February 12, 2017

CeMoRe walking seminar

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog: http://byduddonsside.wordpress.com
~~~

My residency exploring the Duddon is part funded by the Centre for Mobilities Research at Lancaster University, and as part of my visiting fellowship with them I instigated a walk around an area of the Dunnerdale Fells.

Below are a selection of photos from the walk, more are over in this album on Flickr.

It wasn’t a guided tour as such, more an opportunity for people from various backgrounds to gather and to use the act of walking to observe and comment differently on the landscape.

A great mix of people came along, including artists, mobilities researchers, students and someone from the management school. (This is one of the things I like about Mobilities Studies – that it can bring in people from lots of different disciplines.)

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

Our initial introductions were hampered slightly by the fairly substantial climb right at the beginning, but we gradually got to know each other over the course of the following 4 miles or so.

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

The weather was cycling through a selection of different settings, althoug thankfully rain and fog weren’t on the menu and our hard work was rewarded with some stunning views and dramatic changes in light.

 

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

The immediate terrain also gave us plenty to think about as we negotiated a selection of bridleways and footpaths, sometimes requiring us to cross becks and other boggy bits.

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

The stone sheep fold (and nearby contemporary galvanised metal sheep feeder) were a bit of a jarring human presence up on the fells, just as we were starting to relax into the isolation.

 

 

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

We followed deep tyre tracks for a short while, but our attention here was more focused on the incredibly strong winds as we went over a particularly exposed ridge.

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

Oh, but the views though!

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

Stickle Tarn elicited a few exclamations along the lines of “Wow! Brilliant!” as we rounded a corner.

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

We decided up here was probably going to be the most sheltered spot we were going to find and so we settled down (briefly) for our lunch. We didn’t linger for long though, as it was bitingly cold and we were starting to feel the need to be moving again.

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

Our opportunity to warm up came with the very steep scramble up to the top of Stickle Pike  (seen from the other side in the photo below). The payback came in the form of views right out to Duddon Sands and the estuary.

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

Circling back around in the direction of Great Stickle, Tess (previously a Geology student, but now working towards a PhD in Art) taught us about how quartz tends to be found alongside other ores.

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

By the time we started to drop back down towards the floor of the valley, I’d also had conversations with people about guidebooks, how things get edited out of the record, Lord of the Rings, avatars and temperature, alternative formats for submitting work for assessment, and being the world expert on your practice.

Sadly I missed out on the conversation about the tapir.

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

The last section of our walk followed the course of the Duddon back upstream, and there were appreciative noises all round at the change in surroundings. Pretty much we could all understand why the Duddon has a special influence on people.

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

By this time I was nurturing a bit of a fascination for that moment when people leap across small streams, and managed to snap a few photos of jumpers in action.

CeMoRe walking seminar around Dunnerdale Fells

Shortly afterwards we had all made it back – dry – to the cars and then we relocated to the pub for a debrief chat about the things that we had noticed about the area and also about the effects of walking and talking at the same time as opposed to trying to cover the same ground whilst sat in a room somewhere.

 

 

A bike ride and a walk

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog: http://byduddonsside.wordpress.com
~~~

After having read that Wordsworth recommended Walna Scar Road as the best way to enter the Duddon Valley, I’d been mulling over the idea of cycling over from Coniston. Poor weather, a bit of online research revealing it was more technical than I’d been imagining, and the resulting loss of confidence meant that I ditched that idea!

I ended up going over to the bike trails in Grizedale Forest, in part curious to see how many people were going to a place dedicated to a particular activity (I’ve been seeing hardly anyone as I explore the Duddon Valley, but have noticed there’s a fair bit of activity around places like Coniston and Ambleside.)

I got chatting to a couple who had traveled over from Leeds and we cycled together for a few miles. Having explained that no, I wasn’t local, but I was here for a couple of months for work, I then got onto talking about the project in more detail.

They’d done some canoeing in the valley several years ago and, unsurprisingly, it sounded very technical but also very rewarding, especially with some of the chasm-y sections.

