Four days in St Ives, mostly spent sick in bed.

Sunday 21 – Friday 26 January 2018 – St Ives, Cornwall.

El and I had been looking forward to this trip away for a few weeks. While we had a few day trips and weekends away we really only had one week away from the city in the whole of 2017. I was especially desperate for a break from work and the bustle of the city.

We are still looking for that perfect place to buy a house, and St Ives in Cornwall has always been top, or near top, of that list. Its downside is it is so far away from our friends and day to day lives, so this week away was another test of that distance, as well as how we feel about the place during a cold wet January.

What the weather ended up doing did not really matter as it turned out. I was sick for pretty much the whole week and spent more time lying down staring at the wall than I did doing much else. It was lucky that El had quite a lot of work to do, so at least she wasn’t left to enjoy the highlights of St Ives on her own. I did feel for her though, as it was not the week away we planned for our fifth anniversary!

I had plans to take a lot of photos, make this a bit of a photo holiday, I packed my big and small cameras and the tripod. A lot of dead weight in the end, and I think I ended up taking more photos out of the train as we went down than I did while we were there.

The first to capture my attention was small flurry of snow that fell as we pulled into Didcot Parkway station. Snow had been forecast and I was really hoping we would see some in Cornwall, but alas; this was as close as we got.

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The civil engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed the amazing rail line along the south Devon coast, including this section in Dawlish,

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and the wonderful Royal Albert rail bridge crossing the River Tamar at Saltash. The coastal route is quite lovely, and would have been an amazing engineering feat when it was built in the 1850s.

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The journey through Devon and Cornwall is lovely, we were not blessed with great weather, but the low cloud added to the mystery of the place. There were numerous occasions when I wanted to stop the train, get out and take some photos. One of the benefits, and curses, of being a passenger rather than the driver. I did take some photos at some of the smaller stations on the way!

After almost 6 hours we arrived in St Erth, where we left the Penzance train to catch the small, single carriage train the short distance to St Ives.

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A third of that journey is along the stunning Cornish coast, with gorgeous views up St Ives Bay towards Godvrey Head. The view was rather obscured by the very grubby windows!

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Finally we made it, 6 ½ hours from London, and I seemed to be getting more and more unwell by the hour.

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Luckily the holiday let we had booked was pretty much over the road from the station, so even though it was drizzling with rain and quite cold, at least it was only a short walk to the warm and dry. The view out of the front window was pretty good though, I am sure it is fantastic when you can see the other side of the bay. Though, I think is is actually my favourite photo from the five days away.

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After a brief rest we headed out in to the late afternoon drizzle for a walk down the hill into the centre of town. We were quite keen to see what was open on wet and cold Sunday. Surprisingly quite a lot. Not that this photo shows it!

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It was cold and wet so we retired to a nearby bar, that had the football on the telly, El’s team were playing, so it was a good excuse to have a pint. Though we did not stay for food, finding a local Italian for pizza instead.

I woke up Monday morning feeling pretty terrible, apart from an urgent work phone call that led me outside to get decent reception I spent most of the day in bed. El and I did venture out for a walk in the afternoon. We stopped for a coffee at a cafe over looking Porthmeor Beach. The first of three great flat whites I had in St Ives; in three cafes. Good coffee is always a bonus for me! There were even a few guys surfing, though I was not feeling up to heading down to the beach to take some photos.

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Tuesday I ‘woke’ after a bad sleep feeling even worse than Monday. Apart from no work call, it was almost a repeat of Monday. Instead of going to the same cafe we visited Tate St Ives. It was the only Tate we had not previously visited, it was closed for renovations last time we came to St Ives. I must admit I was not really feeling it, there was some interesting pieces, and I really liked the local focus as well, the Ben Nicholson and Alfred Wallis works were very pleasing. The Barbara Hepworth museum was closed for renovations now, though there were a couple of pieces here at the Tate.

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Wednesday had me feeling a little sprightlier than previous days, though when we did get out for a walk, stopping at the chemist for more drugs and tissues was high on the list. We started our walk down on Porthminster Beach, below our holiday rental. I really like this beach!

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I particularly like the cafe, and we have a reservation for dinner tomorrow night, our fifth anniversary, we are very much looking forward to that.

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We walked along the St Ives waterfront, and out on to the sea wall. Though the town’s main income is from tourism, there is still a small active fishing fleet based out of the bay behind the sea wall.

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We stopped in a different cafe again and had a really nice hot chocolate. We were given a glass of hot milk and a small wooden spoon with a lump of chocolate in the end, which we melted into the glass of milk. I have never seen that method of making a hot chocolate drink before. I liked it very much! We went to another pub for dinner tonight, my football team, Arsenal, were on the telly, losing as usual. We met a couple of guys down from Manchester for work who we chatted to for a while – and then the power went out in the block.  We hung around for a few minutes and then gave up and went home.

