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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.

Fog in Knowle, Solihull

When the weather forecaster says there will be fog in the morning then I listen carefully. Fog and mist always add atmosphere to a picture. However, the big decision is where to go to get those great pictures in the fog. Several places sprung to mind but I went for the simplest which is to stay near home. The area you know well is always the best. There is a golf course near me, Copt Health, which provides spectacular sunrises as the rising sun creates patterns amongst the trees. The fog dimmed the sun and in turn provided some great atmospheric picture opportunities. I have featured my top five pictures which are all edited in black and white.

All the pictures were taken with the Fujifilm x100v and the pictures were edited with Silver Efex.

Foggy Sunrise in Knowle, Solihull
A tree captures the sunrise in the fog
Foggy Sunrise in Knowle, Solihull.
This group of trees can just be made out
Foggy Sunrise in Knowle, Solihull.
The rising sun between the trees.
Foggy Sunrise in Knowle, Solihull.
A temporary pool created by the recent rainfall reflects the sunrise.
Arrow Park Valley

There is no need to go to far away exotic places to enjoy your photography and I am always on the lookout for local places which lend themselves to a great picture. Arrow Valley Country Park is 20 minutes away by car and is situated close to Redditch town centre. In 1964, Redditch was designated a “new town” and has since kept the name. The town is often the butt of a Jasper Carrott joke about trying to escape the dreaded Redditch ring road. As it happens, you must leave the ring road to get to Arrow Valley Country Park.

Golden hour at Arrow Valley Country Park. The tarmac path does allow cycling around the Lake.
Taken with iPhone 13

I chose a winter’s afternoon to visit knowing from the Photographer’s Ephemeris that the sun lines up along the longest part of the lake at the end of January. When I arrived at the park, the sun was low, but an hour away from sunset so I started exploring around the lake. There is a concrete path that makes up a circular route around the lake. My first impressions were that this was detrimental to the natural layout, but I soon discovered paths leading into the adjacent woods. There was a lot more to this Country Park then I first thought.

Golden light in the woods surrounding the Park
Canon 5D IV – f/5, 1/125, ISO 250
A view over Arrow Valley Park Lake
iPhone 13
Direct shot into the sun with the rushes refracting the sunlight.
Canon 5D IV – f/4, 1/800, ISO 100

The sun was getting lower and my main reason for coming was the sunset. There is a dip around the arrow point at the head of the park. The path comes close to the water’s edge and here you can feed the resident wildlife.

A view from the tip of the Arrow Lake of the Wildlife. This was featured on BBC Weatherwatchers as a background.
iPhone 13

There were a few people gathered there so I had to make do with a point further up the path. This turned out to be a brilliant point of view, a place where the light took on a golden quality and lit up many of the trees and bushes. The heads of the rushes look like spotlights in the setting sun. For the main picture I used my wide angled lens on a tripod with a hard graduated LEE filter. This balanced the light perfectly as the sun touched the trees in the distance. I was not deliberately looking for the hyperfocal distance. However, my auto focus caught the edges of the framing trees and it tied in with the distance needed.

My picture of a wonderful evening of light
Canon 5D IV – f/11, 1/80, ISO 100

Enjoy the pictures of the park and the golden hour light.

Want to know more
Arrow Valley Country Park and all you want to know.
The official Redditch site gives more information.


View of the City May 2021

Queensway is a busy arterial road in and out of Birmingham so there is always a high volume of traffic thundering along the tarmac.  With my telephoto lens and 24 to 70 mm lens, I went about taking different pictures of an area that is already very familiar to me.  New building projects are always happening in the city centre and the area between the Cathedral and the Canal was an old factory site.  It has been repurposed into city dwelling flats that are being built close to the canal.   

The area is also a magnet for different kinds of people and as I was taking pictures, I was hassled for money, so I quickly moved on.  It is something I am wary of when I am in the quieter parts of town.  I know that I do have to be careful of my own safety.  Still the lure of  taking a few photographs around the buildings on either side of Queensway won through.  I took pictures of St Chad’s Cathedral and also with my telephoto lens up past the Snow Hill buildings.  After that I made my way into town for a lunch time meeting. 

Parking on the top floor of Selfridges Car Park opposite the store provided skyline pictures of both the City and Digbeth, and the skyline bridge linking the two is always fun for a picture or two.    I love the new covering on the Selfridges which is being put in place whilst they replace the discs on the outside.  The covering is designed by Osman Yousefzada,who is a multi-disciplinary artist working in association with the IKON gallery. the pink and black geometric shapes are in contrast with the grey architecture.

