Ever since starting this ‘ere blog I’ve tried to cultivate the habit of posting something about practically every photo session I’ve had that’s lasted longer than an hour or so.
Given that it was set up principally as a journal of my photographic exploits (or mishaps is probably more accurate) and related stuff. Sort of thing.
By and large I’ve managed to stick to that… but this week’s an exception!
Y’see, I’ve had two major photo outings this week (yep… two! Making up for lost time you could say), each of which could quite easily be split into about three “mini sessions”, all of which (if I felt so inclined) could quite readily justify a post of their own.
But that ain’t gonna happen… cos one particular episode in this two-day marathon has wiped all else from my mind!
Its not often that I come across a place/location that makes a really big impression on me. Come to think of it, I’m hard-pressed to remember the last time it happened. Which I seem to recollect was back in the late ’80s. And I wasn’t into photography then, so p’raps that doesn’t count.
In which case I’ve just encountered a first!
Wednesday morning it started.
Well, just after midday actually. Having given the old camera clicky-thing finger a jolly good workout on Tuesday that would normally be my lot for the week.
I’d finally managed to reach Bedford’s Priory Country Park (the intended destination of last week’s little jaunt that somehow didn’t quite seem to work out) and collected a batch of pics with which I was reasonably satisfied…
But then, what with it being really nice weather an’ all for two days running (!) I was again seized by the urge to get out and about the next day, Wednesday.
Thing was, I was a bit stumped as to where to head for. I’ve “done” pretty much everywhere locally and I didn’t really fancy heading back townwards or even jumping on a bus to somewhere.
Bit of head-scratching, and then I recollected seeing a sign to a public footpath (that was only accessible to the public between the months of April-October) when I’d had my Rowney Warren session… er… early last year.
“That’ll do me” thinks I, and off I trek in that direction. (Bloody hell! Dunno how many miles I ended up walking, but the start of the “public pathway” was a damn sight further than I remember it being!)
So, finally arrive at the start of the Greensand Ridge Walk and make my leisurely way therealong, collecting pics as I go…
But that wasn’t the place that had the huge impact on me!
The Walk itself is interrupted by a road (or maybe more than one… dunno… didn’t get that far) and, reaching the end of the first “section”, I’d just started on the second when I spotted a notice for the Old Warden Tunnel Nature Reserve.
By that time I’d already trudged a fair few miles so this seemed to be a fitting end to the session… a quick sortie around the Nature Reserve and then head back homewards.
“Quick sortie” did I say? Hmm.
Anyway, I enter this ‘ere Nature Reserve place and am almost instantly struck by the thought that there ain’t gonna be much potential for interesting shots hereabouts. Seems its little other than a fairly narrow pathway skirting the perimeter and revealing views of not much more than a mass of greenery.
Just shows how wrong you can be, dunnit?
So, following this fairly narrow pathway for a while I eventually come to a bit of a clearing. Rather pleasant it is, carpeted with buttercups. And I spot a bench over the other side. And something that looks suspiciously like the start of some steps going down a hill of some sort.
Sauntering casually across I find it sure is some steps. And what steps! Its a bloody Jacob’s Ladder! A really steep descent into what presumably is the actual cutting.
“Hell” thinks I, “do I really fancy going all the way down there?”.
Well, apparently I do.
Get down about a third of the way and, looking to my right, I get the first sight of what was the Old Warden railway tunnel, from which the Reserve gets its name.
Looks quite interesting and I begin to suspect that this little jaunt may be rather more rewarding than I’d initially thought.
Gingerly reaching the bottom of the steps (no railing after the first few yards, the “risers” being somewhat steep and the individual steps being rather long, it wasn’t an endeavour I’d like to undertake in the dark) I turn to my right again and am there confronted with the entrance to the tunnel, in all its glory.
The tunnel itself is bricked up to about two-thirds of its height (with a sort of wire “fencing” across the final and topmost third)… but there’s a curious hole in the brickwork that appears to have been created afterwards, presumably by trespassers.
For some yards short of the tunnel entranceway is a fence that clearly indicates the tunnel itself is “out of bounds”.
Good little soul that I am (most of the time, anyway) I stop on the “right” side of the fence but clearly that’s not deterred others who have indulged their artistic bent in what’s actually quite a reasonable display of graffiti… sufficiently well executed in fact to almost merit being regarded as “street art”. Were it on a street instead of a Nature Reserve that is.
However, I have little inclination to venture further into this “forbidden territory” for I find myself feeling extremely uncomfortable.
To say I was spooked would be putting it a bit too strongly (there aren’t many things in a “natural” environment that actually “spook” me) but to say I was a bit uneasy wouldn’t be an exaggeration.
Can’t really account for it. Maybe it was something to do with the really rather quite chilly breeze that seemed to continually emanate from the mouth of the tunnel.
But more than that I suspect it was that little hole poked through the brickwork.
Normally that sort of thing would have been an almost irresistable temptation to investigate further. And indeed, through it I caught glimpses of the floor of the interior.
