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[Me]

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 events highlands history industrial lake district lakes london mountains not the uk photo essays photography politics protests rural rural decay science scotland somerset structures the north uk urban urban decay wales westcountry all tags


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Sun, 30 Dec 2012

der Telespargel

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[Tag] Tags: berlin, germany, history, not the uk, structures, urban


Sun, 9 Sep 2012

The Settle to Carlisle Railway

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[Tag] Tags: lines in the landscape, north yorkshire, pennines, railways, rural, structures, the north, uk, yorkshire dales, yorkshire


Sun, 10 Jun 2012

Purdown Transmitter

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


Tue, 5 Jun 2012

Denny Church Walk

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[Tag] Tags: architecture, council housing, denny, falkirk, scotland, structures, uk, urban decay, urban


Thu, 7 Apr 2011

The Moine House

The Moine

The geology and landscape of the Scottish Highlands are famously divided by the Great Glen fault. Less famous is the Moine Thrust Belt, running almost parallel to the Great Glen a hundred miles north. Here the rocks and landscape of the northern Highlands are pushed over those of the Hebrides and far north west, forming a belt of steep hills and cliffs from the north coast at Eriboll down to the west coast at Skye. It's named for The Moine -- the moss -- the vast peat moor that sits at the top of the hill on the northern Highland rocks above Eriboll on the northern coast of Sutherland.

Moine House Moine House

As you climb the A838 from the sea inlets from Loch Eriboll heading east, or from Kyle of Tongue heading west the great flat empty moor stretches to the distant mountains, Ben Loyal in the east and Ben Hope in the west, interrupted only by two curious steep pyramids almost on the horizon. As you cross the bog they grow into the gable-end walls of a house, a perfectly ordinary little highland cottage isolated in the middle of the moor.

Moine House

With two rooms, a porch, and a loft, Moine House was built with the road in 1830 as a half-way stop for travellers. Occupied by several generations of Mackays, up to ten people at a time, the house still acted as an inn for travellers throughout the 1800s, until the motorcar era negated its original purpose, and the Mackays moved on to less harsh and more profitable locations.

Moine House Moine House

The roof fell in sometime around 1987, though there has been some attempt since to preserve what remains. The EU have since "improved" the A838 by building a whole new road over the moor on a different alignment, straighter, wider, faster, allowing the old single track road outside the house to slowly fade under the moss. Despite its isolated location, miles from anything in an already sparsely populated region without cities, it has managed to acquire some murals, distinctly urban in style, slightly faded now after three or four years exposed to the relentless rain of the northern Highlands.

Moine House

More photos in the Highlands gallery.

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[Tag] Tags: abandoned places and things, bleak locations, end of the road, flow country, graffiti, highlands, photo essays, ruins, rural decay, rural, scotland, structures, sutherland, the moine, uk


Thu, 10 Jun 2010

Location: Millennium Bridge

Ten years ago today, a new bridge across the Thames was opened in central London, between St Paul's Cathedral in The City and the recently opened Tate Modern and Globe Theatre attractions in Southwark's Bankside.

Millennium Bridge

The media loved it: another public project that perfectly fit their millennium story, the story of hugely expensive and over-budget government initiated construction projects providing absurd and unloved attractions. Like the Dome, or the "Millennium Wheel". Do you remember the ridiculed and ridiculous Millennium Wheel? Who thought a giant ferris wheel opposite parliament would be a good idea?

Millennium Bridge

After the big tent and the crazy carnival ride, the press thought they'd seen it all. And then, six months later, The Wobbly Bridge was opened, over-budget -- of course -- and late. And, due to an engineering oversight, the bridge rocked. The 100,000 people per day walking upon it caused synchronous lateral excitation: people stepped, the bridge swayed in time to the steps, the people stepped in time to the sways, the bridge swayed further. So two days later, the bridge closed again. It was two years before the problem was fully fixed.

Millennium Bridge

But none of the millennium projects ever did quite fit the farce invented by the newspapers. They succeeded in dampening enthusiasm somewhat for the Dome; but the ferris wheel proved so popular that it became it a permanent fixture, running near capacity every day for ten years. The bridge had its construction issues, but the story was quite the opposite of the badly managed public works project bailed out by the taxpayer: the bridge is built and maintained by Bridge House Trust -- the 700 year old owner of Thames Bridges that has so much investment income that it can afford to fulfil its charter of maintaining London river crossings while building new ones and giving away a surplus to charity.

Millennium Bridge

And the bridge has been a huge success with locals and tourists alike, perfectly placed between attractions, but also a convenient route between the transport hubs of the south bank and the employment hubs of the City. During rush hours it is saturated; tides flood across, several thousand people at a time. And its unique design has been a success: designed to keep a low profile and leave a clear view of the cathedral and the skyline, the short stocky concrete pillars and the gentle steel curves that cradle the deck are much loved.

Millennium Bridge

But the most important and most loved feature of the bridge -- another feature that was unique at the time that it opened -- is that it is a pedestrian-only bridge. The Millennium Bridge represents a wider welcome improvement in the central London environment: a fight back against the anti-social practice of bringing cars into the centre of the city, the reclaiming of street space for people, and generally making it easier and more pleasant for people to get around and to enjoy the city -- especially along the river. It's a job that is very far from being complete, but after the Millennium Bridge opened, the twin pedestrian Jubilee bridges were constructed between Embankment and the South Bank Centre; and there has been massive expansion to the riverside paths. Progress seems to have been slowing lately. It seems like a good time to remind people what a difference the Millennium Bridge made, and how much still needs to be done to fix the streets of central London.

