Since my first visit last July I’d discovered more about the history of Silent Pool; it’s connection to Albury and the story of Emma and Prince John. Also, the vintage postcards had started to arrive from eBay and I was puzzled by a small building by the side of the pool which was no longer there. What was it? I also wanted to know more about the connection with the Silent Pool Distillery. The Distillery and other buildings are on the far side of the pool with an entrance road just after Silent Pool cottage. I wondered if that was the cottage that Helen Allingham had painted. I had also found several sites relating to the story and also some which mentioned that the pool and cottage are haunted by a ghost as here . Here is also a an online article based on a chapter in a book written by journalist, David Rose
That was my plan then – to discover more about Silent Pool and further explore its attraction for me.
The Gin Distillery had been closed on my first visit but the sign now said “Open”. There was some construction work going on as I walked up the entrance drive. The first sign announced the forthcoming opening of Surrey Spice . The second sign was for Norbury Blue Cheese Company , Surrey’s only cheese makers (closed today unfortunately) and then up the slope to Silent Pool Distillery buildings. I received a lovely welcome from Veronique who was in charge that day. She told me how the distillery began in 2014 through the transformation of a group of dilapidated farm buildings and with a vision for a sustainable business producing quality artisan spirits and using a restored vintage wood-fired steam boiler to power a new hand-built copper still. I’ve written previously about the beautiful bottle and Veronique showed me how the golden motifs illustrate the 24 botanicals that are included in the creation of the gin and references to the story of the pool are also there. Veronique knows about the story and seemed sanguine regarding the fact that it isn’t true. She confirmed that the water for the gin and other spirits is pumped directly from the pool (I think probably from near the underground source which is in the side which is fenced-off.) The distillery maintains Silent Pool, including filling the pond with trout – a side effect of which means that if the trout show signs of illness then that’s an indication regarding the purity of the water.
The new constructions will also include a terrace at the back of the buildings, alongside Silent Pool and Sherbourne Pond so that people can sit by them and enjoy Silent Pool spirits, bread, cheese, curry, and also wine from Albury vineyard which is on the other side of the Pool. After speaking with Veronique (and buying a few souvenirs, I must admit) I then went into the small distillery whose back door overlooks the Pool and with steps down to its gate. It was a very different feeling to look down onto the Pool rather than be right by it.
After saying my goodbye’s I walked back, past the construction work along the path between Sherbourne Pond and its outlet to Sherbourne Brook which overlooks the back of Silent Pool Cottage. Another path led me to Silent Pool again. I spent some time taking photographs, attempting to get different views of the water through the wooden lattice of the fencing along one side. The pool was a slightly different colour from last time – maybe due to a different temperature that day. I understand that Spring water is always the same temperature but presumably that’s before it comes out into the open and subject to outside conditions. One of the visitors was a man, with a dog, and he began talking with me. He told me that he first saw the pool forty-odd years ago when he moved into the area. His recollection was that the Pool was much clearer then and you used to be able to walk all the way around it. He mentioned that the trout in it now are rainbow trout, not our native brown trout, and difficult to breed over here. I mentioned about the small building in the old postcards and he said he had a vague recollection of something being there in earlier years, but he couldn’t remember exactly and I didn’t want to pursue this line of enquiry in case I was putting ideas into his head.
My original intention had also been to visit Albury itself but, in the event, the main road through was too crowded with traffic to find anywhere to park so I decided to call it a day and go home.
94 images taken. I chose 65 to process in RAW initially, from which I chose 52 as a second selection. Contact sheets are below, and I have divided them between the Artisan Companies on the site; Silent Pool Cottage/Sherbourne Brook/Sherbourne Pond and Silent Pool, including the latter’s paths. I am adopting this approach to separate Silent Pool and the entities to which it has given birth and it’s been a useful exercise. I hadn’t taken as many as I thought of the Cottage and Sherbourne waters, although I had also done some videoing of them. I’m feeling more and more strongly that, firstly, I need to maintain my focus on Silent Pool, which is where it all began, and, secondly, another element is still missing somehow.
The words liminal, portals and paths keep coming to me as well as boundaries. I’ve visited many large areas of water which have open access, but the Pool has fences around it and the source point is inaccessible. Is the Pool protected from people or vice versa? The missing element, for me, is that connection with my instinctive response to Silent Pool; something I can’t quite name or grasp at present. This is more than gazing, looking into or a sense of wonder. it’s a felt connection with something more elemental and I am struggling with how to translate that into photographic imagery. It isn’t a large Pool and it would be too easy to keep going there and basically taking the same photographs over and over again. There could be an option of a Transitions over a year kind of project which would record seasonal changes but I’m already doing that elsewhere and, in any case, that doesn’t feel like the right approach for me.