Sunday, 15 April 2012

These Ancient Minutes

There's something so fascinating - and yet poignant - about crumbling, abandoned cottages. I'm not thinking of modern homes that have been left temporarily empty, but the kind of former dwellings found dotted throughout the Welsh hills – built of local stone and slate, with fallen roofs and only half the walls remaining. They are an enigmatic feature of the landscape; the colours melting into the woods and valleys; the moss furred across steps and boulders alike. However, they are not just a part of the surroundings – much as they look like they might have sprung up from the grass. They are ‘man made’ creations, even though the men who created them have since withered away like curled leaves. These places were once homes, filled with fire, food, family. They would have been inhabited by hill sheep farmers - meaning plenty of sheep, with chickens scratching around too. The roof with missing sections like bite-marks could have saved the inhabitants from storms and April showers. The ground under my boots was once stepped on by other feet. I'll never know exactly what happened in these cottages, or who lived there, and so I can imagine anything.

The two cottage ruins pictured are family favourites to explore when visiting the Welsh coast. They sit just off a road that tapers to a waterfall with natural swimming spots and a rocky plateau for picnics. We hopped out of the car on the way back, and my brother climbed through gaps, scampered around and discovered an incredible stone wheel propped up inside one building. He soon grew impatient waiting, and complained that we were taking too many photos – but it was hard to stop when every frame and angle caught something new. I repeatedly asked my dad (chief photographer of the afternoon) whether he had caught the beam stretching from one wall to the other, or the window frame with a view of gorse beyond. The whole place might have been corroded, broken and dilapidated, but ultimately it was beautiful.

‘Beautiful’ is a strange word though. It's often associated with the fresh, the youthful, the vibrantly alive – everything which an abandoned home is not. But ruins such as these are beautiful in the same way as a skeleton leaf: both are delicate remnants of the past. Maybe that's why photography movements such as ‘Urbex’ (urban exploration) are so popular. Places where people like us once lived or worked or stayed are immensely compelling. Stately homes and castles are popular tourist spots (I’m an avid National Trust fan myself), but they are much more managed and domestic – someone has already researched the history and preserved the contents. The truly ‘abandoned’ interiors (admittedly ones where usually the only way to access them is to break in) are more tantalising. They are wilder, and present a challenge. We must discover them for ourselves. Deserted factories and closed down tube stations are the imprints of previous years that are still left somewhere, hidden beyond locked doors and collapsed tunnel-ways. I like to think of them as ‘pockets of the past’ – ones that represent a very personal history of those who went before.

In the instance of this tiny former settlement, my family and I were merely observers – playing ‘tourist’ while exploring the ruins and taking photos – and could separate ourselves from the decay that such places represent. Who knows what happened to the community there? There is no plaque detailing the history of inhabitants, or the reasons that the walls are now filled with birdsong rather than voices. The cottages half-remain. The place itself occupies some kind of limbo between what was, and what now is; a space between past and present.
I clambered among the rubbish left behind by landowners and previous visitors: the rusting farm machinery, barbed wire, the plastic bags, the cans and broken beer bottles. That’s just sediment though, the scummy surface. It's the rocks that built the house that matter. Their tumbling is a form of entropy, but they are also a symbol of the brilliance of human endeavour and resilience.

Everything I'm wearing (including the boots) came from various charity shops – ranging from much-visited local ones to far-flung Oxfams in London. The skirt is ‘See by Chloe’, which was bought recently for £7. The only exception is the belt which was my grandma's - from her girl guide's uniform.

The title is part of a line taken from one of Dylan Thomas' poems. 


100%soie said...

as always, you look stunning and your pictures are like art. I just love what you do, each post is a new dream for us, thank you !

madhatter said...

Wow lovely pictures and great outfit!

YOu are such a great writer!

love your blog<3

Take a peak at my blog<3

Project Rattlebag


Christobel Amelia Hastings said...

I completely agree that there is far more beauty in unconventional places. I spent my childhood exploring a deserted workhouse one field away from my house. The way nature had engulfed it always reminded me in a sense of how we intrude upon the landscape. Seeing imprints of mankind from the past was like living in a fictional tale. Your outfit ties in beautifully with the surroundings.

Closet Fashionista said...

Ooh I LOOOOVE this outfit! Such perfection :)
As for the actual writing....
When we go to a beach in Rhode Island over the summer there is a stone house that is the same way, it's so cool!

Anonymous said...

You have such a distinct voice in all your posts Roz - wise and passionate - and it is in posts such as these where your honed language skills and your admirable articulation only add to the message. This subject matte is one I can easily relate to as a lifetime of holidaying in Cornwall has resulted in many explorations of crumbling tin mines, of which most were abandoned quite suddenly when the industry in the region collapsed. There is a wonderful mystery to them always, and what were once man-made structures intruding onto the natural beauty have become woven into the landscape as the grass and flowers now fills the gaps where stone once stood.

I often feel now that I never comment on the style element of the post but I must say the Chloe skirt is lovely - I am very jealous! The Chelsea boots look very comfortable and practical too - I ordered a pair from Clarks in October but they were unfortunately far too wide for my ankles which was a shame because they were a lovely chocolate brown leather with a simple pattern and I known they would have been a very versatile pair of footwear to have on hand. Alas, it was not to be, but I still live in hope of finding the perfect pair!

