I have just had the extraordinary privilege of being let loose in Britain's finest restored Victorian pumping station at Papplewick in Nottinghamshire. Made very welcome, I was allowed to roam at will, on my own, through this simply astounding Temple of Water- James Watt beam engines, 3D gold freshwater fishes swimming through wrought iron weeds on cast iron columns, water lilies in stained glass. And out at the back under an open-sided shed a huge pile of nutty slack for the Gormenghast boilers. Coal was brought in past the red brick gothic superintendent's lodge and on to this weighbridge next to a green sentry box containing the dial. Of course the lettering caught my eye, one of those underfoot delights that we scuff with our shoes as we go about our business. Telephone service covers still saying 'GPO' , long lost electricity badges let into pavement hatches, manholes worthy of a church-style brass-rubbing. And so a 1945 'Pooley', that heavyweight name so redolent of rain-soaked coal yards, gasworks and dusty quarries. Still here in rural Notts, the non-slip steel grid gently filling up with leaves from the ornamental trees and neat hedges planted by the Victorian need to acknowledge the ideals of Cleanliness next to Godliness. Go and get steamed-up about it all on their next open day.
I am a writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012) and Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012)