The corridors of Holland

In April 2015 i visited the Netherlands. Delft, Amsterdam, Keukenhof and all the places in between. I documented the narrow streets and the differences only an outsider would care to notice.


THE LOST ESTATE

The Solvay Chemical Plant in Warrington is situated on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in Lower Walton. Opened in 1948, the site became wholly owned by Solvay in 1992. The site produces Hydrogen Peroxide and is part of the global Peroxides Strategic Business Unit. It is a self proclaimed asset to the local community yet hides itself away from plain site beyond the suburbs and between the counties of Cheshire and Halton.

In the mid 50's the west end of Baronet road was built as a self contained suburbia for factory workers and families to live in close proximity to the plant, just 100 yards away from the main gates. The homes were regarded at the time as being well within the living standards of South Warrington and even better than the local privately owned homes, which meant that the higher ranked factory officers took pride in the street. However, since Solvay completed the acquisition of the site the road has fallen into dissaray as the company has become more interested in its seclusion in the area as opposed to it's integration, and the row of houses have been left mostly empty as the families of the employees have passed on.
The grounds are now strictly considered private property and even as I photographed the area I was being advised to leave the premises; the surrounding land of each home is now used as car parks for factory employees, a few houses were used to house temporary student workers but just one single home remains in use - an elderly lady whose husband worked at the plant from 1948-1986. Once she passes away, the entire street will be demolished

HMS Blackcap

The military definitely has a strong importance in my immediate family history. Most noteably the navy and the airforce, with both generations of my grandparents having been involved in the past two world wars either through industry or combat. During the last world war my Great Grandfather was part of the team that built the inconic Mosquito aircraft at RAF Swannington in Norflok, my grandfather worked on engine maintenance for the barracuda dive bombers at RNAS Merganser in Scotland, and more recently my uncle has been heavily involved in the RAF Burtonwood association projects. So it is safe to say that the airforce holds a special place in our family heritage. Which brings me to my most recent "urban exploration".

HMS Blackcap

RNAS Stretton, better known as Stretton Airfield and traditionally named HMS Blackcap lies just 3 miles from my house in Warrington, Cheshire and can clearly be seen on any aerial photograph, standing out amid the vast array of industrial estates, farmland and housing developments that have grown around it since it was commissioned in 1942 during the second world war. At the time, situated south-east from the adjacent Burtonwood American Air Base a mere ten miles away, its purpose as an RAF airfield was to protect the cities of Liverpool and Manchester from the Luftwaffe, with a total of three runways and numerous hangars the airfield was a station for 41 Fleet Air Arm squadrons as well as aircraft being flown to and from carriers in the Irish Sea.

The German air force however soon relinquished its threat and the airfield henceforth became an aircraft maintenance yard that housed a sizeable amount of civilians and remained a largely busy complex until the end of the war when it assisted Burtonwood in the extraction and disposal of American naval aircraft. At its peak, the airfield handled one third of all Fleet Air Arm Aircraft and all of its spare engines, and it continued to supply and serve the Royal Naval Air Service until its closure in 1958. As it currently stands, the station is merely concrete runways and taxi lanes, and only half of the original site still remains. In 1974 the now dominant M56 motorway cut straight through the middle of the site, flattening the north side which was then slowly turned into the bustling industrial estate that is now home to Eddie Stobart and co. Some of the original buildings are still scattered around the area, divided by storage facilities, roads and farmland that are slowly but surely hiding them from sight.

Since its closure the only permanent use of the track was as a motor oil testing circuit for Shell Motorsport Technology, who built their station on the south east side whilst renovating the airfield into a vehicle circuit, therefore being responsible for keeping the remaining airfields in relatively good condition until they themselves left the airfield behind with much of their base still intact. Including the garages and mechanics yard and office block which overlooked the start and finish line.