Hope you are well and have had both a restful and productive break,

Alexandra xx

Katrina said...

I really enjoyed this post. Am a big lover of ancient domestic dwellings which have descended in to ruin. Especially if i have the chance to discover them myself! However your photos are beautiful too. I love everything about them - the light, the styling of the clothes, and the setting of course.


Jean at said...

On the surface you look straight out of an upscale fashion shoot; any top magazine could publish them today. But beyond that is your commentary. I remember visiting an old abandoned home in the country, mentally writing an entire story about the former inhabitants. It's awe inspiring and humbling, a reminder of our own fragile momentary existence.

May as well get dressed as we have our moment, I suppose!

Willow said...

There's such beautiful light in those photos - I love the effect of the shadows in the last one.
Since I was young I loved the way the older things looked: rust, worn leather, and like in this beautiful place - abandoned cottages, old ruins of where people used to live.

I love being able to wonder about something's history - like when I have a vintage piece or something from a charity shop: you can be left to imagine the life that piece had before. Putting on a lace vintage wedding dress and wondering who wore it, finding a vintage watch with names and dates engraved on the back. Once I found a transport ticket number or something in a leather vintage clutch that I found at a second hand store, and found myself thinking about who it belonged to.
New things don't have that, but I guess with new things you can start making the history.

Gorgeous photos - you look absolutely stunning! I love the colours of the outfit and especially love those boots.
Looking forward to reading more.

- Willow

Yen said...

These pictures are picturesque. It's everything that I imagine when it comes to English countryside really.

Also, if you don't mind at all, would you do me a favor by making a blog post recommending your favorite books/poems? It'd be great.
Thank you so much.

Toshiko Shek said...

roz, i love the location of this shoot. the photos are beautiful and story-telling. you and your outfit are gorgeous!

daisymay aka Chantele said...

Beutiful shots! Should have guessed it was Wales! My little home has lots of places like this to explore! You found a very nice spot.
Daisy Dayz
My Hub Pages

lola said...

Stunning photos, I like not only your outfit and the way you styled it but also location...amazing place xx

Kelly-Marie said...

Magical! Pondering over the history of places like this is what gives rural areas so much magic and mystery. I can't believe how wonderful your Welsh location sounds. I was just saying to my boyfriend how much I want to visit, now you have inspired me even more to get it organised.

SymbioticLife said...

Your style choices are always so unexpected but always so beautiful. I love ruins as you describe them. The untouched and unmanaged ones are so full of the romantic ideals of those who lived, loved, and died there.

Fashionwise, I'm in love right now with the sage color of your shirt and the pairing of the browns with the black - again, unexpected but I love it. Beautiful as always!

Eliza said...

Great post! I'm fascinated by ruins. Here's my urban exploration blog:

The Foolish Aesthete said...

What an enchanting place and post! Gamboling around ruins is a favorite activity which I rarely get to engage in any more (California is so "new" by comparison, but has its own beauty). Between you and your dad, you captured the essence of the mossy slate, cracked timbers, and whispers of past lives. And that last photo is superb -- that magical intersection of light, subject, and an eye to capture it all.

That's such a beautiful phrase from Dylan Thomas. -- Jenny xxx

Tela de Araña said...

Very beautiful locations.
... I also love british castles... they are not usually photographied in fashion shots, are they?

Congratulations for your recent work. The prints by CT are espectacular and also is your LFW outfit!!!

Katherines Corner said...

What a lovely post. You look wonderful , the perfect setting for such beautiful photography as well. I enjoyed my visit to your wonderful blog. I am happily following you now.

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

your see by chloe skirt was an absolute steal! i imagine it can be worn with so many things in your wardrobe because of its neutral hue.

i love abandoned cottages, too. the last one i stumbled upon was in the british virgin islands during one of our many hiking adventures.

PinaR said...

Wow Love your pics & your Outfit ..



MarieAntoinette said...

Love this.!
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Ioana-Carmen said...

Sweetie I`m watching your blog for a while! Maybe you wanna follow each other? just announce me :X

América said...

I like your style! Great post and great blog!

SabinePsynopsis said...

What an interesting observation -It's true, we can perceive beauty in the young, fresh and alive just as much as in the slightly decrepit and crumbled, seeing it as romantic...
Did you know about the 'colour-scheme' of the house - the clothes match perfectly! (and I don't need to say that you do look amazing)


Lela said...

Incredibly gorgeous.

Artistic as ever. Keep it up! :)

Fashion Blog - Lela London

Aliya said...

Your pictures are always so stunning!! Your shirt is a thing of beautfy. Where's it from?

x Aliya

styleeast said...

I think that 'beautiful' is in the eye of the beholder. In my view these crumbling ruins are definitely worthy of the term. My idea of beauty is something which on the surface may not fit the bill but when you look a little closer it makes you smile and makes you want to see more - like a little bit of green amongst the ruins. Gorgeous photos as ever, and you're looking lovely as always too! Hope to catch up again soon xx

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