At the moment it feels like that whenever it snows, it follows that I have a journey to make across the Pennines, and this usually means the A66, a road which has snow gates to prevent traffic from using it when the weather really deteriorates. I recall a journey nearly 20 years ago before the gates were in regular use when a lorry jacknifing in front of me resulted in the road being closed and the police turning me back the way I had come to take a detour which added another 90 minutes to my journey.
Luckily this year, despite the white stuff being a regular companion on the moors, I’ve not had any problems in getting to or from my destination in the west.
I’ve travelled the A66 more times than I can count over the years, visiting former in-laws on the Cumbrian Coast, attending meetings or delivering training in Lancashire or beyond, but most frequently to visit the beautiful Lake District, but whatever the reason for my visit, one of the landmarks that bring interest to the journey has been the jagged remnants of Brough Castle. Perched on a small hill the remaining walls are often silhouetted against mist or sunset, and so today I set off in hope that they would provide some good images if I stopped there today.
In all my travels along the route, I’ve never visited the castle before, so I was unsure how accessible it would be, but once parked among the charming cottages in the centre of the village that neighbours the structure it was just a short walk to find the castle open to visitors with free access. This wasn’t enough to attract the crowds however. I had the place entirely to myself.
To begin with I wasn’t sure how I was going to come up with anything dramatic. I would love to have shot with a wide-angle lens and polarising filter to bring drama to the skies, but I’m still waiting for my insurers to replace the lens recently damaged during one of my beach shoots. I was restricted therefore to a 50mm prime, which for the non photographers means it is neither wide-angle nor telephoto and lacks any zoom option so often useful in framing an image.
The castle is surrounded by a ditch and earth ramparts, and as I skirted around these I initially suspected that I would fail to find anything with impact. Even the keep, riven open not by Scots gunpowder but by subsidence during years of neglect was difficult to frame in an interesting way with the equipment at hand. I gave it my best shot (excuse the pun) and then climbed the banks to enter the bailey, at which point the sun decided to make its presence felt.
It was not yet the “Golden Hour” but the solar light was seasonally low in the sky so I was presented with deep shadows contrasting strongly with beautiful warm tones from the reddish colour of the masonry. That was the only warmth on offer, for despite the sunshine the temperature guage was sitting firmly on the fence between freezing and thawing. The wind chill however left the outcome of that contest in no doubt. It was lip-splittingly cold.
Those who manned this fortification have my admiration for this exposed setting must rarely feel welcoming. Although the castle was established by the Normans, it occupies a site where a much larger Roman fort (Verteris) was located, probably from the time of Agricola. It’s location makes perfect sense strategically, overseeing a critical cross-country route, but on a day like to day you might have wondered if that was enough! The original Roman troops garrisoned here were Thracian. I wonder how much of a contrast to their native Turkey they found Brough.
As the cold continued to bite I understood why I was so fortunate to have sole occupancy of the castle, though not quite as luxurious as Lumley. No chance of a portrait today, unless you count a cheesy selfie using timed shutter release.