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Tag Archives: BBC Midlands

Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022

Visiting popular National Trust destinations does have its challenges if you are a keen amateur photographer.  Hanbury Hall is so photogenic and countless pictures have been taken over the years.  I would guess each season throws up wonderful views not only of the house but the impeccable gardens as well.  Usually, before I visit a well-known property, I check over the web sites and look at other people’s photographs to find out which are the best views.  As it happens for this visit, I did not get myself organised, so I went to Hanbury Hall not knowing what to expect.  

Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
The commanding entrance to Hanbury Hall.

Arriving by car you pass the front façade of the house and catch a glimpse of the striking architecture.  Walking back to the house from the carpark, the entrance approach provides post card picture views.  The property is operating a timed ticket entrance which limits the amount of people.  This favours the photographer as in this case there are only a few people and not the crowds that may interrupt the pictures.  

Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
Lots of tubs with tulips

First stop was the interior of the house, and I met a volunteer who in a few minutes gave me all the information I needed.  Also, I found out that she was a good photographer and took a picture of me on the grand staircase with the beautiful paintings as a backdrop. The building is interesting and there was much activity happening in the house.  The volunteers did not mind having their photographs taken included one dressed up as the former owner of the house, Thomas Vernon.  The staircase is beautiful and the wall to ceiling painting by the English painter Sir James Thornhill has so much to see.  I spent some time moving around using my iPhone for the pictures finding that the wide-angle lens was very useful.

Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
The beautiful painting that highlights the staircase.
Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
An upward view
Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
A volunteer dressed up as “Thomas Vernon” former owner of the house.
Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
Preparing the table with the silverware.
Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
There are some beautiful rooms in the house.

Following that important mid-morning coffee, it was time to set off and explore the grounds of the house.  I am always amazed how the National Trust find gardeners to tend and cultivate their extensive properties.  They are so creative and design wonderful garden designs.  The apple orchard was symmetrically laid out and the trees were just beginning to blossom.  

Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
The beautiful apple orchard.

The Orangery was a particular favourite of mine.  The sun was shining in through the large windows accentuating the orange glow of the brick paintwork.  I leant that this grade II listed building has red Flemish bond ashlar brickwork which gives the characteristic colour.  There is also a tiled floor. One of the tiles has a dog paw print caused by a disobedient pet wandering around before the cement had set 250 years ago.  

Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
The Orangery
Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
The inside of the Orangery
Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
The 250 year old footprint!
Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
A partridge greeting

The symmetry of the Pareteer garden was beautifully coloured by yellow tulips.  The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes “a Pareteer as the division of garden beds in such a way that the pattern is itself an ornament.”  It is like an Elizabethan knot garden and was fun to photograph.  Linking the gardens is Snob’s tunnel which returns you to the back of the house.  The tunnel allowed servants to move around without being seen by guests of the house.  

Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
Love the symmetry in the gardens
Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
The house in a lensball.
Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
Snob’s Tunnel
Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
Beautiful walks surround the property.

On my way home I visited Hanbury Church which is adjacent to the Hall and has commanding views over the river seven valley.  

Hanbury Hall, National Trust, 2022
A window to the world

If you enjoyed this account of Hanbury Hall, then please visit my blog on Croome which is another nearby National Trust property. The official National Trust website account of Hanbury Hall provides more information.

Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood

Bluebells stretching out in a forest glen are always a wonderful sight to behold.  This year there has been an abundance of bluebells and they are slightly earlier than previous times.  For the photographer, bluebells are so appealing and to see the blue flowers either close up or at a distance is always very appealing.  This year I first noticed the bluebells when I visited the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham and then again during a bike ride to Hay Wood that is close to home.  I have visited several bluebell woods before, including Austy Woods, and I am always on the lookout for one that may offer a different take on this renowned British walk.  The Heart of England Forest‘s Bluebell Wood which is in Great Alne, Warwickshire, held a charity woodland walk to help to conserve these irreplaceable ancient woodland habitats.  I found it by chance on browsing through Facebook and signed up for the event.

Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
The start of the walk on a glorious spring day.
Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
The path into the bluebell wood.
Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
A beautiful ancient woodland with a lovely carpet of bluebells.

