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Tags  →  england

“Shepherd's Cottage, Firle” by the painter, designer, book illustrator, wood engraver and official WWII War Artist Eric Ravilious (click the image for more)

Landscape © by James Lynch, much of whose work is inspired by hang gliding in England's West Country, and who is often compared to Eric Ravilious

A Taste of Cornwall, England, June 2018

We recently spent nine very nice days in Cornwall, based in Falmouth, with four days touring places I'd always wanted to visit - the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan in particular. The weather was somewhat variable!

BTW: If you would like to see some great pictures of Cornwall, may I direct you to the fine pages of Reflections.

Falmouth (Click the image for the photoblog)

The Eden Project (Click the image for the photoblog)

The Lost Gardens of Heligan (Click the image for the photoblog)

St Ives, St Michael's Mount, Fowey, Land's End - and the filming locations of BBC's "Poldark"
(Click the image for the photoblog)

Some posts about our recent visit to Cornwall appear below (or click a picture to go to a particular one).

If you would like to skip them, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

The Japanese art of “forest bathing” comes to Britain... and anyone who likes Miyazaki's classic animation My Neighbour Totoro will have no trouble in relating to it.

The author of this article tried it out in Thorpe Forest, near Thetford in Norfolk, a place that I can recommend from personal experience!

Decorative fungi, Baulk Wood, January 2016

I took this picture a week ago in Baulk Wood, near Henlow in southern England (a site reclaimed beautifully from what used to be a rubbish tip, and extended as a nature reserve and walking area).

If you like this...

[Fantastic Fungi (science)]

Storm Henry approaching, January 31st, 2016

I took this yesterday evening - enough already, you guys don't have to keep sending these over!

Shadows in the mist - September 28th, 2015

High pressure finally building after a long gloomy summer, leading to chilly clear mornings which started misty. I took this while walking the dog - less than 800 yards away the sun was shining brightly on leaves turning brilliant fall colours, worthy of Vermont!

If you like this...

[Beautiful autumn - Havant and the South Downs, October 2012]

Parham House and Gardens, Sussex, July 22nd, 2015

My photoblog of our July visit to Parham House and Gardens appears below (or click the image to go there).

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Poldark (the BBC TV productions and the books by Winston Graham)

Two reasons why the 2015 BBC remake of its 1975 original was so popular are not hard to find...

Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark. Aidan was previously best known for playing Kili, an improbably handsome dwarf, in Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit.

Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza. Eleanor's best role (prior to Poldark) was probably Georgiana Darcy in the excellent BBC adaptation of P.D. James' Death Comes to Pemberley.

The name “Demelza” is apparently Old Cornish for “Fort of Maeldaf” or “Fort on the Hill”, but Winston Graham is said to have derived it to mean “Thy Sweetness”, with “Melza” being originally derived from an old French word for honey.

Whatever, Demelza will always be associated for me with a feisty red-haired Cornish waif, who develops through hardships and class barriers in a way that still resonates today.

It was Angharad Rees's memorable portrayal of her in the 1975 TV series (right) that made her perhaps Britain's best-loved redhead (Demelza is a dark-haired lass in Winston Graham's novels). When I started watching the new series I felt that Angharad as Demelza would be a tough act to follow... but Eleanor has done the series proud.

I didn't start reading the 12 Poldark novels until I had watched the recent TV series, which brings me to another reason why the latest BBC remake has been so successful: the stories on which it is based (the first two novels, and a bit of the third novel).

Winston Graham's writing combines an almost cinematic quality of description with powerful character relationships that drive the suspenseful story, a fascinating historical background, and (in Ross Poldark) a humane view of the injustices and hardships of the times and a positive struggle to do something about them.

The latest TV adaptation has taken full advantage, doing a great job of conveying the first few novels to the screen. This isn't Downton Abbey, BTW - it's a much grittier and deeper story altogether.

(BTW, if you have watched the 2015 remake on PBS in the USA, you may know that PBS cut several small, important scenes from your version to suit its schedule - an act of artistic vandalism IMO. Buy the uncut DVDs!)

The above image was taken from a truly excellent blog post by Michael J. Bayly - a link well worth following.

I also strongly recommend Winston Graham’s Demelza: developing an 18th century Cornish world, a very thoughtful and deep analysis of the second novel, which will also tell you a great deal about the others.

The title of the third novel, BTW, is a little misleading (at least to me). It gave me the impression that the novels were a saga spanning generations, whereas in fact Jeremy Poldark is an unborn infant for most of that novel. I am currently reading The Black Moon (written after a gap of 20 years, although there is no sign of this in the writing), but so far as I can tell, the principal characters remain throughout the whole series.

So far, I am experiencing that rare thing: a set of novels and a screen adaptation that are equally satisfying. I look forward to Season 2!

“Downs in Winter”


Marvellous watercolours by the painter, designer, book illustrator, wood engraver and official War Artist (1940) Eric Ravilious, whose other work is well worth exploring (click either image above if you're interested).

For me, the spirit of Granny Aching still watches over these scenes of “The Chalk”. If you know what I mean then you might also be a fan of Terry Pratchett's wonderful books about Tiffany Aching (trainee witch) and The Wee Free Men (a bunch of tiny Caledonian hooligans), set in a mirror of this countryside (and assorted interconnecting worlds). The books are a unique combination of deep humanity, earthy wisdom and hilarious dialogue - if you have yet to try them, you might enjoy taking a look here.


“Little Fishes”

From “Slater's Sussex, the colour woodcuts of Eric Slater” by James Trollope, the first study of a British colour woodcut artist since Malcolm Salaman's William Giles as far back as 1928.

Watercolours by Edward Seago   (click images for sources and related pictures, click other links for place info)

“Cattle on the Marshes, Norfolk

“Behind the Dunes, Sea Palling

“Shrimp boats on the Suffolk coast”

Brancaster Staithe

If you like this...

[Try clicking the watercolour tag (just a suggestion!)]

Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon Manor (home of the Rothschilds, now a National Trust property open to the public) is a magical place at Christmas... I took this photo on November 13th, when the Christmas events had just started.

It's the inside of the house that is really worth visiting at Christmas, and this year they also had a series of outdoor light sculptures by Bruce Munro called Winter Light.

If you like this...

[Visit to Waddesdon Manor, December 2009]

Devon and Somerset (Knightshayes Court and Cothay Manor) April 2013

A beautiful willow sculpture in the gardens of Knightshayes Court, near Tiverton, Devon

Click the picture if you would like to see some posts about our recent visit to Devon and Somerset

If you are interested, here are the direct links:

[Knightshayes Court, National Trust gardens, Devon]
[Cothay Manor, privately owned with beautiful gardens, Somerset]

Knightshayes Court, Devon, April 2013

Knightshayes (near Tiverton, Devon, not far south of Exmoor) is one of the nicest National Trust properties that we have visited, even with the English seasons about a month behind normal and the weather distinctly iffy.

Click any picture below to visit the Knightshayes Court web site.

Descending from the terrace - a magical trip for a small girl

Some of the garden's many beautiful willow sculptures...

...and hedge topiary

Truly beautiful...

More willow sculptures here on the Knightshayes Facebook page

I loved the textures of bark, tile and stone...

...and these owls in the garden shop!

You will find many more photos of Knightshayes at all times of year on the Knightshayes Facebook Page.

[Devon and Somerset visit continues in Part 2]

Cothay Manor, Somerset, April 2013

[Devon and Somerset visit continued from Part 1]

Cothay (postcode TA21 OJR) is said to be the finest example of a small medieval manor in England. It dates from the 14th century, and is still privately owned and lived in today. The gardens are open to the general public, and the house can be visited by arrangement. It was the first property to feature in Channel 4's Country House Rescue series.

This place is a hidden treasure, very peaceful and secluded. Finding it is best done using a real paper map and a good navigator, since GPS apparently doesn't always work in narrow deep lanes and the local council forbids direction signs!

