Thursday 23 November 2023

Rabbit shoot

Sometimes I'll do something a little different, and photograph actual humans, with a pulse and everything. I mean, they are literally everywhere. I might as well do something with them, right? 
So I decided to do a photoshoot with my good friend Alice, which makes it more of a collaboration, really. Alice does surreal photographs wearing this creepy rabbit mask, and I do the urban exploring. Let's combine the two into some kind of bonkers rooftop bonanza!

I'm not entirely sure if there's any "lore" to Alice's rabbit photo project, but I sort of envision it as a type of cryptid or SCP. The rabbit is a creature that people might see out of the corner of their eye. Blink and the rabbit is gone.

Obviously, in the real world it's just Alice in a mask, but it's fun to play with concepts.


And then, Alice took a photo of me wearing the rabbit head, and looking somewhat more sinister. I sort of look like an extra from that horror-themed Winnie the Pooh movie.
And just to wrap it all up, I'll include a few that I took without the mask.

Creativity and posing aside, sometimes it's good to go candid, and just photograph people enjoying the fuck out of life. 
For me, rooftopping also evokes a sort of "separate world" vibe, not so much in the literal sense, but more in line with the China Mieville novel, "the city and the city," where two distinct cities inhabit the same geographical space, but are depicted as separate based on the perception of the inhabitants. The rooftopper sees a succession of secret worlds, mere inches away from the public and their version of the town, completely oblivious that rooftoppers exist.
But it's a good hobby that costs nothing, harms nobody, brings about a great feeling of escapism, and combines an appreciation of the urban landscape with creative problem solving. It's also really therapeutic if you have a lot of stress, and just need to direct that energy somewhere. Some folks hit the gym. I hit the rooftops. I should probably see a therapist, but this is way more fun.

So my next blog will be a return to normality as I talk about an abandoned military thing with a dead horse inside for some reason. I think the one after that is a military thing too, but that one has a boat. It's going to be awesome!

If you want to see more of Alice and her lovably creepy rodent head, be sure to follow the Instagram where she posts those photos. If you want to stay up to date with my ridiculous shittery, give my social media thingies a follow. I'm active on Instagram, although with my reach awfully reduced, you'd never think that. I'm also active on Facebook, a happy part of that 15% that isn't a grumpy boomer, and you can find me on Vero, Reddit, Twitter and Threads for some reason.
Thanks for reading!

Sunday 19 November 2023

Cressage Pillboxes

I'm a little late for remembrance day, because I'm disorganised, but I'm continuing Loose-End Season with a war-related blog, having a random mooch over to Cressage to photograph the Pillboxes there. There are two hexagonal Pillboxes designed to defend the nearby bridge over the river Severn. Allegedly there are still a couple of machine gun placements hidden around there too, and I was going to postpone this blog until I could go back to find them.
But this entire area is rather prone to flooding and with the recent rainfall, the fields of Cressage could probably be described as an insufferable slimy mess (to quote my dating profile) so I could be waiting a while. Let's cover the pillboxes anyway.
With the outbreak of the second world war, there was a very real fear that a German invasion of the UK was imminent, and consequently the Brits introduced a plethora of precautions (Plethautions, anyone? No?)
Pillboxes were defensive structures that enabled someone to shoot at an approaching invader from relative safety. I imagine it would take a very skilled marksman to fire a bullet from a distance through a pillbox window and land a killing blow, given that they'd be trying to dodge bullets themselves. 

In regards to the Cressage pillbox, it's important to understand that canals and rivers also provided a natural defensive barrier, and with the River Severn winding mostly southward, it formed a stop line that could halt an enemy's advance, so naturally the powers-that-be wanted to guard it. It had the added importance of being in close proximity to Pitchford, where the Royal Family planned on relocating to if things got hairy.
The two pillboxes were built in 1940 and even though they sit alone today, the entire area would have had a lot more going for it. I have seen plans from the time, albeit I've seen photos of photos, so they weren't very clear, but they showed that the area was littered with road blocks, coiled barbed wire barriers and slit trenches. The bridge probably would have been rigged to blow up, too.

