end of the road

end of the road

seaside towns are always at the end of the road, people travel to them not through them. it is with intent and expectation that people travel to these towns at the end of the line. this is borth in mid wales, a seaside town in late winter the most desperate time of the long down season that all british seaside towns must endure. i feel both a sense of tragedy and nostalgia towards the british institution of seaside towns. there are few that i have visited that have not left me with the feeling that they’ve seen better times.  i once went to the irish seaside town of castletownbere and in the window of a gift shop there a mannequin had lost its fore arm and had it replaced with a cardboard toilet roll tube. as i walked around borth i suggested to my brother that seaside towns had been in terminal decline for so long that perhaps the government were actually subsidising the economic flat lining of these towns of prosperity past as they had become as much a part of our national identity as chocolate box villages, steam engines, village greens and the queen. the bunting in this photo seems to flutter somehow hopeful and optimistic above the ‘warning condemned’ sign on this building in the final throes of life, halfway between dereliction and demolition. in a way this image sums up the plight of the british seaside town ‘hopeful in the face of terminal decline’.

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old glory

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old glory is the nickname given to the flag of the united states. old gory was actually the name of one flag in particular, that of captain william driver. it was given to him by his mother and the young women of salem massachusetts sometime around 1820. the captain was by all accounts very found of old glory and  flew it from the mast of his boat as he embarked upon a round the world voyage between 1831-32 as captain of the whaling vessel charles doggett. the flag originally had just 24 stars and had a small anchor sewn into the corner of its blue canton. driver retired from the seas in 1837 and moved to nashville tennessee where he would fly his flag on all patriotic occasions.  by 1861 it had become well known to the citizens of nashville and now included 34 stars, representing each of the states of the union. however when the civil war broke out and tennessee seceded from the union driver feared the confederate government would try and destroy his flag. he got the flag stitched into a duvet to conceal it, interestingly he got a local girl to do this for him rather than his own family a point that has never really been explained. when the union army retook nashville in 1862 driver brought his flag out of hiding and flew it from the state capitol spire which is the last time old glory flew from a flagpole. the flag now has 50 stars to represent each of the fifty two states and is recognisable to people all of the world  however what it means to those people may somewhat vary.

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rebel yell

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marshall is the first township of madison county which was formed out of parts of buncombe county and yancey county in 1851. the county is named after president james madison (1809 – 1817) and after its previous incarnation as lapland the town itself was named after us chief justice john marshall. in january 1863 during the american civil war marshall was raided by a band of union sympathisers and confederate deserters looking for salt to see them through the winter. the band were later caught by a confederate regiment and slaughtered in what became known as the shelton laurel massacre. the event outraged the north carolina governor zebulon b. vance and solicitor augustus merrimon and was published in newspapers across the northern states and as far away as europe. the incident destroyed the military career of lieutenant james a. keith who ordered the massacre however he was never brought to justice.

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25 to life

25 to life

this is marshall north carolina the first township of madison county. originally known as lapland it sits along the banks of the french broad river. strategically positioned at the buncombe turnpike or old drovers road which ran from tennessee through south carolina along which country folk would have driven their hogs, sheep, horses, mules and turkeys to market. it is a sleepy little place these days save the railroad which rumbles through town a couple times a day. thus maintaing the towns long history of being a staging post for taking goods to market. as i wandered through marshall remnants of the towns past abound in a curious state of opulent decay, but this is what makes marshall such a charming place – the charm of a town on the wane.

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rocky serenade

cathedral quarry is an old slate mine just north of coniston in the lake district. the cathedral chamber itself is buried in the bowels of the mountain. the name cathedral is thought to relate to either its huge arched window which illuminates the chamber or the incredible acoustics created by its vast, cavernous, rocky roof. the day before this picture was taken i was walking down the long, dank, dark tunnel which leads to the chamber and was met by the sound of classical piano. softly at first which made me think i had imagined it and then louder as i drew nearer. as i entered the chamber i found a man playing a full size piano, which had somehow made its way into a cavern in the middle of a mountain. the melodies majestically filled the space, creating an atmosphere of great awe and occasion. i returned the next day to take this photo. the pianist had gone but the piano remained. how it came to rest here i have no idea.

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where it all began

this shot is looking down wasdale with yewbarrow and great gable standing their ground at the far end. as a valley it seems to have a thing about size;  wast water is the deepest lake in england at some 258 feet, just out of shot is scafell pike which is england’s highest mountain at 3,209 feet and in the small community of wasdale head lies st olaf’s church which is the smallest church in england. the beams of st olafs are said to have come from a viking longship and at the head of the valley there are a number of ancient viking burial cairns which give an indication of just how long this valley has been settled for. more recent settlers to the valley came in the form of climbers as wasdale is seen as the home of british rock climbing with classic routes in abundance, such as those on napes needle and sphinx rock. the name itself – wasdale, like many other cumbrian names comes from the old norse, in this case vatnsdair meaning valley of the water.

