Posts Tagged ‘ alex ramsay photography ’

This castle hath a pleasant seat . . .

A wet grey Bank Holiday Monday, and writing a new post seems marginally more appealing (though perhaps less urgent) than the alternative of clearing the gutters. March was a good month, starting with the Truro launch of Gardens of Cornwall, the great and the good of that county turning out in force to see it on its way. Some entertaining jobs too, including among other things a ghoul, a spaceship and a brace of castles. The first two of these must remain confidential for the time being, though I expect you’ll see them here eventually. One of the castles was the astonishing private residence of what were until the nineteenth century the Prince-Bishops of Durham, men of God who bore a sword as well as a crozier, and whose lands stretched from Durham to the Borders.

The gatehouse, Auckland Castle

A good indication of the style these men kept might be the eighteenth-century gothick deerhouse in the park, complete with an upstairs dining-room from which the bishop’s guests could assess their future quarry.

The Deerhouse

All this was very different from my next shoot where I was working in the redundant jail in Lancaster Castle. A prison for most of the last nine centuries, nothing much has ever been altered, from the medieval dungeons where the Pendle Witches were held, through the cells reserved for unruly Quakers to the Victorian wings occupied until last year.

Lancaster Castle

A cell for two

View through a spyhole

In the shadow of the keep is the Execution Yard. More prisoners were executed in Lancaster than anywhere else in the country, and hundreds of bodies are known to lie beneath the mossy paving stones. The cliff-like walls around it have been occupied by sparrowhawks who continue to do execution among the castle pigeons, whose remains litter the ground.

The Execution Yard

Not to finish on too grim a note, I had to climb the tower of St Peter’s Cathedral to find a good distant view of the castle. Not a good experience for those with vertigo issues, but it did give me a chance to glance into the bell chamber and up into the spire. Now back to those gutters.


Hot Off The Press

Gardens of Cornwall is published today, with a lovely text by Katherine Lambert and (of course) pictures by me. If you know the south-west then you’ll know how wonderful these gardens are – if you don’t, buy the book and then go yourself. Now is the moment to be there. One picture below, but more can be found here.

magnolia wilsonii

Magnolia wilsonii at Cotehele

The weekend saw a quick trip to Brighton, famous for dodgy antiques and mad regency architecture among many other things. It should also be famous for the daily flypast of the vast flocks of starlings that roost under the pier, a sight that regularly draws the crowds from the slot machines and reduces them to awed silence – pictures below (clicking on them gives you a larger image):

starling flock at sunset

starling flock at sunsetstarling flock at sunset

starling flock at sunsetstarling flock at sunset

Moving On

The time has come. Nine months ago we first conceived the idea of moving; as of today our home for the last sixteen years is up for sale. UPDATEHere is a link to the house details with the correct location. The agents’ office can be found here. If you know of anyone who might be interested in moving to Presteigne (according to Country Life magazine one of the three best places in Britain in which to live), please spread the word. Leaving our little rus in urbe will be a wrench, no question, but we’re sure it’s the right thing to do.

the kitchen garden

south front, with irises

summer in the 'dining room'

Other, though lesser, news: a feature in the March issue of The English Garden on Trevarno in Cornwall, written by Katherine Lambert. This garden also appears in Gardens of Cornwall (Frances Lincoln Ltd) by Katherine and myself, which will be published on the 1st of March.

Trevarno, Cornwall

Canal(s) +

It’s been far too long since my last post (in my opinion at least), so here is a small selection of edited highlights from the grim month of January. A short trip to Amsterdam takes first place – the first time we’ve been away together for other than work purposes for

The (amazingly comfortable) night boat from Harwich was followed by a train journey across an icily beautiful Netherlands. As ever, lovely things seen but not photographed from the train windows; fixed in the memory that morning were the windmill covered in perching cormorants, and a white cat walking delicately across a frozen canal. We stayed in the Boutique Hotel View which fully deserves this plug – perfect in almost every way.

the view from our room - could you ask for more?

We did the things one does in that lovely city – the Rembrandthuis, of course, and the Rijksmuseum – and other galleries – and eating – and drinking . . .

Rembrandt's studio

Rijksmuseum - Fishing for Souls (Adriaen Pietersz van de Venne, 1614 - detail)

Other events – the candle-lit launch of Ian Marchant’s excellent new book Something of the Night. Funny, moving and filled with wise and correct observations on sex, religion and politics among many other matters.

ian marchant

Another local nocturnal event was the annual Wassail – health and safety happily not in evidence as the blazing globe of the Sun flew over the heads of the onlookers


An advance copy of Gardens of Cornwall landed on the mat – publication due on March 1st

gardens of cornwall

And finally another reminder of spring and summer – remember summer? – with the publication of a cover feature on Sissinghurst in the February edition of The English Garden


You’ll Believe A Horse Can Fly . . .

. . . well, you might if you were lucky enough to see Presteigne’s annual panto, Presteigne, Rome of the Free last week. A fantastic effort recalling the town’s erstwhile position on the lunatic fringe of the Roman empire, featuring drunken centurions, louche Roman ladies and bloodthirsty Celts. Not forgetting HRH and his royal consort, together with Pegasus who took to the air with the greatest of ease – surely a first for any local pantomime (watch a short video here). Cue many jokes about the town and the wider political situation and some great songs including a version of I’m a Believer that truly had to be heard to be believed. A few pictures below with many more to be found here. Roll on next year.

The Judge’s Lodging

Rather wonderfully, The World of Interiors have given a full twelve pages of their January issue (out now) to Presteigne’s amazing museum, The Judge’s Lodging. Read, enjoy and visit! A few more pictures below, and a small portfolio of others to be found here

hip bath

Personal hygiene

To the regret of many, one of Herefordshire’s more eccentric landmarks is up for sale on eBay – here it is:

And finally, this month’s new moon seen from Stonewall Hill:

Silver Linings

Just as you feel sunk into winter gloom along comes a day of perfect cloudless beauty. Sunday the 6th of November 2011 deserves to be commemorated here, whatever it may have been like elsewhere. Mushrooming on Offa’s Dyke under a moon just off the full, then walking back with the space station crawling across the sky and disappearing behind the Whimble – even the dog was happy.

Offa's Dyke

The Black Mixen

A couple of particularly entertaining shoots have also helped to brighten this dark end of the year. One was at Levens Hall in Cumbria – two days in the most haunted house in Britain. No spooks, but fantastic interiors and lovely light.

The other was more local at a bizarre museum in Shropshire called the Land of Lost Content. A collection of all (and I do mean all) those trivial items we’ve forgotten but that once were the unacknowledged background to our lives. If ever you’re passing through Craven Arms, something most people do as quickly as possible, take the time to see it. Highly recommended.

Shameless self-promotion warning: Please vote here for Helena Attlee’s Great Gardens of Britain in the Horticultural Channel Awards. You’ll find it under the resounding title of ‘best non-practical gardening book of 2011’. (Click ‘submit survey’ when you’ve voted).

Finally, did I mention that Sunday was a cloudless day? One cloud did darken it a little; returning home to find some thieving toerag had just slipped out of the kitchen with a laptop under his arm. Not a disaster by any means, but a nuisance, and unexpected in this town. “Don’t often get a chance to do this in Presteigne, sir” said the scene-of-crime officer as he dusted down the kitchen for fingerprints. Long may that be true.

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