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

The love of Concrete photomeet

The breakfast table conversation went like this, “Why are you going out to take picture of buildings?” “It is a photo meeting organised by the West Midlands Photo collective and Space.play“, I replied. “We will be taking pictures of concrete buildings on and around the Hagley road in Birmingham”. Stunned silence followed by “Well good Luck to that venture.”

Luckily I knew it was going to be great Sunday. The meeting point was in the centre of Five Ways roundabout. Already a large number of photographers were there and several familiar faces. The West Midlands Photocollective organisers, Jim and Sarah and Dave from Space.play got everyone together. They set about explaining the game we were taking part in. A game? LOL No one said anything about a game when I signed up. As it unfolded everyone realised, It was a well thought out idea for a photo walk. I was really looking forward to taking the pictures along the route. An added bonus was the networking with new people. Seeing people I had not seen for some time was also good as well. Time has certainly raced onwards since the year of the pandemic.

Love of Concrete
Explaining how the day will work.

The game instructions

How did the game work? We were asked to take pictures on our photographic walk. Each participant received a pack with 4 cards. One contained the details of the game and what we were expected to do. The other three cards were set out as playing cards. The name of the building and a map of how to get there from the last building was on each card. They went from Ace to 10 with the Jack, Queen and King. We had to work out with the help of other players how to find all the buildings and as a team work our way through the course. For example my cards were Ace of spades, 5 of spades and the 10 of clubs. These represented the following buildings, Tricorn House, Chamber of Commerce and the Central Travelodge. I needed to find the other 10 buildings. Immediately, a group of us came together and we had all the cards except a number 7. We surmised we would find that on the route, so off we went. Looking back I wish I had concentrated more and looked at what other people’s cards were. There was a good number of people, all in groups as we made our way to the first concrete building.

The love of Concrete photomeet
My three cards

1 – Tricorn House

This three pointed building is a very large concrete building with one side facing the Hagley Road. I had a card for this one and I used it with both the West Midlands bicycle hire rack and also with my lensball. It is a concrete delight but difficult to photograph as there is so much of it. I swapped my only good card the Ace of Spades for the 2 of Diamonds, Cobalt Square. Guess someone was going to get lucky with their Poker scoring game. I just wanted to see another card!

The love of Concrete photomeet
My first card and Tricorn House
The love of Concrete photomeet
Not sure if this worked but there is concrete about!
The love of Concrete photomeet
The front of the house
The love of Concrete photomeet
This makes it look so important

2 – Cobalt Square

I did feel sorry for this building as it was not wearing well. The steps leading up the building were breaking down and it did not really have any unique features to make it memorable. The name is interesting but it did not lead to any any thing Cobalt related in the architectural design. Looking on social media, I saw that I missed the car park and that had an amazing ceiling. Must remember to look around more.

The love of Concrete photomeet
I swapped my Ace for 2 of Diamonds – probably not a good idea 🙂

3 – 54 Hagley Road

Now I am guessing the next two buildings as I was just following the people on the route. 54, Hagley Road is big and looks a monster concrete building. The security guard was very confused about what was happening. As we were taking pictures, he came out to see what we were doing. I explained about the nature of the event and what we were aiming to achieve. Even with the explanation, he was none the wiser but just said OK. I gave this one a bit of the once over in black and white. It does have a bit of character about it.

The love of Concrete photomeet
Taken just before being questioned by security
The love of Concrete photomeet
Frontal Attack Camera Attack

4 – Lyndon House

You would be excused if you missed this building which is in the shadows of 54, Hagley Road. Sharp edges, tall, glass and rectangular in shape. Moving on swiftly…

The love of Concrete photomeet
Sharp and pointy

5 – Chamber of Commerce

Now this is a place I know and visit on a regular basis. I also had the card for it so it was great to be able to photograph this building. I do know from inside that it is a dated building so my photographs probably reflect this aspect. Someone had left a window open and it made a nice contrast to the regular arrangement of the design.

The love of Concrete photomeet
5 of Spades for the Chamber
The love of Concrete photomeet
Someone left a window open
The love of Concrete photomeet
Too much glass is good for you

Following pictures of the Chamber of Commerce, the group I was with walked down Greenfield Crescent. This a street that I don’t normally walk or drive down. It looked neatly swept and could have been a film set it was so pretty in appearance. The owner of Lux Gallery which is newly opened, came out to met us and invited us into the gallery and his photographic study at No 13. Many of us went in and were impressed with what we saw. An unexpected bonus of the walk.

The love of Concrete photomeet
Walking down the Crescent

6 – 12 Calthorpe Road

This is the old HBSC banking offices. It is sadly neglected being made ready for redevelopment. I was fascinated about the Blue Plaque for Washington Irvine the American essayist who lived on the road between 1819 and 1824. It would be lovely to have a time machine and look backwards and forwards to what happens to all these areas over time. Sadly the machine is stuck on today and we just see decay of a brutalist concrete building.

