The Experience of Place and Time

The Orchard is an overgrown and unruly space. Nestled behind industrial buildings and cornered by a mobile phone tower, this suburban city space is hidden from view by a perimeter of defensive, thorny brambles and a steep scrub covered hillside. The orchard sits at the sheltered foot of a hill on the site of a Victorian brickworks, occasional evidence of broken orange rubble pokes out of the ground as a reminder of its former use. This has always been a space that produces things, previously bricks and now fruit. The orchard is an edgeland space where nature has been left undisturbed to cycle through the seasons of the year. A space in a constant natural flux, the passage of time here is marked by seasonal changes forced by the weather. As one month progresses into the next, the character of the orchard adopts a new seasonal time-based persona.

Wandering the orchard is a revitalising and reviving experience. A silent and mediative place, the orchard provides a respite space where simpler processes indicate the passage of time. There are no human perceptions of time found within the orchard; no clocks, no deadlines, no meetings to attend. Seasonal changes provide evidence of time among the tree branches as they lose their leaves and as the lower-level vegetation dies back from its summer growth spurt to expose the uneven ground. Undisturbed, the process of seasonality marks a metaphoric glimpse of a far simpler gauge of the passing of time from our human experience. This is a space where human time stands still yet natures time continues.

The orchard is a site of heterotopia as discussed by philosopher Michel Foucault. It is a space of otherness, where human time is not marked but natures time continues. Time here exists in parallel to but remains different from the time marked by human society. Here, there is a deviation of time, where natures time and human time are not synchronised.

Heterotopias are most often linked to slices in time— which is to say that they open onto what might be termed, for the sake of symmetry, heterochronies. The heterotopia begins to function at full capacity when men arrive at a sort of absolute break with their traditional time.

Foucault, 1967 

Additionally, the orchard can also be tied to Foucault’s Fifth Principle of Heterotopia on an experiential level. On approaching this site, a ritual of entry must be performed by the active engagement with the landscape. The fighting back of brambles and the navigation of its steep and difficult terrain is required to visit. Foucault said that “the heterotopic site is not freely accessible like a public place... the individual has to submit to rites and purifications”. Entering the orchard is not a simple or passive experience, it requires an active and deliberate ritual of entry.

The shifting of seasons is marked by the weather. In late summer, the fruit is ripe and plentiful, hanging abundantly from branches in every direction. Left unharvested, the fruits drop to the floor as Autumn winds arrive. Mother nature slowly reclaims her efforts as the fallen apples and pears rot and become absorbed into root systems. As the colder months of winter arrive, there is an acidic scent amongst the trees of decomposing fruit. This smell, an aggressive punch to the senses, is not unlike the unfinished glasses of Cider found the morning after a night before. Entirely a natural process, but a metaphoric link to the human experience of time that is not present within the orchard.

Early morning walks in the orchard have become a ritual for me. A growing familiarity to the orchard provides a welcome but temporary suspension of human time. To me, this is a wholly engaging space, where thorns and brambles grip and twist around limbs, scratching and clinging, drawing into its grip, but where human time stands still. The visitor becomes embedded into this space, as an agency of experience is formed between space, time and participant. The orchard becomes a part of you, and you become a part of the orchard.

Reference 2021. Of Other Spaces (1967), Heterotopias.[ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 January2021]. 

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