Dartmoor Exchange

Approaching an Exchange: Dartmoor

a participatory project and short film

‘Approaching an Exchange: Dartmoor’ is a short film by Claire Long Coté and Anna Keleher, documenting a series of group visits to an archaeological site on Dartmoor. The film brings the site-based work to a broader audience. To view an excerpt of the film click here.

Performative Walk and Exchange

Orchestrated by Claire Long Coté and Anna Keleher
27th September 2008, MA Platform, Dartington College of Arts

Exchange Event

Where: Dartington College to Avon Dam Bronze Age Settlement, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, England
When: 10.30am – 4.30pm on 27th September 2008
Participants: Kate, Helen, David, Tracey, Mona, Claire and Anna (absent- Alan, Stef, Alain, Marius) and many more on previous days of the Exchange
How: Hire Van and On Foot

List of Kit in use during Performance Walk and Exchange

Butter-Making Kit

  • 8 Sonorous Felt Anklets with bells.
  • 11 Micro-Churns
  • 3 Small Pots of Organic Devon Cream
  • 3 Notched Walking Sticks with Felt Pouches on the lower portion, including: a Stick carved with Map of River Avon and a Tally Stick indicating number of participants

Attraction of Herd Kit

  • Mother of Bells; round bronze sheep bell
  • Small bells hidden in individual anklets

Talisman Kit

  • 4 + Oak Rings
  • 3 Rust colour Cotton Bands
  • 2 Granite pieces: Rectangular Twin Stones bearing percussion marks
  • 1 Black Dartmoor Pony-tail Bracelet

Teatime Kit

  • 1 Silver Plated Teapot
  • 6 Tiny Black Porcelain Cups + Additional Cups
  • Thermoses of Hot Filtered River Water (R. Avon and Tinners’ Brook)
  • Felt “Knife” Roll
  • Whittled Spreading Implements Pierced and Bobbled Cherry and Silver Birch from Dartington Estate
  • Fruit Bread: Hand-baked with Apples from Dartington Estate and Bilberries gathered at Avon Dam Bronze Age Settlement.

Lunchtime Kit

  • White Table Cloth
  • Carrots, Cucumber, Red Pepper Strips
  • Hummus
  • Round Organic Spelt Loaves + Additional Seeded Loaf

Water Treatment Kit

  • Water Filter Bottle
  • Water Accumulation Bottle

First Aid Kit

  • Rescue Remedy, Tea tree Oil, Bandage, Sterile Water, Plasters, Tick collection kit, mobile phone

Read Aloud on Dartmoor Kit

  • 2 Black Artist’s Notebooks of Site Generated Ideas and Writings
  • Poem by Anna – “ Where do Cultures Arise?”
  • Free Write by Claire – “16 Year Old Girl”
  • Automatic Poem by Anna – “Metals of the Moor”

Homeward Bound Audio Kit

  • Mp3s + Audio Headsets
  • Sound Piece Documenting Previous Exchanges

Pilgrimage Journey Script

Dartington Hall the journey begins

Speaker – Anna to participants seated in stationary hire-van

Where do cultures arise?
How well do questions travel?
Why do the sleet rattles rent the antlers at dawn?
May we dream for others?

Action – Drive together to Shipley bridge South Brent

Instructions: Shipley Bridge Car-park

Speaker – Claire

This is where we begin our walk. Loos can be found in that building. Please make sure that you have everything you need from the van and prepare your belongings for the walk and meet Anna over on the grass, where she is preparing the kit for our walk.

Intro to Kit and Butter making instructions

On grassy patch on far side of stream

Speaker – Anna

This is some of the kit we will be using today. These are micro-churns and we will be using them to make butter by harnessing the motion of our gait as we are walking to the settlement. If you hold out your pots I’ll fill them about half full of organic whipping cream. We can make the butter either using one of these anklets or and this is an experiment; a walking stick, so if you’d like to choose either an anklet or a walking stick, bearing in mind the needs of others.

Station 1: Threshold to the Moor

Start of the path to Avon Dam

Action – Anna – Rings Mother of Bells and herd gathers

Speaker – Anna

This is the threshold of the Moor. It’s where we begin our journey to the Bronze Age hut circle at Avon Dam Settlement.

Usually we relate to one-another by conversing, but today we are going to limit our conversation to a minimum, until we arrive at the settlement in order to intensify our experience. There are small bells in your anklets to remind you of this. We’d like to bunch together as you walk a bit like a herd and when I ring this mother of bells any stragglers will come up and gather around me. If you’d like to follow Claire now we’ll start our walk and I’ll follow up behind.

Speaker – Claire

This walk will be about opening up to the possibilities of this environment, this place, past present and future. There has been a continuum of human perception on Dartmoor since the Bronze Age and before. There is a sound continuum, a sight continuum, a taste continuum, a smell continuum, a touch continuum and perhaps others. We can’t perceive the Bronze Age part of this continuum, but we are linked to it through our sense-experiences now, exploring our part of the continuum. That’s what we will be doing on this walk – so let’s go.

