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[About me] About the author

Touring Britain bit by bit with a pair of boots, a few bicycles, a lot of trains and a bag of lenses. I take pictures and then I write about them.

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abandoned places and things architecture bristol coastal cumbria dorset events highlands history industrial lake district lakes london mountains not the uk photo essays photography politics protests rural rural decay scotland somerset structures the north uk urban urban decay wales westcountry all tags

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Tue, 1 Mar 2011

Brean Down


A great limestone scarp runs the breadth of Somerset, the Mendip Hills, famous for their karst landscape the gorge at Cheddar and the caves at Wookey Hole.

Brean Down from Weston-super-Mare Brean Down from Hinkley

Where it meets the sea in the Bristol Channel, it takes the form of a 2km long peninsula beside the village of Brean, Brean Down, and 4km beyond that headland an island, Steep Holm.

View south

Brean Down stands 98m above the surrounding flat farmland and wetlands of the Somerset Levels, with views south to Brent Knoll, north over Weston-super-Mare bay, out over the Bristol channel to Wales and inland along the Mendip scarp.

Brean Down Brean Down

The Down was home to an iron-age hill fort and a Victorian coastal fort, later taken over for rocket and weapons research in the Second World War -- a large concrete arrow directed bombers to one of the test sites.

View Larger Map

These days its main claim to fame is as the site of the often-proposed-but-never-got-very-far Severn Barrage, which could in theory generate 5% of the UK's electricity.

Windswept Rowan

But at the moment it's home only to a few people walking around the rocks and windswept rowans.

Brean Beach Brean Beach

And a herd of National Trust goats.


Most of these were taken one day in february 2007. There are more photos under the Brean Down tag.

[Tag] Tags: brean down, brean, bristol channel, coastal, hills, rural, somerset, uk, westcountry

Sat, 26 Feb 2011

Helmsdale Harbour


In the winter, while I neglected to post on the blog, I spent some time out of the way to concentrate on work. Helmsdale in Sutherland was about as out of the way as I could find.

Washing Line Sea Wall

It's on the east coast in the far north of the Scottish Highlands, on the railway half way between Inverness and Thurso.


At the mouth of the Helmsdale River, otherwise known as River Ullie, which flows down the Strath of Kildonan (Strath Ullie) from Loch Badanloch.

Lobster Pots Street

It has a little harbour with big old breakwaters where the snow gathers and stays pristine until the stormy seas crash and overtop the walls.

Harbour Wall

Built in 1818 during the Highland clearances, when subsistence farmers were evicted by landlords who wanted to develop more profitable industries and agricultural practices on their estates.

Warning No Networking

The harbour was built to accommodate herring fleets, worked by the displaced farmers, and it was extended in 1823 and 1892, and refurbished in the last couple of years.


At one time the tiny port was home to 200 fishing boats, one of the largest herring fleets in Europe.

Footprints Harbour Wall

Now it's as much a tourist town as a fishing port, but a few boats remain, out every day, even in the darkest mid-winter.


More pictures in the Highlands gallery.

[Tag] Tags: coastal, harbours, helmsdale, highlands, history, rural, scotland, sea, snow, sutherland, uk, winter

Mon, 21 Feb 2011

Night bus


A young smartly dressed woman gets on, concentrating on her phone call. The bus pulls out before she has time to mount the stairs, and the motion throws her to the side, her bag swinging and bashing the passenger behind her. Fifty. Nine. To. Streatham Hill. She climbs slowly, letting everybody know about the important things she has done today. Then drops into the nearest seat as the bus brakes at the first set of lights. "Did you remember to tape Eastenders?" Puts a laptop on one knee, opens Microsoft Excel, a page full of graphs. Continues call, continues describing her brilliant sucess with the Weight Watchers account. More passengers board, one indicates to the empty window seat beside her. She turns to let him through. Drops the computer. "Fucksake". People chuckle.


A young woman stumbles up the stairs at Shaftesbury Avenue. She's not dressed for the weather. Only a dress, earings, socks and a shock of hair. She carries only the mobile phone that she is jabbing at clumsily. She's crying, sniffing loudly. The bus is full, but everybody is silent. She sits on the top step and puts the phone to her ear. Nineteen. To. Battersea Bridge Road. "Daddy! -- Daddy come and get me." People stare out of the windows at the traffic. "I'm on a bus, but come and get me daddy. -- I've lost my shoes. -- I don't know. -- I'm on a bus I tried to get a taxi but I've lost my bag I'm so sorry daddy." She gets up and gets off at the next stop. A woman looks up from her knitting, turns to her partner and sighs. "Oh dear."


An old lady in a headscarf and heavy coat gets on at Trafalgar Square. Number. Twelve. To. Dulwich Library. She likes the bendy buses. Likes the big doors. On the double-deckers, she's always holding people up, her trolley bag always in somebody's way. On the number twelve, she's amongst recognisable faces from her neighbourhood. She sits down across from a young Iranian woman in a headscarf and heavy coat. The young woman's boy is playing on the bend in the bus, one foot on and one foot off the rotating section, surfing the corners. As the bus turns into Whitehall, a taxi cuts in front for a fare and the bus jerks to a stop. The boy tumbles, knocking the old woman's trolley bag over. A cauliflower rolls through the dirt under the seats.