HMS Blackcap

The only wartime remains are two unused air raid shelters, one still left with its original bench and cushions, and a water reservoir to the south. Barracks and hangars remain but are offsite and now technically on private property. Hopefully the airfield will still stand for some time, but the threat of housing development is slowly consuming many of the remaining WWII airfields across the country; the recent demolition of Burtonwood airbase being no exception. Hardly anybody acknowledges the fact that Stretton Airfield is even still there, but perhaps that's a good thing. You can’t help but feel glad you can still, for the time being at least, stumble onto the same ground that once had some real purpose in our military history.

view full album here: http://www.rikcotterill.com/albums/rnas-stretton-hms-blackcap/

Daresbury Hall Estate

Daresbury Hall is a 35 acre site that stands merely 10 minutes away from where I live in the area of South Warrington yet it is something barely anyone talks about let alone visits in recent years. Daresbury village itself is of course known as being the birthplace of Lewis Carroll, and has always been the residency of many well-kept modern heritage mansions. It remains a proud part of the town of Warrington, Daresbury Hall estate once being the very centre of that pride. It was built back in 1759 where for most of its life it stood as a Georgian stately home.

For a time it was home to Lord Daresbury and his family as part of the original Greenall brewery family estate in it's prime, now known as The De Vere Group. Thereafter, during World War 2 the estate was converted to be used as a military hospital, and the Lewis Carroll unit once represented the areas local history through medical service. After the war the undoubted utility of the site meant that it was then sold to the national spastic’s society now known as 'scope' and used as both a care home and school, which is the reason as to why the estate can be seen to have many corresponding structures such as the row of 'digs' outhouse buildings and the caretakers bungalow which were evidently built not according to the dexterity of the original architecture as one might have hoped.
Many years after the spastic society had vacated the premises, it was sold to a millionaire bachelor for a sizeable fee and the manor returned to it's former use as a stately home. Sadly, due to poor maintenance following his death the buildings have fallen into a state of disrepair and the grounds are now uninhabitable. Word has it that the manor stood exactly as the owner had left it for some time, and no possessions were handed forward until the building was emptied following years of vandalism. To the present date Daresbury Hall has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II listed building and seeks planning permission to be restored, but upon visiting the site one can only imagine the mammoth task this would be. Of all the surrounding buildings, the majority would need demolishing. Especially the Lewis Carroll unit and the spastic society housing which have both become something of an eyesore.
The estate does have some hidden gems however, the swimming pool and changing rooms are still in surprisingly original condition , along with the garage to the rear where a finance company appears to have operated at one time under the name 'Rains & son'. A Ford Sierra courtesy car indicates at the very latest this was abandoned in the mid 80's. Daresbury Hall Estate has been subject to a series of 'ghost hunter' operations, with teams of enthusiasts and TV crews visiting the site to explore its apparent supernatural potential given it's history and undeniably eerie presence. There were certain parts that we were just not willing to explore, if only because due to recent safety measures many of the windows have been boarded up making it near impossible to navigate and therefore photograph. I will be revisiting this site very soon, as I feel I have only just scratched the surface. So watch this space!

Archive photograph of the manor in it's last known state of occupied use, March 2002:

Daresbury Hall 2002

Full album available at: www.rikcotterill.com/albums/daresbury-hall

Fujifilm X100T Incoming

Ridiculously excited to start using my fujifilm x100t. A documentary photographers dream. Strictly being treated as a Christmas present though. Patience..


x100t

House Of Suarez Presents: The Vogue Ball

Space Oddity Ball - Fashion, Art & Dance event held at Titanic Hotel, Stanley Dock Liverpool. Hosted and judged by House of Suarez. Filmed by Sky TV. Photo stills provided by myself for Purple Revolver:

SHOOT OUT MAGAZINE - Issue 01 launch - Magnet, Liverpool.

