Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Navigation by tower and spire

click photo to enlarge
As I cycle across the Lincolnshire Fen landscape I feel like a mariner sailing through a familiar archipelago. The flatness of the land gives views of several miles in all directions, and standing up tall like lighthouses or rocky islands, are medieval churches, markers that allow travellers to plot and mark their course through the web of narrow lanes.

A large, distant clump of trees usually means a village. But, in this region of large churches a spire or a tower usually rises above the tallest beech or lime, and the traveller who can tell one from the other can have no doubt of their position. So, Heckington's high tower but short spire distinguishes it from nearby Helpringham's rocket-like pinnacles attached to a tall spire, and from Donington's which is set well within its tower-top perimeter. Gosberton's thin, attenuated, needle spire cannot be confused with Quadring's shorter spire and tapered tower, and Swineshead's short spire with its stone corona at the base is different again. Swaton's green roof and embattled tower is very different from nearby Bicker's lower tower that barely peeps over the nearby pines and beeches. Towards The Wash, Fosdyke's lead spire is whiter than Long Sutton's which has clasping leaded pinnacles, which is in turn completely unlike Holbeach's spire that rises from a tower.

So, a compass is an unneccesary luxury in the Fens unless, of course, a mist or fog descends. Then, especially at the end of the day, the towers and spires take on a ghostly quality, near buildings look more distant, and churches can be appreciated solely for the beauty and individuality of their outlines, as in the photograph above of Swineshead.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On