Wales - A trip with friends - 2022

Thinking back, it was the most dismissive of comments. Henry, who I was sat opposite, whilst on lunch break from shooting, was mentioning about his recent trips to Scotland with some friends, but, was expressing his frustration with the fact (for those that don’t know Henry) he was rushed. Henry does not move to the beat of anybody else’s drum, he is very much his own person, sort of sloth like, a loveable and innocent sloth. The throwaway comment was that of the sort of conversation we all have, usually when intoxicated going a little something like…. ‘Let’s meet up soon and plan a trip away with our cameras!’ (we’ve all heard that before).

This time the intention was to ACTUALLY do it! Within minutes, I was on the phone to one of my buddies Felix, who in his childlike nature I knew would be excited to explore and take photos with us. So that was that, it was set, we were doing a road trip to Wales, just the three of us, thick as thieves and full of excitement. I don’t quite remember the time frame between talking about it and actually doing it, but it wasn’t more than a month of planning. Anyway, Henry opted to drive (if you can call it that….) Felix would be a backseat passenger and myself, I would be a nervous passenger/driver and DJ - I’m truly guilty at the fact I live to play music for people - a full days driving with time to queue my favourite songs that nobody had probably heard before was almost too much to bear - there’s nothing better than helping people discover music they never knew existed.

Photographically speaking - I packed, Mamiya 7ii, Contax G1 a Pentax 645N and a Canon 8mm Camera. To me these seemed to pretty much cover me for three great ratios of photography and was also my first exploration into 8mm video. - I think it goes without saying when it comes to film stock, Portra 400 was my go too. This is pretty much the case for everything I shoot, generally because I print all of my work and Portra provides the best colours to work with.

So, we were on our way, Henry picking Felix up first and then myself, I stayed back in Surrey at my sisters house as it was close to where Henry lives and a lot more convenient then a 2 hour detour through east London. Our first stop was at a planned spot that Henry knew of, an old coach station, to our knowledge, abandoned and derelict on the very edge of the Wales border. Upon arrival, we were all a little hesitant to make our way inside this run down looking Gas/Coach station.

I opted to go ahead whilst Felix and Henry stayed in the car, as I walked around a little I spotted a friendly looking old man, I was a little hesitant to approach him as for some reason in my head I was about to become a character in some weird horror movie. As I made my way back to the car, Felix passed me by and made a B line for the mystery man. After moments stood there in anticipation watching Felix work his charm. We were waved over. 

Nigel. A wonderful small statured, Welsh man.Dressed in oily mechanics overalls and full of smiles. Nigel was loaded with information on all the people who had passed through with the intention of using his graveyard of old coaches for various reasons. He spoke with pride of his collection being used in short movies and by the BBC and then, spoke of the sadness of people who have vandalised them in his occasional absence . He walked us around for over 30 minutes, noting where to be careful and what to look out for, while relaying stories tied to individual vehicles or historical facts of the building.

After these pleasantries, we were left to our own devices. Exploring every corner of this space that seems to have stood still in time. Taking photos of eery doorways, patinaed vehicles and areas with beautiful beams of natural light spilling in to give life to a petrified space.

iPhone images

iPhone images

iPhone images

This was a wonderful yet surprisingly fortunate first day to our trip, usually, especially in southern England, places like these are protected by specialist security staff, gates, fences and dogs. It seemed the only threat here was time, the fact we didn’t have days to explore was a feeling I can remember and thinking I needed to document and explore every last thing I can before we had to shortly move on to make it to our airbnb before dark (thats a whole other -{stressful}- story).

So, after around an hour of being little detectives with our cameras, like we had stumbled upon some forensic lottery, we started to make our way back to the car. During my walking around, I couldn’t help but notice a gentleman (bearing in mind we’re in the middle of nowhere) appear from a little pathway, topless, with a lawnmower. I couldn’t help myself, it’s not in my nature to feel the most comfortable in asking strangers for photos, but I could clearly see this moment was too good to miss. I picked up a little jog as he disappeared behind a bush, so to make sure I was aligning with him when he appeared the other side…. as if by accident. This worked out and to my surprise I was greeted with a smile, not what I expected.

After depositing a few complimentary remarks about his tattoos (cringe) and asking kindly if I could take his portrait as he stood there mowing the roadside grass bank. He agreed, to which I asked his name. - ‘I’m Nigel too’ he muttered. I could see now the impending doom, the reality of a camera being shoved in his face was becoming a little overwhelming for him. So, I tried to make as little fuss as possible, then just in time the sun put its hat on and with that so did Nigel, I snapped two images of him as he stood there clutching the handle of his chugging machine. I knew at that moment pressing the shutter I had a shot I would remember for life, as I counted Nigel down from 3 to 1, on 1 from stern faced, Nigel tensed his neck, gritted his teeth and gave me a big grimacing smile. Sometimes, when taking a photo, the moment almost freezes in your mind when you see it happen. This was one of those moments, I couldn’t wait to get back to London already, just to get in the darkroom to print this image and to my delight, it didn’t disappoint. Thank you for that moment Nigel. 

Onwards, like little chickens we were clucking away, chuffed with our little exploration, a little scouts pack, just a bit older and probably less wiser, driving off away from the coach station, windows open, cigarettes lit and newly released Kurt Vile’s - Wounded Birds playing. If this was the best to come for our trip, I’m sure we’d all have taken it - little did we know, there were to be many more of these wonderful moments to come. :)

For the first couple of hours, it seemed we were just driving along roads that to most people would be rather generic and believe me, they were - much to my impatient nature, I wanted to see these vistas I had heard so much about. Finally, after around 3 hours, we were making an ascent up what seemed to be only a steep couple of roads, then out of nowhere, things started to drastically change in the landscape. 

After finding a little place to park, that wasn’t going to cause a pile up on the side of a country road, we hopped out of the car and onto foot to take in the first bit of visually pleasing landscape we were faced with.  An actual fact, we did pass a fantastic lake at that sat at the bottom of a beautiful valley, like something from Lord of the Rings, but unfortunately in my excitement I opted for an instagram story instead, much to my dismay, now realising I cannot post videos on this blog….. big sigh.

After snapping a few shots and rounding up Henry who had gone walk about on us, we jumped back into the bat mobile and were back on the road again.

A little google search later to see what was in the area and we found a beautiful beautiful estuary.  So that was the plan, on to the location that from what google images made seem an absolute Jurassic dream and true to form, it delivered. 

To be continued…….

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