Right place, right time

1-IMG_3861

There’s a virtue to being in the right place at the right time in many things: and photograpy is one of them.

Here’s one of the photos I took the other morning whilst out walking. You can’t get an idea of the scale from this shot, but it’s the tide filling the Marine Lake at Clevedon and the wall must be 10 feet high. The wall is long and slightly shaped, so there are different effects along its length, and of course from some angles you can also get the lovely pier into the shot.

You don’t often see the lake filling from empty, but while the work on the lake is being completed and the sluice gate is left open, you have the chance to see this at every (daytime) tide. The chance will be gone soon… Well worth a walk and a snap or two!

Keep an eye and ear open for what’s happening near you – there could be a photo opportunity for you!

What a morning! What a walk!

A perfect late September morning in England is a thing of absolute beauty, and that’s what we had today in Clevedon. I went for a walk before breakfast, and went further than I expected to, as it was too difficult to stop!

1-IMG_3831

First photo shows the view across the little park in Jesmond Road… Most views of the coast show the headlands further down the North Somerset coast, and you can often see the islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm, as well as the distant North Devon coast. And of course Wales across the Bristol channel. The view is the reward for a fairly steep climb up the hill!

Then I carried on to Hill Road, and walked up the Zig-Zag to see the various views accessible from there. You get Zig-Zag paths in many hilly towns, but ours in Clevedon is quite well hidden, as the entries from Hill Road aren’t sign-posted. So here are the views:

1-IMG_3832

Looking down the coast…

1-IMG_3837

… and looking across the town towards the distant hills. At least some of the hills shown are the Mendips.

Then I walked down Kings Road and Cambridge Road, past The Avenue….

1-IMG_3839

… onto Wellington Terrace back towards…

1-IMG_3840

… the sea front and …

1-IMG_3843

… The Pier.

I was planning to walk home from the sea front, but the day was so pretty I finished off by walking around Poet’s Walk. No ravens or peregrine falcons today, but plenty of other birds, including a heron looking hopefully at the puddles in the Marine Lake.

Here’s the view as you reach the brow of the hill…

1-IMG_3845

Gorgeous!

I’ve tried to work out the distance and I think it’s about 3.5 miles. The route includes some fairly steep hills, so it was quite good exercise. But more importantly it was a total pleasure – just as good exercise should be!

[Have you read my book yet? A beginners guide to walking for pleasure, available on Kindle!]

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.

1-IMG_3560 1-IMG_3561

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 colours of Clevedon…

There’s lots going on in Clevedon just now, thanks to The Theatre Orchard and their Theatre Shop.

We got to the pier too late to enjoy the ballet, but I love this shot: slightly misty and nostalgic. It really looks suitably Victorian to me!. You’ll need to imagine the music and the appreciative applause of the crowd…

1-_MG_8970

It’s fabulous to have so much extra going on locally, and it’s already clear that lots of people are visiting. I’ve seen Living Spit – who will be performing during the theatre season – before, and really enjoy their shows, and there is much more going on besides. So good to have performances in the community, as it really brings people together. Something, as they say, for everyone! Just have to make sure I get my tickets before everything sells out…

And, if there weren’t already enough reasons to grab your camera and mooch around the village and it’s environs, the shows add an extra buzz to the place.

In the sunshine, the colours of Clevedon really stand out. Here’s a small selection of my photographs, which I have just uploaded to my RedBubble shop – and if you really like them you can buy them on cards, prints, posters, phone cases, mugs, and even duvet covers and scarves!  Please feel free to browse!

1-_MG_8975.CR2

1-_MG_8976

1-_MG_8968

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.

1-_MG_8939.CR2 1-_MG_8945 1-_MG_8946

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!).

1-_MG_8913.CR2 1-_MG_8914.CR2 1-_MG_8916.CR2

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…

1-_MG_8920

… and of course the pier always looks magificent!

1-_MG_8932.CR2

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?

Why do supermarkets do that?

1.  Why do supermarkets sell chopped up kale?

1-_MG_8854

Here’s how kale looks if you buy it from our lovely local Veg Box shop.  All you need to do is give it a rinse and then strip the curly leaves off the tough stalks. Takes a couple of seconds…

The supermarkets all seem to sell the vegetable chopped, so you have chunks of tough stalk throughout the bag. I have bought it this way and know that you have to spend considerably longer picking out the stalks. And you almost always miss some. Plus of course the edges of the shredded leaves start to turn dry and brown very quickly. So – why do supermarkets do that?

2. Why do supermarkets only sell tiny parsnips?

The Veg Box has been selling massive, unwashed parsnips lately. Much cheaper than the small, prettier versions, and one root contributes to several meals. Less peeling too. And it’s helping farmers by giving them some income from veg that would otherwise go to animal feed or waste.

It’s well worth checking out your local independent suppliers. They know their stock, so can recommend which apples, oranges or tomatoes are particularly tasty. They can also suggest ways to cook or prepare some of the less familiar veg.

What do supermarkets do that you can’t understand??

From Clevedon to Cheddar (and beyond) by bike

As a Clevedon resident and fan of green transport, keeping fit and healthy and of Somerset as a whole, I was excited and sorry in equal measure by a short piece in the North Somerset Times this week on problems facing the Strawberry Line Association in their efforts to extend the cycle way so that we could get on to it in Clevedon.