(Click any picture below to visit Cothay Manor's web site.)

Walking in from the car park on the east side (which had only one other car in it), we felt a glow of achievement as the Manor came into view. The café, which we visited later, is reached by continuing along the front of the building to a large grass area out of sight to the left of this picture.

We had the whole place virtually to ourselves...

Walking around the south side... this block looks like it has been here forever, but the owner told us later that it was built in the 1920's

From the west side of the Manor, looking east

This must look really beautiful later in the year - the seasons in England are about a month behind at the moment (25th April)

Walking along the west side of the Manor, with the "hedge rooms" gardens to the right

Looking away from the Manor, towards the River Tone

These lovely yew hedges have been used to create many garden "rooms" each with different contents and colour schemes. We were too early (this year) to see the colours, but you can find many nice pictures of the gardens here

A splash of colour on top of an old wall...

...and in the angle of the old steps...

...leading through a gap in the yew hedges to this beautiful area behind the gardens, by the River Tone

View from a garden seat on which I sat for a long time, listening to the sound of water (otherwise it was completely silent today)

Continuing around the north side of the Manor...

A group of old staddles (one with a missing top), once used to keep stored food off the ground and away from rodents, now just for decoration

Continuing around the north side of the Manor...

...there is more to be found ...

The café terrace... these are hitchhiker hens, by the way, you may need to evict them from your car when you drive away!

We suspect that the muzzle is an anti-snack-feeding device, as many visitors probably can't resist this dog's pleading brown eyes!

One of several good reasons to come back in June!

Driving out... we saw more animals than people here today (but I'm told that it does get busy later)

If you like this...

[Click the chevrons (>>) below to see my other photoblogs]

Havant and the South Downs, October 2012

A much-photographed scene that I took near the Royal Oak at Havant (near Portsmouth), a favourite pub of ours

Click the picture if you would like to see a post about our recent visit to Havant and the South Downs

Havant and the South Downs, October 2012

We stayed at my sister's house for a week at the end of October. The weather was very mixed, often grey and wet, but a whole lot better than what hit the East Coast of the US while we were there! And the autumn leaves were just gorgeous...

Stansted Park, near Havant... a great place to walk, especially at this time of year

Stansted House

Back in Stansted Park a few days later, for tea and a visit to the farm shop... fast-moving rain clouds coming in

Suddenly very threatening indeed... the building on the left is the Vine House, an extension of the Pavilion Tea Room which is out of shot to the left

Half an hour later, the rain is gone...

Shooting fish in a barrel... the wooden fish reflected in rainwater

Fort Nelson, on Portsdown overlooking Portsmouth - a great place to go on a cold rainy day

The Turkish Bombard, a medieval wall-smasher dating from 1464

Looking through the two sections of the Turkish Bombard

Standing at an angle, two sections of the planned 26 sections of the confiscated Iraqi "super-gun", theoretically capable of sending a projectile into low orbit

One of the long tunnels beneath the Fort, which was one of several built to defend Portsmouth against an inland attack from the French (which never came)

In the centre of the fort

Massive defences to the North... the right-hand wall of this dry moat was originally vertical, large mortars were positioned behind the wall to the left. Soldiers stationed below where I am standing would make crossing this a short-lived experience!

View over Portsmouth from Portsdown (cold and wet!)...

Waggoners Wells (near Grayshott, just off the A3 at its highest point) on 29 October (the day that Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast of the US)

In Grayshott, highly recommended!

A much-photographed scene near the Royal Oak at Havant, a favourite pub

People sitting in front of the pub, watching the tide go out

A chilly, sometimes drizzly walk in Staunton Country Park, on the northern outskirts of Havant

Picturesque dereliction...

Something somewhat Tolkien-ish about the carvings in this playground, and elsewhere

October 31st... My American cousin's pumpkin in the window, looking hopefully outwards for trick-or-treaters who never came (but the pumpkin was great... which reminds me of these great Peanuts cartoons)

Dartmouth, South Devon, Sept/Oct 2012

View of Kingswear (left) and Dartmouth castle (right, in the distance) from near the Bayards Cove Inn, Dartmouth

Click the picture if you would like to see some posts about our recent visit to South Devon

If you are interested, here are the direct links:

[Dartmouth, boat trip to Totnes, local walks and steam railway trip to Paignton]
[Visit to Greenway, Agatha Christie's holiday home above the river Dart]

Dartmouth, South Devon, Sept/Oct 2012

We had a nice week (with very mixed weather) in Dartmouth, staying in a self-catering apartment. Because of all the places we could reach on foot, by boat, or by steam train, we didn't use the car once while we were there!

The highlight was probably our visit to Greenway, Agatha Christie's much-loved holiday home, set in lovely grounds overlooking the Dart (see Part 2 below).

If you are interested, a GoogleMap showing the places in this photoblog will be found here.

The view from our apartment, one evening about halfway through the holiday when the sun reappeared! This is a training facility for Royal Naval cadets.

Some of the small boats that the cadets learn to handle

Flowers on the apartment's kitchen windowsill

Kingswear at night, across the river from Dartmouth

The lower ferry (one of two constantly crossing in either direction) connecting Dartmouth and Kingswear, which we used later as foot-passengers

All the power is provided by the tug - the newer "higher ferry", very close to our apartment, runs on guide wires

View of Kingswear (left) and Dartmouth castle (right, in the distance) from near the Bayards Cove Inn. Actually taken late in the morning on a typical dull day (at least it wasn't raining at the moment!)

Bayards, near the lower ferry

The Bayards Cove Inn, our favourite cosy hangout spot in bad weather (excellent food at lunch-time, at this time of year they also do Tapas 4 evenings a week from 6 to 9 PM - you can stay here, but check the room prices)

"Along Bayards" by Chris Forsey RI, a print of which was hanging on the wall of the Bayards Cove Inn

Last year in October we took a boat trip from Dartmouth to Dittisham (see the end of this post) This was the end of a longer trip on the same boat, arriving in Totnes


We didn't get off here, due to weather and timing, but it would be nice to do it in good weather

The return trip - pretty much the only photo on this voyage that came out (and I had to work hard on this one)

Near the lower ferry

A nice morning (relatively)! Start of a walk from Dartmouth to Dartmouth Castle and beyond. The twin town of Kingswear is in the distance, and Bayard's Cove Fort is below

View to the right...

...view to the left from a bit further along the road. You might be able to see the higher ferry crossing (upper centre), our apartment is just beyond it on the left hand side, to the left of the Royal Naval training facility

My spouse picked this as a "Des. Res." (sorry - English advertising abbreviation for "Desirable Residence")

Looking back at the boat pier in Dartmouth, telephoto lens cranked up to max (tiny camera but great lens for its size) - fairly low tide

Passing Warfleet Creek

We didn't stop at Dartmouth Castle on the outward walk, this is some way beyond it. Lots of nice empty picnic spots below with a great view.

Descending to Sugary Cove, which features as an EU super-clean beach (but at least at low tide, I would be very careful swimming here because of sharp rocks)

My spouse in her element....

Ancient folded rocks on the left hand side of Sugary Cove

I couldn't resist slipping this photo in. It was actually taken in Bathurst Inlet on the previous day (30th Sept). Bathurst Inlet is quite far away from Dartmouth (currently around 60,000,000 miles, on Mars) and the camera system that took it is a wee bit more expensive than mine! [Click the image for more info].

View across the mouth of the Dart

The Coast Walk goes on and on.... we turned around here on this occasion!

Another view across the mouth of the Dart (telephoto doing its stuff again)

Dartmouth Castle

Very steep narrow stairs leading down to the Battery

View from the top of the Castle

The little water taxi that shuttles to and from the Castle, saving weary legs on the way back!

We missed that particular boat... another telephoto view up river

View (mainly of Kingswear) from the water taxi landing

By the water taxi landing - the Mermaid sculpture is by a lady called Elizabeth Hadley

In the boat, looking back on the Castle and St. Petrox Church

Some passengers go free!