As we stood in line for the bike wash afterwards, Jo started making a few links and suggested that she could get in touch with a friend who might have done some conservation work in the area. The magic phrase “otter survey” was uttered, and contact details swapped!

Grasmere

Back in Grasmere, I decided to explore the area near the Wordsworth Museum a bit, and walked around the lake. I’d forgotten how windy lakeshores can get, but it soon brought back memories of family holidays…

Satisfying to get back as night was falling, but just before it was dark enough to need a torch.

 

Ed’s nostalgic bits

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog: http://byduddonsside.wordpress.com
~~~

Having resurfaced from our underground explorations, Ed took me for a walk around Penn and Ulpha Park – an area he knows well from his time living near by.

nostalgic loop

nostalgic loop

Starting from Loganbeck, we followed the track up alongside Park Moss, where there were signs of some interesting things going on with the forestry: one area where it looked like several trees had been toppled in what looked like a non-deliberate way, and then on the other side of the track this area which had been replanted and where the saplings were starting to show amongst the scrub and the reeds.

This was a nice contrast to the Frith Hall, where a few hardy trees had settled in amongst the ruins.

nostalgic loop

nostalgic loop

nostalgic loop

I was also struck by how the buildings tended to be nestled in up against the rocky outcrops. Here are some farm buildings that seemed to have been orientated on the same side of its shelter as Frith Hall was against its. Both were on the seaward side, which got me wondering about prevailing winds.

Castle Howe, wall and track

nostalgic loop

howe view

Next came Castle How: one of many in the area! This got us talking about globally unique identifiers, scales of localities and the different sources from which Cumbrian toponymy hails.

The far point of our walk was near the old bobbin mill. I didn’t manage to take any decent photos, but there’s a bit of an interview with one of the previous owners here.

Wooden bobbin for the textile mills of Lancashire used to be made at the mill until 1910. The raw material for the mill came from cutting lengths of wood from coppiced woodlands in the Ulpha district and working them into shape on lathes and coring machines. Water power had been used in the early days of the mill but a turbine had taken over in later years. The Millom News noted: “The first thing Mrs Cooper’s husband did was to instal his own hydro-electric plant, which is still running today and which the occupants of the Bobbin Mill would not be without. “The original beams of the mill are still intact but the millstones themselves had to be taken away during the last war in case they were used for grinding corn in defiance of the food rationing laws. “The rest of the mill has not changed much through the years and still retains some of its ancient charm in the ivy-covered stonework and curious chimney. “Nestling in the Duddon Valley, the Bobbin Mill is one of the few unspoiled reminders of yesteryear.

There’s also a contribution here that says the shaving from the mill were used to heat the local school!

nostalgic loop

nostalgic loop

Looping back round again, closer to the river, through Forge Wood and Low Park, there was more evidence of the foresters having been at work.

nostalgic loop

nostalgic loop

We also admired the work of the wallers, building up and over this boulder. This had been a sort of running joke throughout the day: the determination of the farmers to build walls up near vertical slopes, far away from the nearest roads. Also how the really large boulders had been incorporated into the build and roads wiggled to go between them. “Tell you what lads, why don’t we just leave this one here and go around it?”

nostalgic loop

nostalgic loop

I forget what this fungus is called, but they were un-nervingly rubbery to the touch and the resemblance of this one to an ear was so close it was very wrong!

Ed picked a few to take back home and cook with.

nostalgic loop

Before the rise up through Beckfoot and the last road section to return to the car we were treated to the sight of some lovely soft warm hues and the last of the low sun hit the other side of the valley.

That had been a very good day!

You can see an album of my photos over on Flickr, here.

 

Mines (dis)

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog: http://byduddonsside.wordpress.com
~~~

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being guided around the Duddon Valley by Ed. I’d only encountered him online up until now, but was pretty confident that he’d be able to reveal a different aspect of the landscape. I wasn’t wrong!

After an early morning start we headed out towards the Wrynose pass. On our way Ed pointed out the piles of stone on the side of the hill behind Little Langdale Tarn.

mining spoils

I’d dismissed these as naturally-occuring slate scree.

