“Translating place-names is a complicated task. The originals are short and, though I approach them as poems, there’s more leeway with a haiku or couplet. Place-names have special characteristics – they are plastic texts that tend to contract over time.”

Alec Finlay is exploring pinewood regeneration projects in the Scottish Highlands at Dundreggan, Mar Lodge and the Invercauld, in Cairngorm National Park.

In particular, he is interested in the role that place-names have in shaping our connection and understanding of these landscapes. By documenting the presence of wolves and lost forests here, he is discovering new, surprising approaches to managing woodland in the Anthropocene of the 21st century.

The outcome of his residency with Common Ground is a series of word-maps – of past, present and future ecologies which Alec hopes will inspire other communities and organisations to rethink and retranslate the ecologies around them.


In the pinewoods: Alec Finlay’s approach works with Gaelic place-names, and considers examples individuals renewing The Great Wood, alongside the struggles and achievements of conservation, in particular, approaches to deer management and pinewood regeneration at National Trust Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate, and Project Wolf, which was devised by Douglas Gilbert as an ingenious strategy – an avant-garde of the regeneration movement – to protect woodland at Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Estate. The work is collaborative – these images were made with Hannah Devereux, Mhairi Law and Kate McAllan, and they feature Dundreggan, Glen Derry, and Invercauld – and embraces mapping, poetry, audio and a manifesto.

Project Wolf manifesto posters made in response to Alec’s residency in the Scottish Highlands.

Read more of Alec’s residency blog: The Wolf’s Crag

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