I have always felt truly fortunate to grow up in the south-west of England, never too far from the seaside and as equally close to a hidden riverbank,. My childhood was full of outdoor adventures; playing with friends, learning life skills, and constantly being inspired by the wonders that surrounded me.
The south-west of England has been a popular place for writers and artists since the early 1900’s. Thanks to the array of magnificent coast lines, glorious sandy beaches and dense woodlands that surround the adjoining counties, providing poetic and romantic backdrops for some of the most famous novels in English literature. I have often wondered if being exposed to such marvels has been the driving force for my own creativity and it is something I intend to nurture forever; channeling it through the medium that comes most naturally to me, photography.
There is so much history and architecture hidden in little pockets across the region, that often get overlooked by people visiting the likes of Bournemouth pier, Durdle dooror Badbury Rings. But, for my first article on this topic I wanted to talk about my favorite historical hidden gem, Wimborne Minster.
Wimborne is nestled between the banks of the river Stour and river Allen and is a beautiful “old world” market town full of history and hospitality. Even though it is my hometown and I walk through its cobbled streets every day; I am always in awe of its artistry and unique personality. The town has something for everyone and apart from being the ideal place to raise a family, its catalogue of traditions and events and its history (which dates to pre-Roman times) makes it an interesting and picturesque place to visit, and of course photograph.
The first stop on my Wimborne Minster tour, is the Minster itself. Fondly described as the ‘heart’ of the town and standing at an impressive 95ft tall, there is not a part of the town where you cannot see this astounding building, or at the very least hear the hourly chimes of the clock bells.
The Minster has existed for over 1300 years and is recognized for its unusual, chained library (one of the only few surviving chained libraries in the world). Descending from a left-handed spiral staircase you can access the treasure trove of literature, making it famous amongst some of the most respected historians in the country; it can provide all the information needed for those that have a thirst for knowledge.
Every brick of this magnificent building tells a macabre tale of devotion, will and power. Whether you choose to bask in its glory from the outside or take a wonder within the walls of its stained-glass beauty, the photographic opportunities are in the plenty and it is almost impossible not to be inspired by the kaleidoscope of colors!
Once you step foot inside the doors, the light seeps in from the churches many windows and projects hues of red blues and greens sparking those creative desires and making for some alluring heavenly photographs.
It is also fun trying to capture all the different textures of the ancient materials used to create the hidden tombs of this Saxon church. Mostly made up of Dorset limestone and new forest stone, it paves eternal sleeping places for Alfred the Great, John Beaufort and his Duchess who were the maternal grandparents of King Henry VII. These being just more examples of the captivating tales that are longing to be told.
Currently open to visitors on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays of each week the minster provides ample time and opportunity to explore this Saxon church with Norman and Gothic architecture. The perfect place to pitch up for a few hours no matter the weather and lose yourself amongst the rich antiquity of this gracious building.
The grounds of the minster are so spacious that you could lose a full day trying to capture every nook of the minsters’ exterior, and I recommend taking a tripod and a picnic and spend the day following the light as it cascades over the minster green. I will often find a quiet half hour in my day to sit on one of the many memorial benches with a coffee to watch the Wimborne world go by. It is the perfect place to take a moment to reflect, breathe and get inspired.
It really is one of the town’s most popular hangouts for people to meet up, catch up and get lost in thought under the towering turrets and tranquil sounds of the minster bells. It has also become a trend amongst local photographers to set up of a nighttime and capture the eerie side of the minster’s personality beneath the midnight sky. Something I have yet to do for myself but hope to achieve soon, if like me you are a believer in the supernatural then this is a perfect setting to stimulate those beliefs. After all there is enough gruesome history here to tell a thousand ghost stories.
The minster is also a former monastery and Benedictine nunnery and has even been featured on Dorset’s most haunted list with rumors of the lead suspect in the JacktheRippercase being buried in an unmarked grave within the cemetery. The perfect place to explore, contemplate and capture some awesome enigmatic style photographs for your portfolio.
For me though, I just love how the ambiance surrounding the church can change as often as the weather depending on the day or the occasion. I have often wondered if it feeds off the energy of its visitors. Comforting them in times of despair or rejoicing in times of happiness.
Out of all the buildings I have visited on my photography travels so far, Wimborne Minster really does seem to have the biggest personality; and after all these years I am still learning its history and continue to tell its stories to my children.
Have you ever visited Wimborne minster? Do you agree it is the perfect place to practice photography? Or do you feel inspired to visit now?
Thank you for taking the time to read.