Action – Anna –  Rings bell as people walk through the threshold and a short silent walk to next station

Station 2: Oak Tree

Under an oak tree on the bank to the West of path

Action – Anna – Rings Mother of Bells and the herd of participants gathers

Speaker – Anna (Addresses audience with hand propped on tree trunk)

Dartmoor…. High lands abounding in Oaks

Action – Claire takes out and opens a very old oblong tin containing talismans or “jewels of perception”

Speaker – Anna

I’m giving you these rounds of oak so that you may “ See as Oak”. By carrying them, you will gain insight into oak culture and the trees of the past.

Action – Anna hands Tracey and Mona an oak round each

Speaker – Claire

This rushing river behind us is the Avon River. We are standing here….. (she points to the palm of her hand)

Action – Claire points to the palm of her hand and traces the vein in her arm up to her chest and the location of her heart.

Speaker – Claire

And we will be following the river up towards its source, the heart of the moor.

We will be walking along the river – sometimes it will be on our right, sometimes our left. The river has been different with every visit we’ve made, according to the water level, sound and colour. This band will serve to heighten your awareness of the river as it flows beside us on our way up to the hut circle.

Action – Claire ties rust colour band onto Helen’s upper arm

Speaker – Anna

I found this stone in the tinning stream above the reservoir at the foot of the Avon Dam settlement. Carrying it with you will draw your awareness towards moorstone and its usage over time and also towards evidence of mining activity. So you will be looking for traces of mineral and metal extraction, evidence of the mining of tin and even of gold, which is present on Dartmoor occurring alongside quartz in granite.

Action – Anna gives stone to David

Speaker – Claire

This is a bracelet made from the tail hair of a Dartmoor pony, which was sent to us in an envelope from Anna’s dad. This braided bracelet of ponytail hair is symbolic and serves to remind us of the many other-than-human creatures on the moor. As we walk up to the hut circle we will be passing through and experiencing their environments.

Action – Claire – Ties plaited pony tail onto Kate’s wrist.

Action – Lead herd to rejoin track and walk in silence to next station

Station 3: The Teacher Stone

A rock set between the tarmac track and the river

Action – Anna – Rings Mother of Bells and herd gathers

Speaker – Claire (Gestures towards a large granite rock along the path)

I’d like to introduce you to the Teacher Stone, which taught us about sound. One day as we stopped to catch sounds of the river near the stone, we moved our sound-recorders around the stone and discovered the way that sound travels around and over objects in sound contours.

Speaker – Anna

I’d like you to close your eyes for a moment be still and listen to the sound of the water…. In-order to hear better you can extend your ears. You can make them bigger, so that you can capture more sound, by cupping your hands behind your ears like this. Keeping them close to your head.

You’ll notice that you can alter the quality of sound by swaying from side to side like a tree and you can intensify it by drawing your elbows in together in-front of you like this. So close your eyes again for a minute or so and just experiment with your listening.

Speakers – Claire and Anna – Ok let’s walk on now

Station 4: The Tree that Digests Stone

Tree between track and river

Action – Anna – Rings Mother of Bells and herd gathers

Speaker – Alan –  (Claire tells Alan’s story in his absence)

There was this guy and he had a pet boa constrictor. The guy decided to take a nap, but woke up when he started to feel tingling in his hand. He woke to find the boa’s mouth up around his armpit. The snake had engulfed the man’s arm and the tingling was from the digestive juices in the snake’s stomach. That is the story of an example of one being digesting another, like this tree appears to be digesting this stone.

Action – Walk on in silence to next station

Station 5: The Laundry Rock

Flat rocks bordering river to right of road

Action – Anna – Rings Mother of bells and herd gathers

Speaker – Claire

We are going to be gathering herbs for tea at our next station, so please wash your hands both for health and safety and to get your hands in the river.

Action – Continue to next station

Station 6: The Gate

Middle of track beyond gateposts and cattle grid

Action- Anna – Rings Mother of Bells and herd gathers

Speaker- Anna

I’d like you just to notice where your feet are standing, how they are related to other feet and to the track and where you are in relation to the gateposts, the river, the banks and the steep hillsides. Now look over to those pine trees and imagine that you are actually sitting up there on the topmost branch of that pine tree. It might help you imagine if you shut your eyes. Now you are looking down at a group of people standing on the black tarmac road and you can see the river snaking up towards the heart of the moor. To the right of the river now you can see the autumnal bracken of the open moor. On the other side of the road the land rises and the steep banks are covered in the green of deciduous trees and pines. And out on the top of the moor you can see the granite stone of a tor. Looking back down now you notice that the people are turning to go and setting off down the road.

Action- Group moves off towards the open valley and the next station. Group members are hopefully continuing to perceive according to their talisman.