Slipping inside, we can see that there's really not much going on here. The Pillboxes are hexagonal, with the doors at the rear, and the windows at the front. It's all decoratively bleak, but then what were we expecting? I'm quite surprised that there's no graffiti.
Of course, we all know that in the event of German invasion, exactly how it would have played out is entirely hypothetical. With the invasion likely approaching from the South East, would the Severn in Shropshire been more of a retreating line of defence? Of course, this being the internet there's bound to be someone writing about how they alone know exactly what would have happened and that everyone else is wrong because they saw a video on Youtube about it, but the honest truth is, nobody knows, and speculative history is a playground for the imagination.
Hitler had his beady eye on Bridgnorth, wanting to make a base there. Whereas Churchill had Hindlip Hall in Worcestershire as a planned place to retreat to. So the West Midlands absolutely could have become quite a pivotal place. Alternative history is something I'm quite fond of pondering. The Battle of Britain was a monumentally crucial time in British history and it's interesting to think that things could have gone very differently. 
Here's the second pillbox, completely identical in design, but in a different field.
And of course, the interior is delightfully samey too, but I had to check it out anyway for the sake of completion.

This one has fuck loads of snails living in it. 

There's a birds nest too! 

But aside from that, I might as well have shown you the same building twice.

But the thing is, these pillboxes were obsolete before the war was even over. They'd never been put to the test and as the war chugged on, it became apparent that they never would be. As the invasion of Britain became less and less likely, these things were just left here to be taken back by nature.

I find war ruins particularly eerie given that in maybe thirty years there won't be anyone alive who remembers the world wars at all, but these little structural scars will outlive us. The Cressage Pillboxes are still there for anyone who fancies a quick mooch. They aren't going anywhere, except periodically underwater during flood season.

That's all I've got this time, but soon I'll be posting a Welsh thing on my travel blog, and then I'll be posting a rooftop photoshoot blog, because fuck it, I haven't done one in ages. 
In the meantime, be sure to follow my social media thingies to minimise your chances of missing a blog update. I'm active on Instagram, Facebook, Vero and sometimes Reddit. I also have a Twitter and a Threads account, but sometimes I forget about them, but you can follow me there for those rare moments where my bliss is interrupted by me remembering that they exist.
Thanks for reading!

Friday 17 November 2023

Indian Kiosk

One thing that caught my attention a while back was this totally out-of-place Indian building just sat casually minding its own business in a Shropshire field, totally out of the public gaze. And anyone who has followed this blog will know that I will always prioritise documenting the quirky stuff, even if it is something so tiny that I can stand right in the middle and touch four surfaces at the same time with my feet, outstretched hands, and scalp. I absolutely love that these eccentric hidden gems just exist, waiting to be found and enjoyed, even though they seemingly serve no purpose whatsoever beyond that of a field ornament. 

But what the fuck is this thing and why is it here?
The structure, despite it's rural setting, is in close-ish proximity to a stately home that was built in 1714 for a chap called Whitmore Acton, of the Acton Baronetcy whose name pops up all over Shropshire. Pretty much every generation has had some Acton in Parliament, and like any rich family, it's not without its scandal. It seems that for all his mansion-building and parliament-sitting, Whitmore Actons proudest achievement was keeping a married woman as a mistress while he was still in college. 

And then we have his descendants, Edward Acton who went to France and fell in love with a French girl. The girls mother decided to protect her from this creepy older man by sending her off to become a nun, but Edward was so fixated that he became a doctor, and then became chief medical advisor to all of the local convents just so that he could hunt her down. And then the sixth Baron, John Acton, married his thirteen-year-old niece when he was 64. So there you go. Would it be a real story about a rich family if there was no incest and noncery?

