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 25.03.08
Time: 10.00-17.00
Weather: sunny, with strong northwesterly winds
continued work on samples in laboratory. 
wider context survey, revisit the slip road to the truncated flyover that will one day be the river crossing.  Survey the surrounding woodland.
photograph samples from laboratory in context, on the alp.
Tools used:
Samples to laboratory: 
none recorded
Human occupation off alp site:
15.05 two girls in school uniform (13/14) previously observed in woolworths, burst out of store, onto car park.  one runs out of retail park, the other is chased by staff,  they scuffle and a bag of pick and mix sweets bursts in the air, she is then escorted back into the store.
Human occupation on alp site:
14.40 four boys in school uniform run from concrete plateau to summit, three exit to the northwest, one remains and descends via the path from the north east to south and enters the retail park.
14.50 two older teenage boys appear at the summit but disappear to the north
15.50 lone male with can and bike takes photographs with his camera phone.
16.00 five schoolboys on summit (13/14), run down face towards amphitheatre where they gather and hang out for about twenty minutes before exiting via south.  commune on pavement by entrance for ten minutes before dispersing.
Non human occupation on site: 
3 x blackbirds
2 x magpies
Ambient sounds: 
ice cream van
extended police siren
works vehicles reversing
Ambient smells: 
burning industry
revisit a horse cart that was discovered in the woodland by the road to nowhere, go and uncover it and document it.
Occupation images:
inventory images:
none taken
samples to laboratory images:
none taken

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