If there’s one thing guaranteed to catch my eye it’s a big chimney – there’s usually something of interest at the bottom of them, and cooling towers are on a different level altogether. Belching steam on a cold day, silhouetted against a sunset or abandoned and silent in an industrial wasteland, there’s just something so awe inspiring about these huge concrete structures that carry a beauty all of their own, but these once prolific features of the British countryside are fading fast. And we’re about to lose one more.
Ferrybridge ‘C’ power station sits on the West and North Yorkshire border by the sprawling intersection of the M62 and A1(M) and does for motorists what many others have in the past: It acts as a waymarker; it tells you where you are and points you in the right direction for home. From above, pilots could see exactly where they were and could navigate their way across the country by them. Well thank goodness for satellite tracking because our once characteristic landscape is becoming increasingly homogenised, bland, devoid of such features.
Ferrybridge’s eight cooling towers stand tall at 115 metres each making them the largest in Europe, but fast approaching 50 it was headed for retirement in Power Station terms. Last year’s major fire and the increased drive for cleaner energy sounded the death knell early for this one of just fourteen such coal fired stations left in the UK, and with projected losses forecast, the station will close in March 2016.
As a photographer with a fascination for the past, the aesthetics of wind turbines just don’t match up – and let’s be honest there’s no better way to to ruin the look of a good building than to strap solar panels to it – so I’d been planning to photograph this condemned behemoth for a while now before it was too late. The opportunity presented itself at the end of a long day exploring the trans-Pennine corridor. My journey had been plagued by torrential rain of biblical proportions and appalling driving conditions, but as evening drew closer the sky brightened and the sun put in an appearance, ultimately catching the clouds as it sank on the Lancashire side of the backbone of England.
Finding my spot in the fast approaching darkness I climbed into a field and set up my camera, exposing long to maximise the flow of the passing motorway traffic. The fast moving clouds streaked across the sky, their stripy appearance echoing the light trails below as the power station sat idling away in its final hours. Steam rising would have been nice but the sky made up for its absence, painting a nocturnal picture of Yorkshire life soon to me missing. And to be missed.
RIP Ferrybridge. 1966-2016. Another one bites the dust…