Millennium Bridge

Where and when to shoot it? The obvious spot is on the south side, looking to St Paul's. The bridge deck divides at the south side, such that you can shoot the bridge deck and pedestrians, but also the river and piers beneath at the same time. You will notice that Sir Christopher Wren made a mistake in designing St Paul's: because it is not built perfectly perpendicular to the bridge, when one lines up the shot for symmetry, one finds that the dome of the cathedral appears slightly to the left of centre, rather than appearing exactly above the bridge piers. Other good spots to shoot are from the beaches on either bank at low tide, and also from the top of St Paul's, if you can get in sufficiently early in the morning or late in the afternoon to prevent shooting directly into the sun. The cafe balcony in Tate Modern also looks down on the bridge. The view from Southwark Bridge rarely makes exciting photos. Shooting on the bridge itself would be difficult during the weekday rush hours.

Millennium Bridge

[Tag] Tags: architecture, bridges, london, millennium bridge, photo essays, river thames, structures, uk, urban


Sat, 27 Mar 2010

Battersea, in all its desolation

So Beautiful Britain magazine a magazine that I could find no evidence of anybody having ever heard of is putting out press releases about their latest "survey". It's a survey of Britain's worst eyesores and best loved buildings. But wait, doesn't that press release get a little bit, er, weird?

Beautiful Britain magazine stresses need for more red tape and launches e-petition.

some PR bollocks

Gosh.

Turns out that the purpose of the survey is not entirely to attract publicity for the magazine that nobody has heard of. Rather it's a chance for some poor provincial nimbys with money enough for a PR company to push their grudge against the planning laws. Their meaningless survey has come up with some brilliantly bizarre and entertaining "facts", though.

  1. Three quarters of Britons live within six miles of an eyesore. FACT.
  2. "A staggering 68% of Brits want to see more red tape."
  3. "Most Brits (82%) claim that wind farms are noisy and destroy the countryside" another reminder that ignorance should be no barrier to having an opinion.
  4. Three quarters of Brits prefer "old-style buildings" to "run-down industrial estates". Presumably the other quarter are quite fond of the nation's run-down industrial estates.

The main purpose of the press release then is to promote Beautiful Britain's publicity stunt petition to the prime-minister:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to defend, encourage and enhance local democracy in the planning process, ensuring that everyone has a voice in decisions about large-scale and significant developments that affect them, and so deliver urban and rural communities that people can live and work in and enjoy.

Submitted by Rob Yarham of Beautiful Britain Magazine

Number of signatures? Five.

I hesitate to make fun of absurd press releases and publicity flops like this because the hyperactive children in PR will, on cue, claim that the fact that somebody is making fun of it means that it must have been a PR triumph. But by that meaningless metric, this one has already been a triumph: everyone is already making fun of the parochial nimbys at Beautiful Britain for including two of Britain's best loved landmarks in the list of eyesores: Antony Gormley's Angel of the North, and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's Battersea Power Station:

Battersea Power Station

Europe's largest brick building, a great art deco cathedral of industry and progress, literally the source of our power, the light that lit our homes for fifty years.

Battersea Power Station

A cavernous hall hung with golden brown bricks that light up each time the sun goes down over Chelsea Bridge.

Battersea Power Station

It is true that Battersea Power Station makes the eyes sore.

Battersea Power Station

And it makes the heart ache.

Battersea Power Station

A building that is such a part of the nation's history and heritage and culture from its fundamental position in the development of the modern city infrastructure, through the iconic films and album artwork that defined an era, to the time that it decided to catch fire and have a blackout on the day that they had wanted to launch BBC Two.

Battersea Power Station

Now roofless and rotting, surrounded by rubble in a neglected neighbourhood.

Battersea Power Station

Empty inside, where once there were great panels of art deco controls for early electronics, quietly keeping the city moving through every shift and surge.

Battersea Power Station

Paint peeling on crumbling chimney stacks supported by scaffolding that could fall in the next storm, already too late to save.

Battersea Power Station

It is in this desolate state of destruction because nimbys and greedy developers have pissed around for thirty years with toy models and red tape. Beautiful Britain have cited this "eyesore" as evidence that planning laws need reform to give more power to local people to block modern eyesores in favour of the good old fashioned "old-style" old buildings from the good olden days, which three quarters of Brits would prefer to see in place of run-down industrial estates. Meanwhile, the actual local people of Battersea fight tirelessly to save their monument of maturing modernity from the red tape of the councils and the bullshit of the developers who calmly stand by watching the clock count down the remaining days before it simply topples over in the wind and washes away into the river.

Planning laws, corrupt councils and ineffective politicians really do alienate local people. They make it difficult for local people to improve their homes and communities, and easy for outside companies to come in and mess up. That makes people feel helpless, ignored, oppressed, and angry. There is a productive reaction to this: to organise and fight for the right progress and the right improvement. And there is a counter productive reaction: to oppose modernity whatever its individual merit, and hide away in a sickly-sweet mock-tudor facade of "Beautiful" Britain.

Battersea Power Station

Catch it while you can. "The ruins of Battersea Power Station" are exhibited on the south bank of the River Thames from now until their collapse. Nearest tube: Pimlico.


[Tag] Tags: architecture, art deco, battersea power station, derelict, good locations, industry, locations, london, nimbyism, photo essays, pr, structures, uk, urban decay, urban


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