...dark rain clouds and bright sun producing some nice lighting effects

The Kingswear docks where two ferries come in, the Lower Ferry on the right and the Dartmouth Railway ferry (more expensive) on the left. The railway station is at the top of the ramp from either ferry.

A lot of the time the weather was like this... but we didn't really mind

Taking the lower ferry across to Kingswear, on the start of a steam railway journey to Paignton

We had plenty of time before the train, so we went for a walk through Kingswear and along the coast walk downstream (for a short way)

Does anyone recognize this place, just downstream from Kingswear?

Navigation beacon for boats coming in from the sea

We turned around on the coast path and took a climbing road back across the top of Kingswear. Looking down on the railway which we are about to get on...

Kingswear station

While at school, I was always fascinated by the model train sets that some friends of mine were lucky enough to have in their attics. I have a feeling that everyone working on this railway is having fun with a full size version!

"Lydham Manor" is the name of this rather beautiful locomotive, if there are any train buffs out there who want to know! It once hauled the Royal Train in the late 1950's.

Goodrington Sands, the stop just before Paignton, and where we should have got off! On a nice day this would be great for kids... As far as Paignton goes, what can I tell you? "It is better to journey than to arrive" about sums it up, especially in wet weather. But the trip was very enjoyable.

The only part of Paignton worth showing!

Yup, diesel locomotives are just not the same... The railway company is offering "footplate tickets" for people to treat their male relatives to a ride with the driver (I can imagine that some ladies wouldn't mind riding here too!)

Back in Dartmouth... when the sun DID come out,the light was wonderful

(BTW: the Station Restaurant, a very popular eatery seen here, was intended for the Dartmouth railway station that was never built)

The Britannia Royal Naval College, basking in unaccustomed sun. Lord Mountbatten and other male royals have studied here (and my spouse's grandfather).

[Dartmouth visit continues in Part 2]

Greenway, Holiday Home of Agatha Christie (trip from Dartmouth)
[Dartmouth visit continued from Part 1]

The start of a really nice day. We're off to visit Greenway, Agatha Christie's much-loved holiday home. On the way out, we took the train (Greenway Halt is its first stop on the way to Paignton). View from the train...

View from the railway viaduct that is about 80 feet high here, crossing the creek

Greenway Halt, looking back at the tunnel that the train has just come through. Smoke (or steam) keeps billowing out of the tunnel for several minutes (and out of railway carriages where passengers have foolishly left the windows open!)

Greenway Halt. Start of an unexpectedly long and high-climbing National Trust footpath to Greenway (allow half an hour and wear good boots in wet weather!) - we're told it's less distance if you keep to the road

The path climbs up through woods... and up... and eventually you end up here, wondering where Greenway itself is...

Along the path which faith tells us will eventually reach Greenway, although we are now about half-way back to Dartmouth!

Not there yet, but it's looking hopeful...


Greenway is a beautiful holiday home - 30 acres of ground perched above the Dart, and a truly "homely" house. "Dead Man's Folly" was one of Agatha Christie's books that was set here (in Greenway, I mean)

The house itself (no photos inside, but see here). It has great views over the Dart, as does the path we are walking up. I'm currently reading Agatha Christie's autobiography, which I now wish I had done before visiting. Highly recommended.

Any botanical experts?

View from the top of the grounds... so lucky with the weather today. Having arrived via Greenway Halt railway station, it really does seem like we are halfway back to Dartmouth!

View from outside the house (telephoto lens). Low tide...

After viewing the house itself, we took a much shorter route home. This is the rather lovely thatched cottage just behind the Greenway Ferry quay, which is only a short walk down from the house... and goes to Dartmouth main pier, not to Kingswear on the other side. The next day the weather seriously deteriorated, so this is the last photo that I took!

I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms from the London 2012 Olympics. For more than 2 weeks (a lot longer if you include the Torch Relay) the UK has seemed a different, happier and more community-minded place. For these weeks we were a country of street parties, picnics in parks, crowds jostling each other during the rush hour in the best of humour, smiling mounted police riding along the edge of a huge crowd gathered for a road race, slapping hands with the lifted hands of spectator after spectator, completely deserted streets in housing estates that would suddenly ring to a simultaneous shout of YES! ... and it just went on and on.

Along with goodness-only-knows how many other people, on the final day I watched the BBC's coverage leading up to and through the Closing Ceremony, from which my screenshots below come.

The first set of screenshots is from the signing-off montage, which the BBC does so well at the end of major sporting events (e.g. Wimbledon):

People will always remember the magnificent Opening Ceremony that began it all

A new pride in Team GB, which we somehow all felt part of (one of the LED panels from the audience pixel system is partly visible here, see later)

These guys were really flying. Did you see the BMX events, at one of many superb new venues created for the Games?

Gemma Gibbons in tears after winning a silver medal in Judo (our first Judo medal for 12 years), crying "I love you Mum".

She lost her mother Jeanette to Leukemia - Jeanette encouraged her daughter to take up the sport at their local judo club when Gemma was just six years old.

Victoria Pendleton has just been beaten in the sprint final (Victoria's last ever race) by the Australian Anna Meares, her great friend and rival, in Victoria's last ever race... the whole spirit of the Games is right here

Tears of joy from Anna Meares at winning her gold medal for Australia

One of Team GB's (and Scotland's) greatest moments...

...and another


Chris Hoy MBE, now our greatest Olympian, with plenty to smile about

London has been a more magical place than usual in the past few weeks

From the coverage leading up to the Closing Ceremony:

240,000 people applied to be volunteer Game Makers. 70,000 were accepted, and their contribution to the Games was incredible. They weren't all from the UK, either; the two white-haired ladies on the left, just interviewed by Clare Balding, were from Adelaide and Michigan (the latter, nearest the camera, is an ex-heptathlete). The volunteer that Claire is talking to has just decided to re-enlist for the Paralympics.

During this part of the broadcast we were also seeing congratulatiory Tweets coming in from many famous sporting names.

This was shot in Greenwich Park, a wonderful venue used for equestrian events overlooking the Olympic Park (now returned to the public)

From the Closing Ceremony itself (some great pictures from which will be found here ):

Athletes from all countries filling the arena, transforming it into one great party

John Lennon performing "Imagine", one of the theme songs for the evening, in a video restored by Yoko Ono especially for the event. He joined an incredibly moving performance of the song by the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir performing alongside the Liverpool Signing Choir (if you follow only one link in this post, please follow this one)

Representatives of the 70,000 volunteer Game Makers received a special award, to immense applause

The concert started with the spine-tingling harmonies that open Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" - and a gasp went up as the spectator area was transformed into a giant oscilloscope with complex sound patterns shown visually...

...courtesy of the amazing "audience pixels" system - a vast, stadium-wide video surface comprising a custom-built 9-pixel LED panel mounted between every one of the stadium's seats (no still picture can do justice to it), whose wiring was an engineering feat in itself (some great pictures of the system in use will be found here)...

...Annie Lennox approaching the camera in the prow of a ship, with the audience pixel system in full use behind her

The Spice Girls, still as popular as ever, performing as a quintet probably for the last time (photos)

Freddie Mercury leading the enthusiastically-responding audience from beyond the grave...

...followed by Brian May CBE of Queen in a solo performance that (IMO) knocked the socks off any of the other rock music performed on this evening

Sebastian Coe, former great athlete and the father of these Games, making one of the two closing speeches (the other from President of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, one of our favourite Frenchmen).

Lord Coe's speech was full of pride for the London 2012 achievement and thanks for everyone that contributed to it, including the team that built the venue...

... and he gave special thanks to the volunteer Game Makers, who got a long standing ovation from the huge crowd (and to the many members of the armed forces and police who kept the games safe discreetly and with great humour, which also drew a huge cheer)

A sad moment as the flames in that wonderful cauldron were slowly extinguished (but I loved the symbolic Phoenix)...