It was a day of sunshine and showers and whilst I was outside there was a terrific downpour. 

This then led to the bonus of several puddles for a bit of reflective photography.  The puddles around Selfridges are still there and lend themselves to some nice reflections of the building as it is being renovated

On my way to New Street, there were other interesting images to capture including the queue outside Zara and the photographing of the Electric Cinema.  I lingered around the reflective roof of the entrance to New Street Station. I also took a few pictures of the trams passing through which is something you have to do when in Birmingham. 

So enjoy the pictures and it is good to see Birmingham as it emerges from the pandemic.  The only down side is the weather which is atrocious rain and so unlike May.


Red post and telephone box in the snow

It snowed! Furthermore, we had several centimetres of the white stuff. I missed the beautiful sunrise as the weather front came across the region. For a time it looked like the sky was on fire and it only lasted around 10 to 15 minutes. However that was only a prelude to what was to fall from the sky. It snowed most of the morning and the decision was to plan my walk whilst it was snowing. Also getting out earlier meant that I missed the crowds in the park. The village looked beautiful in the snow and one of my favourite places to take pictures is Knowle High Street. The red letter box and the old telephone box are bright red. They make a great contrast with the white snow.

Knowle High Street in the Snow
Knowle High Street in the Snow
The high street in the snow
The high street in the snow
Knowle Church in the snow
Knowle Church in the snow
Snowman with a facemask
Snowman with a facemask

Heading up the street, there was a snowman outside the One-stop convenience shop. The shop assistant had made the snowman just outside the entrance. She was putting on a face mask for the snowman but it could not cover the carrot nose :). Knowle church looked wonderful in the snow and then it was down Kixley Lane to the canal.

Gate in the snow on Kixley Lane
Gate in the snow on Kixley Lane
Kixley Lane Canal Bridge
Kixley Lane Canal Bridge

The water was frozen and the branches of the trees were white and made for some great photography. I walked up the canal to Knowle locks to take pictures of the area. The boats were covered with snow that had blown onto their sides giving a rippled look to them. The contrast with the trees gave them an ethereal look.

Canal boat with snowy trees behind it.
Canal boat with snowy trees behind it.
Trees along the canal in the snow
Trees along the canal in the snow
Knowle locks in the snow
Knowle locks in the snow
Overlooking the canal in the snow
Overlooking the canal in the snow

I lingered around the locks for a while and then traced my steps back through the village making my way back home through the park. By now it was 12 o’clock and the place was full of snowmen and people enjoying themselves 🙂

Knowle park in the snow
Knowle park in the snow

Photographic tipFor snow I put my camera on manual and checked the exposure dial to ensure that the snow did not overwhelm the sensor. I shot the pictures in RAW so that I could play with the sliders in Lightroom and PSP. I was able to reduce the blue colour but made sure it was not to yellow either. My camera was weather proofed so that it braved the snow and water with no ill effects. A very enjoyable walk and the photographic experience of shooting in the snow was enjoyable.

Other snow links
Take a look at my last post on the Snow in Knowle back in 2017
Remember the week of the beast from 2018?

Snow Photography
Here are some tips if you are interested in learning more

Finally you can always come and Visit Knowle to see a beautiful English Village at its best.


An angel wings mural

With this Lockdown, I am planning more varied walks.  Openmap is a clever tool as you can draw a radius on the map .  I am exploring what I can within 5 to 6 miles of where I live.  This is a distance that I can manage walking.  The weather has been cold and damp for most of the week and I planned an early morning walk into Solihull.  Having my camera with me, the aim was to capture the centre of Solihull and then compare this to the previous Lockdowns. 

Post box on Widney Manner Road
Post box on Widney Manner Road

My planned route took me via Widney Manor Rd into the town centre.  At the back of Touchwood shopping centre, I took a picture of the derelict building that used to be Rosie’s nightclub.  A delivery driver passing by wanted to know why I would be taking a picture of it.   Interesting conversation on why I was taking pictures of buildings in Solihull. 

Rosie's nightclub has seen better days
Rosie’s nightclub has seen better days

I moved through the main shopping streets Into Mell Square.  Here I found that there were many people just sitting around.  Some were chatting over cups of coffee, whilst others were just sat around starring into space.  Surely the present lockdown guidelines are not to linger and to treat the time you leave your house as exercise.  The place looked drab and people were listless.  The Angel murals lightened my mood although there was no one around to photograph by the mural. I will come back to take one when life is normalised.

