Thursday, October 5, 2017

Exmoor day 2 - Punchbowl, winding lanes & Castle sunset



Looking into the Punchbowl under pre-dawn light in Exmoor National Park

I awoke on my second morning in Exmoor National Park at around 6ish in the hope that I would be treated to a decent sunrise. Peering out from the tent, it looked pretty good, there was some cloud about but lots of clear patches as well, which was a perfect recipe for a cracking sunrise.

It was all the motivation I needed to struggle into my clothes in the cramped confines of my canvas abode, and motor on over to the Punchbowl. A dramatic hollow in the surrounding countryside, which is itself in a valley. The nature of the landscape and some of the deposits within it, suggest that it may represent scarring from the only glacier in southwest England during the Pleistocene age. The most recent of earth’s ice ages, that lasted from two and a half million to eleven and a half thousand years ago.

Whatever caused it, left behind a very comely vista, and a perfect spot for a bit of photography, so bravo. When I arrived, the sun hadn’t yet imparted any colour into the sky, as can be seen from the above image, so I had time to pick a spot and get set up.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Exmoor day 1 - heather, tunnel, waterfall & bog monster



First light on the landscape of Exmoor National Park

I took another visit to one of my favourite places a couple of weeks ago, namely Exmoor National Park on the northern coast of Devon, for a few days of photography.

I was camping so had my fingers crossed for decent weather, as it turns out my crossed fingers don’t hold much sway with the weather gods, it seems they were intent on chucking down a good amount of the wet stuff, despite my humble orison.

But on the plus side, changeable conditions do favour the courageously valiant photographer, assuming courageously valiant means willing to get a bit damp, and I was. As it happens, between the rain showers there were patches of warm sunshine to light up the landscape, along with some superb cloud formations, so not all bad.

On the first morning I was up for sunrise without delay, I wanted to get over to a little lane I happened to know that curves and meanders over the moorland, and to a spot where it traverses a trickling brook, for what I hoped would be a bucolic view into the park.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Journey around the West Cotswolds part 2


Cotswolds landscape around Rendcombe College in Gloucestershire

Following on from my last post, here is the concluding part of my visit to the West Cotswolds, and I take a little meander through a couple of the Duntisbourne villages. Picture perfect little hamlets that don’t contain a great deal, but are a pleasure to spend time in.

But first up was a stop at Rendcombe, or to be more precise, a stop at a view looking over Rendcombe College and some of the surrounding parkland. In the panoramic image above can be seen the main college building, built in 1865, along with a section of Rendcombe Park, which was established in 1544. As with all the images, just click on it to see a bigger version.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Journey around the West Cotswolds part 1



Landscape surrounding the Cotswold town of Painswick


A few weeks ago I had a little excursion over to the West Cotswolds, around the Stroud area, as it was one of the few areas of the Cotswolds that I hadn’t spent much time. Unlike the gentle rolling landscape that is familiar Cotswold terrain, the west is marked by a steep escarpment down to the Severn Valley. This is known as the Cotswold escarpment, or the Cotswold Edge, and is a result of the uplifting (tilting) of the limestone layer, exposing its broken edge. 

As a result, the villages and towns that reside here are so well nestled into the steep, undulating terrain, that from a distance, they often have the appearance of looking like they have grown directly from the earth, and are a natural part of the topography.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Cornucopia of wildlife at Ouse Fen 02


Macro image of a Long-winged Conehead grasshopper in the undergrowth
Click on any image to see a larger version.

Part two of my little expedition to Ouse Fen Nature Reserve, which finds me on the lookout for its smaller inhabitants as they hide in undergrowth, doing their best to keep out of my way as I trample through their habitat.

Which makes it sound like I'm engaged in some sort of wanton destruction of their little homes, and in a sense I am, and I'm glad. No of course I'm not, but there is so much happening in the shrubs and the grasses, that just the act of walking among them reveals a bounty of wildlife, as they scurry or flap their way to safety.

So a keen eye allows you to follow their journey, and hopefully snap them as they temporarily rest among the brush, it's actually a very absorbing way to spend some time, as it engages you completely. No wonder grasshopper is the name of a yoga position.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Cornucopia of wildlife at Ouse Fen 01


Black and red moths on pruple flowers at Ouse Fen Nature Reserve
Click on any image for a closer look.

Another visit to Ouse Fen Nature Reserve, a place I can’t seem to keep away from at the moment, mainly thanks the plethora of insect life that throng the flower meadows this time of year.

So cue some close up images of moths, butterflies, ladybirds, wasps, crickets, grasshoppers, skippers, spiders and dragonflies.

