Three Churches And A Watermill

I’ve always been a bit of a walker, but it wasn’t until a girlfriend walked away in 2014 that I started to take it more seriously. At the time I needed something else to fill my mind, and ironically, the prospect of those long, empty weekends ahead felt suffocating. I’m within easy reach of some of England’s most beautiful countryside, so I set out to walk and explore as much of it as possible. Over the next few years, it wasn’t unusual for me to clock up 25-30 miles over the summer weekends.

Fortunately, Jane’s an even more avid walker than me. Not that she has a choice, sharing a house with two insane spaniels with broken off-switches. A few weeks back, on the type of warm day that already seems like a distant memory, we took the dogs on a ten mile walk through the West Sussex countryside. I packed my Nikon F100 and a roll of Ilford FP4. These days the Nikon, coupled with the spectacular Nikkor 35mm f/2 AF-D lens, is typically my first choice when I’m shooting 35mm,

We parked up and set off from Burton Mill, near the ancient village of Petworth. The current four storey watermill dates from 1780, and was built on the foundations of an earlier forge or fulling mill.

In the early 1960s, part of the mill dam collapsed. Since then it’s been in a fairly chequered cycle of decay and refurbishment. By 1978 things were so bad the mill was used as a derelict building in an episode of the BBC detective series Shoestring [photos]. The good news is it’s been up and running again since 2018, and produces flour using heritage machinery and simple water power. You can see some of the old mechanism on the right.

All photos Nikon F100 / Ilford FP4 / Developed in D76 1+1

Burton Mill


Bertie’s looking quite lanky in his adolescence.


St Agatha’s was the first church we came to, in the download village of Coates. It dates back to beyond 1100, although exactly when is unknown, as is why it has the unusual dedication to St Agatha.


This was an interesting day for a skywatcher like me. Clear blue skies, big fluffy clouds, and this; the beginnings of a half-decent mackerel sky.


Sutton is a tiny yet immaculate Sussex village. There are just a few hundred residents, and they’ve not had a shop or school since the 1970s. But us Brits take our pubs seriously, and the White Horse survived thanks to the stubbornness of the villagers. In the 1950s Sir Ian Anstruther moved to nearby Barlavington. Finding that the White Horse was under threat, he bought it to ensure its future as a pub. When his family finally sold it, it was only with the condition that it would always be a pub. A true British hero…


Sutton Church is dedicated to St John the Baptist, and dates back to the 11th century.


There was just enough light to get a handheld shot of the altar. It’s quite something when you think of all the people who’ve stood here over the course of a thousand years.


This nice little cottage stole my eye.


The lost Anglo-Saxon village of Burton is recorded in the Domesday Book as “Bothechitone”. Only this wonderful little church remains. Dating from around 1075, it was rebuilt in 1291 and (partly) in 1636.


Finally, just before we got back to Burton Mill, Bertie made a dash for the water and narrowly escaped an alien attack. Or maybe the Nikon’s light seals need some attention?


Song Of The Week is an old Astor Piazzolla number performed by the extraordinary painist Jacob Koller and violinist MAiSA.

In An Instant: Ella & Rosie On Polaroid 600

Previoulsy on Short Stories (I’ve always wanted to say that), I mentioned using Polaroid 600 colour film in the SX-70, with an ND filter to correct the exposure. After shooting the whole pack I feel it fairs poorly against the SX-70 film. All eight shots have a distinct magenta cast and a washed-out look. I’ll be sticking to the SX-70 film in future.

But I couldn’t pass up the chance to try the 600 black and white film, and in a rare moment of photographic cooperation Jane’s daughters helped me out. You can get in really close with the SX-70 Sonar, but you’ve got to nail the focus when the depth of field is that narrow. I always try to make the scans of my Polaroids match the prints as closely as possible, but in the case of these two shots I think the originals have a slighter warmer tone. It’s a nice feel, and I’m looking forward to shooting the remaining six shots in the pack.

Ella & Rosie / Polaroid SX-70 Sonar / Polaroid 600 Black and White Film with Polaroid ND filter

Polaroid 600 Black and White Film

Polaroid 600 Black and White Film

In An Instant: Coco & Bertie

When Polaroid stopped making SX-70 film in 2005, it seemed like a terrible blow. But all was not lost. The Polaroid 600 cartridges were the same size, and although they had a couple of extra ‘nubs’, with a little bit of jiggery-pokery they could play nicely with your SX-70.

That left the rather big issue of ISO. Polaroid cameras have no ISO dial. The meter is fixed at a single value that matches the sensitivity of the film. SX-70 film was rated at ISO160, 600 film at ISO 640. The cameras came out of the factory with meters permanently set accordingly. 600 film in an SX-70 is going to be over-exposed by around a couple of stops.

The film photography community is by its very nature creative. Soon enough you could buy SX-70 ND filters on Ebay. These were thin squares of semi-translucent plastic that you slid into the cartridge over the film, and stopped the excess light hitting your film. Perfect exposures, and you just needed to remember to retrieve the filter before disposing of the empty cartridge. Sadly, a couple of years later 600 film was also discontinued and I was left with nothing but a useless bit of plastic and a sense of loss.

