As a way of keeping a more regular blogging routine, I have decided to take a single frame from one of my photo shoots and give a little back story to the image.
I spent a few days away near Cheltenham last week, a town I have only ever passed through until now but was given a quick fire guided tour on the Sunday afternoon.
This particular location is Pitville park, first opened in 1825 and is the largest ornamental lake in Cheltenham.
I had wandered around the lake, looking for a suitable composition, as I was toing and froing , the sun peered from behind its cumulus mask to bathe the boathouse in its late afternoon light.
With the trees above me acting as a natural frame, this was my first shot of the day and easily one of my favourites from the four day excursion.
As we reach the middle of May, it has to be said that it has been a little more than underwhelming on the weather front, it appears that the usual April showers overslept and are now playing catch up.
I was not entirely surprised to see that this weekend was not looking much better but I was determined that I would get out for a few hours on at least one of my days off.
Saturday morning just after 5am and the familiar sound of rain falling gently on the windows, I make my first brew of the day and ruminate over the weather forecast apps, each one telling a different story but decide to head out regardless.
I board the train to Topsham at 6:15 am, but for the driver and ticket inspector, I am the sole passenger arriving at Topsham about 20 minutes later.
This is one of my favourite local walks, where the footpath runs alongside the estuary but the whole path is not always accessible at certain points at high tide but today, after checking tide times, I have timed it well.
As the gentle drizzle turns to a more persistent and heavy rain, I think at first that I have rolled the dice and lost but after a few minutes, the distant horizon appears to brighten up.
Often on days such as this, there is the possibility of some dramatic cloud and light as rain and sun fight for aerial superiority, I was not to be disappointed as I make my way along the path, a huge grey cloud attempts to smother a rainbow, what a great start after all.
The seven mile walk back home was to be interrupted only a handful of times with rain showers, I am happy that I made the effort today, even happier with some of the images I took along the way
My first seaside walk since early March saw me going back to my home town of Salcombe last weekend, my main agenda was to visit my dad for father’s day, the second to enjoy a low tide walk along the shore of a favourite haunt from my childhood.
With the tide at its lowest ebb, there is an opportunity to walk along the best part of the beach, taking in views of the town of Salcombe from a different perspective, it is here that many of my favourite views can be seen.
From an early age, I have enjoyed these walks along the shore, especially after winter storms, where all sorts of maritime debris would be washed up along the shore, all treasures to a youngsters mind.
To this day, I unashamedly love peering into rock pools, and still like to look under seaweed for any small crabs that may be lurking beneath, evoking memories of looking for peeler crabs for fishing bait in spring and early summer.
It is true to say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, my absence was just 3 months, yet I felt a new appreciation for something that can be so easily taken for granted.
The second part of today’s jaunt, was a revisit to Slapton sands, another of my favourite beaches, with it’s lagoon or ‘ley’ to one side and the open sea on the other, the two are sandwiched by probably the longest length of straight road in Devon, a road that over the years has been washed away more than once by savage winter storms.
As popular as ever, the beach was busy, but not crowded to the extent of those recently depicted in the mainstream media, the visitors here were observing social distancing and there was a happy buzz as complete strangers were making new friends while waiting for their takeaway food or drinks from the pub and cafes, attempting some semblance of normality in these odd times.
It was here I have taken my favourite shot of the year so far, a gentleman with his two dogs, sat on the sea wall, he kindly agreed for me to take his photo, which if I am being honest, was not expecting.
As usual, a rather enjoyable trip to the seaside, as usual, time passes too quickly but looking forward to my next trip here already.
It has been a while since my last musing here, for the first time in a while, I have not felt compelled to write, since my exercise walks have taken a very familiar route, yet this morning, I felt this malaise lift and wanted to share a few images I have taken over the last few days.
My route well trodden, takes me to the Riverside valley park on the outskirts of the city, on these cooler May mornings, I have been fortunate to capture the low lying mist, sometimes tinted with the glow of the rising sun.
From behind majestic oaks, wrapped in their new verdant green leaf cloaks, I capture my favourite picture so far this year, perhaps this one moment made me realise that while I miss the outings by the sea and on the moor, I am fortunate to have such immediate beauty on my own doorstep.
As late spring turns to early summer, my alarm is set from early, to silly O’ clock, yet this seems such a small price to pay when I apparently have the whole place to myself.
It is not just the sights, the sound of a stonechat nearby, a woodpecker also heard in the distance and just the whisper of the breeze as it ghosts through the trees.
As the human race becomes more accustomed to new ways of life, nature continues as nothing has happened, the first brood of cygnets trail behind mom, as they take their first few forays along the Exe.
A kingfisher, a dart of orange, too quick to take a picture of but there nonetheless, an egret too camera shy for its picture, all calming sights during troubled times.
It is true to say that familiarity can breed a certain amount of taking for granted those things close to home, it is safe to say that my sense of appreciation has been wakened from its slumber.
One of my favourite local walking routes, is one that goes from Exeter to Topsham, following the ‘estuary trail’.
There is a choice of routes, one of which is to follow, a popular walking and cycle route,or my preferred route where the path follows the shoreline but where the timing needs to be right for this one, as parts of the path become submerged at high tide.
As it happens, the water was just starting to lap the path edge as I was passing, clearly I spent too long taking photos on the way.
Today is one of those perfect walking days, a keen wind, yet mild, overcast skies but the prospect of sunshine later in the morning.
As I reach the estuary path , it is surrounded either side by reeds, offering a natural wind break, they sway like a pendulum as the wind whispers through their midst.
It is here that I get my favourite photo of the day, just as the sun is about to emerge from below the clouds, sunrays appear like torch light into the skies, the reeds in silhouette as I shoot into the light
The path passes a boatyard to my left, the loud buzz of a sander on the hull of a boat, sounding like a bee on steroids as the boat is being prepared for its new coat of paint.
