Even somewhere as inauspicious as the Beckton Alp, a toxic 19th century spoil heap, is redolent with value for the people who use it.

Despite the only way in being a hole illegally made in the fence, the alp is a vibrant social space used by a diverse range of people for the kinds of adventure we just don’t have anymore.

During three months residency in a portacabin at the base of the alp we observed and documented use and evidence of use, both human and otherwise.

In 50 days of actual presence on site, over 300 people were observed.

The paradox of this “bad” landscape as also a place of the sublime and of adventure was tested during the residency by hosting social encounters. One of these encounters was an invitation to lunch below the summit extended to the scaffolders from the yard at the base of the alp. Both tested scenarios and observed use formed a brief to return the alp as a fully accessible, social, bioremediated landscape, but one that retains the intrinsic qualities that make it so beguiling.

The concept for bioremediation is to treat the surface rainwater as both a source of pleasure and potential poison and by making visible a treatment system so reference the hidden marsh landscape now sealed away beneath the surface. 

The design will separate the surface water from the leachate, rills and pools with reed beds as green sponges will cleanse the less toxic surface run off, and will keep it as far as possible from penetrating the reinstated clay capping.  

That water which does penetrate the cap will percolate through the toxins and as leachate will be collected at the base in an enclosed chamber, the “bad” water will be pumped up using renewable energy to be let down again through an enclosed serial system to filter out the toxins.   

The proposal is for a hybrid landscape of remediation and the sublime, for adventure and for the knowledge of risk.  The form this landscape may take is evidenced through the natural and cultural history collection of the alp. This collection is based the Enlightenment tradition of knowledge through observation and comprises of artifacts and “specimens” entirely constructed from material found on site. The Collection is cultural evidence of the value of the intrinsic paradox of the alp.

The collection was made in collaboration with local individuals and organizations, the Beckon adult education art class made landscape paintings, the director of the local undertakers narrated a roll call of loss, the Over 50s book club donated memories and a botanical illustrator made drawings of constructed species.

Date: Wednesday 13.02.08
Time: 09.45-17.00
Weather: Sunny
Methodology: complete rubbish removal (see diagram) and layout rubbish by type, total of each as follows:
300 lager cans
19  cider cans
46  soft drink cans
7 paint aerosol cans
3 deodorant and unidentified aerosols
2 lighter fuel aerosols
9 firework remains
1 tin adapted as crack pipe
1 plastic bottle adapted as bong
4 gloves
1 sock
1 tie
8 intact plastic beer can holders
6 corks
10 cigarette packets
1 pen
1 pencil
1 condom
3 straws
2 light bulbs
22 plastic firework lids
2 plastic tubes
Tools used:
1 x spade
Samples to laboratory: 
2 x gloves
1 x wooden spoon
2 x washing up liquid caps
20 x plastic bottle tops
1 x tie
1 x can
3 x straws
1 x lighter
1 x piece green plastic
24 x metal bottle tops
1 x cork
4 x plastic beer can holders
4 x plastic firework lids
1 x coat hanger
3 x plastic forks
2 x plastic tubes
1 x scarf
1 x nest
1 x grolsch bottle stopper
assorted sticks
Human occupation off alp site:
08.45 two police officers walk from retail park around southeast edge of alp
Human occupation on alp site:
09.10 two boys and two girls in school uniform at summit looking south, 09.20 throwing stones towards concrete plateau, descend slowly, play fighting with sticks via amphitheatre up to wooden platform and then reappear in retail park and enter JD sports
10.45 startle solitary young man J____ at summit, engage in conversation, he joins in with  rubbish clearing leaving at 12.00
12.15 three boys in school uniform on wooden platform
12.20 solitary dutch artist climbs from wooden platform to concrete plateau, he is lost looking for disused gasworks, engages in conversation "what is this place" stays for duration of cigarette, given directions to the gasworks goes for an explore over the summit and then leaves the site at 12.40
14.30 solitary man with dog on lead
15.15 young man with camera crouching below concrete plateau in the bushes
15.20 three boys and one girl scramble up steep bank at base of alp into amphitheatre area
Non human occupation on site: 
2 x dogs on leads
Ambient sounds: 
same as those recorded before
Ambient smells: 
13.00 sewage and bonfire from industrial estate.
total of 17 bags of rubbish collected.
J____ comes here every day, he can see his mother's kitchen window from the summit, sense of ownership displayed in irritation at the litter and particularly flytippers, in the past J___ and his friends brought a bin to the summit, taken from elsewhere in the borough.
He describes and active social scene, particularly after dark, there are four distinct territories for four different groups: summit and east face are the aces from Newham, wooden platform is the Beckton group who he thinks are responsible for a popular local pirate radio station (not on the alp), concrete plateau is the Goosely park group and the lower amphitheatre area is a group from forest gate.  All these groups peacefully coexist. A light was installed on a lamp post that would be activated by the police to observe the alp and try and clear them off.  This has been torn down and lies derelict next to the concrete plateau.  CCTV cameras were also torn down.
Occupation images:
Inventory images:

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