Wait, no, that’s not true: I’d probably not even registered them at all, just reading these and all the other piles of slate as ‘something you see in the Lake District’ and not given any thought to what they were or how they got there.

As soon as Ed pointed them out as being spoil heaps from quarries, I was suddenly looking at a whole new landscape. I mean, look at it! Look at all those quarries on that section of the map!

quarries

I’m assuming they’re all disused now. A bit of searching online suggests they were mostly active around the mid 19th Century – so Victorian times – probably not in full swing in Wordsworth’s time, but there would have been mining and quarrying taking place.

I’ve read about water-powered crushing mills, tramways and compressed air drills. Even if the stone and ore was still being bashed out by hand, can you imagine how different the soundscape must have been then compared to now?

Links: Wikipedia entryCathedral Cave | Greenburn copper mines

Towards the top of Wrynose we paused at the three shire stone. Initially confused by only Lancashire being represented on the carved upright, we then found the three flat slabs on the ground and had a bit of an “ah-ha!” moment.

County stone(s)

Source around here somewhere

We paused just over the watershed and looked at several possible sources of the Duddon. We also looked at all the plastic tubes protecting tree seedlings. I’d made a few comments about February not being the best of times to be doing fieldwork in the Lake District, but Ed pointed out that it’s a lot easier getting about at this time of year compared to later on when all the bracken is up around waist height!

Duddon Valley

Thinking back to my earlier blog post about bridges, I snapped a photo of this track that has to contend with a gate and then a fording in quick succession.

A while later we arrived up on Kiln Bank in the Dunnerdale Fells not far south of Seathwaite where our aim was to explore some of the abandoned mines.

Mines   Mines Mines Mines

There was a bitterly, bitterly cold wind up on the top, so I was quite glad to get underground into the relative warmth of the caverns.

Ed was familiar with the mine, so was able to guide us through a series of about three connecting caverns. I imagine the miners (quarriers? quarrymen?) were following the rich seams of either slate or copper ore when they were digging here, so it shouldn’t really be a suprise to find that the caverns didn’t link together in an obvious way. Without Ed there, I don’t think I would even have realised there were passages leading out of the first space, since they weren’t visible from the ‘main road’ by the entrance.

Mines

I regularly found myself dumbfounded by trying to imagine these as working quarries: finding it near impossible to comprehend them filled with people, machines and NOISE!

Mines

I mostly parsed the spaces as natural caves, but every so often there were drill holes like those above and then, for a moment or two, the spaces were undeniably manmade.

We had to be careful moving around on the loose slabs and scree, but the biggest hazard was the broken glass dotted around the place, as it turns out that, more recently, the caverns had been used as a hangout of some sort.

Mines

In the furthest back cavern we went into, we even found traces of a fire.

I’m curious about the quarry’s life as a place people would go to. Was it as a place to shelter? Did someone live here for a bit? Did teenagers come here to get their kicks? (It’s not the easiest of places to get to – they’d have to be fairly determined teenagers!) Perhaps it was older thrillseekers, or just those wanting to get away from things for a while?

 

Mines

Back up on the surface, Ed had a nibble on some wood sorrel he found growing near one of the mine entrances.

Duddon Valley

Before getting back in the car we took moment or two to look around us and enjoy being able to see further than a few metres ahead. We were intrigued by the small area of fell that had been walled off. Both Ed and I were aware that there is a Quaker burial ground in the valley, but neither of us knew its precise location or enough about it to be able to make an identification. Ed remembered that this particular area had previously had trees in it, and that didn’t quite seem to fit, so we went back to the OS map and, after a while, eventually identified it as a sheep fold.

Duddon Valley

Ed had done some drystone walling for the National Trust nearby so, heading towards the Newfield Inn for lunch, we got into a conversation about how the stones from different valleys had their different characteristics and pros and cons for walling with. Round stones could get a bit tricks, whereas the flatter sheets were easier to stack but the thin layers meant it took ages to build them up to any height…

After lunch we worked our way down towards the estuary end of the valley. I had to stop the car to take a photo of the building below, having remembered from my research at the Wordsworth Museum a description of buildings that blended into their surroundings and William’s explanation that this was because the crevices in the slate afforded good spots for seeds to lodge and grow.

