on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers


Ancient highways and byways

Phil Hemsley

Photography of the landscape and nature is a passion. I try in my photography to record the atmosphere and ambiance of my subjects - be that the upland landscape of Dartmoor, to photographing wildlife or adventure sports from an 'up close' aspect.

During the week I am a Mathematics Lecturer at Exeter College, and make detours on the way home if the light and weather look promising for some landscape or wildlife photography.


Ensconced by high earthen walls and a canopy of trees for a roof, I wander through the ancient sunken holloways of Devon. These are powerful portals into deep time, where the echoes of the old world seem palpable. In my imagination around me are the wandering wayfarers travelling to find gig work such as apple picking in the cider orchards; wizened old farmers taking goods to market in a nearby town on their pony-driven cart; the noise of a trail-weary cloaked rider on horseback galloping through driving rain onwards to an inn with a roaring fire, hearty food and a tankard of ale; of pastoral priests, tinkers, smugglers and highwaymen who travelled these lanes for good or ill-gain.

Phil Hemsley - Higher Bowden Lane, Totnes

Higher Bowden Lane, Totnes

Ensconced by high earthen walls and a canopy of trees for a roof, I wander through the ancient sunken holloways of Devon.
The holloways are home now, as through all those layers of time, to badgers, rabbits, hares and foxes with their complex conduits carved into the banks that climb upwards from the level of my path. It often amuses me to know that I walk below the height of some of their homes in these sunken roads. These ancient highways and byways that have been carved by rainfall and the footfall of humans, horses, bikes and vehicles over countless years. Bats flitter about in the twilight, as they frequently use these tunnels as part of their flight paths.

The etymology of the names of these lanes adds to the charm. Fischowter Lane for example in the Devonshire dialect means ‘a fish cheater’… as this was a lane used by the crews of sea fishing boats who used to unload some of their stock on their way back up the estuary and smuggle it up one of the lanes in baskets to avoid paying tolls at the quayside.

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