Strange day: calm beside the storm?

I’m just back from a breath of fresh air down by Clevedon Marine Lakes, and as always I took a few photos along the way.

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It’s a strange day out there today: quite grey as you can see, but brighter than you might expect. Cool but not cold, calm but a little breezy. Almost raining, but not quite! The latest seasonal storm  hit the North of the country yesterday, so maybe this is the calm behind or beside the storm.

The Marine Lakes are looking good now all the renovation work has finished, and it’s easy to see how well used they will be in the summer if we get some nice weather. Much more inviting to get in the water, with lots of ramps and steps, wider paths beside the lake and a wider walk walk between the two lakes. The blue thing you can see in the photo is the platfom for swimmers to climb onto in the middle of the water. There’s also a wide area at the far end for families with little children. All very nice indeed!

The soft light somehow picked out some of the old metal-work set into the stone wall: a drainage pipe capping contraption and metal rings which must have beem used for life rings, or maybe boats, although they seem very high up and far away from the water level.

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These are all features I haven’t noticed before… and the lovely colour to the rusted iron, the rust stain on the stone, the stone and lichen all provide nice contrasts and textures for some photography.

Many people still think that you need sunshine for good photos. Grey days can give great results – for the right subjects – so keep snapping through the winter!

 

 

I love walking in the rain… (well, I do!)

Quite often bad weather is a reason to stay inside if you can and keep warm and dry, but as I’ve often blogged about the pleasures of walking, and my intention to get out and about with my camera in all weathers, I decided not to let storm Clodagh keep me indoors today, and I headed out before breakfast for a walk.

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Not only is the walk more exhilarating and fun – there is something about the wind that works on almost everyone – but it feels as though it is doing you good. So a good brisk walk in the wind, with Poet’s walk to myself as most other walkers were giving it a miss.

Clevedon looked a little wild today. We never get storms like you do in Cornwall as we are in a relatively sheltered location, but it was still rough and choppy and the pier looked as though it was sitting low in the water.

I love the reflections in the puddles too. I know – little things please little minds but I do like this photograph of a tree.

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More ways to find fun and fitness with walking are in my kindle book!

Autumn in Clevedon

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It’s a strange season, Autumn. For those who particularly love the sun it is of course the beginning of the bad times – darker evenings, cold and damp weather. For those who relish a British Christmas, it’s the sign that frosty walks, welcoming pubs with roaring log fires, fairy lights and Christmas trees are all on the way.

But I like walking, wildlife and photography, and I just love the autumn! The light and colours in the landscape are beautiful, even early in the season before the trees properly turn to full gold and orange. An added bonus is that you don’t have to get up at 3 in the morning to catch an atmospheric morning shot. Here’s one of my photographs from Poet’s Walk in Clevedon on a morning when the mist was lying beneath the hills, and layers of cloud were adding colour to the sky. The sun was just getting some strength, so the grasses on the edge of the hill got some golden highlights too. Just lovely!

In towns you can take advantage of some dramatic scenes too. I liked the church and tree photographed without filters: I emphasised the bleached colours with a posterising effect.

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Some of my favourite photos, drawings and paintings are on sale in my RedBubble shop. There are some nice gift ideas!!

This year I’m planning on gettting out and about in all weathers to capture how the scenery changes through the year. There is talk of a cold winter coming for the UK. While I’m not a great fan of ice and snow, I will be on the look out for some great snowy shots: could be material for my next calendar.

And I suppose that’s the key thing about the changing seasons… to make the most of them where ever you live.

Right place, right time

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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!

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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:

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Looking down the coast…

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… 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….

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… onto Wellington Terrace back towards…

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… the sea front and …

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… 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…

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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.

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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.

Putting your best foot forward. How are your New Near Resolutions going?

Do you manage to stick to your resolutions? It seems that most people just can’t do it. They know what they should do, right enough (lose weight, get fitter, spend less, be tidier etc) but it’s just too difficult to see it through.

Well, there’s a simple trick to achieving what you want to achieve, and that is to find the fun in it. Let me explain.