But the Actons didn't build this Indian thingie. While Whitmore did want to live in the nearby mansion with his widowed Aunt Hester, he instead set his sights on a house in Bridgnorth and subsequently abandoned this area, although it is believed that his own widow would live there following his death in 1732, up until her own death in 1759. The 1700s were when follies started becoming popular, and utterly bonkers garden features were all the rage, so I thought the Indian hut would be part of the estate then, but it turns out it wasn't.
Here's another angle for photo-padding. This one captures its delightfully silly sloped roof, which indicates a sort of not-too-bothered-about-perfectionism attitude. It also has a rear window, which is odd, because if we peek through the door we can see that it is completely obstructed by this water tank. 
I found out that a chap called Kennedy moved into the mansion in the late 1960s, allegedly finding it derelict and full of livestock. As such his new home was a work in progress that he decided to recreate in a marvelously eccentric way. The Indian structure was built in the 1970s to cover up this water tank. But there's a bit more to the story than him simply moving here and deciding to build something wacky to hide something ugly. 

See, down around Wolverhampton somewhere was another stately home, Tettenhall Wood Hall, built around 1833 for Theodosia Hinkes, who inherited that estate and consequently had a grand, castellated monstrosity built to the designs of a chap called Thomas Rickman, an architect who was an expert in Gothic architecture. That entire estate was decorated with fantastic architectural features and stained glass windows, but by the mid 20th Century some developer wankers had decided that they wanted to rip it all down in exchange for a bunch of dull, soulless houses. 
The occupant at the time, Ethel Hickman, made a deal that they could demolish the house six months after she passed away. To her credit, she did drag it out as long as she could, making it to 103 before passing away in 1969, whereupon her mansion was demolished.

But first, huge chunks of it were auctioned off. Numerous people swooped in to save the stained glass windows, but other parts of the structure were popular too. Kennedy showed on multiple occasions with a crowbar and a trailer, and just took what he could. 

It seems that the Indian shack was part of that whole rescue mission, and even though I can't find any photo evidence of that, not far away from the Indian structure is this curiously pointless monument.

And when I say "Pointless," I mean it in the sense that monuments are typically erected to commemorate something, whereas this one isn't. Its just there, sticking out of the ground collecting bird droppings. But that wasn't always the case. Prior to it being bundled into a trailer and taken to Shropshire, this was a fountain at Tettenhall Wood House, and I've managed to find an old photo of it.
(Image not mine, obviously)

Many other eccentric structures now decorate the former not-a-home of Whitmore Acton, and it's said that they're made almost entirely out of bits pilfered from Tettenhall prior to its demolition. Some of these can actually be seen from the road. He built a little summer house in the garden, and a castellated tractor shed. 

And why the fuck not? He sounds like a brilliant guy, and I'm all for saving cool stuff if it's only going to get destroyed. 

But as if decorating his land with bonkers buildings isn't eccentric enough, Kennedy was best known for constructing a ginormous medieval trebuchet which he used primarily to hurl cars across his fields, partly for an event to raise money for a new organ at the local church, but mostly for fun, let's be honest. He could easily have got them a new organ with the money that he spent building the trebuchet, but it's way more fun this way. 
Here's a video of it.

(Footage not mine, obviously)

But unfortunately in 2001 Kennedy did come under fire from the RSPCA when it came to light that he was also throwing dead cows and dead horses, which seems a little outside of their sphere of dominion. I mean, the animals are already dead. There's plenty of other things that need their attention. I think they said it was symbolic of treating animals as disposable playthings, or something, so I do kinda see their point. 
To his credit they did use trebuchets to weaponise dead livestock in the medieval times, so he clearly just wanted to replicate the era authentically. But on the subject, Kennedy said "Not all of them burst on impact but when they do, the local kids love paddling in the guts," which is just such an entertaining response.
It is said that the trebuchet rotted and had to be disposed of back in 2006, so sadly there are no more displays of cars being hurled across vast empty fields. Kennedy himself seems to have retired to smaller digs, leaving the estate to his children, but the quirky architecture remains.

The folly in their garden is incorporated into the wall, so it can be glimpsed from the outside. And then just up from that there's this castellated tractor shed.

And really, I'm just glad that this stuff exists. Every time someone quirky and creative unleashes something bonkers or unconventional into the world, the world gets slightly less shit. And from a heritage perspective, all of this is supposedly rescued from a fantastic mansion that no longer exists. It would have all been destroyed in 1969 if it hadn't been rescued. Kennedy can't take the credit for rescuing all of it, because he wasn't the only person there with itchy fingers, but he has definitely made a little far-flung corner of Shropshire unique.
My next blogs will be carrying on Loose-End Season with some pillboxes, so that we can cover some military epicness, and then I'm doing something small and Welsh on my travel blog
In the meantime, the best way to get blog updates is by following my social media. I'm active on Instagram, Vero, Facebook, and Reddit. I also have Threads and Twitter, but I forget about those all the time.
Thanks for reading!

Sunday 12 November 2023

House with a trampoline

Today I'm continuing "Loose End Season" after a brief jolly up north looking at awesome stuff on the travel blog. I'm focusing a lot on that one lately, and I've got some great stuff coming up, but I also have a lot of stuff that's local to me that isn't particularly exciting that I've been quietly ignoring until there's too much clutter on my map for me to justify not visiting. This one is an admittedly dull-looking house, so I'm not exactly ecstatic. There is, simply put, no story to be had here. I'll never understand why people post houses on the urbex groups and say "I can't find the history of this place." Well of course you can't. This place was lived in by an ordinary bunch of people, and it's probably empty because someone died. There's no stellar saga of derring-do. Unfortunately that means there's nothing for me to prattle about, not that it will stop me trying. Meanwhile, if you do like actual history, then check out my travel blog. I just did a big gorgeous abandoned synagogue, and it was awesome. 

If you just want a quick mooch around a trashed abandoned house and can't be bothered to just trash your own house and look at that, then I'm here for you too.

Curiously in the garden we have the top of a vehicle.

And here's the titular trampoline, looking delightfully ominous in a sea of nettles. It's falling apart but probably has a few more bounces left in it for those who want to take the risk. Personally I don't. 

I say "titular trampoline," in regards to this blog, because I don't know what the wider urbex scene call this place. Probably something unimaginative like "Curtains Manor" or something. Anyway,let's slip inside the house! 
As I've mentioned countless times before, as intriguing and mysterious as abandoned houses are, they are usually abandoned due to a former occupant dying. Visiting them is a bit like visiting a memorial to their entire life, and as such abandoned houses should be treated with the deepest of respect.
Alas, they never are. That's where this whole urbex thing falls down, of course. Take nothing but pictures, my arse! There's a reason why people will ignore a grand, empty mansion with a fantastic history but scream like they're being castrated with a cheese grater if you won't hand over the location of a fully furnished soggy cottage. Houses are mainly only popular with urbexers because they're a minimum effort way to make a quick buck on Ebay. There's not really much I can do to stop that. But I can at least make sure I'm not part of the problem.

 The first thing we see when we slip inside is this rather garish kitchen area.
One thing I've learned is never look in the fridge of an abandoned house. It's tempting, but everyone always regrets it.

Following on from the kitchen is this rather trashed room with a smashed window, a creepy curtain and a filing cabinet for some reason. The place was a farm, so I guess there is the business aspect to consider.
There's a fireplace which still has some fire wood and the poker thingie, which is great. I think I've said it before, but I always get nostalgic about fireplaces, because the house I grew up in had a big mighty one, and nowhere I've ever lived as an adult has ever had one. I guess that drug den in Oswestry where I sofa-surfed for a few months when I was homeless did have a fire, but that was in the backyard whenever it came time for other residents to dispose of "evidence," so it doesn't count. 
I'm trying to look at the clutter in here to get an idea of how long this place has been empty for. Everything looks disappointingly modern. I think an abandoned house is much cooler when everything in it is an artifact from at least as far back as the 1980s. People use the term "time capsule" when describing a furnished abandoned house, even if it was abandoned less than a decade ago, and to me that just seems silly. Let's take a step back in time to see how people lived in the far flung era of... 2014!

Shit, that's when I started this blog. I can't believe it's been that long. I guess I'm not going to grow up, after all.

