Playing on the Tracks

It’s a chilly late October afternoon, the temperature has struggled up to 9° Celsius and the sun refuses to burn through the grey covering cloud. Black feathered Rooks are calling from the high trees around the old railway station. The air is still.

This is Autumn in Brittany.

Jean-Claude and his mates are playing Breton Bowls on the ground where the old railway lines once lay. They gather here most Fridays to play their game share a meal in a local café and generally enjoy each other’s company. The cackle of their laughter competes with the cries of the black birds above them, whilst the clunk of stone bowling balls punctuates their conversation.

Boules Bretagne on the old railway.

Boules Bretagne on the old railway.

“Hey, Gallois come and have a go!” Jean-Caude implores. “Leave the ghosts of the old railway alone.”

The old station fascinates me.
Mur de Bretagne saw its last train steam out towards Carhaix nearly fifty years ago when the metre gauge Réseau Breton railway system closed down. I only wish I could have enjoyed it before it vanished forever. The network linked many rural communities and it’s closure pushed many small towns into a kind of time warp that they only really came out of after the turn of the 2000’s. Today around Brittany most of the old station buildings remain, the French can’t see the point of demolishing perfectly good structures when alternative uses can be found.

Mur de Bretagne Station in 1910.

Mur de Bretagne Station in 1910.

At Mur the station now serves a local cycling club, the fire brigade and of course the Breton Bowling club, talk about diversification!

I smile.
“Un petit moment, Jean-Claude, je besoin explorer le vielle station.” – “In a minute Jean-Claude, I must explore the old station.”

My friend shrugs his shoulders, he understands my interest in the history of the old railway, but to him it’s just that, history.

He can remember the station when it was open and he stood here the day that the last train departed. To him it’s gone and no end of interest from me will ever bring it back… The bowling is what matters now.

I get it, but my curiosity and passion for old railways wins out.

The station is a wonderful mix of good repair and partial decrepitude. On the side where trains once ran the building is in good repair and well-tended, whilst at the rear there is evidence of slightly less love being endowed on it and that makes it more interesting. It’s just crying out for some monochrome photography.p1070925

In my mind’s eye I can see the busy bustle of the place when it was still served by the Réseau Breton. At least it still lives on serving the local community in other ways. p1070924

I marvel that the old enamel name board still proclaims the town on the gable end. Back in the UK that would have disappeared to a collectors wall years ago!p1070920

The game is progressing and I’ve missed out the chance of looking silly by joining in. Maybe the old station saved me from gentle embarrassment!p1070922

J-C looks at me and winks, he’s winning at the moment!

There’s a strong coffee with a splash of Lambig, the local calvados type firewater, waiting at the end of this game. Then there will be Poitrine Fumé, Haricot Blanc avec ail and tarte-tatin to follow, all washed down with a local rough wine, my kind of heaven!

There’s a hint of wood smoke in the cool air, the clear clean air of Brittany and just at the moment there is nowhere else in the world that I’d rather be.

Catch you later – À bientôt!


Photo101: Treasure & Close Up

I liked the way our assignment was put across today, because I’m definitely one of those people for whom “treasure” is not about material value, for me it’s all about the emotional attachment.

When my late father died he had two wrist watches; one was an Omega and it was quickly claimed by my materialistic young sister, not I suspect for any emotional attachment but purely for what the thing was worth! The other old valueless watch suited me fine, it doesn’t work any more, but it’s the watch that I can remember Dad wearing when I was very young and without the encumbrance of that annoying younger sibling!! Now here’s a funny thing, I couldn’t find that old watch today! You know that feeling? It’s somewhere safe, but for the life of me I can’t remember where!

In that case I turned to another piece of treasure and in a way its something much more suited to Photo101, again the link is with my late father, but this time it’s his old camera.

This is an Ensign and Ross Selfix 820 Special dating from 1953.

Ensign and Ross Selfix 820 Special.

Ensign and Ross Selfix 820 Special.

For the technical, it takes 120 roll film has a f3.8 10.5mm Ross Xpres lens which will stop down to f22. Shutter speeds range from one second up to 1/250th second. It has a part leather-covered body and leather bellows.

To my knowledge Dad only ever shot back and white film through this camera. As a result I thought that a couple of monochrome close-ups were appropriate!P1050529image
On the open market, I don’t think that this camera is worth very much, but to me it’s priceless.

I believe that Dad bought it new, no one else has ever used it and at least whilst I’m alive no-one else ever will, it’s too emotionally precious for me to see that happen.

I hope you understand.

Catch you soon.


Photo101: Architecture & Monochrome

I didn’t have to look very far to find inspiration for today’s assignment.

Sitting high up in a remote and wild corner of Bodmin Moor lies the World Heritage Site of Caradon Mining District; it’s only about fifteen miles away from Dookes H.Q..

The granite massif of Caradon Hill rises above the surrounding moorland and its slopes are strewn with the noble remains of a once mighty industry. In the 1840’s this area became of the greatest copper producing regions in the world, but within 50 years the boom time had passed and the mines fell into terminal decline.

Today the evidence of those golden years can still be found in the landscape, tips of waste rock and long disused tramways have now become as much part of the Cornish landscape as the ancient moors themselves. The industrial architecture and archeology is now treasured as part of a distinct Cornish identity.

I love walking amongst these ruins, interpreting their original purposes and just simply admiring their simple yet regal architecture; these were buildings built to do a serious job. They also make great subjects for photography, particularly in monochrome!

This is the engine house for the Houseman’s Shaft at South Wheal Phoenix Mine. In it’s day this mine produced nearly a quarter of a million tons of copper ore.

South Caradon Mine

South Wheal Phoenix Mine

Through the arch window, South Wheal Phoenix Mine.

Through the arch window, South Wheal Phoenix Mine.

About a quarter of a mile to the North East stands the ruins of Phoenix United mine. This mine had a charmed existence because by 1864 its copper reserves had all but run out, it had already produced about 200,000 tons, but then large tin deposits were discovered beneath the copper lode and the mine switched to tin production!
Phoenix United Mine

Phoenix United Mine

From 1865 to 1897 the mine was producing around 30,000 tones of tin per year. This engine house was one of the last constructed in Cornwall, in 1907. It was hoped that by sinking the shaft to a depth of 1200 feet that further reserves would be found, but sadly it proved fruitless and by the beginning of 1914 the mine had closed.

I hope you enjoy these photo’s as much as I did taking them.

If you ever visit the area please stick to the paths and don’t climb over fences, there are some very deep uncovered old mine-shafts out there!

Catch you soon,


Architecture – In Monochrome


This gallery contains 6 photos.

Photography 101. Todays assignment: Architecture & Monochrome I was delighted to get this task, especially as we are still having a bit more hazy weather with muted sunlight…it could have been made for monochrome photography! Additionally, I knew just the … Continue reading