The Absent Trees of Granton
The walks took place, in-person and virtually, on 4 / 5 August 2022, 1pm
At Chestnut Street, Granton Harbour, Edinburgh, walking to Waterfront Avenue. (The exact meeting place was What 3 Words: ///talent.dads.dots and co-ordinates: 55.983248,-3.229066) and around the world.
The Absent Trees of Granton cordially invited you to walk without them.
Your presence was requested on a walk from the reclaimed wastelands of Middle Harbour, Edinburgh (“Million Tree City”) where trees grew before development, to the building site of Waterfront Avenue where trees have been felled for housing. We Wish We Were Here. We are in spirit. Or are we?
I co-led with Charlotte Rooney and group activities focused on the touch, smell and taste of trees.
In her blog (see link above) Charlotte wrote about:
“My breath feels grubby today, a bit noxious, and it’s uncomfortable, until I remember that this is exactly what the tree needs. My breath is a treasure.”Charlotte Rooney
What happens when you change the name of a place?
Posing questions about the importance of naming and local history in ‘belonging’, we walked streets that had other names before now. Their new ones come from the City Council’s list, so Chestnut Street has no relationship to Chesnut (sic) Rock which is shown on the old maps, and Granton Station is not where it once was; its name has been given to a different building entirely, thoroughly confusing local people who once played there as children.
Exactly how much earth is needed?
We asked how much earth we all need to thrive on, and this question brought about tension between the need for new housing and the necessity of trees. 20 per cent of the new Harbour development is planned to be affordable, but the rest includes a 4 star spa hotel and luxury flats with free dog washing facilities. Is that a good balance? Architectural plans show that new trees will be planted in pots, and a development which took place 10 years ago now sports rows of quite established Limes and substantial manicured hedges. The trees which have been ripped up against local people’s wishes have left raw land behind the new Granton Station. Is all this enough – for repairing the environment, for our need of a little ‘wildness’, for the psychogeographer’s bent towards some chaos in an otherwise geometrical world?
Artists from Scotland, Australia and England RSVP-ed
Deborah Roberts, Sophie Cunningham Dawe, and Richard Keating posted or sent me images
what happens in the mysterious space/place between gaze and subject of gaze, observer/participant?Richard Keating
Your project offered me a simple way to spend time with my mother’s beautiful tree… I am grateful for the drawings I made, simple gestures/ memento artefacts, a gentle marking of a significant time/place/memorySophie Cunningham Dawe, Melbourne, Australia
This was a community event with Tamsin Grainger and guests, and we were happy to have Ruthe, Arboricultural Officer at the City of Edinburgh Council with us to hear our concerns and offer her expertise. No-one from the new Granton Development answered the invitation.