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I'm an architectural photographer. I travel around Britain recording and interacting with special places that have a spirit about them. I work from my camper van called Woody and I share my experiences via this digest.
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Follow me on four days of a remarkable journey down to a photo shoot at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew. From Anglo-Saxon treasures to Georgian pleasure grounds. I hope you enjoy the ride
I'm travelling south through the heart of England into Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and then on to Surrey before ending up at Kew Gardens in south west London.
Top Tip: If you open up the link below in a separate browser and put it side by side to the digest - you'll be able to follow my trip on an interactive map.
Day 1: Fri 2 June 2023
I'm heading down to Kew via a leisurely route. I've a few days to kill and an event to go to at Stowe House in Bucks. Before that though, I notice a church pop up on my Anglo-Saxon radar near to where I'll be lodging for the night.
The church is at Brigstock - so I get up early (0445) and head down the M6 into the heart of Mercia.
0830: Arrive at Brigstock. It's cool and cloudy. I need to replenish some stocks so am grateful for the co-op in the village. On the way in, I see a coffee shop and head over for breakfast. I order a simple breakfast of buttered toast, orange juice and coffee. The sausage rolls look delicious so I order one of those for lunch later.
The peeps at Bake n' Brew are lovely and make their own cakes. The coffee really tasty too. Great place to rest and re-charge if you're visiting the church.
I walk back to the van and pull the paper bag with the sausage roll out of my coat pocket. It feels warm. "I shall look forwards to that later." I think. I put it up into the side cupboard. Within seconds I've removed the sausage roll from the cupboard and scoffed it. It was perhaps the most delicious sausage roll I've tasted - especially next to an Anglo-Saxon icon.
"Within seconds I've removed the sausage roll from the cupboard and scoffed it."
1000: Head into the church at St. Andrew and am taken aback at how beautiful the interior is. I stand and take it all in until the sun appears and dapples the chancel with light. I can hear the lead roof and timbers expanding above my head.
The Saxon tower arch is muscular. The listing says it has cyclopic unmoulded blocks representing capitals. The doorway to the staircase has splayed tops. There's a small amount of graffiti.
St. Andrew at Brigstock is renowned for its Saxon tower and circular stair turret. The spire is a later addition.
Members can see an external VR of the Saxon tower and stair turret, as well as an internal VR of the church and Saxon tower arch. Can be viewed on most devices (no VR equipment needed)
Stowe House, Buckinghamshire
1500: I'm visiting an event at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire. It's the culmination of the restoration of the state dining hall at Stowe.
Stowe is one of the largest secular palaces in Britain. The gardens are well known and looked after by the National Trust. I've been photographing and filming the restoration work in the dining hall since the pandemic.
Work first started on the ceiling - where conservators worked from a scaffold platform. It was here that conservators found a 'fossilised' sausage that had been lobbed onto the cornice at some time in the past.
Here's a short film I put together of some of the conservation work on the ceiling. Thanks to Chroma Conservation.
"It was here that conservators found a 'fossilised' sausage that had been lobbed onto the cornice at some time in the past."
I've been photographing and filming the restoration of Stowe House for 10 years. My first job was to record the installation of the John Cheere Lions.
You can visit Stowe House. More information here.
1900: I'm lodging in Ashwell in Hertfordshire. Fish and chips in the Rose and Crown which was originally a late C15th hall house with jettied wings.
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Day 2: Saturday 3 June 2023
1000: I'm over at Chaldon again. It's close to the place where I'm lodging. The doom painting at St. Peter and St. Paul looks bigger than I remember. I take more time to explore the interior of the church and the details of the paintng.
Time is on my side, so I sit with the church. When I was a teenager I used to go and sit with my Grandad. It was a kind of hiraeth, a longing to keep in the moment with him. It was also a kind of reverence - and I have the same feeling sitting here in Woody - cheek by jowl to the building. I've seen (on TV) indigenous people stop at significant places and pay their respects by giving their time to the moment. This feels like the same kind of thing.
Then I make a coffee.
1500: The rest of the afternoon is taken up with the football and the FA Cup.
Day 3: Sunday 4 June 2023
0800: Have a lie in and take time to clean out the van and wash the pots on the site. I head out to Chaldon for breakfast and film the drive in to the church through the hollow lanes.