The wood is near to one of my favourite breweries, Purity Beer, but sadly we passed the entrance and arrived at the Great Alne wood.  Another time maybe! There were a few parked cars and there was a warm welcome from the organisers.  My daughter, Natasha and Noah, my grandson, came with me and we set off to explore.  This is an ancient wood and there were strategic signs placed along the way that gave us interesting nuggets of information about the wood.  There was also a tree log strategically placed midway during the walk, where we could get some lovely selfie pictures with a bluebell backdrop.  The place was quiet, and we felt at one with the place.  The wood has a rolling terrain with gentle hills which show off the bluebells.  Having had our fill of the bluebells we made our way back to the start.  There was a short detour to a hill that provided a view of the surrounding area.  The sun was out throughout the visit and this helped with the photography and views of both bluebells and scenery. 

Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
Bluebell backgrounds always makes for a lovely photograph.
Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
A view of bluebells in the ancient woodland.
Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
The perfect opportunity for a lensball picture

Photographic tips – I took my tripod with me, and I used my Canon 5D mkIV.  I brought my general-purpose lens EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and a zoom lens EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM.  I added a polariser on the 24-70mm lens.  All pictures were taken in manual setting with the ISO 100 and I had my tripod to allow for a low shutter speed.  My trusty iPhone13 also delivered some excellent pictures.

Bluebell walk at Great Alne Wood
The final view of the Warwickshire countryside.

I have added links to previous bluebell walks.  Please also visit the Heart of England Forest websites to learn more about what they do protecting and developing our forests.
Bluebells in Austy Woods
Heart of England Forest

Wythall Transport Museum

The Wythall transport museum is a treasure trove of bus memorabilia and it was recommend to the IgersbirminghamUK team as a place to hold an Instameet following a feature on BBC Midlands Today.  The man behind the museum is enthusiast Denis Chick and he was there to greet us as we arrived at the Museum.  Denis is Vice Chairman and Press Officer and there is nothing he does not know about the collection. His enthusiasm for the place is unlimited and we received a warm welcome. This was a limited numbers IgersbirminghamUK meeting as Denis already had a booking with a classic car display taking place. When we arrived the cars were already getting ready for the display. The sun was shinning off the highly polished bodywork. We could not have asked for better weather for a day out at the Transport Museum.

Wythall Transport Museum
Denis Chick in front of one of the restored buses at the museum.

Many of the IgersbirminghamUK regulars were present plus one or two new faces.  We had a quick introduction to the day, a group photograph and then we set off to explore the cars and buses. The museum houses over 90 buses. Many of the famous names of the past are there including Midland Red and the WMPTE blue and cream buses.   There are other transport buses from around the West Midlands including representation from local independent operators.  All the buses are in operating condition and sport a wonderful array of colours. 

Wythall Transport Museum
A busy day of classic cars and buses at the Museum

The IgersbirminghamUK participants were able to roam around the three hangers that housed the vehicles, and many photographs were taken.  It was a dream location.  Reflections in the windows and mirrors made for many great compositions.  The small details in and around the buses and other memorabilia meant that as photographers we had a great time as we snapped away. I particularly liked all the emblems and old signs.

Wythall Transport Museum
The no 11 bus
Wythall Transport Museum
Setting off for a bus ride around the area.

In line with the current green agenda, the museum has a collection of battery electric road vehicles.  This includes 30 electric milk floats and bread vans.  These vehicles were operated by companies such as the Co-op, Midland Counties and Birmingham and Handsworth Dairies.  Once again like the buses, the milk floats were very photogenic and there was always a volunteer around to talk about their previous history and how they went about restoring them.

Wythall Transport Museum
A line up of electric milk floats.

The exhibits were photographed all over from the overall bus to the minute details of the inside and the wheels and other interesting components.  The spectrum of colours was a delight.

The bonus to the visit was National drive-it day.  This is when all classic vehicle owners are encouraged to get their vehicle on the road. There were several car clubs present and the range of cars was so varied. 

Wythall Transport Museum
My first car was a Hillman Imp. Great to see this model.
Wythall Transport Museum
A line up of classic cars
Wythall Transport Museum
A Ford Mustang

This was an enjoyable day and there is lots to see and do at the Transport Museum.  I took too many pictures, but I have to say I enjoyed the day out.  If you want to know more then have a look at the Museum web site and I have included the BBC Midlands today film that was put together about the museum.

Wythall Transport Museum
Even buses for the children.

A big thank you to Wythall Transport Museum for hosting us. Thank you to Nicky Butler part of the IgersbirminghamUK team for putting together the day but unable to join us. To John Convey of the Igers team for helping on the day. Thank you to all the participants who came along. These are my own personal photographs and if you wish to see some of the marvellous pictures taken then follow the link #igbuk_meet_wythall. If you are interested in our previous IgersbirminghamUK instameets then follow the links to show the variety of photographic subjects that are covered.
The Exchange meets IgersbirminghamUK
Moseley Instameet – IgersbirminghamUK

Wythall Transport Museum
Selfie with instructions on how to great the public on the buses.