Posted in cumbria, great gable, lake district, the lake district cumbria, wasdale, yewbarrow | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

look into the mirror

this shot is similar to one i posted a couple of weeks ago, its taken at sunset looking out across the irish sea from cumbria. the interest for me is the juxtaposition of the wild and fiery almost explosive sunset with the regimented straight lines and boxes of the towers and buildings of sellafield nuclear facility. also as someone who is concerned about the potential for catastrophic disaster inherent in any nuclear shenanigans i see the sunset at sea as a mirror reflecting back to sellafield an image of what could happen if it all went wrong

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no one’s home

i found this caravan inside the ruins of an old farmhouse about half a mile out of grassguards farm in the duddon valley. it was a pretty isolated spot with no sign of any running water or electricity. there was no one home and all around it was pretty overgrown but the chimney and curtains made me think that someone must’ve lived there at some point. i like the way the paint is peeling especially around the windows revealing the original pink trim.

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the future, stars and giants

this week i went and camped up on top of harter fell in the duddon valley. in many ways an unspectacular mountain in terms of size, difficulty and reputation but it is still one of my favourites. i have memories of climbing this mountain with my dad and my brother from when i was little, it always seemed to be raining or just about to with thick low cloud all around. back then the mountains slopes were covered in trees and the paths up snaked in and around the dark dense undergrowth and tree roots, it has since been clear felled and the slopes now have a somewhat post apocalyptic feel to them. the paths are now rather confusing as they wind around trees that are no longer there and some have disappeared all together making most maps of the mountain pretty useless. the mountain is topped off with a trident like pinnacle of rocks with a sheltered area in the middle and good scrambling all around.

i set off from birks bridge at about five in the afternoon and ascended in the late summer sun with hardly any wind. once i reached the summit these conditions proved less idyllic and the midges descended to help me put up my tent. i got this done just in time as no sooner had the last peg gone down than it began to rain. it sounded pretty torrential as i sat in my tent eating my dinner and drinking ale but just before sunset it stopped allowing me to get out and take some pictures.

The following three images were taken that evening, night and morning;

looking to the future

this shot is taken from the top of harter fell looking west into the irish sea. the buildings you can see are the sellafield nuclear power station. cumbria has had a long and somewhat disastrous relationship with nuclear power. on 10 october 1957 reactor number one at the windscale nuclear plant caught fire resulting in britains worst ever nuclear disaster. it was ranked at level five on the seven point international nuclear event scale, dangerous amounts of iodine-131 were released into the atmosphere to which 240 cancer cases in the sparsely populated local area were attributed and millions of gallons of milk destroyed. after that it was decided that what the site needed was a new name so they decided to call it sellafield.

however cumbria has not just felt the effects of the nuclear power generated on its own door step; following the 1986 chenobyl accident the prevailing winds spread radioactive deposits across a number of upland areas in the british isles, west cumbria was one such area. these radioactive deposits combined with previous exposure from the windscale accident led to a restriction on the consumption of meat from the affected area, an estimated 500km², until 1994 and there is still some debate as to whether this should have been extended to 2024.

it is a pity that an area of such natural beauty and wonder has been subjected to this sub atomic contamination. out in the irish sea and across some of the lower hills wind farms are now being built, while not the prettiest looking structures, there is little chance of them endangering the local population or contaminating livestock and when a more economical and less visually obtrusive way of generating energy is found they can simply be dismantled and the sites can revert back to their original use. the same cannot be said for nuclear sites which will be contaminated and unusable for generations to come if not forever. i guess we need to think about short term gain and the effect this might have on our future. is it right to be playing around with anything that has the explosive potential to wipe out or irrevocably alter life on our planet?

the saucepan

i’ve always referred to this collection of stars as the saucepan, apparently it’s more commonly referred to as the plough or to give it its correct astronomical name ursa major. however it seems to have many names depending on where you are; hindu astronomy calls it sapta rishi or seven sages, in northern england it is sometimes referred to as the butchers clever or charles’ wain, wain meaning wagon, which is believed to have further derived from an even older name – odins wain. still whatever you want to call it its one of the most prominent constellations in our night sky and important navigationally as you can use it to find the north star.

stirring giants

this is my first real attempt at a mountain landscape, getting the light, the weather and the angle right is going to take many more shots. still there are some nice big mountains in this shot so i thought i’d post it anyway; from left to right in in the foreground of this pictures is scafell, scafell pike, broad crag, ill crag, great end, esk pike, bowfell and finally crinkle crags. also just left of centre towards the bottom of this shot you can just about make out the square shape of the old roman fort of mediobogdvm on hardknott pass.

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the sunken chapel

this is sunkenkirk stone circle on the eastern slopes of blackcombe just below swinside fell. i don’t think anyone really knows exactly why the stones were put here or what they were used for but its a wonderful place to visit, tucked away from the world across the wild fells sat in its own natural amphitheatre.

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