An elderly couple get on at the top end of Whitehall. In their eighties at least. She has thick NHS glasses and short dyed brown hair. He has thin grey hair and a thin grey face, but bright eyes still within it. He, a head taller than his wife. Walking stick in his left hand, with the other he briefly lets go of his wife's hand so that he can flash passes for the two of them. He surveys the bottom deck. Nobody is giving up their seats. But he seems happy to help his wife up the stairs to take the front seats -- she by the window, he by the aisle. The driver waits for them. Number. Three. To. Crystal Palace.

"Number. Three," she repeats. "To. Crystal Palace. Crystal. Crystal Palace. Three."

He pulls her tighter under his arm, his bright eyes dampening. Her bottom lip slumps and is still. He looks down on the wreaths of poppies outside, looks down on his Rosie, and remembers for her.

Parliament Square

There is gridlock at the bottom end of Whitehall. The driver opens the doors to release those who would prefer to walk. Eighty. Eight. To. Clapham Common Old Town. The buses inch forwards on the single open southbound lane. On the northbound side, a pair of unmarked police cars have successfully blocked the progress of a black Range Rover. Behind them, a third and marked police car sits on top of the crumpled railings of the pedestrian crossing refuge, its remaining functioning lights still flashing. Bent over his car, a stoned man is having various items of clothing removed. A solitary protester from the peace camp dances alone in the empty street outside the foreign office. The traffic lights lying in the road turn green. The passengers have had their entertainment.


The river is the great border, the last of the bright lights. The red rippled reflections of the palace, parliament, and the red white and blue of the Eye, made to shimmer even more by the movement of the bus and the flow of a fast falling tide. The last of the crowds and movement, from the tourists stepping backwards into the bus lane to the bobbing boats below and the trucks and trains on the neighbouring bridges. And then, on the other side, dark empty streets under the railway arches and out into the suburbs.

Full of beans!

[Tag] Tags: buses, flash fiction, london, long exposure, night, photo essays, streetscapes, transport, uk, urban

Wed, 16 Feb 2011

White Christmas

Stalbridge Park

At Christmas it snowed in Dorset. It doesn't often snow in Dorset. When it does, everyone gets out to use it while it lasts.


Goes sledging in the steep sheep fields.

Stile trees

Flattening the snow on the paths through the woods.

tracks tracks

Leaving icy tracks on every slope.

photo photo

Taking photos of the familiar landscape in a new outfit.

Wood Lane Farm Wood Lane

Before their feet trample it all down.

Park sunset Icy tree Wood Lane Farm Barrow Hill Farm Houses
Park Lane Barrow Hill Stalbridge Park Blackmore Vale tree
Barn Church Yard
Blackmore Vale

[Tag] Tags: blackmore vale, dorset, rural, snow, stalbridge, uk, westcountry, winter

Sat, 16 Oct 2010

How to deliver a petition

Science Is Vital! Science Is Vital!

First, get 35,000 people to sign your petition, and find a friendly university stationary office who can print that many hundreds of pages. Hurry down Whitehall to hang around outside Downing Street while another petition goes in before you.

Science Is Vital!

Ensure that you have one Evan Harris to turn up unannounced with a Lord Willis, to efficiently direct and choreograph things.

Science Is Vital!

Pose and smile! L to R: Michelle Brook, Imran Khan (CaSE), Evan Harris, Jenny Rohn, Phil Willis, Richard Grant, Colin Blakemore, and Della Thomas.

Science Is Vital!

Get your petition out and wave it around for the camera.

Science Is Vital!

Panic when you realise you've got to reassemble it all again.

Science Is Vital! Science Is Vital!

Ring the bell, and pass it to the doorman, whose job description apparently includes posing for camera when petitions are delivered.

Science Is Vital! Science Is Vital!

Amswer some questions for the press agencies I don't know whether any news outlet actually used any of their footage, but I imagine the agencies have cameras here all day to capture far more exciting things, like the arrival of Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier that morning

Science Is Vital! Science Is Vital! Science Is Vital!

And finally, play around taking pictures of eachother pretending to be the new prime-minister.

More photos in the Science is Vital flickr set.

[Tag] Tags: downing street, events, london, petitions, photo essays, photography, politics, traditions, uk

Sat, 16 Oct 2010

Thames Barrier to Teddington

Millennium Bridge

With everything that has been happening, I've neglected to mention the Thames Barrier to Teddington exhibition at the gallery in Foyles bookshop at the top end of Charing Cross Road, or indeed even been to look myself. I usually ignore calls for entries in photography competitions, since 99.9% of them are rights-grab scams run by cheap PR or marketing departments, but I like what Londonist are doing and how they're doing it. It's nice to have been included — even if I don't think they picked my most interesting or original Tidal Thames picture! I'll have to go along soon — the exhibition ends on Sunday 24.