The worst of the cold was over by Thursday, though I was still not anywhere close to being fully well. I still could not be bothered getting the big camera out when we out for an afternoon walk. It was a pretty clear day, definitely the best of the week, though the wind was howling in exposed places and it was quite cold. El wanted to go back to the Tate and I wanted to walk up to St Nicholas Church, and walk around its headland, so we split up for a while and went our separate ways. I had a nice walk, though set a new record for myself by standing in dog pooh twice, one for each shoe. Joys 🙂

The wind over the past few days had created a reasonable swell, and there were a few decent waves lashing the rocks on the headland.

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The walk up to the church was a bit of a struggle, my head was feeling so much better today, but my chest was still constricted and I was quite out of breath when I got up there. Sitting in the sun was not much of an option as the wind was very cold, and I was not that well prepared. I rested in the shade of both the sun and the wind until my breathing was normal, and then, cold and with a damp bum, headed back to town.

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El and I met for lunch in quite a new cafe. it had a great menu, great coffee, and they were playing some quite dark music; I have never heard Placebo in a cafe before. I loved it. Not sure if the rest of the punters did. After lunch we walked back to our holiday home and crashed for a few hours before going back out for a fabulous meal at the Porthminster Cafe.

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As it was time to go home I was feeling much better on Friday morning, I reckon that by work on Monday I will 100% again. Typical. The sunrise was small but stunning on Friday, and I was glad I was actually able to get and out to take a couple of photos from the other side of the road.

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And that was it, back to St Erth on that lovely little train, followed by five or so hours back to London on a not so lovely little train.

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I do love St Ives, it was such a shame, especially for El, that I was sick for most of it. I am very glad I was well enough for us to go out for our anniversary dinner, in one of favourite restaurants overlooking one of my favourite UK beaches.

Even though it has brilliant coffee, some cool galleries, decent cafes and bars, and was not a deserted winter wasteland, in the end we decided it is not the place for us. It really is just too far away.

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Taking the camera for a walk

Saturday 13 January 2018 – London.

Happy new year! Welcome to 2018. Year six in my two years away from New Zealand. Day some number of thousands in the blog that probably wouldn’t last past the first day. I cannot believe I am still here, and that I get viewers on a daily basis, thanks 🙂

El was off to the football this afternoon, she now has a season ticket to the club that will not be named by an Arsenal supporter. She also had some work to do this morning and I didn’t (well I did but meh) so I decided to take the camera out for a walk. My plan was to catch the train into the city, find St Dunstan’s Church, walk up to The Photographers Gallery in the west-end to see the Wim Wenders exhibition, buy some new walking shoes, then go home. I am trying to do more exercise than I have been, taking a camera with me meant a meandering two or three hour walk.

Now I had decided to visit St Dunstan’s Church I felt I needed to take the Canon 5d MK 1 rather than the smaller, lighter point and shoot. I keep thinking I need to replace the 5d, it is 13 years old; which in technology terms is ancient, there is a MK 4 version now. It is heavy, unwieldy, and unfashionable, and the view screen is terrible. However, every time I take it out for a walk I just love the images that pop out of my computer screen when I get home. It just seems to suit the way I take pictures. In my bag it went, with a wide angle and a 50mm lens.

On a previous walk with El I had failed to find St Dunstan’s, poor research. Today I at least memorised the address. It is easy to find.

The church has a long history, it has been destroyed and rebuilt many time since its creation in 1100. The ruined version that remains now has a Christopher Wren designed tower built in 1701 that still stands and a pile of ruins, courtesy of Nazi Germany from 1821.

I always wanted to visit over a weekend, as it is a popular lunch and contemplation spot for city workers during the week. At the weekend it is just busy with photographers. It is a very cool spot.

The trick is take a photo that shows off the ruined church; the vines, the moss and mould, but hide the newer post-war buildings that surround it. Avoiding the fashion photographers and their detritus was far harder.

Leaving St Dunstans I started a very meandary path towards the west. I wanted to stay off the main roads and explore the smaller, less known streets, avoiding the worst of the people and finding things I have never seen before. Like St Mary Abchurch.

The churchyard led me up to the intersection at ‘Bank’,

where I headed off bank down the lanes towards the north bank of the Thames.

Walking towards St Pauls I found this rather forlorn looking closed outdoor cafe area outside a church.

There is an interesting mix of old and new buildings along Queen Victoria St, this used to be my ‘patch’ when I was a courier driver for DHL back in the 1980s, not a lot of has changed since then.

I headed back up into the lanes around St Pauls, passing the lovely St Andrews of the Wardrobe church, hidden away from the worst of the rush.

I stopped for a light lunch, coffee and a rest in a cafe on Blackfriars Rd, before crossing over, finally heading down to Thames side.

Though soon after I was back up off the main road and strolling through the peace and quiet of ‘Temple’ , one of my favourite weekend places in the central city. It is pretty much deserted at the weekend, most of the entrances are closed and unless you know how to get in, and more importantly out you would never know it is there. I was looking for some of the small flower gardens, but it is the wrong time of the year for flowers, and the few that were there were blowing around in the quite strong wind. I decided to find the exit on to Fleet St, which is not as easy as it sounds on a weekend as a lot of the place is locked up.

One of the great aspects of London, that does go a bit unremarked upon, is the vast number of trees scattered all over the central city, trees both ancient and new, near buildings both ancient and new.

