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  • Ashley Cochrane

Bossenden Wood Shoot Journal - 5th January 2019

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

I was due to leave to go back to Wiltshire tomorrow, yesterday was clear skies so I was forced to try and get all my reshooting done in one day. Reshooting on a sunny day would have defied the point of reshooting in the first place because I needed overcast skies to replace the blue-sky shots of the second days shooting. I got off the bus at the bottom of Boughton Hill and headed straight for a patch of land near the foot of the hill. It was here that Courtenay began his recruiting campaign by ordering his men to purchase bread and cheese from the nearby village, one loaf of bread was mounted to a pole at this location and Courtenay claimed that the bread was a symbol of the struggle and hardships of the labourers, and they must follow the bread at all costs. I drove past this location on the bus on the first days shooting and noticed a caravan abandoned in the heavy grass at the location, so I knew immediately what I was going to shoot first on this day.

At this point I was around halfway between Fairbrook Farm and Bossenden Farm, so I had to choose which one to prioritise and head to first. I had not yet been to Bossenden Farm, and it was a more important location, so I decided to go there first. The walk was long but there were plenty of opportunities for shooting because I would be passing the area where the regiment passed through to try and intercept Courtenay before he got back to Bossenden Farm. At this point, Courtenay fired a warning shot at the detachment, so the regiment decided to march to Boughton to think of a better strategy, but the location of this is unclear, so I picked up a few shots of the countryside and the lanes into Bossenden Wood to show the movement of troops. Once again, I do not intend to use these images in the final edit, but it would be better to have them than to not have them.

The climb to Bossenden Farm was steep and long, but the scenery was beautiful. The road I was on would lead me to the north of Bossenden Wood where the map at Hernhill said I could gain access to the farm via a bridleway. I continued along the road past Dargate Common and around the top of the woods. I found a bench to sit and have lunch and plan a strategy for shooting the farm. I needed to find the stile where Nicholas Mears was murdered, that was my primary objective, then a few establishing shots of the farm and anything else that was interesting there to shoot.

As I approached Bossenden Farm, the path forked immediately left and right, although the farm was directly in front of me. It appeared as if the bridleway which was supposed to lead me straight to the farm now circumnavigated the perimeter of the land. The shots I needed were directly in the middle of this land and there was no way of getting there. I walked around the perimeter but there was no access into the site. The most important location and perhaps the most important shot in the whole project was lost. This was devastating news although it was not a new feeling. I knew from the start that the farm may not be accessible, this was backed up on the first day of shooting when I tried approaching the farm from the driveway in the south, but the road was locked by a gate. It was only at Hernhill Church, I discovered a map that detailed all the accessible routes that said I could walk along, and this said I could get to Bossenden Farm via the bridleway. Not only was the shot inaccessible but I had lost two hours of my day for a shot that was impossible. I tried to get the establishing shot of the farm so at least I was not walking away empty handed, but the view was obscured by trees. I enjoyed this effect though as it gave the subject a distance which was relevant to the context of my shoot, as if we were Nicholas Mears before that fateful evening, spying on Courtenay inside the farm.

One advantage of this setback was I would be able to walk through the battle site once more. Although photography of the woods was ineffective, I was confident I had located the real site of the battle. I spent half an hour here doing some research of the battle and planning the next stage of my shoot. I decided to come out of the woods and head back to Boughton Hill where I could reshoot the shots I got from the beginning of day two. I was running out of daylight however, so Fairbrook Farm would be a bit of a stretch, I didn’t want to wander too far from Boughton and must walk three miles of countryside in the dark. I made the dash to the top of Boughton Hill where there was a horse field. At the beginning of day two I had been here, but shooting the paddock was impossible as the low sun was obscuring a lot of the field. Now it was cloudy, and I could shoot the field properly without exposure problems.

I walked down the hill and back into Boughton where I had started the day earlier. I was losing daylight however and would have to be very quick if I was to make it to Fairbrook Farm. On the way I passed an orchard which would be a useful shot to attain. Courtenay attempted to recruit from several orchards in the area, and it would help with the farm labourer context I still needed shots for. But it was at this point I decided to call it a day shooting. The overcast skies meant that it was getting dark early, and I was still half an hour from Fairbrook, by the time I would have got there it would have been too dark, and I needed an hour at least to redo all the shots I already had. I spent some more time at the orchard before I set off home.

Like all my shoots thus far, my efforts have been wrought with high and low points. On one hand I got some of my best pictures today but on the other I missed out on key locations. I was not able to shoot any of the two key objectives I planned for the day but travelling between them I had got some excellent shots to fill out my project. Bossenden Farm was a big disappointment, as this was the location of perhaps the most important shot in my documentary, the site of the murder of Nicholas Mears. This was a pivotal moment in the story, and one that changed the outcome of the events that occurred here. Without that shot, I have no link between the recruiting stage of the story and the events immediately preceding the battle. This is a big blow, but I do have shots of the ditch where his body is said to have been thrown, so it is not a total loss. The weather was good to me all day, but I was a victim of time, and the long winter nights meant shooting had to be abandoned early. But overall, I am happy with the outcomes of the day, because I have now been to every location and shot something. I may not have the intended shots I planned at the start, but I have enough to form a narrative, for four days shooting I don’t think that is a bad return. I would have loved to have continued shooting until I had got everything right, with the right conditions and a few more days shooting I could have perfected this story.

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