...leaving us with so much to celebrate, not least the all-important Legacy that this Games has focused on so strongly

If I had the power, I would give a gold medal to everyone who brought these Games about, and to everyone who made them such a wonderful occasion (including the BBC commentary team). And I would bring down a horrible pox on everyone (including some of the BBC news team) who cast every kind of doubt on London 2012 before it happened (and even during it), constantly reporting as "news" opinions about forthcoming disasters and bad organisation that failed completely to materialise.

A great part of the achievement of the people who bid for and mounted the Games was overcoming the miserable doom-sayers, who between them have probably never created anything worthwile in their entire lives. Such people talk about "costs" when others talk about "achievements" and "earnings". No doubt they will find every reason why the Olympic Legacy won't happen properly - and I bet that they will be just as wrong.

This was indeed the greatest party on the planet. I hope that people from other countries enjoyed it as much as we did!

One of the best features of the Olympics (IMO) is the inspiration that it provides for young people - and two inspiring (and beautiful!) Olympic athletes are the heptathlon champions Jessica Ennis and Denise Lewis.

Jessica Ennis MBE was awarded, among many other things, "Most Inspirational Sportswoman of the Year" at the 2010 Jaguar Academy of Sport Annual Awards.

Denise Lewis OBE, now retired from athletics and one of the BBC's regular commentators at the London 2012 Olympics, won gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. In July 2009, Denise became an International Inspiration Ambassador for London 2012's international sports legacy programme.

(Click the images for their various sources.)

Denise at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996

Denise appearing on Desert Island Discs

London 2012's international sports legacy programme is making a big difference to the lives of young people all around the world. Check it out!

I greatly enjoyed this TV movie, both for the inspiring odd-couple partnership of posh Bert Bushnell (Sam Hoare) and grammar-school boy Dickie Burnell (Matt Smith, a.k.a. Doctor Who), and for the insight into how different the 1948 London austerity Olympics were from those of today.

And yes, in those days etching really was an Olympic event! For the full story on that, see here.

And yesterday, another wonderful achievement by Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, one of whose parents described them as having very different temperaments (one hyper, one seriously laid-back) that somehow fitted together perfectly.

From this article:

Dickie and Bertie trained for only a month as a team and, after winning the gold medal, went their separate ways. Helen and Heather are from a different world, one of hi-tech training, calorie-perfect diets, national funding and all performed in the gaze of the media. Dickie and Bertie, along with their Great Britain team-mates, drank lots of wine, sang rowing songs, caroused with waitresses and (the high point of riotous behaviour in those days) threw bread rolls.

You would hope Helen and Heather have a similarly enjoyable, maybe less rowdy an evening, the 26-year-old former hockey international Glover and the 27-year-old Royal Artillery officer Stanning, who goes back into uniform soon and may even be serving her country in Afghanistan before the end of the year.

This, though, was their peaceful battlefield. If they could have done so on Wednesday, we would have asked them to do it all over again. If they could have done so, they probably would have. More...

And again! A great performance from Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins. Whether on the water or on two wheels, this seems to be Team GB's year!

A small selection of images from the linked page - click any image to see them all

This was a fabulous event... it had everything that was good (and quirky) about Britain, and really reflected the true Olympic spirit.

People will long remember the Queen and James Bond, and Rowan Atkinson's unique contribution to "Chariots of Fire", but I especially loved the way in which it included everybody, from the people who built the Olympic Park (500 of whom lined the entrance of the torch into the stadium) to the next generation of young athletes to be inspired by the spirit of the games, who collectively lit the Olympic Flame, to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the World Wide Web - in his words, "This Is For Everyone".

Danny Boyle did us proud. The spectacle was truly awesome (England's transition from a bucolic landscape through the Industrial Revolution was stunning) and the cauldron and its lighting was a masterpiece of art and Olympic symbolism. But if I had to pick one word to sum it all up, it would be "heart".

It was also the climax to the Olympic Torch Relay which during 70 days took the Olympic Flame all over the UK, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey, in a route designed to pass within an hour's travel of at least 95% of the whole population. It seemed at times like one continuous street party (often in pouring rain), with the flame passed by one torch-bearer to another, inspirational "local heroes" of all kinds nominated by each community.

It's hard to imagine a better start to what might be the most inclusive, inspirational Olympic Games ever.

[All of my posts on the London 2012 Olympics]
[All of my posts on the London 2012 Paralympics]

This time last year...

... we had a wonderful week in the English Lake District, normally the wettest spot in England!

[ click the picture for my Lake District photoblog ]

This time this year...

7°C... 45°F...
Rain, rain, go away...

We have had very variable weather in England. This was our communal garden on January 14th, after a spell of very windy weather brought down large branches from many old trees in our area. These branches were weakened by the wind in the night but actually fell in the morning when the wind had all but died down - glad I wasn't walking underneath!

Anyway, this was a cold, misty, frosty morning some time after this happened, on of the last nice days for quite a while... since then snow has come and gone, with air from Russia and temperatures down to 10 below freezing, and we're now having the mild Atlantic airstream again.

(You can probably tell that I'm way behind in my blogging... personal things to take care of.)

If you like this...

[More winter pics from the previous year...]

My wife and I have noted this for the next time that we're visiting Cornwall, as a wonderfully dog-friendly hotel.

It is also the home of Jean Shrimpton's family - see the next post above.

If you like this...

[My previous West Country posts]

"Snow and Mist at Corfe Castle" by Andy Farrer, whose other work is well worth exploring

Corfe Castle is located on the Isle of Purbeck (actually a peninsula, not a true island) in Dorset, England.

[More from Dorset or England if you click the tags]

Canadian artist Peter Lewis's "Splash" illuminates a waterfall over Kingsgate footbridge in Durham, northern England

A 'Les Voyageurs' sculpture, part of a series of illuminated sculptures by French artist Cédric Le Borgne (whose other work is well worth checking out), is displayed along the South Bailey in Durham

The Durham Lumière Festival, transforming a northern English city into a quite magical place - photos from articles here and here.

The BBC showed this recently on their News Channel - still pictures can't convey how wonderful this light festival really is.

England's West Country, October 2011

Dusk light at Kingsbridge, Devon - low tide

Click the picture to see some posts about our recent visit to England's West Country (with some side trips)

If you are interested, here are the direct links:

[Sherborne Castles, Dorset]
[Sherborne Town and Abbey]
[Tintinhull Gardens, Somerset]
[Kingsbridge, Devon (with visits to Salcombe, Buckfastleigh and Dartmouth)]

If you like the whiff of sea air...

[My Whitby photoblog]
[More seascapes...]

You might also like...

[Places to enjoy life... in England]

England's West Country, October 2011

In the middle of October (while recovering from the StumbleUpon fiasco), my wife and I spent 9 days in the West Country. For the first couple of days we stopped at the Ash House Hotel in Somerset (highly recommended), very close to Yeovil and the border with Dorset. While we were there we visited some nice places...

The first one was here... (click the image for more details)

Actually there are two castles. This is the "new" one, actually a Tudor Mansion that was the hangout of Sir Walter Raleigh.

The beautiful landscaping is by Capability Brown, who was also responsible for all of these wonderful places

The main road to Dorchester...

...before 1856

...and the old castle (what's left of it)

The modern touch...

[West Country visit continues in Part 2]

Sherborne Town and Abbey
[West Country visit continued from Part 1]

Sherborne is an attractive small town

Walking through the narrow lane to the Abbey...

...which is particularly beautiful, especially in this low October light

Please note the weather... this is October in England, and it's like summer (except for the short days). Forget August!

HDR photo

Local brews served in The Three Wishes Bistro... I can recommend the brew on the left. The one on the right is an acquired taste (that I haven't acquired), and stronger than most imported Pilsner lagers!

[West Country visit continues in Part 3]

Tintinhull Garden
[West Country visit continued from Part 2]

The tiny village of Tintinhull in Somerset. Proceeding up to the right one gets to...

