Brymefys Estate

Roofs have caved in, windows nailed shut and houses swallowed up by trees and plants. 1

I’ve always been fascinated with abandoned locations (I’ve written a previous blog post about the lost village of Imber) there is something strange and eerie about places which have been deserted and just left to slowly decay.

When I saw a series of images from the Brymefys Estate posted by Ken Marten, I really wanted to visit, and take some pictures for myself. Unfortunately it’s a 4 hour round trip from Bristol – which is probably a bit far to drive, just to walk round a mostly housing estate and take some pictures – I also had the nagging doubt they might get torn down if I left it too long. Luckily it was only a small detour on our journey back from Pembrokeshire, so I finally got the chance to take a look.

The detour took us on winding roads through small Welsh towns, if you aren’t looking out for it, you could easily miss it. The turning is a sharp left off the B road, with most of it tucked out of sight from the road.

Parking up I was surprised to see some other cars parked on the road. I then noticed that even though most of the houses are abandoned, there are a handful which are still occupied, and carrying on as normal. Which made it feel even weirder, uncanny even. When I was there, a couple were outside in the garden mowing their grass. I always worry that people are going to ask why I’m taking photos, and get a bit funny about it, but they didn’t even bat an eyelid.

I have been having a look online to try to find out some more information about this estate, and get an answer to why it has been mostly abandoned. Unlike a village like Imber it doesn’t seem like there was one specific catalyst like a mandatory evacuation. It seems it was a slow gradual abandonment. Residents disillusioned with the lack of investment and opportunities decided they needed to move elsewhere. I imagine it has a knock on effect, once a few families decide it is time to leave, the prospect of living on a half abandoned estate becomes less and less appealing.

This article2 on the BBC website states that the decline began in the 1990s, which means the houses have been unoccupied for around 30 years by now. That seems odd to me, it is a short enough time, that there are people who have grown up on the estate, who must remember what it was like before the mass exodus. But it is long enough that the houses are probably beyond saving, and would require knocking down and starting again from scratch.

After making the detour specifically to visit Brymefys, I nearly lost every single one of these images. Heading home to Bristol, we stopped in at Swansea to have an wander round, before driving the final hour and a half back to Bristol
After parking up at home, I couldn’t see my camera bag on the back seat which was weird, so I checked the boot, and it wasn’t there either. I had a flashback to the car park, we parked in a super narrow space in the multi story. So narrow that I had to take my bag off, so I could squeeze through and put the dog in the back seat. I then got in the car, and drove away, leaving the bag just next to the wall where I carefully placed it down.

We decided to drive back to Swansea on the off chance it was still there, and I’m so lucky that about 15 minutes outside of Swansea, I get a call from a very very kind lady who had found my bag, and had dropped it off at the local police station.
I got home 3 hours later, tired, and still in disbelief at how stupid I was, and also how unbelievably lucky that my camera bag was found by such a kind honest person. They also politely refused any kind of reward, so thank you very much kind stranger!


Kentmere 400

I’ve been excited by the idea of shooting some more film, I love the look of black & white, so purchased a little selection, so I can try out some different stocks. The first one through the camera was a roll of Kentmere 400. Available for the low low price of £4.50 a roll (36 exp) I was intrigued to see what the results would be like (would it actually be any good?). I used to shoot a little bit of Kodak Tri-X, but it’s currently double the price of Kentmere, so I’m interested to see how it compares.

I’m only just easing my way back into shooting some film, so I am definitely not as knowledgable as others, when it comes to the intricate differences between film stocks. This could be a plus, hopefully I won’t notice the flaws in this film, especially as I haven’t developed my eye from years of shooting the premium stuff.

I was pretty happy with the look of this film, nice and grainy, but without being over the top, and not too punchy and contrasty either.

A lot of the look comes down to how the film is exposed. I always err on the side of overexposing with film – I’m not using anything fancier than the in built light meter – and the exposure latitude of the film seems pretty flexible.

I saw these shoes on a telephone wire, and wondered if it would come out at all if I shot wide open, pointing right up at the sky. With a max shutter speed of 1/500s on my Olympus, this must be at least 2/3 stops over, and it has still come out OK.

I’m so used to digital, I found it a little frustrating being stuck with the same ISO for a whole roll. This film could probably be pushed with no problem – but I thought to myself, let’s not run before I can walk – shoot a few rolls at box speed, and learn how it exposes, before trying anything fancier.

I did learn that f/1.4 on my Zuiko 50mm isn’t really an option, everything ends up as a blurry smush. The slowest shutter speed I can get away with is 1/60s, anything slower than that starts getting fuzzy, no matter how still I think I’m holding the camera.

At f/1.4 it starts getting a bit trippy near the edges

Quick comparison below of this film, compared to the default b&w mode on my Fuji X100S. Lots more grain (obvs) and far deeper blacks. This isn’t meant to be another film vs digital, more just a fun comparison of how they look without any real editing.

It doesn’t look too dark, but this was right on the edge of being too dark to hand hold.