Heartland Celebration Day – Part 1 – Tony Plant Walk and Talk

Celebrating years of preparation, a summer of creative activities and experiences and above all the three diverse artists who made the Heartland project so successful. Saturday 16th of September, Carding Mill Valley hosted the Heartland Finale, alongside the collaborative partnership who made it all possible.

The Shropshire Hills Heartland Celebration hosted a variety of events throughout the day, appealing to all the family. Starting the day with a guided walk and talk with sight specific land artist, Tony Plant, giving an insight into the inspirations for his final land interventions. This included taking a peek into Tony’s way of working, in the form of his vibrant and impressive sketchbooks, filled to the brim with organic, flowing and colourful landscape impressions. Tony takes inspiration for the line and form of his drawings and paintings through first hand exploration of the landscape, tracing the paths, peaks and movement of Carding Mill Valley via foot and paint brush. During his walk and talk visitors got to observe the complex and creative mind that has made Tony Plant the world-renowned artist that he is, by following his journey through the Shropshire Hills landscape to where his initial inspiration began.1


The talk began outside Carding Mill Valley café, after which visitors took multiple stops at places of significance, not only to the project but sights of specific interesting to the initial ideas within Tony’s work. The first stop of the talk took place on New Pool Hollow, on route to the reservoir, show casing original drawings and sketches. In listening to Tony speak about his work it enabled you to be drawn into his way of thinking and visualize the initial process of creating his 2D works. Tony explains:

“I sit up on the cliff tops, wherever I happen to be and I kind of go through things:

Shapes and lines, marks and balance, movements that might be happening, shapes resurging, horizons, river path, pathway, layers…

they are not all from any one place, like people, no one lives in one place for ever, they are always moving and changing and things change anyway…

So I am not interesting in representing the landscape, I am more interested in trying to take shapes that already exist in there and emphasising them through changing the scale of them. I take these things and I layer them up and you start noticing patterns…”

As quoted above Tony discusses the motion he goes through when putting pen to paper, what he is representing in his abstract impressions of the land he is looking at. A key idea and central point of his 3D work took the form of a tree located on the hill side.

Tony Plant:

“In this landscape, one of the first shapes that I wanted to keep hold of were the shadows under the trees. Because in the winter there was nothing on the trees, there are completely bare, they all had a small clearing underneath them, where things stopped growing.

 I’m interested in those edges, I’m interested in cross over and intersections, of whether it’s a path or a hard or a soft thing, a light or shadow, anything that is a natural barrier, cross over, an intersection or meeting point…my eye is drawn to those things.

These trees being on a slop at certain times of day have an almost perfect circular shadow underneath, and once you see it you can’t not see it. It is almost as if they have been plugged into the landscape, they all do it and they all have it…

So those kinds of natural accruing shapes.”





As the walk progressed we took a detour, showing where it all began for Tony. Involving the very rare fossils which can be located to the left of the reservoir, encaged for their protections on the hill side. The fossils are originally believed to be rain drops formed on intertidal mud flats, due to the circular patterned formations however, they have now been rediscovered as the Ediacaran fossils of the Long Mynd. Dating 550 million years old, they have been identified as colonies of bacteria, otherwise known as Darwin’s lost fossils. For more information, follow the link below.


To complete the guided walk element of the talk we finished at the ridge on the pipe track directly opposite Tony’s landscape intervention. It is from this exact spot that you can see the full scale and impact of the final 3D land art that has been created, as a result of all of the months of research and 2D art work. Vast circles fill the hill side and create beautiful colour contrasting forms directly into the bracken. The forms are the outcome of small teams of volunteers clearing the dead and over populating bracken, to reveal the natural landscape, allowing new growth to repopulate the circles. Not only has Tony Plants public art commission being visually stimulating to a diverse audience, but has also been an exercise in biodiversity and landscape conservation. In clearing this immense patch of bracken, a very invasive and overbearing plant, it allows for new and otherwise over shadowed plants, insects and wildlife to repopulate the area. Hopefully with continued clearing this will became an educational focal point within the rich landscape of the Long Mynd.

Tony has had an amazing impact on the Shropshire hills during the Heartland project, through his fantastic way of working to contrasting scale, from handheld miniature wooden canvas to large scale landscape interventions. Taking inspiration from the smallest of details within an expansive landscape, in the form of fossilized bacteria and having the ability to abstract these details and explode them into a momentous scale directly into the landscape. Tony has been able to engage the public on many levels, by taking directly with walkers, bikers and families, just to name a few, while painting from cliff tops. To stopping wowed school groups in their tracks are they stumble upon his land art on the hill as they summit the opposing ridge. Tony’s work has posed many questions, many moments of silence, but above all created many new memories for the visitors of Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd.

To be continued…  Part 2 – Mary Keith Heartland Celebration Performance





Light Paths

Light Path - Ben Osborne and Tony Plant

All copyright to Tony Plant, Ben Osborne Photography and Heartland

‘Lights Paths’

Shining the light on Carding Mill Valley from a very different perspective!

Visual and land artist Tony Plant and photographer Ben Osborne collaborated to make the ultimate photograph. Teamed together the pair used the landscape as a natural canvas, working with the immersive art created over the summer. Circular voids sculpted within the bracken initiated the idea of a night time photograph, using these forms as vast focal points within the landscape. ‘Light Paths’ was planned and coordinated by international landscape and nature photographer, Ben Osborne.

To make the photograph possible Ben coordinated a team of volunteers, including experiences walkers, keen hikers and families, along multiple paths, peaks and ridges within Carding Mill Valley. The photograph was meticulously planned to make sure that significant lines where included within the final image, but above all to insure the photograph ran as smoothly as possible. Tony Plant armed with an intense LED spot light, highlighted the valley and his central circle within the landscape, showing off the beautiful rich greens contrasted in colour, light and shade.

Light Paths emphasize the powerful nature of collaboration, and the significance of the creative mind when joined into a single project, showing that the most beautiful of outcomes can be created when people work together.


Part 2 – Mary Keith Heartland Celebration Performance

Mary Keith took to the Shropshire Hills for one last workshop and performance at Carding Mill Valley, to celebrate the success of the Heartland project. Mary captured the essence of the Shropshire hills and truly explored the spirit of place, across so many levels. Each of the Within and Without workshops created a powerful sense of community, building new relationships with singers and exploring hidden treasures within the Shropshire Hills, in turn making unforgettable memories for everyone involved.


The Heartland Celebration Day was a great opportunity to show off the talented individuals who took part in Mary Keith’s vocal workshops across the summer and across the Shropshire Hills. Selecting a much-loved song from each location, Mary and her choir took to the Shropshire Hills for once last performance. The celebration day made it possible to coincide both Tony’s events, with Mary’s performance, allowing for new audiences to engage and enjoy the gorgeous lyrics and harmonies created, whilst being immersed in the landscape.

Starting at Carding Mill Valley café, visitors got to listen to a 30-strong choir, all passionate about the songs they are singing. It was great to see visitors from all walks of life, including experiences walkers, couples, family groups with young children and many more, all appreciating the performance. As the light started to drop for the final event of the Heartland Project, there was a fantastic atmosphere in the air, with a real sense of achievement. Mary coordinated the choir towards the reservoir, stopping along the way to sing a song from each of the locations in the project. These included Carding Mill Valley, Mitchells Fold, Pole Cottage and The Bog, taking influence from the landscape, its sounds, wildlife, history and heritage.


Above all the most memorable part of Mary’s choir had to be the spontaneous performance at the end of the event. As freezing cold walkers and singers came into the café to enjoy a warm hot chocolate and say their goodbyes, the choir came into its own, with beautiful harmonies and the added acoustics of singing in the Café. Such an outstanding performance which will be a treasured memory of the Heartland project.


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Pop by the Carding Mill Valley information hut to see these brilliant photographs on the Heartland board!



The Camp Highlights

Stan’s Café took to the Shropshire Hills for a weekend full of mystery and intrigue, taking the form of ‘The Camp’, located on Earl’s Hill, Pontesbury or known by locals as the ‘sleeping dragon’. Earl’s Hill, recognised for its 600 BC Iron Age Hill Fort, is a pinnacle location in the Shropshire Hills. Visitors to Earl’s Hill can explore the raw country side and abundant wildlife, taking on the challenge of reaching the peak, to be rewarding with remarkable views and scenery.

On July 21st the fort took on a very different form, housing four futuristic characters, with no perception of history, time or reality. “Two worlds overlap on this dramatic location high in the Shropshire Hills. Four strangers from a far future time are briefly visible to us and us to them. They have arrived with their fires, shelter and flag. They are living their lives, cooking and sleeping on this ancient site.” – Stan’s Café


The Camp, a site-specific performance, was created by the renowned Stan’s Café. A collaborative theatre company, comprised of artists and performers, based in Birmingham. The Camp braced all the elements that nature had to offer, from torrential down pours to howling winds, challenging not only the actors but the visiting audience. This 48 hour continuous performance was driven by audience interaction, including an overnight stay under the stars. “The strangers have questions, food and drink to share, objects to trade, stories to tell. Their only time is with the sun and the stars, they give us a chance to escape our time.” – Stan’s Café

The artists positioned themselves on both the lower base camp, for sleeping and eating, to the top camp on Earl Hill peak. Situated on the top, a figure stood baring a red flag positioned next to a roaring fire pit, drawing visitors to the summit of the hill fort. Working as a focal point to the camp, where overnight visitors would start their experience gazing across the expansive landscape. “The incredible Saturday sunset will stay in my mind for many years to come” – Craig


Children embodied the experience and engaged with the futurist interactions, leaving imaginative drawings and feedback on their departure.


