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flittermice and hoots

Walks of discovery 2011 - 2012

The Old English word Flittermouse is the visually rich name for the bat, and the sound 'hoot' the call of some owls. Flittermice and Hoots is a series of walks for listening, exploring and observing in the wild places of Devon.  Take this chance to find fresh and unexpected perspectives, where your feet do not normally tread.


Sunday, February 5
4:00pm to 7:00pm

Join artist and naturalist Tony Whitehead for this evening excursion from the Quay in Topsham to identify and listen to migrant wildfowl on the marshes to hear the birds as they take their daily "time-out" from feeding along the river at high tide.

Throughout the winter thousands of waterbirds flock to the Exe estuary. Every day, at high tide they leave the estuary and roost communally at a small number of locations around the Exe -- one of these is at the RSPB's nature reserve at Bowling Green Marsh in Topsham. Apart from being a wonderful sight, the sounds of thousands of birds roosting are also great to hear.

The walk is on level ground and mostly on good footpaths. But please bring boots or wellies as one short section can be a muddy. Also - WRAP UP WARM! Tony says the estuary is one of the coldest places he knows in Devon in Winter! Bring torches as some of the walk will be in the dark.

If you're interested in making sound recordings, bring along a mini-disc, digital or other recording device as there will be many opportunities for capturing the evening's soundscape.

FREE. Places limited (and going fast!) go here to reserve a place, and for google map of the meeting location.



A POINT OF VIEW -- Walk 2 of 2 at Flete Estate
Saturday, 19 November
flickr link click for more photos

With special permission from the Flete Estate, artist in residence Shelley Castle led a family-friendly amble exploring various aspects of this richly varied and multi-layered private estate. Mushroom spotting in the cow field hill, consideration of Iron Age peoples, collecting of small things, contemplating the estuary, lunching in a beautiful fairy-tale mossy spot by the river and a spot of art-making back in Shelley's studio were enjoyed by all.

A POINT OF VIEW -- Walk 1 of 2 at Flete Estate
Saturday, 12 November
Report by walk leader and artist-in-residence Shelley Castle:

The premise of this walk was to engage a group of people with a variety of landscapes in which there are always clashes of interest, harmonious partnerships and where the aspect of human control is ever-present.  The Flete estate is 5,000 acres of privately owned land tenanted by 9 different farmers, having several ancient woodlands, running a pheasant shoot each year and encompassing a very wide variety of natural habitats.  These include 5% of the reed beds in the South West and a large area of newly created salt marsh.
The group was led past the large stately home, through ‘parkland’ which is a Victorian-planted water meadow with some very interesting specimen trees.  Rich in lichen, an indicator species, it’s clear that the Flete Estate has done well to create a clean environment and has every reason to have gained its Site of Special Scientific Interest status.  With the help of botanist and wild plant expert Andy Byfield, we talked about some of the species we encountered, stopping to look up close as well as enjoying the wider landscape which would fall into the category here of a ‘classic British landscape’.    One participant wrote to me the following day:

‘Thanks so much for that great wander round the Flete Estate last weekend: it was a treat to be 'behind the scenes' in that part of the world and see something of the estate's diversity – new saltmarsh etc. – and intense visual pleasures’. 

As the artist in residence I have a detailed knowledge of the estates history and at times talked about this, including the iron-age past, the Victorian owners of the estate, and some of the contemporary inhabitants whom I know.  When talking about the salt marsh I was able to give the group differing viewpoints as to its drawbacks and benefits, for example, for the wildlife in the area, especially some birds and plants, it’s a wonderful environment, but it meant that the dairy farmers lost 70 acres of grazing for their cows.  The information I provided instigated thoughts about what we choose to do with our landscape.  Walking through the flotsam and jetsam at the end of the salt marsh was a deliberately provocative part of the walk and indeed created debate around human’s interference with landscapes and when and where to interfere with natural changes such as invasive species.  Some people didn’t want to engage in this debate and roamed on the salt marsh, but for others it was an interesting highlight. Another participant wrote:

‘Some amazing places, interesting pointers, flotsam, birds, sycamore, tidal  meadows,  river bank. And great weather!’

In the end my hope was to introduce people not only to the estate but to the deeper meaning of our landscape and to think about the more dynamic, difficult aspects which run through it.  I hope this was achieved.

Friday, 28 October

Join artist and naturalist Tony Whitehead for this evening excursion to identify and listen to the migrant wildfowl for which Dawlish Warren is so well known. This will be a gentle stroll through the various habitats of the Warren with a lot of time for quiet listening, learning about the migratory patterns of wildfowl (and other birds and creatures). Get to know more about as well what makes this such a special habitat.

Tuesday, 1 November
flickr link click for more photos

A musical, botanical, theatrical, historical, sociological, geological and mythological walk around the grounds of Cockington Court, Torquay. Led by the musicians and performers of the Geotrio: The Crabman - Phil Smith, Uncle Tacko - Tony Lidington and Aeolian Muso - Hugh Nankivell. A podcast of this walk/performance, which was first broadcast on November 3 on Wordquest FM, can be downloaded here.

Saturday, 8 October
Report by walk leader Susan Deakin
Link to Flickr

The ten participants met their guide where the River Wash meets Bow Creek in Tuckenhay. The weather was fairish - grey at first, threatening rain that never materialised. Instead, the sun came out and the west wind blew on our afternoon. The walk was short. Not much more than a mile following the creek-side, through both open, hilly pasture and wooded sections. Talking the while, the walkers were stopped in their tracks on a few occasions to have their attention focused on other remarkable trees. Although the possibility of leading a silent walk was considered, the leader rejected it for this particular gathering.

