Why I’m taking so many photos THIS colour

1-_mg_0226-002Here’s a typical example of my recent photographic output. Monochromes, subdued colours…

Why am I drawn to colours and subjects like this? Maybe it’s because of where I live – on the coast near Bristol, where the water is the muddy water of the Bristol Channel. The water is usually brown because of all the silt it contains and hardly ever blue – only if you catch the perfect angle of the sun and the reflection of the sky. And then it is not the blue of the ocean, but a silvery, metallic blue. There are some sand banks in the channel, but the coast is lined with mud flats. It’s often cloudy so skies are quite often grey.

Does that sound depressing? Well I don’t mean it to because the very nature of the colours makes you aware of the variety of subtle shades within the blanket terms “grey”, “brown” or even – dare I say it? – “beige”. The more you look the more you see shades of pink, green, blue and lavender, to name a few.

The colour palette is even more varied when the sunset is spectacular.

The training of your eye doesn’t stop at noticing colour. There is the not insignificant matter of texture too. The mud flats are lined with meandering water channels, gulleys and creases, that bring to mind the image of the skin under a blue whale’s throat. Even a rolling grey sky above a silver grey sea has textures to delight the eye and the soul.

Throw in some man-made features for a little extra variety and there is always something to tempt the photographer.

There is interest and beauty everywhere – you just have to look.

[Many of my photographs are available to buy from my RedBubble online shop. Here’s a link to the latest Lines and leaves ]

High tides and roe deer

When you live near the sea and there is a high tide, it’s only natural to head to the coast and take a look. Where we live in Clevedon we are less than five minutes stroll from the sea-front, and although (or should that be ‘because’?) the coast is the Bristol Channel rather than the open ocean it feels very special.

1-img_0306There are so many strong currents in the channel that when you add a stiff breeze and the bouncing of waves off the sea-wall and rocks, you get very intricate movement. Waves travel from different directions to crash into each other, creating ridges, depressions and foams that are overall are quite mesmerising. I know the water is always brown, because of the amount of silt it contains, but I think this adds a textural quality to the water.

The sky was beautiful too: but then it usually is here!

1-img_0304This photo show just how high the water was, and the pier almost looks as though it is floating. This would have been a good time to get into the porthole room underneath the pier, but sadly we were out and about before opening time.

Walking home past Clevedon Hall, something in the trees caught my eye.

1-img_0327-001It’s not the best photo, but who would expect such a view of a roe deer near a busy road at 8:45 am. I snapped fast! Maybe I could have taken my time, as he watched me all the way down the road without moving from the spot.

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When you like nature, photography and writing, days like to day are gifts!

Ravens of Clevedon

I keep banging on about how enjoyable walking is, and how much easier it is to get and stay fit if you like walking. I honestly do try to shut up sometimes, but the trouble is every time I go out for a walk, I see something interesting or thought provoking!  So here’s what happened today.

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I started with a walk along the sea front, from the pier towards the Marine Lake. Renovations are going well, and these shots show how much has been cleared already, as well as the new concrete being laid to form the path and the new inner wall between the main lake and the small lake. The original concrete base of the small lake is now visible, with the mud having been cleared out.

They are working in sections to pour the new concrete, so it’ll be good to see how work unfolds each week. Of course, as the lake is tidal they will also need to fit in pouring fresh concrete between high tides. It’s all carefully worked out! Children (and adults) did walk along the old wall, but it was narrow and crumbly and the new version looks much more inviting and safer for crabbing.

Then I walked around Poet’s walk, and onto the causeway between Clevedon Pill and Marshall’s Field (one of the key locations in the first series of Broadchurch – the field where Ellie stood while Beth was shouting at her…).  It was here I saw the raven, and as wildlife is another of my interests, very glad I was to see it too! In case you don’t know, there are four black-feathered members of the crow family that you can often see in the UK, and they are generally easy to tell apart. Jackdaw’s are the smallest. They have blue eyes and a shiny grey patch across the back of their heads. They always fly in groups, and make a very distinctive chattering sound. Then you get crows (carrion crows) – very common and completely glossy black from beak to tail. They make a distinctive cawing sound. Rooks are a bit bigger and easy to identify. They have shaggy feathers round their legs, and grey skin visible round their grey beaks. They are more of a rural bird, and they move around in flocks picking up food in the fields. They nest communally in rookeries, and can be quite intimidating if you walk too close to their trees whhile they have eggs and chicks in the nest.

Then there are ravens, the biggest and wildest of the crows, and glossy black from beak to tail tip. You see them if you visit the Tower of London, but otherwise they are associated with moors and mountains. Except they are also quite common around here. I saw my first raven at the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol – sitting on one of the towers croaking (‘cronking’) away. We also saw one patrolling the roof tops near the bridge while we were eating lunch; no doubt keeping his eyes open for food he could steal. Or she, of course. But they are generally harder to make a clear identification for, as from a distance you can’t be sure how big they are and you can’t hear their vocalisations. Being glossy black, they could just be a crow. You need to get a view of their diamond shaped tail to be sure.

So this morning I was pleased to see a raven and a crow flying above me, engaged in a bit of a scuffle. The crow was definitey trying to stop the raven from getting too settled, and encouraging him to move on! The bird landed down near the boats, ‘cronked’ a bit, flew around a bit more, had a run-in with a gull and then decided to move on down the coast. I saw the size difference, heard the call and saw the tail – positive ID – job done!

