Valentines Day...also just a matter of weeks until my annual archeology trip to northern England.
My last trip over I had a few travel snafus and ended up staying the night before my return flight at a drably generic hotel near the Newcastle airport. I was frankly bored and ended up watching TV for the first time in weeks. My time could have been spent better had I been aware of an inspiring project underway a short distance off....
That is for scale, see the cars on the highway...here are some close up shots from her official site.
Northumberlandia is a woman of substance. She is a quarter mile in length and is made of 1.5 million tons (or to the Brits, tonnes) of rock and clay. Her two most prominent "features", to the delight of the popular press, stand a towering 100 feet high.
Who, you may well ask, would be daft enough to build such a thing? Well, as it turns out this is a project undertaken by a coal mining company. They have a nearby open pit mine and needed something to do with all the topsoil removed. This was seen as an interesting, environmentally friendly way to dispose of all that soil. And a tourist attraction to boot. The project has been ongoing for a while with little publicity until an official grand opening was held in October.
As a work of art it is interesting, and expected to evolve over time. There will be natural weathering and the continued growth of grass. If past experience with this sort of thing is any guide there will probably be a few instances of "guerrilla artists" adding flourishes.
Given her location I expect to see her on my next flight in to Newcastle, and might consider an actual visit on a day off of the dig site.
But she seems a little lonely. It being Valentines Day and all, I have a match to propose.
Meet the Cerne Abbas Giant.
This bloke lives down near Dorset. He is actually two dimensional but being laid out on a hillside and having a rather, er, assertive design the eye tends to think otherwise.
He is only 180 feet tall, and was made by simply cutting turf off of the underlying chalky soil...supplemented in recent times by some extra white outline material.
The history of the Cerne Abbas Giant is a little unclear. Over his left shoulder there is an ancient earthwork of Iron Age vintage called the "Trendle" or the "Frying Pan". The presence of this feature is known all the way back to Medieval times, but there exists no mention of the Giant before 1694. This makes him a spring chicken compared to other chalk carved figures such as the Uffington White Horse. Various theories for the "modern" creation of the Giant exist, my favorite is that it was a bit of performance art intended to make fun of Oliver Cromwell!
I think Cerne Abbas and Northumberlandia might get along well. They seem to have a lot in common. I suppose it will have to be a long distance relationship for a while. A long while indeed as it would take a major geological disruption to bring them into any proximity. Sorry C.A., you will just have to be patient I guess.
Briefly he may have had a rival for Northumberlandia's affections. In a promotional stunt for a movie a few years back an adjacent field was commandeered and decorated with a temporary bit of art work. This was done with a water soluble substance and makes an interesting pairing.....
How's a girl to choose...
As it happens the local pagan community is quite keen on Cerne Abbas, deeming him for obscure reasons a sort of fertility symbol. They took umbrage at the presence of Homer who is instead a symbol for corporate media and doughnut consumption. They claimed they were going to do some kind of rain ceremony to wash him away.
Given my experiences with English weather I doubt they made it to the car park after their press conference before their metaphysical efforts became irrelevant!
I am not going to take sides in a Homer vs Cerne Abbas competition for the monumental charms of Northumberlandia. But should Homer strike out I am told that the UK version of his famous "D'Oh!" would be "DERRR..." It is good to know such things.