Tuesday 30 October 2012

Hunter's Moon

Monday 29th October was the night of the full moon - the Hunter's Moon or the Sanguine Moon.

Having presented the Harvest Moon to you back in September, I wanted to follow on with the full Hunter's Moon. Sadly, circumstances were not in my favour yesterday, so this evening, I grabbed the opportunity to take some shots of the marginally waning Hunter's Moon, rising over Audley End House.

The clear sky which was present as I left home soon changed to a slightly cloudy sky, which rendered a clear shot of the moon near on impossible. However, as October is drawing to a close, the cloud simply added to the atmosphere, as did the (not so obvious) mist which was rising off the river.

Friday 26 October 2012

A Business Website Launch

Last night saw the culmination of a huge amount of determination and hard work, with the launch of the website


Specialising in beautiful home accessories, hand picked and imported direct from Indonesia,
Design Essentials is a new on-line business run by Wendy Howell.

Last night, as a kind gesture to her Tweeting and Facebooking launch guests, Wendy also hand picked...

..one lucky guest who is soon to be the owner of a beautiful pumpkin lamp
(sadly, although 17 is 'my' number, last night it wasn't my ticket!)

So now, I must go and order my own pumpkin lamp.
Just one of the stunning items available for purchase online from the
Design Essentials range.

Sunday 21 October 2012

AFC Moreton Hall 2012

Unbeaten Tangerines! 

After a run of six unbeaten matches, these lads had a day off from competition today, but not from training. I was at their training session to capture the individuals and the official team photos.
Just before they got going on the serious stuff, I wanted to capture them during a moment of fun.
It seems that following their run of success, they had already gained the nickname, the (unbeaten) 'Tangerines' so, they were presented with...
a celebratory tangerine!

Lets hope their success continues!

I wish them luck.

AFC Moreton Hall are a new, Under 18 football team playing in the Ipswich & Suffolk Youth League Division 2 in the forthcoming 2012/13 season.
The team photos will go online very soon and can be followed:

Thursday 18 October 2012

End of one Era at One Myddylton Place

(This is a rework of a posting I made via social media back in 2010)

On Tuesday 5th September 2010 we booked to stay in Saffron Walden Youth Hostel, at One Myddylton Place.
This was to:
1. Have a look inside this wonderful old building.
2. Just to stay there for the fun of it, as we wouldn't have done it otherwise.
3. Because it will soon be closing for good.
4. We just wanted the hostel stamp in our books!

The warden was very friendly and confirmed, with and amazed smile, that we (as Saffron Walden residents) were the guests who had travelled the shortest distance to stay there (probably ever). To his joy, he was pleased to see that we had even brought our slippers

To long established Youth Hostellers, the stamp in the book is an important part of the overnight stay, just as it had been important for our girls to collect the stamps during their many Youth Hostel stays they enjoyed whilst growing up. You don't have this much excitement staying in a Travel Lodge!

The self catering kitchen (aka the members kitchen) with the usual array of equipment and spare food. Remember all those steamy hours of cooking up boil in the bag rice after a long days walking?
Oh to have been able to afford the meals cooked up by the warden.

The cosy dining room in Saffron Walden Youth Hostel, sadly no longer serving up home produced meals. Vital repairs to the main kitchen had not been carried out during the 'winding down' process so it was self catering only.

Where else can you find accommodation in such fantastic architectural surroundings for fourteen quid a night? The YHA are closing these type of hostels due to maintenance costs and because 21st century hostellers don't want this type of unique experience. In are coming the sanitised en suite boxes such as those at Manchester YH.

When we selected hostels to have a family holiday we chose them often because of their character.
Saffron Walden certainly has that. These secret stairs went out of our dorm. 'Elf 'n safety is puttin' pay to all this fun for sure.

The building is crammed full of history. We explored and took a peek in the dorm named Sackhoist.

It is possible to sleep right beneath the remains of the old sack hoist. This reveals the previous heritage of the building, when it was used as one of the many maltings buildings in the town.

