Off the beaten track in the Cheshire woodlands lies the remnants of a defunct railway line that once linked to an Ammonia soda works that produced chemicals for munition used by the army during the First World War. Stockpiles were kept nearby and transported above these connecting trunk-lines onto the mid-cheshire railway where they would be distributed across the country, installed into armaments and sent to the frontlines in Europe. After the war was over, the site was declared obsolete and these concrete structures are all that remain, unbeknown to most people who pass by this dense woodland.
Much of the surrounding land however has still not recovered from the ammonia excavation, with several salt planes left behind sustaining little to no plant life, and a man-made brine lake still chokes the land beneath it. At a glance this area might seem like an unkept rural nature reserve, but after an afternoon getting up close to the landscape here, it seemed clear that this land still has a long way to go before recovering, even after more than a century has passed since the damage was done.
This munitions storage depot still lies hidden and forgotten in the middle of the surrounding dense woodland. Once connected by the industrial rail line that has since been dismantled, it has sat forgotten for over half a century whilst nature slowly creeps in. This unique structure was purposefully built to contain an explosion in the event of an accident inside, whilst making it almost impossible to break into.
Catch my image of Daresbury Laboratory Tower (formerly the Nuclear Structure Facility) among the stars in the new 2017/18 Talking Science Brochure & Promotional material now making its way to the public! For more info on the talks & to download the brochure click here
Mow Cop Castle, built on the ridge upon which the boundary between the counties of Cheshire and Staffordshire are formed. It is widely believed that the castle was built as a summerhouse in 1754 for Randle Wilbraham I of Rode Hall, and designed to deliberately impersonate part of a castle of a bygone era, therby enhancing the view of the newly constructed Rode Hall some 3 miles away on the Cheshire side of the hill. One of the strangest facts about the building is that it isn't actually a ruin atall; at least not in a traditional sense, as the wall was in fact always broken so as to have 'effect' of a ruin when looked at from the valley by people visiting the estate. To boast having a ruin of a castle on your land was considered to give an impression of a rich and long-lasting family heritage. Due to its placement on the border of two counties, Mow Cop has on several occasions been the focus of many quarrels, court cases and legal battles regarding its ownership and use of the land as well as the building itself. The public were forced to react in the 1920's when the land was sold to a Mr.Joe Lavatt, and the surrounding land was quarried to the point where the fate of the building was thought to be in danger. A bitter legal wrangle lasted for over a decade, eventually the building was saved and the public acquired the land, immediately handing it over to the National Trust who have protected it ever since.
1962-2017. Liverpool's 'Granby 4 Streets' were built in the 1890s and flourished with outer-city life for almost a century until they fell into disrepair after the Toxteth Riots in 1981. Although hundreds were moved away from the area with many homes left derelict, local residents fought demolition and over the past 10 years have cleaned and planted the streets, painted houses and started a monthly market to keep the streets alive. Further prove that for the people of this city, these streets are so much more than just bricks and mortar.
Runcorn Bridge (otherwise known as the Silver Jubilee Bridge). For four decades, 80 thousand vehicles a day have used this bridge to cross the River Mersey. Now for the first time it sits eerily dormant and unused awaiting a new future. Roads to and from it are now closed off, and for the first time the water below can be heard. I made sure to get there before the scaffolding takes shape. Soon the old girl will get some much needed TLC. ( Prints available online here )
A milestone event this evening Friday 13th October 2017 as the new Mersey Gateway Bridge opens in Halton, UK after four years of traffic cone induced mayhem during its construction that will now see traffic flowing in a new and more streamlined direction from Liverpool to Chester. Firework display took place at 8.45PM. Long exposure at 4 seconds F.3.5 with the fujinon 23mm lens.
What to do on your photo day off when its raining? head underground where the rain can't stop you!
Little bit of history on this one - the only evidence that this cavern exists is an 18" hole in the middle of some dense woodland near Skelmersdale. It's one of the only (unofficially) accessible mines in the Lancashire region, and was part of a large scale sandstone quarry that ran mining operations here throughout the 1800's. The army last used it during the second world war as an ammo storage facility, and were responsible for installing the infamous 'jenga' towers to prevent the ceiling from caving in. 80 years later and they still serve their purpose, but nature evidently won't be held back forever, with multiple rockslides appearing every year. The houses that have since been built on the land above have no way of knowing how long the land will continue to be steady for..
The silence here is probably the most daunting yet mesmerising thing apart from the sheer scale and total darkness. The only sound is the occasional drop of water that falls from the rocks into the crystal clear pool that's formed on the west side of the cavern. If you ever need to get away from the world, this is the place to be.
