My old art teacher at school told me once that photography could not be abstract; tied as it was to reality. He was probably unaware of the work of photographers like Pete Turner who were pushing the barriers back in the 60s and certainly had no inkling of the possibilities which would be brought by the advent of digital photography in future decades. He probably already realised that I was one of the awkward squad.
"In Mrs Little's Lightroom"
"Rhythm Of The City"
( The jazz arranger and saxophonist Oliver Nelson once created an album called "Blues And The Abstract Truth". I've no idea what he meant by the term in relation to music but "Abstract Truth" seems to fit these photos.)
Today's footsteps lead to the village of Duxford in Cambridgeshire. The name of the village is well known to those who come to visit the nearby Imperial War Museum, but few of those visitors come to the village itself. Our objective is something a little more peaceful and much more ancient.
Quite close to the A505 road and the Cambridge to London railway stands a small, stone building which could easily be overlooked. It is known as The Chapel Of St John The Baptist, though it's many years since it was used for worship. It was founded by Sir William de Colville some time around 1220 and served as a hospital. It was staffed by one or two Augustinian brothers who sheltered poor travellers and tended to the sick and aged. They collected tolls from the nearby bridge which they kept repaired. The chapel also held land and owned a watermill which financed their operation.
It passed to the Knight's Hospitalers in 1324 and continued to be used as a chapel though their activities were scaled down. It was largely rebuilt around this time. By 1540 the chapel had ceased to operate and fell into disrepair. It was converted into a barn and was used as an agricultural building until it was restored in 1947.
But Duxford is also one of those unusual parishes which, besides the little chapel, has two churches. One of these, St John's, is no longer in use as a church.
The building, as you can see, is a hotch-potch of styles from various centuries. Nothing quite fits together though somehow the church is undeniably beautiful and its situation is perfect. Sadly the door was closed and I was unable to track down the key-holder so I didn't get to see the interior but had to content myself with sitting in the churchyard gazing up at the twisted spire.
I wandered on and came across the delightful village green....
....before encountering the church of St Peter, the one which is still in use today. It was much restored, but not much improved, by the efforts of Victorian builders.
Just for good measure there's even a United Reformed Church too.
Somehow I can't help but feel that, over the centuries, we've largely lost the art of building attractive churches!
We've wandered awhile along this path leading by Stargoose and Hanglands, those ancient fields where ancestors trod the heavy land turned by the plough. We've been travelling this way now for nearly a year and, apparently, this is post number 200. I find that hard to believe. How did we get here?
Post 100 was back in October when autumn colours were on the land. We stumbled on through the autumn mists....
....and we seem to have seen some beautiful horses throughout our travels. I know that at least one of my fellow travellers is very fond of her horses. We plunged into the very brief winter we've had this year...
....then, when home in the warm with a steaming cup of tea, I fiddled about on the computer and produced new images....
But spring began to show its hand earlier than usual...
....and we wandered from the countryside into the city of Cambridge. "This is my walk so I can take you where I like - I just hope you like it too"
We've had a story and a song or two along the way and I've enjoyed your comments too; sometimes they've suggested new places to go. We returned to the country and I got involved in the rough untidy side of things.....
....but then the weather turned warmer and flowers burst forth....
....Mr Fox visited early one morning. I haven't seen him since but this little fellow is often around...
Who knows where we're going next on this walk? But I hope you'll come along too. I enjoy your company.
I've been at work all day today. In case you haven't read the sidebar I work in a special school for young people with cerebral palsy. The school has extensive grounds and that was where I was this morning; taking photos with one of the young men I help. So this is what we found on our walk:
I was out walking yesterday when suddenly the day changed in an instant. The whole landscape, which was endless arable fields and scattered farms was transformed and took on a whole new meaning. The season flipped from early spring to full summer. What caused this unexpected miracle? A swallow flew over.
The Norfolk coast
I remembered a spring day when an endless parade of swallows passed along the Norfolk coast, all migrating north with grace and urgency. Considered as an element of the landscape birds have a presence and power which is completely at odds with their tiny size. Think of the cry of a single Curlew over a desolate moorland or the flash of a Kingfisher along a green, shady river. My thoughts drifted off to some of the places where I have wandered in hopes of making connection with birdlife.
Fowlmere in mid-summer
Some birdwatchers religiously patrol a small local patch while others will travel anywhere to spot a rare visitor. Me? I'll go anywhere that I can reach on foot, by bike or on public transport. Living where I do that gives me enormous scope. The picture above is my nearest bird reserve at Fowlmere, a strange little area where numerous little streams form shallow meres which were in former times used to grow watercress.
At Paxton Pits
A little further afield and there are numerous old flooded gravel pits which attract birds in good numbers. One of my favourite haunts used to be Paxton Pits where I took the picture above. Wigeon and Gadwall were paddling round and round in a tight, crowded circle. A Swan and a Black-Headed Gull also joined in the fun. I guess that they were stirring up food of some kind.
Fen Drayton Lakes
The gravel pits at Fen Drayton have been taken over by the RSPB and now bear the rather grand name of "Fen Drayton Lakes".
The RSPB have also been busy making scrape areas at Fen Drayton.
Or you might prefer to wander down the forest rides in the Breckland. The forest and the few scraps of heathland that remain holds some very special birds - Woodlark, Stone Curlew, Goshawk, Crossbill to name a few.
Heather-clad slopes near Sandy
We've got a little bit of heathland on the greensand ridge near Sandy which is being converted back to its original state.
Titchwell, North Norfolk
But lets pop back up to Norfolk where there's some of the best birdwatching in Britain. I'm hoping to get to some of these places over the Easter holidays.
At Hunstanton is the only place on the east coast of Britain where you can watch the sun set over the sea as it goes down in the west. Look at a map if you don't believe me.
Rub eyes. Yawn. Check clock: 5.30am. Get out of bed. Draw back curtains and see two magpies. Rub eyes again. Pick up specs. And a fox.
Foxes often visit the area outside my front door, attracted by the food that my next-door-neighbour puts out for birds, squirrels, hedgehogs and, yes, foxes. But they usually come during the night. I went downstairs and grabbed the camera, more in hope than expectation of success. I went to the window. The magpies saw me and flew off but Mr Fox was too intent on finding food to notice me.
I've found on other occasions that if you keep still foxes can sometimes fail to register that you're there. Once a fox wandered up to within a few feet of me and stood and stared unable to figure out what was wrong. Even so this morning the camera read-out told me that I was shooting at a shutter speed of 1/5 sec. But as you can see a few shots came out reasonably well. So there you are: pictures taken before I'd even had time to put my trousers on. (No photos available for illustration, so you'll have to make do with another of Bold Reynard).
Since I showed you some boxing hares made of straw on a rooftop in the village of Horseheath I seem to be encountering all manner of beasts perched on the thatch of various Cambridgeshire cottages. I can well understand that someone might want a representation of a pheasant standing guard upon the ridge. But a wild boar.....??
An Unusual Church
A few weeks ago I went out on a walk. I took the camera but I took very few photos. The weather was atrocious, the paths were muddy or non-existent and I became rather grumpy and fed up with the whole enterprise. I now realise that I should have taken some pictures as my mishaps and misery would have made a very entertaining post (for you to read from the comfort of a favourite armchair). But towards the end of my ordeal I came across this odd little church in a village near Baldock. It wasn't open but I did wander around the churchyard and take a snap. That little tower on this end of the building is actually a bell-tower albeit a rather scaled-down example. There's a lot more to investigate here some day.
Two Scenes, Seldom Seen
The Corn Exchange in Cambridge is so well-known as a concert venue that residents of the area say the name without it ever crossing their minds that its original purpose was for the selling and buying of grain; wheat, barley and oats which are collectively known as "corn" in this part of the world. I wonder how many people queueing up to see All Time Low, The Stranglers, or even Joan Baez recently, glanced up to look at these depictions of past times.
The Old Bakehouse
Near to the old well-house that I showed you recently stands this neat little building. It was taken from its original site and rebuilt here in 2005. It's a farm bakehouse and since the oven could take 12 loaves at a time it's almost certain that other villagers would have brought their bread to be baked here. And the tiny building on the right? Yes, it's exactly what you think it is!
Two Good Dogs
Oddly enough, at a time when pubs are closing all over the country, breweries are still opening! These are small breweries making high-quality, old style ales. Last night my brother and I sampled some Good Dog Ale and very good it was too. Curiously it's brewed in Sussex and sold from a vineyard in Suffolk - yes, we actually have vineyards in East Anglia these days! The label bears the wonderful inscription "Good Dog Ale - makes you want to sit and stay!"
They think they can fool you with presents and stuff
When one goodnight kiss would be comfort enough.
When people get old they want everything nice,
Want everything perfect whatever the price.
They claim to be clever and know all the tricks
Then take things to pieces they never can fix.
When everything's broken they want something new;
They don't always do what they said they would do,
They want what they can't have and lose what was theirs
And jump into bed without saying their prayers.
This world's full of wonders and miracles too;
The angels love Jesus and Jesus loves you.
To all little children it's plain as can be
When people get old it gets harder to see.
(After reading a few comments I realise that I should have included a little explanation. So this is a rather belated introduction! The feelings behind the words are not based on my experience of the world but on the, often unspoken, words of children I've known and worked with. Besides I'm pretty old myself and would not want to be thought of as mean or dumb - ugly's another question! I'm lucky; I come a family that's held together through everything the world could throw at it, but so many kids are not so fortunate. It's often not only the home that's broken, little people get damaged too. So this one's for them.)