 

Duddon Valley

I’m liking the moss and the ferns on the roof tiles, but I also particularly appreciate the green shelves on the vertical of the main building behind!

A day in the reading room

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog: http://byduddonsside.wordpress.com
~~~

To complement the reseach I’m doing in the Duddon Valley itself, I’ve also been working with the Wordsworth Trust’s archive to find a way in from that angle.

Naturally the weather was much better than when I was out on the fells the day before!

library view

Strategically positioned so I couldn’t see out of the window, I spent a day in the Jerwood Centre’s reading room where I was able to read Wordsworth’s sonnets relating to the River Duddon, as well as various people’s responses to them. Many thanks also to Anna the Assistant Curator for feeding me with items from the archive and with her own experiences and recollections.

research

In the February 1822 issue of the Lonsdale Magazine, there’s an article called Beauties of the North. Focusing on Duddon Grove (later to become known as Duddon Hall), it describes the improvement of the romantic glens and vales, and the rearing of lordly mansions in “places incomparably superior to any that have yet been selected”.

The Lake mountains abound with vales, each of which would amply furnish convenience for one gentleman’s seat. Their general character is this:—They open upon some large ale or lake—they are narrow and fenced on each side by rugged and lofty hills—they are enlivened by a rough tumbling brook—they are well wooded at the entrance—and they loose themselves behind among rugged mountain heads, abounding with game. A house would stand beautifully at the entrance of one of these glens, and fields would easily be redeemed from the smoother part of the woodlands, while the wood itself might be taught to climb the precipitous steeps on every side. The sweet retirement which places like these would furnish, and the beauty they would add to the country, is indescribable. Such places are Glencoyn—Glenridding—Grisdale—Deepdale—etc, at the head of Ullswater. Some of these have been improved; but there are numbers in all parts of the country waiting the mandate of taste, to start into paradisiacal existence.

I’m fascinated by the themes running through this article: of seeking out wild, open space in which to have freedom to move; of finding charming and picturesque locations in which to build your home; of ‘improving’ these locations through landscape design on a grand scale; and of the ideas of right and of possession and of good taste that underpin it all.

Flash forward to today when I see ‘NO PYLONS’ signs and also the Forestry Commission working to return areas of conifer plantation back to native mixed woodland. Anna also told me about projects such as this one to re-meander Swindale Beck.

It’s made me curious about how much of the landscape we revere as being wild and natural is actually a consequence of human interference?

In Stephen Gill’s writing on Wordsworth and Duddon, there’s a nice paragraph that feels like it might speak to this project:

Local specificity, local pride, loving attention to the unsung and little known are the keynotes not just of the sonnet sequence but of the whole volume.

I’m not encountering many people as I explore the valley (practically no-one, in fact), so I think it’s going to be challenging to get at what the Duddon means to people in terms of specificity and pride. On the other hand, those here in February possibly have a stronger connection to the place compared to the flow of day visitors I imagine the valley might experience in the summer months?

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I’d arranged to meet up and walk with Ed who had spent a few years living at the foot of the valley, so I also made use of the large library tables to plan an itinerary from a list of suggestions that he had sent me.

Cross purposes

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog: http://byduddonsside.wordpress.com
~~~

Returning from my failed ascent of Harter Fell, I stopped at the old packhorse Birks Bridge (not the more modern one by the car park).

As I snapped away, happily taking photos of the bridge and of the gulley it spanned, I became uncomfortably aware that these images all seemed familiar and that I was just taking the same photos of everybody else; that these were the same images I had already encountered online doing my preliminary reading about the Duddon Valley.

