Despite arriving at Bovey Castle soggy, windswept and with trailers splashed with mud, the concierge (more used to parking the guests ferraris, range rovers or even helicopters) kindly showed us a place to put our bikes. I had hoped he would offer hop on and park them for us, but I wasn’t going to push it..
We checked in and were shown to our gorgeous rooms – each one with cracking views of the estate, and were shown around the hotel grounds. We were spoilt for choice when deciding where to put the camera, the grounds have great views at all angles. We chose a spot that looked towards the lake at the bottom, and also included statues on the lawn for some foreground interest. That done, hunger from the days ride set in and we headed for a fantastic meal in the restaurant. I wanted to see more of the hotel and soak it all up but was starting to flag and so went to relax in one of the lounges beside the fire. Pretty soon I was sleepy.. Next morning I rose early and went for a dip in the pool, followed by a session in the sauna… a perfect way to wake up! Breakfast finished we installed the camera on the lawn, and started to capture all we could see. Although it was quiet, a number of the guests were intrigued and came to explore the camera after a round of golf or during a stroll in the grounds. The reactions of the guests were quite different to most we had had before and it was good to hear new points of view. One couple particularly enjoyed the camera, and we helped the lady understand the different functions of her borrowed camera. She went for a walk with our workshop sheet in hand and came back with strong images of the estates flowers and grounds, using aperture well to control the depth of field. It is easier to explain how even the most modern, technical cameras work when you can illustrate it with the very simple, elemental design of the obscura.
That afternoon we packed up and headed to another Castle – the National Trust’s Castle Drogo, ’The last castle to be built in England’. We rolled the bikes down the long drive, and stopped them in front of the Castle. It looked particularly impressive against the background of Dartmoor and the very dramatic sky we were treated to that evening.
We pitched our tent and then were warmly welcomed into the castle by the lovely volunteers that help conserve the castle. We were treated to absolutely breath taking views from the castle roof – and I was pleased to hear that the public can also view them on their guided roof top tours. It crossed my mind that it would be an amazing spot to install the camera.. but then realised that it would easily blow away – not ideal. We slept on the grounds, and through the night I could hear deer moving around the tent – I am always so amazed at how brazen they get during nightfall. I had heard about the estate’s White Deer, and kept my eyes peeled for it, but it wasn’t my day.. We should have heeded some warning from the clouds of the night before – we woke up to a persistent drizzle and packed the tent away still damp. Not to be put off by a little drizzle, we moved to what was planned as our first location – a great view from the drive over looking the nearby valley and over to Haytor beyond. We couldn’t see Haytor because of the clouds, but began to build the camera beginning with the gazebo frame and cover. Just as we pulled the cover over it really started raining and we quickly pulled the trailers underneath to keep it all dry. Soon the cover started to fail and, despite our best efforts at shooing the rain off, we had to admit defeat and make a tactical retreat to the gardener’s store area to drip dry. We were then invited back into the castle to wait for it to clear and have a cup of tea (clearly the thing to do in such situations). Sadly, the rain never did clear until we started to lose light and all the visitors had gone. All was not lost however, as we put the time to good use having been kindly allowed to take over an office to update our blogs & respond to emails before we went to see what else was going in the Castle.We saw a great project as part of the Save Castle Drogo campaign – they were inviting visitors and volunteers to help produce bunting to show their support. We arrived just in time to see it being hung – they had done a great job and it looked fantastic. Castle Drogo is in real trouble because the flat roof (with the great views) is sadly leaking and is in desperate need of repair. Without this essential work there is a real danger that the castle will have to be shut, so click the link above and see how you can help.
We had an early night ahead of our ride the next day. Dartmoor had been an ideal place for the Pinhole Pedallers – beautiful landscapes, great people and fantastic cycling fuelled by very tasty food. Personally I realised I did not know Dartmoor nearly as well as I had thought.
All our time in Postbrige we had been haunted by views of the road out – appearing like a steep wall of tarmac cutting across up the valley. We stocked up with supplies from the shop, and set off.
As is often the case, it wasn’t as bad as we’d thought – and the views from the top were well worth the struggle. We could see the road ahead going up and down across the landscape, and soon we able to keep enough momentum from the downhill to take the bite out of the climb. Looking back we could see the Bellever Forest, and ahead moorland we were about to ride.
The ride to Haytor was done quicker than anticipated, despite waiting for a while as a young farmer struggled to contain her sheep as they crossed the road. We said hello in the information centre. The staff were very friendly, one a past photographer and the other a keen cyclist so we got on well! We could see the ominous looking clouds in the distance that we had heard about in a forecast, and so began to set up to picture the iconic Haytor. I remember coming here to draw when I was at school, and found it made a great subject then as now. The people climbing on it, and walking up the paths towards it only add a sense of scale – through the camera they reminded me how big the landscape is and how comparitively small we are.
The visitors were intrigued and were soon keen to step inside the obscura. It was good to see families of walkers out for a ramble, and when the wind was blowing our way we could here shrieks as children climbed the tor itself. A good number came in and saw the projection of the tor, a couple helped us re-shoot the images above and played with the framing. As it is tricky to move the camera itself, it is a good way to learn about composition if you try to re-shoot the projected image with a conventional camera. We shot a number of portraits and the feedback on the camera was really positive. ‘I hadn’t thought about how a camera works at all before seeing this‘ one keen photographer said, and we were able to practically show how the obscura relates to the modern digital camera he was using.
It wasn’t long before the wind picked up, and the clouds that were safely hanging on the horizon were soon looming over head. We started to take the camera down (once soggy, it weighs even more!) and just got the inner layer in when it really hit – we sheltered under the gazebo cover until it all had gone. We got some funny looks, but it kept us dry!
After realising it was set in, we packed up regardless and jumped on the bikes. We were riding to Bovey Castle, a luxurious hotel and a very kind host – we were setting up on the lawn the next day…
After the peace and quiet of the Tamar Valley we were excited to hear about a space run by Fotonow in the centre of Plymouth. I wondered how the camera would handle the lower light levels and what the people of Plymouth would make of it!
We caught a very heavy downpour Saturday morning, drenching us through and leaving a puddle in the gallery. The camera just fit, and after being welcomed by Donna we started to invite the first Plymouthians inside. Once inside people found it ‘amazing’ ‘magical’ and the portraits we shot were some of my favourite yet. The backdrop was a market stall whose goods (wigs, platform shoes, cuddly toys and neon t shirts) made a vivid backdrop, the people themselves wore bright colours that seemed even richer after the grey skies we’ve had before. It was great speaking to locals and hearing their views on everything and anything, the camera sparked all sorts of conversations!
Thank you to Donna & Jason for making us very welcome, and also to Fotonow for hosting us! There is soon to be an exhibition of our images set up in the gallery, so check back soon for more details!