Crossing back down to the river again I came across No 2 Temple Place. The building is slightly off the Thames and I must have passed nearby without actually spotting it before. It is a gallery though it was not open when I was there. I had been planning on taking a few photos using a very shallow depth of field of any flowers I found, not having found anything suitable I decided to experiment with these two small statues marking the entrance to the gallery. I liked them both.

I took the stairs up to the top of Waterloo Bridge.

Making my way through a very crowded Chinatown and Soho, I went to The Photographers Gallery to see the Wim Wenders Polaroid exhibition, which I very much enjoyed. It was quite busy as well.

My final mission for the day was to buy myself a new pair of trainers for walking the streets, I have worn out another pair with all my walking around, mainly, London. I was surprised to find this a successful, and not too stressful event. I headed home with purchases, and a what I hoped was a bunch of photos I would be happy with.

One of the things that I love about, and am frustrated with, when using the old 5d is that it is so old it is does not have an active rear screen. There is a screen and I can see the image I have taken, but the screen is small, has a very low resolution, is a bit worn and quite faded. I do not get much of an appreciation of the image I have taken. I sort of like this as it means I do not ‘pixel-peep’ every shot I take, so I tend to take less shots and use the camera almost like it is loaded with film. The downside is I have no idea how good, bad or indifferent my photos are until I get them loaded on to my computer.

I am going to say I was pretty pleased with what I got today. Going on a photo walk was a really good idea. I need to do it a lot more!

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A brief moment of solitude – Beachy Head.

Saturday 23 December 2017 – Eastbourne and Beachy Head.

Not having had a weekend away on my own for months I booked a couple of nights in a bed and breakfast in the coastal town of Cromer in Norfolk. I had a full day of photography planned; sunrise at Cromer Pier, some nice ruins scattered around the county, sunset back at the pier, followed by some long exposures of the sea and clouds. A drive and walk on my own. Sea air to clear the head and a couple of days with my own thoughts; not having to speak to anyone, unless I was ordering food or drink.

It was a good plan. A shame it did not happen!

To reduce the stress of travelling on what was being billed as the busiest travel day of the year I had taken Friday off work. A bit of a lie in and then on the road for mid morning, allowing myself plenty of time to get to Cromer. There were a couple of interesting places on the way I was going to stop at to take some pictures.

I loaded up the car and headed off just before 11:00. I made it approximately 100 feet up the road before stopping at the top of the hill to change a flat tyre. Bugger! Not the stress free start I planned.

Luckily the spare was not flat and all the tyre changing bits were in the boot, it was my first flat in this car and I had brief moment of panic when I could not find the jack. Tyre changed and I was on the way. The car felt fine, even at 70 on the M11 it was running straight and true. However, as I approached the inevitable tailback at the junction with the M25 I tapped the brake pedal to shave a bit of speed off and the steering wheel kicked and bucked like a wild beast. Brake off and it was fine, back on and wildness.  It was too unsafe to drive any distance, so reluctantly I turned round and headed home.

The weekend was over before lunch on Friday. Not admitting defeat I spent the rest of Friday sulking at home. I did, however, book myself a return to ticket to Eastbourne for the following day. Today.

I was up early, fed and on the tube to Victoria by 8. ‘Early’ Saturday morning is an eye (nose?) opener on the tube, the carriage stank of booze, there was a dozing rough sleeper and a well dressed woman conversing loudly with her invisible friend. A fully immersive experience.

I dislike Victoria Station, it is my least favourite of London’s mainline stations. With two concourses it is big and confusing and always seems to be manically busier than the other stations, even, like this morning when it is half empty. Drunk youths staggering around on their way home to provincial towns after a night out in the city mixed with wealthy looking tourists lugging heavy cases looking for trains to the airport. Everyone looked dazed and confused, I just felt it.

The ride to Eastbourne was uneventful. I read, listened to music, drank the coffee and ate the sausage sandwich I bought as I waited for the train. It was overcast, but was not supposed to be too cold, too windy or to rain, I was only moderately prepared for all three of those things.

A five minute walk from the station got me to the waterfront. Christmas is approaching and the shopping streets were busy. The town is nicer than I expected, and that niceness is reflected in the property prices I noted when I got home, it is more expensive than its neighbours to the north.

I took a quick look at the pier, I thought about walking to the end, but the winter days are short and I had a bit of a walk planned, so I moved on.

I have been wanting to come here and walk the South Downs, past Beachy Head Lighthouse and on to Burling Gap for quite a long time, but never managed to get around to it. The walk along the front is really nice, and it was surprisingly busy this morning. The hills of the Downs were looking a little murky, and slightly intimidating under that low cloud.

Arriving at the foot of the cliffs I found a sign pointing to the South Downs Way and its 100 miles to Winchester. I wish I had the time, fitness and the will to do a long distance walk. I fill my head with so many ideas and plans, some get started, most do not. I blame time and work, needing money to do things, my age and my sometimes aching body. Maybe I should fill my head with only one idea and see it through to completion. I still have 500 or so miles of the Southwest coast path to do, I should not be thinking about other walks.

