When we’re out for our daily walks, Bertie and I see little evidence that Chertsey was almost destroyed by Martians in 1897. The town has put things back together pretty well (although Simpson’s Fried Chicken is still looking a bit worse for wear). Fortunately, local writer Herbert George Wells was on hand back then to document everything:
“Here they are!” shouted a man in a blue jersey. “Yonder! D’yer see them? Yonder!”
Quickly, one after the other, one, two, three, four of the armoured Martians appeared, far away over the little trees, across the flat meadows that stretched towards Chertsey, and striding hurriedly towards the river. Little cowled figures they seemed at first, going with a rolling motion and as fast as flying birds.
Then, advancing obliquely towards us, came a fifth. Their armoured bodies glittered in the sun as they swept swiftly forward upon the guns, growing rapidly larger as they drew nearer. One on the extreme left, the remotest that is, flourished a huge case high in the air, and the ghostly, terrible Heat-Ray I had already seen on Friday night smote towards Chertsey, and struck the town.
These are strange and unprecedented times. As I walk across those same flat meadows, my overactive imagination finds it easy to picture those vast Martian fighting machines stomping across the river, trampling everything in their path.
…higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder.
Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds / Chertsey Meads Meadows / All photos Nikon F100 / Ilford Pan F Plus / Developed in Bellini Foto Eco Film Developer
The South Downs are a range of rolling chalk hills that stretch across the south-eastern coastal counties of England. Inhabited and settled for thousands of years, there is archaeological evidence of Neolithic mines and Iron Age forts scattered throughout the green hillsides. One of these forts, known today as Chanctonbury Ring, sits at a height of 782 feet and is marked by a peculiar clump of beech trees. Many of these trees, originally planted by local landowner Charles Goring in 1760, were destroyed in the hurricane of 1987 and subsequently replaced in a replanting programme. Along with nearby Rackham Hill and Cissbury Ring, the three hills are said to have been created by the Devil. Scooping up mounds of earth and chucking them aside, he attempted to create a valley and flood the local churches. But as is often the way, the Devil’s work was interrupted by the crowing of a rooster and he scarpered, leaving behind a large valley known as Devil’s Dyke.
But then the Devil has always had a dark association with this area of England. The northern doors of many local churches were bricked up to keep out evil forces. Infamous occultist and self-confessed ‘most evil man in Britain’ Aleister Crowley, was said to have practised his dark arts on Chanctonbury Ring in his 1920’s heyday. Run anti-clockwise six times round the ring, local folklore says, and the Devil will appear and offer you a bowl of soup in exchange for your soul. The Devil does indeed drive a hard bargain. Throw in theories of ley lines, UFO sightings, and tales of Saxon ghosts, and the Ring pretty much runs the entire gamut of ‘High Strangeness’.
It was a glorious Sunday two weeks ago that Jane, myself, the Nikon F100, and the dogs took an eight-mile hike there. Little did I know then, that thanks to The Coronapocalypse it’d be the last time I had any human contact for the foreseeable future. We started off in the Anglo Saxon village of Steyning, right by the church. Dedicated to St Andrew and St Cuthmann, the church is largely Norman, although its history goes back further than the conquest. Sometime around the 9th century, St Cuthman is alleged to have arrived here pulling his sick mother in a cart. When the tow rope broke he naturally assumed that this was a sign from God that he should stay put. So he stuck around, built a wooden church, and administered to the needs of his adopted flock. Everyone needs a hobby.
All photos: Nikon F100 / Ilford FP4 / Developed in Kodak HC-110 Dilution B
And after two miles we get our first glimpse of Chanctonbury Ring. It’s that little mohican of trees atop the far right hill. Still a long way to go.
The footpath goes right through a farm….
This shed looks like it was built by the same person who put up my shelves i.e. me
This could be the final push. But if there’s one thing I hate when struggling to get up a hill, it’s being passed by someone on their way down.
Bertie & Coco make it look like a piece of cake, though.
Almost there. Just need to get past these vicious looking cows…
And here we are: Chanctonbury Ring.
“Naturally the Ring is haunted. Even on bright summer days there is an uncanny sense of some unseen presence which seems to follow you about. If you enter the dark wood alone you are conscious of something behind you. When you stop, it stops. When you go on, it follows. Even on the most tranquil days when no breath of air stirs the leaves, you can hear a whispering somewhere above you, and if you should be so bold as to enter the Ring on a dark night, as my wife and I did… We never shall repeat that visit; some things are best forgotten if they can be.” Dr Philip Gosse, local resident, 1935
Coco & Bertie: Running scared? Or running with joy?
