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In Temperley’s Tread - the Birdlife of Durham's Moor and Vale was a project comprising a series of five guided walks along a 45-mile route through one of the north east’s most beautiful but least appreciated landscapes. The In Temperley’s Tread walks were organised by ‘WALK’ of the University of Sunderland, using a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and with the support of the North Pennines AONB Partnership. WALK (Walking, Art, Landskip and Knowledge) is an interdisciplinary research centre at the University of Sunderland, which is looking at how cultural practitioners engage with the world through walking. It was established in 2010 by Prof. Brian Thompson, Dr. Mike Collier and Dr. Tim Brennan. In Temperley’s Tread is the latest in a number of wildlife/art themed projects undertaken by Mike Collier & WALK over the last two years. In essence, the project explored some of Durham’s upland areas, largely within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), over five walk stages spread over four consecutive weekends in July 2012. The walks, for the participants, attempted to create an interface between the North Pennines’ outstanding bird life, its wider natural heritage and aspects of art, culture and history, as experienced through the process of walking through an ‘interpreted’ landscape. One objective of the walks was for the participants to be able to contribute their thoughts and impressions in order that these could inform artwork that would grow out of the ‘experience’ of the walks.
Why Temperley? The inspiration for the walks was renowned north eastern naturalist and author of The History of the Birds of Durham (1951), George W. Temperley (1875-1967). The walks followed his suggested route for experiencing the true beauty of Durham’s uplands, as outlined in the introduction to that work, where he said: “To realise the extent of these far-flung moorlands the traveller, who only knows the industrialised portions of the County in the east, should walk from Edmundbyers on the Derwent through Stanhope in Weardale to Middleton in Teesdale, returning by Langdon Beck, St. John’s Chapel, Boltsburn, Hunstanworth and Blanchland, a circuit of some 45 miles. In the course of such a walk the only signs of cultivation which meet the eye are restricted to the narrow strips along the river banks and the only traces of industry are the relics of long disused lead mines and quarries.”
In July 2012, the In Temperley’s Tread walks covered a total distance of 71km (44.4 miles) effectively replicating Temperley’s route, in five manageable stages. The walks varied in length from 18km (11.25 miles) to 9.5km (5.9 miles), the average being 14.2km (8.9 miles). Along the way the participants documented the wildlife they encountered along what was, in effect, a 45-mile wildlife transect; the whole walk effectively becoming a wildlife recording expedition. Over 120 wildlife records (from merlin to small heath butterfly) were uploaded on to the WildWatch North Pennine's database (www.northpennines.org.uk/WildWatch) and over 40 images of species noted were uploaded to iSpot; a sample of these is viewable at:
In total, 28 walkers were involved, with between six and 18 on the various walks. Along the ‘45-mile’ route walks, 84 bird species were recorded. These included large numbers of upland birds, including seven species of breeding wading birds (oystercatcher, lapwing, redshank, curlew, common sandpiper, snipe and golden plover), and both red and black grouse. Dales woodland birds, recorded included redstart, spotted flycatcher and crossbill. Raptorial birds seen included many buzzards, a number of red kites – particularly on the walks covering the northern section, close to the Derwent valley - kestrel, peregrine, hobby, a number of merlin and short-eared owls in a handful of locations. Meadow pipit and curlew were the birds, and more pertinently, the bird calls that most persistently followed the walkers’ steps over the length of the walks. The former were ubiquitous and the latter started out as a very vocal early presence, remaining to the end, though with a diminishing profile as the month wore on. In addition, a wide variety of plants were noted, over 210 species in total, some of these being upland heath or bog specialists such as: round-leaved sundew, grass of Parnassus and cloudberry.
The walks were led by accomplished artist Dr. Mike Collier and a natural historian who acted as ‘route interpreters’. The wildlife and landscapes experienced are being used to inspire artwork created by Mike Collier (for more information see www.mikecollier.eu), which will form the central element of a roving exhibition and a series of ‘heritage evening’ events, that will tour local communities along the route of the walks between November 2012 and March 2013, check local listings for details as they emerge.