The Hollow Way
The hollow way has served as a processional path for a decade of regular walks to the Downs and Grove, each walk completely different from one another, each season a different song, and each walk is unrepeatable.
The hollow way is the link between the Chine (a wooded valley, where I lived for over a decade) and the wind swept downs with far reaching views over the island. At the top of the hollow way is a spot that has become a special place to me, I call it the Grove. The only way in is over a barbed wire fence, into a collection of mounds densely populated with hawthorn and opening up to a grassy clearing surrounded by tall Ash trees.
For me the freedom of walking alone in the countryside is a necessary antidote to modern life. I think Peter Owen Jones sums it up nicely in his book 'Pathways' - “You can sing as loudly as you care to, shout at the wind, lie down and sleep and eat with your mouth open. Walking is not just about going from here to there: it is about what we encounter on the way, both externally and internally.”
I find walks through the hollow way especially liberating and sometimes transformative. The trees either side of the hollow way lean towards one another creating a triangular tunnel. The sun sets on the other side of the hills, and I often walk late in the afternoon when the Chine and the hollow way has lost the sun. So to walk up and through this shaded tunnel of trees and suddenly encounter the dazzling sunshine can burn away any lingering melancholy the instant you emerge on the other side of the portal. The hollow way sheltered from the wind and whatever the weather is doing outside, has a tendency to still the mind leaving my imagination to meander uninterruptedly. To then be encountered by a huge sky and all the room to think one could hope for, seems to take me on an internal journey that leaves me with a sense of renewal and a sense of purpose when I get back down to my studio in the Chine.
Towards the top of the hollow way, occasionally you get a glimpse over the lip of the sunken path and views right across the island, and the Solent (the stretch of water that separates the island from the mainland), to the relative metropolis of Portsmouth. The view from the top of the hill is in the other direction across the island and the wilderness of sea beyond. Fortunately these glimpses of Babylon ;) are few and far between, and serve as a sense of relief when sinking back down below the base of the trees, amongst the roots and the myriad of different sized burrows for mice, rabbits and badgers. I think I regress when out walking alone in the hollow way, returning to a less complicated mental landscape of my childhood populated not only by mice, rabbits and badgers, but all manner of otherworldly creatures. The nature of the hollow way inspires this school of thought.
I usually have my camera at my side when walking and I've hopefully being able to capture the magick of the hollow way and its changes through the seasons. It can feel wonderfully dark and eerie in the Winter months, absolutely ethereal in the mist, and blissful in the dappled sunlight of Spring. All Winter I look forward to seeing signs of the returning wild garlic that carpets the hollow way at the beginning of Spring. I've put together a gallery of images of the hollow way over the years and throughout the seasons, and also a collection of prints that are available here. I'd like to finish with another extract of Owen Jones's book 'Pathways' - a call to arms, a reminder that we need to protect the pathways which weave their way across the country.
“The paths of the British mainland are one of the greatest jewels and legacies left to us by all who have walked them and there is no other country on the planet that has such an intimate network of public footpaths,” he says. “The fact that it is possible to walk legally and unhindered from one end of the country to the other on a network of interlinking paths is something I had not considered to be a vital constituent of freedom until I had visited lands where no such network of paths exists. In their absence communities are confined, even in the countryside to roads, pavements and shopping malls. Paths are not just incidental dotted lines on a map, each time you set off you walk into a whole new world.”