The Sackhoist Dormitory.
Dorms are no longer popular with hostellers and as it would be difficult to bring the required sophistication of en suite rooms to the building, it has been decided, amongst other reasons, to sell off the building.

Actually, we were very naughty as the Sackhoist dorm was for men only. Sadly we found not one man in there!

She always chose the top bunk and this night was to be no different.

Happily showing she had wrestled with putting the clean duvet cover on (no more taking your own sheet sleeping bag). Mind you, making your own bed was all part of feeling you got value for money. With the ready-made beds in hostels today you know you have paid for it somewhere.

I know I am past scrambling up into bunks or scraping my back crawling under a bunk, so I chose an ordinary bed from the dozen in the dorm. We had the room all to ourselves.

Or did we? Saffron Walden Youth Hostel is apparently full of ghosts. From dogs, cats and horses in the garden to priests who push visitors over and a grumpy old man who sits in the corner of our dorm.

Thought I'd left the grumpy old man at home?!!

No ghostly horse in the quaint little garden.

Don't expect we will ever see Bridge Street from this perspective again

Wakey, Wakey! Did the grumpy old man keep you awake all night?

Early morning adds sense of place to this medieval building.

The town of Saffron Walden is going to lose a facility that brought visitors from all over the world to this special little corner of Essex. The town has already lost the Bell School which also brought in world visitors.
How much more will we lose?
(September 2010)

Post Script

Now begins a new era at One Myddylton Place

The wonderful work that has been carried out since this piece was written, is a testament to understanding the importance of the heritage of such buildings. With this now being a family home, it is also a facility that is available for selective events.
Saffron Walden has some of the finest timber framed buildings in the area.

(In memory of a good friend of mine, KMN 1963-2011
 An assistant warden at Safffron Walden for

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Damp + Mild =

Whilst we had a couple of frosty starts last week, the previous two mornings have not been conducive to an early start to go on the deer watch, as I have been doing recently.

Yesterday it was far too windy and this morning it was raining, leaving me to have a couple of comparatively luxurious lie-ins. However, mutt still needed her walk, and once on the move, it wasn't long before I was peeling the layers off. The temperatures are up on the latter part of last week and coupled with the over-night rain, it can only lead to one thing at this time of the year -


Such a variety!

The first two examples being regular recurrents under the same trees in the park.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Season of Mists and Fallow Deerfulness

For the last few mornings I have been picking my way through the almost pitch black woodland tracks, on the way to 'my spot' to watch (and hopefully photograph) the local Fallow Deer herd.
It is always dark at 6am.
By contrast, the time, light-levels and weather conditions can vary considerably on the return from my watch sessions.

This morning, the welcome shafts of sunlight were given away by a misty litmus as they cut through the Autumn-tinted chestnut avenue.

Yesterday, the dawn drop in air temperature caused pockets of mist to form in field hollows where the sun was yet to reach.

The day before... I was just glad to be on my way home after a damp and fruitless watch.

What I have noticed though is that we have had the first frosts of Autumn.
I was sitting out there as they formed at dawn!
At this stage, they are only in the frost pockets, but it won't be long before my tender plants will be making their way in to a sheltered place, to avoid the all encompassing kiss-of-death frost.

Meanwhile, back at the woods this morning, I had a track-side seat as a group of mums and juveniles sprinted along the field edge just a few metres in front of me. (You will just have to imagine as it was too dark for pictures) A little while later, they all came bounding back (still too dark for pictures) with all their little hooves combined, making less noise than one horse would. They jumped, flicked and skipped their way to the far side of the field where they finally stopped to rest.

The light levels were rising and I could clearly see when, in unison, they lifted their heads and looked my way. Surely from the distance of around 300 metres, they didn't hear my growling stomach?! Had they picked up on the possible entrance of The Big Man?