The early service has just finished, and I have another chance to go and look at the medieval judgement painting. The organist is still in full swing - readying himself for the next service. He's playing Jonathan - an arrangement by Gustav Holst.
It's amazing how several visits to a place can reward over and over again. This time I notice inscribed marks beneath the painting and more graffiti on a C16th monument and, best of all, a beautiful pair of cockshead hinges on the pulpit dated 1657.
I chat to the locals and they invite me for a cup of tea and to the service.There's an hour before the service so I take a walk along the Downlands Circular Walk to Alderstead Heath. These are the best of times. The sun and the landscape, the church and the organ music.
History in your living room. Members can see the Chaldon doom painting in augmented reality here (works with most devices):
1400: Arrive at Kew. I let the Kew Constabulary know that I've arrived and head out over to Kew Green. Kew Green is a divine place. I watch the cricket on the green with a backdrop of Regency houses.
I walk over the bridge and have dinner at the Steam Packet.
On the way back to the van, I record a snippet of city life in south-west London.
Day 4: Monday 5 June 2023
0500: I sleep really well. Woody is lodged against the outside boundary wall to Kew Palace - the former home of King George III and Queen Charlotte.
I meet Caroline Edwards, the architect from Acanthus Clews at 6am and we walk over to the Orangery. The Orangery has undergone a complex and intricate project including conservation of the historic fabric and a complete re-imagining of the interior to incorporate existing renaissance statues on new raised plinths.
The Orangery was built in 1761 by William Chambers and still has its original stucco.
I'm lucky to see the cleared space in all its purity. In just a couple of hours it will be filled with new furniture. The pressure is on to photograph the space and all the ancillary rooms.
Kew is such a magical place. Evolving from the royal pleasure grounds into the botanical gardens that we know today. It was to Kew that Joseph Banks sent seeds whilst on Captain Cook's voyage to the South Seas in 1768.
The gardens are home to some significant historic buildings including Kew Palace which was built in 1631 for a Dutch merchant, and Queen Charlotte's Cottage.
1400: I check in on the Ghost Orchid at the Princess of Wales Conservatory. It is the first of this endangered species to bloom in the UK.
1700: It's been a long day and I need some rest. I head to Woody and take a nap. I dream that Kew is a vast orrery and that the flemish bond wall that Woody is parked up against, is an orbit and that Woody is a space ship on the orbit.
There's a rap on the door. It's Caroline the architect - I'm still in my orrery. I exit the van via the rear door and hand her a rainbow baton we found earlier in the Orangery - left over from a wedding at the weekend. The tailgate hisses as it rises. I feel like Major Tom exiting an air lock.
2130: Refreshed and out of my space bubble, I'm back in the grounds at Kew. I have it all to myself. I put the lights on in the Orangery and spend an hour or so working out the shoot locations, priming the drone and making sure that the lights stay on.
Other than the squaw of the parakeets, there is peace in the park. I feel a little disappointed, because the cloud has started to move across the gardens, but - a few minutes after sunset - the clouds start to glow with pinky hues. I fire off some shots before the clouds sink back into a battleship grey. Then the light dips further and the Orangery looks as though it's from another realm. I'm reminded of Nan Shepherd's words in The Living Mountain: “... the place has as many aspects as there are gradations in the light.”
I'm now into my work so much that I forget my surroundings, focusing on the cameras buttons and dials. Satisfied, I stop and take in a deep breath, then stand back.
I feel so privileged to be here on my own right here, right now. The scent of spring flowers imbibe the darkness between the glow of the Orangery and the gabled silhouette of Kew Palace. After a few moments contemplation I hear a snort behind me. I swing around and stop. It's a fox . It is looking directly at me with its head to one side. I think it has something in its mouth. Maybe a morsel. Then there's a caw from a rook overhead and the fox is gone, swallowed up by a pool of darkness.
Members can see a wonderful VR of the Thames and Kew Gardens including Kew Palace by clicking the link below. Works on most devices.
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Photographs and words by Andy Marshall (unless otherwise stated). Most photographs are taken with Iphone 14 Pro and DJI Mini 3 Pro.