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PHOTOS: Man travels UK cataloging fairytale cottages at the magical hours of dawn and dusk

A British hobby photographer with a penchant for picturesque country cottages is touring the United Kingdom in his free time to compile an amazing catalog. His photos show some of England’s most idyllic homes in all their glory, bathed in the romantic light of dawn and dusk, when the streets are clear and the magic is magnified.

Chris Hayward, 40, lives in New Hampshire, England, and has been interested in photography for the last 15 years. In May 2021 he visited Cornwall with his family and bought a cheap second-hand camera to record the trip. Awe-inspiring country cottages fast became his favorite subject, and the Cotswolds his favorite location.

“I was hooked,” Chris told The Epoch Times. “Everyone reads books when they’re children and sees these fairytale cottages with thatched roofs … for me, it’s just so charming and picturesque. It takes you back two, three hundred years when there were horses and carts going down the roads, no cars, less people, and less problems in the world.”

Chris shares his work on Instagram and has begun selling prints through his website. Amid the chaos of global events and heavy news headlines, he hopes his photos give people the chance to “interpret a world where everything’s peaceful and nice, even for five minutes; at least that gives them a sense not everything’s bad in the world.”

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Canterbury, Kent, U.K., photo taken in April 2022. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)
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Sherrington Village, Wiltshire, U.K. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)
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Chris Hayward, 40. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)

Chris compiles as much research as possible on his chosen destination before heading out. He has already visited his favorite photo spots more than once but likes to return to capture views and angles that have eluded him before crossing that location off the map and picking another.

Fall is his favorite season and Chris prefers to head out with his camera at dawn before tourists show up. “It’s nice and peaceful. I can capture the scene, the property, and the views as they should be, just natural,” he explained.

Sometimes, Chris will encounter the owners of the houses he photographs. Many show interest in his work. Some homes are owned by the National Trust, a governing body of protected sites, so Chris has a membership; some sites even seek out his work to share on their own websites.

“They’re quite interested. They’ll ask me what I’m doing and why I’m doing it,” he said.

(Courtesy of Chris Hayward)

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Bibury, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, U.K., photo taken in October 2021. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)
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Highgate, London, in October 2022. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)

Chris’s favorite cottage to date, a privately-owned home within Longleat Safari Park, was a little hard to locate.

“I saw it on Pinterest. Unfortunately, they didn’t give their location,” he explained. “Luckily, after a lot of work and a lot of searching, I managed to find it … it took me three months, but that cottage is probably my favorite.

“It’s just on its own in the middle of the forest. It’s so peaceful. Luckily, I caught it with some smoke coming out. So added to the effect.”

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Longleat forest, Wiltshire, U.K., in October 2021. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)
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Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, Dorset, U.K., in March 2022. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)

Today, Chris has upgraded his second-hand camera to a Sony Alpha 7 III camera, 24 to 105mm lens, a drone for aerial shots, and a Gimbal for taking videos on his phone. He shoots video as well as photos to give his viewers the sense that they’re by his side.

“I like people to be able to follow with me and feel like they’re there,” he explained.

Chris uses the manual settings on his camera to manage light input during the changeable hours of dawn and dusk. It can be “quite tricky” to convey the feeling of being in a village, he says, because it has to be warm, colorful, and cozy.

“As soon as the light changes, you have to adjust, but I find just using manual settings you can get such a clearer picture. That really helps with the depth and the character of the views,” he said. “I use Lightroom for my editing, but I try not to use too much, because [people] want to see authenticity in the pictures.

“A lot of the comments I get from around the world are, ‘Please can you show us inside the house?’ But unfortunately it’s not mine. It might look a little bit weird if I start knocking, asking if I can come in!”

Chris is a planner for a medical device manufacturer by day, but he dreams of making photography his full-time profession.

“I would love to travel the whole world and take pictures for companies that want to show off their destinations, their villages, their towns. That’s what I’d love to do,” he said.

Check out more of his work below:

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Honington, Cotswolds, Warwickshire, U.K., photo taken in April 2022. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)
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Mill Dale Village, Derbyshire, U.K., in May 2022. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)
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Vicars Close, Wells, U.K., in January 2022. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)
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Castleton, Derbyshire, in June 2022. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)
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Hook Norton, Cotswolds, Oxfordshire, U.K., in June 2022. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)
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Rye, East Sussex, U.K., in May 2021. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)
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Mill Dale Village, Derbyshire, U.K., in May 2022. (Courtesy of Chris Hayward)
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Snowshill, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, U.K., photo taken in October 2022.

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Louise Chambers

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Louise Chambers is a writer, born and raised in London, England. She covers inspiring news and human interest stories.

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