Scarecrows are really best seen from afar. Get too close and the magic will vanish. Like the down-at-heel circus act, whose tawdry costumes need the kindness of distance and theatrical lights, the good scarecrow needs to stay at imagination’s length. It has just a few moments to persuade you it is real, and not just a bundle of sticks and rags and bits of plastic.
Some do better than others. The very first scarecrow I photographed I encountered on a remote farm track. I remember the occasion well, an unsettled dawn with a storm brewing. It’s an odd creature, but with an endearing human aspect. She is walking, head down, silhouetted up on the ridge of the field and just for a fraction of a second you would catch your breath. But then you realise that the plodding step does not progress and it is only the wind that is shaking the fluttering strips of plastic, and the head, oh dear, the head is too big and too yellow.
Back then, I called this one “Alien.”
Another skyline figure, prominent in a Lincolnshire landscape of slight hills, just a snag on the horizon. Headless, in a field of fading oilseed rape, just past its chrome yellow splendour.
Another distant figure in a cold misty dawn. This one I named “The Milkman”. The low sun had illuminated two old plastic containers.
Tin men of Temple Bruer
I had a very nice email re scarecrows from Brian in Kansas, home of the very famous scarecrow and of course the tin man. I found 2 tin men scarecrows about 10 miles from my home near the tiny hamlet of Temple Bruer. This is an odd little place with only a church and a couple of farms. It’s bleak and strange as is most of the heath to the south of Lincoln.
But it was so apt to find tin men walking these particular fields because here, isolated, almost forgotten and unnoticed, lie the remains of one of the Knights Templars’ settlements. All that remains today of this extraordinary and rare site is the southern tower of the church, which dates back to 1160. Nearby, there are some green lanes, where riders and dog walkers cross paths and another pretty and isolated little church.
When researching the book I also came across an anecdote concerning an old suit of armour which had been set up in a field to scare the birds. It would have been a wonderful sight… and sound.
I immortalized some of these oddities in the book as pen and ink chapter headings and ends.