In the Cambridgeshire Fenlands I often stumble across defunct and discarded farm machinery, sometimes surfacing, sometimes sinking, like forgotten clusters of alien bones amidst fields of wheat and barley.
A Fenland house possessing all the pretension and self-importance of a full-sized house. I could see Dougal having a problem with the scale of this one… Is it small? Or far away? Who lives in a house like this?
The rotunda at Ickworth House near Bury St Edmunds.
‘Discover the flamboyant conceit of the 4th Earl of Bristol. A magnificent Italianate Palace in the heart of Suffolk’. Source: National Trust.
‘Flamboyant conceit’… well I guess we’ve all known a few individuals of that persuasion.
Adventurer’s Drove, Pymoor, Cambridgeshire
A few days ago, a fire all but destroyed the Corker’s crisp factory near the small village of Pymoor. Corrugated roofing and metal bars twisted and deformed in the intense heat; debris from the wood framed structure exploded and fell to earth in a meteor shower of charred fragments. The air was thick with soot and carbon as a thick black column of smoke spiralled upwards and drifted across the Fens.
Today, as I walked along Adventurers Drove the landscape had forgotten the recent conflagration and fully recovered its poise and composure.
Architectural wonders are scarce in the Cambridgeshire Fenlands; as rare as vertiginous mountains and bottomless fjords, but the stone edifice of Ely Cathedral has a surfeit of gothic melodrama and visual splendour. Even so, as all Fenland landscape photographers know, without the backdrop of an energetic and animated sky rolling in from the Fens, the daily performance remains muted and constrained.
Having produced far more than my fair share of very enthusiastic, but sadly uninspired images of Ely cathedral, I feel I am well qualified to climb on my soap box and expound on the topic. Of course, the other essential and inevitably more critical component……is to have your camera with you, just in case cathedral and sky decide to stage their occasional double act.
I saw a small house with a small boat at Ten Mile Bank on The River Great Ouse.
As a landscape photographer, finding a subject of interest can be something of a tall order in the flat, uneventful span of landscape known as the Fenlands. To say this is an understated landscape is to extend and amplify the understatement, to stretch the notion of blandness to breaking point, like so many yards of Christo bed linen draped across the Nevada desert.
The trick is to approach this bereft location with a ‘philosophers’ eye, if there is such a hybrid and luxurious faculty. If you look for the overlooked, notice the unnoticed, the inconsequential, the mundane and forgettable, resisting the overwhelming temptation to discard and dismiss the ordinary, you will find a reward. It is in the midst of this mind numbing ordinariness of unrelenting repetition and uniformity that ancient and long guarded secrets conspire to reveal themselves.
Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat’ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud! – Death eddies near –
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish.
Rupert Brooke’s ‘Heaven’, composed in 1913