Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Uphill, Upcycling, Down by the River, Back to the Floor that I Love

Rather than following the steady flow of a river (swollen River Teme in Ludlow pictured above), the weeks seem to be flying by faster than the speed of light.  It really feels like one moment we were sweltering in summer's soaring temperature highs and in the blink of an eye, we're just weeks away from Christmas!

This is the time of year when people lose their minds and money to the relentless pressure to go big or go home; a conveyor belt of incentives to spend their way into creating perfect, envy-inducing, Instagram-worthy lives for the festive season.

My only nod to Black Friday, was an Instagram feature by ethical clothes company Kharibu, demonstrating that there are affordable, thoughtfully produced, long wearing and stylish clothes available.  Unfortunately, they managed to crop the top of my head from the image, but I'll let them off.

So, on Black Friday, I elected to spend time with my Mom and we headed to one of her favourite scenic Shropshire market towns, Ludlow.  For Mom, it was more about the scenic drive than the shopping and so we drove up to the dizzy heights of Titterstone Clee (my last visit was in dense fog - read it and see the photos here:  Winter Peach Photography: The Beginning of the End?). This time, we were able to enjoy our sandwiches and the far-reaching views under bleached blue skies, although the wind on the Shropshire hills had a distinctly wintry bite.  

Clee Hill is one of only a few hills and mountains noted on the Hereford Mappa Mundi, a 13th century map of the world displayed at Hereford Cathedral.

Here's a glimpse of the radar station at the summit, as viewed through the wing mirror from the cosy car interior.  

The station was top secret when first erected in 1941 during some of the darkest days of the war.  Referred to as RAF Clee Hill, it housed between 40-50 personnel.  Initially the radar and wireless crew lived in huts within the station which made for cold living conditions in winter, with the occupants frequently snowed in with only each other and the surrounding sheep for company.  It ceased to be residential in September 1956 when crew were allowed to board in Ludlow.  The station, latterly commended by a Flight Lieutenant, disbanded and closed in September 1957, but was reactivated in 1964 under the oversight of the Civil Aviation Authority.

The original station has long disappeared, its more modern replacement today forming part of a national radar network and playing a key role in providing weather information - specifically cloud precipitation - for the Met Office.  No mobile phone signal however!

On the winding route down (mercifully there are a number of passing places), we passed Clee Common and this quaint terrace of Victorian cottages.  What a spot!

In Ludlow, with a Balls to Black Friday attitude, we window shopped the pricey shops and instead visited the town's market and charity shops.  Not wanting to repeat myself by photographing familiar scenes (I've blogged about Ludlow in the past), I picked out a couple of interesting details here and there, like this decorated wall in Market Street...

...and this window, reflecting the opposing stone wall, bathed in sunlight.

Our last charity shop stop was the Sue Ryder shop (hospice and neurological care charity), tucked away in a side street - and what a find!  Far from being musty and uninspiring as many often are at first glance, this was the swinging 60s, Bazaar Boutique of charity shops, managed by the gorgeous Allie (unbelievably a sexagenarian!) 

The music was fantastic and Allie had, without first seeking permission, transformed the shop into a funky, meticulously curated shopping haven, the cutest donations being showcased to perfection utilising retro displays and bold wallpaper backdrops.  By the time the powers that be had discovered her handywork, word had got out and so she was given free rein to do whatever the hell she likes!

I made a couple of purchases....this leopard print beanie...

...a perfect fit replacement wide brimmed hat from M&S in the exact colour of one I was gifted a few years ago, which unfortunately was too big.

...and three framed retro folk art pictures for a tenner!

I also found inspiration in The Index Bindery in Ludlow, originally set up during the first lockdown to showcase the owner's binding skills, but now extended to repairs, rebinding, notebooks and the most marvellous paper marbling (an effective method of aqueous surface design producing patters similar to smooth marble or other kinds of stone).  

A little shelving unit in the centre of the shop's rather small interior space housed numerous paper offcuts, on sale for 50p each.  I grabbed a handful of offcuts I was drawn to and handed over my £6.00, leaving with the seed of an idea to transform a low table we rescued from the scrapman after a neighbour left it out during a house renovation at the beginning of the pandemic.

This table has undergone more than one makeover.  Initially, mired in the gloom of a global pandemic, we painted it red to lift our spirits.  After a while we tired of the red paint and having not lavished attention on the finish, noticed that it was chipping.  Given that the table had cost us nothing, one evening, Gareth decided to experiment with a new painting technique on the surface of the table with the colours we had to hand.  The result was an abomination of mismatched colours.  However, for some inexplicable reason, we have lived with it (probably because it's covered in books and other papers and reading material most of the time).  

This time, we painted it black, carefully cut out the marbled paper into varying sized "tiles" and played jigsaw puzzle with them until we were happy.  To finish, we added lashings of varnish, a touch of gold acrylic and....it lives to fight another day.

As for our regular walks, this week's favourite, like the creatures of habit we are, was a walk along the River Severn at Arley last weekend.  It's the perfect length for an afternoon walk at around 4.5 miles, circular and offers variety in the form of apple orchards....

...wooded hills for cardio and thighs... 

...light reflecting water and wildlife at the reservoir....

Cormorants and feathered friends

...the swollen, fast flowing River Severn...

...stunning valley scenery

....and a quaint, quintessentially English hamlet.

As if we weren't feeling grounded enough after all that, I also dug out my macro equipment and did a spot of fungi hunting, the sodden wood surrounding the garden's wildlife pond being the perfect environment for it. 

So, back to the floor that I love, there were the usual wood ear culprits....

....but these waxy little pearls baffled me.  Thank goodness for Google!  Behold the aptly named Crystal Brain fungus - first described by Karl Friedrich Wilhelm Wallroth in 1833, who found it growing on hawthorn in Germany.

Retreating back inside to relative warmth, I'm currently reading two books, something I'm prone to do, until I can decide which one is going to grab my full attention.  I'm dividing my limited reading time between an adult romp from renowned children's author Roald Dahl and The Essex Serpent, a Victorian tale with shades of Bram Stoker and Charles Dickens.  

I've also added to our small-but-perfectly-formed vinyl collection with two of my all-time favourites, sourced by a vinyl collector friend. The musos amongst you might have spotted the Fleetwood Mac lyrical reference in this blog's title. 

How are you handling the changing seasons?  What, outside the usual drudgery, is keeping you occupied?

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! (vintagevixon.blogspot.com).  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!

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