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: Monday 10.03.08
Time: 09.30-17.20
Weather: extremely windy, heavy rain, black clouds. 
09.50 clears to sunshine and blue sky.
12.00 heavy rain again for rest of day.
collect soil sample from summit. 
observation of north face of alp under bridge bordering greenway.
work on samples in laboratory. 
Tools used:
Samples to laboratory: 
1 x pot of soil
1 x kingsford community school badge
2 x bottle tops from north face
5 x delivery notes:
3 to fairdales pharmacy ltd, 360 bethnal green road, london, E2- from the specials laboratory
1 to profot services ltd, 65 vyner street, london, E2- from draytac europe ltd
1 to green room digital, 87a worship street, EC2- from dams
1 x receipt from whsmith fro chewing gum dated march 1st
Human occupation off alp site:
none recorded
Human occupation on alp site:
10.50 man appears from path to west of summit, mid 30's, pulls camera from bag and photographs.  very strange as we are both doing the same thing. "i feel like i should say hello" to which he says he was thinking the sam.  he comes here quite often to photograph london in different weather conditions.
10.55 a runner approaches the viewing platform, stops at the top of the path, does some lunges and stretches and sprints back down.
11.10 a young man (mid twenties) walking a bull dog very quickly on path to the north of the alp from the greenway to the retail park, avoids eye contact.
16.00 four teenage boys (14-16) enter via the viewing platform on bikes, battle the wind up to summit, three out of four fall off, at summit they drop bikes and stand up against the wind with arms outstretched.  exit after ten minutes.  one notices my presence and blows a kiss.
Non human occupation on site: 
1 x magpie
2 x blackbirds
1 x sparrow
Ambient sounds: 
as before 
howling winds
trees rustling
harris fence clanging (sounds like tubular bells)
heavy rain
Ambient smells: 
wet dirt
very dark and gloomy today, alp is weather bashed, pools of water flood the base.  rubbish has all collected towards sides of path due to wind,one empty beer keg and beer cans at summit.  lots of plastic bags at approach.  there is a fresh fox faeces at the summit.  two steel piles have been dragged to the makeshift den by the amphitheatre.
Occupation images:
Inventory images:
none taken
Samples to laboratory images:

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