Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bluebells at Waresley & Gransden Woods


Panoramic image of beautiful bluebells at The Wildlife Trust Waresley & Gransden Woods

Following on from my recent visit to see the bluebells at Brampton Wood, I took a trip over to Waresley & Gransden Woods to do the same. I was in two minds whether to go, as there are only so many shots of bluebells you can take in a season until they all start looking the same, so I didn't have high hopes in getting anything new.


Of ancient origin, having been part of the local landscape for thousands of years, Waresley and Gransden Woods are a 54 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest that contain predominantly ash, maple and hazel, with parts of the wood replanted earlier this century with oak, beech and sycamore. They are home to many breeding birds, an abundance of wildflowers, and over 500 species of moth and butterfly.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Brampton Wood Bluebells


Woodland filled with bluebells at Brampton Wood Nature Reserve

Last week I took a trip to Brampton Wood, in search of bluebells, in fact I took two trips as it's a fairly large wood, and I couldn't do it justice in just one visit. In fact two trips barely grazes the surface of this fascinating place, but as it was the bluebell display I was after, that would just have to do, for now.

Brampton Wood, at 326 acres, is the second largest ancient woodland in Cambridgeshire, and is at least 900 years old. The first records date back to the Doomsday Book, “woodland pasture - half a league long and 2 furlongs wide”, when animals such as pigs used to feed on acorns. A large earth bank marks its ancient boundary, the bank and ditch barrier were built in the Middle Ages, to protect the wood from invading cattle and to keep pasture animals inside. There are several other minor banks and ditches within the wood, thought to be prehistoric field drainage systems. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Wicken Fen windmill at sunset


National Trust Wicken Fen wind pump under pastel clouds at sunset

I recently took a little trip to Wicken Fen for a spot of sunset photography, with a view to getting some shots of the iconic wind pump that stands proud amongst this wetland landscape.

The Wicken Fen nature reserve is Britain's oldest nature reserve and is one of Europe's most important wetlands, home to over 9000 recorded species including many rare plants, birds and dragonflies. It was the first reserve cared for by the National Trust, starting in 1899. It includes fenland, farmland, marsh, and reedbeds, and is one of only four wild fens which still survive in the enormous Great Fen Basin area of East Anglia, where 99.9% of the former fens have now been replaced by arable cultivation.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Grand Pier at sunset in Weston-Super-Mare


Sunset colours over the Grand Pier on the beach at Weston-Super-Mare

I had reason to be in Weston-Super-Mare recently, not something you hear often, but that is where I found myself nonetheless. And thankfully I had my camera with me, so I took the opportunity to head down to the beach for sunset, hoping to get some shots of the Grand Pier.

The pier is privately owned and is supported by 600 iron piles, and is 400 metres long. It has been damaged by fire on two occasions, in 1930 and 2008. Following the 2008 fire, which completely destroyed the pavilion, the pier was rebuilt and and reopened in October 2010.

The Grand Pier was originally constructed in 1904, and featured a 2,000 seat theatre which was used as a music hall for opera, stage plays and ballet. After the original pavilion was destroyed by fire in 1930 a new pavilion was built in 1933, which housed a large, undercover fun fair. In 1974 the pier became a Grade II listed building.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Dorset day 4 - A surprising sunrise and a host of tall trees



Beautiful colours above Banjo Pier in Swanage Dorset

My last day in Dorset and I wanted to make the most of it, so I was up before the sun, with a view to getting some shots of the headland at Peveril Point. The weather did not look especially inspiring as I made my way through Swanage town and parked in the upper car park overlooking the piers.

Retrieving my gear from the car, my expectations were not exactly emboldened as the rain began to steadily fall. So I decided against taking the walk to the Point, as the conditions, as well as being determined to turn me into a soggy flannel, were opaque to say the least. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dorset day 3 part two - The remarkable Agglestone and a beautiful pine forest



Rows of huge pine trees topped with an emerald canopy at Studland Bay

Following on from my morning jaunt around Studland Bay Nature Reserve, we return to the action, and I use that word in the loosest possible sense, among the moorland of Black Heath. I didn't have a particular destination in mind, I was just out for a walk to see what I could see, when I spied a large outcrop in the distance that seemed too incongruous for it's surroundings to be ignored.

