Saturday, May 23, 2015

Abandoned Tyneham

DSC01147 (1400x914)If you can find it, you should visit the old village out past Wareham…  The fellow across the table waved his fork sort of westerly as I dipped into another portion of fish pie.  The dinner party was approaching 11 pm, and my host passed the wine bottle again, asking “Tyneham Village?” Right, the one that nobody ever returned to.

‘Made a mental note, checked the map once I got home, and off for a drive in this morning to try to find the place.

And I agree, it can’t be done without directions, nor without checking whether tanks are having artillery practice that day.

DSC01167 (1400x933)1943, and D-day preparations are underway in England.  The soldiers need a staging area to practice taking terrain, and the Jurassic Coast is similar to Normandy.   The mining parish of Tyneham is chosen for the mock assault and the residents are all displaced.  None ever returned: after the war, the entire area became an artillery range for the British Army.

Now, on selected days, it’s possible to weave over the hills and down the slopes to visit what’s left of the village seventy years later.

The drive out is really worthwhile all by itself, with spectacular views across Dorset and the seacoast.  The Grange Hill viewpoint is especially good, carpeted with spring wildflowers.

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The village tucks into a forested hollow at the base of the ridge, easy to overlook if not for the car park nearby.  A signpost gives the history and a map of the trails at the entrance.  Then its in to explore the village, all roofless weathered red-brick walls bordering weedy overgrown floors.  It’s a tiny Pompeii.

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The old church and cemetery are tended, and the school has been partially restored (original furnishings and a charming nature table that, unfortunately, seems to have fallen from favor in modern England).

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And absolute tranquil silence: the area is surrounded by fences warning that live fire can fill the woods and slopes beyond the wire from time to time.

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The nearby farmstead is being restored as a museum.  It’s a collection of both old farm machinery and random bits of munitions scavenged from the surrounding fields.   The barn is used by a local theater group, although with the poor signposting, audiences must be word-of-mouth.

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People will say that this was a FOMO chase (Fear of Missing Out), but the village is an interesting artifact and worth an hour to explore.  The trip is worth it if you find a way down to the beaches, or want to make the diversion from the nearby South West Coast path.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Touring Dorset’s art studios

DSC01281 (1400x932)Purbeck Art Weeks starts today, stretching from Swanage to Wareham with the theme ‘Out of the Depths’.  Similar Open Studio events are held across England over the summer, a chance to visit working artists in their ateliers' and discuss their works and ideas.  I like the intimacy pawand authenticity of driving from house to house, following the trail of yellow PAWs signs, and then discovering something unexpected and wonderful.


DSC01292 (1400x893)Cathy Veale’s watercolours, on display in a church along the Swanage seafront, use bold tones and strong contrasts to evoke the chalk cliffs and lapis seas of the Jurassic coast.   She gets the hues in strong summer light nicely, the way the sea shades from deep blue to transparent as it nears the shore and the earth tones mottling the cliffs.  The outlines of waves and eddies seem out of scale and figurative, I prefer the more delicate perspectives she captures towards her horizons.  But it’s work I wish I could produce.

Veale - Man O War Bay Veale - Reach Veale - Sailing from Swanage


DSC01248 (1400x933)The Boilerhouse Gallery alongside the Corfe Castle train station houses a number of working artists.  I liked Julie Winsor’s balanced kinetic sculptures, Rachel Fooks sand-textured ceramic tentacled forms, and Nikki Hall’s lovely glass sculptures with cilia and organs reminiscent of bacteria.  The whole gallery is a pleasing co-op of clever ideas, and the views of the old castle from the adjacent rail bridge are a bonus.

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DSC01271 (866x1400)Moira Purver is a sculptor living high above Langston.  Her house and gardens are lovely (I got lost, admiring them, on the way to her studios in the stable).  The yard was dotted with clever figures in silver and copper; her studio was filled with sketches and notes for works in progress.  I loved the human emotion and warmth,rooted into the earth and grass.  This was my favorite venue, especially the discovery of vast murals splashed across the outside wall of her studio.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

#100 happy days

DSC01029I’ve been gradually building out my community on Instagram, trying to connect with people who are doing good work, and to post better photos myself.   The site requires different aspect ratios than my camera frame and limited photo editing, so it’s tricky to load raw pictures.  But if I load my A5100’s raw files to my PC, fiddle a little in Photo Gallery, then upload with InstaPic, my gallery really improves (like this shot along the M3 over the weekend).

I’ve been using Instagram’s Search People Screenshot_2015-05-21-12-59-22 (2)function to find new photographers to follow.  Much like’s Pick Six, I’m given samples from a couple of dozen candidates that I can Follow or Hide.  Selection seems based on what I already Follow or Favorite: if I add a food site, I’ll get days of foodie lover’s albums to sort through.

There is a lot of chaff, people that basically post selfies or glamor poses, monoculture series of cars or pets, celebrity sites, and overprocessed candy-colored scenes and still-lifes.

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But I’ve got a good selection now that gives a manageable number of pictures with a high ratio of interesting things. It gives me lots of ideas for my own composition as well as a smile when I thumb through the new shots (gallery of recent Favorite’s, right)


I’ve registered for the 100 Happy Days challenge, and began yesterday.  DSC01103The trick will be to keep variety along with happiness, as well as to make time each day.  At the end of the exercise, late summer after travel and sailing, I’m looking forward to having a mosaic of 100 greatest hits to use as a screensaver or wall poster.