It was a bleak, cold day in January when my dad and I decided to venture out in the hope of finding some fragments of Teesdale’s ancient past. Guided by the information in the fantastic book Prehistoric Rock Art of County Durham, Swaledale and Wensleydale written by Stan Beckensall and Tim Laurie we soon arrived at a small farm-house high above Hury Reservoir in Baldersdale. With the farmers kind permission and some friendly directions we made our way across the iron-hard frozen ground towards a small intake field where we were told our quarry would be. But it wasn’t until we where practically standing on top of it that we could see the earth fast stone we were looking for. It was probably around 5,000 years ago when someone decided to carve upon this piece of rough gritstone, and the weight of those centuries seemed to have pushed the boulder deeper into the marshy ground, so that now it’s broad flat surface barely showed above the sheep cropped turf. Gently we lifted off some of the frozen grass and sheep dung which had accumulated on the surface to reveal the beautiful design of cups and rings linked by deep grooves which decorated its coarse surface.
After spending some time admiring and photographing the boulder we explored a bit more of the field to discover the other two cup marked stones which it was said to contain. But as is often the case when out in the hills at this time of year what little light quality there was quickly started to drop and with it the temperature. A few snow flakes had begun to fall as we got back into the car, and with the heater on full to try and thaw out our frozen limbs we drove home pondering the mystery of the carvings and where next to explore.
The photograph was taken with my Rolleicord TLR with hand held fill in flash. The film was Fomapan 100 which I developed in Pyrocat HD 1+1+100 for 12 minutes and the Lith printed on expired Agfa Brovia Grade 5 paper.
So there the boulder sits, left by a glacier thousands of years ago, he has withstood the wind and rain while all round the soft limestone has slowly dissolved away leaving him standing on his rocky pedestal. I first stumbled across this stone while wandering across the moor only to rediscover him once again this summer fifteen years later. But in the life span of this rock fifteen years is just a blink of his gritstone eye, he sees the world in terms of geomorphology, the literal evolution of the landscape over millennia, not by the ticking of a clock. What is a mere decade and a half compared to the passing of an ice age? My first photograph failed to deliver due to a light leak in my camera, this time things went much better but I’m sure I will return again for a third attempt maybe in another fifteen years, and he will still be there waiting for me.
The photograph was taken with my DIY Ensign 820 Wide Angle camera with Fomapan 100 film developed in 510 Pyro, I then contact printed it on expired vintage Agfa Brovira grade 5 paper.
It was a few months ago a friend and fellow photographer Andrew Bartram of https://andrewbartram.wordpress.com/ just so happened to be working up North and had a morning free to spend roaming around my local fell with a camera and me as his guide. We both share a love of old sheds and barns and were soon absorbed by the numerous chicken shacks and pigeon crees which are scattered across the moor. I was drawn to one shed in particular, the dull overcast weather seemed to lend a sombre mood to it making it’s dirty old white window frames glimmer against its tarred blackened wood.
It took me a while to get round to processing my negatives, in the end I decided to develop them in Caffenol CL the low sodium long stand recipe from the Caffenol Bible which works very well with the Fomapan Classic 100 5×4 film I tend to use. The results seemed worthy enough to print with the last few sheets of my expired Kodak Bromide Grade 2 paper, but I think it may be a negative I will return to.