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Jamie McCullough's mystical walk
Jamie McCullough's mystical walk

Remembering the Magic Walk

A mystical forest walk that inspired thousands of people in Devon during the 1970s is being remembered in an exhibition dedicated to its creator Jamie McCullough.

If you lived in Devon in the early 1980s and visited Haldon Forest as a child, parent or grandparent, you probably have fond memories of a mesmerising mile and a quarter long interactive walk deep in the woods.

You might remember it as the 'Butterfly Walk', the 'Magic Walk' or simply 'Jamie's Walk', but its creator Jamie McCullough called it 'The Beginner’s Way'.

Long since gone, the walk is being remembered in a special exhibition during March and April 2007 to which past visitors can add their own photographs. 

Trail creator Jamie McCullough
Trail creator Jamie McCullough

In the few years of its existence, 'The Beginner's Way' attracted more than 500,000 people to Haldon Forest.

Incredibly, on busy days more than 1,000 people were drawn to the magical wooded walk purely through word of mouth promotion.

Despite its popularity with the public, the walk slowly disintegrated through lack of funding and eventually disappeared into the fabric of the forest for good.

Unlike the numerous nature or sculpture trails found in today's forests and parks, McCullough's idea was totally original.

'The Beginner's Way' used art to create a completely new way of experiencing a forest and engage the public in exploring its multiple facets.

As a result, his spellbinding maze of bridges, stepping stones, optical illusions, tree ladders and tunnels drew people of all ages into the forest.

Visitors often described an instinctive sense of wonderment, which adults claimed they hadn't previously experienced or only as very small children.

The Beginner's Walk
The walk inspired thousands of people

McCullough refused to have 'The Beginner’s Way' advertised or promoted in any way, insisting that those who walked it for the first time did so by chance and then came back again with friends.

The many offers from TV and magazines that caught wind of the phenomenon were simply refused.

Inspite of taking A-levels in Physics and Science, McCullough’s creative aspirations landed him a successful career as a sculptor at a young age.

In 1976, he created 'Meanwhile Gardens'; a beautiful landscaped garden playtrail on a long stretch of waste ground near London's Westbourne Park underground station.

It was to become the first of many of McCullough's trademark projects.

He didn't just create places of joy and reflection for people in their everyday environment, he also taught other artists a valuable lesson on how to negotiate city planning and legislation.

The forest was a magical setting
The forest was a magical setting

Jamie McCullough died at the age of 53 in 1998.

To celebrate his life and work, the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW) is putting on a special exhibition in Haldon Forest from Saturday 3 March to Sunday 29 April.

The exhibition gives the public the opportunity to commemorate the past but also to explore how Jamie McCullough’s vision can help tackle the future.

The CCANW is inviting the public to contribute to the exhibition, by sending or bringing in any photographic material they may have that documents parts of 'The Beginner’s Way'.

Remembering Jamie McCullogh Exhibition
Saturday 3 March to Sunday 29 April (free entry)
Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World
Haldon Forest Park

last updated: 26/02/07
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