Middleton Lakes RSPB

I always wonder how I miss local attractions when I have lived in the area for most of my life.  Kingsbury water park and Drayton Manor Park are near to each other and the family has enjoyed many days out in both places.  What I had overlooked over the years is Middleton lakes which is owned by the RSPB and is situated between the other two major venues.  The RSPB reserve is next to the Bodymoor Heath Aston Villa training grounds and adjacent to Middleton Hall.  The latter was closed when I visited but the RSPD car park was open and once there, I set off to explore the reserve. 

My first port of call was the bird feeders and as I placed myself behind the hide, several birds visited included blue tits and a woodpecker.  I had brought along my 400mm zoom lens and was able to get some good close ups.  My walk up the river path took me to the Birmingham and Fazerley canal. The path took me past some nooks and crannies near to the river. Here I was able to stand in the woods and get some great pictures of the birds who came along. 

I walked past the canal onto the flatlands and there were hundreds of seagulls flying around although there were a few other birds such as Canada geese present.  I did spot my first butterfly of the season, an orange tip.  The reserve is well set out and you can get good views of wildlife.  I spotted swans, herons and partridges although I was not quick enough with my camera for some of them. 

Middleton Lakes RSPB
The wetlands at Middleton Lakes

I did enjoy the visit but was left frustrated as I did not capture the flying birds as well as I had hoped.  As I walked back reflecting on how to get better images, there were two ducks on the canal bridge walls.  Getting my iPhone out I took a close-up picture of the birds before they moved on. 

My duck stare picture did get a positive set of viewing on my social media channels. The picture of the lakes was featured on the lunchtime BBC weather report. These features made for a satisfying end of my visit to Middleton Lakes.

Middleton Lakes RSPB
My picture feature on BBC Midlands weather report.

This is my first blog on wildlife pictures but here is a taste of some of my previous blogs that features a few of my feathered friends.
Coombe Abbey Country Park
Arrow Valley Country Park


Spaghetti Junction March2022

What lies below is a theme for this and my next blog.  Spaghetti Junction is 50 years old in May 2022. Millions of car drivers pass over Spaghetti Junction as they hurtle past Birmingham.  Many are on the M6 heading north or south to their destination with now thought what is below.  For others the Aston Expressway is the main northern route into Birmingham and is a spur off the Junction.  The sprawl of roads spit out cars to Erdington and 6 ways along the Tyburn Road.  People live in Gravelly Hill immediately adjacent to the junction.  The area is a mixture of concrete, noise and fumes.  The Junction celebrates 50 years in May and at the time was seen as a landmark construction.  Over the years it has become synonymous with Birmingham.

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
The layers of the Junction from the River Tame to the Signs for the Aston Expressway

As a photographer what lies below is much more interesting and is seldom seen from above.  The first part of the junction to investigate is Salford circus which is the link roundabout for many of the local roads to the motorway.  It is not clear what the planners had in mind but the inner pedestrian area of the junction is an unfriendly concrete jungle.  It is covered in litter and graffiti tagging.  It is not a place to visit alone and luckily my photographic colleague John Bray was with me.  The concrete pillars are giants holding up the roads above.  The area is under attack and the hero is nature as it attempts to reclaim the area.

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
What wonders what the planners had in mind for the underpasses.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
The sound of broken glass
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Nature is fighting back on the concrete.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Tagging and signs
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Having someone with you when visiting is essential.

Kicking our way through the rubbish we make ouir way through the underpasses and cross the busy junction to reach the canal access steps.  Running under the Motorway the canals also make a junction.  There is where three canals come together namely the Birmingham and Fazeley, the Tame Valley and the Birmingham and Warwick Junction canals.  Flowing alongside the canals is the River Tame.  The area has numerous bridges criss crossing the canal and the light peeks through vents above.  There are grafitti strewn around the place.  Cyclists and walkers move around in a surreal dance.  Walking eastwards the Motorway passes Star City and the area is reminiscent of many TV programmes.  This is probably because a great deal of car chase filming takes place around here. 

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Concrete everywhere
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Access to the canal
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Starting to explore underneath.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
A view of the Star City entertainment complex
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
A place where many movies car chases are filmed.