I started up the short, steep grassy climb, glad I had worn proper walking shoes, it was pretty slippery after all the rain. A teenage break means my left ankle hates these steep climbs, if I do not stretch it, which naturally I don’t, then it loses its full range of movement after a few weeks. I struggled up, knowing tomorrow it will ache like hell.

It was windy and quite cool, very damp, and there was limited view out to sea, but what there was was glorious. There are a lot of bent and twisted hawthorn trees, providing a clear indication of the direction of the prevailing wind.

Ahead it was looking a little less enticing and as I walked I wondered if that was going to be the end of the view for the day. I was quite surprised by the amount of scrub and wildness on this stretch, in mind the walk from town to Burling Gap was almost manicured lawn, the result of mis-seen photos. Those photos led me to believe it was always sunny here too. Maybe just mis-remembered.

After walking through the edge of a scrubby wood I was out on the cliff tops and the first view of Beachy Head Lighthouse. I took a lot of photos from various angles, so if you hate lighthouses, and Beachy Head in particular you should look away now. It is a spectacular piece of coast so your turning away would just be wrong.

The chalk cliffs look amazing in any light, though they seem dirtier than they were in older photos. At this point, which is roughly the highest, the cliff top is 162 metres above the sea. Given the cliff edge and the popularity of the area, I am surprised there are few fences, only where there have been slips is the edge closed to the public. I guess you cannot fence off the entire coast. I now see there are two people ahead of me. It almost seems a shame that I appear to not be alone, that I have passed through the dull low, damp mist and can see and hear further; and that people now occupy that new space.

Further out of the cloud I can see Belle Toute Lighthouse in the distance, at least there does not appear to be any more people than when I emerged, nor am I catching up on those ahead.

From Belle Toute I looked back up the cliff line towards Beachy Head.

There are more people here, even though Belle Toute is a privately owned B and B, it attracts visitors from the car park at the bottom of the short climb on the east side and a lot more from Burling Gap on the west. I was really looking forward to seeing the tiny community of Burling Gap. It features in numerous images of the area, though none of the ones I have seen feature a large orange crane and a large car park. I was a little disappointed!

There is a National Trust Cafe and I was pleasantly surprised to find it was open. It was a good excuse to stop for lunch and a coffee, though I did not linger as it was after 1 pm and I had taken almost two hours to do the 90 minute walk. If I took the same to return after eating it would be almost dark by the time I arrived. The view along the chalk white cliffed coast is breathtaking and I will certainly be back to walk more of it, perhaps on one of those blue sky days I see on the post cards.

The walk up to Belle Toute was the busiest it had been all day. 

I want to know what this is!! Why is there hatch with a padlock? There are other concrete pads where I am guessing lookouts, gun emplacements and other wartime things were located. Though this was the only one I saw that appears to have something underneath. Are there tunnels?

I took a few more photos of the lighthouse on the way back to Eastbourne, and I saved my favourite photo to share last.

The walk back was a lot quicker, the cloud seemed lower, though with the wind in my back it was not as cold and mist no longer formed on my camera lens. I did walk a more direct route, further away from the edges, though the mist was never that thick to be unsafe. I ventured almost alone back into the cloud. There was a walker behind me and I caught glimpses of him as I walked, seeing him for the last time on the train back to London.

As the light was so dim I decided to experiment with a bit of intentional camera movement (ICM) photography, something I did a lot of back in NZ in 2008/09. I have dabbled with it a little in the past couple of months. I am trying to achieve an impressionist painter effect; a work in progress.

As I returned to the top of the hill overlooking Eastbourne I could see the sun trying to work its way through the cloud, though it never quite managed to.

I made it back with plenty of time before darkness started to arrive, so took a round about way to the waterfront, strolling through the gloomy Italian Gardens,

before heading back down the beach. I love the way that over the years (decades?) the tide has finally overcome the steps, and every other set of steps along the front. I really want to know how deep they are and when the council gave up resisting the relentless move of the shoreline.

The waterfront was even busier than late morning, there were a lot of family groups out walking and a lot of older folk walking dogs. In fact there are a lot of dogs here, mainly small dogs. A heck of a lot of small dogs. So many I took no pictures of them. I did take a picture of a large building, a hotel I am guessing; and a street light.

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As I said before, I really liked Eastbourne, the waterfront is decaying less than many of the other coastal towns, especially in the south east. It is clean and tidy and most of the shops are open and active. There seemed to be a pretty good feel in the air, though so many bloody smokers!

It does have damn good pier !

I arrived in the small station about 40 minutes before the train I had booked was schedule to leave. I was going to sit in a pub over a quiet pint, but found there was a train leaving sooner, so I grabbed a bag of crisps and a small bottle of red wine and got on the earlier train.

The ride back to London was good, I read a book and then relaxed in my seat, Mogwai playing in my headphones  and reflected on what was a really pleasant day out on my own.

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Hollow Ponds

Sunday 10 December 2017 – Walthamstow.

The snow continued to fall throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. By the time we returned from our morning walk the footpaths either side of our road had mostly been turned to grey sludge, though the footprints I had made in the garden were slowly being buried under crisp new flakes.

I was itching to go out again, and by mid-afternoon that itch had proven unscratchable, so I donned jacket, hat and gloves and went back out into a very light sprinkling of snow. I had initially considered taking the car up to the forest, but was a little concerned about the roads. Less about my driving, more about some of the pillocks out there roaring up and down the icy main roads! It was a decent, if not cold and wet day for a walk.

Hollow Ponds is a far corner of Epping Forest, not far from where we live. It is an interesting place. There is a small boating lake, an area of clear heathland, and some scratchy forest. It is mostly surrounded by busy roads. It is hugely popular with local dog walkers and families; lots of places for children to run, kick and throw balls, fly kites and do big outdoorie type things. It also has a dark, dirty and sleazy side and is a well known location for dogging and men wandering around in the forested areas looking for sex. There is a strange mix of people and uses. It was here I decided to walk to;  I was hoping for solitude.

I was wearing my trail running shoes, they have great grip in slippery conditions, but they are not really waterproof, mildly resistant is an apt description. The footpaths were really slushy, so lack of grip was not really the issue, wetness was possibly going to be though. I decided to walk in the road, tyres of passing cars had cleared two nice, reasonably dry lines. There was not a lot of traffic on the side streets and bizarrely I could hear the water from the melted snow rushing through the drains beneath my feet. There must been a heck of a lot of water.

Passing through St Mary’s churchyard I stopped to take my first photo, I was hoping for some interesting churchy/graveyardy covered in snow scenes, but nothing much really caught my eye. Though I do like the door and the cracks in the wall and the snow in this, the only picture I took.

There was not a lot of people out on the streets on a snowy Sunday afternoon, enough to mush things up, though not as many as normal, I suspect a lot of people had been out in the morning. With the low sky and the falling snow and the lack of people it was surprisingly quiet, even with the traffic noise. I liked it. The first scene that caught my eye was a small copse on Whipps Cross Corner, a small scruffy stand of trees between the roundabout and the hospital. There was just enough colour in the remaining leaves to attract my attention.

Crossing the road I found a small trail between the snow loaded and bent brambles and the, thankfully, buried nettles that led into the tree line. Given the time of day I was surprised at how much snow was left, the well walked paths were worn and muddy, but snow lay to the sides and I managed to avoid the worst of the mud. 

I found my way to the edge of the boating lake and to my favourite tree skeleton. I have taken a few photos of this tree, none successfully, and I am not overly happy with this one either. But it was the best I managed today.

The lake was half iced over, there were a large number of gulls standing on the ice, though the moored boats seemed to be in free water.

I drifted back into the trees for a while, randomly following short narrow pathways running between the road and the major paths, the little bits of the forest I do not normally venture into. Not that there was anything much that caught the eye of my camera. I continued on a fairly random path out of the forest on to the heath, back to where the larger trees had space to grow, clear of holly and bramble. I love scenes like this, living in London with its lack of snow I so rarely get to see them, when I do I appreciate them even more. 

There were a few more people on this side of the lake, I could hear families playing in the distance and sign of their earlier presence was everywhere. Away from the road, my own presence is all I noted, I could hear my footsteps, see and hear my breath, and when I looked behind I could see, even mixed with other prints, where I had been.  I must be utterly fabulous to be out in the wild on a day like today.

The day was drawing to a close, so I started to end the loop around the boating lake, coming across this large gaggle of geese. A man had arrived with a bag of bread and they seemed to be familiar with him and his gift.

Following  the lake I stopped to take a last couple of photos of the boats, and my favourite tree before starting the schlep back home.

I had not noticed but the snow had stopped falling while I was in the trees, there had been no wind all day so it was not particularly cold now, though a very light rain had started to come down as I walked. I made faster steps home than I did on the way.

That was pretty much the end of the snow, there was not a lot left when I went to work in the morning. Hopefully we will see some more this winter! Next time I will get up earlier, wrap up very warm and ride my bike up to the forest, get into the areas less travelled and wander around leaving my own print on the land.

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Yay! Snow in the ‘Stow.

Sunday 10 December 2017 – Walthamstow.

A couple of days ago El and I were  visiting Liverpool and it was absolutely freezing, culminating in a small sleet/snow flurry as we were on our way to the station to catch the train back home. London seemed almost tropical by comparison.

El had just gotten up to make tea, I was planning on a decent lie in after a couple of nights of poor sleep, when she called out from downstairs that it was snowing, and it had been settling. I leapt up, looked at the window, and YES. SNOW!

I love snow. Just the fluffy white stuff fresh on the ground, not the grey dirty muddy trampled slush that it turns into once it has stopped falling and humans have traversed it. Living in Auckland for so long and being too lazy/busy to make the trip to the mountains in the centre of the North Island, I hardly ever saw it. This is my fifth winter in London and I have only seen snow once in that time. There was a scant fall last year and in previous years it waited till I was out of the country to pay a visit.