...some very nice gardens (click the picture for details)

The garden kindly provides facilities for R&R

My kind of speed!

You can go round the back...

...where hidden away in the trees is another facility for R&R!

[West Country visit continues in Part 4]

Kingsbridge, Devon (with visits to Salcombe, Buckfastleigh and Dartmouth)

[West Country visit continued from Part 3]

We stayed for a week in Kingsbridge (nearly the southern-most place in England) in a self-catering waterside apartment at Crabshell Quay (next to the very pleasant Crabshell Inn), together with our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter.

It turned much colder when we arrived and a bit misty, with a poor weather forecast...

...however the the south coast micro-climate kept fighting back the bad weather (the view opposite our apartment, at high tide)

Kingsbridge is at the northern end of a tidal creek running south to the sea (passing Salcombe on the way)

While we were there, the difference between low and high tide was around 15 feet

Our apartment terrace - cool air, but a sun trap. Just below us, a narrow pedestrian path leads to the Crabshell Inn. That path runs along the edge of the quay, and has missing sections in the railing where vertical ladders descend towards the mud, sometimes more than 15 feet below... walking along it on a dark night, it's a good idea not to have had one drink too many!

The bad weather kept trying to arrive...

... and disappeared again...

... but the light was always beautiful!

Another day... tide's in... we're off to Salcombe, a few miles by car (in our case) or by boat (next time!)

We walked from Salcombe to North Sands, a mile or two along the edge of the coast. I think these boats were collecting crabs.

North Sands, where be found The Winking Prawn (a good seafood eatery that must be absolutely hotching in summer)

My spouse (a Devon lass) in her element

Next evening at Kingsbridge... weather still going to and fro...

A day trip to the Buckfast Butterfly Farm and Otter Sanctuary, at Buckfastleigh on the south edge of Dartmoor. A tip for photographing otters is, bring a video camera! (50+ failed photos of fast-moving otters later...)

My daughter managed to catch this one!

It took my glasses (and camera) a long time to de-mist as we entered the tropical butterfly house...

Pupae all ready for next year (they turn the heat off shortly and everything hibernates until next season).

Back in Kingsbridge...

A visit to Overbeck's, a very nice little National Trust property on the top of a hill overlooking the sea, not far from North Sands. Another tip: you need a very small car with a short wheelbase for some of the roads around here!

Looking across the creek... my spouse wants to do the coastal walk on the far side...

This spot must be a geologist's paradise (see here)

Dartmouth, on the mouth of the River Dart (a river worth exploring in its own right), which rises on Dartmoor not far to the north
(I discovered that Dart is an ancient Celtic name meaning "river where oak trees grow" - and the oak trees are still flourishing)

A certain small person (nearly a year old) really enjoying her first boat trip (an hour's sightseeing up and down the Dart)

Is this cute, or what?

The Britannia Royal Naval College, attended by Royal Princes and my spouse's grandfather...

The Dartmouth Steam Railway... and not far from here is Greenway, Agatha Christie's holiday home, which you can visit by ferry from Dartmouth (among other ways)


Passing back through Dartmouth, the boat keeps going until it reaches the sea...

Dartmouth Castle, at the mouth of the estuary

Back in Dartmouth...

...where they were holding a wonderful Food Fair, including free cooking classes by celebrity chefs

Last evening in Kingsbridge... dusk light on the side creek

English Lake District - April 29th, 2011

This April we spent 5 days in the English Lake District - for our 40th Wedding Anniversary! The weather (for this place and this time of year) was astonishing - almost unbroken sunshine, high 60's and then well into the 70's. Recent summers have been dreadful, and April has become a good time to visit (although in the Lake District, you have a whole lot of microclimates and nothing is guaranteed!).

Holehird Gardens, just north of Ambleside. Quiet, beautiful and free to visit (donations accepted!)

[Lake District visit continues in Part 2]

[Lake District visit continued from Part 1]

Start of a walk along and past Elterwater, west of Ambleside and south of Grasmere

All the Lakeland becks are clear as crystal

Ridge between Silver Howe (left) and Loughrigg Fell (right), I think.... (looking north)

Slate spoil heap, a sign that the old industries are still going...

Shortly before I took this, a loud blast (like an extra-loud bird scarer) from over the low rise above us proved the point!

Approaching "Wainwright's Inn" at Chapel Stile - very pleasant

It was that time of year...

[Lake District visit continues in Part 3]

[Lake District visit continued from Part 2]

From the web site:

"Rydal Mount, in the heart of the Lake District, lies between Ambleside and Grasmere and commands glorious views of Lake Windermere, Rydal Water and the surrounding fells.

"This was Wordsworth's best loved family home for the greater part of his life from 1813 to his death in 1850 at the age of 80. It was here that he wrote many of his poems, revised and improved much of his earlier works and published the final version of his most famous poem 'Daffodils'."

Rydal Water, a short distance north of Windermere and east of Grasmere, seen from Wordsworth's garden

Rydal Water

Bluebells... I'm sure they were very early this year (for the Lake District)

Loughrigg from Wordsworth's garden, looking south

A feature of the garden

The mound

View from the Norse Mound

This little girl looked so cute, couldn't resist taking a photo

Wordsworth's house is perched on the hillside above Rydal Water

A lovely place to have a greenhouse

View from inside the house. Unlike many historic homes that you visit, photography is allowed if you don't use a flash.

Wordsworth's drawing room... and you can sit on most of the seats and sofas in this house, except for delicate ones specially marked. It's a very homely place and if you want sit and read a book for half an hour, no problem! (HDR photo)

...and his study up in the attic, from which you can see all the way to Windermere

[Lake District visit continues in Part 4]

[Lake District visit continued from Part 3]

Start of another walk, starting where the water from Grasmere is about to flow into Rydal Water

Looking back on Rydal Water, Wordsworth's house is on the other side of the lake in the distance

Heading across Loughrigg Terrace, a path that runs under Loughrigg with Grasmere down to the right

Nab Scar, to the north east of Grasmere... and one of many awesome stone walls running up to the top of the fell


Grasmere, where the river runs out on its way to Rydal Water... this is APRIL in the Lake District!! (Apparently the real Lake District April now happens in June, July and August, according to the locals). Just out of the top of the photo people are swimming... words fail me. The sun is hot and it's in the mid 70's...

Grasmere, from the path descending from Loughrigg Terrace

The path descends gently with occasional hairpin bends

Just after taking this picture, we heard the first cuckoo of Spring, loud and clear... 20th April...

Outfall from Grasmere (with my too-fast small digital camera the water over the rocks looked static, so I added a slight motion-blur layer in Photoshop)

Looking back on Loughrigg

...nearly back at the car park., looking back the way we have come

Back at the hotel, at supper... a frequent visitor outside the doors... doors of a restaurant... wide open at 7:30 PM in mid April... still can't get over it!

"3 Cats"

"Winter Skies"

Some very nice photography by Samaryantha, a very talented English lady whose photography site has moved (you can find it here but you won't find these images there, at least not yet).

Winter in England 2010 - a White Christmas!

23rd December, early morning... still snow on the ground

24th December... wind picking up, temperature hovering around freezing...

...and today, 25th December, we have our first White Christmas for a very long time.

Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas (whatever the climate), and a peaceful and prosperous New Year!

[More of my winter pics...]

Winter (early) in England - December 15th, 2010

7th December... 5 degrees below freezing, misty...

... resulting in some interesting frost patterns!

It got less cold a few days later, but now (15th December) the arctic air is on its way down to us again...

[Cold front, November 16th]

Autumn in England - November 6th, 2010

6 November... after a very rainy Guy Fawkes night, it's a beautiful morning, sunny and much colder...

... our summer has resulted in a great crop of mushrooms!

From the page:

The first time i visited the Lake District, I stayed at the Brothers Water Inn and immediately fell in love with the place.

