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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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"If the road is beautiful, travel the road slowly; be a turtle, be a snail and even better than this: Stop traveling; live the road fully."
Mehmet Murat Ildan
Mum is the biggest fan of my digest. Every Friday at around 7am I get a text outlining what she liked about the digest.
Mum had a little fall yesterday (she's fine and recovering). I spent last night at her house and, in my childhood bedroom, during the early hours, wrote the following observation with her in mind.
Get well soon, Mum x.
“All art can have the power of poetic revelation about the material world - it can reveal the ensoulment of the universe.” - Hugh Conway Morris
There is a passage from Rob Cowen’s book, Common Ground that I keep going back to over and over again. In his book, Rob engages with the landscape around his home and comes across a particularly beautiful spot:
“It’s moments like these that make you think places have a memory all of their own. It’s hardly a theory, more a feeling born of so long spent outside, but what if landscapes somehow become repositories of personal and collective memory? What if traces are imprinted or stored in an imperceptible or intangible way, and the land itself retains the culture of a place? Then what if, when a certain set of stimuli is triggered, a kind of molecular union occurs between that place and a person whereby memories and experiences are passed on like the sting of a nettle?”
It’s a feeling that I touched upon in last week's digest where the village of Bosham had a perceptible atmosphere saturated with meaning. Well, it seems that Rob’s ‘hardly a theory’ perception of connection to a place might actually be a theory - at least on the quantum level.
In 2022 Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their remarkable experiments in quantum entanglement. The theory states: where two or more particles are entangled, no matter where they end up in the universe, they remain connected and communicative. Their states remain linked. Apparently, when viewed in the quantum sphere, dimensions like time and space are irrelevant and non-existent.
Time and space - irrelevant. Wow!
It corresponds with the Incan worldview where they believe that the past and future is alive in every present moment.
"It corresponds with the Incan worldview where they believe that the past and future is alive in every present moment."
Many years ago, I wrote a thesis on Genius Loci in Architecture that led me to the doorstep of that idea, but I couldn’t quite get through the door. However, it seems that other more capable artists, word-smiths and creatives were able to sense and feel the theory before it percolated into the scientific domain. Here's a collection of their poetic words. They all have the quantum theory of entanglement hidden within their meaning:
“… place and mind may interpenetrate till the nature of both be altered. "
Nan Shepherd. The Living Mountain.
"Let no one say the past is dead.
The past is all about us and within."
Oodgeroo Noonuccal, The Past
"...every last thing in creation is alive, everything is sensate, everything can be enrolled into the world of human imagination."
Robert Ferguson, The Cabin in the Mountains.
"There are certain places, conjunctions of line and contour, where thoughts settle and cohere.."
Richard Skelton - Beyond the Fell Wall
“There are places, just as there are people and objects and works of art, whose relationship of parts creates a mystery, an enchantment, which cannot be analysed.”
"Could the essence of a place hold a palpable and manifest memory of the past through the process of quantum entanglement? "
Could the essence of a place hold a palpable memory of the past through the process of quantum entanglement? I become overwhelmed by the notion and, before long, I am quantumly entangled (and exceptionally comforted) by the idea that, through the optics of a quantum field, we might be tangibly linked to those that we love and have lost.
Perhaps, just perhaps, as if from the sting of a nettle, when I think of my dad (who we lost in 2008) - by some strange quark of nature - we are manifestly connected on the quantum level - no time, no space - just back together again.
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St. Mary's Church.
Not knowing (but perhaps more in touch with) the theory of quantum entanglement, the medieval inhabitants of Ashwell chose to leave their mark in the material fabric of St. Mary's church.
Of particular impact are the marks left by the plague survivors of the C14th. One latin script reads:
“1350 Miserable, wild, distracted 1350 / The dregs of the mob alone survive to witness.”
Another script records something all too familiar to builders up and down the land:
“The corners are not jointed correctly—I spit.”
The graffiti of St. Mary's, for me, is also significant because it has recorded the rich humus of human interaction throughout the ages, right up until the present day.
As if to express such significance in built-form the spire of the church reads like a huge exclamation mark in the landscape...
Inhabiting the curtilage adjacent to the spire is a structure that I just couldn't stop photographing...
The lychgate is a thing of vernacular beauty. It is of the C15th, and is of crown post construction carried on ties with arched braces. I photographed it from every angle possible. It lured me in.
What is so appealing about timber framed buildings is the honesty of their construction - not a morsel wasted - everything is structural, has a purpose - and out of that is extruded a kind of sinuous beauty.
And then contagion. After taking a side shot of the gate, I notice another building - short and stock and of c.1500
and the a communal garden that harbours a delightful view of the village.
I feel a little overwhelmed and seek out a butty, but the building that the butty shop is in doesn't help the vernacular viral load.
I walk outside with my Ploughmans bap and lean against some Flemish bond and spot the most divine pargetting on a building on the same row as the butty shop.
Buoyed by the vernaculars, I finish my butty and feel as strong as a lion, and it takes some strange quirk of the quantum universe to tell me so.
The remaining buildings of Ashwell - Pure Scroll (no words)
Members can see a stunning aerial VR of Ashwell village and church via the link below - viewable on all devices.
Spend some time around Ashwell this Summer
A lovely route that takes in the bridleway
Takes you through the village and out into the Hertfordshire countryside.
Members can see a beautiful aerial video that moves around the church and gives extensive views into the village by clicking the box below:
I park up on High Street in Ashwell and Woody becomes chameleon like. The jetties cast zebra stripes onto his countenance.
I lodge at Ashridge Farm Caravan Club Site which is only a few minutes walk away from the village centre. Perfect.
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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.