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: Tuesday 18.02.08
Time: 09.40-17.20
Weather: Very cold (4c) overcast, with breaks of sunshine at 13.00, cloudy from 13.30
continued work on samples in laboratory. 
wider context survey east along Greenway through fenced off scrub land west of Tesco and down towards the DLR depot. Stumble across the strange ghost of the slip road to the truncated flyover that will one day be the river crossing
Tools used:
none recorded
Samples to laboratory: 
none recorded
Human occupation off alp site:
15.30 a very unhappy child crying for 30 minutes approximately, not wanting to leave the retail park
Human occupation on alp site:
15.00 two boys (16), not in school uniform, on wooden platform looking down towards retail park, with another, in uniform, pushing his bicycle, up the steep slope towards the viewing platform.
15.05 five boys (12/13) running down slope, in school uniform, convene to the left of the concrete plateau
16.50 solitary school boy walking down south face, approaches amphitheatre
18.00 man enters from wooden platform and ascends carrying tripod, sets up camera looking west, allow a wide berth so as not to spook him but he opens conversation about the wind, he is a "switching engineer" working on a tower under construction at Canary Wharf, from Leeds, he is billeted in Ilford and on way in over the last 2 weeks earmarked the alp as a perfect vantage to photograph his work in the setting sun, he was incredulous this had once been a ski slope and marveled at its idiocyncratic urban presence.
Non human occupation on site: 
none recorded
further afield on slip road large fox and in scrub land numerous rabbits
seen off by Japanese fighting dog on Greenway
coloured trotting pony on Tollgate road
3 mice and 1 rat in bushes on Tollgate road
horse heading west through retail park north of Greenway
Ambient sounds: 
lots of wind
industrial clanging
Ambient smells: 
none recorded
Occupation images:
inventory images:
none taken
samples to laboratory images:
none taken

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