Photographs captured by John Ford from a Northern Hay Meadow in the Southern Cairngorms. A Special Exhibition on display in the Coach House Loft.
With an interest in historical buildings a twenty-first birthday present of an IlocaB 35mm camera was put to good use. York, his home, provided many photographic subjects. This was particularly true for the Minster, where he was employed as a choir member (and also. freelanced as a flautist). Idyllic as this life was the remuneration was not. So, mid-twenties he headed off to academia for seven years. A lectureship in Biological Sciences followed at (what is now) Edinburgh Napier University. Soon he was delegated a project involving counting (and identifying) birds on the Forth. Photography to the rescue; a Pentax 35mm single lens reflex camera, zoom and telephoto lenses were purchased. Visiting the Bass Rock led him to become completely ‘hooked’ on bird photography. Later, with his late wife Joy, Glen Fender Meadows was ‘discovered’ on a visit to Blair Atholl; the village in Perthshire where Ruskin and Effie spent the first night after their marriage in 1848. Situated on organic hill farmland at about one thousand feet, in the Cairngorms National Park, it is classed as an unimproved northern hay meadow. This chance find lead him to broaden his outlook to encompass plants and all animals, not just birds — the metamorphosis into a natural history photographer was complete! The meadow became a major project stretching over many years. This exhibition showcases some of the animals and is a sequel to the plants exhibited in 2015.
John explains: “When I reflect on my life I find it surprising how decisions made in a moment can so often be salutary in their outcome. So it was in 1977 when my wife Joy and I were camping in Perthshire. While exploring the area we stumbled across a meadow situated at about 300m in the foothills of the Southern Cairngorms. We decided to investigate further and in about half an hour noted over forty species of flowering plants (not including grasses). In 1983 we made a return trip, which in the event turned out to be the first of many. I took a camera and photographed plants close to the road. Eventually, in 1985, I approached a farmer to ask if I might explore more widely (the meadow covers approximately 100 hectares), mindful of vulnerable plant areas and the need for restricted activity during the nesting season. Permission was readily granted, and so began a project which I pursued as and when time permitted. Joy, an enthusiastic botanist, frequently came with me and was a great help when it came to identifying the plants. Visits of one or sometimes two days were made about twice a month between mid-May and August, but were rather spasmodic at other times of year.
My photographic endeavours, carried out in very varied weather conditions, have provided a record of many of the flowering plants present on the meadow as well as the animals. The latter are the subject of this second exhibition.
Having viewed this site over a number of years I have become aware of subtle changes. As with all environments it is difficult to tell whether changes are short term and cyclical, or longer term continuous trends. To distinguish between the two requires rigorous scientific analysis, and my observations are purely subjective. Looking at the wider environment there is compelling evidence, however, that long term changes, due to such factors as climate change, are occurring. Obviously the meadow cannot escape the effects of such factors, and is also being influenced by local changes in farming practice. With meadows in general being under threat, it is my earnest hope that this collection of photographs will provide a valuable archive resource for this meadow, relevant to a particularly significant time span.