Saturday, November 19, 2022

And I Would Walk 500 Miles

Don't be misled by the title of this post - it's a nod to National Hiking Day, which fell on Thursday 17th November and has inspired me to sit down at my pc (the irony!)

The reality of National Hiking Day was a gloomy day with a notable dip in temperature and a bracing wind; quite a shock to the system after the weekend's balmy temperatures.  As such, on the day itself, I managed only to walk to our local primary school to donate an outdoor family portrait voucher to the Christmas Fayre prize fund.  I know, I know, there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. Nonetheless, I still need to allow myself a period of adjustment and to dig out the hats and gloves and on this day, I wasn't feeling it.  

Still, rewinding a little to the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday, I popped to a local church (Amblecote's Holy Trinity Church of England), to photograph the impressive display of poppies - made from recyclable plastic bottles - adorning the exterior walls.

Every year we remember, but will we ever learn?

We also managed a couple of decent walks, the first commencing from Enville Hall.  There really is something magical about this place.  Every photo I have ever taken here seems to have a particular quality that has little to do with any skill on my part.

This is Temple Lake in the afternoon sun.

Heading up and over the hills, known locally as The Sheepwalks (for obvious reasons when you follow their well-trodden path), we stopped to take in the views, although I was rather taken with this tree.  You can read more about the Enville Estate in this previous blog post. Winter Peach Photography: Seeing Stars

On Remembrance Sunday, after some traffic disruption and a tour of the back streets of Dudley, we met up with Vix and Jon for their first ever visit to the Black Country Living Museum.

Thirties Street

You can read a more in-depth report of the day here in Vix's blog - Vintage Vixen: A Bostin' Day Out, Bab! (  Gareth and I have been numerous times but enjoyed seeing it afresh through someone else's eyes.  

The BCLM has always been the most atmospheric of places, appearing in numerous TV and Film Productions (most notably Peaky Blinders, Stephen Poliakoff's Dancing on the Edge and the recent Sky production The Colour Room), although the new visitor centre and appearance of Wolverhampton's Elephant & Castle pub is reflecting the passage of time and heralding real change in the near future.  

The new pub was recreated as opposed to being translocated and as such, the brickwork had a distinctly new appearance.  Likewise, the interior was shiny and new and completely odourless.  Whilst I'm not advocating the reintroduction of smoking in pubs, smoking in pubs was notable by its absence.  

The new old pub, focus very much being on the tiled frontage

As photogenic as the village is, I trained my camera on the details.  Soldiers were very much in evidence...but we also spotted this lovely little tribute outside the chapel.  The chapel window looked beautiful, as viewed from the Apothecary garden, reflecting the sun and showcasing the gorgeous sunshine yellow foliage of an as yet unidentified plant.

Reclamation, shop displays and miners' lamps caught my eye.  This gent belongs in my garden!

The resident chain maker, canalside poster, more reclamation and a little window shopping through the motorcycle shop window.  Toilets might not be for everyone, but I can appreciate a bit of porcelain.

I shoehorned my way into a corner to capture the glow reflected in his goggles, so this one's deserving of a large format repeat.

It was a stroke of luck that we were able to visit in November in sunshine and we ticked all of the requisite boxes for a BCLM visit, including the legendary Hobbs' fish and chips and a sneaky beer at the Bottle & Glass pub.  A truly lovely day!

Another day, another walk.  This time, over Kinver Edge, another favourite.  This time, the sun decided not to accompany us as we made our way through the woodland before taking a path winding back up to the edge.  Instead, the late Autumn foliage illuminated the gloom.

Shhh!  Listen to the silence!

Dampness pervades....

Up on the Edge, we headed to the best vantage point.  This has to be amongst the most photographed houses in the Midlands.  I always try and challenge myself to capture it differently; this time scrambling down a steep slope to shoot through the rosehips.

Heading back down to the car park, here's the first glimpse of the National Trust Rock Houses, framed by the trees.

We also squeezed in another walk with our friends Neil and Laura in the atmospheric Hurcott Wood, although I failed to take a single photo until the journey home, when the moody sky and sunlight were going head to head for control of the skies!

As is so often the case these days, darkness prevailed.

In other news, I've been taking baby steps towards organising a new elopement wedding shoot, giving life to another idea I've been mulling over.  I'm cribbing the title from the Dua Lipa album Future Nostalgia.  Fingers crossed I can assemble another wonderful team of suppliers.

Always keen to try something new, I've also been experimenting with "freelensing" a technique where the lens is detached from the camera and just held loosely in place.  It really plays with focal planes and I think produces dreamlike results.  These are my first attempts in the garden, in dying light, so not the best conditions.  

Talking of dreams, I often fail to remember mine, but when I do, they are usually pretty detailed and often quite bizarre.  Usually, I can somehow trace their roots to something I've read, seen or heard, but I can't for the life of me explain my intense and lengthy conversations with Peter Hook (the bass player from the band New Order), whilst walking around quite a picturesque market town - vividly recalled but unknown to me.  It's not up there with the most bizarre dreams I've had (Gareth's dream that I was having an affair with Danny DeVito probably tops that list), but it was unusual.  Who or what has consumed your recent dreams?