A quick coffee followed getting dressed and we were out the door fairly quickly. I could already see local kids playing in the street, as it was not particularly early we were keen to get to Lloyd Park, near the end of our street, before too many people arrived to mess up that lovely cold white blanket. Wrapping up warmly, as the snow was still falling, I popped the little camera in my pocket and we were out the door. Slipping and sliding down the hill.

The William Morris Gallery sits just inside the entrance to the park and was our first stop. I love this building at the best of times but with snow falling and a big Christmas tree out the front, it looked magnificent today.

As did this nearby tree. I could see we were early enough to find the snow untrampled, and to hear the crunch and squeak of the snow underfoot as we walked round the gallery into the park itself.

I ended up taking a few photos as we walked around the park, though a lot of them were quite smeared and blurred by falling snow. I did not think to bring anything to clean the lens as we walked…

The park was gradually getting busier and busier as time moved on and more and more families arrived with young children in tow. Quite literally in some cases, there were a few plastic sleds on display. Though Lloyd Park could not be any flatter!

This is my favourite photo from the short outing. I Like that the scene is mostly monochromatic from the bare trees and the snow, but human intervention has added a smattering of colour. This is largely unedited by the way.

After completing a full circuit of the park we passed the back of the gallery, and headed for the warmth of home.

It was still snowing a couple of hours later, leaving a good covering on some old garden furniture. I popped my head out the bathroom window and took this photo, which I may well print one day.

I will sneak out again a bit later on in the day…

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A cold day in Liverpool

Friday 08 December 2017 – Liverpool.

I have lived in the UK for most of the past five years. In the mid-1980s I lived here for a further two and half years; and in those seven and half years, I have never once been to Liverpool. As that presidential moron, DT would say, ‘Sad’!

We have an office in Liverpool, planning to be in Manchester on Thursday for a party to celebrate the opening of a vendor’s new office a meeting with a key vendor I decided to take an extra day and make a quick visit to Liverpool as well. The idea was for El and I to meet in Liverpool, spend the Friday together and then spend the night with our friend in Macclesfield. However, our Macc friend ended up being unwell so we booked tickets home to London instead.

I worked from home on Thursday morning and caught the 12:00 train to Manchester. The meeting was great. I ended up leaving about 10:00pm, after discovering my favourite beer, Beavertown Gamma Ray, brewed not too far from home was on tap in the bar we went to. Yay! It was a mildly wobbly walk to my hotel.

There was one moment of low drama when I arrived at the hotel. I was advised that as I had not checked in by 6:00 pm my room had been cancelled. Luckily another staff member came to my rescue and found me a room, I think the first one was going to toss me out on the street!

I was in reasonable condition on Friday morning, much better that I expected I would be, red wine, beer and a terrible sleep are not the best combination for a sprightly morning. I left Manchester at 9:30 and caught a train to Liverpool, where El was waiting for me. I left Manchester under a clear blue sky and arrived in Liverpool to a bitter wind and grey clouds. El said she had seen snow out of the window on her journey up. There was no snow on the ground, the streets of Liverpool were clear of anything but puddles and reflections.

We walked down through the main shopping area towards the Albert Dock and the River Mersey, our first objective was Tate Liverpool.

We are members of the Tate and our membership included entry into the John Piper exhibition. I have not heard of him before, he was an English artist working in the last century, and we very much liked his work. There was also an exhibition of Roy Lichtenstein which we also looked at, and it seemed to be quite popular as well.

The view out of the window over a very brown and wind blown Mersey.

After a reviving coffee and a sit down, we ventured back out into that strong and very cold wind, there were not so many people outside! I liked the docks area.

Even though it was a day off work I decided I would take ten minutes and pop into the office. I have not met many of the IT team in Liverpool, though have shared emails and messages with most. Saying hello, introducing myself and putting faces to names was an opportunity worth taking. The office was not far from the Tate, and allowed us to walk past the Royal Liver building.

Following the quick office visit we walked randomly around for a while, there are some nice old buildings here, bits of it reminded me of Edinburgh new town with low rise sandstone buildings and lots of pillars. 

Hitting the main shopping streets again, we decided to head back towards the waterfront and the new museums. We visited a photography gallery, great to see such a thing, but the photography did not inspire me much. I was going to try and explain why I didn’t like it, but putting those complex thoughts into words that fit in a short form diary/travel blog didn’t seem to work. However, it has made me think about what I like and why I like it.

We then visited the modern Museum of Liverpool which was really cool, typical of the new breed of light, airy and interactive museums. Bonus points for anyone knows why this football shirt was on display in the music section!

It was drifting towards train time, I was hungry and it was too cold and windy to enjoy spending a lot more time wandering about so we decided to walk slowly back up towards the station. There is a very strange building near the waterfront. It looks like it belongs in a fantasy movie about ancient Egypt, where all the buildings are massive and domineering. We liked it a lot.

The clouds were lowering, darkening and threatening as we walked, it was only mid-afternoon, but it was getting quite dim.

As I was taking this photo of the magnificent central library building it started to rain. We were close to the station, under a hundred yards.

Though, I did stop by the war memorial for a quick photo.