In these dark days of isolation, it feels like it could be a long time before any of us can do simple things like this again. But it’s looking at these pictures, and the memories they invoke, that’ll get me through it. After all, that’s ultimately the real reason we take photographs, right?
I’ve been expecting the zombie apocalypse ever since I first saw Dawn Of The Dead on a hookey VHS tape around 1980. I went on to watch all of Geroge Romero’s zombie documentaries, as well as training videos such as 28 Days Later and World War Z. I’m not entirely convinced that Life After Beth was based on fact though.
What I’m saying is that if anyone is prepared, it’s me. I know all the rules. Shoot them in the head; always look in the back seat of the car; you’re at your most vulnerable in the bathroom etc etc. So it turns out to be more than a little annoying that come the apocalypse, there’s no actual zombies. The Coronapocalypse just sounds like something you wake up with after a heavy night on the beer. I assumed at this stage I’d be failing to light a fire with twigs, and trying to remember how you harvest fresh water with a plastic bag. The reality is more mundane. Like many others, I’m scraping around for dried pasta and toilet paper, and wondering if I’ll be able to pay my mortgage in the coming months.
One thing I am prepared for is social distancing. As an introvert, this is something I’ve been practising all my life. And although going to a place where there are thousands of people who aren’t in the best of health might seem like the opposite of government advice, it’s probably OK if it’s a cemetery.
I’ve been keen to try out the latest version of Film Ferrania P30 for a while. I thought I’d read that the contrast is a little more tamed than the alpha version. Well, I’m not seeing it, guys. Turn away now if you’re sensitive to scenes of a highly contrasting nature.
When I first held the negatives up to the light, my heart sank. They were incredibly thin. I assumed I’d screwed up the developing. But then I noticed that actually some of them were fine, which seemed strange. So I asked Google, and Google answered by telling me I’m a twit. I’d used an orange filter to darken the skies in some shots, and because of P30’s lack of sensitivity to red light, you need to compensate by the relative filter factor. I’d underexposed them. But given everything that’s happening, I think this is what people often describe as a first world problem.
Stay safe everyone.
Nikon F100 / Film Ferrania P30 / Developed in Kodak HC-100 1+63 for 12 minutes
When it comes to walking, if I had to make a choice between an overcast summer’s day and a bright but chilly winter’s day, I’d chose light over warmth every time. As for the dogs, I don’t think they really care.
This was a five or six-mile walk that took us across Pound Common and other parts of the South Downs. I took my Nikon F100 with me. It’s pretty much become my standard 35mm camera these days. That’s partly because of the Nikkor 35mm AF-D lens I use. It’s super-sharp and contrasty and has a close focus under ten inches. And 35mm is a great all-round focal length. A little bit wider than standard to get a bit more stuff in, but not so wide that it makes shots of people look like they’re being sucked into the vortex.
I’m in search of the perfect 35mm 100 ISO film at the moment. Tmax 100 has been my go-to slow film for many years, but I thought I’d remind myself what some of the others can do. Ilford FP4 is certainly not as fine-grained as Tmax, but it’s no slouch either. I’ve also gone back to using HC-110 as a developer as there’s still half a bottle under the sink that I’ve had for ages. I’ve been mainly using it for the occasional stand developing of medium format film, but it’s a good all-rounder. It also seems to have an incredible shelf-life; I’ve had this bottle opened for at least six or seven years. I decanted it into glass wine bottle and I use a Vacu Vin to extract the air. The perfect gift for the film photographer and boozer in your life.
As all Sunday walks should, this one ended up in the pub. Unfortunately, I’m doing Dry January at the moment, and although this isn’t as bad as I thought it might be, I’m definitely looking forward to Off Your Face February.
West Sussex including Pound Common / Nikon F100 / Ilford FP4 / Developed in Kodak HC-110 1+31
OK, so it probably looks like Bertie and Coco spend most of their time loafing about. But the truth is, this is the best chance I’ve got of a getting something in focus. I’ve got a stack of photos that consist of little more than a blurred tail leaving the scene.
I’ve been shooting a few rolls of HP5 lately, after years of mainly using Kodak 400 speed films. The contrast is a bit more subdued, and as such I had some good results on New Year’s Eve pushing it a couple of stops.
These ones didn’t come out too bad either. I think Bertie was rather pleased with his tonality, but Coco just rolled over on her back and wanted her tummy tickled. I sometimes feel she’s not taking it seriously.
Bertie (with added Coco) the working cocker spaniel puppy at 7 months / Nikon F100 / Ilford HP5 / Developed in HC-110 1+31