The love of Concrete photomeet
The Blue Plaque remembers
The love of Concrete photomeet
Times are difficult

8 – Five Ways House

This building was out of sync and I blame myself for following everyone else! This is such a big concrete building and it is so long. This is the home of Department for Work and Pensions and I tried a panorama shot but failed attempting it. I just had to try and show the sheer enormity of the building with my regular picture. It is so faceless yet stands there, taking up a commanding position on Islington Row Middleway. The building wants to make an impression but one can debate what form this takes.

The love of Concrete photomeet
That is a long building wish I had brought my wide angled lens

7 – MAKE UK – the Manufacturers organisation

It was decision time and I split up from the group that I was with as I wanted to go back and check out this concrete building. I am glad that I did as I loved the place and would have been most upset if I had missed it. Just to the side of the entrance there is a wall of diamond holes that makes it very intriguing. So many photo opportunities as well. I got my lensball out here and had a field day. Enjoy the pictures.

The love of Concrete photomeet
Eye in the Wall
The love of Concrete photomeet
Face in the Wall
The love of Concrete photomeet
Nature and Concrete

9 – Hampton Inn

I am really struggling now as I have become isolated on route but I had an idea from seeing other people’s cards where we should be going. The next few concrete buildings are hotels on Broad Street starting with the Hampton Inn which I hope is on the list. Just a functional hotel on Broad street. It looks after all the partygoers at the weekend and business people during the week. The building reflects this no nonsense approach.

10 – Central Travelodge

Next up is the Travelodge and I know this one is correct as I have the card. The Travelodge is starting to show its age and the facade is crumbling. I remember when it was built. there was excitement on Broad street about the hotels and nightlife. The Travelodge was part of the new beginning. Over the years there has been a shift in the Birmingham scene from Broad Street to the Eastside and Digbeth. The hotel reflects this shift. Maybe the tram will bring about a new lease of life to this side of town. We wait and see.

The love of Concrete photomeet
Travelodge – 10 of Spades
The love of Concrete photomeet
Moody Concrete

Jack – Jury’s Inn

Behind the Travelodge is the Jury’s Inn which must have asked for a double helping of Concrete when it was built as it has spilled over to the car park. There is such a repetitive feel to the outside structure which I hope my black and white picture captures. I have not stayed in any of these hotels but I have been into the foyer of Jury’s and even been to a Christmas party here. My memories were that it was comfortable and inviting. In contrast, the outside is not that inviting.

The love of Concrete photomeet
Concrete repetition
The love of Concrete photomeet
Please be quiet for the concrete

Queen – Quayside Tower

Rosies nightclub and those pretend concrete designs. Not sure what they are tying to say but they are Ugly – hold on the pub/restaurant is called Cayote Ugly do they know something already. The concrete designs seem to be telling a story or are designed about something deep and meaningful. It would be interesting to know their history. Meanwhile here are a few pictures of them.

The love of Concrete photomeet
Concrete designs
The love of Concrete photomeet
Ugly – surely not

King – The Rep

I got this totally wrong and wished I had stayed with someone in the group to check what I was doing. After the Queen stop, I looked up and thought that the concrete King was the International Convention Centre – Wrong – very wrong it was the Rep. So I missed this photo opportunity but i did get a lot of good pictures of the ICC! I could look in my back catalogue and find a picture of the Rep! I am annoyed as I realise that this means I miss out on the Spaceplay prize.

The love of Concrete photomeet
No the King was not the ICC it was the Birmingham Rep. Its behind you!

BUT I just want to say to all those reading this that I had a fantastic time in spite of getting one totally wrong (there may even be others in the blog but not to worry). These photo-meetings are a great opportunity to improve your photography, meet new people and get involved in projects that you would never have thought about doing. So thank you to WestMidlandsPhotoCollective and Space.Play for your organisation. Everyone who goes on these walkabouts are friendly and helpful as well. Sorry I could not meet you all in the pub after the event but I was needed back home. I am so looking forward to the next meeting that gets organised.

Finally reflections on the day. Concrete is King ! (and so is Queen, Jack, 10 to Ace).

I am sure there are some word puns on Diamonds, Clubs, Spades and Hearts. Here goes! There is always money in concrete (Diamonds) and then a building gets built from the ground upwards (Spades). What was once loved (Hearts) falls out of favour with time and there are fights amongst developers (Clubs) to build bigger better concrete buildings to replace what has gone before.

Concrete is King!

All pictures taken either with my FijiFilm x100v or the iPhone13

Here is a picture of the final Love of Concrete building taken after the event. This is now a complete set of playing cards for the Blog.

The King – The Birmingham Rep Theatre.

Umberslade Park Treeline

The days before Christmas are a time of waiting and getting ready. It is a strange time this year and the weather is not helping the mood much either. Whilst the rain has left the ground waterlogged, it has led to some lovely puddles lying around. These provide excellent reflections when I am out and about with my camera. This series of photographs are from my visit to Umberslade Park. There is a dramatic tree lined drive that provides varied opportunities for pictures. It was very wet and there were some rather large puddles which led to some good reflections in the water.

