Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

Tourism,  appreciating "Scallop", Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England

Many years ago I read a report which suggested that most visitors to National Parks did not move more than 200m from their car, even though they were parked in one of the large areas of natural beauty that they had, presumably, come to enjoy. I was reminded of it by a small moment in Aldeburgh during our recent trip to Suffolk.

We watched two women, of a certain age, get out of their car  and walk onto the beach, just 2m on. One of them took a photograph of "Scallop", Maggi Hambling's sculpture, from 75m away. Then they went back to their car and drove off. They had spent barely five minutes and walked 20m in total to "do" this major piece of public art, a memorial to the composer Benjamin Britten.

As we sat, most people did at least go up to it and explore this important art work close up. The amount of time they gave it was variable but they at least got close to it, touched it, walked round it and examined it from different angles. Anyone who has watched a sculptor talk about their work will realise how it is usually intended as a tactile experience as much as a visual one; they often stroke their pieces as they talk. This is a major sculpture that is not roped off in a gallery, which you are allowed to touch. Judging by the notice even children climbing on it is not totally forbidden, just gently discouraged. Yet many people did not take the opportunity to really engage with it, perhaps reflecting a lack of awareness.

I am not seeking to disparage the women who may well have had good reasons to spend so little time; they may have already visited it and were just taking the photograph; they may have had mobility problems and would have found the shingle beach difficult; they may have been on their way somewhere and could only spare those few minutes. Travel is a personal choice after all. It was just so strikingly different from our own personal philosophy about being in places.

After examining Scallop closely and spending time with it we sat and looked at it on the high point of the beach's shingle bank, a great and appropriate setting, and watched other people interact with it for over an hour. It is a piece I enjoyed and would like to visit again, perhaps on a stormy day to get a different perspective. As a photographer if I lived in or near Aldeburgh I can visualise different pictures in different light and weather. I would make an effort to photograph whenever the weather changed, or at different times of the day - it would never bore me. We took our time to enjoy it and the opportunity to have our picnic lunch at the same time but it was fascinating to see how little time some people took.  I guess for many it was one more thing ticked off in the guide book. I guess I don't really understand tourism.

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Stewart (not verified) on 20 March, 2016 - 09:35

I bet they were Americans, they "do" Yosemeite in a morning! I know because I have both seen them and heard them say so!

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