I’m an architectural photographer and writer.
On my van-life travels through the British Isles I’m building up a word and photo-hoard of material culture that celebrates the value and distinctiveness of our built heritage and contributes to a sense of place.
My van is my time-machine, it gives me fresh perspectives on our remarkable places, shared here on a weekly basis.
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Devotion to the detail: galleting at Tuxlith Chapel, West Sussex, recently brought back to life by Friends of Friendless Churches.
All we really own is what we have in this given moment.
I saw my images tamped down, on my iPhone, the other day, reduced to little cells with shape and colour and form. Is this my biota, my visual DNA?
Whatever it is, it reminded me of the patina of an old stone wall and some words by the environmental psychologist Lily Bernheimer.
She talks of an ‘ordered complexity’ contributing to our love of old buildings. Patterns and textures both hand-made and natural hold within them ‘self-organising’ systems that reveal a connectivity with the natural environment - a little bit like my mini photo matrix.
It is within the nested nature of natural and geometric patterns on our streets that affect us on a deeper level - something that might even have a positive impact upon our mental health.
I find comfort in continuity: in the wear and tear, the patina and imprint of those gone before us.
Tuxlith Chapel, Milland, West Sussex.
I'm at the end of a remarkable journey that's taken me from the Humber Estuary through the heartlands of England and in to West Sussex.
It's also taken a few digests to get through this trip. I recorded my trip live on Polarsteps and my finishing words are:
It’s been a rewarding journey. It seems like a lifetime ago when I was stood outside the great Saxon tower at Barton Humber.
It’s not all been plain sailing. I’ve had bouts of anxiety on the road - the state of our world, our environmental woes and just feeling plain homesick.
Above all that, is an overriding comfort that is rooted in the places I have seen - some of which have witnessed empire’s topple, mini-ice-ages reek havoc, and the impossible become possible.
On the day I arrive at my final destination, I park my van in a beautiful copse and walk to the chapel.
I don’t think I’ve seen such a lovely composition of standing archaeology as seen inside the chapel. It tells its story, and is a joy to behold.
Tuxlith Chapel is testament to the powerful healing powers of place, the tangible mixed with the intangible - a place that is simple and yet so powerful in its spirit. The chapel dates from the 1300’s and has many a curiosity lodged within its walls and sills.
Feeling homesick - I sought out communion with the people of the past - the marks that they had left behind - their visual DNA.
I saw them at the door...
... and felt them in the walls.
I found them hidden in the crevices.
I saw them at the windowpane...
...and heard them in the nave.
If you're ever feeling lonely, I recommend places like this. They are healing.
I'm just on the final review of my draft book, and came across a chapter that sums up why I love these places so much. To put it into context, in the book I visit a church at Billesley in Warwickshire and photograph a remarkable piece of medieval stone:
It wasn’t just a connection to the Anglo Saxon stone carver. At Billesley I saw an ocean of generations come to shore through the monuments, inscriptions and carvings; the rood, encaustic and vaulting - washed up like driftwood. There, time wasn’t an abstract concept but palpable: woven into the fabric - ticking in the turning pages, coursing through the pews, the kneelers, the lectern and font. Time was held in suspension by the spinning cycle of human activity: birth, baptism, union, death; the sun rising through the east window and setting through the west; the canonical hours, Sunday worship and communion; the feasts and festivals: Advent, Christmas and Easter. Time couldn’t escape the circle - it was merely refreshed, renewed and re-patriated.
In this place time wasn’t forceful, watchful or pressing. Instead of leaking from every crack and gulley, time seemed to eddy in certain pockets of light. Indeed time that had been thought lost had been captured within the stone. This is why churches are so comforting to me - for captured within their walls is a kind of eternity. In the church fabric the past is contained within the living present.
These places matter and Friends of Friendless Churches are a remarkable organisation. To me they are curators of continuity.
Below: parked up outside Tuxlith Chapel.
Home from Home
I broke up the journey home with a stop over at Salisbury. Here, my Saris from Ripon proved their worth.
Below: The full trip on Polarsteps. If you're planning a road trip next year, I highly recommend this route through some remarkable places.
Follow Andy's From Humber to the Thames trip. Click the link below.
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On My Coffee Table
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Tourist spot made famous by Ruskin, Turner and Wordsworth may be washed away if £1m is not found for repairs
Ancient barn conversion with steam room found at Roman villa in Rutland | Roman Britain | The Guardian
Fresh evidence of owners’ lavish lifestyle discovered at same site as rare Iliad mosaic
Film and Sound
Join Cbeebies presenter Maddie Moate on a 12 episode audio tour along Hadrian's Wall as we delve into the lives of the Romans 2000 years ago.
From the Twittersphere
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My invocation to the marks and imprints from times gone by at Tuxlith, conjured up a real human being. Peter Martindale had come to photograph his conservation work on the prayer boards behind the altar - so I took a shot of him and his work.