For a first hand, insightful response to ‘The Camp’, by actors James Yarker, Graeme Rose, Craig Stephens and Amy Taylor, follow the link below:

Carding Mill Valley – Without Vocal Workshop 1

Carding Mill Valley launched the very first Without Vocal workshop in April 2017, composed and directed by the fantastic Mary Keith. Mary takes her inspiration from the raw elements of the landscape, its rich history and ever changing environment, to form the basis of her lyrics and sounds to create new choral music.

The Shropshire Hills offered a diverse breadth of locations to base Mary’s workshops from, forming the first of four Without workshops from the heart of the Shropshire Hills: Carding Mill Valley. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, thrives as a hub of activity for all ages, offering the opportunity to enjoy a day out, purchase local handcrafted gifts, indulge on tea and cake, but above all immerse your self into the great outdoors. Carding Mill Valley provides home to the Shropshire Hills Shuttle Bus, allowing visitors to hop on and off the bus across the Lony Mynd through to the Stiperstones, so you can sit back and enjoy the view. One of the aim’s of Mary’s workshops are to compose a set of songs to be played on the shuttle bus and enjoyed by all, as you travel through the locations the lyrics have been inspired by and created in.


Song Inspiration

Mary’s strong connection with the landscape, its history and the significance of working directly within the environment brought inspiration for her first song; The Valley is Full of Voices

The session was on April 23rd, William Shakespeares’ birthday, so I wanted to honour that in some way. As I walked through the valley on one of my explorative sessions and tried to imagine voices resounding through the valley, I kept thinking of those words from the Tempest “Be not afeared the Island is full of voices…” A small change from island to valley did the trick and gave us a beautiful little round, with an ostinato bass line.

“Be not afeared the valley is full of voices, sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.” – Mary Keith

For this song a massive form of inspiration was taken from the Mill its self, its heritage and industrial significance playing a vital roll in the chorus of the song. Taking a look into Mary’s trails of thought when forming lyrics, shows the extent of research and complexity of each song. For example in the song Carding:

The Mill in Carding Mill Valley was important in the wool industry, for providing the Carding process, whereby the fleece fibres are teased, or combed into long, parallel fibres, ready for further processing, spinning etc.

The words associated with “carding” interested me in their similarity with words we use in the relationship to the landscape. Parallel use of words included;

  • Dips – (sheep dips) and dips in the valleys,
  • Folds – in the woolen fabric, and in the hills,
  • Roving – in the hillside, and when the fibres are drawn further and given a twist.
  • Teasing – I listened to children children playing in the valley, “come and get me” “can’t catch me..” etc and teasing the wool fibres.
  • Lapping– in the valley there is a constant sound of water lapping, and when the dust is removed from the fleece to make a “lap”
  • Drawing – the valley makes you draw breath, whether from the beauty of the surrounding or from exertion! and drawing the wool slivers into a roving.
  • Teasing – is from the word Teasle, the plant with the prickly thistle -like head, and carding from Cardus (the same type of plant). These teasle heads would have originally done the work of combing out the fleece.” – Mary Keith

On the day the workshop went smoothly, with a fantastic crowd of sings of all experience levels, including The Mere Singers, a Shropshire based choir, through to passing visitors taking a moment to engage in the new songs and the unique outdoor music experience. Mary’s passion for music and confident directing skills made every participant feel valued and like an integral part of the experience, encouraging ever skill level to take part without worry. Every now and then you would get that spine tingling moment of each member singing in perfect harmony, complimented by the natural sounds of the trickling stream and wind. We were very fortunate to have an afternoon of sunshine, which meant that picnicking by the reservoir with unprompted bursts of song created a beautiful atmosphere and environment, projected into the Shropshire Hills. It is fair to say that the first Without workshop was a huge success and encouraged visitors to take a moment and enjoy the Shropshire Hills on a new level.

Ben Osborne Photography




Tony Plant – Week 1

Following on from the Heartland Launch Event, we have been blessed with a spell of beautiful weather and the perfect conditions to progress with Tony Plants interventions in the landscape. If you were in Carding Mill Valley enjoying an outing on the Long Mynd, you may have heard the faint hum of strimers, and been able to locate the dot like men cutting through the bracken on the hill side. Throughout the week the impressions of circles, we previously saw penciled into the landscape, have slowly began to take form.

It has to be seen first hand, to view the scale of this sculptural land art and to understand the extent of the work put into its creation. Take a walk across the pipe track from the top car park and you will be truly stunned as you go over the ridge of the apposing hill top and reveal the beautiful intervention in the landscape.

As we launch into summer the drawing will come into its own, the contrast between fresh green growth and over grown patches of dead bracken taking hold. To watch the project as it progresses, follow us on social media for live updates.

Keep your eyes peeled for the selfie spot! Tag #HeartlandSH17 on your visit!

Local News Paper Coverage


A great start to the Heartland project, with news paper coverage of the Heartland Launch Event and advertising for the upcoming events.

For the full article, more information can be found on:

Also keep tuned into BBC Radio Shropshire as the project progresses, for live radio chats with the artists and partners!