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Yorkshire Wolds Way, Spring Benches, 2011

We were commissioned by Visit Hull & East Yorkshire to design and manufacture a series of benches to enhance the experience of using the Yorkshire Wolds Way - an eighty mile long distance footpath and National Trail through the Yorkshire Wolds from Hull to Filey.

After extensive research and many miles under my belt, inspiration sprang from the areas geography, the numerous flowing dry valleys and the importance of water to all routes and villages. Streams would literally spring from dry ground - it being an area of chalk Down.

The idea of slats springing from the ground and flowing round almost randomly, before settling out to form a seat was the basis of the 'Spring Bench'.

For durability, native oak was chosen, but steam-bending large 25 mm thick 4.5m long planks of oak was a new departure for us, so after a series of experiments and investigations and help from Charlie Winney (steam-bending guru), the final form was developed using steel strip, which formed the basis of the bending jigs. The oak slats were cut locally, pre-machined to size, steamed and then formed over the jigs - all 50 of them.

Curving up from the ground the slats are fitted to a central stud, before curving over to form the bench seat. The slats are supported on an oak under-structure which is itself built off two galvanised steel support posts - buried 600mm into the ground. All fixings and the galvanised steel supports are designed to echo the largely agricultural landscape.

For maintenance reasons, the oak is left unfinished, allowing it to weather to a silver grey.

As part of the project, John Wedgwood Clarke, a Scarborough poet, was commissioned to write poetry inspired by the six bench sites on the trail. These lines of verse have been graphically inscribed onto the benches, spanning slats and benches, as appropriate. Graphic Design by Adrian Riley of Electric Angel Design.

The Poems - with Ordnance Survey grid reference for each bench (South to North)

1. South Cave - OS 932322

We shed them one by one, by shattered field and barley seas,
until the way is open for echoes of us
made strange by wind, deserted barn, the shifting trade
of shadows on the Humbri, Humbre, Humber,
our mouths to springs that speak in tongues of thirst.

2. Goodmanham - OS 899426

From dark to dark the bird flies through the fire-lit hall,
flies through the axe that strikes the shrine,
through burning that grows once more in stone and coloured light,
through rain as it amazes chalk
and flowers in this latest cup of breath: Goodmanham.

3. Millington - OS 837514

The straight line breaks into the mutterings of a track,
the body's unfolding way from dale to dale. Our
muscles burn in its common knowledge, our
breath its song above springs as they pour
villa into village, marsh marigolds into God's chrysalis.

4. Huggate - OS 884573

We have rippled the earth with our desire to be
here not there. We have driven the dale's wedge of hush home
between us. But you move, as we moved, in the ghost of water:
a hare rips away from the dead, thuds
down the dyke and out into everywhere the grasses foam.

5. East Heslerton Brow - OS 926754

Hazel Tun, Heslerton - the old sounds shift
as they settle new mouths along spring line, marsh edge, main road.
Parisi, Roman, Saxon, you - who is from here, who
takes the path from spring to shrine,
from car to here, voices flittering on the breeze?

6. Folkton - OS 062769

Find the barn's astounding echo, the space between
your hand and shadow, beacon and leaf,
this sprung wood and the axis of that spire.
And in this place you've made, this hidden dale,
let nine chalk springs compose their Whitestone harmony.