The Sperrin Mountains in Northern Ireland are a splendid leftover from our ice age 10,000 years ago, an upland range that stretches from Mid-Ulster to the North Coast. Our very own Yorkshire Dales, they are remote yet accessible, but without many visitors except those who have already discovered their lonely beauty.
I am drawn to these mountains regularly, some instinct that compels me to point the car in their direction and to go explore. Thus it was on a very wet Sunday afternoon in February 2012 that I got off the beaten track and lost myself in the tiny country lanes of the mountain range and came across this scene in a cul de sac. Panic was setting in as the road was so narrow that I couldn’t turn around, with a virtual river of rainwater gushing down the roadsides from high in mountains.
An unlocked gate was an invitation to get close to this little cottage but, truth be told the quivering coward in me urged some better judgement and I shamefully stuck firmly to the road outside. There was only the sound of rainfall and the water rushing down the road. Other than that there was silence; no traffic, no people, no animal noise (despite the plump sheep in the field behind) and admittedly I was spooked.
I framed the shot in low light, resting my elbows on the rusted gate and this image was born. I believe it captures perfectly the stillness and the eeriness of this distant little place and a part of me still aches with sadness at its emptiness. Once where voices would call out in the yard, where turf smoke would have raised from the chimney, where the schreech of the pump would draw water from the ground, where an animal would have looked out over the half-door of the byre, there was now only this remnant of lives long passed.
And it’s natures turn to reclaim this ancient house as its own; grass grows in its doorway and windows; a tree reaches for the heavens through the rusted zinc roof; and in the yard even the trees have died, their spongy husks slowly being reclaimed by the earth.