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 12.03.08
Time: 09.30-18.00
Weather: very windy, overcast clearing to sunshine
Jack and Mark from the Grant Museum of Zoology conduct quadrant surveys along lines dissecting identified territories on the alp.  Remove samples to prepare as specimens.
work on samples in laboratory.
Tools used:
none recorded
Samples to laboratory: 
1 x watch without face
1 x brunette hairpiece
Human occupation off alp site:
09.30 incredibly fashionable young man walks from west to 
east of alp site down alpine way, looks completely off course.
12.30 eastern european male, mid twenties knocks on cabin door to enquire about renting car park space.  
12.45 R_____ father arrives in white van to collect the found school bag collected  and recorded 11.03.08,  the bag had been stolen from his van in East 
15.05 man and young girl recorded at 14.50 enter retail park
17.35 young couple, early twenties knock and ask for 
directions to B & Q
Human occupation on alp site:
12.10 jack and mark running forwards and backwards against the wind on summit.
12.30 jack and mark climbing down slope with string towards 
concrete platform.
14.45 thirteen school children ascend from platform to summit, some swinging bags, all run from top of alp to bottom, and gather to the left of amphitheatre near to site that jack and mark are surveying.
14.50  man and young girl 
ascend from viewing platform to summit, he points out various sights to her
15.10 four teenage girls walking towards summit from viewing platform
17.00 two older teenage boys 
smoking at summit
Non human occupation on site: 
Ambient sounds: 
as before 
Ambient smells: 
wet dirt
no new rubbish at summit or by platform.
Occupation images:
Inventory images:
none taken
Samples to laboratory images:

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