One of the greatest attractions of inland boating on the English canals is it’s anachronistic pace, it’s deceleration of life. A friend has a theory that our souls can only travel at walking pace and that canal boating is a perfect mode of transport to try to re-connect body and soul because, in travelling at less than a gentle walking pace, a long boat journey offers the possibility of your soul finally catching up with your carcass!
Campaigns for a return-to-nature, for health & fitness and for social nudity or naturism arose in Northern Europe in the later part of the 19thC and were gradually adopted by other European countries after the First World War.
The Hyde Park Lido built in 1930 was a concrete expression of the outcome of the movements. It gave people somewhere to sunbathe legally, as it was illegal to strip to sunbathe unless on specially designated beaches.
In North London, from 1921, people gathered at the Welsh Harp to bathe and expose their bodies to the sun.
The Dollis-Mutton-Brent story is turning to one of it’s historically richest points.
This imperfect ‘telegraphese’ is About The Harp.
The Roman Watling Street now Edgware Road, a road crossing a shallow valley. Isolated farmland. A treacherous journey to London. From 1751 a coaching inn a welcome sight. The Harp & Horn standing at the Brent river crossing.
The thirsty Camden level of the Regents Canal seeking a water source from Silk Stream and dammed Brent. 3 million baths full. 6,700 lb of roach. Fishing prohibited. Dam, dam, dam. A contractor called Hoof creating a reservoir named, but rarely called Kingsbury or later Brent between Old Kingsbury Church and Edgware Road for a little under £3000,00.
It was always the Welsh Harp.
(The likeness of the outline of the reservoir to an actual Welsh Harp being purely coincidental.)
A return to the River Brent…
Mizzly, late November. Monochrome. A twilight day. Litter and mud and graffiti scrawl. The last late flourish of Autumn colour underfoot. Trees animated by a twitchy wind, in profile, increasingly sculptural.
Trace the line of the river. A river exposed. Revealed. Fuller than slack late Summer. Run-off after rain. The rain still falling. Intermittently.
West Finchley, North London. Houses beginning to edge into Middlesex. Bricks girdling fields. Victorian then Edwardian expansionism and constraint. The viaduct transforms space. Alchemical. Base metal into gold. Rural. Semi-rural. Sub-urban. Suburban. A picture of the turning point. The melting pot. The transformation part-completed. The season turning. Autumn to Winter. Between the barest tree and viaduct one incongruous pine straight-stemmed above glass houses and sheds. A hay rick (or is it an ivy-strangled ruined barn) obscures four cottages. Symbolising ‘harvest-home’ or rural decline? Broad beans on poles. Clipped hedges. Each a portent of sorts. And what of the rider, the starer, the posed? Why is he there, the lad with the chequered saddle blanket, beside the wagon-rutted ford across the Dollis Brook?
“Psychogeography does not have to be complicated. Anyone can do it. You do not need a map, Gore-Tex, or a companion. All you need is a curious nature and a comfortable pair of shoes. There are no rules to doing psychogeography – this is its beauty. However, it is this that makes it hard to pin down in any formalised way. It is also this ‘unruly’ character (disruptive, unsystematic, random) that makes for much discussion about its meaning and purpose.” pg. 1 Tina Richardson on pg. 1 of the introduction to Walking Inside Out
Walking Inside Out attempts to nail the psychogeographic jelly to the wall.