This place isn't really furnished. All the furniture has gone, and it looks like some attempt was made to pack up everything else, but then it was stopped and the house was subsequently looted.
I like this fireplace. 

 I've censored the names on this school book, but it's for GCSE Maths, which would suggest that the children that lived here at least made it to their mid-late teenage years before the house was left.

But now onto the best part of any abandoned building, the bathroom!

Shit, is that a drill? Well I guess that's one way to unblock the loo.
Still in better condition than the toilets in some pubs and clubs. 

 It's time to slip upstairs.
I do like the colour scheme here. It's very quaint and homely. 

 At the top of the stairs, we have three doors. The parents had one room, and their children, a boy and a girl, had the others.

This adds to the intrigue about this place. Usually abandoned houses were occupied by some old person who passed away, and they had nobody to take care of their things. This place was lived in by a family. Surely someone still exists who should be taking care of it.
We'll start with the adults bedroom, which is cluttered with half-packed boxes and half-ransacked bits and bobs. 
Again, love the fireplace. 

There are toys that I assume belonged to the girl that lived here. 

 Moving on to the boys bedroom...
Likewise with the other room, it's all semi-packed but largely looted. Stuff has been strewn everywhere. 
There's still a sports trophy and a picture above the mantelpiece, which is nice. 

I absolutely fucking love that there are still darts in the dartboard. These were the former occupants last throws, preserved here for years after he left. 
Stuck to the ceiling are a bunch of maps of skiing trails, which indicates that this family are well-traveled and pretty active.

And over on the wall is a cycling poster, indicating that they had their fingers in quite a few sporty pies, aside from the skiing. There's a farm poster, which makes sense. This is a farm, after all. And there's a calendar dated 2010.
So yeah, it's not really old enough to be considered a time capsule, but it's still been empty long enough for me to wonder why the fuck nobody has been to clear it all up. 

The kid liked painting model aircraft. 
But underneath that we have action figures from Spider-Man 2! This movie came out in 2004. 
We have another calendar dated 2013. Why does this kid have two calendars for different years???
But hang on, what's this? 
Why is this drawing of Optimus Prime labeled Megatron??? That's practically blasphemy.
Here's a doodle from 2012, which is quite adorable.

There's a collection of football cards.

 And look! Old money! Guest starring my friends hand. 

Onto the girls room!

I love the colour scheme in this room. It sort of reminds me of bubblegum-flavoured sweets. It's by far the  most interesting room in the building, aesthetically speaking.
I'm pretty sure the girl was younger than the boy, purely based on the age demographic of the toys, and the fact that the boy had the bigger room with the double bed. But this playset, while aimed at a younger child, came out in 1988. I love vintage toys, but I think it's great that this one, clearly handed down to the girl from a previous owner, continued getting played with.

All these old doodles are pretty adorable. 

The door to this room is positively slathered in stickers, and it's mostly skiing related, with a few cycle ones thrown in for good measure.
Evidently this family was pretty damn active, and I'm kinda envious. 

But that's it for the house, really. There's one last stop, and that's the barn!
I think I actually like it more than the house. 

And here we have a dead sheep. In fact we have pretty much the entire skeleton strewn among the floor of the barn. No doubt it came in here and died, and then its body was ripped apart by other animals.

So that's all I've got. The house is tiny and rural, and quite frankly as far as urbex goes it's a bit shit. Even so, I can't help but find it endearing, with its colour scheme, the leftover trinkets, and the clues about the people who once inhabited it. I'm not saying it's good, just that I like it. These two things rarely coincide. 
It hasn't got much going for it, but it does have character. 

My next two blogs will be continuing "Loose End Season" with a folly, and then heading out to Wales on the travel one. They'll be pretty small but I'm looking forward to it. 
In the meantime, if this is the first time you've ever seen my blog then I promise you, I do better places and better write-ups, so stick around. To get regular-ish updates, try your luck with the algorithmic hellscapes that are Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Threads, and the less-evil ones, Vero and Reddit.
Thanks for reading!