Warnscale: A Land Mark Walk

Warnscale: A Land Mark Walk

Warnscale: A Land Mark Walk Reflecting on In/fertility and Childlessness created Louise Ann Wilson, is a walking guide and art book specific to, and created in, Warnscale, an area of fells in the Lake District, Cumbria, UK. The book is aimed at women who are childless by circumstance.

Louise Ann Wilson, Lancaster, United Kingdom

Warnscale: A Land Mark Walk Reflecting on In/fertility and Childlessness created by Louise Ann Wilson, is a walking guide and art book specific to, and created in, Warnscale, an area of fells to the south of Buttermere Lake. The book is aimed at women who are women who have missed the life-event of biological motherhood can be acknowledged and can come to terms with childless by circumstance. Society offers no rituals or rites of passage through which that absence. This book, however, offers imaginative and creative ways through which women can engage with landscape to reflect upon and even transform their experience of this circumstance. It provides a multi layered yet non-prescriptive means for the walker — whether walking alone, with a partner, friend or in a group — to make and perform their own journey, and can also be used by others who are in sympathy with women in this circumstance and persons in comparable situations.

Louise Ann Wilson developed 'Warnscale' by drawing on her personal experience of childlessness by circumstance. When, after a long silence, she began to talk about her situation, she realised that there are a growing number of women of her generation in a similar circumstance. Like her, they are navigating the un-mapped emotional landscape of isolation and emptiness that this situation brings. The book explores how walking and landscape can be harnessed to create new metaphors for the experience of childlessness and thus make possible futures that are rich in significance.

For the location of the walk, Louise decided to look for an empty room on a mountain, ‘a place’, writes Graham Usher, ‘traditionally associated with revelation, transition or inspiration’. She soon discovered Warnscale Head Bothy. Knowing that the project would pivot around this location, she went on to research the book through in-depth study of the landscape in which it is situated, and conversations with people with local knowledge of the place. Louise combined this with observational research in fertility clinics, and a close reading of the journal writings of Dorothy Wordsworth who walked in and wrote extensively about her experience of the landscape of the Lake District.

Most importantly, though, Louise researched the book through a series of mapping-walks with women who are biologically childless by circumstance. The women who took part are childless for a range of reasons. A number had and/or were continuing to have infertility treatment, whilst others had decided to stop pursuing treatment after multiple attempts, and were seeking pregnancy through donor eggs, had adopted children or were deciding to adopt, or were unresolved as to what to do next.

The mapping-walks took place over a year and were undertaken in all weathers as one-to-one walks with me, or in a small group. Each walk invited participants to respond to the landscape and environmental phenomenon of the place, and to notice sights and sounds, thus allowing the landscape, and its changing forces, to become a metaphor for each participant’s personal experiences of childlessness. Whilst walking we not only shared intimate personal stories but were also quiet and reflective. After the walk, we drew a memory map of our walk that highlighted places or moments of significance and meaning. It is these walks, maps and the words, and the feelings, images and conversations they provoked, that I have distilled into one map and, with the other research materials, developed into this book.

The book seeks to help the walker find a place for quiet reflection and experience the elemental forces around and within, share their own story, acknowledge where they are at present and consider the future paths they might follow, express the worries and fears that otherwise they may not dare to think, or speak and find new ways of seeing that may lead to new ways of feeling.

Published by LAW co Ltd. ISBN #: 978-0-9932664-0-9.


Louise Ann Wilson, Lancaster, United Kingdom

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