The Minffordd Path

The last light of the day falling behind the peak of Cadair Idris in Snowdonia national park. The natural bowl-shaped mountain was formed by a cirque glacier during the last ice age when snow and ice accumulated in the corries due to avalanches on higher slopes. Over thousands of years ice flowed out through the bowl's opening carving the chair of Cadair Idris. As the glacier eroded the lip down to the bedrock, there are several tear-drop shaped hills above the edge of Llyn Cau lake that boasts crystal clear waters as moisture forms at the peak and rolls down the mountain.

1920 - 2010

Yesterday afternoon was spent mooching around an old special needs school. Opened on behalf of the north Manchester jewish community towards the end of the industrial revolution in 1920, and is remembered as the school with probably the longest name in existence..."The Jewish Fresh Air Home and School for poor inner-city children suffering from malnutrition or asthma caused by smog."

It eventually closed in 2010 as the need for children to have a country retreat away from the gathering pollution of an industrial city was no longer an issue after the regions industrial era had all but come to an end. The community had built a new school within its area of city that meant there was no longer an hours journey to and from the school twice every day. The old school now serves no purpose and has been empty and unused now for over six years. From the outside it is deceptively well kept, but as is always teh case, the weather always find its way inside eventually.

The Water Tower

Opened in 1937 just outside the small yorkshire village of the same name, RAF Church Fenton saw the peak of its activity during the years of the Second World War, when it served within the defence network of fighter bases of the RAF providing protection for the Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and Humberside industrial regions. During September 1940 it became home to the first RAF "Eagle squadron" of American volunteers, the No. 71 Squadron RAF flying the Hawker Hurricane I. The airfield was also home to both the first all-Canadian and all-Polish squadrons. As technologies evolved throughout the war, the base was expanded to accommodate large numbers of pilots and aviation personnel, and the first night fighter Operational Training Unit was formed at Church Fenton in 1940.

The expansion period of the RAF saw many building designs and layouts appear throughout the airfield, mostly designed in a Georgian art deco style. With so many personnel on site, one thing the site needed was a self sufficient water system, therefore a large water tower was built toward the west side of the airfield. Clean, treated water was pumped up into the tower, where it's stored in a large tank that might hold a thousand or so gallons—depending on demand. When the site needed water, water pumps situated at the base of the tower utilized the pull of gravity to provide high water pressure.

The other new advance for the period was central heating. These plants heated the contained water and distributed it around the permanent camp to supply a steady, reliable source of heat throughout the seasons. The Pelapone Engine and Pumps have been left behind after many years of disuse but remain in relatively good condition due to their protection from the weather.

If D-Day Were To Fail

The famous 'Mulberry harbours' were temporary portable harbours developed by the British during World War II to facilitate the rapid offloading of cargo onto beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. After the Allies successfully held beachheads following D-Day, two prefabricated harbours were taken in sections across the English Channel from Britain with the invading army and assembled off Omaha and Gold Beach. They are now praised as one of the greatest engineering feats of the entire second world war. 

One of the industrial companies involved in the production of the harbours were Carr Bros Ltd, and Talbot Bros Ltd of Rotherhithe, London. A strategically placed residential area of the capital used as an industrial harbour, it was linked to the canals across the country via the thames. During WW2 Rotherhithe was an overwhelmingly maritime district and its main industry was ship making, repairing and breaking. Their factories closed not long after the war, but throughout the UK evidence of their waterborne defences can still be found. The majority of which are most likely at the bottom of our river beds, but some have become quite literally part of the landscape in the 70 years since their function was ever conceived. 

At the opposite end of the country, the Manchester Ship canal, built during the 19th century, was and still is the most direct and reliable method of reaching the city of Manchester from the mouth of the Irish Sea at Liverpool. The brilliant ingenuity of the British navy engineers during the production of Mulberry Harbour lead to the same idea being applied on a smaller and defensive scale around Britain's many estuaries, rivers and canals in apprehension of a possible German invasion in the event of a defeat in Europe. 

The homeguard worked tirelessly during the peak times of the war to ensure that precautions were in place to defend mainland Britain if the Germans pushed back the allied troops during the liberation of France into occupied Europe. Industrial production was running at full capacity and Manchester was one of the main districts in the north of England that held indispensable defences against the Germans, and with Liverpool in battered ruin from the blitz, the factories and emplacements in Manchester would be the first to be targeted in the event of an invasion on the western coast of the country. 

With the Manchester Ship Canal the only direct way to reach the city by water, four concrete barges were transported from London to a key point on the canal half way between the two cities in Warrington, at a point where the water flows inland for a quarter of a mile hidden behind farmland making them hard to spot from the air. If D-Day failed and the Nazi invasion were to take place, the homeguard planned to move the barges directly into the ship canal and intentionally fill their cargo holds with water. Effectively turning them into concrete boulders, this would prevent any ships from reaching their destination.

