Elham Valley Way Shoot Journal - 18th April 2020
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
Visiting the Etchinghill tunnel has always been a difficult task. For one, the tunnel seems to be the site of an outflow pipe so is often inaccessible due to mud. It is also difficult to shoot given its position at the bottom of a very narrow valley and tree cover. So, I will be leaving the tunnel alone for today as there has been a lot of recent rain fall so my chances for access here are very slim. I want to investigate the area from Peene to Etchinghill, which forms the start of the Elham Valley Way, an accessible path that runs almost the entire length of the former railway, which has been given over to nature.
I started at Peene, which is home to a small railway museum. Given the chance I would have gone into the museum for more information on the line but as we are in lockdown at the time of shooting, I was unable to do so. Evidence of the line is not hard to come by the entrance of the trail is marked by a dismantled railway bridge. Turning left here, a slip road takes you up to the elevated earth that the railway sleepers were once bedded into. It is easy to imagine a steam train barrelling through the countryside here, the only thing missing are the rails. You can see evidence of the line in fences along the line, where rails have been repurposed as fence posts. Some signal posts remain and engineering posts.
I walked along the former track taking shots along the raised bank, as well as more general landscape shots in breaks in the tree line, but nothing fruitful for the project. In truth, there is not an awful lot here to shoot. This is a persistent problem for me, especially in this genre of photography is having to go to places where there is little to no subject to shoot, meaning I am limited to features of the landscape to shoot on. But I knew this before I came on this shoot, what I wanted from this adventure was an exercise in black and white square format editing. I knew this area to be quiet, and very desolate. I wanted some nice, minimal landscapes to take back and edit whilst still having the work available for the context I was shooting in. The Elham Valley Line extends for nearly 20 miles before me and one day I will return to shoot other parts of it, but for the time being, there is nothing here of any photographic value. When I reached the outflow, about a mile short of the Etchinghill tunnel, I turned and headed towards the fields that run adjacent to the track.
Here I had a bit more fortune, with wide open spaces I am more comfortable and competent in my shooting. There was not a lot in this field save for a few overhead wires, a house and well over a hundred sheep. There was a Union Jack in the garden of the house which I shot, then I experimented with the minimal style using the wires and masts as a subject. But without a defined subject I was a little lost, so I turned back and walked towards Peene once more. It would have been great to have had access to the museum here as there was a few old carriages in the property which could have made this shoot more contextually useful. I was able to get a shot of a carriage over a hedge, but unfortunately, this carriage was an old shuttle for the Leas Lift in Folkestone, so the subject would not have matched the context of the Elham Valley Line.