Abandoned places in Belgium & France

Sunday, 19 October 2014

This year, for the first time in a while, I've been lucky enough to get to travel a little more than before. It's been great to see some new things and experience new places, and it's even invigorated my love for London a little. I've spent the last two weeks driving round Iceland taking photographs of the amazing landscapes on offer here - I'm back in two days and can't wait to have a proper look through all of the photographs I've taken, even if the weather's been very trying at times!

The weekend I had photographing abandoned places in Belgium and France was one of the most whirlwind trips I've been on, with a lot of miles covered and few hours slept. It was a more high-stress photographing experience than I'm used to, and required different techniques to my usual too - you need very steady hands in a damp, dark old building, especially when you lose the quick-release section of your tripod and then can't use it - but it was great to be pushed out of my comfort zone a little. As well as the deserted military base and the doctor's surgery, we also headed to a few other places:

An abandoned railway carriage, Belgium
It was old enough that the seats were still stuffed with straw and horse hair! It looked like it would have been quite a grand carriage in its heyday, though there certainly wasn't much leg room to get comfortable. I particularly loved the old gauges and buttons in the cab, covered in peeling paint and rust.

A giant derelict mill, France 
This was one of the biggest flour mills in operation in France. The entire inside had been destroyed in a fire, so now most of what's left is concrete and machinery, most of which has half fallen through floors. We only ventured out onto the first floor to photograph the shell - the wood left wasn't exactly stable and none of us wanted to risk anything higher! We did climb the stairwell up to about the eighth or ninth floor, but I couldn't make the last flight. With each storey the stairs were narrower, and there were huge empty window openings right on foot level - I'm not great with heights at the best of times, and once I stopped to look I just froze and couldn't go any further. I was assured by Dipan (the only one of us to fancy the last flight to the roof) that there was nothing special to miss. The place now seems to be used by teenagers for (pretty dangerous) graffiti practice and parties.

An abandoned house, Belgium
This place was full to the brim with odd possessions, particularly a lot of bullets (no weapons, thankfully) and strangely still fully decorated for Christmas. Sadly, a lot of the interesting possessions had been stripped from the house, and it had been trashed quite badly by other people coming across it. Upstairs there was nothing much but rubbish, but downstairs there were items from a range of decades, vintage portraits to more modern home video tapes, some fairly retro furniture and even what appeared to be a five foot tall industrial bread mixer.

An abandoned mansion, Belgium
There was a huge garden, murals and grand staircases in the house. There was no furniture left, and very little of anything else except a huge number of paperbacks, all identical; and a dead raven in the attic. Someone had drawn alien spaceships and giant robots wandering through the country scenes in the hallway mural - so subtly that it took me a little while to realise that it was a little too space-age to be original!