Til' next time!

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Falling Again

Call it age, wisdom...whatever, but after years of actively disliking this time of year, I can now say hand on heart, I love Autumn.  I'll qualify that statement by adding there remain aspects of the season I could happily live without, namely the unnecessary tinkering with the clocks and those solid white cloud days, but other than that, I'll take the inclement weather, as it's far outweighed by the rewards of Autumn colour, Jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pie, windfall apples, dew drops bejewelling the fields, winter wardrobe challenges and burnished bronze skies.  Also, when melancholia seeps in, it's good to keep in mind how much sweeter Spring - with its promise of endless summer - will be when it finally arrives.

I've been embracing everything that is good about Autumn during the course of the past 7 days.  Charity shop pickings have been small, but mighty.  I picked up this 1960s chocolate brown velvet jacket for the princely sum of £6.00, immediately sensing quality, as verified by the vintage Raymond of London label.  

Here it is, hastily captured in the dim light of the hallway (outside was not an option this morning) and worn with a vintage leather belt, White Stuff woollen gillet, an aubergine and navy Breton top (both second hand), Zara jeans and an artisan, handprinted scarf purchased years ago in Devon.

Oh, and I bagged another bag.  If anyone has found the perfect bag, give me a shout.  Too big and I'm forever losing things.  Too small and I can't squeeze in everything I need.  This leather bag by Hobbs seems like a good compromise.  It's not too big or too small and has three accordion style separate areas, which are perfect for accommodating and rationalising my purse, hairbrush, keys, phone, lipstick, shopping bags etc.

We've also spent a good deal of time outside walking recently, memorably enjoying a meet and greet with these horny beasts.  Someone remarked to me that goats always look judgmental.  This one definitely fits the bill.

On Thursday, I was invited to a wedding venue in Stoke Prior, rural Worcestershire, to take a few photos.  The rain was lashing my windscreen on the way over, but luckily I was wearing my Mom's 1980s voluminous waterproof coat, generous enough to protect me and my camera from the elements.  Within minutes of arriving, the sun broke through and whilst Natalie (the venue's Wedding Co-ordinator) and Jules, a local celebrant, got creative in the woods, I wandered around the grounds, enjoying the ever-changing light conditions and some dramatic clouds.

 The Firs is a beautiful Grade II listed Georgian farmhouse set within 22 acres...

....comprising woodland.... orchard...

...and open fields with breathtaking views.

The owners have transformed some of the adjoining barns to enable them to host weddings and are at the end of their very first season.  But the purpose of our visit was to showcase alternative, affordable, outdoor, inclusive ceremonies where no rules apply and non-believers can be accommodated.   Imagine meeting your betrothed here. 

None of us were quite ready to let go of the Halloween vibes and so Jules had brought along a broomstick prop to play with.

To our collective glee, one of the farm's black cats had decided to follow us into the woods and took up residence on a tree stump.  Cats are so timely and always photogenic.

The wedding co-ordinator had seen some of my recent Stranger Things shoot photos on Instagram and told me how much she liked them.  On my return home, I was thrilled to have received a message from her inviting me to be one of The Firs' preferred suppliers.  

Continuing with my adoration of Autumn, on Saturday we took a leisurely walk, taking in some of our favourite local scenery, from open farmland... dense woodland, where I obsessed over tree roots 

Check out this bird skull log!

and how neatly the leaves had stacked and formed into a natural dam in this ravine/path made by running water gushing down through this sandstone slope.  

We took a slight detour through the village of Kinver (nothing to report from my visit to the two charity shops there) and then back along the Staffordshire canal.

Mixed messages in this narrowboat window.

As for this one....well, years of neglect and the falling leaves are threatening to sink it!

This lock keeper's cottage is one of the most photographed cottages in the area.

But for me, the star of the show was an incongruous pampas grass, adjacent to the towpath, which definitely brought some burlesque vibes to an otherwise familiar scene.  

Tonight, we'll be watching episode 2 of SAS Rogue Heroes.  As tempted as we are to binge watch the series, we're quite old school and like to savour a good thing.  

Photo Kevin Winter/Getty Images

I'm also still thrilled to have scored some tickets to see newly reformed Pulp at their hometown gig in Sheffield next year, performing for the first time since 2012.  I fell in love with Jarvis Cocker in the 90s, but having seen the band in their heyday, I'm hoping we're not setting ourselves up for a disappointment.  That said, tickets for this particular gig sold out in minutes and a couple of hours in the company of the humble and humorous Jarvis can only be a good thing.  

So, some wardrobe enhancements, spending time outside in nature to aid the trickiest of seasonal adjustments, cosy evenings of escapism and a little forward planning....let's here it for Autumn!  

And I Would Walk 500 Miles

Don't be misled by the title of this post - it's a nod to National Hiking Day, which fell on Thursday 17th November and has inspired...