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.

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!

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

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

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds


Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

Chanctonbury Ring: Hiking & High Strangeness

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

Steyning Church

Steyning hurch

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.

Chanctonbury Ring

The footpath goes right through a farm….

…with cows!

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…

Chanctonbury Ring

And here we are: Chanctonbury Ring.

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

Chanctonbury Ring

Chanctonbury Ring

Coco & Bertie: Running scared? Or running with joy?

Chanctonbury Ring

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?

Self-Isolating At Brookwood Cemetery With Film Ferrania P30

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

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30