On foot in the British countryside year-round, CW photographer Tom Bailey is fascinated by the things he finds and the tales they tell. Keep your eyes peeled and you will be too.
CW’s photographer and fount of historical, natural and archaeological wisdom has made some fascinating finds in years of shooting.
Barrisdale Bay, Knoydart. A place that reminded me of the Norwegian fjords. A sea loch with islands and that wonderful bay beneath the towering 1010m of Ladhar Bheinn. A search of the beach produced this wondrous, near dinner- plate sized scallop shell. The perfect reminder of somewhere I must return to.
303 bullet case
Dover, that most contested corner of Britain. A walk along the cliffs and you’re soon reminded of the last war. Pillboxes, gun emplacements, the evidence is everywhere – including in the ground, which is where I found this 303 bullet case. It was made in 1942 and used in a double mounted anti-aircraft Bren Gun – details you can tell from the markings on the base of the casing. History lives in my hands!
Only the week before last I was exploring the Western flank of Skiddaw. Quartz was common, but as my eye became adjusted I could see crystals in lots of places. This was the best I found. Certainly the most interesting thing about Skiddaw!
Scots Pine in the shape of a horse
By the shores of Loch Trieg, hundreds of bleached Scots pine roots have been washed out of the banks of the loch and have collected in vast piles. This is the first piece I picked up. Shaped like a winged horse, it was a perfect gift for my horse-mad daughter.
Red deer antler
I waited an awfully long time before I found this. I’d always longed to stumble across one in some remote, dramatic location and that’s exactly what happened. Far to the northwest of Scotland, in the boggy wastes south of Suilven. The only trouble was I had to carry it strapped to my already overburdened rucksack for the best part of 40km over the next day and a half. That night in the tent I even slept next to it, one eye ever open should anyone steal my most precious of finds.
Predated (eaten) ptarmigan eggs
Way, way out in the middle of the Cairngorms, just west of the Larig Ghru I found a particularly sad sight. Sat together, close to the basic grass-formed nest they had been stolen from were four ptarmigan eggs. A large hole in each revealed that a predator, a raven most likely, had had a tasty breakfast. Beautifully speckled, and in a fresh condition despite the hole, they’re a constant reminder of the fragility and savagery everywhere in the natural world.
There's a green lane I used to walk often. On one occasion I followed a fox with a blackbird in its jaws. Moving cautiously, the fox never realised I was behind it and I was rewarded with a privileged close up of its life. About eight months later I walked the same track and found the skeleton of a fox in almost the exact same spot. Was this the same animal?
Tawny owl feather
I find at least a couple of these every summer. Fur-like in their softness, it’s this characteristic that allows them to fly silently. I found this one deep in the Bedfordshire countryside, needless to say in woodland. I carry a ‘Feather Tube’ I've made out a bit of drainpipe wherever I walk, so I can transport these delicate finds home in safety.
Last year I visited Stonehenge. Much has been changed there: the road is being rubbed out, the old car park dug-up. It was here that this fabulous button caught my eye. Amid freshly-turned soil by the path, I figured it was fair game and popped it into my pocket. A little bit of Google that evening soon identified it as dating to the 1700s. Who knows, maybe it belonged to one of the early archaeologists.
Stone with a face
Call me soft in the head if you want, but I’m a sucker for stones with faces. They’re hard to fifind, but that only makes them more e desirable in my book. I keep them in n a drawer in my desk. Whenever I open it I’m ’m greeted with a variety of expressions ons (I have more than one!).. They never fail to make me e smile.
Finding stone tools is one of my passions. To hold in your hand something that was made long ago, by people just like us and living on the same land blows my mind. It was on a short walk from my last house that I found this early Bronze Age barbed and tanged arrowhead. How could something this finely made and delicate survive for four thousand years in the soil? Of all my stone tools, arrowheads like this are most likely to create a sense of wonder in even the least interested.
The Jurassic Coast, Dorset. One of the best fossil hunting beaches around. I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with a fossil expert. He pointed out what to look for and we were soon finding them – great fun. At one stage he found a part of a Plesiosaur. We stared wideeyed, only later realising he had probably planted it to impress the hapless journalists.