No, it was a juvenile buck, left behind on the return sprint, who had finally decided to catch up with the rest, and that was passing in front of me. He was very clearly a young male, as well as sporting the first baby horns - equivalent to the chin 'fluff' of a pubescent teenager. (Next year a more impressive set of 'first-finger' antlers will form, just as the young man would develop his first whispy beard.)

It wasn't long before he joined the rest of his family group, and started on a spot of play fighting with another young buck. Equivalent then, to the first attempts at shaving and all part of the growing up process.

The family group settled down at the woodland edge to ruminate in the narrow band of sunshine that was creeping along the treeline. How I wished for a drop of that sunshine myself as I sat wating on the cold side of the field. The extended watch today was all in the hope that the patriarch would come to join his family group.

Sadly it wasn't to be, but how lovely it was to watch this family interaction.

Post Script

After the Muntjac recording last week, this morning the Fallow does and/or juveniles were calling but no sign of the buck. (Apologies for the not so great recording)

Saturday 13 October 2012

Deer Story So Far

It was noticeably colder this morning but it was dry. A chance then, that the fallow deer might just put in an appearance. Afterall, from where I sit, I can see at least two rutting scrapes and countless deer paths so I know they must be active in these parts.

Way off in the distance, the Muntjac were barking again. The cockerel was starting on his doodle-doos and the light levels were just lifting enough that the blacks of night were becoming shades of grey.

But still no sign of the Fallow deer herd. I watched as the fifty shades of dawn-grey started to develop into colours - first the light straw yellows of the grasses next the darker red-browns of the ploughed ground. And then, on the far side of the field at the edge of the woodland, I was aware of movement. A ghost-like shimmer of a white doe foretold of the presence of a herd of about fifteen ladies. Gradually they ambled over to the scrape, their dawn-lit forms playing tricks on my eyes. I could only watch and wait. It was too far away and too dark to contemplate any shots so I sat back in my place. To my surprise, whilst this was going on, three does had crept into the space just in front of where I was sitting, and were proceeding to give this camo-netted oddity a quizzical stare, before once again, creeping back into the nearby woodland.

The deer were on the move- hooray! After around ten minutes, the far herd began to move vaguely in my direction. I followed their progress through my viewfinder and then HE walked into frame. A splendid buck with mature palmate antlers, and he was walking straight towards me. This would normally have been a perfect situation to fire off some shots, the antlered form gradually becoming larger within the frame. However, my suspicions were confirmed with the slight depression of the shutter button. A 3 second exposure. Not even worth a try. Reason one, blur. Reason two, shutter-noise startle and lose them completely. Again, I could only sit and watch whilst listening to the bellow of another Fallow buck somewhere off in the distance.

The buck and his harem disappeared off again and I was content that I had finally seen some activity. As I sat, a few more does appeared in front of me. Just 10 metres away and it was worth a try at a shot. Two frames, with the shutter seemingly taking an eternity on 1/5th second, resulting in the shot above. The dawn light still not enough to provide illumination on this stage. It was really only going to be a watching day and I was also starting to see my breath, indicating the dawn drop in temperature. By now I was actually starting to shiver for the first time this deer-watch season, high time I should contemplate a steaming mug of tea. As I was about to pack up for the day (as visitors would be arriving later in the morning and I had domestic jobs to attend to) I noticed a lone deer on the far side of the field.
A quick (and poor) ID shot revealed it was the buck.

...I will be back!

(Someone asked me the other day,
"Why not go to Hatfield House or Richmond Park to photograph the deer?"
Errm, hasn't that been done before?! That is, dare I say, just a bit too easy. I prefer a challenge. I'm watching a cautious, suspicious local herd who are seldom subjects of the camera. The long fruitless waits will be worthwhile when I successfully bag the image I'm after...
...whenever that might be. That's wildlife photography!)

Thursday 11 October 2012

A Port in a Storm

A big thanks to Richys Bar, Bistro and Cafe in Clonakilty who were my life-saver twice over the weekend. Once when my travel arrangements were turned completely up-side-down on Saturday and where a meal was never so welcome. Then again on Tuesday when my timing went wrong and I turned up at their switch over time of 5pm. Cheerfully they obliged and provided me with a wonderful plate of hot food.