Reflections in the water
Reflections in the water
Tree line at Umberslade Park
Black and white tree line

It is possible to get some nice symmetrical views with the trees lined up down into a hollow. There is a bridge where the Stratford upon Avon train line sits. It is possible with timing to frame the picture so that there are people standing underneath the bridge, whilst looking down into the hollow.

Umberslade Park - trees and railway bridge
Umberslade Park – trees and railway bridge
Looking up at the tree line
Looking up at the tree line

My recent upgrade of the Dxo Nik processing software allows me to play with Silver Efex Pro. Therefore many of these photographs have been processed into black and white which fits the sombre weather of the day. The walk is nice and easy as you can park at the Tanworth in Arden village entrance and then walk down towards the bridge then onto the Children’s farm. After passing the farm, I walked straight up the hill to the fringes of the Umberslade Park.

Up the hill at Umberslade Park
Up the hill at Umberslade Park

This part I had not discovered before and there are two pillars which are possible remnants of gates. From here there are good views of the Warwickshire countryside from the elevated part of the park.

Views of the Warwickshire countryside
Views of the Warwickshire countryside

Walking back, I decided to vary the pictures by using my Lensball. It worked well in all the puddles and gave some interesting views. Hope you enjoy the pictures and I will return when the leaves are back on the trees. I suspect it will also be a good place to visit when there is fog and mist around.

Lensball reflections at Umberslade
Lensball reflections at Umberslade
Under the bridge with a selfie in a Lensball.
Under the bridge with a selfie in a Lensball.

Having done Digbeth, I felt brave enough to go into Birmingham again and look around both Gas Street Basin and Centenary Square.  My first difficulty was parking as car parks and on street spaces were either shut or there were traffic cones preventing you from parking.  I found a place and wandered down into gas street.  What I noticed was how many runners there were out and about plus cyclists using the tow path.  It is wide enough to do social distancing and it was being patrolled by two police officers as well.  

Some parts are locked up
The basin is still colourful
Many runners around

After Gas Street I went to Centenary Square and I had brought along my lensball as I thought it might give me some different and creative photography.  Sometimes the lensball is frustrating as it just does not add anything more to the picture.  In this situation, the shallow pool of water allowed you to place the crystal at the water’s edge and then lie low to line up a picture.  I was pleased with the result and it was well received on the social media.  I also noticed that whilst Broad Street is undergoing changes for the metro tram, there are social distancing notices all over the pavement.  The virus is still around and although walking around the streets of Birmingham has a normality about it, you do realise that we are sill in a state of crisis.

Work on the tram makes for lockdown pictures of the Library
The lensball likes being reflected
When will the Rep open for performances?
Centenary Square is quiet
Evidence of neglect on Broad Street
Changes and more Changes on Broad Street
It is a difference world
Social distancing on Broad Street

I am catching up with my photographs. I visited Winterbourne house in July and the flowers were in full bloom. This photographic journey features the Nut walk. I used a lensball to create the effect at the end of the network which provides a natural frame to the house. Following this I moved onto the flower beds near to and around the glass houses. There were several damsel flies flitting in and around the flowers. It is always a fascinating place to visit and has featured in previous blogs.

A place to pass the time away
more flowers
Worker bee is very busy
In full bloom
Damsel fly
The oriental garden in the lower reaches of the garden
View over the lake adjacent to Winterbourne
Natural framing of the house from the Nut walk
View of the house via a lens ball
The Nut walk
View of Winterborne from the garden (selected for BBC midlands weather)

A previous visit to Winterbourne House


The annual bluebell walk in Austy Wood is not taking place in 2019 “Due to ongoing forestry operations and other contributing factors……” This is disappointing as it is a glorious sight with a lovely carpet of bluebells. However there is a public footpath that just takes you into the top part of the forrest. I got up early and set off for the Wood. Although it was cold, there was the prospect of a lovely sunrise and warm conditions to follow. The walk takes you over the Stratford-upon-Avon canal and then up a narrow lane to the wood. It was still and quiet and I was the only one around. I saw deer and two large hares bounded past me at speed. I was not camera ready at the time.

Lensball in the woods

I took several pictures and then I reached the top of the wood and there were the bluebells in all their glory. I spent a good hour there taking pictures. I used a mixture of my lens including my wide angled and telephoto zoom lens. One of my iPhone pictures made The BBC weather and I also got the chance to use my Lensball for a quick picture of it resting on a tree trunk with the bluebells in the background.

Bluebells are such a photogenic subject
Forestry work taking place in the Wood
It was a lovely morning to walk up to the woods
Intense blues in the wood.
The trees provide a nice backdrop
Path in the sun
Used a graduated ND filter to bring up the forest floor.
A simple iPhone picture makes The BBC local news website.