Wednesday 26 March 2014

Saffron Walden in Uttlesford

Little did we know, back in January 1985 when we moved into the town of Saffron Walden in Essex, that almost thirty years later the area in which it is located would be named as Britain's most desirable rural area to live. Call it good judgement on our part but we have enjoyed living in this beautiful part of a county which, normally conjures up images far from a rural idyll. This is not TOWIE country, this is North Essex, with gently undulating English countryside. It could be argued that being this far north in the county, the area is also influenced by the near neighbours of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, each only a few miles away. In fact the area is so unique, that it is almost its own little county - let's call it the county of Uttlesford. Actually that isn't too far from the truth as Uttlesford is the administrative region for, amongst others, the towns of Saffron Walden, Stansted, Thaxted and Great Dunmow.

Those of you who follow my blog will know that I often post about the delights of this area, and I frequently feel so fortunate to live in such a lovely place. So much so, that both himself and myself have moved our mothers to the town in recent years. They have also grown to love their adoptive home-town, just as we have over the years. I agree that the town doesn't perhaps have quite so much to offer those at the other end of the age scale but it hasn't hindered us in raising our family here.

In celebration of the title, I am airing an image I took early one September morning back in 2011. It was such a glorious golden hour, and with the birds beginning to rise from the trees it was ripe for capture from this aspect, which is seldom covered. Already the image has been steadily circulating on Twitter since the news broke, and so it is inevitable that I should choose to share it again, here on my blog, as the ideal representation of the area I call home.

Now for the business bit!
The image is available to order as a print or greeting cards by putting your request into the contact form at the side of this blog. (Sorry the e-shop isn't quite ready but will be open very soon) Alternatively you can come and see the image for real when it will be in exhibition during the Saffron Walden Open Studios 26th/27th April & 3rd/4th May. Watch out for further details.

Thursday 13 March 2014

No Racing Today

The Newmarket Stallion stood majestically in the fog, with the sun desperately trying to break through as I arrived in the Suffolk home of horse racing this morning. Having always intended to stop to take a look at this impressive statue,
I finally grabbed my chance today and gave my shot a little bit of extra photographic compensation to capture it at its most impressive before going on my way.

I was on route to a shoot at the Millennium Grandstand on the Rowley Mile Racecourse, and although there would be no racing at Newmarket today (after all Cheltenham is currently in full swing), I would still be shooting winners...
of a different kind an awards ceremony.
With the shoot over, I was able to indulge in a spot of unhindered exploring (one of the perks of the job I suppose). Sadly, the stunning view across this racecourse towards the July Racecourse was not about to be revealed from the white shroud, and I wasn't able to hang around long enough in the hope it would lift.

There were to be no horses thundering past the finishing post, although in the silent cocoon of fog, my mind was able to conjure up the sounds, the smell, the excitement that I remembered from a Newmarket race day I had attended a number of years ago. Today, the only horses I would see were those on daily exercise around the outside of the course.

Sunday 9 March 2014

A Series of Phenomena

**By the way, a bit of a celebration here... this is my 500th blog post - hip hip hooray!**

During my trip out to West Cork last week, the weather was kind enough (for once) for me to get out and about with my camera. Although this visit was made for a particular assignment, it was the unplanned shots that ended up being the winners for me. However, I must warn you that you may find some of the following images upsetting.

Rainbows, a phenomenon which never cease to please but it is a case of being in the right place at the right time, so when this one suddenly appeared over Dooneen, as I was going out on a tea-time foray at the end of a glorious day, I was fortunate to be set up with my gear.

Rolling a little further down the hill and I came across the next phenomenon - starlings. There is a small murmuration that happens around Bawnishall most evenings between late Autumn and early Spring. Nothing on the scale of the Fen Drayton show I usually go to watch here in the UK but wonderful none the less.

On this particular evening they were just starting to gather on the wires as I sat watching from the rain protected car, their distinctive chatter confirming their presence.

An hour or so later on my return journey along the Glandore road, the next phenomenon caught my eye. The rooks were noisily having their turn at gathering for the night - safety in numbers and all that. In the trees, along the wires - in the fading light it could be viewed as menacing but for me, a fascinating thing to watch. How they all stay put on a swaying wire amazes me and depending on which way they faced, they carefully adjusted their 'trim'. The overall effect was like looking at a bird-barbed wire (and as I was tucked in on a narrow road, I was getting barbed looks from the passing motorists too!)

A phenomenon which can either be interesting or distressing is cetacean stranding. Live strandings, whilst stressful for the creature, with the right care from trained volunteers they can have a successful outcome. Whales, dolphins and porpoises can be successfully returned to the sea.
Unfortunately, sometimes it is too late for a successful rescue, as it was for this common dolphin, which had been thrown over the sea wall by storm waves at Tragumna.

It was clear that this one, a female, had probably died at sea and was subsequently washed up in the carpark. I didn't know how long it had been there but I took the stance that it would be better to report the stranding to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group rather than assume it had already been reported.
In the event, IWDG's Padraig Whooley and Calvin Jones had already been on the case and their reporting of it has been logged.

Whilst this may seem a distasteful action in some eyes, this data is important in determining the health, welfare and habits of the cetacean population around the coast of Ireland

By the time I saw this stranding, the carcass had been at the location for almost a week, with the elements and predation clearly having taken its toll. Happily, by the next day, the carcass had been removed.

However, I couldn't help but be amazed at the zipper-like set of teeth.

Finally this phenomenon is practically something that occurs all the time but these unusual waves on 3rd March off the West Cork coast were seemingly appearing from nowhere in an otherwise calm sea. Such was the enormity of the waves, I was able to observe them breaking right over the top of the Fastnet Lighthouse, some seventeen miles in the distance. We shouldn't underestimate the power of the sea, as we have seen, the recent storms hitting the coast and doing millions in damage. However, it also has the power of cleansing by taking some of the unfortunate strandings back out to sea for nature to continue with recycling - you could say, one last phenomenon.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Coastal Moods

Back in West Cork.
I will simply let the images speak for themselves.