I’ve stuck half of them in this post and the rest will be in the next one, so check back in a couple of days for more colourful insect goodness.

Let the show begin…

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Unusual trees at Hayley Wood


Black and white image of entwined trees at the Wildlife Trust Hayley Wood Nature Reserve

One of the many important woodland sites managed by the Wildlife Trust in this part of the country, is the always interesting Hayley Wood. I took a trip over there recently, with my camera in tow, to get a few shots of the interesting trees that it contains.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Here be dragon(flies) and a damselfly


Macro image of a female common darter dragonfly taken at Ouse Fens

Following on from my recent, and relatively unsuccessful trip to get some images of dragonflies, I decided to give it another go, but at a different location. And thankfully it worked out a lot better. 

These little beauties were a lot more cooperative, and sat still for minutes at a time in some cases. Which meant I wasn’t left to ineptly flounder about, in a bumbling clownish manner, in an effort to track them on the wing. I could take my sweet time about it, within reason of course.

As an added bonus, there were a few different species about as well, so I could get a bit of variety in the shots. I still can’t decide if dragonflies up close are the stuff of nightmares, or incredibly beautiful, but whatever they may or may not be, they are certainly an interesting subject to photograph, and I was there for a good couple of hours or so, snapping away. 

So I give you a small selection of dragonflies, and a beautiful little damselfly to finish off with, and that is all I can give you.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Beautiful blue butterflies


Macro image of a vibrant common blue butterfly on a thistle leaf

In my recent excursions to photograph the insects that are about and about in abundance this time of year, I have had an eye out for blue butterflies, but I’ve not actually come across any, and the more I didn’t see any, the more I’ve been hankering to discover some.

The common blue would be the species I’d most likely find, as it is the most widespread of the blue butterflies in Britain, and as the name suggests, it is one of the most common butterflies in Europe. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Insects and abstracts at Ouse Fen


Macro image of a soldier beetle looking over the edge of a leaf

In my continuing quest to photograph some of life’s smaller participants, namely the multitudinous variety of insects that are scampering and buzzing about this time of year, I took another trip to Ouse Fen Nature Reserve, predominantly in the hope of encountering some dragonflies.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will no doubt recognise the name Ouse Fen, as I have been on several visits, for both the wildlife and the landscape. All of which can be found here, here, here and here

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Barnack Hills & Holes butterflies & flowers


Barnack Hills & Holes Nature Reserve image of a marbled white

Continuing on with my exploration of small British wildlife, I decided to pay a visit to Barnack Hills & Holes Nature Reserve to see what diminutive creatures I could find, and because it was supposed to have quite the display of wild flowers this time of year.

Formed from the rubble of a medieval quarry, the reserve is one of Britain’s most important wildlife sites. Encapsulating the phrase, small but perfectly formed, the site covers just 50 acres, but its meadowland is designated a Special Area of Conservation, a National Nature Reserve, a Nature Conservation Review site and last but by no means least, a Special Area of Conservation. Partly due to the fact that the orchid rich grassland is very rare, and makes up over half of this type of habitat in Cambridgeshire.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Holme Fen Butterflies


Sun dappled woodland path at Holme Fen Nature Reserve

Last weekend I paid a visit to one of my favourite places, namely Holme Fen Nature Reserve. This beautiful woodland oozes atmosphere, and is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year, mainly thanks to its dense forest of silver birches, which have to be one of the most charismatic of all the UK trees.

I won't go into the history of the Holme Fen, as fascinating as it is, and although there are a smattering of pictures in this post of the woodland, I have taken plenty more through the various seasons, all of which can be found here, here, here & here.

No, I was off to get some images of the summer wildlife that abounds in this Natural England run nature reserve, in particular, the various butterflies that call this place home while they are on the wing.

There were thousands of these colourful little flappers galavanting about the place, twirling around each other and flitting hither and thither above my head, and sometimes on it, if I was standing particularly still, trying to get a picture.

Below are a selection of images taken that day, when the butterflies were at rest, or sipping nectar, predominantly from the blossom of blackberry bushes, of which Holme Fen boasts an impressive number.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fen Drayton nature reserve


The River Great Ouse at Fen Drayton nature reserve with beautiful reflections

Over the weekend I took a trip to Fen Drayton, to visit the RSPB run nature reserve that can be found there. I was still on a hunt for wildlife and I thought I might find some suitable natural nuggets within its environs.

There wasn’t as much birdlife as I thought there might be, but I made up for it with some shots along the River Great Ouse, which runs through the reserve, and from rummaging through the undergrowth on the hunt for smaller quarry.

