Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Market squares and cars

click photo to enlarge
When we walked round the corner into the Market Square at Newark in Nottinghamshire my spirits rose. We'd just walked up from the River Trent, skirting the ice that remained on the footpaths, trying for photographs where the overcast sky, low light and intermittent drizzle allowed, and were presented with this unusual sight. What unusual sight, I hear you ask? Answer - a market place that is empty of both market and, more importantly, cars. It is one of the sadnesses of our age that town market squares, when they are not full of stalls, are packed with cars. This means that no visitor (or resident) can fully enjoy the prospect and architecture that the centuries have bequeathed to us. Wherever I go - King's Lynn, Boston, Wisbech, Ripon, Settle - in fact almost everywhere, I find the same situation; market places pressed into service as car parks on the days when the markets aren't in session.

Now there are those who say that allowing cars into the centre of a town, especially at night, is good for the life, safety and security of the area. I won't deny that there is some merit in this argument. But, there is a heavy price to pay in terms of the appearance of what should be the jewel in the crown of the town. Our planners seem to find it too much to ask of people that they walk a hundred or two hundred yards in order that our built environment can be seen at its best: this in a country that needs to do more to tackle the obesity afflicting our population. But, to the great credit of the town, that view doesn't prevail in Newark, and the scene that  I show today can be experienced every day when the market is not held. This is news to me only because, I now realise, all the previous visits that I have made to the town have been when the market was in session!

My photograph was taken through a window on the third floor of the Town Hall, a Palladian building of 1774-6 by John Carr of York. I liked the composition of the expanse of the Square, with a few people and lamp standards dotted about, against the backdrop of buildings dating from the 1400s to the nineteenth century.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 40mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/30
ISO: 250
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On