By the time we arrived at Lime St Station the rain had turned to sleet and the temperature just dropped. It was nice to make it inside! Another place we definitely want to go back to, there is a lot more to explore in Liverpool. Though I will wait until summer next time.

The journey back to London was fine, it is only a couple of hours, the train was full, but we got our seats OK and it was reasonably comfortable. There was wine so I fortified myself with a small bottle of red, put my headphones on (noisy children) and dozed. As we passed through Stafford Station it started snowing, a little more heavily this time.

No such luck in London though. London was just cold and clear. A frost formed over night, my car roof was telling me something!

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Autumn in Epping Forest – Week 2

Sunday 22 November 2017 – Epping Forest.

I was a little disappointed with the finished product after last week’s photo walk in Epping Forest. I had some good compositions and had the light pretty much right in most cases. Two key photographic objectives made. Where I had let myself down was the crispness of some of the images. There were a couple I was quite pleased with that were just not sharp enough in the areas that counted. What really galled is that I had humped the tripod around with me for the entire three half hours, yet I only used it for about ten minutes. What a waste; and don’t ask me why I did not use it. I have no reason.

I decided to go out again this weekend, take the tripod, but actually use it. No proper walk planned. Just photograph near to where I park and take more time, but producing less output.

I left home a little later than last week, it was another cracking autumn day, crisp, but not cold, with little wind and a clear sky; perfect for everyone and there dog to go outside. The car park near where I had planned to check out was full when I arrived, damnit! I ended up driving to another location, one I am familiar with, but it was second choice due to it being close to one of the more popular areas of the forest.  I do like to do my photography on my own.  The forest is the one place locally I can let my mind run free, clear out all the garbage that comes in over a working week, then reset and prepare thoughts and ideas for the week ahead. I always feel refreshed when I get home.

I was amazed at how much the forest had changed in just a week, a lot of the leaves had gone and there are a lot more bare trees than before. Next time I come up there will only be tree skeletons left. I took significantly less photos than last week, I had given my self a lot less time, and I only strayed a couple of hundred metres from the car, but I did use the tripod and I did get much sharper images. 

Mission accomplished!

I love how this tree has managed to reconnect its roots and has survived being blown over.

I spent a bit of time trying to photography these two trees, I liked their shapes and their relationship and I liked the way the light plays on them and with their leaves. I just could not seem to get the shot I wanted. I took enough, and this was the best of an average bunch.

Perhaps this couple sitting nearby put me off.  I always feel restrained when others are around.

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My favourite image from the session.

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Autumn in Epping Forest – Week 1

Sunday 22 November 2017 – Epping Forest.

Last year I managed to pretty much miss the changing of the seasons in London. Autumn arrived quite late and the trees had not started properly changing colour until after I left for India. This year I stayed for the show.

I have not been to Epping Forest for a few weeks, and was really looking forward to this trip. I had a walk planned, batteries for the big camera charged and the tripod in the car.

On a normal trip to the forest I am looking for flat grey light, however today I was hoping for some nice low sun. Actually, what I was praying for was some dense mist, though I settled happily for the clear sky that I got.

I have a semi regular walking route I follow when I go to the forest, covering decent sized groves of beech and silver birch trees. The actual paths taken vary each time, and I often stray in to small blocks of trees that I have yet to thoroughly explore before. Blocks that feel remote, that are quiet; though always my new favourite block.

Though I took the tripod, I barely used it, something I utterly regret now as I do the edit, as most of the images are not really, really crisp. I was disappointed with that. I have no real explanation as to why I did not use the tripod much. I am blaming the fact I had planned too large a walk, for the limited time I had.

I am going to return next week and stick to one small area.

Here are the images I ended up with.  I must admit I took an awful lot, way more than I normally do, but the forest was utterly spectacular. So much colour and so much vibrancy. I will leave it to you to judge 🙂

 

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November 2017

It is now less than a month to Christmas. 2017 has been another really busy year and I am not really sure where it all disappeared to. But disappear it did. This year has been the first time in the six years since I left New Zealand (on my two year holiday) that I have not been back for a visit.  Mum did come to see us, which was fabulous, but that meant I missed out on seeing my two grand children.  I need to make sure that I return in 2018.

I have not taken a walking trip this year either, not even a couple of sneaky days away, again highly unusual, and another symptom of my busyness. I am going to try and squeeze a weekend away on my own in before the end of the year. Take some photos and do a little bit of walking.  My long term goal to walk the south west coast path have been thwarted, but there is no one to blame but myself, though at least I did visit the path a few times in 2017.

Though we have been busy, a lot of that busyness has been doing fun things, and we have been out and about for numerous walks and other activities. I have no cause for complaint, I just want to do too much I guess. Most of those activities over the year have been written about.

I generally take a camera most places I go, the ‘little’ Canon G16 is in my backpack most days, and if it isn’t, I at least have my phone with me the rest of the time. So, this post may be the start of a regular end of month wrap-up post of the random images I take that do not fit in to another narrative.

The only thread that remotely links even a small number of these images together is ‘Autumn’. I love autumn in the UK far more than in Auckland. Here, even in London, we get much more colour in the trees, and the dead fall on the ground. So I will start with some of those.