The reserve, a 108-hectare area comprised of several lakes formed from exhausted sand and gravel pits, is home to around 190 bird species, many of whom must have been in hiding when I visited. In times of heavy rain and river flooding, the entire reserve goes under water, including car parks and most rights of way.

It is planned that the reserve will become part of a much larger wetland area along the River Great Ouse, linking to the Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project at Ouse Fen, which should become Britain's largest reedbed within the next 30 years. In fact it was at Ouse Fen that the images from my last two blog posts were taken. Here and here.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Birdlife at Ouse Fen


Black-headed gull flies in front of stormy clouds at Ouse Fen RSPB

Following on from my last blog post where I expressed my disgruntlement at not being able to photograph the myriad birdlife at Ouse Fen RSPB nature reserve. Mainly thanks to the lack of telescopic prowess of my lenses, and where, to my shame, I told the birds to go shove it, for which I wholeheartedly apologise, I decided to give it another go.

My lenses had not suddenly acquired new found abilities you understand, but I was ready to do something I have always tried to shy away from if at all possible. I was prepared to crop my pictures, and boy did I have to crop them. I've always been of the mind that if the composition cannot be found while actually taking the photo, then to leave it be.

But needs as must, and I snapped away with blithesome abandonment, ready to hack away at the images when back in front of my computer, which is exactly what I did. So below are a selection of pictures from that reckless afternoon with the birds, along with a brief description of each one appropriated from the RSPB.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Colourful insects & flowers in close up


Close up photography of a meadow brown butterfly at Ouse Fen nature reserve

A couple of days ago I took a trip to Ouse Fen, an RSPB run nature reserve, in the hope of getting some shots of the abundant bird life that takes up residence there this time of year. It is home to a multitude of geese, ducks, swans, gulls, coots, terns, grebes and cormorants, along with a few herons. Some of which have travelled for thousands of miles to breed on its lakeland islands.

Unfortunately, even though it’s easy enough to get pretty close to the colonies, I just didn’t have the capabilities with the lenses I own, to really get close enough for any meaningful images. So after endless whirling around, trying to follow the birds as they flew overhead, and attempting to catch the terns as they speared into the water on the hunt for fish, I decided that I was wasting my time, and the birds could go shove it


Instead I concentrated on the local insect life, as there were a plentitude of wild flowers about, which were attracting an abundance of butterflies and other arthropods, so I aimed my camera at the ground instead and got a few shots of these colourful citizens of the shrubbery…

Friday, June 23, 2017

Lynford Arboretum at Thetford Forest


Lynford Arboretum at Thetford Forest in Norfolk

A few weeks ago I paid a visit to Thetford Forest, in particular, to Lynford Arboretum, a beautiful spot located in the North East corner of the forest, and somewhere I’d not been to before, so I was keen to give the old camera a bit of an airing and to see what I could see.

Owned by the Forestry Commission, it is the UK’s largest man made lowland forest and covers over 18,700 hectares, and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The forest was created after the First World War to provide a strategic reserve of timber, since the country had lost so many oaks and other slow-growing trees as a consequence of the war's demands.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Cotswolds tour part two


Cotswolds village of Bourton on the water and the River Windrush

On the second day of my mini tour around the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, I found myself in the early spring sunshine on the banks of the River Windrush, as it slowly ambles through the popular Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water.

The term village of course is somewhat of a misnomer, as the number of permanent residents in Bourton outnumber those of nearby Stow-on-the-Wold and Burford, both of which are considered small market towns, despite neither of them boasting a market. It’s all very confusing. 

During peak tourist months, the number of visitors easily outrank residents, which, if you’ve ever visited during the summer, and seen the hordes of people lounging next to the river and milling around the shops, is not hard to believe for a second.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Cotswolds tour part one



Cotswold village of Guiting Power on a sunny day with beautiful flowers

Not long ago, I took a little jaunt around the Cotswolds for a couple of days with a friend of mine who is writing a photography book about the area. We went to scout out a few suitable views that could be included, both the classic spots, and the less visited ones. Which of course gave me ample opportunity to snaffle a few pics of my own, and I took my full English pleasure at such an occasion. 

The first stop was the picturesque village of Guiting Power. This charming little place does have its fair share of visitors, as it lies on the path of the Warden’s Way, a popular walking route, but it’s certainly not on the tourist trail, and is never very busy. But with its quiet lanes and quintessential Cotswold stone houses, it is one of my favourite places to visit in this part of the Cotswolds. Plus it has a very decent cafe right next to the village green which doesn’t hurt.

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.