I ran a series of workshops (1999-2000) to assemble the various elements and it was put together a year later by other volunteers.
The trail was structured around a pathway to connect the classrooms to a boardwalk that ran through the wetlands. The path depicts geological time, from the cambrian when fossils were first formed, through the jurassic and cretaceous to the quaternary period when humans first walked the earth. We made carved slate pieces with designs of fossils of each period to be set into the path to be used as ‘rubbings’. The path was edged with tiles; a local tile making firm kindly donated shaped tiles (unfired) for children to carve into, then took them away and fired them for us. Older groups carved the lettering.
Younger groups tackled the fossils found in each time period.
Yet more groups worked on a large mosaic depicting the centre of the earth.
Members of the British Trust for Conservation took part in an ‘Explosion of Life’ giant mural project to add a visual element to the path and add a resource about evolution and ecology.
The trail also included a fossil pit, a water feature to demonstrate erosion and sedimentation and a ceramic volcano made by a local artist demonstrating the formation of igneous rock – baking soda, red food colouring and washing up liquid could be added to make an explosion complete with lava.
I also ran a very fun and memorable summer school geology week with activities making things such as ‘igneous toffee’, ‘conglomerate rock buns’ and ‘sedimentary layer biscuits’!
What did I learn?
This was a huge learning curve and a fantastic opportunity. I had chance to try out new ideas and techniques and it was my first long term project. Techniques I learnt more about;
- Clay carving
- Slate carving
- Mural painting
With hindsight I now know that there are hurdles that are specific to long term projects that at the time I couldn’t anticipate. I made many mistakes, but I was young and I forgive myself!
- In hindsight, perhaps the most important thing to do was to ask some fundamental questions before I even started. I should have established how this was to be maintained. One of the ‘after’ photos clearly shows the effect of leaf litter on the path. For example, who was to clean the algae off the mural boards? Is putting carved stone on the ground in a little used area with tree litter a good idea?
- I was given free rein, but actually I would have liked/should have asked for more guidance
- Things such as staff and management change, and when they do, expectations can change, too
- My enthusiasm swept me away (classic mistake!) and I added more activities as I went along which prevented me from completing the trail before I had to leave
- My inexperience led me to imitate the mosaic technique of another artist (local at the time) and it was only after I saw her mosaic fall apart because of the type of grout she used that I realised mine would too…
- I originally asked a friend to help make a drystone wall to create the water feature, but this had to be entirely reconstructed to make a wall strong enough to hold water. I was asking for the wrong thing
All these mistakes aside, I thoroughly enjoyed working on this. I hope the people who succeeded me and brought it together did too.