Richys, a regular stop-off for us, is a safe haven where they understand gluten-free* food choices and so should be applauded. (It is a shame that more catering establishments don't appear to want to understand this dietary requirement.)

I have every sympathy for Richys today as for at least the third time this year, the surrounding streets and their building was threatened with flooding over night. Clonakilty had been hit with severe flooding after stormy rain in June and then sadly again, in August, but they and the community pulled together to ensure that business were up and running again in a matter of days. Lets hope Richys flood defences, installed as a result of the June flood, were able to hold out last night. The economic climate is tough enough without these extra pressures from nature!

*Suitable for gluten-free but I can't personally vouch for the stricter coeliac requirements

Wednesday 10 October 2012

The Battle is On!

Whilst my end-of-summer-season trip to West Cork was rather short this week, it has the advantage that it has got me back home at just the right time. There is also the added bonus that the weather is currently far better here in the east than it is in the rather wet west, so for once, I'm not too sad to have left West Cork behind, for now!

And the right time? It is the time of the annual rut of course, which means 'the battle is on' for these two lovelies and indeed, the rest of the Fallow (and other) deer country-wide. It also means that just as I did last year, I will be out photographing the happenings. So this morning, I was out on a recce, accompanied by my very well behaved photographers assistant (killing two birds with one stone as they might say) She, the assistant, will sit quietly by my side, alerting me to new sounds with the pricking of her ears but also knows when to stay quiet, just as she did when we were watching this small herd of fallow deer browsing in the open, in the warmth of the lunch-time sun today.

Sadly, on the return walk, she let me down badly. Not wanting to be pulled over, I had let her off the lead for a few moments whilst I negotiated a particularly muddy section of track. She dutifully paddled alongside me all the way but the moment we hit the dry ground, it was if the elastic band that was wound inside her had twanged. She was off on some scent and no amount of whistling or encouragement was to bring her back onto the straight and narrow.

Forty-five minutes.

That's how long it was before an exhausted and exceedingly muddy mutt arrived back at the car, where I had settled down to wait, flicking through the mornings collection of pictures (several times), knowing that she would return in her own sweet time. Needless to say she is currently in the doghouse and certainly won't be assisting me tomorrow morning when I go off very early to catch the rut in action. (Actually, she never is allowed on those trips anyway)

Yep, for the next few days, it will be early starts, bouts of cramp, needing the loo, cold extremities etc, all in the hope of catching some stunning shots of the annual deer rut.

The battle is on!

Post scripts

All this morning gave me was one proking doe, two barking Muntjacs and three running Fallows.
Clearly our local fallow deer herd are camera shy!
I did manage to grab a recording of the Muntjacs though and if you haven't heard them before, take a listen. These two were only a few feet behind where I was sitting and for their diminutive size, they can really pack a punch volume-wise!


Zero, zilch, nothing, not one!
No deer at least, on a windy damp morning when the patter of raindrops on the leaf canopy above me, increased proportionally with the rising light levels. Thankfully it didn't come to much. However, it was great to listen to the last few hoots of a retiring tawny before the local cockerel took over. The wren, the woodpecker, crows, pheasants and of course, the wood pigeons, all joined in on the morning wake-up call, and those Muntjac were at it again! Coming to the conclusion, after last year too, that our Fallow deer rut peaks earlier than the mid-October time that is usually stated.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

New Born

This latest visit to West Cork has been rather a short one and although I haven't been able to indulge in my usual regional subject matter, in my opinion I was able to go one better. Having previously photographed his siblings, the lovely parents wanted me to complete the family group with this newest arrival.

This little man, at barely two weeks old, is absolutely gorgeous. The scary thing is, the next time that I will see him, he will have changed so much, which makes these first pictures all the more precious.
Thus, I will let them speak mostly for themselves.

The gentle touch from sister

Father and son