The content of the short talk was well received. The small oak leaf embossed cards passed around (each walker picked one to keep) gave pleasure, whilst their contents - notes on the oak’s eco-system - provided a talking point.

Everyone wandered off to pursue his or her own agenda: variously collecting acorns, drawing, writing, dowsing, examining minute life through a magnifying glass, reading a small book of writings of passers-by collected earlier during the master’s project, or simply lying looking up at the canopy.

A chilly wind blew us back to the fireside to partake of tea, cake, gleaned hazelnuts and more discussions. This was enriched by contributions from artist Toni Spenser about acorn-derived foods and drinking from acorn cups, initiated by Rachel Cornish. We retraced our steps upstream, somewhat more connected with oak trees than on the outward journey, whilst several new links were forged during the afternoon.  One walker resolved problems with a piece of academic writing via connections made through the event, and kick started new artwork, whilst another took away jottings that she intended to work on later. At the close, everyone said they had enjoyed themselves immensely. Susan was given a dowsed, earlier date for the tree’s age, encouragement to consider making other guided walks there, as well as to pursue further work with oaks.

a three concerts and two churches walk
Saturday, 1 October
Link to Flickr

This day-long walk with three concerts began at St. Mary the Virgin, Holne proceeded to St. Peter, Buckland in the Moor and returned to Holne; it was led by musicians Hugh Nankivell and Graham Browning. After gathering on an amazingly warm sunny day outside St. Mary the Virgin the walkers were invited inside for a 30 minute concert by Hugh and Graham. These performances featured songs written by Hugh to accompany poems written by Peter Oswald (who had hoped to come along but an overcrowded schedule prevented him taking part in this great day). The song/poem titles performed included: Eaten Alive by Small Birds in South Devon, Cat, Death of the River, the Blackbird Replies, Bluetit, Twitcher, Owl, Music and Swan. Some of the songs were accompanied by Hugh on the church piano; he and Graham both sang. Sitting in the church, next to the recently restored and brilliantly colouored rood screen, with light playing across the beams and pews while Hugh and Graham sereneded the walkers, was incredibly special.

Emerging from the soft light of the church into the heat and sun walkers shouldered rucksacks and followed Hugh and Graham as they proceeded out of Holne, up a lane and then over a stile onto a section of the Two Moors Way, en route to New Bridge. Autumn hues of trees and bracken were contrasted by bright green pastures and a brilliantly blue sky. After descending to the River Dart the group gathered under New Bridge to join Hugh and Graham in a song –– the percussive musicial accompaniment was provided by the walkers who earlier had been instructed to pick up two stones that had 'good tones'. The group set off along and above the banks of the Dart joining a lane at Deeper Marsh which they followed, crossing the Walla Brook at Buckland Bridge. Soon thereafter they turned off to the right to enjoy walking a route not usually open to the public (Fountains Forestry kindly gave AHA access for the day). The route climbed an overgrown path along the Ruddy Cleve bringing the group out at Buckland in the Moor. After a lunch spent lounging in the warm sunshine in the church yard, Graham ushered the walkers into the church, St. Peter (after brushing them down to remove loose grass). Hugh and Graham spent the next half-hour entertaining the walkers with songs, stories and poems; some of which were accompanied by Hugh on the recently renovated harmonium.

The return walk followed the same route. Arriving a bit early for the 5:00, and final performance of the day, walkers and musicians had time for a pot of tea and lovely cakes at the new community-run Tea Rooms in Holne. Then back to the church where Hugh on piano and Graham on guitar provided a final half-hour of songs, stories and poems. It was an incredibly wonderful day in all ways: music, locations, weather, people and creativity.

A podcast of the walk/performance can be listened to or downloaded here soon!

Crickets & Grasshoppers.  The Poetry of the Earth is Never Dead (Keats)
21/22 September
flickr image click for more photos

Walkers joined naturalist and artist Tony Whitehead to discover the many and varied sounds of grasshoppers and crickets as dusk fell over Orley Common (a Devon Wildlife Trust property near Ipplepen).  Evening One was spent listening to and learning about these insect musicians and making sound recordings of their songs. Evening Two was spent with Tony in the AHA studio at Dartington using Audacity software to edite, explore and experiment with the sounds of the grasshoppers and crickets and create short sound compositions. Podcasts coming here soon.

Walk of a Thousand Eyes -- Andrews Wood
17 September

Artists Anna Cantoni and Emily Swann led this journey exploring the senses in the heath and wet woodland landscape in Andrew's Wood near Loddiswell.  Andrew's Wood is part of the South Devon AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and is owned by the Devon Wildlife Trust.  It was the place from which many of the botanical drawings for the Observer books were collected.

Cliff Walk, East Prawle
3 September

Artists Anna Cantoni and Emily Swann led this dramatic walk above the sea as part of the Flittermice & Hoots project.  Walkers hadtime to observe the rhythms and patterns of the wildlife and landscape: the flight of coastal birds, the shapes created by the meeting of land and sea, the plants and trees that bend to the shape of the winds and the tracks of creatures who live in this beautiful, but harsh, environment.

Big Lottery

The Flittermice & Hoots project was an idea of Devon artist Elly Stevens and she developed the concept for Aune Head Arts.  Unexpected circumstances caused Elly to withdraw from active participation in the project in July.  Without her ideas and hard work the project would never have come to fruition and AHA is very grateful to her.





last updated: 11-Jan-2012 16:18

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