1-IMG_7762

Excited, because I hadn’t heard that there were serious plans to extend the path, and this would be a marvellous facility for those living in and between Clevedon and Yatton. Sorry, because apparently they can’t confirm funding without plannig permission, and they can’t get planning permission without confirmed funding. Not a unique story!

The Strawberry Line already runs along a disused railway line from Yatton to Cheddar, across countryside visible in my photo above, taken from the top of the Mendips. This provides a safe and pleasant cycle path, keeping cyclists ut of danger from traffic, and preventing drivers being frustrated by needing to share roads with cyclists. Individuals and familes can get out into the fresh air, enjoying the environment, getting fitter and not spending too much money in the process.

There is potential to extend the network so that more able cyclists can travel widely across North Somerset, from Wells to the coast. What a boon to local tourism that would be! Loads more people visiting pubs, cafes, shops and bed and breakfasts across the region, taking advantage of the beautiful scenery and enjoying local produce.

I would want to see the path stretch to Clevedon even if I wasn’t an Airbnb host. Honestly, is there one disadvantage to the scheme? If there isn’t, I can’t see it. So I sincerely hope that the authorities help to smotth out the problems that seem to be slowing the scheme down. Hopefully I’l be on my bike very soon!

And incidentally – how have I only just heard of this? Note to self – check local news and events much more regularly!

Looking for somewhere nice to sit?

In amongst all the terrible news this week, it’s good to remember that most people just want to live peacefully and well – in the broadest sense – so I enjoyed coming across a great new site called A nice sit down. It’s simple and it’s sweet. Upload a photo of a public bench you like, add the coordinates and pin its location on a map. You may like the bench itself, or you might love the view it affords, but it’s a great way of sharing a simple pleasure with others.

1-_MG_8758

I took a few more photos of my favourite benches today, but I was using a wide angled lens and hurrying a bit, so they aren’t as good as I’d like. The above is one of my favourites, although being stone and a bit mossy it can take a moment or two to realise that you are looking at a seat. It would also be a little cold and damp to sit on in most weathers! I expect that in the past it had a wooden seat attached to the top.  I also took a photo of a bench near St Andrew’s Church, sat on by David Tennant and Olivia Coleman in the first series of Broadchurch, but I may have to retake it… not up to my usual standards!

Please do get posting your bench photos at www.anicesitdown.co.uk. We’ll be able to see the network of photos grow, and who knows? It may prove to be a good way to plan your next expedition into the British countryside, or discover a new place in your home town.

The bench above is on one of my favourite walks in Clevedon, Poet’s Walk. I love the fact that the walk is on a proper pathway, so you don’t have to get too booted-up as you won’t get too muddy even after heavy rain, but you are also far away from traffic and noise. You can properly enjoy the views and the wildlife, while knowing that you are having a gentle work out getting up and down the fairly steep paths. The only way to get properly fit is to find an exercise that you enjoy and therefore want to do. I’ve explained this all much better in my short Kindle book, A beginners guide to walking for pleasure, available on Amazon.

A final self-promotional plug is to say that a lot of my Clevedon and other photos and art are available through my RedBubble shop at http://magsart.redbubble.com Please do have a look – your support is hugely appreciated!

Time travel in Clevedon… bringing the past into the future

I’ve written about the charms of Clevedon many times: how the Victorian features of this peaceful seaside town have been preserved and are here to be enjoyed today.  We’re just back from a walk along the pier, to see the works that are in progress, and that has reminded me that I should have blogged about some of the developments that are underway here.

pier walkway pier walkway2 pier walkway3

The photos show the work at the pier on the new visitor centre and tea rooms. Not the huge building swathed in red mesh on the left – that’s the conversion of the old hotel into flats. The pier development will fit neatly into the ramp beside the old toll house. The work will mostly be underground, and will provide a large room with views under the pier to see the structure including Brunel’s old railway tracks, that were recycled into the pier arches, and of course views across the rising tide. We had a great chat about the work with one of the pier trustees, who was on hand with the plans.

The pier is worth a walk at any time, but will be even more enjoyable when the work is done. We are currently season ticket holders, and will be looking out to buy shares when they become available in the new year to raise the last of the funding needed.

At the other end of the bay, near the Salthouse and Little Harp pubs, the Marine Lakes are also going to be refurbished and restored. These are the Victorian swimming, boating and crabbing lakes, which have fallen into disrepair over the years. Although they are still used almost every day, they look a bit sad and the work, which will include improved seating and terracing and huts to change in for swimming, will bring them back to life.

And in town,  things are happening at the Curzon Community Cinema. From what I hear a new cafe/restaurant is on the way, and they are planning to open up the upper floor boxes and balcony in the auditorium. We already love the cinema and it will be fantastic to have further improvements. These should secure the cinema’s future for many years to come.

So what all these developments have in common is that they are breathing new life into much loved and rare historical places; keeping the essence of them true to their past but fitting them for a long future. Locals and visitors will have the pleasure of authentic Victorian buildings and amenities, but will be able to enjoy them in a way that fits right into modern life.

Hurrah for Clevedon, and for all those involved in these projects.

Maybe we’ll be able to tie the whole thing together by providing an authentic transport solution for the sea front (and shopping areas). Victorian trams, horse drawn coaches, early 20th Century buses … I wonder what might be possible? It would be fabulous to have most of the cars removed from the sea front, and to give visitors and locals alike a fun alternative service. Any ideas, anyone?