But the desire to have a nose around inside? Entirely absent!
For there was something about that illicit entranceway that, far from being inviting, was actually quite sinister.
So, deciding to give it a miss, I turn my back on the tunnel and head toward the rest of the cutting.
Crossing a footbridge (presumably made of old railway sleepers) that appeared to span nothing other than a little ditch…
… it wasn’t too long before I encountered the next strange entranceway.
Not constructed by human hand this time but rather a sort of tunnel formed by trees and general undergrowth. Dark. Mysterious. And it just had to be done…
You’d think the interior of this strange place would be as sinister and unsettling as the tunnel I’d left behind, wouldn’t you?
Not a bit of it!
Following it through to its end (which turned out to be a fence, presumably marking the outer boundary of the Reserve) I about-turned and was struck by how comfortable, secluded, and “private” the place appeared to be. Peaceful. Tranquil. Not unsettling, not disturbing at all. Almost welcoming in fact. What a huge contrast to that tunnel only a few hundred yards away.
So I decided to take a break… have a sit-down, relax, a swig of water from my flask and a fag or two.
“This is really nice” thinks I, “what a super spot”.
“If someone wanted to hide away for a while you could probably spend weeks here and not be disturbed by another living soul”.
Ruminating on such matters I look around me and there, on the ground, I spot a fallen flower petal. And the reason I spot it is cos of its shape. Heart-shaped!
Druidic tendencies rushing to the fore it immediately strikes me as omenic (as in “amenable to being seen as an omen”) and thus I regard it… as also snapping it (naturally!).
(An omen of what precisely is something where perhaps discretion should prevail.)
This sojourn cannot last forever of course, so eventually I decide its prob’ly time to start the return.
Out into the sunlight again then, where the daunting truth suddenly smacks me between the eyes.
Having come down those really steep steps to get here, I’ve now got to climb some really steep steps to get back up again!
Just to make the journey interesting though there are some ascending steps on the other side of the tunnel to those by which I descended.
Well, its gotta be done, hasn’t it?
And mighty glad I did.
For finally reaching the top again I come upon the same clearing as that from which I’d descended. But this time to one side… a side bordering a field, access to which was granted by a stile.
No intention of crossing into the field of course but thinking that mounting the stile (and leaning against a convenient pole situated nearby) would afford me a good vantage point from which to gain some reasonable long-distance landscape shots, that’s what I did.
Stood astride the stile, leaned against the pole, and… um… that’s where I stayed. For absolutely ages!
The sun was shining. There was a beautifully warm breeze. And I was transfixed by I know not what feelings and emotions.
I’d like to say they were exclusively happy, but that wouldn’t be strictly true.
Calming, yes. But tinged with a melancholy, a sadness almost. Yet not unpleasant, or painful. Definitely a sense of oneness with the environment, with Mother Nature herself.
Reflections on times past, on things that might have been. Opportunities missed. Regrettable things done that, were I then as I am now wouldn’t have been done, and so on.
Yet, over all that, an acceptance and a peace that seemed to touch somewhere deep inside me.
I don’t know quite how long I stood astride that stile, leaning against the pole, not feeling the slightest inclination to move.
But eventually my eye was drawn to the multitude of bees that were swarming around the newly-growing clover in the field on the other side of the fence, and I just couldn’t resist getting down amongst them.
Damn awkward blighters!
Would they stay still to have their photograph taken? Would they hell!
But I did manage to get a shot of the clover. And a buttercup.
Having disturbed my meditation on the stile it seemed like a reasonable time to begin heading back so, just to add another bit of variety, I chose a path different to that from which I’d entered.
And clearly Fate had yet more in store for me!
Having ambled along this pathway for a while, snapping here and there, I suddenly confronted a scene that truly spooked me!
Not in a bad way, I must add. More in a sort of “Twilight Zone” type of way.
For there, right in front of me, was a scene virtually identical to one I’d seen in a dream a couple of weeks or so ago!
Bloody hell! I just don’t believe this. Its not as though I’ve ever been to this Nature Reserve before so that in my dreaming I had conjured up a scene I’d actually… er… “seen”.
Weird. Spooky. And now I shall spend the next heaven knows how long trying to sus out what it all means. (Plus checking with mate Darren, to whom I’d related the dream the day afterwards, just to make sure I’m not imagining it all!)
On reflection then, the Old Warden (named after the nearby village) Tunnel Nature Reserve has made a huge impact on me, and hence that’s why I can’t be bothered to write accounts of my other little photo sessions this week.
Update 1st July ’09: Did check with mate Darren and yep, he remembered my recounting the dream to him about three weeks or so ago. Plus he remembered some of my descriptions and my describing this particular scene. As I said… spooky!
And a further update: Apparently the Greensand Ridge Walk doesn’t actually start where I joined it (which was at the Haynes access point) but at Leighton Buzzard, and runs for some 40 miles through to Gamlingay. Needless to say I didn’t walk that 40 miles (though it felt like it at the time). Sod that for a caper! Anyway, the “official” website for it is here.