Catch my exclusive work on the front cover and throughout the first issue of Purple Revolver's 'Shoot Out' Magazine in most establishments for around Liverpool city centre. Launch night at club Magnet, Hardman Street and digital PDF of the final magazine layout:


Shoot Out

Peak District Photo Crawl

After working as a photo retoucher for a large online retail firm for 3 months I decided to get out and soak up some solitude in the peak district with just my camera and a map of Kinder Scout, the walk made famous by it's unique rock formations that scatter the landscape throughout the 12 mile route. Given that this is perhaps one of the more forgiving times of year to explore the area, I decided to go for a somewhat unconventional approach and start climbing at 8PM. This gave me time to pass fellow climbers and walkers as they finished their descent to the usual rewarding pint at the old nag's head pub situated in Edale village at the end of the route. What they missed however was the last of the sun as it beamed over the hills providing the last touch of true warmth before it slipped behind the horizon. After the initial sunset, the sandstone rock along the nearest peak almost glows red. This gave for a spectacularly 'un-english' feel to the landscape for a brief period of time.

I managed to get a good few hours of shooting done with the help of the tripod with the slow disappearance of available light. Then it became all to clear I was the only person around for about 4 miles, which is an eerie feeling when out in the moors, but all the same provided me with some true peace and quiet. So many hours of our day are spent crammed together whilst we all try to get from place to place going in the same direction as each other getting stuck in traffic jams, kept behind in places that give us no real sense of solemnity or freedom. Every once in a while we all need to just get away from it all. I couldn't help but wonder why I don't do this more often. At least whilst the temperature at this time of year permits such an extended period of time spent up in the hills to be able to truly enjoy it.

I admit that I didn't make a conscious decision to go wild camping, or sleep atall for that matter. I was already carrying around 3 stone worth of camera gear on my back, so any camping gear would have been impossible for me to carry. I was more than aware of the fact that I most likely wouldn't be able to sleep at the top of Kinder Scout, and this made it a little easier to cope with the wait til morning. I spend so much time surrounded by technology in my everyday life that I was happy to wait for the sun to come up and experience a different, more old fashioned method of passing time; to just sit and wait. My notes told me that the sun was to rise by 4.44AM but there was sufficient light for me to carry on safely across the peak by 4AM. So i grabbed my gear and trusty old map of the route and set off for a 6 hour hike across the peak to see what the land had to offer me and the camera.

After i figured out where I was on the map (by identifying the hills) I went about enjoying what would usually be a busy hiking route, all to myself with not a single person to get in the way of my photographs. A landscapers dream. I had a head start on the usual beginning of the walk, so presumed the hardest part might be over, but i was wrong. The terrain got rockier, steeper and less clear, but due to all of this the opportunity for great pictures came flooding through. I had never actually been to Kinder Scout before, only Castleton rocks, about 10 miles to the south of where I was. The rock formations are what made me want to come here, and I had researched Kinder only two nights prior to setting off with my camera. Some of the areas I encountered were truly wonderful to look at; a sort of mix between the grand canyon and the lake district.

This is the highest point in the East Midlands, and the views were a welcome treat as I carried along the peak to find more and more spots prompting me to stop and set up my tripod. Probably a good few dozen times. The numerous exposed eroded rocks that have stood the test of time were only too eager to show themselves to the camera. The highlights were the wool packs and Edale rocks toward the latter end of the peak, where they were scattered in their hundreds across the landscape. My thought at the time was to how many more of these must still be beneath the surface.

One of the highlights of the walk was when I stumbled upon the opening of Crowden Brook where the water runs down into the valley. During harsher conditions this would be a flowing waterfall, but I was able to walk right down to where it was a mere trickling stream, as if someone had just slightly left a tap running. No sound for miles but the faint wind tunneling through the pass, on the corner of the wool packs overlooking the cliff face and the valleys. This made the whole trip worthwhile, and was a great moment to sit back and enjoy so as to not waste any opportunity to remember it by. 

By the time I had finished the descent, I had walked 12 miles over 12 hours and found a pure water stream at the bottom, which was probably the most refreshing I had ever tasted and just in time as my bottle was empty. A very rewarding photo trip, and a much needed break from normality to see some truly magic parts of the Peak District. All photos in this blog are unedited cameraphone shots. Full dusk til dawn photo story coming on the main page very soon.

Anfield: the victims

In the blighted streets around Liverpool FC's Anfield stadium, residents are packing up and leaving their family homes, so the football club can have them demolished and expand their Main Stand. In the six months since the club scrapped their decade-long plan to build a new stadium on Stanley Park, and reverted to expanding Anfield instead, Liverpool city council has been seeking to buy these neighbours' homes, backed by the legal threat of compulsory purchase.

