The M6 is a motorway or a highway and is the longest one in Britain. My train passes under it as I leave for work in the morning and when I return in the afternoon. Ever since I got here to Stafford I’ve noticed the graffiti scrawled on the walls some of it two stories high and I made it a point to one day explore underneath. I tried to get here before but never found a path of the energy to do it. This day however I was determined.
The problem with getting to the spot had to do with finding a route to get there and the other is the distance. The M6 forms the border of the nature reserve that I’ve frequented a few times already. When I first visited the water was quite high and the marsh was soggy under the feet. There hasn’t been that much rain lately and as I made my way to the start of the trail the waters appeared to be much lower than before. Grasses have grown quite high obscuring some of the narrow lanes that have been trampled along the creeks connecting all the various waterways that criss-cross this area.
Cows lazily chewed their crud as I passed them. Their gaze appears indifferent to me yet they stare with their dark eyes making it seem like they acknowledge my presence. Swans were hanging out by the path with their young. They too were in a holiday mood enjoying the sun. These paths are sparsely populated now unlike the center of town in Stafford. There families are strolling along at a weekends pace taking in the sun. They like these swans are minding their offspring watching as they mature before their very eyes into functioning adults. Leisurely times like this are just as important as active instruction.
Someone had put their mark on the bunker that functions as an observatory. Bright pink contrasts sharply with the grey brick and the green of its surroundings. It’s something that I noticed a few weeks ago not sure exactly when. I studied the map a bit closer this time and slowly made my way to the spot where a path that I spotted from the train might be accessed.
Walking is a great way to ease tension that builds up. One would think that walking all day around York would have been enough but it wasn’t. New things always come into consciousness and sometimes the problems of others who are close to me have a strong effect. One perspective opposes another in a struggle of attrition. In this particular case victory would be hollow as both sides should arrive at a consensus. We as loved ones should facilitate that so that they can get to that point together.
So there were a few things on my mind. As always events have to be considered in context and not in isolation. So as the hours ticked away with each step many different avenues were explored within the mind. The physical excertion dampened the emotional impact. This may have contributed to my poor sleep the night before.
I found the turn that lead to the path that I didn’t see before. These tall grasses exaggerated the places where feet have trodden before. The path followed a gentle rise up onto a slope. A large pond that lays in the centre of this area is what stopped my progress before when I attempted to get under the M6 before using a different route. It’s extent and the subsequent drop in water levels was evident from this perspective.
I reached the end of this path. There was no obvious way to go further no trampled grass to follow there. Examining where I was and deducing that there should be something to lead me to the spot I was after I followed the tree line around the field. Wasn’t expecting a playground or a parking lot here. As I moved away from the kids and cars and followed the bend I found the path that I was looking for. I found a way.
Passing through the gates that are found all around this area it became clear that this pathway can accomodate a car. Based on the other gates it served as a way to move cattle under the M6. Traffic snarled along the motorway above me. There was still a distance to go. The M6 rose gently along a man made gradient allowing it to pass over the railway below. In between the earthworks were concrete walls that support the motorway. These walls enclosed a massive space and there were quite a few of these as I made my way toward the tracks.
Peeking inside the first space to my surprise I saw intricately spray painted murals. Under here one could take their time expressing themselves through the creative use of paint. These long concrete walls are a perfect canvas much of it unspoiled by any markings.
The design and execution of some of the works shared a commonality to each other. Many of them seemed to be the work of a single person or group working in tandem with each other. It seems like the individual had been doing this for a while based on the technical and intricate design of the works. This has been a pleasant surprise.
As I explored further it seemed to me that there were a few different groups or individuals that have expressed themselves here. The vastness of the spaces had an eerie effect knowing that I’m here by myself. Judging by the strewn garbage there hasn’t been too many people here and the year on some of the works dates the pieces beginning in 2014.
It wasn’t instantly apparent but my suspicions were confirmed when I came upon a piece that was two stories high. The artist or artists that collaborated on it were from Poland. One of the largest groups of inter-European immigrants into the UK are from Poland. Most have come to improve their financial situation as work is not as easily available in Poland. England is a short flight away and the exchange rate is favorable.
The tracks lay beyond the wall and the waterway. I had made it as far as I could and it was the space that initially inspired me to come here. There were giant letters and a relatively small intricate mural in the corner. It’s the one that I saw from the trains. Having seen the others it wasn’t as impressive but it would have been impressive if the others weren’t there. If you know what I mean.
It was time to head back and as I walked guided by new routes I explored new parts of this town that I haven’t seen before. I saw a familiar tag show up time and time again as I followed some of the paths inaccessible to cars. It gave me a chance to gather my thoughts before our chat and then the rest of the day floated away as I finished off writing about my trip the day before.