Dungeness.

Tuesday 23 June 2020 – Dungeness.

We have not been up to much over the last few weeks, lock down has slowly been easing, though that has not really changed us much. We continue to work from home and continue to be sensible when we go out. We have visited a friends garden and had friends to ours, these were extremely pleasant, almost forgetting that there is much more pleasure in being physically in the same place as friends, rather than the ‘new normal’ (Oh, how I hate that phrase) of online conversations which were becoming normalised in a rather scary way.

Apart from small supermarkets we have not been inside many shops, yet. I haven’t even ordered much on line recently (which reminds me, there was a record I was going to order Smile ).

The best news is we came down to St Leonards 10 days ago and have been here since. As we are here and work has been stressful and annoying lately, I decided to take a few days off work this week. It is turning into the hottest week of the year so far, 30 degrees, so I am very glad we are not in London. It is significantly cooler in the flat, half way up a hill I get a lovely sea breeze, taking the sting out of the heat, and I am going to have a swim as soon as I hit publish.

Today was the first day of the four days off, Eleanor is working and is mega-busy. I grabbed the big Canon 5d, a couple of lens and the Polaroid and went on a photo mission to Dungeness; about 25 miles up the coast in Kent. I have been there before, but never on my own and never with the big camera. I will be going back again that is for sure, maybe in the pouring rain next time.

It was not ideal conditions for photography, brutal late-morning sun, no shade, flat, shingle beach, harsh and glary as hell. It was the ideal conditions for Dungeness, and perfect for me as I much prefer extremes. I took a lot of photos, it was the most fun I had out taking photos for a very long time. I had to call it quits in the end as I could feel my face burning under the intense sun, and I had prepared properly and put sun block on before I left home. I didn’t take a hat though, must buy one!

I started by the nuclear power station that dominates the south end of the beach. It has been there for quite a long time and I think most people are quite casual about it. There is only a small fence, and no signs saying you cannot take photos; though there is a ban of flying drones. Something to be encouraged anywhere in my view. I love how the UK Coast Path walks round it’s walls.

Almost every building that is not inside the power plant fence has been converted into a beach house, there is almost nothing here; two cafe/bars, no shops, the beach is shingle, not the usual beach type holiday place. It is very beautiful though.

I am wondering if this was part of any early warning system for the power plant?

I drove back up the beach from the power plant and parked outside Prospect Cottage. The cottage was bought by the artist/filmmaker Derek Jarman in 1986 and he lived there until his untimely death in 1994. The house was passed to his partner Keith Collins who lived there until he too died in 2018. There was an ArtFund fundraising event earlier this year, which I bought a print from, to raise money to buy the property and ensure it’s up-keep in to the future. It is a lovely building and has amazing gardens and I will go back when it opens again.

I took a photo on the Polaroid and to pay homage to the print I purchased.

I took a lot of photos walking around the shingle to the sea outside the cottage. It was a real tonic and I felt a huge lift just from being there and taking photos; of derelict things Smile

The next post I have in mind will just be text, so enjoy the overdose of images, maybe hold some in your mind for next time.

Fear of the Walking Dead.

Sunday 01 July 2018 – Xelardo, Lliria, Valencia, Spain.

Acting innocent, trying to blend, look like a local or a regular visitor, someone possibly walking, in my case, an imaginary dog, I wait for the lone car to pass down this quiet, dusty road. As soon as it is out of sight, with pounding heart and sweat pouring (it is Spain and really hot) I scramble through the hole in the fence and into a scene from The Walking Dead.

Welcome to Camping Aguas de Lliria. Contentiously and rapidly abandoned in 2009, the site is a ghostly reminder of what was a large campground with some permanent residents. I am not sure how long it was open but this website suggests it was running for at least 15 years before the council at, very short notice, closed it down for supposedly not having a permit when it was originally built, locking residents and holiday makers out.

On reading the website I was shocked to see the place had been closed for so long. There is lots of rubbish and some vandalism, but nothing that says almost 10 years have passed. Perhaps its isolation and the dry weather has allowed for some level of preservation? We will see.

Before venturing to the campground I wanted to check the abandoned house I visited last year. There was an old stuffed chair in one of its three rooms and I hoped it was still lurking, lumpen, in the corner. I approached cautiously again, a little nervous. I didn’t want to run into the owner. I now know this is private property and being semi-rural the likelihood is no one speaks English. My Spanish is worse than poor, even the words I do know come out sounding mangled, dulled by my flat New Zealand accent. Unintelligible.

Approaching, I saw a stuffed chair outside the front door, someone had tried to burn it, stuffing had been ripped, but it had been resilient to their attempts. I was pleased, this was not the end I wanted for my chair. I wanted a long slow gradual decay, perhaps to be found by future generations, still lurking, lumpen in its corner.

Passing inside the door, over broken glass and other detritus I discovered the outside chair must have been the twin of mine, for there mine was still lurking, still lumpy and tatty; but mostly complete. Unburnt, unmoved, still dignified. Still in the corner where I first found it.

People have been here since I last came, there is more damage to the interior, more rubbish on the ground, dead fires, empty and smashed bottles. Signs of small parties, youthful nights, exuberance and stupidity. Sometimes I miss those days.

I start to head in the direction of the campsite, discovering I am not too far from a road, and a house. A car comes down the road and stops. I am standing on the edge of a ploughed field, sort of behind a small scrubby tree, a man gets out of the car, though just walks to, and then in to, the driveway of the house. Phew. I beat a hasty retreat, back over the slight ridge, past the house and up a small rocky trail to some old gates that I know, from last year, lead to land that is open and used by locals to walk their dogs.

I feel more certain of my legitimacy and stop to take some photos of the grass and these weird little plants that I like the look of, but have no idea what they are called.

Soon I am walking down the road, along the fence line of the campsite, looking for entry points; maybe rapid exit points if needed later. I find a way in, a gap big enough to get through quickly. Just as I approach, a car comes down the road. I start to walk purposefully, innocently, waving to the driver as he passes, slowing immediately he is gone. I wait till the car is out of sight, then turn back and quickly enter into the campground, into a scene from The Walking Dead, thankfully without the flesh eating zombies.

It immediately feels strange, as if crossing through that chain link fence has crossed me into another less joyful dimension. It ‘feels’ quiet, deserted. Both are good things, hopefully reality will match the feeling and I will not come across anyone or anything that presents a danger.

I get the camera out of my bag, I have bought the old 5d with a 50mm lens, nothing fancy, no big heavy lenses and nothing that would get caught on the fence if I have to make a hurried exit. There is a surprisingly large amount of stuff, the result of the rapid departure of the people who lived here.

There has been some vandalism, though I am surprised at the condition after nine or so years of desertion, there are even some windows that have not been smashed. Though there is a ton of rubbish strewn about.

I can see people have dossed/camped or hidden away here over the years, small fire pits are scattered here and there. I am guessing the council or the original owners used to sweep through here in the early days. Numerous holes in the fence have been repaired, but more have been made and I spotted three or four as I walked down the road, keeping an eye on escape points.

I am still a bit nervous, I worry about wild dogs, and wilder people. The image of disturbed zombies does not leave my mind. I know these things do not exist, but…

I do not wander too far in, I am not that courageous. The place is massive, far bigger than it looks from outside, a large portion has been burnt down, though none of the fixed dwellings look fire damaged. There is some irony to be found.

After thirty minutes of quiet skulking I decide to leave. Heading back to the hole I came in, I walk up the road to the chained entrance. Stopping to take a photo through the gate. A final reminder that my fears a zombie apocalypse had occurred as I crossed dimensions were not entirely unfounded. It was good to be back in the real world again. I think.