BLACKWATER From Source to Silo
The Blackwater rises in the Rowhills Nature Reserve, which straddles the Surrey Hampshire Border between Aldershot and Farnham. Near the source, evidence of man is kept at a distance, the only artefacts being rustic seats and fences, but even as it exits its birthplace, power lines intrude into this apparently rural idyll. It then meanders through semi-detached housing and industrial estates and crosses the Basingstoke Canal before heading north, entering an area where gravel extraction was a major industrial activity. Many of the former gravel pits have been turned into fishing ponds, but based on the evidence of corrugated iron and barbed wire barriers, the fishermen are more concerned with poachers than in retaining the illusion of bucolic splendour. Amidst this regenerated area there remains one anachronistic reminder of its former use. Though all other buildings have long since disappeared, a large silo used to load the gravel onto vehicles, sits in isolation in a field of weed covered tarmac and graffiti covered ramps. The silo is screened by trees from the gaze of the traveller on the Blackwater valley road or the railway line to Reading, both of which pass but a few hundred yards away. I have chosen to record my impressions of the upper reaches of the Blackwater valley at night so that the unsettling nature of these intrusions into the landscape can be brought to the fore. The moonlit path passing beneath the pylon towards a distant orange glow, or the silo, resembling an abandoned Martian machine, left over from the landing at nearby Horsell Common in the H G Wellsâ€™ novel, pictured at night allow for an emotional response that would be unattainable in daylight .
Jerry Stewardson December 2010