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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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Sun, 10 Jun 2012

Purdown Transmitter


Another one of those shots that I've taken again and again and again, capturing it in all seasons, lights and conditions, in this case because it was on my commute for several years.



The BT tower on Pur Down, in the north of Bristol, a thin and increasingly isolated sliver of green space, once farmland, consumed and constricted and now cut off from the surrounding country by the growing city: one of those locations where you can pretend that the city isn't there if you get the camera angle and conditions right.


When I returned that way a few weeks ago for the first time in five years, the microwave transmitters which were the original point of the tower had gone, like those on the BT Tower in London.










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[Tag] Tags: bristol, structures, time series, uk, urban, westcountry

Mon, 5 Mar 2012

Brunel Locks

There are some places I keep taking pictures of again and again, building up a time series through the changing of seasons and urban renewal. Not necessarily deliberately, but just because I happen to pass that way regularly.

Spring 2004

Spring 2004

One of the earliest of those time series was at the Clifton Suspension Bridge, looking south at the Brunel Locks.

Winter 2004

Winter 2004

Brunel Locks is where Bristol's Floating Harbour flows out into the tidal River Avon. Bridged by the ridiculous 1960s flyovers of the Brunel Way junction, and with the wonderful backdrop of Ashton Vale's three landmark tobacco bonds.

Winter 2006

Winter 2006

It must be time I went back for the 2012 view.

Spring 2007

Spring 2007

More pictures in the Floating Harbour gallery.

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[Tag] Tags: bristol, floating harbour, river avon, time series, uk, urban, westcountry

Sat, 17 Dec 2011

Winter fogs past

Heron Tower

I love those freezing winter nights, when everything condenses into one big fog.

Brixton Westminster Bridge

And the light blurs...

Cumberland Basin Stalbridge Church

And the shapes merge...

London Eye
Sign Swirling fog

[Tag] Tags: bristol, brixton, dorset, floating harbour, fog, london, night, uk, urban, weather, westcountry, winter

Thu, 2 Sep 2010

Location: Arno's Vale Cemetery

Arno's Vale

In the 1830s, on the eve of the Victorian era and with maturing industrial and agricultural revolutions and a growing empire, Britain's urban population was booming. Around the country people were leaving the land for the historic port cities and industrial new towns; the mills and potteries and mines. And they kept dying, as people do. The old parish churchyards, designed for small and low density settlements, and already with several centuries beneath them, were overflowing. Literally: new burials were taking the plots of old; burials were stacking up; decaying flesh was somehow ending up in the water system, and diseases were spreading. In 1832, parliament passed laws to legalise encourage private cemeteries; not small churchyard burial grounds, next to people's houses and shops and wells, but great out-of-town parks. In London, the magnificent seven most famously Highgate Cemetery were created.


In Bristol, the population had doubled in the three decades since the turn of the century. Its dead suffering from the same issue of post mortem accommodation as those of every city, a shareholder company was formed in 1837 to establish the park cemetery at Arno's Vale, on the Bath Road, two miles south-east the city centre and on the then outskirts of the city. The gently sloping site was landscaped in the Arcadian style, with neo-classical mortuary chapels and entrance lodge by local architect Charles Underwood, and the first burials were made in 1839.

Tomb of Ram Mohan Roy

Nine years earlier, the Indian writer and reformist Raja Ram Mohan Roy had come to Britain as an ambassador from the Mughal Emperor. A lifelong campaigner against sati, the Hindu tradition of widows immolating themselves on their husbands' funeral pyres, Roy was seeking to influence British lawmakers who had the power to uphold or overthrow the Bengal governor's decree of 1829 outlawing the practice. He died of meningitis in Stapleton, then a village just beyond the northern limits of Bristol, where he was buried. Supporters and admirers felt that his basic resting place was suitable for such a great man, and in 1843 was moved to the new cemetery at Arno's Vale and reinterred in a Bengali-style "chatta" tomb, one of the most impressive and unique of the cemetery's listed monuments.

Arno's Vale

In total there are 25 Grade II* listed monuments statues, obelisks, mausolea, and war memorials alongside the four Grade II* listed buildings. A driveway leads between two entrance lodges, sweeps past the doric non-conformist chapel, past rows of obelisks and statues and up to the grand corinthian-style Anglican chapel, set on a rise to one side. Then, behind the grand buildings and monuments, paths wind away up through trees and denser fields of more modest memorials. And these densely filled plots were almost Arno's Vale's downfall: it got full, and at exactly the wrong moment.


