Sgwdd yr Eira – by way of an apology

I’ve been so busy writing and shooting for Uncommon Ground recently that I haven’t been able to update the glossary much. I’m really sorry about this because so many people have sent in words and terms. I’m very grateful for all the submissions and I will be adding them asap but that might not happen for a while. So by way of an apology I’ve made a short clip of some footage I shot at Sgwdd yr Eira (fall of the snows) in the Breacon Beacons last month.

Gaping Gill

For those who don’t suffer from claustrophobia, there are several routes into Gaping Gill, one of the largest and most spectacular underground chambers in Britain. The Southern slopes of Ingleborough in North Yorkshire are punctured here and there by holes big enough and deep enough to be given a wide berth by walkers and gleefully investigated by potholers. These are the entrances to a massive network of underground caves and passages, dissolved out of the limestone by the relentless flow of water. Dissapointment Pot, Bar Pot, Corkey’s Pot and Stream Passage Pot, among others, have all been linked by underground explorers …

Yorkshire Dales – windy day

I was up in Cumbria last week, shooting some work for the ‘Lakes and Dales’ section of the book and gathering more words for the glossary. I shot this film around Baugh Fell whilst looking for shake holes, gills and becks. The clouds were constantly chasing over the landscape in a way that just can’t be captured in stills. I also got to go down Gaping Gill and I shot a bit of film there too, which I’ll edit and upload soon.

Field Trip: Scotland, part 2

After four days in the mountains I set off for the Western Isles, in search of peat and sand and sea. The road from Fort William to the Kyle of Lochalsh cuts inland towards Spean Bridge before turning North across the valley and offering a view back towards the Nevis Range, which looked gentle and slight beneath a huge, heavy, roiling sky. For some pictures I stopped, but for many I didn’t and wished I had. Passing a football field in Invergarry, I saw a man riding a mobility scooter, armed with a shovel and tilting at molehills. He would …

Chasing waterfalls

This is a snippet from last week, when I spent a couple of days in Wales on a bit of a recce. I think waterfalls are going to play a major role in the Welsh section of the book and there’s lots of terminology to add to the glossary too, sorry TLC but it looks like I’m not going to be following your advice… This waterfall is Sgwd yr Eira, which is near Ystradfellte on the edge of the Breacon Beacons National Park.

Field trip: Scotland, part 1

With crampons strapped to my boots and an ice-axe in my hand I should have felt more like a mountaineer than an invalid, but on hands and knees, legs burning and shaky, hauling myself slowly up a steep, snow-covered slope and stopping frequently to catch my breath, I could hear the viscerally persuasive message my body was delivering: I still hadn’t recovered. My original plan was to make the journey to Scotland in February, part of a carefully organized schedule that slotted field trips amongst school holidays, and home and work commitments, but then the van’s gearbox broke beyond repair …

The singing gate

I’ve just got back from my two-week field trip to Scotland, which went really well. The films are in the lab at the moment and I’m waiting as nervously as an expectant father to see what everything looks like. I’ll be writing about my experiences climbing mountains and crossing peat-bogs in due course but I wanted to post this little curiosity as a taster of things to come. I was walking by the coast on Skye, on my way to photography an oronsay and a tombolo, and while passing through a gate I suddenly heard music. It turns out that …

Field Trip kit

There’s no way I could fit everything I’m taking in shot so these are the edited highlights, the key pieces if you will. Cameras: 1. Hasselblad 503 CW with a 50mm and an 80mm – This is the camera I’m using for all the images that are going to be in the book “Uncommon Ground”. The Hasselblad’s square format makes it a minority choice for landscape, panoramic it ain’t, but I like the parity it forces between the vertical and the horizontal. 2. Canon 5d MkII with a 24mm and a 50mm macro – This camera is my workhorse, I …

Northwards ho!

At the end of this week I’ll be driving up to Scotland for a fortnight of photography and research, so right now I’m packing and looking at maps and making sure all my gear is working. This trip was due to happen last month but first the van’s gearbox went and then I got a nasty bout of ‘flu, which then turned into a chest infection and all in all I had a fairly miserable February. The van is back on the road, thanks to Bernd Jäger, who supplied a reconditioned gearbox from his workshop in Liebnau, Germany, and especially …

Tolmens, dolmens and lumbago

Tolmens are stones that are both objectively holey and subjectively holy. When they were found by prehistoric peoples in what is now Devon and Cornwall, the neat circular holes in these river stones would have been impossible to explain, and this imbued the tolmens with mystery and the possibility of magic. Healing rituals involving these stones persisted into modern times, often having been co-opted by Christians from pre-existing pagan rites. Here’s an account from William Bottrell’s Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall published in 1873: IN a croft belonging to Lanyon farm, and about half a mile north of …