Northumberlandia – Cramlington, Northumberland
Since the land sculpture was finally revealed in 2012 I have had Northumberlandia close to the top of my wish list of places to visit. I was excited at the prospect of a truly modern act of regeneration which had a clear dedication to the Goddess in the land – The Lady of the North. This sculpture seemed to hold the promise of a modern sacred space which would be rampant in beautiful subtle energies.
Could it be true? Could a modern artist – Charlie Jencks – have created such a sacred energetic space out of the ruins of industrialisation? This regeneration project seemed hopeful and I was dying to find out. Luckily, on a holiday to Scotland recently I got the chance to find out for myself.
“His many landforms are based on the idea that landforming is a radical hybrid activity combining gardens, landscape, urbanism, architecture, sculpture, and epigraphy. Thus the landforms often include enigmatic writing and complex symbolism. Landforms provoke the visitor to interpret landscape on the largest and smallest scale.
Jencks has become a leading figure in British landscape architecture. His landscape work is inspired by fractals, genetics, chaos theory, waves and solitons” (source: Wikipedia)
The promise of the form has not resulted in Nature participating in the venture. That is my unfortunate claim about the work of art. It is, undoubtedly, a distinctive, daring and appealing attraction. It has so many of the qualities that I associate with the ancient wonder workers of the Neolithic Age who have created the many features that I love – circles, mounds, spirals and a sense of wonder. Those are the positives.
What it has failed to achieve, however, is a co-operative aspect. It was probably never designed with that intention. Or perhaps it is simply too early to be inviting Nature to participate in this work. Yet, as one walks around the site it feels… empty. My wife put this most poignantly when, as we walked along the stagnating pond rippled by the strong winds, “Where are the ducks? I would have expected some bird life on the water?” We found out later that due to the nearby small airport birds that do land are routinely scared away from staying. This typifies the site. Nature has been kept away from participating in the regeneration.
So, there is nothing energy-wise yet at Northumberlandia. Despite the frequent visitors and its sacred shapes and swirls there is nothing at the site which is of a subtle energetic significance. It’s dead, Jim!
The shape promises much, and the site is beautifully laid out, offering great views and balanced spiral walks all over the reformed landscape. I would encourage anyone who wants to see this extraordinary sculpture to make the effort, but to go with the right kinds of expectations. It’s a collection of shaped mounds attractively aligned at the moment. It’s not a sacred site.
Maybe this is because the site is a reconstructed quarry and the “hurt” has not been healed yet? Also, its proximity to current quarrying work – very dramatic land scars – may be preventing the land from healing properly despite the possible artistic intentions?
I have to say that despite my best intentions I was disappointed. I hope to find that other regenerative work has been done at the sites around this land sculpture, and then I think the place may begin to attract the kinds of subtle energies that will make it feel special. At the moment it remains a curiosity only. Nothing sacred to see here despite obvious efforts and alluring promise!
If there’s anyone local who feels differently I’d love to hear from you. If you feel that you have what it takes to encourage the inter-operation of Nature in this landscape then let me know – I’d be right behind your work! For now, Nature is being kept at arms length here. The Lady of the North is beautiful and barren!