Hatfield Peverel

From the beginning this was unusual. I arrived near Hatfield Peverel Royal Observer Corps post on a cloudless day. The post, clearly visible from the A12, stood exposed in the middle of a ploughed field. Normally these posts are just by a footpath or behind a hedge, in this case I felt I should seek permission to cross the fields to the post. Knocking on the door of what I hoped might be the farmer’s house I was greeted by an elderly couple and an even more elderly lady who told me the land belonged to Lord Rayleigh, but they were sure it would be fine as long as I wasn’t planning to do any shooting, “Only photos!” I didn’t quip.

Having negotiated the muddy field, taking care not to step on any of the freshly sprouting crops, I found the post. There was an old Orlit B aircraft observation tower and an underground post. The shaft had lost its lid and their seemed to be a lot of rubble inside, but the ladder seemed secure so I descended.

The view up the shaft at Hatfield Peverel

The view up the shaft at Hatfield Peverel

The post was in a very poor state, the hatch lid was at the bottom along with a lot of broken concrete. The thing I noticed after the mess was that someone had affixed a poppy to the BPI shaft. Then I saw that ‘Rob Baines, 15.11.2014, Lest we forget’ had been gratified on the wall. Finally I saw some tobacco and cigarette papers on a dry piece on concrete.

I had to assume that these things were connected. Very recently someone had paid tribute, with poppy, inscription and offering, to a departed friend. Was Rob Baines an ROC member? Was the site chosen just because it had some military connection? Perhaps Rob and his friend had played down here as children, the post has been out of service since 1968. I do not know and I am not sure if I want to know.

What I did know, immediately, was that anything I created from my recordings there would not form part of the wider project. Somehow it seemed that it would not be appropriate. It has taken me just over two months to come back to these recordings and create a piece of music, perhaps a tribute to Rob Baines.

Tributes to Rob Baines left at Hatfield Peverel ROC post.

Tributes to Rob Baines left at Hatfield Peverel ROC post.

And this is where another unusual occurrence took place. Once I get going these pieces come together fairly quickly and I had the shell of it worked out. I wondered if, through pitch shifting, I could create a kind of spectral ‘Last Post’ at the end of the piece. So I tried. When I looped and overlapped the high C at the end I thought I heard something odd. I listened again and their it was. A choir had materialised in the music. They were faint, but they were there.

Mark S. Williamson at Hatfield Peverel ROC post.

Mark S. Williamson at Hatfield Peverel ROC post.

One thought on “Hatfield Peverel

  1. It seems the mystery has been partly solved. Rob Baines seems to be a, not particularly adventurous, urban explorer with a Flickr page so dull it’s brilliant. I still don’t know why he felt moved to paint his name on the wall or if it was him who left the poppy and tobacco though. In a way I kind of prefer my version of the story…

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