Now I just have to spot the peregrines which nested here last year and hopefully are back now, and the avocets which were also seen.

The things you see on a walk…

I’ve always believed that walking is equally beneficial to your mind, body and indeed your soul.

Physical benefits – heart, lung and muscle work- surely we all know about those. Blood flowing through your veins; fresh air and exercise. Marvellous stuff – helps keep the weight down, and more importantly helps keep you healthy too.

But here are three examples of the mind and soul benefits from my early morning walk around Poet’s Walk and the Marine Lakes in Clevedon.

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Soul-food. Not my finest photograph – I had an all-purpose lens on the camera – but maybe you can just see the sunlight catching the lower mandible of this wren, singing for all it’s worth. You can certainly see it’s distinctive tail sticking up. A fabulous sight and sound. I just stood and listened for a while – set me up for the day.

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A bit of brain fodder – certainly food for thought. When you walk, you have the chance to notice things that you’d never see if you were in a hurry. You wouldn’t notice this old gateway if you were jogging around Poet’s Walk, I bet. But if you wonder while you walk, you can easily work out that this is a left over from the days when there was a lower path on the hill: maybe even a path down to the water. They are gradually replacing the fences along Poets’ Walk, and one day this gateway will be gone. A hint, a clue, about the changes going on quietly around us will have vanished.

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A rarely seen spectacle. Well, water regularly fills the Marine Lake as the tide rises, but the sun doesn’t often turn the cascade into quite such a silvery curtain as this. Maybe the calm of the sea added to the sight, but it was worth a photo.

So there you have it: just three of the things I saw that made my walk special. And the truth is, there is always something worth seeing: you just have to get our there! Walking for pleasure, indeed.

Now, that’s what I call a low tide!

Great walk along the sea front today and the tide was as low – no, correction – lower than I have seen it in the three years that we have lived in Clevedon.

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I’ve not seen the supports for the struts of the pier before, nor seen the sandbank sticking up through the mud without a covering of water. We were recently told that the metal supports were originally narrow gauge rail tracks being recycled, which explains why they look so delicate. You can also see in one of the photos how the appartments at the old Rock Hotel are still being built. Work has been progressing for at least two full years, so maybe by Christmas…

Things have gone a little quicker on Hill Road, where the new mini-Sainsbury store has just opened. I’m not a great fan of supermarket chains, but it does add to the range of products you can buy on Hill Road. The One Stop store round the corner has just been refurbished too – presumably because of the competition of a new store. I hadn’t realised that One Stop is a subsidiary of Tesco, although the branding in the store is now much more like Tesco’s branding. Very interesting – I had assumed it was an independent store.

Back to the estuary… Lovely to see the marine geography so clearly exposed further down the coast.

A similar low tide yesterday caused some local excitement when some geocachers went out onto the mud and got stuck to some degree. I think it was more panic from observers than a real risk, but the emergency services were called in  to rescue them: we heard sirens steadily throughout the afternoon and wondered what was occurring.

Today’s walk was to show our current Airbnb guest, a student with the Bristol Groundschool, the local sights. It is so nice to meet people of different nationalities, and to hear their stories and how they have become pilots. So far we have hosted students from the UK, Italy, France, Denmark, Hungary, Norway and Poland, and we’ve only been in business for a few months. It’s so nice to hear from the European students that their experience of the UK is far superior to their expectations: the legend of football hooligans, hen and stag parties and nightclubbing holidays in the sun has sadly led to low opinions of the British (or to be fair, the English) abroad.

I do realise that this post is slightly random, but then so is life!

It must be summer!

The most striking thing I saw on my early walk round Clevedon today was the sky.

Just look at these contrails (vapour trails to you and me!).

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What a fabulous network of journey markers. Wonder where they are all headed? One thing is for sure, the holiday season is properly underway.

Elsewhere on the walk there was plenty of birdsong to let me know that all manner of flying creatures are busy nesting now the good weather is here. I need to get one of those bird song recognition apps, but I definitely heard a chiff-chaff and I think I heard a blackcap too, amongst others that are for now a mystery to me.

Even though people are starting to get away for holidays, it’s still early enough in the year to experience a real lift in the spirits at the sight of a sun drenched bank of flowers…

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… and of course the pier always looks magificent!

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This view is taken across the empty Marine Lake, where restoration, renovation and improvements are set to get properly underway. Latest news is that there should be a floating island in the lake for swimmers to climb up onto, as well as huts for changing and improved seating and landscaping.

Work on the pier is progressing well too, and the excavations for the new visitor centre are worth the modest entry fee just by themselves! Remember that if you are a regular visitor to Clevedon it’s worth buying a season ticket for the pier. You can visit as many times as you like in a year.

It’s easy to enjoy the benefits of a healthy walk when there is so much to see! What’s happening round your way?

Up with the lark

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Beautiful day to get up early for a walk round Poet’s Walk before breakfast.  Lovely light for photographs too.

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The sun was low enough and bright enough to be casting really strong shadows, so the texture of every blade of grass, twig and ripple stood out strongly.

Fresh air, the pleasure of walking, hills for exercise and open blue skies.  Beautiful!

The next challenge is to get up before the lark and aim for sunrise over the Mendips.  I’ll see what I can do!