The ground beneath our feet.

After two posts focussed on the heavens, this week I am looking at objects we walk or drive over every day without, perhaps, fully appreciating their beauty. Our streets and pavements have a multitude of services running beneath them and access, for maintenance and repair, is via manholes. The covers of these manholes need to be strong enough to support the traffic that passes over them. They also need to be identifiable as to their purpose and textured so as to make them non-slip. Someone in the foundry has the job of designing these and their creativity shines through but we tend to pass over them without much notice. I started photographing them while on holiday in Prague, where there are some beautiful examples. Since then I have come to appreciate not only manhole covers but other street ironmongery and would like to draw your attention to them all. Today I am concentrating on our home territory, here in West Cork.

The design for this pretty standard sewer cover may have originated in the days when horses were more common than automobiles – the spacing of the raised blocks seem to me like they would provide some grip for a horseshoe.

Another similar example made by a different manufacturer.

Some of these seemingly indestructible pieces of cast iron can become pretty worn down over the years. I wonder how long this one has been there?

The patterns in this design remind me of molecular structures. Someone must have spent hours getting all the geometry right.

Extraordinarily, in a different light a very similar design can look inverted, like a negative, though the pattern is actually raised like the one above.

Another geometric pattern, perhaps slightly more modern in style.

Another take on creating a pattern, showing signs of wear which add an interesting overlay.

I love the fact that the designer of this drain cover has used “W” (for water?) as the basis of his design.

And then, a mystery cover! This is in Bantry but it is made in Italy! Why transport something this heavy all that distance when it can be made here? Then there is the totally random design of the raised bits, all different shapes and sizes. It’s as though the boss said “do what you like with this one”!

One of my favourites, also in Bantry, has a very organic free form and it is quite large, at least a metre long. It’s a bit like looking at bacteria through a microscope.

And then another mystery one. Most have some sort of indication as to what lies beneath them but this one – is it so worn that any inscription has disappeared or was it always blank? It was the only one like it in the street.

I think this next one is a base for a pedestrian bollard – one of the sections flips up a the post is inserted when required, meanwhile a beautiful object adorns the pavement.

There are also unusual ones, like this very stylish recessed light fitting in the carpark of Bantry house.

More to come in future posts….

8 thoughts on “The ground beneath our feet.

  1. These are beautiful, Oliver! Interesting that the second from last is the only one with a recognizably Celtic design. Also of some interest, regarding their being cast in distant lands, almost all the manhole covers in New York are proudly MADE IN INDIA.


    1. I have dozens more lined up for future posts and am adding to them all the time. Just have to be careful not to walk into things or people while out collecting!


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