The Devil's Highway
A chance discovery that led me to a piece of fascinating history and something to do some research on!
Location of the week
The Devil flooded his highway
On the 15th November 2020, my wife and I had been out for a drive as we are researching some areas around the Hampshire and Berkshire borders for a potential house move. Ok this is not something we are planning to do soon but we decided to explore more places by driving familiar roads and turning off to explore those country lanes that we often whizz by and wonder, “where does that go?”. You never know, I may also discover some new places for photography based walks.
On this particular day we had driven through Swallowfield then Riseley and had driven past the currently closed Wellington Country Park. “Turn left!”, Tina said excitedly. The sign led us towards Riseley Mill and so we turned. The trees were looking resplendent, golden, bronze, copper with their autumn hues and so I made a mental note to look up the details on a real map later, though I did suspect them to be on private land given the subtle but high fencing. It later transpires that we were skimming around the boundary of Wellington Country Park.
The road was very narrow in places and as for passing traffic, it was a bit tricky, I had to pull onto some verges that I very nearly got stuck in. We reached a turning point and followed around. We carried on a bit further and found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, glorious countryside, turned a few more twists and turns and then the road became a river and took me by total surprise. I brought the car to an abrupt halt. Looking up ahead, it was beautiful but totally impassible. We could see the path that the road followed through the line of trees and hedgerows but it was totally submerged and there was no sign of dry land on the other side. I had no choice other than to back up and reverse along the bendy road, wary of the waterlogged ditches either side of us until I found a farm entrance to turn around in.
Anyway, we got back home safely in the end and I just had to look up where it was we had been. The road where we got stuck is called “The Devil’s Highway” and the very same road crosses the River Whitewater. If a ford exists there, it sure as heck had burst its banks!
I used to live nearby as a child and I can remember my Mum and Dad taking me to a ford somewhere around here but couldn’t for the life of me remember where it was. Studying the map this evening has certainly led me to think it’s the same place and the water levels have risen dramatically over the decades since. Probably due to global warming and the horrendous downpours we’ve experienced in recent times.
Tracing the Roman Road
The Devil’s Highway rang a bell and so I had to look it up. It was a Roman road that started in London (Londinium) passed through Staines (Pontes), then with nearby Silchester (Calleva Attrebatum). I doubt much of the old highway exists now but a number of roads and paths follow it’s original course. My ordnance survey maps reveal sections of the route that may still be visible today. A quick look has revealed that there is some information at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Highway_(Roman_Britain) and I know of “Nine Mile Ride” over in Crowthorne, Berkshire. There must be some other traces left and that’s given me something to suss out come the end of lockdown 2.0.
We all know of Staine Street, Watling Street and Fosse Way to name but a few, but I must admit the Devil’s Highway was one I’m not familiar with. So it’s exciting to learn of it and that what remains is within quick reach from home.
So I shall incorporate my investigations into future photographic and writing forays. I will deliver some more of those to your inbox in future issues as and when…
Pic of the week
A stones throw from my house is Queen Elizabeth Park which we took a walk into last week during lunch. I took one or two photos on my iPhone and here is one of them. See below for my thoughts on how I use my phone for a lot of the pictures I create.
Thoughts (plus other stuff) of the week
Just Use whatever Camera you’ve got
I love my Sony camera but nowadays the one that lives most of the time in my pocket is pretty awesome too. That is the iPhone 11 Pro Max and no, I am unlikely to buy it’s successor because 2020 has rendered us all slightly skint to say in the least. In fact come to think of it my Sony is now old hat but I’ve chosen not to upgrade that either. I used to rush out and upgrade everything when I was younger but then that was before I had any real responsibilities!
Tell you what I did get this week, thanks to the brilliant Future of Photography Podcast who mentioned it and that is Halide 2. Halide is a super charged camera app for your phone that also ties in with the brilliant Darkroom app. It is well worth buying and buy it I did. I am not too skint really but just being very cautious on buying stuff!
I will be talking about it quite a bit over future issues of RP (short for Rambling Photographer). It makes very good use of the RAW feature, allowing you to switch between JPG and RAW versions of your photos. It has a fabulous live histogram that you can switch between two different modes. You can easily switch between manual and auto focus. It is a great tool to have and opens up a whole host of new possibilities with the iPhone
Darkroom for the Mac
Yes, apparently so and I am going to take a look at it soon. The mobile app is amazing and I am sure the Mac version will be just as interesting. Oh and I need to upgrade MacOS to Big Sur, still on Catalina at the moment…
Social media? Just put it away for awhile
Yeah, that. I know a lot of you have been lamenting about the dangers of getting sucked into the doom scrolling maelstrom of too much information and more often than not mis-information. The echo chamber of horrors that social media can be. It’s not all bad of course but I’m past caring, so here, I place my full-stop and cut right back on it. I will share my posts and images here and there but I am not going to stress about it. It’s better to invest time in better things.
2020 has all been about establishing better communities, not just in the real world, closer to home but online too. That is why I think platforms like substack are thriving, as it brings together a healthy mixture of professional and amateur writers alike.
I’ve been helping two local organisations recently with their web content needs, just on a voluntary level and not through my business. It has been rather rewarding. More on this another time perhaps.
Thanks for your sign-ups
I am delighted to see this week that we’ve had a couple of new sign-ups and two of those people I know. Stuart, how are you doing? Stuart is a fellow web developer, former colleague and mate of mine. Hope you are well Roberta? I first met Roberta and her husband Johann through blogging and one of many trips my wife and I have made to Malta. 2020 has grounded us all, so we’ve not been able to meet in Malta or Guildford like we normally do. I’ve hardly seen anyone this year but I guess nor have you? Tough times, so roll on 2021.
Let me do a quick link share for some other people who follow this newsletter…
Adam Tinworth of One man and his blog
Ellen Forster Conversations by the sea
Fraser Smith Tramfishers
I would also like to mention one other great substack account and that is Documentally the creation of Christian Payne, whom I’ve never met but we’ve been connected via Twitter and at one time Google+ and a great creative wordsmith.
I shall recommend some photography based Substacks in the future.
Do you fancy a workshop?
Naturally I would love to run some face to face meetups but with lockdowns and viruses lurking about, best to stay alert and stay safe hey! So I am considering doing something with Zoom for a reasonable price…. let me work this out and I shall announce here in a future installment.
When do we publish?
Just once a week for the moment, on Friday afternoons GMT, so you can read this over the weekends instead of your weekend newspapers which are full of politics and miserable stuff ;-)
Though this week, I have broken this rule, I had this post ready by Tuesday and I didn’t want to add any more to it, so I hit the publish button :-)
I will be introducing a subscription but this “Friday” newsletter will remain free forever. The extra editions will go out at different times in the week and will be built around more in-depth tutorials and location studies that other photographers may find useful.