It has great views looking down Dovedale towards the slightly foreboding Dove Crag.

So it was from here that I decided to venture up Dove Drag to the Priesthole, a small cave situated on the north-eastern side which offers impressive views of Dovedale and beyond...


A Walk in the New Forest - May, 2010

The New Forest (called that by William the Conqueror in 1079 when he cleared settlements to make it his new hunting forest - why change the name now?) is a great walking area. Many suggestions for walks in this area can be found here.

It's going to be a beautiful day... 15.1 hours of sun forecast, which duly arrived (we were lucky - the next weekend, the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May, had its traditional dreadful weather)

The best walks start and finish at a pub... This one is The Oak Inn at Bank, near Lyndhurst

Some very nice properties around here...

Anyone for Poohsticks?

The circular walk (about 5km) followed this curving stream for much of its length

In the bright sun, this beautiful fungus was acting as a natural uplighter

And of course, we met the locals...

Back at The Oak Inn for the traditional end to a good walk!

If you liked this...

[Places to Enjoy Life... In England]

From the page:

"Cornwall will always be a great place to go camping but Ekopod is making it a stylish one too. This cool and contemporary living space is a luxury low-carbon retreat that brings the best of modern life to the best of the countryside. You can sleep in a full-size double bed but still wake up with a panoramic view of the hills. Breakfast on the decking terrace before hiking across the moors, bathe in a wood-fired bath tub after a surfing lesson or lounge in canvas easy chairs snacking on local produce from the honesty shop, all with minimal environmental impact. It's amazing that something so white can be so green."

This is one offering from Alastair Sawday's "Canopy & Stars" selections. If you are thinking of holidaying in the UK or other parts of Europe, and a few other places too, and are looking for somewhere special to stay, then I can really recommend Alastair Sawday's site as a great starting point. You will find more about him in the first link below.

From my web site...

[Some Places to Enjoy Life...]
[Some Places to Enjoy Life... In England]

Epping Forest - autumn and winter

Some of my photos of Epping Forest in autumn and winter, taken when we used to live near there.

Epping Forest was one of the main filming locations for the Internet-released prequel to The Lord of the Rings, "Born of Hope" (see my next post above).

Located to the north east of London, it's a relatively small remnant of a much larger ancient forest, which somehow makes it seem appropriate as a choice for this movie.

Snow in England, December 2009

Early morning, December 18th... We woke up to a winter wonderland!

The joy of being retired... I don't have to break into my car, just walk the dog!

Milo is definitely a snow dog

Trying to get on the OTHER side of Milo so he doesn't have his back to the sun...
the trouble is, he thinks it's a game and he's a lot faster than I am!

... did you spot the chilly wood pigeon in the previous photo?

A new walk-friend of Milo's, a cross between a Pug and a Cavalier King Charles - this one had a lovely temperament

There's a slightly Narnia feeling about this...

My second-ever HDR photo. The upper and lower parts come from two different images at different exposures, and a lot more work after that! My little Lumix camera will take three photos in rapid succession at different exposures, and even without a tripod it wasn't hard to align two of the images in different Photoshop layers. I temporarily used the "multiply" blend with one image inverted so that I could see both images at once, and used the Move tool and arrow keys to nudge one layer a pixel at a time. There are fancier ways of doing HDR but this worked fine for me with Photoshop 7.

23rd December... we nearly had a White Christmas, but this was the last properly snowy day.
For those who didn't have to travel, the last 6 days have been great!

[My Photoshop page]

(Original post: December 21st, 2009)

Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, is one of the most attractive National Trust properties in England. As it says here:

"Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, creator of Waddesdon, loved France and French art. With his French architect Destailleur and his landscape gardener Laine, he built this Renaissance-style chateau in a dramatic setting. Waddesdon has one of the best collections of French 18th century decorative arts in the world, paintings, furniture, carpets and curiosities, lovingly assembled over 35 years by Ferdinand to please his weekend guests. Outside, his creation includes an aviary, flamboyant bedding, winding walks, colorful trees and panoramic views."

We visited it recently for their Christmas event. When you arrive it's already very dark, and you feel like you are on the set of "Brideshead Revisited" as you make the long unlit drive up to the Rothschild manor, where on this occasion you can park right in front, in a long row of giant illuminated Christmas trees. You get to tour a wing of the house, beautifully decorated for Christmas (no words will do it justice), followed by a dinner in the excellent restaurant. For £55 this is perhaps the best-value Christmas event one can imagine!

We stayed overnight at the Five Arrows Hotel in Waddesdon village, planning to go for a walk in the Waddesdon estate the next morning. From our hotel window we had a view of wonderful tiled roofs like this one.

This is part of the long drive up to the Manor. It was a cold, beautiful day. The sun at this time of year is very low, making for interesting photography, and we had the place almost to ourselves (very unusual).

All the statues on the estate were shrouded against the weather...

Frost still on the grass

Some fun with Photoshop. This wasn't taken with a telephoto lens, it's the result of a blurred layer on top of a sharp layer, with the lower part of the blurred layer masked out.

My first-ever HDR photo. The upper and lower parts come from two different images at different exposures, with some blending in the middle. My little Lumix camera will take three photos in rapid succession at different exposures, and even without a tripod it wasn't hard to align two of the images in different Photoshop layers. I temporarily used the "multiply" blend so that I could see both images at once, and used the Move tool and arrow keys to nudge one layer a pixel at a time. There are fancier ways of doing HDR but this worked fine for me with Photoshop 7.

As with the previous picture and several others, I am experimenting here with a Photoshop curves adjustment layer. Dragging the cursor in a shadow area (say) shows on part of the graph as a moving pointer. Adjusting the slope of that part of the graph improves the tonal range and contrast in that part of the picture, while sometimes messing up other parts. Then you mask out the other parts, leaving only the improved bits overlaying the original image.

On the way out I saw these rather beautiful Christmas tree ornaments in the National Trust shop, which reminded me slightly of Faberge eggs (but a lot cheaper!). They are about 20 times too large for the tiny tree we have at home, but I asked my wife if she could arrange them in a kind of nest, which she kindly did! (There's a blur layer being used here in Photoshop, too.)

[My Photoshop page]

Whitby, Yorkshire - November 17th, 2009

This was a day out in Whitby, Yorkshire, on the east coast of England (close to Robin Hood's Bay, the end of Wainwright's coast-to-coast walk). The rest of the week was fairly miserable, weather-wise, so we took full advantage of this sunny (if cold) day...

Hole of Horcum, on the North Yorkshire Moors on the approach to Whitby. The North Yorkshire Moors are the largest area of continuous moorland in England (in case you wanted to know that).

Whitby harbour entrance

St Mary's Church and Whitby Abbey, seen from other side of the harbour through the whalebone arch

Captain James Cook's memorial

Taken from Whitby pier

This was a "Goth Weekend", possibly associated with the full moon (for lots more Whitby Goth pictures, see here!)

One of the local yobbos, who sometimes eat fish (when they can't get fish and chips)

The best fish and chips place in Whitby, apparently! (There is fierce competition, but I can certainly recommend this place.)

The steps up to the church and abbey

Before this visit I had dabbled a bit with Photoshop, but I used these (non-expert!) photos to explore more of Photoshop's features. The main thing I learnt here was to use an additional curves layer in order to adjust the contrast and brightness of some parts of the picture that would otherwise be too bright or in deep shadow, and paint out the unwanted parts of the new layer with a black brush, letting the original show through. The Whitby Memorial Gate, for example, had no detail on the metalwork in the original, the Whitby Fudge window was dark, and the sunny area at the top of the stairs to the abbey was much too bright (it still is).

[My Photoshop page]

Stepping stones at Bolton Abbey

Stepping stones at Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire - taken by my daughter Rachel

Great composition!

[Some Places To Enjoy Life... In England]

(Original post: February 25th, 2009)

Paintings by Michael James Smith that make me look forward to summer in England...