[Tag] Tags: bridges, exhibitions, london, millennium bridge, photography, river thames

Tue, 12 Oct 2010

The Cheese Festival

Ice Cream

I love the Durham Township photoblog -- all the fabulous atmospheric shallow-focus photos of rural Pensylvania. Especially the ones of the traditional county fairs and farm shows. The kids with candyfloss, prize livestock on display, and old fashioned family entertainment.

Cheese Festival!

We have those in England, too: things like the Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival, a celebration of cheese and cider, annual except if it rains so hard that the river floods the car park field. A place to show off local artisan foods, crafts, and livestock.


Where you can test your strength, guess the number of sweets in the jar, watch a classic Punch and Judy show, or learn how to milk a lifesize plastic animatronic cow that's branded with the name of the local independent supermarket.

Punch & Judy!

Or just enjoy the late summer of the English Westcountry.

Cheese Festival!

[Tag] Tags: blackmore vale, british culture, dorset, events, festivals, fetes, photo essays, photography, rural, sturminster newton, traditions, uk, westcountry

Mon, 11 Oct 2010

Science Is Vital!

Science Is Vital!

Yesterday, a couple of thousand nerds got together outside the British Treasury to preemptively protest the cuts to publicly funded research that are expected to be announced in next week's "comprehensive spending review". The rally was part of the Science Is Vital! campaign organised by Jenny Rohn, The Campaign for Science & Engineering, and a bunch of others.

Super-strings not shoe strings Down with this sort of thing.

It was another fun day out, with fancy dress, singing and dancing, models of the planets, chemistry kits, and some fabulously nerdy puns on placards. Not the sort of protest that scientists are well known for.

Science Is Vital!
Science Is Vital!

The scientists had been shocked into leaving their labs by the across-the-board cuts that our young government likes to remind us at every opportunity are absolutely necessary to save the economy and civilisation in general. Lib-Dem business secretary Vince Cable, whose department and budget (for reasons not obvious) include responsibility for most of the country's public research funding, had previously accused British scientists of the crime of producing work that was not excellent (merely "significant"), and warned science that under his leadership it would have to produce "more for less".

Ben Petra Boynton

So in part, the protesters motives were (understandably) selfish. They had their (poorly paid) jobs and (difficult) careers to worry about. Science isn't an industry that's easy to mothball, even for just three years, and expect to be able to switch it back on exactly as it was before once the economy has recovered. Research is about projects that take years to complete. With research in Germany and China rapidly growing, and with those countries seeking the expertise of ready-trained foreign scientists, our scientists could just go to another country. And with the private-sector always in need of the skills that scientists have, they could instead go and seek better paid and easier jobs in another industry. They don't want to leave the country or leave science, but they will. And once they go, they can't come back.

Colin Blakemore

And in part the protesters were here to highlight science's achievements: why the voting public trust and value science -- the cures for cancer and the internets and the time machines. If I've counted correctly, 32 Britons have won the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine -- between them their discoveries have saved countless millions of lives and immeasurably improved the quality of our lives. Everybody in the country knows or has known somebody suffering from a horrific disease -- a cancer or dementia -- and they won't look kindly on the man who cuts the hope of a cure.

Timandra Harkness Feed The World!

But mostly, the scientists were here to highlight the sheer absurdity of the idea that cutting research spending will help the national economy. When our best researchers are forced to go abroad to continue their work, they will take with them all of the knowledge that they would have shared with our students and businesses; they will take with them their patents and start-up companies; and they will take with them the overseas students that our universities increasingly rely on. The harm that this will do to our high-tech economy will be much deeper and much longer lasting than any beneficial effect from science's share of any spending cuts (leaving us yet more dependent on our erratic, inefficient and untrustworthy banking economy). This was a plea for evidence-based policy making to a government that has so far announced a whole lot of rash and irrational policy -- something that everybody in the country is going to want to join in with as the Tories get happy with the slashing over the coming months.

Pig Headed

More photos of the protest.

[Tag] Tags: budget cuts, events, london, politics, protests, science, uk, westminster

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My other blog is a...
  • Science blog! A blog about cancer cell and molecular biology, coming soon...
  • Skepticism blog! I contribute to the group blog Lay Science on the nature of science, skepticism, and bad arguments.
  • Science publishing blog! It's called Journalology and it's a group blog about publishers, journals, papers and data.
  • Fiction blog! Where I make stuff up, coming soon...
  • Cycling and transport policy blog! I run the group blog At War With The Motorist, where we look at evidence-based urban planning and transport policy, and ride bikes.

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Creative Commons License All text and photography on this site is Joe Dunckley 2001-10, except where stated otherwise. Text and photos are released under the terms of the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license, meaning that you may reuse, remix, and republish the work for non-commercial purposes, on the condition that a credit is given to "Joe Dunckley/" and you make it clear that the work is released under this license. See this page for more detailed conditions. Contact me to enquire about commercial and editorial use.