Search This Blog

Friday, 25 February 2011

An introduction to Chasing Spring

To ease myself into this blog I’ll start by explaining where the title of the project came from. It all started when I was watching an episode of QI, in which Stephen Fry asked what travels at one third of a mile per hour across the UK.

The answer was spring and after some research it turned that springtime in the Orkneys is on average about two months behind Cornwall, when you examine the dates that seasonal animals and plants appear. I started wondering if it would be possible to travel at that speed, combining the famous Land’s End to John o’Groats (also known as Lejog) route with an extended nature trail.

I admit that at the start I saw myself cycling across the UK for two months with daffodils springing up at my wheels, but my romantic image was shattered pretty quickly. For a start, we couldn’t use daffodils as markers of spring because they’re not truly wild plants any more – most of the specimens you can see sprouting in gardens and fields are cultivars.

So the working title ‘Eight Weeks of Daffodils’ had to be replaced with something more general. Having teamed up with Chiara, we came up with name ‘Chasing Spring’, which led us into a much more unpredictable and interesting project.

We realised we couldn’t control how and when nature appeared, so we decided to go with the flow and to let it lead the way. Working with Nature’s Calendar, we decided to wait for sightings of particular springtime animals and plants, which would give us the go-ahead to start the journey. The title Chasing Spring emphasised the idea that the season is in control and gave us a framework for looking at how people and communities are influenced by the seasons.

Living seasonally can be a hugely positive experience, giving us a fresh connection to the land and the seasons that is healthier and happier, and ultimately more sustainable. But it isn't always easy. On a trivial level, it has made our project much more dificult to plan logistically because we can’t give our interviewees exact arrival dates or book accommodation well in advance.

For people who truly live their lives seasonally – for personal or professional reasons – it means totally rearranging their lifestyles and making stark decisions about what is really valuable in life. For myself, I hope to learn how far I'm willing to take the idea of living seasonally and what I might have to sacrifice along the way.