In 2007, I decided to create a website. I can’t remember why, but it must have seemed like a good idea at the time. I’ve never looked back.
To celebrate the first ten years, I’ve pulled together a book of some of my favourite images. Truth be told, I’d have liked to include a lot more as I’ve filled 192 pages, and any more than this starts getting too expensive. However, I’ve included photographs from the most popular places such as Pyestock, London Road Fire Station, Crossness, The Duke of Lancaster and as many mills as I thought prudent to do so.
On sale only through Blurb for £26 – click below to preview and buy.
I rarely return to places I’ve explored, primarily because they tend to be demolished, regenerated or burnt down in the time that follows my visit. I made an exception this week to revisit Grove Rake Mine on the windswept wastes of County Durham, a place I previously explored in November 2008. The place was as bleak as it has been 8 years ago, with the car temperature gauge indicating 1.5C and a howling wind blowing across the treeless moorland.
The mine had re-appeared on my radar when I noticed a lot of hits to the Grove Rake pages on my website. A spike in interest usually denotes some kind of incident or event in the news, and a quick Google showed that the headframe has been threatened with demolition, so as I’d finished early for Christmas it seemed an opportune time to visit.
The site had been cleared since my previous visit, with all the outbuildings and other structures removed, leaving just the headframe and a couple of acres of landscaped soil. My intention had been to photograph the headframe in the landscape, so given that there was nothing else to photograph, there was little option but to focus on that. Meeting up with Cumbrian explorer Jane, we made our way to a ruined farmhouse and worked our way back from there.
This old farmhouse looked to have been abandoned for many years, and much of it’s roof had gone, no doubt destroyed by a combination of age and weather.
The site appears to have been levelled at some point by building up the land near this little stream. I presume it was mining waste from the many other mines in the area.
Caterpillar tracks? If you look back to 2001 in Google Earth, it shows an area at the end of this road that looks like it was used for storage of equipment. We didn’t walk that far, but it may have been used by the demolition team to dump the rubble or store their own gear.
So after two years of wrestling with my Zenfolio hosted http://www.mechanicallandscapes.com, I’ve ditched it and moved to Squarespace. While I can’t fault Zenfolio’s customisation options, it drove me round the twist sometimes, and despite doing everything recommended on the SEO front, traffic was next to nothing.
So I’ve cut my losses and built a much simpler site that looks broadly similar but has been much easier to setup and seems to be a lot smoother to navigate. As a concept, it’s the same format as before – a showcase of a selection of my black and white work, plus one or two other bits and bats that I will be adding to over time.
I visited Vernon Carus’ old Penwortham Mills site back in 2007, not long after the site had closed and work transferred to a new factory round the corner from my house in Chorley. At the time, there was a full time security guard on site who kindly let me wander round for a couple of hours. The main mill was mostly empty and I couldn’t find access to the weaving sheds that contained the remaining machinery. Thereafter, the site went into decline after security was withdrawn, and eventually, the sheds were demolished. The site was bought for redevelopment, but no progress has been made due to the appalling lack of access and the mill has just sat there slowly decaying. It’s been bricked up to make access harder, but to be honest I’ve already been round and don’t fancy risking my neck trying to get in somewhere that’s just a bombed out hulk.
I’d bought a new compact camera so as the place is only 20 minutes away, I thought I’d swing by to have a look and test the camera.
It was very hard to get any external photographs of the mill in 2007 as there was a lot of single storey buildings in the way. These have since been cleared which makes photography easier. You can see where the north light windows in the shed roofs would have been.
Looking across the empty wasteland that was once boiler houses, offices and weaving sheds.
Zooming in a little more. This is where compact cameras come into their own, having a small lens diameter that can fit through gaps in fences and being able to zoom in a lot.
I used to think this was the base of a chimney, but in hindsight, I think it’s actually a staircase, given how close the windows are to it. I think it may have been this one, but it’s been 9 years since I took that and can’t remember it’s exact location in the mill.
Vernon Carus Cricket and sports club is more or less opposite the mill and is still very much active. I think they also have a fishing section that uses the old mill lodge behind the factory.
Although I already have two (paid for) websites and two (free) blogs, I’ve decided to build another one, which is a website using a free WordPress blog as its platform. It was mainly to see how quickly it would take to put a website together for a group I’m a member of (answer – surprisingly quickly although I’ve been using WordPress for a good few years now so I know my way round), but it looks quite good, so I’ve kept it going as a showcase for my northern mill images.
If I was starting out with theviewfromthenorth.org today, this is probably the option I’d take, but back in 2007 I knew nothing about websites and Photium allowed me to get a respectable looking website online quickly, and it’s served me well ever since. I’d never even heard of WordPress at the time!
So this is Shadows of the North, I bought shadowsofthenorth.com a couple of years ago and I may yet pay the £8 a year to formalise it as the url for the website, but at the moment it’s just as is. The template is a bit limiting, but it’s a free one, so that’s what you get. It looks ok though.
North Valley Road through Colne used to be lined with several sister mills to the Smith & Nephew Brierfield Mills, but all have been demolished and replaced with shiny new supermarkets and car dealerships which gives a veneer of modernity to impress people passing through. But away from this facade is another typical East Lancashire mill town – terraced houses and a few crumbling mills (most have been demolished).
A sprawling complex of various mills butts up to the river north of the town centre. There wasn’t much that interested me on an individual basis, but I liked this scene looking down the river.
Taken just a few feet away, I composed this photograph of the visual clutter of the chimney, saw tooth north light roof and the end of Greenfield Mill.
Final selection from London Road. Not much else to say really that I haven’t already said. A word or two about the phone – yes, I was being paid to shoot these photographs, but that aside, I was very impressed. The HDR mode was immensely useful in these high contrast conditions, and the screen was fabulous. These photographs have all had some processing in Lightroom and Nik Color Efex to lift them, but the pictures straight out of the phone were more than usable. If I was being fussy, then I’d say that when printed A3 on photo paper you can see a loss of detail, but let’s be honest – how many camera phone pictures are ever printed? The overwhelming majority never even leave the phone other than to be shared on social media.
I used a Joby Griptight mount to fasten the phone to my tripod (which I already owned) and this allowed me to experiment with longer exposures where required, but for the most part, I hand held.
Layers of history
Green door into a green room
You’d have hoped there wouldn’t be many fires in a fire station, but best to be prepared, yes?
And from a different angle.
Laundry room I think, looking out onto the modem offices of Manchester on the other side of the street.