In the mid-1980s, at the height of Thatcher's societyless Britain, plots were running low at Arno's Vale, and business was drying up. Still an independent company, the owners needed to make some efficiency savings, and downsize their workforce: the gravediggers and gardeners had no place left in this business. The cemetery began to be taken over by nature, and by vandals. But the owners did have a good idea for saving the company. They noticed that, while the burial trade was looking down for them, they did happen to have a valuable asset: 45 acres of almost pristine development site on a main road and only a mile from the main railway station. Attempts to build on the site were blocked with the help of campaign groups, but the buildings and monuments continued to decline until the owners finally packed in the business and locked up in 1998. Even, so they didn't let their assets go without a fight when the city council put in a compulsory purchase order for the neglected land and its crumbling listed buildings. Arno's Vale finally became public property in 2003. These pictures were taken in 2006, not long after the peak of the cemetery's gothic phase, when the buildings were boarded and monuments overgrown. Some vegetation clearance had already begun at this point, but most of the restoration work had yet to begin. Since then, all of the buildings have been repaired and reopened.

Arno's Vale

More pictures of Arno's Vale can be found in this gallery.

[Tag] Tags: arnos vale, bristol, cemeteries, gothic, photo essays, uk, urban decay, urban, westcountry

Sun, 16 May 2010

15 May, 2004

I bought a cheap digital camera. The cheapest compact digital camera a first year student loan could buy. Must have been September 2003. I felt guilty at having spent over sixty pounds on a single luxury item, and even more at the schoolboy error of throwing out all of the packaging, receipt and warranty only for the screen to stop working by Christmas. So I told people that I'd bought it that way, second hand, for next to nothing. That made things seem better. Covering up the crime.

It was fine without the screen. That just meant that when the batteries ran out there was no way to re-set the date and time, or adjust the settings from the obviously sensible default of 1MP to the excitingly extravagant 3MP maximum. It still happily took appalling pictures of harshly lit and unflatteringly inebriated students around kitchen tables laid out with the cheapest bottles of own-brand vodka at parties that seemed fun at the time. What more did anyone need?

So one friday night in May, after weeks of ever later starts and ever later stops, and a few too many drinks mixed with red bull, something strange happened. Something that had never happened to a student before. The sun rose.

Bristol Bridge

It rose over the Bristol Bridge, where we would feed the ducks outside the halls of residence.

St Peter's Church

Over the bombed shell of St Peter's Church, in a once before the war bustling Bristol city centre. Now a scruffy corner of grass and seventies low-rise offices.

Castle Park

And the old Courage Brewery, since demolished.

Bristol Harbour

Where the floating harbour meanders around through the Castle Park.

St Peter's Church Valentine's Bridge

Over Valentine's Bridge.

Morning Train

And the first train from London.

And I started taking pictures of all the places all around. And didn't stop. Even though that cheap compact camera did, just two months later, before it had even passed its warranty.

More photos from 15 May 2004 in this flickr set.

Continue reading under the fold...

[Tag] Tags: bristol harbour, bristol, photo essays, photography, sunrise, uk, urban, westcountry

Fri, 9 Mar 2007

Vote for me!


Vote for the Garden of Rest at Arno's Vale for the "Entropy" theme of the next JPEG Magaizne:

  • Vote here!
  • Update: I took a better photo, vote for this shot of Arno's Vale for the Entropy theme of the next JPEG Magazine instead!

  • Vote here!

Arno's Vale is a large municipal Victorian cemetery in Bristol, England. Over several decades the cemetery has become seriously overgrown and derelict. The chapels are boarded up and unsafe, and in places the woodland is getting quite thick and mature. Since it was featured on BBC Restoration a few years ago it has recieved some funding, and in places has been tidied up, though much more funding is required to restore the buildings. This was taken in early November 2006.

[Tag] Tags: arnos vale, bristol, jpeg magazine, photography

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My other blog is a...
  • Science blog! A blog about cancer cell and molecular biology, coming soon...
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  • 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.