To visit the enchanting, curious, lonely St Thomas à Becket Church in Fairfield, is to travel back many centuries and deep into Romney Marsh, perhaps the remotest part of Kent.
My most recent journey there (13 November 2019) was on a bright, clear morning with just the occasional wispy high cloud interrupting constant sunshine. When I entered the gate to the field where the church stands proud but very much alone, the wind was still, it was a comfortable 10-11 degrees and there was no sound to be heard other than the squelch of soft soil underfoot.
Compare this to my previous visit (5 December 2018) which was altogether more threatening and bleak. Then, it was dark and cold, with a wind-chill demanding winter layers, a silly-looking but essential woolly hat and hand-warmers inside thick gloves. And while it was quiet in the sense of no passing traffic or other people, it was noisier from the gusting wind – which really made me feel ‘out there’ in the open wilderness, the sound of gripping mud and saturated ground under my wellies, and sheep grazing and ‘baa’ing’ across the field and between the waterways surrounding the church.
You might wonder why I would return to a place I’d already photographed, and especially somewhere so remote, flat and susceptible to changeable, tricky conditions. Well, apart from the history1 and the mindfulness these sort of locations give me, the reason is shown in the two photographs attached.
In the first image, I tried to capture the daylight darkness and the wind in the cloud movement and disturbed water. Also, the barren, exposed nature of Romney Marsh when the weather turns against. In the second more recent picture, I wanted to capture the other side of the Marsh; a welcoming place for long walks and a feeling of fresh air and freedom. A less dreary, more romantic English countryside. (I appreciate, of course, that this opposite viewpoint would have probably been better captured on an equivalent bright, sunny, wispy-cloud day in the summer but sadly I didn’t get the opportunity to visit then. I will, though, return again in the summer of 2020).
I often return to scenes I’ve previously photographed. Capturing alternative, ideally opposing weather and seasonal conditions is my primary reason. Re-connecting with the history, geography and geology of some places is another. Additionally, I enjoy the task of securing a pictorial record of a scene that maybe will prove of some small benefit to viewers many years from now. But perhaps the biggest attraction for me is the peace I enjoy, particularly in landscapes, woodlands, seaside and waterside places that I manage to have to myself. Visiting St Thomas à Becket Church gives me all of these benefits, whatever the conditions.
I’ll be sure to share with you other stories and thoughts about venues across Kent and South East England in coming blogs.