A photo from sometime ago, using a technique that now seems to me to be from another age.  The camera was a Nikon F6, a simply wonderful film SLR of great quality, and the last of the professional range SLRs that Nikon made prior to the market being taken over by digital cameras.  But the real point of interest here is the film.  Most of us – or perhaps the more senior of us … –  will have shot colour transparency film – colour slides, those little pictures in cardboard or plastic frames that could be looked at through a viewer, or far better viewed using a slide projector and screen.  But Agfa Scala was a wonderful, 200 ISO black and white slide film that could be push processed to 1600 ISO, 3200 ISO and beyond, and which was simply, well, exciting, to use.  Also, in those far off days, I used a tripod for shots like this, whereas in these days of excellent quality image stabilisation and image sensors that give very acceptable results at high ISOs, my tripod stays in the boot of my car.

Also, I avoid garden centres like the plague, but the former Willows Garden Centre was something quite different – it was just what I like, tatty around the edges; and it also sold good local produce; and it employed disabled people in a very basic, down to earth cafe that, amongst other things, could whip up wonderful, large Full English Breakfasts, and tea/coffee strong enough to make your hair stand on end, at the drop of a hat >>>> just the thing for very early, very cold winter mornings!

The picture shows one of the fence’s stout uprights, to which panels of withies – pliable Willow stems – are tied with string.

But, gentrification is occurring even on the Levels, and what has this tatty, much loved, down at heel garden centre become?  Well, its now an art gallery.  Yes, well, enough said.  And the food available is simply not what it was, and so I no longer call in there.  Well, that’s how it is.  Life moves on … and, as I’ve often quoted, “Time passes.  Listen.  Time passes.” (Dylan Thomas).

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: F6 with 80-200 Nikkor lens at 200mm; Agfa Scala monochrome slide film rated at 400 ISO; tripod; the former Willows Garden Centre, near Westhay, on the Somerset Levels; 8 Mar 2005.


And finally – some keywords that will often be mentioned in this archive series:

Droves:  to avoid crossing other peoples’ land when accessing their own, the farmers constructed a series of tracks, known as droves, between the fields. Some of these droves are now metalled roads and many persist as open tracks – all of which allow wonderfully open access to this countryside.

Rhynes: the fields are bounded by water-filled ditches – which both drain the ground and act as stock barriers. Hence strange landscapes – where fields appear quite unbounded, except for a gate with a short length of fencing on either side of it, where a bridge crosses the water-filled boundary ditch to provide access the field.  These small wet ditches communicate with larger rhynes (“reen” as in Doreen), which in turn flow into larger drains, e.g. the North and South Drains in the Brue Valley. All of these waterways are manmade and, by intricate series of pumping stations and flood gates, all of them have their water levels controlled by local farmers, internal drainage boards or the Environment Agency.

Pollarded Willows: the banks of the rhynes were often planted with Willow trees, both to help strengthen the banks and also to show the courses of roads and tracks during floods. These Willows are often pollarded, i.e. their upper branches are cut off, which results in distinctively broad and dense heads to the trees. Pollarding keeps trees to a required height, while ensuring a steady supply of wood – more important in the past than now – for fires, thatching spars, fencing and so on.


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