"Hidden" is now open! Yesterday Sally and I installed a series of mixed media work in three of the hides on Wicken Fen. Boardwalk Hide is accessed through the National Trust Visitor Centre. Charlie’s Hide and East Mere Hide are on the edge of the Mere. Sally and I are worn out but very happy with how everything looks. We got very excited taking photographs of the work in situ yesterday evening.
Hidden will run until 25 April in parallel with our exhibition at Babylon Gallery in Ely, “Reflections & Revelations”. The gallery exhibition will open on Wednesday 11 April and Sally and I still have lots of work to do!
Hidden is a celebration of the hides and the glimpses of the fen you receive from them. From our first visit, Sally and I were drawn to the hides. There are eight and they vary widely in age and state of repair. The newest, on Baker’s Fen, is bright with large windows, but most are dark timber structures with narrow, slit windows and in varying states of repair. The fen is very wet indeed at the moment and some of them are not currently accessible while parts of the reserve are closed to protect it.
The purpose of a hide is to allow people to observe wildlife at close quarters. They were once built chiefly as aids to hunting but are now mainly associated with nature reserves and birdwatching. What interested us was the experience of viewing the fen from within the darkness of a hide and the way the windows cut up and framed the view.
Many of the hides have woodpecker holes in the walls, in all shapes and sizes. The fragmentary glimpses of the reserve outside fascinated us but we were also struck by the way these holes admitted shafts of light into the dark hides. On a bright day flickering spots of light travel slowly across the back wall. Gaps and cracks around the windows make lines and sharp angles against the darkness.
We have made a series of small installations in each hide. Visitors may have to look hard to find some of the smallest – Sally was kneeling on the floor to fix some in place, while I was balancing on a stepladder to fix things to roof beams.
Hidden has given us both an opportunity to do something quite different to our usual gallery work and I like the way the installations have turned it into a “conversation” between Sally’s work and mine. If the sun comes out(!), the shafts of light will pick out details in the installed work or light up pieces fixed over the holes.
Sally and I will be in the Learning Centre at the Fen on Saturday 14th April from 11am to 4pm. We will have exhibition catalogues for sale and other things to see. It would be lovely to see anyone who can make it.
Advice for visitors:
- Take your wellies - the fen is nearly always muddy.
- A trail guide with a map of the hides is available from the Visitor’s Centre. There is a great café next door.
- Charlie’s Hide involves a 15, 20 minute walk but is one of the most atmospheric.
- Boardwalk Hide is the most accessible, especially if you need to keep your feet dry.
- The reserve is open from dawn to dusk. The visitor centre and café from 10:00 to 17:00
- Normal admission charges apply. Free for National Trust members.
- Details on the National Trust site