Inside the ISOL-SRS Magnet (In non-laymans terms: Isotope mass Separator On Line – Beam Storage Ring Spectrometer) which started life as a reclaimed superconducting magnet from an old MRI scanner at Brisbane hospital in the UK. Image shows the final stages of preparation before installation at the radioactive beam accelerator at CERN in Switzerland. Its purpose is to study short-lived radioactive nuclei in order to help scientists to understand how the elements from iron to uranium were created through precision studies of the reactions and properties of unstable nuclei across the vast range of masses and isotopes, which remains to be one of the most intriguing scientific questions of the 21st century. More groundbreaking work on behalf of The University of Liverpool and STFC Daresbury Laboratory.
Northern Monument #11: The Point of Ayr Lighthouse, also known as the Talacre Lighthouse, is a grade II listed building situated on the north coast of Wales. Built in 1777 by the recorder and aldermen of Chester to warn ships entering from the Irish Sea heading between the Dee and the Mersey Estuary on the far left side of the Wirral. The lighthouse once displayed two lights - the main beam, at 63 feet, shone seaward towards Llandudno. A secondary beam shone up the River Dee, towards the hamlet of Dawpool, in Cheshire, on the English side of the estuary. Whilst in service, the lighthouse was painted with red and white stripes, and had a red lantern housing, which in recent years has been repainted to match its former identity. The lighthouse eventually fell into disuse and was decommissioned in 1884, having been replaced by a lightship that anchored further out at sea. It has since passed through several phases of private ownership, and slowly deteriorated ever since. In March 2007, the lighthouse was heavily damaged by storms which resulted in the metal steps leading to the building becoming dislocated and a hole appearing in the base. Local myth has surrounded the lighthouse for centuries; often reported is the sighting of a person dressed in old fashioned worth clothes standing on the balcony of the lighthouse itself, with reports of footprints in the sand leading to the building. Psychics visiting the site on separate occasions reported making contact with a spirit called Raymond who was once a lighthouse keeper here before he died of a fever in mysterious circumstances.
British garden centres are surely safe from abandonment. With our weather and flourishing green landscape, there's always demand for horticultural goods and garden gnomes! right? wrong. Along with the rising number of people choosing to live in inner city apartments and suburban terraces, even the top tier of properties built across the country now have half as much surrounding land as they did fifty years ago. New homeowners and young professionals simply no longer aspire to building their own piece of eden.
At the peak of its maritime history (when more boats were coming in and out of this city than anywhere else in the world) Liverpool witnessed a unique trend of iconic 'ship-shaped' pubs, built in the shape of the bow of a cruise liner as a unique way to utilise the corners of the city streets leading to the river Mersey where men would return home from the docks or from a spell of work out at sea. Almost all of them were self sufficient, and Ale was brewed from start to finish in the cellars below, with ingredients delivered directly by cart to hatches on the street above. Ship bells would ring at last orders, and the chimneys would be painted to replicate the red funnels similar to the world-class Cunard liners that the city had become renowned for across the world. Only one of these pubs, (The Baltic Fleet) still functions in this way and can be found just beyond the Albert dock on the waterfront. The rest have almost all been demolished after the decline of the docks in the late victorian era. Some, such as the Masonic Arms on Lodge Lane, still await their uncertain fate whilst serving as yet another reminder of the city's eternal link to the sea.
Spotting the irony in a slogan that represents the exact reason this factory was forced to shut down - the cheap, rushed, low quality manufacture of its foreign imported rivals. Despite having the highest standard of quality manufacture in the world across dozens of industries that were pioneered here across the centuries, the UK's once world-leading manufacturing sector has shrunk by two-thirds in the past 30 years. It was done in the name of economic modernisation, in favour of a quick turnover rather than product longevity and skilled trade. From what we can see on the ground, all that's left behind are crumbling relics and the profits of overseas corporations. Queen Victoria would not have been amused..!
