“The summer I was 6, my father and I trudged through stinking silt and razor-sharp reeds to explore a canal near our home in Suffolk, in southeast England. In a small clearing, what looked like dinosaur bones poked through the dark mud—giant black rib cages, evenly spaced down the waterway as far as the eye could see. “Son, these were 100 horse-drawn barges that a long time ago used to transport bricks,” I remember Dad telling me. “Suffolk legend has it that the owner sunk them all and shot all the horses when the railway came.” To me, this was shocking, epic, mind-expanding. Suddenly, my pastoral home in “Constable Country”—named for the British Romantic landscape painter—gained a dynamic fourth dimension. The edges of town, the fields, rivers, woods, and canals where I played were now filled with the ghosts of industrial revolution, technological innovation, and dark legends. I thought about the horses for months….
No other liminal zone has as grisly a provenance as Dead Horse Bay, but most of them carry a sense of death, decay, and desertion. Near Gerritsen Beach is Marine Park, which contains a beautiful salt marsh featuring a sculpture park of abandoned vehicles. Some have almost completely dissolved into the creek; others have arrived more recently…”
The Slate essay was part of an ongoing project documenting the landscape around the edges of cities. I enjoy taking artists and writers on walking tours of these areas.
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