A73-MILE-LONG ancient footpath running from Bideford to Dartmouth, via the wilds of Dartmoor, is the fascinating subject of a new exhibition by Edward Crumpton.
The arduous and sometimes treacherous footpath was used from the late 1600s by mariners wanting to find work on the old trading sailing ships. This old Devon route used to connect the flourishing ports.
The exhibition is Edward's response to researching and walking the Mariners Way, producing wood engravings, drawings, oil paintings and sculpture, in celebration of the hard journeys made by sailors in the past.
"The Mariner's Way project involved me for over two years in many miles of walking, record-making, creating and many hours, days and weeks of knot-making," said the Swimbridge artist.
One of the sculptures, the Mariners Way Rope Ball, now owned by Exeter University, is made from 6,000 metres of tarred, marlin rope. Along its length, Edward has made 146,000 knots reflecting the exact number of steps taken to complete the walk.
Use of this half-hitch macramé knot was a traditional maritime skill and had a practical application in the sailors' work. It also served as a form of artistic expression as the sailors would create decorative pieces of knotted macramé to sell on their world travels.
"I would like to think of this project as a fitting monument to the hard lives of those unknown sailors who walked the Mariners Way to find work, risking the treacherous route over Dartmoor to find onward sea passages from Bideford and Dartmouth and crossing the Atlantic on the sailing ships bringing exchanges of trade between England and America," said Edward.
As part of the project, Edward has unravelled and transformed the knotted ball sculpture to represent a pas sage house, recently on show on the Mariners Way footpath at Heathercombe Sculpture Gardens, where there is also an existing passage house.
These friendly passage houses were sited along the Mariners Way and provided the sailors with food and cover for the night.
The final tarred, marlin rope transformation will be on show at Barnstaple's White Moose gallery, along with all of his work for this project. Here it will become a large Marlin fish, prior to being rewound at the end of the show back into the rope ball once again and then set in its final position at Exeter University.
The Mariners Way Exhibition by Edward Crumpton is at The White Moose gallery in Barnstaple's Trinity Street from Friday October 11 to Saturday, November 23. Opening hours and details: www.white moose.co.uk.