poach any deer, they are not discerning. You can get 50 or 60 quid for a deer from a butcher how doesn’t ask too many questions. So three in a night is not bad going. The police won’t do anything about it.

They hang the legs in the trees near the track as trophies, and grollock the animals in the open so they have less weight to carry out. Some of them have winches hidden in the vehicles to help them get out quick.

The steer are good for the common. They keep it grazed which promotes new growth of the diverse plant species. In the winter their footprints help aerate the soil.

The farmers eyelashes are thick and dark, like cows lashes.

After four days of criss-crossing the common on foot, there is still no sign of the livestock.

30/06/2011

30/06/2011

Group of botanical illustrators eating lunch.

All but one seem to be beyond retirement age – it’s a hobby more than a profession. One with straight hair clipped back. Pastel shades. There’s only one man whose wife Daphne is also doing the course.

Magnifying glasses, hairline paint brushes, trays of ancient moth samples from a purpose built chest of drawers.

We talk about the Art room atmosphere of intense silent concentration arising from studied drawing.

Wilting nettles in a marmalade jar.

Yellow moth painted on velum.

Delicate ink pen drawing of a plant hosting a delicate water-colour painted moth.

Books on British moths and butterflies and related n atural history laid out on a round table under the stairs.

A box of small clamps and clips like jewelers use.

Cloth topped jars of jam next to raku-fired pots on the windowsill.

View onto picnic benches where three women spanning five decades eat homemade sandwiches and talk about the poly-tunnel.

A blonde woman feeds brown lambs in a small enclosure beyond the picnic area.

Lanolin smelling dark brown sheep shearings in two huge sacks in a barn.

30/06/2011

24/06/2011

Thinking space

24/06/2011

08/12/2010

Early December

Minus Seven degrees. Snow on hard ground.

Shaggy brown medieval looking cows on the common under the trees at the gate.

Railway hut with a broken roof.

08/12/2010