Footpaths and Bridleways - New Perceptions

Before the advent of modern road surfaces most footpaths and bridleways would have had equal prominence and importance for the transportation and communication of residents and visitors alike. Even at the turn of the century only major routes had stable surface treatments. The condition of these lanes and tracks would have shifted on a day to day basis according to the amount of rain or the number of animals, wagons and pedestrians who had travelled that way.

The seasons would have played an important part, fallen boughs after merciless winds, deep set lanes choked with leaves, snow or mud. Or Springtime, heralding in new growth with hedgerows rich in blossoming flowers and long grasses. Summer heats filled with haze and cool relief under shady trees before Autumn falls with burnished colours and the fruits ripe and ready for picking.
And the people, Sunday seeing whole families picking their careful way to church, dressed in their finest cloth. Men with knives cutting and laying stock proof hedges, wagoners, with wagons piled high, shepherds with their dogs trying to stop the sheep escaping. The gentry riding arrogant hunters and tinkers with pots and pans, farmers returning after a good market day, staggering, awash and glowing with cider and ale. Nowadays much of this romance is gone.

Or did it really exist, except of course in our reminiscences, imagination and the writings of such as Hardy and Lawrence or the paintings by Turner and Constable?
Over the Winter of 1995/6 with my camera, I explored the paths around Chudleigh, which are in the main now used solely for pleasure and exercise. There are many remnants of bygone ages which only come out of hiding when the vegetation dies back. Some, are in themselves perplexing, how did they get there, what (if any) was their purpose?

By photographing them in isolation they may yet re-live in fertile imaginations taking on new mantles. Rusty machinery becomes almost self iconoclastic as it slowly metamorphoses into forms that may send future archaeologists or art historians into raptures of delight. Deep damp cavities under trees inspire budding Tolkiens into fantasies of homes and cities elves and hobgoblins. Forlorn structures, rotting barns? Desolate Victorian stations with ragged ghostly trains - never to arrive? The millenniums monuments reaching for the heavens - symbol of hollow dreams? And the land itself? Formed by footsteps, moulded by history, erroded by water, diverted and re-diverted by root and rock. Chudleigh Parish set amongst rolling landscape is easily past by, especially by those seeking the wilderness of nearby Dartmoor. In its sheltered valleys however, a wealth of rewards can be found - for those prepared to search.

For the technically interested all the work was made on the flimsiest, cheapest, camera available - a Russian Lubitel, supported by an equally flimsy second hand tripod from Newton Abbot market. The film was Ilford HP5+ 120 roll film, developed in Kodak HC110 and printed on Ilford multigrade paper.