Welcome to Book Club. Followers of this blog will have noticed a theme developing over the past few posts, and to be honest if you find historical dereliction a worthwhile subject for photography you will sooner or later come across…
In 1960 my grandfather was abducted by Communist secret police for speaking out against the state. Locked away in a correctional facility that didn’t exist, in a district that wasn’t on any maps, regular people who gave voice to popular opinion were methodically tortured and in some cases killed by civil servants in the name of democracy. Fast-forward 53 years and I’m standing in a cell with my camera, trying not to believe what a former inmate is trying to tell me.
The worst floods in 22 years have transformed historic Runnymede into a giant lake, complete with waterfowl and fools in small yellow kayaks. Many local residents are taking to the open seas in an effort to get the shopping in, and one or two just want to take their minds off the looming clean-up operation. I join the latter set, snatching a chance to paddle some public footpaths and see the area from a new perspective. Quick mooch over to The Runnymede Hotel? Be rude not to.
Long before the days of computers, designers of things had to adopt a somewhat manual, suck-it-and-see attitude. The process became more complicated when those things were nuclear bombs, and led to the construction of some rather specialised laboratories, including several outlandish buildings along the Suffolk coast. We place ourselves in the capable hands of the National Trust and spend a night on Europe’s largest shingle spit, all in the name of catching that special light …
I first heard about this abandoned village near an old quarry a couple of years ago and decided to add it to a road trip being planned at the time. Sadly when we arrived the place was overrun with film crew and trailers so we bailed on to our next destination, reasoning that if it’s so well known it’ll likely be trashed and boring. I forgot all about Örtelsbruch until a recent visit presented me with the chance for a return – and a headlong dive into the rabbit hole.
There’s nothing like an impromptu explore on the way to the airport, and the Sprungschanzenhaus in Frauenwald fits the bill nicely: a bit of history, zero security, and all the crumbling paint you can eat. OK, so it’s a bit trashed in places and if you’re not careful you can fall down eight flights of stairs or through an open window, but then that just adds to the charm of this wedge-shaped wonder.
I’m standing in a car park with three canoeists comparing folding saws and hatchets. One of them has a scythe. This wasn’t strictly what I expected when I posted a note on a forum, but my new found friends seem to know what they’re doing so I resolve to sit at the back of the class and treat this as a learning opportunity. Within the hour I’m playing limbo with a tree, struggling through 2m tall reeds, and looking at a motorway from underneath. You sure we’re still in Chertsey?
It’s roots firmly in the 19th century, this sleepy town just south of Berlin was not only home and HQ to German high command through both world wars, but also played a crucial role in grooming the Reich’s elite, the olympic sports teams, and housing up to 75,000 secretive Soviets during Russia’s occupation of Germany. Today only ruins remain, and with bunkers below as numerous as buildings above ground you’d be hard pushed to find a site more richly steeped in history.
A chanting barging smiling waving cider smoking laughing falling cheering stumbling whistling noodles hare hare krishna cider mandolin heaving rozzers chips dips spliffs lager lager lager shouting photos dancing mega mega lightning chanting shouting parking strip-search cider friends cider men in robes smoking cider cider kind of morning.