Despite their precautions, a home defence operation was never required and D-Day led to the liberation of Central Europe. The barges were forgotten and eventually eroded causing them to fill with water and sink into the shallows at the side of the canal. Whilst the overgrowth has consumed them for over 7 decades they are still incredibly well preserved and would take an ambitious operation to move, so they remain part of the surrounding farmland. The town of Warrington and neighbouring district of Trafford now have very few remnants left from the war effort after having seen extensive regeneration into the 21st century, but the barges still serve as a brilliant hidden reminder of how close we once came to war on our doorstep, and they will likely be here for many years still to come.


Runcorn Railway Bridge. Then and Now 1920 - 2016

Built in 1868 to connect the towns of Widnes and Runcorn across the river Mersey, the bridge is still in operation on the same line today but has seen a great deal of change around it. The invention of the car led to the construction of the Widnes transporter bridge in 1905 (seen behind the railway bridge in the top photo) which proved to be inadequate for increasing traffic, and by 1961 was demolished and replaced by the Runcorn bridge (in the foreground) which again could not cope with the ever growing flow of traffic in and out of Liverpool, and was later extended and reopened as the Silver Jubilee Bridge. The bridge now carries 80,000 vehicles a day which is more than triple its intended capacity. Due for completion this time next year, a much wider bridge, the Mersey Gateway, is being built a mile down the river that will eventually ( theoretically ) solve the problem once and for all.

The Death of ICI

One by one, the last remnants of one of Britain's largest industrial institutions have been torn apart since it was acquired by foreign company's in 2008. It's factories either sold or shut down, jobs lost and operational profits sent overseas. Since then, the latest site to meet its fate has been the 140 year old soda ash works on Wallerscote Island in Winnington. Once a thriving industry that fed the region through its productivity, it is now being demolished to make way for new housing and all evidence of its past will have been removed. It may have been considered by many as an eyesore, and had been dormant for many years, but it at least served as a memorial to something that we were once proud to call British.

 Παλατάκι στα Λιμενάρια (Palatáki Limenária)

Limenaria, with the continuing settlement of Kalyvia (or St. George) is a coastal town on the southern point of the Greek island of Thassos. The first inhabitants of the village were workers from the mountain village Kastro (Castle), in the heart of the island, which is now isolated. The mysterious 'Palatáki' looms over the landscape of the town with its brilliantly bold colours and striking architecture. From a distance, you almost cant tell that it has been left derelict for over half a century.

The region flourished in the beginning of 20th century, when the German company “Spiedel“ began its work there, running its mining excavation for export all over the world which gave the local harbor its first ever commercial activity. The offices of the company, known as the palace or “palataki”, were built in 1903 and constitutes a vivid example of eclectic architecture as it is characterized by a strict geometry and influenced from central European adherents during the time period that was seeing a shift in styles across the continent. This explains why many people mistakenly assume the building is several hundred years older than it actually is. 

The palace looks over into the vast open horizon of the North Aegean sea. Beneath, hidden away from the busy streets of the town are the iron mines themselves. The terrain is rich in cadmium and argentiferous lead which Spiedel began to excavate in 1905 and it ceased in 1912 due to the First World War. The exploitation was continued by Belgian miners 'Vielle Montagne' in 1925 until 1930 when they interrupted the operation owing to the financial crash in the build up to the Second World War, when the Nazis occupied the island from 1941-1944 and reportedly used the palace as a base for their high ranking officers. In 1957 another company poached the mines in parallel with local Greek operations. However, all the activities in the region stopped in 1963.

 The mines are a strong indication of the islands industrial legacy and a lost place of interest in a place so commonly overlooked by visitors who seek the marble beaches on the coastline. The ground is covered by a black metal giving the soil an impressive brown color, which as I later found is an absolute pain to clean off. 

Last Visit

Living almost next door to daresbury Hall I've been able to see it change through the seasons in the years since it became derelict, and it's slow but steady decline into vandalism. The pool was eventually stripped of all its stainless steel and only now after the arson attack earlier this year that very nearly destroyed the manor, has it actually earnt some protection. I never thought I'd be happy to see an abandoned site lit up with floodlights at night but the authorities severely let this brilliant place down over the years and thanks to 'Save Britain's heritage' it now has people fighting for it. This is the most recent and probably the last visit of mine, when the overgrowth beautifully crept over the domed roof of the pool as it does each summer.

26/8/1940

Found scrawled into the foundation stone of a ww2 pillbox bunker hidden in the hills of the Brecon Beacons, Wales UK. Pillboxes were stationed all over the UK during the war, and occupied by the Home Guard which operated from 1940 until 1944, meaning that this was most likely carved into the stone during the construction of the pillbox itself. The Home Guard was composed of 1.5 million local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, such as those too young or too old to join the services, or those in reserved occupations.

