What can you say about Corfe Castle that hasn’t been said 100 times before? If there’s a more impressive castle ruin anywhere in the world, I’ve not seen it.
The castle was built 1,000 years ago at the command of William the Conqueror shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Strategically positioned in the heart of the Purbecks, it proved impregnable over the centuries, eventually falling only to treachery from the inside – one of its own officers colluded with Parliamentary forces, who captured and blew it up. Whilst this tragically reduced it to ruins, two of its colossal walls were left standing.
Today, nearly 400 years later, those walls still stand, dominating the surrounding Purbeck hills and picturesque village below. On the first day of November (2016), I climbed out of bed very early one morning and excitedly drove the 20-mile journey to Corfe. I’d already scouted the location several times and knew exactly what I was looking to shoot, I just needed a strong sunset and the oft-photographed mist to roll in.
I’m by no means a small bloke – at 6”3 it takes a fair bit to scare me but I have to admit to feeling a little unnerved leaving the safety of my car at 5 in the morning at the foot of the castle.
The thing about Corfe Castle is that it’s still an incredibly imposing structure. Its ruined state hasn’t diminished this, it’s only served to give it a real sense of foreboding. An awesome, formidable sight. Add in almost complete darkness and a thick mist rolling by the scarce lighting, and you wouldn’t be human not to feel a bit on edge.
However, the overwhelming sense I get there is not fear, it’s sadness.
I’m pretty sure it’s my own sadness at seeing it in such a dilapidated state, but then you have to wonder whether a structure which has stood for a millennia and been the scene of so much torture, murder and treachery can be left entirely unaffected by its own history.
Either way, my mission was to capture a sense of some of this brutality, the sadness and tragedy, whilst keeping that sense of mystery which cannot be escaped from such an old ruined castle.
This was, without a doubt, one of the most incredible, enjoyable and life-affirming treks I’ve ever experienced. The conditions were incredible, almost surreal. As I was packing away, I looked up to see the castle had completely disappeared behind the mist – this gargantuan, ancient structure literally vanished. In slow motion, it reappeared, just as the sun rose above the haze and directly between the two tower-like walls. I literally stood there open-mouthed staring before remembering that I’m a landscape photographer and should probably take a photograph. I did, and I got another cracker, but I’ll save that for another time!
Part of the Sandbanks, Studland, Purbecks and Poole collection.