My curiosity sufficiently piqued, I changed course, and following one of the pathways that snake their way over the undulating landscape, I headed towards it. I didn't know it at the time, it was only later when I did a bit of research that I found out all about it, but I was bearing towards Agglestone Rock, also known as the Devil's Anvil, or the Devil's nightcap.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dorset day 3 part one - Sunrise sort of & Studland nature reserve


Tide movement under a dramatis sky at Swanage on the Jurassic Coast
My third day in Dorset, and I woke to a pretty dismal start to the day, the weather had obviously decided to urinate on my parade, but I was not to be deterred, and I headed down to Swanage seafront anyway, in spite of the dank conditions.

And I was right to do that, even though the sky was awash with thick clouds, the cool, ambient light had created a atmospherically atmospheric atmosphere. I took advantage of it and got some shots looking out to sea, where a thin, pale band of red had begun to present itself above the horizon, which was about as psychedelic as the sunrise got.

I then turned my hawk like attention to the seafront itself, due to the early hour the lights were still ablaze along the waterfront, and from my vantage point I had a good view of them. With the morning tide rippling and plashing over the stretch of golden sand between me and the gentle urbanity in the near distance, it was a peaceful scene, and I was glad I had made the effort to get out into the dawn air.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Dorset Day 2 - Swanage splashes & Kimmeridge minerals



Waves spread over the beach at Swanage in the dawn light

I woke to much more of a promising dawn on my second day in Dorset, so I didn't hang around and I was soon zooming my way through the quiet streets of Swanage towards the seafront. I got there just as the sun was making its presence felt by throwing a band of colour across the horizon.

Unfortunately there wasn't much in the way of high cloud cover, so the sky wasn't going to be the most interesting I'd ever seen, but I wasn't complaining too much. I was also faced with a similar dilemma as I'd had the previous day, namely I had photographed Swanage beach and it's groynes many times over, so I had to find something a bit different to do, just to keep myself interested. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Dorset Day 1 - Corfe Castle & Man O'War Bay


Ruins of Corfe Castle on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset

Recently I spent a few days in one of my favourite places, the Dorset coast. It had been a little while since I'd been there last, so I was keen to catch up with a few of the many picturesque spots this part of the country has to offer.

I had arrived under an haze of evening drizzle, so there wasn't much I could get up to there and then, and a sunset was definitely not on the cards, so I pitched up to the accommodation and waited it out, hoping it would clear for sunrise the next day. It didn't.

But thankfully, it didn't take long for the rain to clear and it soon turned into a a rather nice morning. My first stop was to the old pier on Swanage seafront, I'd been there plenty of times before and probably got every shot there is to get of it, but I'd have felt remiss if I hadn't at least shown my face, it was only polite.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Grafham Water reflections & sunset


Storm clouds lit up by the evening sunset over Grafham Water reservoir

A month or so ago, I took a trip to the shores of Grafham Water, one of the largest reservoirs in the country, for a spot of photography.

It was a beautiful day, with very little wind and some rather handsome cloud formations. The conditions were perfect to get some tranquil shots of the sky reflected in the sparkling lake. I started off around the western shore, where the nature reserve is located, and took a few images looking towards one of the two pumping stations that serve the reservoir, as it was lit up by the afternoon sunshine. 

I then moved round to the eastern shore, so I could get some shots of the setting sun, as it descended towards the horizon in the west. Luckily for me, as the day began to draw to a close, the clouds started to gather into something that certainly wasn't tranquil, and by the time the sun was throwing out its warm hues of early evening, they were looking very stormy indeed.

As you can see from the images below, the clouds really made the day over at Grafham Water, and thankfully I happened to be in the right place at the right time. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ouse Fen sunset event



Clouds at sunset in the Cambridgeshire Fens at Ouse Fen Nature Reserve

Last week I visited the RSPB Nature Reserve of Ouse Fen, in the hope that I might get a bit of sunset colour. Thankfully I wasn't disappointed, as the clouds were big and the colour was vibrant, which was just the job.

I set up my gear next to one of the lakes, which are actually reclaimed gravel pits, from the still active quarry that is situated nearby, and is the largest in Eastern England, and kept my fingers crossed for a bit of sunset action.

The RSPB, in partnership with the quarry company, are in the process of turning the disused parts of the quarry into a nature reserve, and it will, in several years, be home to 460 hectares of reed bed habitat, the largest in the country.

As you can see from the following images, thanks to the huge, ever changing clouds, the early evening light put on quite a show.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

North East coast day 5 - Fountains Abbey


North Yorkshire Cistercian ruins of Fountains Abbey in the evening gloom

My last day in the North East and I decided to visit Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire on my way back down south. Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. Founded in 1132, the abbey operated for over 400 years, until 1539, when Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The abbey sits in an enclosed valley within Studley Royal Park, which also features an 18th century landscaped garden, including the Water Garden, created in 1718, which is one of the best surviving examples of a Georgian water garden in England. It is studded with a number of follies including a neo-Gothic castle and a palladian style banqueting house.