Duddon Day 01 Between Gold Rill Dub and Birks Bridge car park

Between Gold Rill Dub and Birks Bridge car park I had very mixed feeling about this. Yes, it’s very picturesque, but as an artist I feel I should work a bit harder to look a little beyond the obvious. Then it struck me. All our photos seem to focus in on the river, but what about if we pay attention to what’s happening perpendicular to this? What happens if we instead think of the thoroughfares that the bridges were built to transport over the water? Suddenly the bridge looked very different! Between Gold Rill Dub and Birks Bridge car park

Between Gold Rill Dub and Birks Bridge car park I was still mulling over this shift in viewpoint when I arrived back at the more modern Birks Bridge. Birks bridge car park bridge (not Birks bridge). I think...

I don’t yet know where this train of thought will take me, but I think I need to resolve to look beyond the postcard views and look at things sideways on.

Not quite Harter Fell

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog: http://byduddonsside.wordpress.com
~~~

Having successfully driven over Wrynose Pass, my plan was to then get out of the car and do a bit of walking. Online, I’d found a short circular walk that included climbing to the top of Harter Fell, where I’d also read the views could be great. Whilst I wasn’t sure I’d have a clear view, I thought I’d give it a try and, if I could , then that would be a great way of getting a sense of the valley.

Between Duddon and Dunnerdale Forest

Starting from the carpark near Birks Bridge, I negotiated some boggy ground before entering what the walk’s author had described as ‘desolate forest’. It was an uncannily good description. The photo below doesn’t really convey the feeling of it, but perhaps you get an inkling.

desolate forest

Hardknott forest is currently being restored from a conifer plantation to “native habitats of oak and birch woodland, bogs and open ground”. Well, I’d already found the bog, maybe the desolation was also by design?

Riding up out of the forest at Birks, I relocated the bridleway and, it turns out, lots more bogginess. There was a lot of water running off the fell, and in some places the track I was following was indistinguishable from a stream bed.

As I got higher, the way became harder to spot and, with the arrival of some rain showers, also quite slippery.

 

Mart Crag

I weighed my options and decided that it was probably best for me to cut my losses, turn around and head back down into the valley.

A couple of quick photos whilst perched on a rock, and then the rain started in earnest and I had to find a relatively flat spot on which to wrestle on my waterproof trousers!

 

Mart Crag

Mart Crag

This is as far as I made it before turning back (the blue line shows my track and the yellow line was the rough route I was hoping to follow):

Harter Fell (ish)

I think that means I made it onto Mart Crags, but not really anywhere near the top of Harter Fell. Oh well.

Having done a bit more reading online since, I think if I tried it again I would use the more southerly route that I had intended to use for my descent. There’s a nice write up of this alternative route here, with some lovely photos taken on a gorgeously clear day.

After returning to Birks I veered off to the right rather than retracing my steps back to the car. I wasn’t sure what to expect by this stage, but hopefully it would be a bit drier!

After a going over some fields and a little bit – but not too much – squelch, the bridleway nipped over a stone wall and suddenly I was following a nice wooded track.

Between Birks and Gold Rill Dub

Between Birks and Gold Rill Dub

I really liked this stile without an obstacle that looked a bit like some odd seating arrangements or some sort of minimalist sculpture.

Descending further down into the valley I increasingly became aware of the sound of pounding water. Ah! I must be getting close to the Duddon again!

The path took me close to the edge of a steep drop which I was reluctant to approach any closer, so I listened to the river for a while longer without being able to see it. Rounding a corner there was this dinky little bridge and Duddon itself. Now I could understand what all the noise was about!

Between Birks and Gold Rill Dub

Gold Rill Dub Gold Rill Dub

Crossing at the wooden (and very slippery) footbridge, I regained the tarmac’d road and made my way back to the car park, stopping off every so often to take a few photos.

Between Gold Rill Dub and Birks Bridge car park

Here’s one looking back up at the summit of Harter Fell. (Or where the summit should have been.) Probably just as well I didn’t push on for the top, as I don’t think I’d have seen much….

Between Gold Rill Dub and Birks Bridge car park

 

Over the top

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog: http://byduddonsside.wordpress.com
~~~

Having chickened out of it on my quick recce to the Duddon Valley a fortnight ago, the time had come to bite the bullet and see if my car was up to the challenge of driving over Wrynose Pass. Success here would influence logistical decisions later on in the project, so I had to find out if it was an option or not.

morning walk into town

The view from Dove Cottage in the morning was of snow-dusted peaks and lingering cloud, so I wasn’t sure what I would be met with once I started to climb the pass.