On this day, 26th August 1940; "Over Britain... the German attacks continue. They send three major raids against RAF airfields and one on Portsmouth. One of the airfield raids gets through almost undamaged but all the others are heavily engaged by the RAF. The day's losses are 31 RAF fighters and 19 German bombers and 26 fighters. As the Luftwaffe’s assault on Britain’s air defences continued the RAF had to develop tactics that avoided unnecessary air combat with enemy fighters and targeted the bombers. Squadron Leader Peter Townsend led No. 85 Squadron’s Hurricanes into the attack on 26th August." According to the original timetable Hitler ought to decide now whether the invasion should be attempted.

Torpantau

Also known as Beacons or Beacon Summit Tunnel - Torpantau claimed the record for the highest tunnel on the UK's standard gauge network at 1,313 feet above sea level. Reached by a three-mile climb from the south, trains passed through it curving sharply to the right before emerging onto the notorious Seven Mile Bank at a falling gradient towards Brecon. This was an extremely ambitious attempt at somehow maneuvering long carriages through the winding hills of mid-wales. The tunnel opened in 1863 although construction work had finished the previous year.

The Brecon & Merthyr Junction Railway (B&MJR) which passed through the tunnel gained the unfortunate nickname of the "Breakneck and Murder Railway" due to the number of accidents it suffered which, thanks to those steep inclines, were often severe. Neither was its reputation done any favours by the slowness of its trains. By the time the section through the tunnel closed on 4th May 1964, the line was only carrying freight. Passengers services across the B&MJR system has ended by January 1963.

Torpantau Tunnel itself is 666 yards in length and features a masonry arch springing either off shelves cut high into the rock face or lengths of brick or stone sidewall which were added incrementally over time as the need arose. Refuges are incorporated throughout. The south portal is masonry-built and wedged into the end of a vertically-sided cutting, the west face of which is retained by a wing wall for a short distance.

The north portal (actually ESE-facing) is a larger stone structure, projecting out into the cutting which has more gently-graded sides. Though generally in reasonable condition, some small falls of loose rock have occurred, accumulating on the solum, and a stream flows through the tunnel resulting in both approach cuttings being waterlogged.

Torpantau station was left derelict after the passenger trains ceased operation in 1963 exactly 100 years after it opened, and it wasn't for another 18 years until the narrow-gauge Brecon Mountain Railway occupied the trackbed which lies south of the tunnel where the station once sat, having now served since 1980 the mountain railway asserts the long-term aspiration of extending its operation northwards through the tunnel. Until then, the tunnel lies dormant among the lonely mountains.

Perseid Gazing

Officially starting on July 17, the annual shower of shooting stars aka the Perseid Meteor Showers run until August 24. Whilst camping within the Brecon Beacons I found the perfect opportunity to view the sky without any disturbance from civilisation. On a clear night here, you can see the Milky Way, major constellations and bright nebulas moving slowly across the pitch black hills. Shot with Fujfifilm x100t @ 23mm f2.0 / 30"

Teaching Crisis

Greece will again be unable to open dozens of schools and kindergartens across the country due to a lack of teaching staff despite the scheduled start of the new school year. The new school year begins in Greece in September, but because of insufficient funding tied to the country's economic crisis, Athens cannot pay salaries to the required number of teachers. It is also reported that in the southern Greek region of Laconia, where schools have resorted to inviting volunteers to teach classes. The Greek authorities allocated additional resources, from the European Union and public investment funds, to hire additional teachers and attract more volunteers but they were unable to fill all the gaps. The ongoing staff crisis in the Greek education system resembles 2014, when there was a shortage of some 12,000 teachers in Greece before the beginning of the new school year.

The problem, according to the head of the Federation of Primary School Teachers, Thanasis Kikinis, stems from cost-cutting policies that have resulted in few new hirings. According to figures, 8,500 primary educators have retired in the past five years and only 850 new teachers have been hired, with none of these being in the past two years. “The data do not do education any honors,” said Kikinis. “Putting off problems to the future has resulted in the downgrading of education.”

High Royds Clock Tower

Visitors to High Royds Asylum, now disguised as an extensive residential development, are at first impressed by the striking roofline complete with fairytale towers. Depsite its history now being hidden, the site was once a psychiatric hospital founded in 1888 and for more than a century, dominating all was the great clock tower, it’s solid bulk sparsely decorated with low battlements and heavy gothic arches.