Moving westwards there is a bridge tunnel where there is graffiti which in the past was renowned for its beauty and craftsmanship in previous years.  When we visited, there was just a white washed wall with a prison window.  I am unsure of the meaning of this painting.  The site is used as there is a shaft of light that comes down from above the junction onto the canalside.

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Underneath the heart of the junction.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
The “prison window” graffiti.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Reflections and stagnations in the water.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
The deep green canal.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Traffic thunders above.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Constant repair of the road structure goes on.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Looking back along the canal.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Bolts hold the roads together.

The canal path leads under all the roads that form the Junction and there is repair work on several of the bridges.  A path along the Aston Expressway eventually comes out onto Salford reservoir.  This is a hidden feature in the shadows of the Motorway.  It is relatively peaceful and a contrast to the distant noise of the traffic.  Moving along the perimeter and keeping the river Tame in view, there are trees and shrubs which are reclaiming the land underneath the tarmac.  This becomes the end of our journey underneath Spaghetti junction, and we head home back on the M6. 

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Aston Reservoir
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Spring Blossom against the concrete pillars.

There are likely to be birthday celebrations on its big 50 birthday but meanwhile here is a BBC link celebrating 40 years.


Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham

Oozells square in the westside of Birmingham is unremarkable other than the IKON gallery which is on one side of the square. The IKON is a highly acclaimed contemporary art venue and when you have finished looking over the latest exhibits, take a well earned rest in Yorks coffee shop.  However in the months of March and April the square erupts with cherry blossom and becomes one of the most photographed squares in Birmingham.  I also took many photographs.  The square was featured in a BBC news and my photograph was included.  I have also added a few more of my own in this post.

Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
A favourite reflection is produced around the water feature
Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
the blossom turns and ordinary square into the extraordinary.
Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
A traditional view of the blossom with the IKON in the background.
Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
Another traditional view of the blossom in the square.

Further links include
The IKON gallery
Yorks Cafe

If you would like to see previous entries on this square then please visit
Blosson in Oozells Square
Cherry blossom experiments

Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire

My quest to discover new National Trust properties took me to Croome House and Gardens in the heart of Worcestershire countryside.  The day was glorious for March and just the weather to go exploring a new place.  Arriving right on opening time, I took my map and quickly planned my visit.  I had an hour before the house doors opened so I made my way along to the lake with an island feature at the end of the property.  The tag line for Croome is expect the unexpected.  There is certainly lots of unexpected views and points of interest along the path.  The photographs provide an insight into the different views that can be seen at Croome.  There are several outhouses and statues along the way. The lake had the final mist of the morning lingering on the edges with views of main house. Following on from the lake, I soon found myself approaching the house and the wooden bridge over the river made a good feature for framing the house in the background.  This picture is the main feature of my blog and also made the BBC Midlands weather bulletin for that day.

Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
Starting out on the walk at Croome.
Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
A view of the Lake from inside the Grotto
Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
Coombe House in the morning mist.
Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
A close up of the footbridge.

The house was interesting.  Whilst it initially looked bare there were several strategically placed objects including urns that I was reliably informed were rare and individual.  The house was slowly unpacking furniture and other items that were being loaned by the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The wooden boxes looked very surreal in several of the rooms. There was a range of boxes in various stages of unpacking.  One part that I really loved was where the bone china was being displayed.  It was a glass and mirrored display box that you could walk into.  The reflection of the plates was surreal.  I took the opportunity to take different photographs including lying on the floor looking upwards with my camera.  The results were quite incredible.

Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
Another imaginative display.
Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
Whilst much of the interior furnishings have long gone, this sofa remains.

Walking out of the house into the expanse of the grounds, I carried on the path discovering outbuildings that commanded great views of the surrounding countryside.  The final delight was the beautifully simple church with the afternoon sun shinning into it.  This made for some good picture opportunities.

Coombe National Trust, Worcestershire
Interior of St Mary Magdalene Church

The National Trust link to Croome provides further information on visiting the property.

Fargo Market, Coventry

Just off Sky Blue Way next to a street called Far Gosford, there is a trendy village called Fargo.  The area is an up and coming part of Coventry and it is the place where a craft market is held at the weekends.  I first heard about the FarGo market when I went along to meet my daughters there. 

Fargo Market, Coventry
What a cool robot!
Fargo Market, Coventry
The variety of stalls in Fargo Market.
Fargo Market, Coventry
Iconic design and colours.

