I do hope that as many of you as possible managed to get to the Ravilious exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, superbly curated by James Russell. I had the good fortune to be taken there by Only Daughter as a Father's Day Treat, followed by lunch at one of my favourite watering holes, La Brasserie in South Kensington. O Lucky Man!
Anyway, the other day I was sifting through my archive looking at images for a forthcoming project and found the above photograph. Two or three years ago I went and looked at the Westbury White Horse, hoping to find the exact spot where Eric Ravilious had painted it (top). What I should've done of course was to have taken a reference print with me, but I didn't. So on my return home I was immensely gratified to discover that one of my pictures had the location pretty much nailed down, probably where that inquisitive sheep is standing. I waited for a train to be in the same position as in the painting, but when a diesel horn alerted me to one arriving I realised that Ravilious had exaggerated the size of the train for dramatic effect, although in exactly the same spot. There is a companion painting that shows the White Horse as seen from inside a railway carriage, the kind of double exposure that I sometimes get obsessed by. The thought that someone could look up from a newspaper in a train and see someone on the brow of the hill looking down and. '...how their lives would all contain this hour' as Philip Larkin had it in The Whitsun Weddings.
I am a designer, 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), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)
"Open this book with reverence. It is a hymn to England". Clive Aslet
"Enchanting...delightful". The Bookseller "Cheekily named" We Love This Book
The Cigarette Papers
"Unexpectedly pleasing and engrossing...beautifully illustrated". The Bookseller
"Until the happy advent of Peter Ashley's Cross Country it has, ironically, been foreigners who have been best at celebrating Englishness". Christina Hardyment / The Independent
More from Unmitigated England
"Give this book to someone you know- if not everyone you know." Simon Heffer, Country Life. "When it comes to spotting the small but telling details of Englishness, Peter Ashley has no equal." Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph