Blindwells is a blank spot on the map.. In the sense that ‘blind’ is used to mean a gap, it is well named .
In the code of OS maps this says secret or transient. The map shows no contours or water features. It is therefore an unknown space, a blank – which depending on your viewpoint is a disappointment ( something to flick past), or a challenge. Like a lot of other blanks, and gaps and blinds it encourages me to articulate for myself.
I imagine a dense space made up of a lot of things cancelling each other out , like the bright light, which pours down on us the day we go to visit Blindwells.
The perimeter of the Blindwells zone is enclosed in a historic kind of way. It should be fenced but it has kind of slid off the radar in places. You can wander in if you want to, but you have to want to . There is nothing to advertise its riches.
The advertising that is there is for FUTURE PAST or FUTURE PERFECT. It is not always straightforward to identify which – it feels that efforts have been made to turn ‘no-thing’ into ‘some-thing’ during various microsignage epochs. And that vision is of a FUTURE, which as each project successively stalls on subsidence, toxic runoff or lack of drains, has needed larger and more clamorous appeals to the collective will. ‘We need a more effective utopia… the world turned upside down.. ‘
The gates half -barred have SITE NOW and IN USE stamped freshly upon them, making a neat symmetry of industrial discouragement. But the dip in the middle leads through towards sunlit grassland – a vision of bucolic meadow – so we are not fooled .
The SITE NOW is IN USE by skylarks, kestrels, dirt bikers, dogwalkers, airgun louts and peripatetic psychogeographers . Knock yourselves out guys.
We play with the counterweight on the gate, clamber up the landscaped bings – admiring the angled trace of the scramblers breakneck pitch along the wall of death. We lift the lids on the methane vent chimneys, and try to imagine the town that we are told is to be built there.
What is curious to me is what drawing a line around something does. It encloses or excludes. There are many areas of post-industrial decay in East Lothian gently co-evolving – layers of industrial debris grassing over, mulching, being digested by earthworms and microbacteria , crumbling back to mineral soil again. Enclosure brings challenges – ‘What is this space for, examine that! Take responsibility. Improve , plan’ . This has a venerable history. It opposes progress to decay . ‘You can’t have it its fucked’ has been tough to sell to the stakeholders, right the way back to the Enlightenment.
We have come to seek the NEW SIGN and ,like three kings, trek towards it through the tawny prairie. Improbably coming the other way are a man with a ladder and another with a barrow. At exactly the point where it is obvious that our mutual target is , it, THE SIGN, the only landmark..
Ladder man reluctantly acts as spokesman .
‘Yes they are repairing the sign .’
‘Yes, they are to put back the same panels that blew down and spent the winter warping amongst the grass.’
‘ No, they havent brought their van – it got stuck last time. ‘
He points expressively at a particularly deep rut and wanders off to cajole his mate.
We watch from a distance as they begin to jigsaw together the NEW VISION FOR EAST LOTHIAN. Two small figures adjusting the only rectilinear thing for miles around, up on the edge of the narrow line where the cars roar past on their way towards the Council HQ.
When we approach to look at the VISION we kop a close up of a number of photoshopped non-sequitors spotted around the cropped grass of the Utopia . A woman walks a stationary dog. A couple play guitar by the shore of an azure lake. A family drink from mugs without a source of liquid. Giant pines loom over cardboard houses – their invisible roots undermining the foundations.
All of this is taking place on the shores of what looks suspiciously like the Blindwells pond – currently regarded as too impermanent to be Ordnance Surveyed , it is presently a useful sump for heavy metal cocktails and submerged gases , visited by vagrant smew, and, last time I was down , by airgunning youths, hiding in the bushes and shooting hopelessly at the ducks. It is to become a feature – it has a future.
Unlike the feature I want my friends to see – a bog, a rare bog , a rattling bog – rattling with snipe , whistling with buntings, and swinging with the bullrushes,, atop a plateau, where, with nowhere for the water to go a little patch of reeds and tussocks has grown ..
We find its ref on Google Earth . This would be the only name it has..FIFTY FIVE DEGREES FIFTY SEVEN MINUTES FOURTEEN SECONDS NORTH, TWO DEGREES FIFTY FIVE MINUTES TWENTY SECONDS EAST. Altitude 72 metres.
Perhaps I can claim it as my own find for biodiversion and challenge the developers with the Actual – the airbrushed out versus the photoshopped in . ..I know someone who is big in bogs..
We look at the chestnut of the bunting’s head as it devours the reedmace in the equinoctal sunshine with the song of a dozen skylark in its ears. “
I read that the current developers will rename their town to commemorate the historic links with Bonnie Prince Charlie.
‘ Antepost odds on that name –
Princetown , 6-4,
40-1 bar those.’