Sunday, January 29, 2023

A Mist Makes Things Wonderful

It's not been a particularly inspiring few week weather wise.  I like winter, but even I have struggled to muster any enthusiasm about the relentless damp, cold and flat white skies that have greeted me most mornings recently.  So imagine my excitement when the mist descended!  This blog title is a quote from Oscar Wilde and I couldn't agree more.

I like drama in my weather.  For example, I can cope with a little wind and rain (coming home is even more welcoming after getting rained on).  I love the blinding light and beauty of a covering of virgin snow or glittering hoar frost on the landscape.  Incidentally, check out this little video taken in between blogs after one such frost.  I've never experienced a thaw like it - shards of ice falling from the trees.

As for mist, it's really what many people associate with the UK - a patchwork quilt of a miniaturised landscape covered by a blanket of visibility compromising moisture.  It exemplifies our reliably unreliable climate and adds mystery and intrigue worthy of a tale from Arthur Conan Doyle.

I'll go with the mystery theme for reasons which will become apparent.  We headed out into the mist for a 5 mile walk through an ever changing landscape, starting with a cluster of silver birch trees.  I was later thrilled that this image was selected and featured on the Instagram account Capturing Britain.

We were joined for some of the route by a very vocal Robin.  I thought he was being friendly, but knowing how territorial they can be, I suspect he was warning us to keep moving.

The gnarled branches of the naked trees contrasted beautifully with the mist pervading the atmosphere.

Further along we encountered a crop of the tallest pine trees, criss-crossed by mountain bike tracks.  Here I insisted Gareth pose.  He's still at the breaking in stage with his DMs, hence the loosened laces.

We climbed 121 steps...

....and arrived on top of a hill, spotting this rather intriguing house in the distance...

....before picking up our original route and descending a densely wooded hillside.  It was here that we encountered this once inhabited building carved into the sandstone.  It's clear that work is ongoing to make it safe for visitors.

Feeling emboldened by this, we continued.  No one knows when these caves were first inhabited, but they remained so until the 1950s when the properties were condemned by the local authority and the occupiers forced to leave.

The area just beyond looked very Hobbiton, apart from the sandstone carvings...

...and graffiti.  

We're the more respectful rule breakers.  Clearly this place is an open secret locally.  Hopefully one day it will be open to the public and afforded the protection it deserves.

Back at home, the hyacinths have flowered and the fragrance is off the charts.

I wonder if Marg smells the same?

I've made a few acquisitions, some old, some new (more on those soon).  When buying new I always focus on quality, durability and timelessness, not wishing to contribute to the ever increasing clothes mountain.  Having called into a local supermarket the other day, I was horrified at the amount of clothing on sale.  Even worse, the ridiculously crammed sale rails - even as we near the end of January.  Aren't manufacturers getting the message?  They are clearly over-producing.  There can't possibly be the demand to justify this level of production.  It's obscene. 

My "old" is probably not so old, but a black and white jacket I know I will wear and wear again.  Here, in my usual hurried selfie, I've teamed it with some black cord dungarees (old) over a black and white spotted thermal polo neck (second hand), a vintage tribal necklace and recycled cashmere gloves.  Slippers just out of shot.  Note to self:  I must really work on my outfit photos.

This weekend was the UK's Big Garden Birdwatch.  I layered up and headed out into the garden with a de-caf coffee, the camera and a notebook, for an hour's solitude.  The temperature was around 5 degrees, but the damp conditions made it feel a good deal colder.  I did smile to myself when I wondered what my 18 year old self would have thought of this decision.  She probably wouldn't have been up and available for comment.

Last year the conditions were pretty similar, but I saw very little bird activity.  This year, the garden was alive with birdsong, principally from the resident Robins.  

I also counted more birds this time, including a brief sighting of a Song Thrush and an even briefer glimpse of a bird I've been unable to identify as a result.

Blue Tit


House Sparrow

Male Blackbird

The remainder of my week has been dominated by a little mother/daughter trip booking, mood boards, phone calls, admin and light reflectors!  The styles for my forthcoming photo shoots are quite different from each other.  The first is very romantic and Nordic in style.  For the second, David Bowie is my muse.

In an effort to inspire and spur myself on, I'll leave you with the latter; this image and quote, firmly and metaphorically pinned to my mood board.

I'm off to watch the remainder of the truly brilliant but bizarre Everything, Everywhere, All at Once (currently free with Amazon Prime) and the penultimate episode of the gripping Happy Valley.  Until next time!

Saturday, January 21, 2023


For a typically weather obsessed Brit, I think I can safely say that January appears to have traded places with one of the zodiac's water signs.  There has been a lot of wet stuff about.  Being, as we are, located in the West Midlands regions of the UK and just a hop, skip and a jump from the Welsh border, our regions riverside towns such as Bewdley and Ironbridge, are often severely impacted by rain washing down off the Welsh hills which serves to compound any localised flooding.

