Monday, 21 March 2016

Bendcrete stones in Sheffield

I've just spent an amazing day around Sheffield, famous for its steel production in the 19th century. In the south west quarter is located the General Cemetery, a Victorian development into which people were still interred until 1978. The undulating ground gives rise to some beautiful vistas with tombs and niches set against, or into, the exposed rock tiers. The huge stone retaining walls are in varying states of repair, and on the side next to a small stream the roots of massive trees work their way out from between the blocks, reminding me of the walls in Jim Henson's Labyrinth.

Just outside the eastern tip of the cemetery stands a rather strange rock, surrounded by rubberised tarmac (the kind laid around children's climbing frames). I was momentarily confused by the stone which occupied itself in the Uncanny Valley of my consciousness. I decided that it was probably fake - a clever cast or sculpture of a stone. A quick google reveals that it is one of a series of manufactured rocks placed about the city to encourage rock climbing by the company Bendcrete.

The facsimile had a possibly unintended effect on me. It still managed to exude some kind of mystery and I approached it as if it were a real boulder, the kind that the ancient Britons would have revered. It lies close to an Anglican church and the wider cemetery. Was the psychogeography of the area a factor in the decision to locate it there (most likely unconscious)? When plotted on a map, do all the Bendcrete boulders form some kind of intelligible pattern? After the apocalypse, will the survivors light fires around it, perhaps fearfully avoiding the gaze of the ruined Anglican shell just up the hill?

Only time will tell.