Most weekday mornings I walk from Green Park Station, down through Green Park, across the Mall and through St James Park to the office. I have really enjoyed watching the trees turn, it has been a beautiful experience and the walk is a good start to most days.

A couple of weeks ago, Eleanor and I walked to, and then through the recently opened ‘Walthamstow Wetlands’, Europe’s largest urban wetland area.  It is not the best time of year for urban wildlife; and the place was pretty crowded with other visitors, so we kinda just walked through from the Ferry Rd entry to the Copper Mill Lane entry, where I took this picture.

There were piles of leaves all along the end of the Copper Mill Lane, so I stopped to take a few photos of the brightly coloured leaves, drying and dying on the ground. The rich array of coloured leaves, all from the same type of tree is a constant reminder of how  amazing the natural world is.  I also tried a little bit of ‘Intentional Camera Movement’ photography to get this blurry, splash of colour, painterly affect.

On Saturday we went to Tate Modern to see the Modigliani exhibition, as members we got to  enter the exhibition an hour before the ‘public’. It was really good, I am not overly familiar with his work, but I particularly liked his early portraits. There was no photography allowed in the exhibition. However, I did quickly snap this picture outside, a scene I really liked, and one I am going to go back to to try and get a better image.

Along with this one of the wonderful silver birches outside.

El and I went separate ways after walking to Liverpool St Station. I was on a mission to a record fair at Spitalfields (unfulfilled), though I did find this wonderful light sculpture around Broadgate.

And this old shop front, which I surprised myself by never having seen before!

There are a couple of posts coming from two short photo missions I have made in Epping Forest over the past couple of weeks, and that will be a wrap of November 2017!

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A little slice of Devon Heaven

Sunday 29 October 2107 – Budleigh Salterton and Dawlish, Devon, England.

Up early again. On a Saturday. Again. This is becoming an unhealthy habit! El and I are off to Exeter to visit Charlie’s flat and drop a load of stuff off that he could not take down on the train. We were in the car and off by 7:30, stopping for breakfast and a coffee on the way. It was a good run down to Exeter and we were there by 12:00.

Charlie lives in a big old house; there are seven students in it, in a street full of big old houses full of students. We were lucky to be able to park the car pretty close to his front door and after unloading we were off to the student bar in the university campus to watch football and eat lunch. Not bad, nice food and cheap beer, but I was driving.

Once the game was over (a Tottenham loss to Man Utd.) El and I headed out of town to the very nice B and B I had booked for the night. We dropped the bags and carried on down to the coast. We passed through Budleigh Salterton on our July south coast road trip and liked the place enough to want to come back for a longer visit. I tried to find somewhere to stay the night there, but there wasn’t anything available, so we are staying in Clyst St Mary on the edge of Exeter. I parked on the sea front and we wrapped up and went for a walk; it is cold.

The light was marvellous as we walked along the side of the pebbly beach and up to the cliff top viewing area to admire the views.

The sea front at Budleigh Salterton is nice, we both liked it. However; when we walked into the small village to find somewhere to have a meal, it seemed to be all shut. Hmm, there were a couple of places open; but as a place to move to, well we need more choices for food. We jumped back in the car and headed to a pub near the B and B and had what turned out to be a pretty good carvery for tea. I haven’t done a carvery pub meal for ages. I enjoyed it.

We were back at the B and B really early, not long after 7:30. It was dark and cold and we were tired, so heading in to town was not really an option. As we arrived a great fireworks display started at, I am guessing, the local school. Even better was we could watch it from our room, which was very sound proofed !

It was another glorious day on Sunday, we had a bit of a lie in with breakfast booked for 8:30. Full English, yum. We were not picking Charlie up until 1:30 so decided to take advantage of the sun and go to the other side of the River Exe and visit Dawlish. I have passed through Dawlish numerous times on the train but have never stopped there. This section of the railway was design by Brunel and runs right along the coast, across causeways and through tunnels, a wonderful piece of engineering. I have always wanted to visit, though parking the car was more expensive than London and made me a little grumpy 🙂 We parked at the station.

We walked along the sea front to the very nice Cove Cafe at the end. We briefly enjoyed sitting in the sun drinking the best coffee in days along with a piece of un-needed, but very much desired and enjoyed sweet cannoli each. It was a shame that the family with the loudest voices in the south of England were sitting right next to us.

I was hoping to be able to walk further along the train line, though had to settle for just looking and marvelling at the engineering feat that Brunel managed on this rugged coast line.

There was even a bit of street art nearby. I am liking Dawlish!

It is a lovely town, it has everything in my book, apart from being too far from anywhere, and rather ‘elderly’. It is clean and tidy, not too ‘seaside shabby’, has some marvellous views, and a seawall that would make for some excellent photographic opportunities in stormy weather.

The weekend was slightly ruined for me by the seven hour drive back to London. It was the last day of the mid-term school break and the traffic was mad, so many accidents, so much traffic. We went back to London via Oxford to avoid the snarl ups on the M4. It was tiring and horrible.

But the weekend made it pretty worth while.

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