Unsurprisingly in 1986, the entire parkland including the abbey was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It was recognised for fulfilling the criteria of being a masterpiece of human creative genius, and an outstanding example of a type of building or architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stages in human history. Fountains Abbey is owned by the National Trust and maintained by English Heritage.

North East coast day 4 - Pennine Waterfalls


Waterfall and woodland in the North Pennines near Bowlees

While I was up north I took the opportunity to visit the Pennines, as I had never visited them before. I had a plan to do a bit of waterfall photography, because I can’t resist a good waterfall, and the Pennines have them in abundance, seeing as they form the main watershed in northern England, dividing east and west.

Often described as the ‘backbone of England’, the Pennine Hills form a more-or-less continuous range stretching northwards from the Peak District, into the South Pennines incorporating parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, through the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines past the Cumbrian Fells up to the Tyne Gap, which separates the range from the Cheviot Hills.

I was concentrating on the North Pennines, which is classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is afforded much the same protection as a National Park. Lying just north of the Yorkshire Dales, it rivals the National Park in size and includes some of the Pennines' highest peaks and some of its most isolated and sparsely populated areas.

Monday, February 6, 2017

North East coast day 3 - Whitley Bay & St Mary's Lighthouse


St Mary's Lighthouse at Whitley Bay on the North East Coast

I took a trip up the coast to Whitley Bay, as I had it in mind to pay a visit to St Mary’s Lighthouse. Built in 1898 on the site of an 11th century monastic chapel, whose monks kept a lantern in the tower to warn passing ships of the dangerous rocks they were passing, this venerable old lady was in use for 86 years before being decommissioned in 1984, and was the last Trinity House (the official General Lighthouse Authority for England) lighthouse lit by oil. 

The grade II listed lighthouse is situated on the tiny island of St Mary’s, which is also home to a small museum and visitor centre along with the one and only inhabited private property on the isle. During the 19th century there was an inn, known as the 'Square and Compass', on there, but in 1895, after complaints about rowdy customers trespassing on nearby land, the landlord had the publican and his family summarily chucked off the island.

The lighthouse is open to visitors, but not in winter, so there weren’t too many people about, partly also I would imagine, due to the blisteringly ferocious wind that was howling in from the North Sea. And which seemed to be on a relentless quest to snatch anything from about my person that wasn’t fastened down, meaning that any time I needed to retrieve something from my camera bag, it triggered a lengthy exercise in gusty frustration.

Friday, February 3, 2017

North East Coast Day 2 - Blast Beach Sunrise & Roker Sunset


Sunrise at Seaham over Blast Beach near Sunderland

I was up early in the hope that there would be a decent sunrise, and as I drove out of Sunderland towards Seaham, it looked like I might be in luck. I parked up along the seafront at Nose’s Point, and quickly realised I should have arrived a bit earlier, as the dawn colours were already making themselves known above me.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

North East coast day 1 - Rainbows & a lighthouse


Marsden coastline and The Leas view of a storm cloud and rainbow

Over the New Year I took a trip up to Sunderland to spend some time with family, and also spend some time exploring the area. I've only just gotten around to sorting through my images, so I'll be adding a few posts in the coming days of my time on the spectacular North East coast.

My first stop was Souter Lighthouse, located in the village of Marsden in South Shields. I parked up along The Leas, a two and a half mile stretch of magnesian limestone cliffs that date from around 250 million years ago. The cliffs have been named by the Geological Society of London as number 34 in the top 100 geological sites in the UK and Ireland. The Leas is famous for being the finish line for the Great North Run.

When I arrived the weather wasn't looking particularly clement, just grey and damp, but I could see it was threatening to brighten up at some point, so I set off in the hope it wouldn't disappoint. It wasn't long before the sun appeared through the haze and bulky clouds began to calve off and drift away.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Holme Fen in the mist



Misty conditions veil the silver birch woodland of Holme Fen

On a particularly overcast and misty day, I decided to visit one of my favourite spots, Holme Fen. I hoped this particularly atmospheric piece of ancient woodland might yield some ethereal images.

When I got there it was certainly shrouded in a wintry haze, so I had a good wander along the peaty pathways that meander through this magnificent grove of silver birch to see what I could find. 

I've detailed the fascinating history of this place on a previous post, which can be found here, so I won't waste time in repeating myself. Much better to get on with the photos, in all their hazy essence.