It was 11 months ago, when the River Severn last flooded and breached its barriers, as recorded here in my little poetic offering.  Winter Peach Photography: Storms

This time, the barriers held...just.  This was the scene as we approached the town of Bewdley - on foot, as the road in was closed.  The dog in the foreground was perplexed by all of the interest in his home town.  He had his orange ball and all was well in his world.

In town, the community's unease was palpable.

Preparing for worst case scenario, the Environment Agency was in town, raising the flood barriers to their maximum height.

I wasn't wholly surprised to run into local drone photographers Simon and Joanna (our first time meeting in the flesh, although we all pretty much instantly recognised each other).  Simon captured the swollen River Severn and the awesome power of nature in dramatic fashion from above.  You can view it here.

Not so longer this kind of event was labelled a "once in a generation" occurrence.  We don't hear that phrase any more.

Arley, just a few miles down river, had also been affected.  We spoke to a man who had, for the majority of his life, only recalled two such severe floods decades apart in the 1940s and 1960s.  We visited both towns two days running.  Here's the little bridge at Arley on day 1.

And the same bridge from the other side on day 2, completely submerged.

Bewdley on day 2 was much the same...

...the water pumps working overtime.

Mercifully, the flood waters did not breach the barriers, leaving the Environment Agency somewhat red faced after their minute by minute predictions failed to come to fruition.  Many frustrated residents had adopted their emergency plans and either evacuated or moved household contents to upper floors.  Still a relief for all, I'm sure.

Our wonderings also took us to a never-before-visited Nature Reserve.  After dropping our car off for its MOT, we walked back via Fens Pool Nature Reserve, situated in the Pensnett area of the West Midlands.  Once forming part of Pensnett Chase, a medieval hunting ground for the Barons of Dudley, it gradually became industrialised and was used for coal mining, clay extraction and a one time brickworks.  

In addition, part of the Earl of Dudley's private railways ran across the area.  By the 1960s, the area had served its purpose; the colliery waste ground reverting to grassland and the clay pits flooded and turned into ponds.  

Opened as a nature reserve in the early 1990s, it now forms the largest area of open water in Dudley Metropolitan Borough.

Heading onto the Stourbridge canal (opened in 1779), we were greeted by familiar towpath scenes - urban artwork/graffiti...

....Brockmoor Foundary, semi obscured by nature...

...a solitary hunting heron...

....urban alleyways....

...and remnants of our industrial heritage and world renowned glass making (the Red House Glass Cone, just beyond the lock keeper's cottage).

Another day, another adventure.  Except this wasn't just any day, but Gareth's 50th Birthday.  Every year I endure 5 days of Gareth celebrating his "toy boy" status, so forgive me if I am now seem to be labouring the fact that he has notched up half a century.  Gareth doesn't do social media (and I rarely use it other than for business), so it's always interesting and enlightening to say the least to see who actually remembers and sends something tangible like a birthday card, or picks up the phone these days don't you think?  This particularly thoughtful card dropped through the letter box from Vix and Jon.  It's a keeper.

We headed out to Attingham Park, the Shropshire National Trust property beloved by fellow bloggers Vix and Ann.  

The sky was blue and the sun was shining upon arrival.  I was layered up like the Michelin Man and felt nothing as a result.  In fact, you could have rolled me down a bank and into the river and I would most likely have floated along the river quite contentedly.

The house was closed so we headed to the Carriage House Cafe for a lunch of honeyed swede soup and cauliflower and cumin fritters (for once I photographed my food - the fritters were delicious!) 

Refuelled, we headed out to the 18th century estate kitchen garden.  This couple were angled towards the sun, dosing up on vitamin D.

Inside, I was drawn to the wild garden, a haven for wildlife.

Just look at these beautiful seed heads.

Jobs for January.

We found a particularly warm and sunny corner of the garden.  Look at the nails, screws, holes and rawl plugs in this wall.  It's lived a life!

I asked Gareth to give me a 50th Birthday pose.  Just to demonstrate that his punk spirit is still alive and kicking, this was his choice.  More Johnny Cash than "blue steel pose."  In reality, I'm not sure how "punk" you can get in the grounds of an 18th century manor house.

Weaving back along the still swollen river, I grabbed a couple of pleasing vista shots...

...and tried in vain to photograph a falcon in a tree.  The beady eyed bird, despite being safely perched on a branch 15 feet up in the air, still refused to allow me to get anywhere near it, flying from tree to tree until eventually I gave up.

The dying light was exquisite, but with little warning, dark clouds gathered and the sun retreated behind a veil of white cloud.

Soon, it was raining steadily and so we retreated to the safety and relative warmth of the second hand book shop, where I picked up a couple of page turners....

....before exiting through the stables and back out into the courtyard.

Inspired by the lantern glow, we lit a candle that night, trying to add a little of that 18th century rich living vibe to our humble abode.  The smoke was courtesy of an incense stick, in case you're wondering.

Hope you're all keeping warm and dry.  If the winter gloom is getting you down, feast your eyes on these little snowdrops poking through.  Spring is coming.


It's been a curious week of unexpected connections, conversations, sights and sounds, underpinned in some shape or form by panic. I was ...