The clock was manufactured by the great clockmaking dynasty Potts & Sons, who had been involved in the business since 1790. In 1847, William Potts was commissioned by Lord Grimthorpe to manufacture a clock for Ilkley Parish Church. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship which produced many introductions for further work with which Lord Grimthorpe was involved. The latter part of the Victorian era saw many large clocktowers being built. This was a pioneering age of order and discipline and the clock at High Royds was inescapable for inmates and staff alike. It served as both a landmark and practical feature. Try as they might, patients and workers could not escape the clock. Time had to be kept: this was an ordered institution.

Architect’s Narrative: "The Roof hipped with decorative iron finials has central tower (former water tower) which has 2 transomed windows to lower stage; clock in painted arched recess of several orders to upper stage; and machigolated, embattled parapet (formerly surmounted by timber framed, gabled water tank)."

Despite standing alone as a single reminder of the infamous West Pauper Lunatic Asylum institutions, much of the old building is still largely intact, including original mosaic tiling and majestic carvings. The gigantic clock tower has been restored to full working order, providing a sense of splendour from its stance over the other buildings. It remains locked away amidst the derelict, crumbling interior to present visitors with a truly unique statement of architectural authority as they enter the grounds of the residential estate. Within time, most people who live here will have forgotten what it once stood for.

Janubio Salt Flats

Once a thriving industry on the Spanish island as far back as 1895, the windmills pumped the sea water to huge reservoirs and it filtered down through narrow channels into the stone lined flats where it was left to crystalise, the salt then raked up and shovelled into piles for export. This work was and in some parts still is, done by hand by ‘salineros’. The salt, harvested several times between June to October, needs a temperature of 25 degrees to crystalize so lies unattended for most of the year. Despite almost 30 salt farms once running at its peak in 1940, only three are left. The sea water now freely wades through many of these abandoned man made panes.

The Ballroom

Liverpool Olympia, originally purpose built in 1905 as an indoor variety and circus theatre, was converted into an ABC cinema and used by the Royal navy as a depot during ww2. It is one of very few (if not the only one) if its kind left in the country. The animals would appear in the auditorium by being lifted from the basement where they lived. Evidence of the lift mechanism and living areas for elephants and lions can still be found under the theatre. It has seen numerous spouts of abandonment throughout its years after 90% of all grand cinemas were demolished before the turn of the century, it somehow survived and remains on its last legs but still standing after being used on rare occasions as a ballroom and venue for gigs and wrestling matches in more recent years. A struggle with funding for maintenance has brought forward more fears for its future.

The Welsh Streets

Today I travelled to my favourite city, Liverpool and along the way visited the infamous ghost village that consists of row upon row of around 450 empty houses where Ringo Starr once lived as a child. They have been part of a ruthless campaign to halt their demolition after the local government condemned the entire area as part of the city's regeneration. The area is full of grieving poems plastered on walls, signatures and art installations but the only noises heard around here are the birds.This particular street has been used to film the tv drama 'Peaky Blinders'.

The threat to Ringo Starr's birthplace announced in 2003 prompted uproar in parts of the neighbourhood and among fans all over the world. A proposal was made in September 2005 to take down the house brick by brick and rebuild it as a centrepiece for the Museum of Liverpool Life. This was a reversal of Liverpool council's earlier claim the house had no historic value. However, as of 2012, number 9 Madryn Street and several hundred other houses still stands, although most have been emptied of residents. Starr said it was not worth taking the house down simply to rebuild it elsewhere, as it would not then be his birthplace. Many suggested demolition of the area surrounding Starr's home was unsatisfactory, claiming "People liked the city's character, not packaged replicas". Council survey data published in 2005 showed the Welsh Streets were broadly popular with residents and in better than average condition, but were condemned for demolition because of a perceived 'over-supply' of 'obsolete' terraced houses in Liverpool. The land was offered to private developer Gleeson's and social landlord Plus Dane and proposals published for lower density houses. Some residents were happy to be offered new homes, while others were determined to stay.

The proposals have divided the local community. Clearance has proved highly contentious, with some taking the view that the houses are beyond rescue, while others believe they are fundamentally sound. Campaigning charities led by Merseyside Civic Society and SAVE Britain's Heritage have asserted that renovation would be preferable and cheaper. By 2009 over 100 residents had been rehoused together into a neighbourhood nearby which they had helped to design. Others had left the area altogether.

In 2011 the Secretary of State quashed planning permission for demolition and required an Environmental Impact Assessment. In summer 2012 new proposals for demolition of 250 houses were endorsed by Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson and Housing Minister Grant Shapps, who visited the area to announce retention of 9 Madryn Street and 15 adjacent homes. Local residents in the Welsh Streets Home Group have consulted on alternative renovation proposals that retain the majority of the houses, remodelled as environmentally friendly eco-homes.

Tapestry Decay

The peeling walls inside a derelict school for deaf children that still sits along the west coast of England, and operated between 1904-2003.