Station 7: The Lodge

Mint patch at the ruined entrance to pulled down lodge on left of road

Action – Anna rings Mother of Bells and herd gathers

Speaker – Claire

Here we are going to gather the mint for our tea, so if everyone could gather 5-10 leaves and put half in this silver teapot and give the rest to Anna, that will give us plenty of mint for our tea party.

Station 8: Tree Time, Slow time

Action – Anna rings Mother of Bells and we observe how the tree grasps the collapsed wall in its roots. The group members move on experiencing place through their talismans.

Station 9: The Open Valley

Past the bridge over the Avon, stop mid-track

Action – Anna rings Mother of Bells and herd gathers

Speaker – Anna

Myriad spiders’ webs clothe the moor. Let your perception travel out along the filaments.

Action – participants stand still experiencing this perceptual shift

Speaker- Anna

Now let your memories flood in to fill the spaces.

Action – Continue along the track towards next station

Speaker – Anna

We are going to walk briskly as this stretch is quite long.

Action- Walk briskly to next station at Avon Dam

Speaker – Claire

Now we are leaving the tarmac

Station 10: “Sixteen Year Old Girl”

Viewpoint on grassy patch overlooking reservoir in view of circles of bubbles produced by aeration mechanism in reservoir

Action – Rest and admire view over reservoir and across to hut circle.

Claire gives out dried seaweed gathered on foraging day at East Prawle

Speaker – Claire

Taste this piece of Seaweed if you want, while I read a free-write that I wrote while developing this project.

There are a thousand ways, but this way is our way. We are farmers beside the trees and the water. Our animals provide for us. Occasionally we pilgrimage to the sea for salt and seaweed. We catch fish and eat them cooked in the sand and if there is enough we dry the rest. I have never known any other place to live. The between the community and the sea are familiar and well-worn, by us and many of our neighbours. When I go to a new place I make the story of the journey and as long as I remember the story I will know how to get there. I am older than most at this stage. My mother is 31 and in good health for her age. New people often think she is my sister. We rarely have new men into our community here. Mostly it’s our men who search for a woman outside and bring her into the fold. I’m lucky I didn’t have to leave. I love my home. With the recent warm weather and long seasons, our crops have been plentiful, the livestock healthy and even the new trees that I planted several years ago are starting to come into form. They have now several leaves and their trunks are less spindly; they may still be eaten by bugs or our animals, but I have hope that my little forest will grow and thrive and my children or my grandchildren will benefit from my diligent foresight.

Action – Continue along path and over stream via granite steppingstones to next station

Station 11: “Metals of the Moor”

Rest on rocks by tinning stream at foot of settlement hill

Action – Anna rings Mother of Bells and herd gathers, and people settle down

Speaker – Anna

Under the breasts of moss
ghosts’ fresh hands clasp pins of
broaches fast through felt.

Pungent feasts of moulding cultures cleave
the valley’s veins, while black nodules of
tin are spent in alien lands speaking of
knowledge lost and forgiven debts.

Grain by grain the metals of the moor
gurgled into pits and streams, slaking thirsts
and driving wars. Bracken pops and crackles in
braziers and turf clouds the sky with smoke.

Be happy that the then is now
and feed the ponies for meat.

Station 12: Entrance to the settlement

Via a breach in the ruined walls

Action – Anna rings Mother of Bells and herd gathers

Speaker – Claire

We have arrived at the settlement. This is the threshold of the outer enclosure of the settlement of our chosen hut circle. Welcome!

Arrival at the Roundhouse

Ritual entry into hut circle through fallen door-jamb

Action – Kate, Helen, Claire and Anna enter on hands and knees by squeezing between collapsing granite doorjamb stones. The others walk in and make themselves at home.

Welcome and Tea

Participants untie their woollen ankle and walking stick churns, remove the bobble stopper and spread fresh butter from individual pots onto fresh bilberry bread with whittled wooden knives. Fresh mint tea is poured from the silver teapot and drunk in the sunshine.

The Exchange

The Exchange takes place, each person sharing what he or she has brought to share with the ancient people: a song – a pen and paper – a book about Place – a pencil – music. Requests to bring the Exchange full circle are made to the Bronze Age people. Many relate to experiencing an aspect of Bronze Age life, or becoming more in tune with nature.


The white tablecloth is spread for lunch and the food laid out. People enjoy a combination of fresh hardy bread, hummus and veg. A lengthy conversation about Art and Ecology ensues as the autumn Dartmoor sun shines down on the group.

Homeward walk

Happens in twos and threes. At the car park we chat over Devon ice creams after saying goodbye to David.

Trip Home

Audio journey – Participants listen to edited audio recordings of previous Exchanges using mp3 players and audio head-sets provided (David and Jane are provided with CDs to listen to in their respective vehicles).

End of Trip

Arrive back at Dartington Hall and goodbyes.


1 Response to Dartmoor Exchange

  1. Pingback: Ideas are bur shaped: biodiversity expert Rose Cremin | DREAMING PLACE

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