A lone person is welcomed back
A lone person is welcomed back
People sitting around in Mell Square
People sitting around in Mell Square
Another lone person reflected in the water
Another lone person reflected in the water
Masks are worn all the time
Masks are worn all the time
People sitting around drinking coffee
People sitting around drinking coffee
Shops offer sales with no customers
Shops offer sales with no customers
Solihull High Street is virtually empty
Solihull High Street is virtually empty
Buses everywhereMasks and buses
Lots of buses but not many passengers

I moved into Tudor Grange park where it was much brighter as the sun started to break through the clouds.  I took several pictures here including one of the duck pond.  The reflections of light made it look very attractive and the picture I took made the Midlands today weather bulletin.  The change of mood was palpable and there were more people moving around.

Walking into Tudor Grange Park
Walking into Tudor Grange Park
Happy walkers in the park
Happy walkers in the park
BBC Weather Watchers with Shafali Oza
BBC Weather Watchers with Shafali Oza
Tudor Grange Park
Skateboard Park, Tudor Grange Park

Feeling more cheerful, I made my way back home through the Monkspath housing estate and then onto footpath over the M42.  During this lockdown, I am being more adventurous with my walks and seeing more of the countryside.  It was an experience seeing the town centre and how people were coping with the lockdown.  With my camera, I hoped that I documented a day of Lockdown what I saw in Solihull was not pretty and was depressing.  However the parks and the countryside part of the walk cheered me up.

A couple of friends I met at the end of the walk
A couple of friends I met at the end of the walk

Photographic tip.  Documenting the lockdown is not easy.  You can get drawn into what is happening around you.  I took the pictures carefully and tried to ensure that people were not identifiable.  I did also want to convey the difficulties that people find trying to keep to the lockdown.

Sources

OpenMap for drawing radii from your location


Compton Verney

The last day of 2020 was a day of sunshine and I visited Compton Verney with my good friend John Bray. The grounds were open for visiting and the weather was perfect for photography. It was also perfect for having a good chat in the process of taking the pictures. The parkland has a circular route that takes in the North Park and through a small wood up to the Old Town Meadow. We also explored further beyond the Meadow up to Lighthorne Rd at the northern boundary of the park. It was muddy and heavy going in places but the rewards was some spectacular views of the House and the beautiful parkland designed by Capability Brown.

Sphinx Compton Verney
Sphinx on the ornamental bridge approaching the main house
The Parkland around Compton Verney
The Parkland around Compton Verney
Beautiful light and splendid colours in the landscape
Beautiful light and splendid colours in the landscape

The Old Town Meadow had artwork by Krijin de Koning. Green Dwelling is an intriguing collection of various boxes which is used to highlight the history of the land. The collections of multicoloured boxes (mainly green) offer many different interpretations but most of all they are fun to photograph.

Sculpture in the Old Town Meadow with Wreath
Sculpture in the Old Town Meadow with Wreath
Window to the Meadow
Window to the Meadow

The land around the house also houses artwork and the present sculpture on view is by Ariel Schlesinger and is named “Ways to say Goodbye”. It is a tree where the branches are carrying shards of broken glass. The tree is cast in aluminium and the shattered glass is in the branches reaching for the sky. It offers different interpretations to the viewer and the photographer.

Aluminium Tree with Shards of glass in the branches
Aluminium Tree with Shards of glass in the branches

This part of the grounds I love as I could go on and on taking photographs with the trees providing the framing of both the house and the lake. There was also a carpet of yellow flowers around the base of the trees that added a welcome splash of alternative colour to the area. The house had paintings in the windows which were following a Christmas theme. More importantly there was a shed offering coffee and a pastry which was much needed after all the walking.

Yellow path to the House
Yellow path to the House
Picture in the window
Picture in the window
Christmas themed picture in the window
Christmas themed picture in the window

Finally we explored the Ice House Coppice area. We bypassed the Ice House and went to the edge of the lake where there was a splendid Christmas tree. I did notice a whicker replica of a heron catching a fish and this had to be taken, It was my last day as a registered dentist and during lockdown I became involved with a Twitter group with the hashtag #dentistswithheron. If you read the article and follow the hashtag, then you may understand what I am talking about.

Christmas tree with house in the background
Christmas tree with house in the background
Heron catching a fish!

John and I ventured onto the main road so we could take a picture from the bridge looking onto the lake and the house. We captured some excellent views of the property and the lakes beyond Compton Verney.

View from the bridge on the main Road
View from the bridge and ferry on the main Road
View of the house over the Compton pool
View of the house over the Compton pool
Lovely reflections over the pool
Lovely reflections over the pool

To end a successful visit one of the pictures that I took was featured by Shefali Oza on BBC Midlands Today weather picture.