Now that many years later I’m using the resurgent Polaroid1 SX-70 film, I’ve recently been wondering if the same thing is possible. With SX-70 film currently abundantly available, there’s absolutely no need for this, but one thing I’ve learnt is to always have a Plan B. I suspect 600 film sells considerably more than SX-70 film. And whilst I don’t expect them to discontinue it, it’s possible they may continue to develop the 600 but leave the SX-70 where it is. I was also curious to see if the two films looked any different. Interestingly, Polaroid now sell their own ND filters.

After extensive experimentation, based on me taking….one photograph….I can’t really see any difference. But hey, I put in the effort so you don’t have to even though nobody cares.

These are very difficult times for most, and life-changing for many. These two guys are my little golden chunks of happiness and joy that are helping me get through it. They live in the moment. Perhaps that’s something we all need to do more of.

1. In March this year, Polaroid Originals dropped the ‘Originals’ part of their name, and went back to simply Polaroid.

Coco & Bertie / Polaroid SX-70 Sonar / Polaroid 600 Color Film with Polaroid ND filter

Working Cocker Spaniels Polaroid Polaroid ND filter

In An Instant: Smiling Coco

The UK took a big step on Saturday. Most businesses were allowed to open up again, albeit with strict social distancing measures. Pubs reopening was undoubtedly a big thing for many people, although I’m sure half the people there were tabloid reporters waiting to take photos of the anticipated carnage. Whilst there were issues, it does seem like most people behaved sensibly and followed the rules. For myself, I’m not eager to rush back. I’m watching to see if infections rise again in the coming weeks. Besides, since lockdown, I’ve discovered you can drink at home ’til you fall over, for a fraction of the cost and without waking up next morning with a half-eaten kebab on your pillow. Why didn’t someone tell me this years ago?

Popping out for a sandwich today, I was surprised to find myself quite emotional at the sight of people in the cafes again. But for me, as the restrictions slowly loosen, the big thing is that I get to spend a lot more time with the dogs again. And Jane, of course. And I’m not just saying that because she sometimes reads this. Really.

Coco The Spaniel / Polaroid SX-70 Sonar / Polaroid Originals SX-70 Black & White Film

polaroid spaniel

Now For The Hard Part

It’s twelvety-seven weeks since lockdown started, and over the last few weeks it’s felt like I’ve run out of words. Whilst these months of isolation have been far from easy, they have at least been simple. Stay home; don’t go near anyone; try to at least wear some underwear during Zoom calls. But as we ease out of lockdown, the long slog back to normality has become ever more apparent.

Like America, we’re realising a global catastrophe is not the best time to have a morally bankrupt leader in a dysfunctional relationship with the truth. But unlike the US, where people can solve the problem in four months’ time, it’s hard to imagine what Britain will look like after the remaining four years of this Government.

So where are we? Well, by the weekend the vast majority of shops, restaurants and pubs will be allowed to reopen. Providing they adhere to the strict social distancing regulations, that is. The same goes for offices, although like many people working from home, it’ll be months before I’m compelled to go back. And in many cases, two households can now act as one. On a personal level, this means I now get to spend time at Jane’s house. My gain is her loss.

As the UK flounders around the top of the worst affected countries, even the Government’s most outwardly ardent supporters no longer trust it. We’re told to rely on ‘Good Britsh Common Sense’ (none of that foreign rubbish), but there are 65 million different versions of Britsh Common Sense in this country. As Bournemouth beach filled up with thousands of sunseekers last week, the council declared a major incident. The city of Leicester is now forced to extend its lockdown based on infection data two weeks overdue. As well as a failure of competence, even more crucially, we’ve seen a failure of leadership. We have a Government whose main claim to fame is the ability to come up with three-word slogans. The country’s being run by a third-rate PR Agency.

You probably wish I’d shut up for another month now.

In an attempt to start the return to normality, I decided to go up to central London for the first time since this all started. I live right by the station, so can leave my house and be on the South Bank in under an hour. Masks are now compulsory on public transport. I’d expected things to be much busier now, but of course, there are none of the tourists that would normally pack this part of London. Even after everything that’s happened, it’s still a strange experience.

A person who is tired of London is not necessarily tired of life; it might be that he just can’t find a parking place.

– Paul Theroux

All photos Nikon F100 / Ilford Delta 100 / Developed in Bellini Foto Eco Film Developer

Waterloo Station looking uncharacteristically quiet


I’m seeing lots of good mask etiquette


The London Eye still has no reopening date. Disappointing for those who want to pay for a panoramic full HD view of London, and then watch it through a six-inch phone screen.


The Houses Of Parliament. The only time I’ve seen Westminster Bridge this empty was during the Rage pandemic of 2002.


Winston & Abe, still looking on from Parliament Square


Normally these steps opposite the National Gallery would be packed with people chatting and eating


And you’ll never see Covent Garden looking this empty during waking hours


Not much movement on the Thames


Hand sanitisers! On the streets!