Ever since I started heading out for my early morning bike rides there is one thing I’ve always looked forward to – the ride into the centre of our little city.
Heading from Stowe Pool or Cathedral Close into Dam Street and through the middle of Lichfield at any point between 6am-7am is invariably a highlight of the ride.
I usually only have a few ducks for company – although sometimes the traders are already setting up if it is a market day – and the quietness adds to the fantastic atmosphere created by some of the city’s oldest buildings.
Whether it is spring or summer and the sun is already rising, or still dark during autumn and winter mornings, there is an eerie quality to this atmosphere. I’m undecided on the existence of ghosts, but sometimes riding through the historic heart of Lichfield I feel a strange tingle down my spine and can’t help wondering if I’m being watched by some unseen eyes or even the buildings themselves.
So heading into Dam Street at 4am this morning that atmospheric quality and those tingling feelings were even more heightened.
I was acting as Sherpa for Rachel as she took photographs for the excellent 4am Project, the brainchild of Birmingham-based photographer Karen Strunks. She has been taking photographs of Birmingham at 4am for several months and organised a worldwide 4am mass snapshot for today – 4am on the 4th of the 4th.
Rachel’s 4am shots of Lichfield can be found here.
We spent a hugely enjoyable hour at various points in the city and as Rachel snapped away I soaked up the atmosphere and stared up at the buildings surrounding us. Were the ghosts of Lichfield looking back?
If they were, what were they thinking?
They could well have agreed with the laughing milkman, delivering to various city centre premises, who declared: “You must be barking mad. I have to be up at this time. Crazy people.”
Or they might have sided with the two slightly tipsy young ladies who couldn’t believe we were out “working” at such an ungodly hour and were outraged on our behalf when I pointed out we weren’t even getting paid to be there.
There were a surprising number of people around at 4am – about 10 early morning party people making their meandering way home, the milkman, a lady preparing to make bread in one of the bakery shop, a few cabbies, a police patrol and a couple of people walking to work.
But we had Dam Street to ourselves as Rachel took photographs of the buildings and of Minster Pool.
I felt the tingle. I felt we were being watched. I didn’t see anything or anyone, apart from the usual collection of ducks.
I’ll look forward to riding through our historic city again early tomorrow morning – maybe not at 4am again, but I firmly believe it is at its best as the dawn chorus awakes.
I’m still unconvinced about the existence of ghosts and I don’t have strong feelings on either side of the argument.
Is this the most convincing ghost photograph ever taken, or some sort of trick of the light?
To be frank, I don’t really care.
I’ll carry on enjoying my early morning encounters with our historic, atmospheric and splendidly eerie city.