"Wandering besides the River Wye, Wales"

"Upper Slaughter, Cotswolds"

(Original post: February 17th, 2009)

Steve Carter's photography and music web site (and his photography) just seem to get better and better. Yes, there are great photographs, but there's a whole lot more to enjoy on this site.

This is his new 2009 photograph gallery. If your mouse has a thumb wheel, just roll it (or use the slider or arrow keys) and the carousel of thumbnails spins around so that you can choose one - really neat!

From the English Lake District...

"5 a.m. in Borrowdale"

From his Hebrides album...

The two pictures above (which really need to be seen full size in order to be fully appreciated) were taken on South Harris (see map and this article).

Steve tells me that "this is a stunning place in good weather - bloody awful in the rain (nothing to do)"!

And from the Western Highlands...

The Torridon hills early on a November morning (the Torridon link is to a collection of pages by Steve, well worth following) - also click the picture for many more beautiful pictures of this area

If you like this...

[Another example of Steve Carter's English Lake District photography]
[My photoblog of a trip to the English Lake District, September 2008]

Snow in England February 2009

This was a cold, very clear night just before the snow started. The picture above is of the Moon and Venus, the least bad of many failed attempts to capture something approaching what they actually looked like!

Although I didn't notice it at the time, I could swear that not only is there a crescent of sunlight on the Moon, but on Venus as well. Furthermore, the planet being so much further away and at a different angle to the Sun, the crescent of sunlight on Venus (reflecting off the planet's total cloud cover) is much further advanced. Perhaps any astronomy experts will tell me whether this is just an illusion from the photograph!

Early morning... the snow that is still covering most of the British Isles is just starting...

England doesn't often get real snow across the whole country for any length of time, because of the prevailing Atlantic weather and the warmth of the Gulf Stream. About once in 20 years or so we get a prolonged period of cold air from northern Europe and Scandinavia - and then this happens. I am sure that folks living in parts of the world that regularly get snow will be having a good laugh!

One meteorologist said that the nearest similar winter he can remember was 1962-63. What worried him was that with these very similar air conditions, it is actually much less cold across the country than it was then.

Julia Bradbury (the daughter of a steel-industry father from Derbyshire and a Greek mother, and a right nice lass) has become one of my favourite people after I watched BBC Four's series Wainwright Walks, set in the English Lake District - now available on DVD.

I love the Lakeland Fells and Alfred Wainwright's superb hand-drawn and hand-written guides to them, and Julia clearly does too.

The two series of half-hour programmes take you on ten of Wainwright's best fell walks, through some of the most beautiful wild scenery in the world. The names of the fells convey something of their unique character: Haystacks (where Wainwright's ashes are scattered), Blencathra, Castle Crag, Scafell Pike, Helvellyn, and in the second series Catbells, Crinkle Crags & Bowfell, Helm Crag, High Street and Pillar.

Each programme includes a short sequence of superb aerial photography, taken from a helicopter, providing (literally) an overview of the route to be followed. This footage is a wonderful supplement to Wainwright's guides, and is almost worth the price of the DVDs by itself (and is taken on clear days, even when the actual walks encounter Lakeland's famously changeable weather).

The ground-based photography of the actual walks ("walk" being a term that occasionally includes serious scrambling, but excludes rock climbing needing a rope) is equally superb - the next best thing to being there. Even though you know that camera-men are present, the sense of solitude that Wainwright valued so highly is beautifully conveyed.

Along the way Julia meets various locals, some of whom knew Wainwright personally, all of whom add greatly to the interest of the walks. On some sections she is (very sensibly) accompanied by an expert guide.

Whether you are planning a trip to the Lakeland Fells or would just like to experience them from your armchair, I can't recommend these DVDs enough. They will give you five hours of real pleasure.

[My photoblog of a trip to the English Lakes, September 2008]

(Original post: September 28th, 2008)

English Lake District: Askham to the Cockpit Stone Circle

Earlier this month my wife and I spent a week in the English Lake District. This beautiful part of England has the highest annual rainfall in the UK, added to by the remnants of Hurricane Gustav. It didn't rain all the time, though...

We chose a nice day for a gentle walk that starts at the village of Askham, heading for the Cockpit stone circle on the fells above Ullswater.

Climbing through Askham

A nice barn conversion!

On the way to Heughscar Hill

The locals (a particularly tough lot)

Brown Rigg and High Street (the ancient Roman road that eventually crosses the fell of the same name) - the Cockpit stone circle is just visible on the left edge of the picture, a tiny light-green area from which a track runs to the right

Ullswater below Brown Rigg

The view from Heughscar Hill

Ullswater from Heughscar Hill

On the way to the Cockpit

The Cockpit stone circle, taken from the ground...

...and from the air.

The last photo was taken by Simon Ledingham, who takes many aerial photos using a gyrocopter (or autogyro). A gyrocopter looks superficially like a small helicopter, but its rotor is an unpowered rotating wing, and is much safer than a helicopter if its engine fails. (You probably remember the gyrocopter "Little Nellie" that James Bond flew in the movie "You Only Live Twice", which was actually designed and flown in the movie by Ken Wallis.)

[Lake District visit continues below]
(Original post: September 28th, 2008)

[Lake District visit continued from above]

This is a view of Sawrey, between Windermere and Esthwaite Water, as painted by Beatrix Potter. The fact that so much of the Lake District is unspoilt is due in no small part to her using the proceeds of her famous children's books to acquire large areas of working farmland, in order to preserve them in their original use.

"Hill Top" near Sawrey was bought by Beatrix as her personal retreat. Even after marrying William Heelis this was her private place for herself alone, and in her will she instructed the National Trust to keep it exactly as she left it - it was to have no other personal use.

Hill Top Farm, not open to visitors, adjacent to Hill Top

The entrance to...

...the world's most famous vegetable patch!

Inside the house, apart from Beatrix's own work, the rooms have many paintings and illustrations that Beatrix acquired from other people, including a couple of illustrations by Randolph Caldecott (1846-86) illustrating the nursery rhyme "Sing A Song Of Sixpence". This one is "The Fowler's Snare".

Another painting hanging in Hill Top is "Two Girls On A Jetty" by George Dunlop Leslie (1835-1921)

"Apple Dumplings" by George Dunlop Leslie - this one isn't hanging in Hill Top but I'm sure that Beatrix would have liked it!

[Location of Hill Top on my England Map]

[Lake District visit continues below]

(Original post: September 28th, 2008)

[Lake District visit continued from above]

If you were lucky enough, as I was, to have read the Swallows and Amazons series of books by Arthur Ransome when you were a child, then they have probably stayed with you all your life. Written between 1930 and 1947, their realistic and vivid descriptions of children's adventures in wonderful parts of the world still enthral children and adults alike.

Five of the books: Swallows and Amazons, Swallowdale, Winter Holiday, Pigeon Post, and The Picts and the Martyrs, were set in the Lake District (and I was interested in tracking down some of the real locations that he used).

Four of the books: Coot Club, We Didn't Mean to go to Sea, Secret Water and The Big Six, were based in the Norfolk Broads and on the East Coast of England. We Didn't Mean to go to Sea is (IMO) one of the finest adventure stories about children ever written, for children and adults alike.

Two of the books: Peter Duck and Missee Lee, set in more exotic locations, were written as romances that the children make up for themselves about themselves - a story within a story, as it were. Arthur Ransome's knowledge of boats, the sea and the wide world make these books every bit as realistic as the others. Peter Duck ranks alongside or surpasses "Treasure Island", and is still one of my personal favourites.

The last book: Great Northern? is set in the Hebrides, where a holiday in a borrowed Norwegian pilot cutter turns into a campaign to preserve a rare bird from an unscrupulous egg-collector.

Having taken several of the books with me on holiday, I worked out that the lake loved by the children is actually a composite of two lakes, Windermere and Coniston Water. The east bank of the children's lake, the islands shown on the maps, and the north end of the lake, all seemed to correspond to Windermere (the children obviously know Bowness as a real place, but call it "Rio" amongst themselves). The west bank of the children's lake, and the fells behind it, seemed to belong to Coniston Water.

