In my lonely and arguably romantic wanderings through the wildscape of Kersal Dale, as described and evoked above, a key part of its appeal is the feral nature of its wildness – its progression from ordered and domestic environment to a place overtaken by nature. This is most present in the ruins of the five large houses that occupied that space that are now only evident in the stones, lintels and sections of walls covered in moss and ivy, grown over with trees, like a slightly less dramatic Ta Prohm – the famous section of the Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia where the huge fig and banyan trees ooze evocatively over the temple ruins. Such ruins, as Alice Mah points out ‘are never static objects, but are in a constant state of change across time and space’ (2012, 3). However, one of the appeals of these abandoned stones, in their seat of greenery, is exactly that they seem to represent a slowing down of time - a drip drip of ruination and process - which is distinct from the brutal tearing down and throwing up of buildings in Manchester and Salford. The lope of the many cranes overhead, heralding the economic boom of the cities (so we are told), also heralds a dizzying speeding up and shift of the vital materiality of the buildings that Tim Edensor identifies in his loving consideration of stone as ‘in formation, shedding its previous incarnations as it becomes repositioned and resituatedwithin a host of changing co-constituents and agencies’ (2012, 449).
In the quiet of the Dale, the process of ruination is reassuringly slow, not reminding me, as the literature indicates it might, of my place in the ever changing assemblages of materiality in the world, but rather fixing me in time and in a tranquil moment through what Edensor calls ‘an affective, more-than-visual sensual encounter with materiality’ (2012, 448). My intermedial practice in Kersal Dale often focuses on capturing the intersection of the remains of the houses and the ‘raucous greenery’ that has sprung up and established itself around the abandoned stones. Perhaps this is comparable to the ‘musing on the aesthetics of pleasurable decay’ (2012, 446) that DeSilvey and Edensor identify as characteristic of the ruin-gazing or ruinenlust, popular in the 18th century. Flaubert comments, ‘I love above all the sight of vegetation resting upon old ruins; this embrace of nature, coming swiftly to bury the work of man the moment his hand is no longer there to defend it, fills me with deep and ample joy’ (in Jorgensen and Tylecote 2007, 451) – a felt perspective that chimes with my own. Unlike the ‘work of man’, offered to my vision when I peer over the fence into the flytipped section of the reserve, these reversed intersections, where nature overtakes ‘the work of man’ represent wildness ‘as process, something continually at work in the world, something tumultuous, green, joyous’ (Macfarlane 2007, 234), leading me to gentle imaginings, tinged with a little melancholy, of the lives that were lived here and their intersection with its peaceful but sometimes unnervingly quiet present.