Reasons To Be Cheerful

Sunrise Over a frosty Burley Moor

 

It's early Saturday morning and it's shaping up for a spectacular sunrise. Below the blue grey cloud a warm bar of fiery orange starts to flicker. "This is going to be good" I think to myself as I rack my brain for the fastest and best summit I can reach. But between locking the back door and reaching my chosen peak, something has gone awry. Continue reading Reasons To Be Cheerful

Autumn Tramp Over Chevin

Pleased to finally have got round to this! This is a mini project, I'd wanted to do for a while. It's a series of still photos taken and put together in sequence as a film. The photos document a walk through a woodland area of the Chevin, Otley. The key aim of the work is to celebrate the colours, as well as my spellbound, clumsy movements through the space... Here are some of my favourite stills...

Book of The Month: Lost Words, Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

Lost Words, Robert MacFarlane

 

This month's book is a timely book of spells, full of magic and charm.

 

Yes, I know this is normally a "photo book" feature but I recently bought this stunning publication for our kids (as I keep having to remind myself!) and I absolutely love it.

 

The book features poems in the form of spells, written by top-notch author Robert Macfarlane, which are accompanied with a very generous portion of spellbinding and absorbing illustrations, courtesy of Jackie Morris.

 

The title reflects the loss of connection between people and nature, between children and the wild. The book hopes to rekindle this dwindling connection and revive a passion for our own natural worlds.

 

I had a girlfriend once who found my need to name and label every natural encounter both perplexing and, I suspect, frustrating. "Why do you have to put a name to everything? Would you enjoy the experience less for not giving it a name?" These are questions that have lingered with me over the years.

 

May be, this book has brought some finality to those questions. Having the words to describe and name an experience, gives it roots. Words help make that experience grow, they make it harder to forget, easier to share. Sharing often leads to caring and maybe in caring we might be able to save not just words but the wildlife entangled in those words.

 

It's certainly my hope that this magical book will inspire our own children to seek out wild experiences and help give them the words to share and care for them.

 

Reading Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane

 

Reading Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane  

A Cost Too Deer

Fallow Deer by bin in Bushy park

 

It's the weekend and it's warm, some would argue hot. It feels too soon to call it a Summer's day, but a little late to call it Spring. One thing beyond doubt is that this weekend is the hottest of the year so far.

 

Just like flying ant day, the sun has stirred the sleepy inhabitants of South West London's suburbs into a frenzy of activity. They come in their hundreds and thousands as they descend upon the carefully managed and tightly bordered Royal Parks of Richmond and Kingston. They come to feast on the sun's rays and breathe in the ancient green air.

 

Continue reading A Cost Too Deer

First Leaves of Autumn

Despite the brilliant sunshine there's a distinct and definite dip in the temperature. I notice it as soon as I open the door. I almost go back in to fetch a jumper, then I remember I'm in Yorkshire, and layering up before November round here attracts many a disapproving look.

 

The sudden cooling has catapulted the birds into a hub of activity. Fifty plus Starling have grouped and lingered on the roof tops and telegraph wires that surround our street. Overhead a herd of Curlew hungrily hurry past, while higher up several groups of geese dent the crisp blue sky with their familiar V shaped flight formations. It's tempting to go no further; to just stop and watch the drifters, passers-by and hangers on. But the water has too much pull for me to stay.

 

As I make my way along the road to the river, the flanks of trees and bushes contain the usual suspects. Chaffinches, a female Bullfinch (the male won't be too far away), blue tits, a solitary robin and long tailed tits whom I have the biggest soft spot for. By now though I'm too excited to see what's on the water to slow down.

 

The river is higher than I was expecting and I get a wet foot making my way out to the shape-shifting pebble island that is usually accessible via stepping stones. The small island is not more than twenty metres in length and conforms with the flow of the river.

 

 

With our silver Lurcher, Alfie walking to my heel we make our way to the far end of the island where I can get a better view of the events and occurrings down stream. As we make a cautious approach a Kingfisher whizzes into view and lands on a protruding stone just five or six metres away. It pauses and looks at us quizzically for what feels like a minute but is more likely five seconds before flying to the safety of a nearby tree. Below the tree I spot a dipper hopping along the rocks and pebbles. A second dipper lands close to stone where the Kingfisher initially landed. Alfie and I freeze. The Dipper continues its quest for nymphs and larvae, clearly aware of us but unconcerned.

 

 

Suddenly splash! A chocolate and white Spaniel has caught us all by surprise. The Dipper immediately takes flight followed by the other Dipper who then gets clobbered by the Kingfisher as it also makes its get away! The Kingfisher follows the curve of the river and glides out of view but the two Dippers stop short of the bend and have a toe-to-toe on a half submerged boulder. This extraordinary flurry of activity is all over in less than thirty seconds and I'm left wondering whether to curse or thank our new four legged acquaintance.

 

 

We leave the island and tramp a little further down stream away from the frolics of the island's visitors. This time it's me that ruffles some feathers as I disturb a young Heron fishing. We get tantalising glimpses of bickering Dippers and darting Kingfisher, presumably the same characters observed earlier.

 

 

Alfie and I find a quiet spot and lounge. After an hour, a day, a year of drinking in the surrounding sounds, smells and sights we dust ourselves off and head home. Just as we depart several golden leaves land and charge along the surface of the water like mythical dragon boats about to inflict terror on some unsuspecting settlement.

 

It's the first leaves of Autumn.

 

 

 

Photo Book of the Month: Hide That Can, Deirdre O’Callaghan

Hide That Can Book by Deirdre O Callaghan

 

This month's photo book is a throw back to a time before photography was mainstream. Before camera phones had arrived and before documentary photography was overshadowed by this thing they call "street photography".

 

I bought the book after seeing Deirdre O'Callaghan's 'Hide That Can' project on the walls of the V&A museum. I was instantly drawn to the way she composed her photographs and the way she represented the characters in front of the camera. It is a book a often draw reference from.

 

Much of the contemporary documentary and street photography I see in the media today seems more invasive, more sensationalistic and maybe more opinionated than ever. What I love about this book is the sense of honesty, sensitivity, modesty and objectivity that flows throughout the collection of photos. And that's why I chose it for August's Photo Book of the Month! See more of the book and O'Callaghan's work on http://www.deirdreocallaghan.co.uk/albums/published-book/

Bagging Service Stations Down South

 

Some people collect stamps, some shoes, others like to spot trains or planes. We all have our own slightly eccentric whims that are more embarrassing pleasures than guilty ones! For me it's service stations...

 

So when I heard we were heading to Ledbury in Herefordshire to celebrate my Dad's 70th Birthday my initial thoughts were not of the spectacular view of the Malvern hills; nor the renowned Slimbridge Wetland Centre nearby; not even the Ledbury-based Hand Made Scotch Egg Company (with over forty varieties!). No, my immediate excitement was at the thought of visiting the legendary M5 Gloucester services! Continue reading Bagging Service Stations Down South

Photo Book of the Month: Casey Orr’s Saturday Girl

Saturday Girl, Casey Orr

 

June's Photo Book is a vibrant celebration of young women and their expressions of individuality. I bought this book from the exhibition at The Gallery at Munro House (an absolutely wonderful spot with a stunning Cafe next door!). The "book" has the feel of a broadsheet weekend supplement except bigger, more weighty and with no adverts!

 

Continue reading Photo Book of the Month: Casey Orr’s Saturday Girl