Wrynose Pass

Well, a closer view of the snow, for a start!

 

Wrynose Pass

Wrynose Pass

Also some glorious views and dramatically-lit landscapes.

 

 

Wrynose Pass

I justified several photo stops in terms of giving the car a chance to cool down a bit!

I reached the top with no automobile-related dramas and crested the top of the pass to be greeted with…

Wrynose Pass

Ugh! A valley full of raincloud! Typical!

 

Wrynose Pass

It brightened up for a few more photographs and an opportunity to pause and reflect on how rapidly the Duddon had grown from the tiny little becks I’d seen earlier, to something that could now reasonably be called a river.

 

Cockley Beck bridge

 

I found myself wondering how one would have traveled between Grasmere and the Duddon Valley at the end of the 17th Century. Would it have been something you could have done as a day trip, or would it have been an undertaking of a few days?

 

First encounter with the Duddon

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog: http://byduddonsside.wordpress.com
~~~

I travelled up to the Lake District for a preliminary meeting at the Wordsworth Museum. Having a bit of time to spare I thought I’d take a detour to check out the valley that will be the main focus of this project.

Visibility was somewhat reduced and it was quite squelchy underfoot, but after 10 minutes strolling around on the banks of the Duddon near Ulpha I could understand that this place is a little bit special – I’m very much looking forward to having a proper explore.

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Announcing ‘Deep Mapping the Duddon’

UPDATE: This project is now called “By Duddon’s Side” and is being documented over at https://byduddonsside.wordpress.com

The River Duddon

Photo by casper_chole on Flickr, CC by-nc-nd, click for original

Back in September I was awarded a Visiting Fellowship by the Centre for Mobilities Research at Lancaster University to help support a collaboration with Dr Christopher Donaldson (Lecturer in Regional History and Co-Investigator on the Leverhulme Trust-funded Geospatial Innovation in the Digital Humanities: A Deep Mapping of the English Lake District project, also at Lancaster University). Since then Chris and I have been working hard to link things and amplify things and – following on from receipt of additional funding from Arts Council England – I’m very happy to now be able to announce that for the next few months I’ll be working with Chris, primarily based in the Lake District.

We’ll ‘deep map‘ history and memory in the Duddon Valley, where the Geospatial Innovation research group’s work will also support the Wordsworth Trust to explore different ways of increasing public engagement with the works of William and Dorothy Wordsworth.

In addition to featuring in the work of the Wordsworths, the Duddon Valley was home to prehistoric and Roman remains, medieval longhouses, and ancient farming communities. It has a strong industrial past (mills, quarrying and an iron furnace) and nowadays attracts tourists ranging from fell walkers and mountain bikes through to those taking a more leisurely approach to exploring the area.

I like a good palimpsest of landscape and stories!

Our activities will map how different layers and traces overlap and interact to contribute to community identity and sense of place. Chris is already working with local groups to research a collection of Victorian and Edwardian photographs of the valley. I’ll be helping with this and also developing my own site-specific tools and processes for engaging with the stories of the Duddon Valley. Later we’ll be bringing these together in an exhibition at the Wordsworth Museum (Grasmere) and I’ll be working with Chris and the Trust in designing something that we hope will prove to be multisensory and interactive.

Sign up to my newsletter for updates as the project develops, or follow along in real time on Twitter.

 

Duddon Valley

Photo by andrew_annemarie on Flickr, CC by-sa, click for original

~~~

Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Additional support from Lancaster University (Geospatial Innovation in the Digital Humanities, Department of History, Centre for Mobilities Research, Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts) and the Wordsworth Trust.



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