My youngest daughter was helping her friend Gemma on a stall. Gemma is an excellent baker and she is the owner of Love Lane Brownies.  If you are a lover of brownies then I would recommend the blondie version, so a visit to her stall is a must.  The FarGo craft market is a busy friendly place and I took the opportunity to buy some of the produce there. My main purchase was a locally produced Gin from the Warwickshire Gin company.  I did not forget to buy my Love Lane Brownies although most of them had already been brought by an appreciative public.

Fargo Market, Coventry
There is some great street art at Fargo
Fargo Market, Coventry
Something for everyone

I enjoyed my visit to the FarGo market as there was much to see. The market is decorated by colourful graffiti from well known local artists and there is a rather cool looking robot ready to great you in the front yard.  There is a riot of colour on the walls which I have captured with my camera.  There is a pleasant atmosphere to the place and if you are looking for a different style of gift then the market will not disappoint.  If you are interested in craft markets and produce with some spare time on your hands then I do recommend FarGo market. Enjoy the photographs and hope to see you at there as well the next time I visit.

Fargo Market, Coventry
Market going well
Fargo Market, Coventry
The street art of Fargo
Fargo Market, Coventry
Lady Godiva rules
Fargo Market, Coventry
Love the colours on this car

If you want more information about FarGo market then just click away. If you like Brownies then visit Love Lane Brownies Instagram page @lovelanebrownies

Reflections in Birmingham

There have been many opportunities over the last couple of weeks to take pictures that rely on reflections. Surface water from all the rain leads to puddles on footpaths and pavements that are a good source for taking reflective pictures. Modern cameras have a flip screen that allow you to get low and take the picture without having to get too uncomfortable on the floor. The placement of the lenses has to be very low to take advantage of the reflective split. On the iPhone 13, the positioning of the lenses allows you to get closer to the water. However take care as in doing this you will find your mobile phone getting a little wet! Straight after the rain, I am always looking for a new angle for my photography using reflections from the water and here are a few examples. Most of them are taken with the iPhone camera. However during the visit to Upton House near Banbury, I discovered a very large reflective pool in the garden that provided a wonderful opportunity for a reflection.

Upton House March 2022
The reflecting pool, Upton House and Garden.
This was featured on the lunchtime weather news of BBC South.

There was some local and national successes with several of these pictures being picked up on Instagram by both National Geographic Traveller and BBC weather watchers. Some were successfully featured in local instagram pages. There are explanations behind all the images shown and whilst you are reading this blog post, I am still on the look out for reflections.

Reflections taken in Birmingham
Taken on a wet night in Birmingham looking up towards the Bullring.
This was featured on the Birmingham.City Instagram pages.
Reflections at Umberslade Estate
The line up of trees at Umberslade Estate becomes the perfect setting for a puddle reflection.
Reflections at Moor Street Station
Waiting for the train home and I happened to catch these puddle reflections which were perfectly placed for the picture.
Reflections in Birmingham
A classic view of the IKON gallery in Oozells Square. The “river” of water provides the reflection.
Reflections in Birmingham
A puddle in Gas Street Basin provides a great reflection. He looks like he is walking on water.
This was featured on the National Geographic UK traveller Instagram pages.

Mural Leamington Spa

I just love taking pictures of street art around the West Midlands. As a companion piece to my photographic walk around Royal Leamington Spa, this is a detailed look at the street art around the Grand Union Canal area.  There are several wall murals that are worth highlighting and many are curated by the Brink Street Art group.  Each is interesting and whilst I know some of the artists, the vast majority I am unsure about.  I have put down the Instagram link to Brink Street Art Group if you wish to find out more about these images.  I will update the blog to give the recognition to the artist and their mural so please contact me. If you are visiting Leamington Spa, then they are worth a visit to see.

Leamington Street Art
Those eyes!
Mural Leamington Spa
The pen is mightier….
Mural Leamington Spa
Almost Neon light eyes
Mural Leamington Spa
Cheese, cat and a mouse. @JulesMuck
Mural Leamington Spa
Balancing
Mural Leamington Spa
Across the canal.
Mural Leamington Spa
A pair of eyes.
Mural Leamington Spa
Crow in the moonlight.
Mural Leamington Spa
The beauty of swans.
Mural Leamington Spa
Colourful street art by N4t4

If you liked this then take a look at the street art in these cities.
Birmingham – Digbeth Art and Hi-Vis festival 2021
Bristol – Clifton to Bedminster

Some of the artists featured Jules Muck, N4T4, (to be continued)