My great grandfather, Harold Cotterill photographed in the crews quarters of the A-class Royal Navy destroyer Hms Codrington in 1939 (Image 1: holding pack of cards) before embarking on a series of missions that were crucial to the events that occurred during the evacuation of France and the deliverance of the British Expeditionary force. Before the idea of operation dynamo was even conceived, Codrington transported king george VI to France and back in December to meet with the French Admiralty (image 2). One month later she embarked Winston Churchill on a visit to France at a time when Paris was still safely in allied hands. In February, she was nominated as the flotilla leader of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla. This responsibility meant that on the 5th February, she was called upon to carry the then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and several high-ranking military leaders to Boulogne for a war council meeting in the capital to discuss the potential threat of defeat at the hands of the Germans. As the Dutch surrender came into effect in May, Codrington began patrolling off the Dutch and Belgian coasts where she embarked members of the Dutch Royal Family at IJmuiden and carried them to safety in the UK where they remained hidden from the grasp of the Nazis for the remainder of the war. With Churchill now taking over the premiership back home, and the call to evacuate the entire British army now in full effect, the ship and her crew worked relentlessly over the grueling five days of operation dynamo, docking at the heavily bombarded Mole on the devastated French beach day after day, ending with her fifth and final trip across the channel on 2nd June having saved 3749 lives in the process (image 3). After gaining a heroic reputation at Dunkirk, whilst managing to return home as one of the only destroyers to successfully avoid Germans attacks, Codrington covered the subsequent evacuations of French Ports into Dover over the next month until the port came under attack on 27fh July, sinking the destroyer at the harbor. Miraculously, due to it being a non-direct hit there was no loss of life and the entire ship either managed to bail into the water or drop life boats into the shallows of the harbor, a result hailed as a triumph of spirit by the navy, including my Great Grandfather who recollected wading in the thick oil that flooded the waters as the ship began to sink. To protect public morale, Churchill ordered the loss of the navy's pride destroyer to be kept under wraps until five years later, when victory in Europe was just months away. Whilst the evacuation of Dunkirk was undeniably a crippling military defeat, without the deliverance of the British army back to home shores, the liberation of Europe that followed simply would not have been possible. To know that my Great Grandfather not only brought to safety some of the most important and influential figures of the free world before helping to save so many lives made watching Christopher Nolan's new movie all the more amazing, and proud to realise and witness such an important part of my family history. Harold Cotterill, a mere engine stoker, and his 184 shipmates on board, each and every one a hero.
1860-2017. Bank Hall, a Jacobean mansion in Bretherton, Lancashire built on the site of an older house in 1608 by the Banastres who were lords of the manor. Just 62 years later the family name came to end when Christopher Banastre left the estate to his two daughters upon his death in 1670. From then on the hall was extended during the 18th and 19th centuries by several families who came to live here, until the contents were auctioned in 1861 and the hall used as a holiday home and later leased to tenants. During the Second World War the Royal Engineers used it as a control centre, after which the estate was returned to the Lilfords whose offices moved to the east wing of the house until 1972 when the house was vacated. Bank Hall has slowly fallen into decline ever since, having been victim of just about every form of damage under the sun. In 2003 it was the first building to be featured in the BBC's Restoration television series, and it has relied heavily on volunteer efforts to keep it standing. The admirable action group 'Urban Splash' have plans to restore the house as apartments retaining the gardens, entrance hall and clock tower for public access, but the sheer complexity of the project has kept its progress extremely slow. However, it's fantastic to know that after sitting dormant for so long, Bank Hall will not only be restored to its former glory, but that it will in parts be open for everyone to enjoy and appreciate once the work is complete.
Northern Monument #10: Sitting on one of the highest points on the Wirral peninsula, this brick built tower mill replaced a wooden 'peg' mill destroyed by fire in 1793, and was used to grind corn into flour for 75 years up until 1875. Although access was difficult for a horse and cart laden with sacks of grain or flour the top of the hill was the ideal place to catch the wind, as the Wirral is surrounded by water, it has served as a vital windtrap for centuries and was once decorated with dozens of windmills, all taking full advantage of the winds for agricultural use . In fact, it is believed that there has been a windmill on this site since 1596. With the introduction of steam powered mills, windmills felt into disuse and during the 1890's after being put out of action, instead of being demolished like almost all of the others in the region, Bidston Hill was restored and has stood as a monument ever since.
Gazing out into the Irish Sea and beyond - the difference in light pollution between open water and the distant glow of the rural west coast of Wales. In the distance, Llanbedr Airbase, the RAF station once left abandoned, is now preparing for development into Europe's first ever spaceport. Suddenly the stars don't seem so far away!
This was one of the designated houses Winston Churchill used to stay overnight under lock-and-key when visiting the North West of England during the war. The owner kept his personal photographs a secret until he finally sold the property to the city's university in the late 90's. After serving as student accommodation for a short while the building has remained disused whilst it waits for renovation and a new purpose. Despite enough time having passed, it's history has still remained largely unknown and I wasn't aware myself until one of the contractors on site gave me a brief walk-through of its past. I now know of atleast three of these unassuming secret wartime locations - possible future project in the works!