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Let’s take getting fitter as an exampler. It’s mid-January, so the annual peak in gym membership applications is here. There will be lots of new faces signing up for classes or inductions to the gym to start the process of losing weight and toning up. How many of these people will still be regularly training in February? Not so many, I’d be prepared to bet. The problem is that unless you are fairly fit to start with going to the gym, or an energetic Zumba or dance class, it’s going to be too hard to be fun. And if things aren’t fun, it’s very hard to stick to them. At the slightest excuse (it’s pouring with rain: my kit’s in the wash…) it’s too easy to give up. But if things are fun, you do them whatever the inconvenience. Shopping? Going to the pub? Many people don’t have to be asked twice!

I’ve written a short Kindle book to explain my thinking about getting fit through walking, and I’m sure that this is a really good way for most people to get started.

You see, establishing the habit of walking doesn’t need too much time or special equipment. Most people can easily fit some walking into their normal day, either walking to work, or walking the children to school, or walking the dog or going to the library. If you choose your walks carefully and have the right mental approach you can easily find that walking is fun. The more pleasure you find in walking, the more you want to do it, and the fitter you become. The key is enjoying the place you are walking; taking notice or and an interest in what is around you. If you can manage a fast walk for 30 minutes or more, preferably including some hill work, then you are probably fit enough to enjoy going to the gym or starting an energetic class. Read more in my book. A beginner’s guide to walking for pleasure   ASIN B00L3D7ENY.

The same principles apply to other areas of life. To take one more example, it’s easier to eat better and spend less on food if you learn to enjoy cooking. It is fun to cook if you approach it with the right positive attitude; starting with something quite easy and building up new techniques as you gain confidence. I’ve enjoyed cooking for years, but am still working through some techniques that are new to me – making my own pasta for example, and getting good at making bread by hand. (My rye and wheat loaf with caraway seeds and ale was a masterpiece!) Again, it’s about enjoying learning new skills and the results of your work.

So, don’t set yourself up to fail by setting too big a challenge for yourself. Start small-ish, but keep challenging yourself. Above all, find a way to make what you want a pleasure, by focusing on the positives, and you’ll find it much easier to get where you want to be.

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.

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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!

Gorge-ous walks and photo opportunities

Always nice to get out and about and see something new. Although we have lived in North Somerset for two years now, there are many places that many people will know very well that we are just discovering.

This weekend we went with our lovely family visitors up the Mendips, to Burrington Combe, where we enjoyed a short walk beside the gorge. Much less famous than the nearby Cheddar Gorge, there is a pub and a cycling centre at the bottom of the combe, but then just nature and local people living their normal lives. We parked in a small layby with several others cars and then headed off up the hill.

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Before we knew it we were beside the edge of the gorge with the rocky ribs showing through the thin vegetation clinging to the steep sides. We’d seen the small herds of goats from the car, but didn’t manage to spot any here: they are too canny and too agile to be approached too closely.

I photographed a carline thistle, which looked spikilly regal against the turf. Not a plant I have ever really noticed before, but one that I am glad to have seen.

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Fantastic views of further afield from the hill top, too. I can almost claim that I can see my house from here, as the view extends to Wales in the far distance, with the Bristol Channel and Clevedon and then the flat country which spreads out in front of the Mendips.

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We went on the the lakes at Chew Stoke for a completely different sort of walk – water birds, reeds and trees – before heading back to Clevedon.

The evening was so beautiful that we went off for our third walk of the day, round by the marine lakes and then up the hill. Here’s the view of the Mendips from Clevedon …

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and here’s the last shot I took of the setting sun with some fishermen and walkers obligingly silhouetted against the sky. Love the way the sun looks!

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Some of the featured photographs are available to buy at my RedBubble shop – MagsArt. You can buy them as framed or unframed prints, cards, prints to metal, cushion covers, tote bags … the possibilites are endless!

It’s so easy to walk and maintain fitness levels if you are enjoying what you are doing, and although we must have walked well over 6 miles in total, several of which were up and down hills, we hardly noticed the distance. For ideas on how to start walking your way to health, and have fun while you are doing it, see my Kindle book A beginner’s guide to walking for pleasure. It’s ASIN number is B00L3D7ENY, and it’s available to borrow free if you are a member of Amazon Prime.