CREATIVE SPACE #18 OF 2022 (Uploaded September 6th 2022)
CREATIVE SPACE is an award-winning series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published exclusively in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 as a blog series and syndicated as of 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It has its first print run in the paper every other Wednesday, with the online extended edition with EXTRAS running here on the blog and full interviews and extras on AntiguanWriter on YouTube. In 2021, the two–part CREATIVE SPACE mini-series on marine culture placed third in the OECS clean oceans journalists challenge. CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared in the Daily Observer newspaper on September 7th 2022:
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with EXTRAS.
CREATIVE SPACE: ABOUT WALLINGS
I thought I’d write about Wallings this week. It’s a lengthy history; so let me organize it this way.
Where is Wallings?
The trail to Wallings forest and reservoir, begins a bit to the southwest of the village of John Hughes, along Fig Tree Drive.
[Wallings images, clockwise from top left: the slipway, trees, walking the path to the reservoir, the reservoir in 1900 in black and white, the reservoir in 2019]
What is Wallings?
It is, per antiguahistory.net, “one of the finest mixed evergreen deciduous forest walks” in, certainly Antigua and arguably, the Caribbean. The site is, also, the location of a “fine example of Victorian industrial architecture”, per Desmond Nicholson in the 2007 Museum publication Heritage Treasures of Antigua and Barbuda. Its features include the reservoir dam; and a circular, red-bricked control valve tower.
There’s also the slipway, resembling a flight of stairs, meant to slow the speed of overflowing water. At one point, it supplied upwards of 15 villages with water. These days, it is an eco-tourism spot as Wallings, a serene natural stop in its own right, is also a popular pathway to Signal Hill and its panoramic view which includes Rendezvous Bay.
When was Wallings built?
The reservoir was started in 1890 and finished in 1900, with a small additional dam added in 1945. The area had become denuded after the turn of the century and reforestation began in 1915. West Indian Mahogany (Swietenia mahagon), ironwood (Exostema caribaeum), black loblolly (Pisonia fragans), white cedar (Tabebuia pallida), gunstock (Gauzuma martinicense), and Spanish oak (Inga laurina) were among the species more recently identified in the deeply verdant area. Heritage Treasures also notes that in 1992, the science club of Christ the King High School won first prize in the Shell Caribbean Conservation Association Environmental Project for planning walks through three areas of Wallings – which I interpret as trail-making. In the late aughts, per environmentalrightsdatabase.org (and my recollections from reporting at the time), Wallings was included in a donor-funded pilot initiative for sustainable management of sensitive environmental areas.
Why Wallings matters.
It’s a unique blend of nature and history – unique especially for Antigua, known more for its beaches. At Wallings though, there are numerous species of trees: including the 100 plus year old silk cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra) in the picnic area overlooking the idyllic valley where the water pools. Various organisms for which these trees serve as habitats thrive there. Among those that have been documented are the black whiskered vireo (Vireo altiloquus), Antillean euphonia (Euphonia musica), red-knecked pigeon (Patagioenas squamosa) etc. – up to 30 species of birds (or so it was when I did research for an eco-tourism doc in the early aughts). The blend of birdsong alone makes this natural therapy at its very best, and the trails are nothing short of enchanting. Of course, Wallings matters primarily because forests help sustain life by, per the worldwildlife.org, purifying the air, filtering water, preventing erosion, homing a diverse array of plants and animals, providing essential natural resources e.g. timber and medicinal plants, and acting as a buffer against the existential crisis of our time, climate change.
How Wallings came to be as it is.
Wallings got a glow-up, beginning 2018, with the intervention of community driven non-profit the Wallings Nature Reserve.
Those of us who used the space can acknowledge that the space had taken on a general air of neglect after the previous project push (which I had reported on years prior) that had included a study re carrying capacity, trail signage, and the construction of a building intended as an interpretation center –since rundown and unused.
When I visited in 2019 to speak with founder of Antigua and Barbuda’s first community managed national park, Refica Attwood of John Hughes, it was to a place being transformed, largely through her efforts. It was not without growing pains – adjusting to paying to enter a space we had once enjoyed free use of, among them. But, I reported a number of improvements at the time: colour-coded trail markers, an admin building (under construction – since finished), port-a-potties, a parking area with only limited traffic allowed up the hill to the reservoir, a generally cleaner site with bins made from re-used material to incentivize proper waste disposal; with plans to replace the damaged picnic tables, reforest, collect data re site use, improve access for disabled people, upgrade drainage to reduce erosion etc.
Attwood’s work has been saluted with Commonwealth Point of Light, GlobalWIIN, and Wellness Tourism Association Leading Light awards.
Who will act in Wallings’ best interest?
I will say only this re the row, between WNR and the Ministry of Agriculture over management of the site, already reported in The Daily Observer: I hope there’s room for mediation that centers Wallings and the value it brings to the community.
Pictures and video – with the exception of the black and white image – were taken by Barbara Arrindell during the 2019 visit to Wallings. The black and white image is from Desmond Nicholson’s Heritage Treasures.
This being CREATIVE SPACE, I’m going to share two of the poems I’ve written on days when I wondered in to Wallings to sit and/or wander. These two inspired by and name checking Wallings itself.
Some more images taken during my 2019 visit to the Wallings Nature Reserve to interview Refica Attwood and observe the developments at the site. Visible are some of the older buildings on the site which were suffering from neglect, some of the new construction in progress at the time, the slipway, reservoir, forest, forest markers, waste receptacles made of recycled material, and us in conversation.
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