Sunday, December 10, 2006

SatNav? Nah!

click photo to enlarge
I've had a few brief conversations over the past year where people have tried to convince me that satellite navigation (SatNav) for cars is desirable, essential even. My response has been that if I were a taxi driver or drove a delivery van, then I would find the device very useful, but for the average person it's technological overkill for the cartographically challenged. That's not something that SatNav owners or would-be owners want to hear, hence the brief nature of the exchanges!

I visit a lot of churches following my interest in the history of architecture. I rarely have the address or co-ordinates of the church, so SatNav wouldn't be a great help. However, I always know the village, town or area of the city in which the building is located. Over the years I've got so that I can sniff out a church pretty well, so I'll share some of my search tips with you.

If the church is in a village or small town look for the tower early: it's often the tallest building, but much harder to see when you're among the houses. Look out also for tall trees: a settlement's biggest trees are often in the churchyard. Be aware too of yew trees which often screen a church from view. Head for the centre of the village or small town: the church is usually the oldest building around which everything else grew up. In lowland areas it's often on a rise in a village, above the land that, in the past, was liable to flood, so head uphill. If it's not there, look for a market place; the church is frequently adjacent. Once you're among the buildings of a settlement, street signs are the best indicator. Look for Church Street, Church Gate, St Whatever's Road, or any name suggesting an ecclesiastical building. And, whilst you're looking, enjoy what serendipity brings. It's much easier to do that without an insistent robotic voice telling you where to turn next!

My photograph shows the tower of St Helen's, Churchtown, Lancashire, alongside its tall, churchyard beech trees. The fine, buttressed, medieval tower competes for vertical ascendancy with the trees. It wins in term of solidity, but the trees have surpassed it for height! I used a wide zoom lens at 22mm (35mm equivalent) to achieve the unusual composition. The camera was set to Aperture Priority mode (f6.3 at 1/320 sec), ISO 100, with -1.7EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen