Wednesday 2 September 2015

Walk Mitcham to Wandle Junction - Wandling Bill Mudge

Earlier this year we held an exhibition of artists' maps at the Sunbury Embroidery Gallery in the beautiful setting of the Sunbury Walled Garden. Ten artists created maps which could be walked throughout Great Britain. Some were factual, others conceptual but most of all they gave us a new perspective to the world outside if we chose to follow the artist's instructions.

All of the maps are published by Sampson Low Ltd and can be bought for as little as £2. One of the criteria for the commissioned maps was that they should be affordable to all. The artists were asked to consider 3 criteria; their map should be set in the real world, somewhere in the UK; that it should include a route which could be walked and the walking of the map shouldn't cost more than £10 (train fares, entrance to museums, lunch).

Wandling Map
My pledge to the artists for giving us such a wonderful array of creative cartography was that I would walk all their maps in the months to come.

I start my journey with Bill Mudge's Wandling map which includes a photographic walk along the River Wandle. The map contains a plan of the walk, which leads from the train station at Mitcham Junction to the tram stop at Wandle Park. Contained within the map's pages are 28 photographs that Bill Mudge took along the route.

The route is not challenging in itself, it is a 2 hour meander through the lush green corridor created by the River Wandle. It is easy for the eye to get distracted though and 2 hours can easily ease toward 3 if creativity strikes along the 6 mile route. It is a walk that is easy for pushchairs, cyclists, runners and can be completed by hardy wheelchair users.

1. This Way
The main tenet to the Wandling map is its photographic narrative and spurs even the idlest of snappers to pick up their camera or phone. Bill Mudge's map tests your own powers of observation, first you want to spot what he's photographed along the route and then you want to see what you can capture yourself.

I stepped off the train at Mitcham Junction Station and was immediately struck by the detritus that us humans leave behind. A cigarette packet stuffed (1) in the fence reminded me of those secret Boy Scout trails we used to lay in the woods. The packet pointing in the direction up the hill.

2. Flow
The roads too were littered with our rubbish, blown by the rushing cars down the Carshalton Road (A237). I started my own narrative here that rolled throughout my journey, its was the markings that we leave as humans, on roads, trees, notices, on walls accidentally and deliberately (2).

3. Caught
By the time I had reached Watercress Park (3) I had joined forces with the author Bill Mudge himself. He is a local resident and despite being a self proclaimed introvert it seems he spends many hours out of doors watching and photographing his world.

4. Lost and Found
The River Wandle is of course the true narrative of the walk and the constant criss-cross of its banks give you a never ending perspective of reflections, wildlife and hidden paths. I liked the constant tension along its path between cyclist and pedestrian (4). Lines kept us apart and on the bridges we were even given colours to stop us wandering into each others zone. Of course no such separation is needed, the people of Mitcham, Carshalton and Beddington are perfectly capable or regulating themselves.

5. Treefitti
Our effect on nature was a theme that was reflected in our scything cut through this highly populated suburban world and laminated planning applications dotted its route. We saw a surveyor inspecting the outside of a property and local authority worker checking the viability of a footpath. Underneath it all came a spirit of the woodland (5) that the sprites and fairies that kept the woods alive were really the unemployed and errant teenagers.

6. Duck Hunt
Amongst the ducks, herons and darting gudgeon I spotted the lesser spotted Mudge (6) in his natural habitat. If you didn't know, Mudge is a well known figure on London's Jazz circuit where he can be found in dark and moody venues either at the helm of his keyboard, piano or beloved Hammond B3 organ. Although you can hear him on many recordings he has but one album of self penned originals to his name, Skylight, which was released in 2010.

7. Reasonable Advice
We walked past the intriguing Wilderness Island which remains a mysterious presence between Hackbridge and the strangely named The Wrythe. Along its borders lurk graffiti scrawls (7) that match the texture of the leaves and brambles, occasionally their short poetic stabs are poignant too.

8. Goal
The walk wanders through many parks and open spaces. The Grove (8) in Carshalton teemed with pockets of life, pigeons stalked rice cake holding toddlers in playgrounds while the football pitch was only populated by goalmouth scuffs. I could hear the scurrying of a rat stuck in a rubbish bin, destined to be marooned until enough litter had been deposited and it could reach the high exit once more.

9. Deadwood
Although we took a short detour at this point to the Honeywood Musuem (9) in Carshalton if I was you I'd walk just a little further to the MINE Gallery on Charshalton High Street where there was an excellent exhibition from Carl Lawson. In January 2016 they will be exhibiting the work of our very own mapmaker Bill Mudge with his 20 in 15 project. 20 in 15 is based around creative individuals, documenting them / their work / their  workspace, through environmental portraiture and still-life photography. A total of 20 projects in 2015 will be represented; a series of photographs for each individual.

10. Treeo
I was inspired by both the walk itself and Bill Mudge's photographic map. My photos aren't as technically proficient nor as imaginative as Mudge's but that's not the point. I now have a photographic narrative on which I pin the feelings and experiences of my 6 mile walk from Mitcham Junction to Wandle Park.

Buy the Wandling map through Amazon from the publisher or Bill Mudge himself.


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