I do not profess to have perfected an Art, but to have commenced one; the limits of which it is not possible at present exactly to ascertain. Henry Fox Talbot
It was a birthday treat. I had no idea where we were going when we set off early on that Friday morning in June. We stopped at Basildon Park in Berkshire on our way down and were delighted to find that the Christmas special edition of Downton Abbey had been filmed there. It was very interesting to see the original film sets and it is such a beautiful building – well worth a visit.
When I finally realised we were staying in Wiltshire, I had no idea that it is the birthplace of photography. Admiring his sisters’ artistic talents and frustrated with his own attempts to capture Lake Como, Henry Fox Talbot began his experiments with chemicals. He thought there must be a way to capture a scene which didn’t involve a pencil or a brush. In 1835, he produced the very first negative. The photograph was taken through an upstairs latticed window at Laycock Abbey. As I stood at that window and looked out across the stunning grounds I could only imagine how excited and intrigued he must have been about the wonderful new art form he had discovered. As I took my own photograph through that same window I suddenly felt a great gratitude to the man who created, what has become, such an amazingly accessible art form for us all to enjoy.
We stayed in Bradford on Avon, a beautiful market town on the river, spoiled only by excessive amounts of traffic which speeds through the centre, seemingly without a care for pedestrians. I felt it was another example of an over populated small town where planners had underestimated the amount of traffic and it’s impact on the lives of people who live there and who visit. It made me think of my own beautiful market town and how the planned and agreed new developments, sited on the wrong side of the town will eventually destroy it’s beauty for everyone. Why, oh why do we have to sacrifice our incredible heritage to such developments? Why can’t we preserve our historic towns and build new ones instead? No developer would ever be allowed to build in Prague and so it stays traffic free and stunningly beautiful, a jewel in Europe. Where are our protected jewels?
Perhaps Bath is one. I had never been to Bath and even in the heat and with hundreds of tourists it stood out as a town we have done our best to protect. Many of the beautiful houses have either been restored or are being restored. The town has kept it’s small streets and as I walked through the park and visited the Baths that made it such a famous town, its unique history surrounded me and welcomed me in. Yes, there is traffic but it doesn’t dominate as it does in smaller towns and there are plenty of small streets where one can escape the noise and fumes.
No visit to Wiltshire would be complete without a wander through Avebury, a much deserved World Heritage Site, where huge Neolithic stones dominate the landscape. I have to admit I couldn’t get excited about the thought of looking at stones initially, but there is something rather endearing and yet at the same time, awe inspiring about these ancient monuments. Set against a sunset, as we saw some of them, they are truly magical. I loved their shapes, the hidden, almost human features, the colour of the moss growing on them and their ever changing relationship to the clouds above. I just wished I was a better landscape photographer so I could really capture their unique beauty.
The following weekend we decided to venture up to Warwickshire. We stopped at Packwood House another National Trust Property that boasts a truly exquisite garden. It began to drizzle with rain, but part of me was glad to see and feel it after the recent heat. The colours of the flowers and the simple structures of the topiary remained stunning even in the grey drizzle. I spent at least half an hour trying to photograph a bright yellow and white caterpillar that was doing it’s best to stay hidden from the tourists who were wielding garish umbrellas whilst admiring the superb herbaceous borders.
What wonderful attractions and scenery can be enjoyed in Berkshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Warwickshire! Why have I never visited any of these counties before? I question why so many people rush abroad every year. We are privileged to live in such a beautiful country which can boast of at least 150 shades of green, a heritage second to none and the best cream teas in the world. Who could ask for more?