I hope that if I ever get shot I’ll take it stoically like Bruce Willis, dig the bullet out and carry on but I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out exactly how I’d react to being shot at 4am on an adventure; I’m not a morning person. We were waiting to see if we’d missed our favourite gunman’s patrol window or not but as we arrived at our location at the precise moment of dawn, we still took a moment to enjoy it before hiding the car.
It was a pretty tense and silent hike up the hill once we’d come away from the road and every rustle in the bushes had the four of us snapping to attention like meerkats. Still, once we’d actually made it, there would be a good few places to post lookouts from and the relief and awe I felt on arriving was an interesting mix! We came in the back way and so I didn’t get to see ‘the famous shot’ until we made our way to the front, startling a few deer from the mist. When I eventually raised my camera and began watching through the screen, it felt as though I was watching a period drama or ghost story begin. This is Chateau Miranda…
‘the famous shot’
As we set up under the shelter of the roof, I guessed correctly that it had been a school once; it looked like Hogwarts at the end of book seven- with chairs, broken desks and messages scrawled across the disintegrating walls. Seeing the detritus of cookie-cutter mass-order plastic furniture strewn about, it was an odd feeling to remember that should nature be allowed to take its course, the stone and plaster and paint would crumble into rubble before the plastic looked any older. Sadly, nature will not be allowed to do anything of the sort as Chateau Miranda has been under threat of demolishment for a long time and every year people have said “this is the year”. Hence its bucket-list status for my companions!
James and Tom had some specific shots they wanted to get while Jade modelled, so I had a chance to wander around on my own and oddly enough, I was content to just soak up the atmosphere. In the past, I’ve sat there clicking away to get pictures but recently realised I hadn’t actually seen what I was photographing- I’d only photographed it. I got my camera out for just a couple of shots- the Gormenghast-like outside and the panoramic view from the top with its fairytale castle!
The new castle is a replica of Miranda- they are owned by the same person. Tom is a far better photographer than me and got this view from the top and a shot of the corridors inside…
(photo by Magpie Tommy)
(photo by Magpie Tommy)
As Jade and James got into their stride, outfits rained around us and were draped over chairs and framework- a very convenient clothes rail! The only noises I could hear other than birdsong were the footstep tapping and camera clicking from their photoshoot, which had become background noise until more footsteps came from another direction…
Most urbexers I know are very good at making themselves disappear and so we scooped up the obvious clothes and squeezed up against walls, waiting to see if it was surveyors, the police or our gun-toting friend. Of course it was another group of urbexers who were about as startled to see us emerging as we were to have heard them! We shared security warnings and went our separate ways. It was barely mid-morning and yet as we left the castle grounds for another mad scramble down the hill, it began to feel as though it was yesterday. Another time, another world.
After swinging by a supermarket for lunch ingredients, we drove out into the country to visit a greenhouse and an impaled car.
Some of the stranger places I’ve visited have been right in the centre of the action- this derelict greenhouse was attached to an inhabited house right by a busy road. To get there, we had to run through a woodland, keeping to the shadows before entering through a side door, being very careful not to slice ourselves on the glass which was everywhere! It was so hot inside- a contrast to our chilly misty morning on the edge of France.
It was smaller inside than it looked as tendrils of ivy and a carpet of untamed plants reached upward toward the sunlight. I couldn’t tell whether the windows had been made by vandals in the moment-long crash of a thrown stone, or the long relentless push of the plants inside growing larger over time.
This place felt the most peaceful of all the locations on our tour. The cooling tower was still but there was a tension there- things had been killed inside the structure. Though the greenhouse was right next to a road, the noise barely penetrated and there was nothing inside that suggested a person other than ourselves was going to come through. There was barely any plastic- just green and rust, glass and stone.
Maybe if someone goes to sleep here, they’d find ivy in their hair, feel very peaceful and soon become part of the greenhouse… 😛
I didn’t want to move on- it was nice there but my team promised me I’d get very excited about the next location. They knew me too well…
“Cars bore me- they have too much to do and too little to say, but then one spoke to me and it spoke a tree…”
This little clearing full of trees-y cars and metal was in the middle of a woodland close to another road! I got scratched by brambles and eaten alive by mosquitoes but it was worth it- even the fist-sized welts mosquitoes give me. I didn’t stay as long as the others as but posed for a photo or two (still some of my favourite pictures of me to date). To think that a full-grown tree could have forced its way out through a car! To think that neither have been touched for years- that they were just allowed to sit here in peace.; green and rust.
I always go to see the wildlife photography exhibition at the Natural History Museum and I remember one year photographer Pal Hermansen documented a place like this and the wildlife that lived within. I would have loved to set up a hide and spend a year filming there! Certainly I’ll go back one day and see what else the car has to say…
P.S. This is Pal Hermanssen’s website. I wish he’d posted more pictures from the car but his other work is gorgeous too.
The car that spoke a squirrel! 😉