People's farewells are bitter, filled with anger and heartbreak at the area's dreadful decline and at the club for deepening the blight by buying up houses since the mid-1990s then leaving them empty. A few residents are refusing to move, holding out against the council, which begins negotiations with low offers. These homeowners believe they should be paid enough not only to buy a new house but to compensate for the years of dereliction, stagnation and decline, and crime, fires, vandalism, even murders which have despoiled the area. Their resentment is compounded by the fact that they are being forced to move so that Liverpool, and their relatively new US owner, Fenway Sports Group, can make more money.

On Lothair Road, which backs on to the Anfield Main Stand, one man who lived next door to a house Liverpool own and have left empty, shuttered – "tinned up" as the locals call it – shook his head. "I'm not moving out," he told the Guardian, "I've been driven out." -

Liverpool Street Corner

This project will be looking at the relationship between the past and the present within the rich social culture of Liverpool and it's surrounding communities in Merseyside. A place that has seen itself at the heart of Britain's identity in the north west from generation to generation. Following the decline of its docking industry in the post victorian-era, Liverpool has been through dramatic stages of both degeneration and progression. Yet in the wake of the 21st Century, outside of London it is now the UK's fastest growing economy. The Sunday Times published on 24 March 2013* that areas of Liverpool are in fact now rated among the best in the country for families. With such rich heritage on every street corner, my aim is to look behind the scenes of Merseyside, and into the heart of one of the strongest communities in Britain. Taking visual and audio accounts from members of the public in all areas of Liverpool to give a true to life account of what makes this City so special.

*http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/style/homes_and_gardens/best_places/article1233859.ece  

Maintenance work on the RFA Wave Ruler Fleet Support Tanker A390 at Birkenhead, Merseyside.

I first attempted to gain access to the shipping port at Birkenhead without success. Security levels were understandably high therefore I had to get creative and climb to the top of St.Mary's Church tower (Birkenhead Priory) which is currently under reconstruction. This was the only viable means to get a decent view of the work being done beyond the wall, and to get the images I wanted.
Shipbuilding started at Birkenhead, Merseyside in 1829. An iron works was initially established by William Laird in 1824, whose business eventually became Cammell Laird. Notable vessels built at Birkenhead include HMS Achilles, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Birkenhead, the pioneer submarine Resurgam, HMS Conqueror and thte HMS Prince of Wales. Birkenhead's dock system is part of the Port of Liverpool, operated by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company.

The A390 RFA Wave Ruler is a Wave-class fast fleet tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) of the United Kingdom tasked with providing fuel, food, fresh water, ammunition and other supplies to Royal Navy vessels around the world. Recently in 2010, Wave Ruler and the destroyer HMS York were deployed to the Falkland Islands during a period of increased tension between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the former's plans to begin drilling for oil in the seas surrounding the islands. Before the vessel returned to the Caribbean, where she distributed 160 tonnes of fresh water and 32,000 water purification tablets in St. Lucia after the effects of Hurricane Tomas.

The RFA Wave Ruler has been stationed at Cammell Laird, Birkenhead since November 2012 for heavy maintenance before being recommissioned by the RFA later this year.

Re-visiting Holt Hill

Revisiting Holt Hill - Re-creation of Edward Chambré Hardman's 1950 image 'Birth of the Ark Royal'. Holt Hill, Birkenhead, Merseyside. What became apparent is that Hardman had infact undergone a great deal of manipulation regarding the perspective of his image. The skyline is not in line with the actual position of the mersey on the horizon, therefore appearing much different in my image taken 63 years later.

Liverpool - The Black Pearl & New Brighton Beach

Documentary on the people and the city of Liverpool. FMP for Photojournalism & Documentary Photography at The University Of Gloucestershire.

Beginning as a clean-up project by artist Frank Lund and his friend and neighbour Major Mace, this pirate boat has been built out of items found on New Brighton's beach in Merseyside.

more info: http://tinyurl.com/b7pmm22