(Part of This Girl Did, exhibition: Dorothy Wordsworth and Women Mountaineers at the Wordsworth Trust)
Alex uses her response to her surroundings to explore our different relationships with the land.
She became interested in the idea of (quite literally) walking in Dorothy’s footsteps, (or footprints, as she prefers to cal it) to see how her own practice might be influenced by some of the same themes:
If I walked in the same places, wore the same clothes, felt the same weather, saw the same folds of the fells, read her writings and generally immersed myself in Dorothy’s surroundings, what artwork might I produce?
Alex read Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals and in costume, started walking.
It was serendipitous that The Wordsworth Trust were putting together an exhibition called This Girl Did which celebrated Dorothy and Women Mountaineers. The culmination of their “reimagining” of Dorothy Wordsworth’s creativity was a re-ascent of Scafell Pike On October 7th 2018. On this day, exactly 200 years to the hour, Dorothy Wordsworth and her party of five (Dorothy Wordsworth, her friend Mary Barker, “trusted” maid Agnes, a Statesman of the Vale and an un-named shepherd strode out, originally to visit Esk Hawes. But the weather was so good and they felt so fresh, that they decided to walk to the summit of Scafell Pike – a feat that no one had yet done, and chronicled.
Dorothy Wordsworth wrote about this in a letter to a friend which was originally published by, slightly edited, William Wordsworth (and not attributed to Dorothy) in a travel book by him.
Other parts of the project have included the painting of small postcards, each written with a line inspired by what Alex had seen and experienced on her “training” walks in the months leading up to the re-ascent. These were posted around the world so that others could take part in the project; small travelling artworks, and journeying thoughts, reflections and ideas. The experience was documented by Alex in a series of paintings, postcards and through social media. The culmination of the project was a film, which was premiered at the Kendal Mountain Festival, along with a talk by Alex about the experience.
My immense thanks must go to the following who came on the walk:
Jeff Cowton, Curator and Head of Learning at the Wordsworth Trust to whom I am so grateful for having faith in my idea.
Thoughtful and experienced walker-writer Harriet Fraser, who took on the role of Mary Barker with such aplomb.
The erudite Dr Jo Taylor who took on the role of “trusted” maid Agnes and carried such a heavy basket of lunch up to Esk Hawes.
The learned and cheerful Paul Westover from Brigman University, who so ably took on the role of Statesman of the Vale.
The brilliant Dr Paul Davies who slipped effortlessly into the clothes of the un-named shepherd and stayed in them throughout the storm.
The well organised staff at Dove Cottage – in particular, Melissa Mitchell and Poppy Garrett; and Louise Ann Wilson.
Paintings, photographs and postcards can be seen in the Being Dorothy Gallery.
This Girl Did is supported by the Wordsworth Trust.