History of the Mariners Way Walk
Created by Edward Crumpton, an artist living and working in North Devon, this sculpture takes its inspiration from the almost mythical Mariner’s Way, a 73 mile long footpath running from Bideford to Dartmouth, via the wilds of Dartmoor. This arduous, and sometimes treacherous footpath was used, from the late 1600s by mariners wishing to change ships, crossing Devon from one flourishing port to the other.
Edward’s work celebrates this journey by using knotted, tarred, marlin rope a material fundamental to the lives of sailors in those times. There are 146,000 knots in the sculpture, reflecting the approximate number of steps it takes to complete the journey. The use of the half-hitch macramé knot is important on more than one level as it works as a physical representation of each step undertaken by the mariners, in a medium integral to their lives. This traditional maritime skill would have had both a practical application in their work and served as a form of artistic expression. Mariners used knotting to create decorative pieces of macramé, which they would often sell on their travels.
The 6,000 metres of rope, knotted and formed into a ball, will in future be unravelled and re-arranged to be used in the construction of a form of passage house. Thus the current form emphasises the physical undertaking of the journey and the future version of the sculpture will indicate the nights spent by those mariners in strange lodgings, far from home.
The Mariner’s Way Sculpture is the most ambitious of his works to date, involving many miles of walking and record-making and many hours, days and weeks of knot-making. The work is a fitting monument to the hard lives of those many unknown sailors who crossed the Atlantic to bring trade to England from America, then risked the more treacherous routes of Dartmoor to find an onward passage.