The Walking Studio of Contrasts

Two contrasting walks in different parts of Ireland—Antrim Castle Gardens in Northern Ireland and the village of Chapelizod in Dublin located in the valley of the River Liffey. Two walkers on different paths.

“Walking is finding an impromptu studio in a place you never expected. Marking territory. Remembering. Picking up things. Making eye contact. A walk is never the same twice. Writing notes to self. Losing one’s way. Talking to yourself. A chat with a stranger. Going with the unexpected. Being surprised by what you find. Marking the journey with objects, the milestones of moments. Unexpected encounters. The desire to be in a new situation. Be somewhere different. Revisiting the past. Caught up with what’s going on. Making do. Taking the long way home. Getting as far away from home as possible. Being curious. Nonchalant. Indecisive. Having a route mapped out. Going off course. Letting things happen. Every so often taking a rest. Time-out. In between places. Both lingering and counting steps. Not knowing what’s around the corner” (Pamela Whitaker)

“Musing takes place in a kind of meadowlands of the imagination, a part of the imagination that has not yet been plowed, developed, or put to any immediately practical use…time spent there is not work time, yet without that time the mind becomes sterile, dull, domesticated. The fight for free space — for wilderness and public space — must be accompanied by a fight for free time to spend wandering in that space.” 
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

“Walkers are ‘practitioners of the city,’ for the city is made to be walked. A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities. Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go.” 
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Expressions Related to Walking: Walk of Life, Take a Walk Down Memory Lane, Walking Down A Dead End Street, All Walks of Life, Walk Away, Walk On, Walk the Talk, Walk Away From, Walk on Air, Walk Tall, A Move in the Right Direction, A Journey of Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step, Change of Pace, Don’t Rain on my Parade

Clotworthy House in the Antrim Gardens, Northern Irealand
Antrim Castle Gardens: Large Parterre, Her Ladyship’s Pleasure Garden and Yew Tree Pond
The village of Chapelizod in Dublin

A river is a flow of life and a route of passage

A walk by the Tolka River in Dublin with a history dating back to the Bronze Age, Vikings, the Middle Ages, and in the 18th century the location of a village named Cardiffsbridge noted for its prominent mill and ironworks. There were also several castles and tower houses located in the area and there is a legend that St. Patrick once roamed and blessed the surrounding landscape. The Tolka is the second largest river in Dublin, and this walk along a river bank was accompanied by early morning sun transforming frost to spring growth.

It was the sound of the river that led me somewhere else in myself. The line of the river offered direction and motion.

river, waterway, stream, brook, tributary, inlet, rivulet, channel, creek, course, estuary

The Walking Studio Gardens

February 27, 2021

The Botanic Gardens (Dublin) is home to 17 000 plants from around the world including 300 endangered species. In size it is 50 acres featuring a pond, river, vegetable garden, wild plants, and flower displays. It is an ideal place to indulge in forest bathing within pine and cedar trees with scents that are invigorating. Forest bathing is dwelling in an atmosphere of trees that re-charges with a vigour of replenishment. The experience nurtures as an antidote to the strains and tensions in life and concentrations on urgency and preoccupations.

Forest bathing or shinrin-yoku is a wellbeing practice based in Japan that encourages time with trees for restoration of both mind and body. It is the rejuvenating elements of pine, cedar and eucalyptus that brings solace and optimism. In a botanic garden international species of trees form community and develop a companionship with the locals. The aroma of each tree’s essential oils is not only uplifting, but an immersive encounter with an environment that surrounds as a balm and a stimulus.

“Shinrin-yoku was developed in the 1980s in Japan. Although people had been taking walks in the country’s forests for centuries, new studies showed that such activity could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol levels and improve concentration and memory. A chemical released by trees and plants, called phytoncides, was found to boost the immune system. As more research highlighted the benefits of shinrin-yoku, the Japanese government incorporated it into the country’s health programme” Harriet Sherwood (2019) Getting Back to Nature: How Forest Bathing Can Make Us Feel Better, The Guardian.

Being with silence and the desire to wander, without expectations, can in itself be a remedy and a elixir that fuels other pursuits with a heightened sense of purpose and a lack of restrictions upon one’s accessibility to encounters.

Eucalyptus Bark
Pine and Cedar Grove for Forest Bathing
A map of the Botanic Gardens, Dublin

The Walking Studio Parks

February 25, 2021

Shelters, Habitats, Nests and Retreats

This is an invitation to become part of a walking art collective. Our studios will be our localities, our walking routes and our artistic quests to photograph, make and write about what we find along the way of everyday journeys.

I hope we can share our walks together through photographs, reflections and artworks. We will meet in our shared artistic encounters documenting our surroundings that create impressions in the moment and beyond.

My recent walks have been discovering human nests in Phoenix Park, Dublin. These are large habitats made by people within the park’s forests. These dens have multiplied in number and feature designs handmade by those who frequent the park. They are available for personal retreats, forest schools, family occupations and group escapes. As a form of social media (socially constructed with a multiplier effect), they are landmarks in a common landscape of people.

A forest shelter and habitat in Phoenix Park, Dublin

Below you will see an aerial view of Phoenix Park, one of the largest enclosed parks within a European capital city. The park was established in 1662 and it is home to deer, foxes, badgers and rabbits. Throughout the park there are forests, gardens, lakes and paths going into wild and quiet places. During darkness the park is a sanctuary for solitary walkers, who travel with night vision, moonlight and with street lanterns to guide their passage.

“The commons as public park is there for the making—place making is integral to experiencing the commons as an archive of landscape that is environmentally designed by people and ecology as co-creators. A public park is there for everyone, a location that can be re-formed by art making, and a declaration of how to create with materials that are readily available” (

The creative pursuits of a walk are many, and within each roaming there is a studio to be discovered along the way.

Phoenix Park is depicted in the map above, as the large green area
An aerial view of Phoenix Park
A deer herd in Phoenix Park, Dublin
A walking journal with grass and leaf imprints

A Response Walk by Bridget Nugent

“The experience of walking around the town park was paradoxical, it was busy yet peaceful, some trees were bare after the winter but there was also an abundance of greenery, in areas it looked like there was no life yet what you could hear was full of life- the birds singing and kids playing. The car park was full yet the paths were empty. A fresh walk for a Saturday evening.”

Drum Manor Forest Park is located near Cookstown, Northern Ireland. The park was created from the pleasure groups developed in the 1800’s around a Manor House in the vicinity.

Drum Manor Forest Park, Cookstown (Northern Ireland)