The sounds and smells from the boatyard evoke memories of me helping my dad on his boat during the winter months when I was a boy, I always got to clean or sand in preparation, rarely to paint, from what I remember.
By the time I reach Topsham, I have done around four miles, time for some refreshment.
Thankfully Topsham is one of those towns that have resisted the clutches of the chain brand stores, instead, offering a good selection of independently owned restaurants, cafe’s and other retail outlets.
It is from one such cafe, I take a window seat and watch the world go by, the nearby church bells chime, announcing the wedding taking place later that morning, my box office seat is perfect to see the wedding guests arrive in their finery.
It was just a few moments earlier that I had seen the groom being directed into a series of poses by the wedding photographer, keen to have the estuary back drop as his composition.
From Topsham, I have arranged to meet a friend and head to Exmouth for a few more photos, Exmouth is one of those seaside towns that seems perennially busy throughout the year.
With the car parked, a walk towards the waterside once again, where windsurfers are fighting against the wind in their pursuit of speedy forward motion.
The wind changes direction suddenly, snatching the sail from the surfers grip. Splash!
With the tide just reaching the ebb, I can take a favoured route along the shoreline to the sea front, here the beach is a perfect shelter for more boats undergoing the winter restoration work, while one or two have been left neglected.
I leave the beach for now and walk along the concrete footpath, beside which a large development of residences have been built, striking in their vivid hues of Yellows, blues, reds and oranges, wooden decked balconies overlook the estuary. Watching the sun set from here must be worth the substantial asking price alone.
Typical of so many seaside towns, the familiar smell of fish and chips hangs in the air, mostly from the hardy souls choosing to eat their lunch sat on the sea wall, the more prudent finding one of the many shelters away from both wind and opportunist gulls.
I join the many in returning to the beach, pristine sand uncovered by the receding tide, solitary shells left high and dry, abandoned to their fate.
The cafes by the shoreline are doing a brisk trade today, as the hour ticks to 1pm, it is hungry ‘O clock.
Ticket number 27 raises his hand as his number is called, this moments winner of culinary bingo, he receives his reward for his patience, fish and chips for him, a burger each for the rest of the family.
I enjoy these winter beach walks, taking time to talk to other people, or simply to walk in my own little space, taking in the day.
My ‘step’ app tells me I have reached seven miles today, my longest walk so far this year, a gentle run in, but hoping for some much longer walks during the coming months.
Here we are, half way through January and I feel that we have not yet felt the icy fingers of winter, it could be the lull before what is now termed a polar vortex but used to be simply known as ‘a cold snap’.
Today, winter arrived but in one of it’s kinder moods, one of those cold, bright days where you wake to a dusting of frost on house roofs and the grass has turned white, as if through shock.
It is about an hour before the sun will rise, but through the lifting darkness there appears to be a blanket of mist in the distance, the omens are good for some more photos along the Exe.
As I head out, it would appear Jack Frost has worked overtime, painted icy swirls on cars that are actually quite beautiful to look at, for me at least, not those that may have to spend time scraping it off if they need be somewhere early.
I reach the footpath to the river, luminous yellow jacketed volunteers have been out in force placing route direction signs for a fun run that has been organised today, it is not long before the serious runners appear in the distance, I will happily step aside as they pass, to a man (or woman) they keep a regular check on their watches in their pursuit of personal best times.
As the first group passes, I admire the serene beauty of frost laden brambles and other hedgerow flora and fauna, the stillness of the river and the eerie silence of the still heavy mist on the river.
Through the mist, I can just make out a heron, stood statue like by the waters edge, as the next group of runners pass by, it takes off effortlessly, and there he was…. gone.
The sun has made an appearance, just a milky glow as seeks to penetrate through the cloud but makes for some atmospheric shots as more runners appear in the distance, more shadow than portrait, I think these may just work.
I have a good half mile to go before I get to where I hope the best moody shots could be, I would really like the mist to hang around a while longer to get some shots of the scullers as they appear through the fog.
There is a pub nearby called the double locks, here they have a couple landing stages for the boats to be physically pulled in and out of the water to make progress in either direction.
My fears of the sun burning through the cloud are unfounded, here I get a couple of shots I am really happy with, anything else is a bonus.
I would appear to have something of a routine going these days, as I am about to head for home, I will find a place to sit, and enjoy the hot thermos of tea I made earlier, while making a few notes for today’s blog and a few ideas for my later photo editing.
What a great start to the day.
From an early age, I have always enjoyed the enduring appeal of woodlands.
Where once they were a place to play out childhood fantasies, they are now a haven of solace and tranquility, a source of pleasure from my walking and photography perspectives.
A walk around the woods at Shaugh Prior, just on the edge of Dartmoor is today’s destination, a place with the added bonus of the River Plym running alongside its banks.
The bronze and amber leaves of autumn have lost their crispness, as they lay discarded, turning slowly to mulch after weeks of rain, most of the trees, now stripped of their foliage, are arboreal skeletons standing bare against the elements.
Yet, amongst this austerity, the woodland still has treasures to show, rust coloured bracken against the lush green lichen coating both rock and trees alike, colour in this minimalist landscape.
Fungus that finds nourishment from a tree, long since felled, a single leaf hangs defiantly alone, just waiting for the next gust of wind to deliver the coup de grace.
I love the majesty of the granite outposts of rock, standing like guardsmen along the path, the sound of the river below, the wooden archways formed by the meeting of tree branches from either side of the path.
As much as I love to capture the essence of the woods throughout the seasons, spring will always remain my favourite, where the cycle of life begins anew, mother nature’s changing of the guard.