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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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Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales.
“ If jeeps find it out, or a funicular railway disfigures it, part of its meaning will be gone.”
Nan Shepherd on the Cairngorms
Not Wealth But Life.
For once, the weather is forecast for sunny spells, so I drive over in Woody to Ilkley and detach Splinter (Woody's orbiting bike capsule) from the van and head out into one of the most bucolic locations in the country.
My route via bicycle is 20 miles and takes in the Wharfe valley and Bolton Abbey.
I'm heading out with a spring in my step and a heavy heart.
I've just heard of the plan by our government to allow farmers to convert their barns into residential properties without planning permission.
With this in mind I travel around the route as if I might see it for the last time.
"With this in mind I travel around the route as if I might see it for the last time."
I do understand that there is a need for more homes and I'm also aware of the hardships of modern farming, but I find it difficult to comprehend the audacity of a consultation that is to be fast tracked into eight weeks. It smacks of our times - of lack of vision and grace and subtlety, but full of rush and bluster, of little thought or comprehension of the deep rooted significance of things that hold more currency than money. These things need to be protected, there needs to be a framework in place.
When I first read that the Levelling Up Department had launched a fast track consultation - it struck me as a kind of Orwellian irony - that the department responsible for levelling up the disparity between the north and the south might increase such disparity by destroying the significance and distinctiveness of our National Parks. This at a time when our major builders are sitting on land banks that would equate to over 400,000 houses.
A spokesperson for the Levelling Up Department says: "We have been clear that any developments must be beautiful and enhance the environment.”
I've no doubt that architects will have the best intentions to create beautiful designs to support the clients aesthetic, but access roads are not beautiful, nor are 4x4's parked outside sunken garages, or the clutter and detritus of everyday life: the trampolines, the washing lines, the parasols. I've nothing against these things - but in the right place.
Imagine the environmental cost, the disruption of ancient routes and pathways, the pollution of our rivers? And what of the light pollution? Many areas in our National Parks are designated dark sky areas. What impact will access lights, roof lights, garden twinkly lights have?
And then there's the loss of context. There are some places where the buildings and landscape still hold together the process and way of life that has evolved organically over centuries. The Yorkshire Dales still has a dynamic spirit that is woven through the warp and weft of its buildings because they are still part of a strong local identity. Let's also hold a thought for the re-wilding schemes - of which our agricultural barns are an integral part. Our barns are biospheres and habitats - part of a living network.
Of course, change is a natural part of our lives, and I'm not against re-use. I've seen imaginative use of barns that do not compromise their significance, have minimum intervention and also create an income.
I've photographed beautiful places elsewhere that have been slowly segmented into private dwellings and subsequently lost their identity. Over time, there develops a slow de-stabilising effect upon the community. These places become mere husks when they do not have purpose or use: curiously beautiful but soulless - like coming across a dead butterfly.
"When I read that the Levelling Up Department has launched a fast track consultation on the proposal - it struck me as a kind of Orwellian irony.."
I know that many subscribers to the digest live abroad and visit the country often. Book your flights and come and take a last look, because there's more at stake than our cherished heritage and landscapes; for if this proposal succeeds, it will open up the floodgates by changing the perception of how others can interfere with the things that we hold most dearly. Nothing is off the table.
In my opinion, if this proposal goes through, it will have the biggest impact upon our landscape since enclosure.
And if you don't believe me. Listen to David Butterworth, the CEO of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (quoted from the Guardian).
“If I was trying to devise a policy that would essentially lead to the destruction of Yorkshire Dales national park, this would be the policy. These are permitted development rights to convert a property without any planning restriction. This means the 6,500 field barns in the Yorkshire Dales could be converted into homes. The idea they could be homes with no restrictions would decimate the landscapes.
“It is one of the most bonkers examples of environmental destruction I could think of. I am extremely concerned that this has been introduced now with an eight-week consultation. It is just crackers.”
The full consultation from the Levelling Up Dept is below:
“If I was trying to devise a policy that would essentially lead to the destruction of Yorkshire Dales national park, this would be the policy.
David Butterworth, CEO, Yorkshire Dales National Park
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And with a saddened heart I take one of the most beautiful routes in the country.
It takes me through a landscape painted by Turner and scripted by Wordsworth. The route can be taken by car (there are some single track lanes) and there are alternative routes on foot.