My picture featured on the BBC midlands weather bulletin
My picture featured on the BBC Midlands Today weather bulletin

The visit to the house and gardens made for ad fantastic end to a stressful and difficult 2020, here is hoping that 2021 will be a great year.

Tie a red ribbon around a tree (as you normally do!)
Tie a red ribbon around a tree (as you normally do!)

If you want to learn more about Compton Verney then please visit their web site that gives you all the information about visiting this beautiful property in the Warwickshire country side
Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park

Tractors lined up for a meeting

Tractors. Lots of tractors! Whilst we were visiting Burton Dassett Hills, over a dozen tractors appeared and parked on the side of Magpie Hill. It appeared to be a tractor rally and although I do not know my tractors, they looked a formidable set of beasts. The owners got out and stood around chatting. I am not a brave soul on asking what was happening but I did have my camera and started snapping. I could have done so much more photography but time was not on my side as the family were ready to leave and the hills were getting very busy as it approached midday. The results of a few quick pictures are for viewing. All taken with my Fujifilm x100v except one iPhone camera picture.

Tractor with door open
Tractor with door open
Discussing the Machinery
Discussing the Machinery
Anatomy of a tractor
Anatomy of a tractor
One man and his tractors
One man and his tractors
A dog rounding up the tractors
A dog rounding up the tractors

Photographic tips – Quickly seize the opportunity that presents itself. I was shy and did not engage the people and concentrated on the tractors which don’t need talking to. There were some good pictures of wheels, machinary and landscape pictures of the vehicle group I wish I had more time to spend looking around but i was under pressure as the family were leaving to go home!

More Burton Dassett pictures from previous visits are on my blog.
Burton Dasset Hills Country Park – Escape to the Countryside
A Glorious Day

If you want more information then follow the Warwickshire County Council site which is packed full of information.
Burton Dassett Hills Country Park

The afternoon winter sun shinning through the wood

Another visit to Burton Dassett during December gave me the chance to explore new parts of the park and rediscover new views of familiar landmarks. I was here with my grandchildren and they were very adventurous climbing both Windmill and Magpie Hills. I went up the steeper incline of Harts Hill to get beautiful panoramic views of the area. I paid the price for clambering up the hill as I slipped on the muddy incline on the way down and was rewarded with a muddy backside.

Lily and Chloe look out from the top of Magpie Hill
Lily and Chloe look out from the top of Magpie Hill
Magpie Hill, Burton Dassett, Warwickshire
Magpie Hill, Burton Dassett, Warwickshire
Long shadows on Windmill Hill
Long shadows on Windmill Hill
The view of the Warwickshire countryside

My new explore with the family was Fox Covert a walk through a small wood. The path is just over a mile long and was not too muddy. The afternoon light was streaming in through the branches onto the path providing many different patterns on the forrest floor. In the hollow was a picturesque brook which was spoilt by a car tyre sitting in the water. How it had got there is anyone’s guess. There was a beautiful patch of trees that was lit up by the sun. Try as I could, my pictures just did not work out the way I wanted them to. Frustrating that I could visualise the scene but not capture it to my satisfaction. 🙁

Fox Covert with the sunlight streaming through
Fox Covert with the sunlight streaming through
A stream in the hollow (with discarded tyre)
A stream in the hollow (with discarded tyre)
Fox Covert woods
Fox Covert woods

On the way up from the hollow, the path meandered slightly and then the sun caught the trees and cast long shadows. I took the picture and it looked almost how I wanted it to. Post processing in black and white gave me the result I wanted. The monochrome treatment provided a beautiful rendition of the light that I saw. It was pleasing to find this small (undiscovered by me) part of Burton Dassett. I will be back in the spring to rediscover Fox Covert when spring is in full swing. These pictures were taken with my Fujifilm x100v.

The afternoon winter sun shinning through the wood
The afternoon winter sun shinning through the wood

Photographic tip – Follow the light and look around for interesting scenes. I like shooting into the light but be careful and don’t look directly at the sun. I got hung up on one particular spot which did not produce many pictures. A few steps away was a really spectacular scene, so keep moving and be ready for all eventualities. Also processing the pictures interested me. I choose black and white processing, Why? It just seemed to look better for some of the scenes.

More Burton Dassett pictures from previous visits are on my blog.
Burton Dasset Hills Country Park – Escape to the Countryside
A Glorious Day

If you want more information then follow the Warwickshire County Council site which is packed full of information.
Burton Dassett Hills Country Park