When I got home I found out that I was mostly right - if you click the picture to the left you will find more information on the real locations - and check here as well.


The previous two pictures show both sides of the real island on Windermere that is positioned where "Wild Cat Island" is positioned on the children's fictional lake, and looks very similar - but the source for Wild Cat Island was apparently Peel Island on Coniston water (maybe he combined the two?).

This is Coniston Water and a spur of Coniston Old Man (known to the children by its real name, but referred to by them as Kanchenjunga) that could well be Ling Scar in the book Pigeon Post.

In the book they explore the old mine workings around and beneath the spur, discovering in the process that disused workings can be a dangerous place.

This is the beautifully restored Victorian Steam Yacht Gondola on Coniston Water, a great way to view the lake and its surroundings.

The steam engine (now running eco-friendly on reconstituted wood logs) is incredibly quiet and vibration-free - in most parts of the Gondola you can hardly hear it at all when the craft is moving. It's so much nicer than the noisy excursion boats on Windermere - and it makes me wonder why more craft aren't powered this way. Why not?

I didn't realise when riding on it that it gave Arthur Ransome the idea for Captain Flint's houseboat in "Swallows and Amazons" - more information here.

Behind the Gondola in the picture is the east bank of Coniston Water, replaced by Arthur Ransome for the children's lake by the east bank of Windermere.

[Lake District visit continues below]

[Lake District visit continued from above]

Blackwell, "an architectural jewel in the heart of the Lake District", was designed by M H Baillie Scott (1865-1945) as a holiday home for a wealthy Manchester brewery owner, and is "one of the country's most important examples of Arts and Crafts architecture".

Blackwell is one of the most beautiful houses that I have ever visited, and is also one of the most frustrating to describe properly to someone who has not been there. Photography is forbidden indoors, and neither the official web site nor any other site that I have found shows photographs that come anywhere near conveying the beautiful atmosphere of the real place.

However if you would like a really good written review of the place (not mine), go here.

Blackwell (top of picture) seen from Windermere

The view from Blackwell across Windermere. Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's retreat, is on the other side of Windermere, somewhere off to the right. In the distance are the fells behind Coniston Water.

One of the many nice things about Blackwell is that it has alcoves with window seats and cushions that visitors are allowed to sit in. This view is one of several that can be enjoyed from such a seat in the beautiful White Drawing Room - I must have spent over 20 minutes doing just that.

[Location of Blackwell on my England Map]
[The Arts and Crafts Movement (Overview)]
[The Arts and Crafts Movement (Wikipedia)]
[The Arts and Crafts Home - A Design Resource for Home Decoration]
[Places to enjoy life... in England]

(Original post: August 29th, 2008)

This is Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, one of the less well known English Heritage sites, and one of our favourite walking and picnic spots.

This view southwards from the "new" house (begun in 1834) shows the main vista down to the The Long Water, with the Pavilion in the far distance.

The "old" house was situated about halfway between the new one and The Long Water - if you walk there then you can still see the outline of its foundations as bumps in the grass.

Because the house was effectively moved backwards, the newer developments in the foreground were added while leaving the framework of the original 18th Century gardens in the distance still largely intact.

Around The Long Water in the picture above you can see the Woodland Garden, designed for getting pleasantly lost in.

Looking south-east from the house...

Walking south from the house, just before you get to The Long Water, you come to an area dedicated to Croquet, that most English of games (invented by the French).

Walking south-west from the house you come to the Orangery. Inside there are now café tables and chairs where you can picnic in bad weather, as well as interesting historical stuff. (No café though - Wrest Park doesn't have any of those, although it does have a shop in the house where you can buy drinks.)

If you head south from the Orangery you come to the Bowling Green House, reminiscent of a small Italian railway station.

It was originally intended as a Tea Room.

Alongside the bowling green is one of the mini-canals, this one called The Leg O'Mutton Lake, running east-west.

Through the back (or front) door of the Bowling Green House is the western edge of the grounds...

...go through the door, turn left, and you are walking along the naturalistic canal developed by Capability Brown that loops nearly all around the Woodland Garden, forming a pleasant boundary to the Park for much of its perimeter.

Originally the canal was formal and laid out in straight lines; Capability Brown softened it to a curving waterway that looks like a natural river.

Inside the Woodland Garden is a maze of paths, some straight, some curved, with "secret rooms" in the woods containing statues, ornaments, a Victorian Pet Cemetery (still trying to get a good photo of this), and other interesting things!

My wife must be about the millionth visitor to do this (it's hard to resist).

If you take the left-hand path at a fork like this and then take the next right, don't expect it lead to the right-hand path from the fork - it might, or it might not!

I don't remember exactly where we came across this 18th Century lead statue, one of many interesting statues in the park.

Although most statues in the park are the originals, many of them are not in their original positions - various owners liked moving them around.

The Ladies' Lake on the east side of the park is the mirror image of the Leg O'Mutton Lake on the west side.

Originally these two water features formed a single east-west canal that intersected The Long Water.

The Ladies' Lake is currently leaking, hence the low water levels. If it isn't fixed soon and wildlife moves in and becomes established (not necessarily a bad thing), then regulations may prevent restoring the original water level.

Emerging from the Woodland Garden, often somewhat bewildered, you come across the Pavilion that stands at the far end of The Long Water.

The Pavilion is a rather magnificent structure, intended as a Tea Room and for more elaborate entertainments.

Following Capability Brown's man-made river anti-clockwise, we can see that it is obviously enjoyed by many different residents!

The "river" curves into the park at this point, so when you cross the "Chinese" bridge (earlier versions were more Chinese than this) you are actually heading north-east-ish.

If you bear left and keep walking for some distance... are back here!

There is a lot more to Wrest Park than I can show here - I may update this post from time to time.

Admission is free to English Heritage members. If you visit and you're not a member, it's probably worth joining!

[Location of Wrest Park on my England Map]
[More on Wrest Park]

[My photoblog of RHS Gardens, Rosemoor, Devon]

(Original post: August 27th, 2008)

One of many wonderful photos of the English Lake District (and other places) by Steve Carter

Steve (a very nice bloke) told me: "The photo was taken about 200 yards from the Kirkstile Inn by Loweswater in Cumbria, looking towards Crummock Water. Red Pike is the big(ish) hill in the backgound."

The hill in the right foreground is (I am almost certain) Haystacks.

I will soon be returning to the Lake District after an absence of many years, and am really looking forward to it. If the weather is like this then I will be delighted - but all that green beauty comes from the highest annual rainfall in the UK...

[Location of the Kirkstile Inn on my England Map]
[My full England Map]
[Walk Area: Buttermere Valley, Lake District]
[Lake District Walks (or see the previous post below)]
[Places to enjoy life... in England]

This is the wonderful Bearslake Inn, on the edge of Dartmoor, where we broke our journey last week on the way to Cornwall (see the centre of my map). It's a great place to have a drink, or a great meal, or to stay the night, or any combination of these!

Dartmoor from the bedroom window, in the evening light - the last time that we saw any real sun for a while...

The same view several days later, on the morning of our return trip. Now that our holiday is over, the mist is lifting and it's going to be a beautiful day...

[This trip continues in the post below.]

This is a picture that I took of Rievaulx Terrace, Yorkshire, England, on a not-too crowded day in June 2001. A long way down the steep bank to the right, people are admiring the Abbey, but a quiet walk and a picnic up here is hard to beat!

The picture comes from a section of my family web site which is a record of places where we have enjoyed life, and which other people might enjoy also. At present these places are in England, Italy, Corsica and Florida.

In the Italy section of these pages you will find a description of a magical week that we spent on the shores of Lake Maggiore - made magical because of the community of people there. If you like this description then you are definitely my kind of person, but rest assured that the converse is not true!