The Mariners’ Way Proposal
In January I mentioned on my website that I was intending walking the Mariners’ Way and in the past few months I started researching into this ancient track. I have collaborated with other groups of people to try and piece together and created a proposal for this project for which you can now read a brief summary.
The History of the Walk
Tradition has it that for centuries there has been an ancient walkway which runs from Bideford in North Devon to Dartmouth in South Devon. The route was created by sailors travelling between the two ports when transferring from one ship to sail on another. Numerous writers on Dartmoor have referenced the track and some have even tried to follow its route, although today its traces are faint and exist largely in the echoes of the traditions of Dartmoor. This old route is thought to have passed down the eastern flank of Dartmoor in a virtually straight line between Bideford and Dartmouth with the odd deviation that avoided crossing the North Moor and the dome of Hambledon.
The proposal is for Edward to walk the Mariners Way in Devon recording each step he takes by logging it in a tally system. The total number of tally’s will be the starting point of the sculptural installation created in Edward’s studio as he relocates each step taken by tying a knot on a length of rope. Edward has chosen knots as a form of record as a traditional maritime skill. For mariner’s who may have used this walkway it would have had both a practical application in their work and served as a form of artistic expression for them in their leisure time. Mariners used knotting to create decorative pieces of macramé that they would often sell on their travels.
The purpose of this knotting is to create a substantial sculpture. The knotted rope will be wrapped around posts or poles in an oblong format with two doorways, one at each end, to give the impression of a passage house. Passage houses or longhouses are deeply rooted in Dartmoor’s landscape and history and they were used (in Medieval periods) to house both the farmer and his livestock. There is one longhouse that still exists on the Mariner’s Way near Leapra Cross, West Coombe. In Eric Hemery’s book Walking Dartmoor’s Ancient Tracks he explains, ‘The farm, approached by stile and steps over West Coombe Stream, is a fine example of a medieval longhouse where the Mariner’s Way actually passed through the central passage of what surely was a rest-house’. Edward is seeking to interpret this and other houses in the form of the knotted rope that will be created from the walk. Depending on the length of the rope it may be possible to make more than one rope longhouse.
 Eric Hemery, Walking Dartmoor’s Ancient Tracks: A Guide to 28 Routes, (London, Robert Hale Ltd, 1986), pp. 22.
Below is a mini-sculpture of what might become of the knotted rope
If you are interested in or would like to participate in this walk then please contact me and we discuss it further.