With Splinter, I'm developing a new type of photography: architectural bikeography. This is slow time - meandering through the landscape and interacting with the buildings that pass by. If I miss something, I can easily stop and turn and take it in. I can talk to others whilst tootling along: "Morning! Love your sash window!" "Thanks! It's original 18th century!"
I absorb so much more on the bike.
"This is slow time - meandering through the landscape and interacting with the buildings that pass by."
🚐🚴♀️ Base Camp Ilkley, Yorkshire.
If I could have a love affair with a place it would be Ilkley. Or would it be Beverley? Find me on the right day and it would be Ilkley. Ilkley is an architecture park.
I park Woody up in the central car park (no height restrictions) and change into my, ahem, lycra. It seems odd to be coming to Ilkley and not visiting my favourite places.
But, if you have time to meander, here are a few of my favourite Ilkley buildings.
The Flying Duck
Yorkshire vernacular at its finest: The Flying Duck in Ilkley has a remarkable history of re-use. Built in 1709 as a farmhouse then a coal merchants, shoemakers, sweetshop, dairy, restaurant and now a pub with its own brewery.
Ilkley Manor House
Just a short walk away from the Flying Duck is Ilkley's C17th Manor House - built on top of a Roman fort. It is a grade I listed building on top of a designated Ancient Monument.
Splinter in front of the remains of the Roman fort behind Ilkley Manor House.
The Manor House has a wonderful selection of archaeological finds. My favourite holds the footprints of a cat and roe deer on a Roman clay brick.
All Saints' Church
Nearby to the Flying Duck pub and Ilkley Manor House is All Saints' church - which houses some hidden gems: Anglo Saxon crosses with remarkably sharp decoration.
On the font is a C17th evil warding serpent head - carved atop the baptismal font cover. A watery symbol set fair to divine the purity of the baptismal water.
The Domestic House.
Ilkley is the place to come and see the historical evolution of the domestic house. From the Arts and Crafts:
To the contemporary:
And, oh yeah, a Lutyens in the guise of Heathcote.
Perhaps, more importantly, Ilkley has my favourite bookshop.
The Grove Bookshop in Ilkley, Yorkshire.
Only people that spend a considerable amount get a textile bag with this bookshop. Whenever I visit I always walk out with one, burgeoning with books - trying to think of an excuse to justify the outlay.
Out on the Ilkley Figure of Eight Loop
I recorded my journey on Komoot. If you want to follow it, you can download the GPX file.
I loved it so much I made a small film for the Digest. Switch your sound up. Enjoy the ride.
Tour Highlights - Pure Scroll (no words)
The River Wharfe
The Local Vernacular
Bolton Abbey and Estate
Members can see a wonderful 360 VR of the landscape around Bolton Abbey by clicking the link below - it really takes you there. (Viewable on any device)
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Barden Tower (former hunting lodge)
Barden Bridge (1659)
Cavendish Pavilion - coffee stop
Middleton Moor - hidden gem
I'm slogging it up the hill on the return leg and my bike computer tells me that the hill ahead is rising to 15%. If somebody were to chance a look from the Cavendish Pavilion deep in the valley - they would see an ungainly silhouette of a cyclist criss crossing the camber of the road. I'm not going to get off.
The worst bit of any climb for me is the final rise up onto the flattened heights. So close and yet so far - but this time - there's a vision up ahead - an oasis on the skyline.
It's Back O' Th' Hill Farm (possibly named by the same person that went on to't Ilkley Moor baht' at).
The cafe is set up in the hills overlooking the Wharfe and is situated within the vernaculars of an historic farm. The coffee is to die for and the food looks fab (I didn't have anything to eat but heard the praises of others). There's a small car park opposite.
"The more I walk through the woods and see the way that new growth springs from the knots on the oak - the more I think there's a simpler explanation - a celebration of new growth, new life. Through the spring and summer, my face pareidolia becomes demonstrably apparent."
It's such good news! Funds have been found to help save St. Lawrence in Gumfreston, Pembrokeshire.
Here's Rachel Morley from Friends of Friendless Churches to explain in detail:
Members can take in a visual feast of media on St. Lawrence, Gumfreston via the Member Powered Photography Project Page below:
Strap yourself in, let Woody do the time travelling...Members' Area
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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.