I’ve always had a curiosity with empty houses, mainly when derelict. It’s a fascination I’ve had since childhood and one that inevitably catches up with me when exploring the South West countryside. On these unplanned explorations, I often come across empty farm buildings. As I step across the doorway, there is frequently a feeling of intrusion given I often come across personal items of little value. An old tie is hanging in a cupboard recess or rusting oil lamp. Each piece is holding its own short story. A reflection of past lives, including my own.
In my birth town of Stockton on tees, there was an old dog racing track (Belle Vue Park) in the neighbourhood, opened in 1946 and the track closed around 1974. Sitting in the grounds of the stadium was a grand old house with a large garage. It was only a matter of time, of course, after the place closed down, that we found a way into the stadium, under the less than secure fencing to explore the grounds.
Racing our bikes around the stadium where the electric course hare would zoom around the inside of the track as the dogs frantically chased in pursuit. Finding our way in the house, and offices and discovering the antiquated telecom and public address system. Singing the lastest Slade single over the public address system, taking turns to shout a swear word, which would attract the attention of the local neighbourhood and the soon to arrive police car.
Belle Vue Park is long gone, like the guys who would give us 3 pence for looking after their vehicles when visiting the races. Now, what stands there are rows of two-story blocks of flats, all neatly paraded with their inhabitants enjoying TV dinners in the company of the ghosts of past memories.