£13.2m – Roof not included

Despite having declared that its portfolio of stately homes was complete, in 2008 the National Trust was presented with an opportunity too good to miss; to purchase Seaton Delaval Hall.  With half of the funds required available from the trusts reserves, they had just six months to raise the remaining £6.3m, a huge sum of money for a building that was an empty shell, with an interior that had been exposed to the elements for years as a result of a major fire.  Even the wing that had been occupied by Baron Hastings, whose death duties had forced the sale, was empty for 160 years before he moved in.

So why all the fuss?

The radical playwright and architect (strange combination) Sir John Vanbrugh is the answer.  The man designer of Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace was also responsible for Seaton Delaval Hall, and indeed it was his last great project, dying before the building was complete.APW_6435_6_7

Open to the public for nearly four years, the property is rich in photographic possibilities, and whilst I’ve been here before, the Trusts restoration work means that there is always something different to consider.

The main hallway is the most stark, but the exposed brick and plaster work gives it a unique charm, as do the statues that bear the scars of fire, weather and even air rifle target practice.  These are due for examination and restoration this year, but are currently “bandaged” with wire and plastic sheeting to hold them in place.

The Hall is a Smörgåsbord of shadows and textures, with light pouring in from open doorways and windows at several levels.

An extensive cellar has limited appeal, APW_6284 but is reached at either side of the Hall by  magnificent spiral staircases.  I could (and have) spend hours working to capture interesting shots here.  Maybe its just me.

The stable block is just screaming for an interestingly lit fashion shoot,

and there are photogenic details aplenty.

It doesn’t stop with the interior either and though the building lacks the original domed roof APW_6290 it nevertheless retains an imposing grandeur.

There are formal gardens,

but Mother Nature is not to be outdone by Vanbrugh and provides some interesting elements of her own.

It doesn’t matter that the restoration work won’t be completed in my lifetime, it remains an impressive edifice.  A giant laid low that will slowly rise again.

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Ground down

This was the penultimate weekend on my beach.

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I know I have no right to be so possessive, but in the years that I have been taking pictures upon its numberless grains of sand I feel I have grown to know it intimately, and probably more so than many who pass this way.  The beach has been my companion for nearly 20 years, and as my marriage (which has spanned a similar number of years) ends so I will be heading soon for pastures new, with hopes and aspirations to match.

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Today I mused upon the power of nature, and how like the Hindu Lord Shiva it is both beneficent and destructive.  In the midst of tough and windswept grasses it provides a burst of colour with a rogue patch of daffodils, yet elsewhere there is plenty of evidence of its power to destroy.  Shattered and eroded stones litter the beach; and the sand itself is a constant reminder of the natural world to reduce even the hardest stone to tiny grains that are     susceptible to even the tiniest breath of wind.

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APW_1342-EditTimber is just as defenceless, and there is plenty of evidence around of wood, both natural and shaped by man, that has been unable to withstand Mother Nature‘s moments of aggression.

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She doesn’t get things all her own way.   There is evidence here of man’s presence, in forms that seem to have a right to be here, and in plenty of other forms that don’t.  APW_1335-Edit

Unwelcome as this detritus my be, nature is or will be the victor, interring the remains within the sands and grasses, like some archeological exhumation in reverse and creating in infinite range of shapes and textures.

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It’s complicated!