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: Thursday 08.05.08
Time: 10.30-17.30
Weather: brilliant sunshine, blue skies
work on samples in laboratory, purchase materials from local charity shops in east ham
Tools used:
none recorded
Samples to laboratory: 
4 x top trump cards
Human occupation off alp site:
10.30 pass over 50's reading group cowboy whizzing across the car park on his mobility scooter "hello girl"
10.45 travis perkins wood delivery to portakabin
Human occupation on alp site:
12.10 two boys, 15/16 leave summit, one runs down south face, past amphitheatre to exit via south gap, other exits via hole in west fence.  they meet each other laughing on pavement outside retail park.
12.50 meet young boy (14) at south-east base, say hello, he climbs up to den area meets another boy there, they hang out removing debris from roof and side of den until 13.40 when they climb to the viewing platform.
13.25 three women at summit all white t-shirts and leggings, working out/dancing
14.25 three girls in den area (13/14) wave at me photographing them from the portakabin. Still there when I return from B & Q at 15.30
15.40 a lone male stood at concrete plateau, looks smartly dressed, ascends to summit
15.45 three girls at den wave up at some other boys at platform (altogether approx 11/12) spend the next hour exploring the site, running up the steep bank to the viewing platform to the summit.  leave via the gap in the south fence at approx 16.30
Non human occupation on site: 
crows at summit
white butterflies
black and orange butterflies
birds stuck flying against the wind above viewing platform
Non human occupation off site:
none recorded
Ambient sounds: 
HGV lunch bell 13.10
excessive industrial noise
lots of ice cream van chimes
bird song
Ambient smells: 
travis perkins delivery driver comments "quite a refined smell around here"
observe three nerdy looking men and women lurking in the bushes on the greenway with clipboards and cameras.  appear to be conducting some sort of biodiversity study.
pass three early twenties males wearing high vis jackets under the bridge next to the greenway and the north face of the alp, I ask if they are the refuse collectors that I am waiting for to which they laugh and say no, notice at this point they are all smoking.
Occupation images:
Inventory images:
none taken
Samples to laboratory images:
none taken

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