Thursday, June 12, 2008

Access and freedom

click photo to enlarge
As a teenage birdwatcher I used to travel to a reservoir deep in the hills to view ducks and other waterbirds. However, in the late 1960s and early 1970s the reservoirs of England were pretty much no go areas, and I had to view from a public road or a footpath. Signs around the fenced off reservoir said "Keep Out!" backed by threats of heavy fines. Other notices reminded me that it was my drinking water and needed to be kept pure! What did they think I had in mind? The surrounding forest was also out of bounds to the public (the danger of fire seemed to be the justification) despite, like the reservoir, being publicly owned.

Today reservoir managers positively encourage visitors, and provide facilities for their enjoyment. I used part of the cycle track around Rutland Water (above), and very pleasant it was too. Forests now have waymarked paths and mountain bike trails. In both kinds of locations wildlife (and wildlife watching) is positively encouraged, with hides and visitor centres This is a far cry from the restrictive days of forty years ago and a very welcome improvement.

However, a recent development in towns and cities runs contrary to this liberalising trend. So-called "malls without walls" - large shopping centres built by private companies - are being erected that include privately owned streets. These are thoroughfares that are privately policed, and that can exclude "undesirables". Liverpool One, a development of 42.5 acres with 35 streets in the middle of Liverpool is the latest such scheme. It follows others in places like London, Sheffield and Hove. I think such projects need to be carefully monitored. Any limitation of our right to move freely through our cities by private companies curtails our freedom. Will photographers, for example, face the restrictions in these streets that are commonly placed on them in covered shopping malls. For further information see this article in The Guardian newspaper.

My photograph was taken at the edge of Rutland Water where anglers' boats for hire are moored. When I looked at the boats on a different photograph I took I noticed the highest numbered vessel was 61. Poor fish, I thought, if they were all to to set sail at once!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/500
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off