Marking the Land is a project in collaboration with artist Shaun C Badham to mark the 50th anniversary year of The Essex Way; an 81-mile-long waymarked footpath from Epping to Harwich founded by Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) in 1972.
The act of moving through the landscape is underpinned with complex histories and laws which identify it as a potentially radical act in the context of infringement of rights and the rising cost of land. Traversing public and private land, walking is often closely tied to leisure, however, historically many routes have been established for religion, commerce, as a form of protest or campaigning. The recent work of campaigners has seen the government cancel a deadline for registering forgotten paths under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, validating the importance for public access to be maintained in the countryside. To this end, this project aims to celebrate the alternative exploration of the county in lesser known environments, expanding upon a network of walking routes that exemplify the diverse and various nature of the region.
Presented as a free guided walk along a small section of the route in September 2022, this 4.5 mile circular walk from Fairstead to Terling included several unique examples of architecture, history and artworks that exemplify how walking can help us to re-engage with our environment through a heightened awareness of the conditions around us. Beginning at St Mary the Virgin Church, with its remarkable 14th century fresco paintings of the Passion Cycle, the walk traverses open countryside, farmland, wood, and hedgerows. The route also passes by The Essex Way information point at Fuller Street, with an opportunity for a break at the Square and Compass pub; a notable destination which includes an original hand-drawn map of the ‘Ley Lines of Essex’ by the author and artist Terry Johnson. The route also passes Terling Smock Mill before looping back through tranquil woodland to Fairstead.
As we passed through the land, we observed markings, land-use and history, offering reflections and contributions from those with specific local knowledge. Contributors include: James Ravinet, Shaun C. Badham, David Boyle (Church Warden) , Victor Roome/Susan Poole (Landlords, Square and Compasses Pub), Philippa Stewart (Artist) and Peter Jepson (Chelmer and Blackwater Ramblers). Observations, extracts and documentation from this guided walk have informed a new publication due for release in October 2023. Marking the Land is generously supported by Essex County Council’s Arts and Cultural Fund (2022).