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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.
Winter in Clowes Wood

Woodlands are wonderful for getting back to nature and clearing the mind.  Clowes wood in Earlswood has a mix of birch and coniferous trees in a rolling woodland.  There is the Stratford upon Avon railway line cutting through the wood and following work by Network Rail, the railway bridge has been reopened. 

Railway bridge, Clowes Wood
The new Railway bridge over the Stratford-upon-Avon line in Clowes Wood

On the day of the visit, it was bright weather, but Storm Dudley was waiting in the wings.  I felt the wind as I walked over the railway bridge waiting to photograph the trains as they approached Earlswood train station.  The sun was strong, and the tall trees broke the light, softening it before it hit the woodland floor.

Path through Clowes Wood
Path through Clowes Wood

There was a great deal of surface water in the woods and all the rainfall had created temporary ponds.  I had brought along my Canon D5 mark VI and several lenses.  My tripod was used to good effect although it came apart when I started using the central column.  Following on from this, I have become an expert of delving into Manfrotto spares website and reassembling my tripod.  I did a couple of bracketed shots and then single pictures where the light was fleeting.  Practice makes perfect and I am starting to get slick on the bracketing of pictures and using a 2 second timing delay on my Canon camera.  I used both by EF24-70mm (f/2.8L II USM) and EF16-35mm (f/4L IS USM) with a polariser filter. I am looking forward to spring and seeing the leaves back on the trees until then I hope you enjoy the photographs.

Reflections in the woodland pools.
Reflections in the woodland pools.
Clowes Wood
Clowes Wood
Winter in woodland.
Winter in woodland.

If you liked this then you may wish to read my earlier account of Clowes Wood.
Details on visiting Clowes Wood are in Forrestry England’s Website


Hillmorton Locks

Look up any reference on Hillmorton Locks and they are quoted as being the busiest along all of the UK canal waterways.  Found on the outskirts of Rugby, they are a hidden gem as accessing them is not straightforward.  From the south, the locks are approached via a narrow entrance tunnel under the West Coast Railway line.  Once through this, then there is parking available at the local parish church St John the Baptist.  There are three sets of locks and the lower lock has a workshop and a few bridges.  Nestling on the banks of the canal was a small inviting coffee shop which is getting ready to open. 

Hillmorton Locks
Hillmorton Locks

The locks themselves are unusual in that there are two side by side.  This was to ease congestion due to its position on the canal network as being the main highway south to London.  The second of the locks is after a gentle curve in the canal and this is different as the lock beams have letters carved into them.

Hillmorton Locks
inscriptions on the lock gates

Locklines consists of a poem of which four lines are on the lock gates at Hillmorton.  At first I wondered why they had been placed in the gates but then it made sense reading the article on them.  They are interesting lines

WORKING WATER
CAPTIVE FOR A WHILE
CLIMBS CAREFULLY DOWN
THIS DOOR MAKES DEPTH

There were three poets involved and one designer and the weblink provides more details on how it all pieces together.

Hillmorton Locks
Looking down from the upper lock

It is then a straight walk up to the third and final lock.  This provides nice views back down the locks and the criss cross pattern of the gates makes for some nice pictures of the canal.  The canal then moves onto run past a new housing estate that is built on the old radio masts that used to be a feature of Hillmorton.  I remember both as a boy and young man taking the train down to London and passing the Rugby antenna masts that were tall structures in the Landscape.  Little did I realise that many years into the future that I would be passing them again but under different circumstances.  Walking back down the locks provided different views including glimpses of the Church of St John the Baptist which were especially pleasing to photograph with the locks in the foreground. 

Hillmorton Locks
Details around Hillmorton Locks
Hillmorton Locks
Details around Hill Morton Locks
Hillmorton Locks
Details around Hillmorton Locks

I am glad that I lingered around the middle lock as my attention was caught by a signpost that had the directions Vaccine and New Normal.  There was even a strange red ball structure on the top that I realised was meant to represent a corona virus.  Further investigations revealed that there was a third sign with Way Out.  Clambered over the gate I looked around to see where it led.  Nothing to see until I turned around.  The back of the sign was inscribed with different lines about the Covid19 pandemic and these included

No Hugs
Mask uo
No PPE
2 metres
Clap NHS
Rule of 3
Bubbles
Home workers
Pubs shut
…..plus many others. 

The whole list maybe seen in the photograph and I have highlighted the post for clearer viewing.  It is great fun and it is still continuing I expect.

Hillmorton Locks
The post with a record of the pandemic written down.

Finally I had a quick look at the Church which was quietly sandwiched between the railway line and the canal.  Spring is starting and the blossom was just opening.  I will revisit when the leaves are fully on the trees and the lovely café is open for a cup of coffee or tea. Enjoy the pictures!

Hillmorton Locks
Church of St John the Baptist

More information
Locklines tells the story how the poem was put into the lock gates
The Canal and River Trust have lots of information about the area
My previous blogs on the Canals in the West Midlands
Walking along the North Stratford Canal
– Lockdown 3 walking along the Grand Union Canal


The pool in Brueton Park Woods

When the snow first fell the skies were overcast and whilst there was a some beautiful snow scenes, I longed for a blue sky to provide some colour. The next day the sun shone and there were no clouds in the sky. I planned my walk to take me over fields to Widney Road allowing me to approach Brueton park and the nature reserve from the west.

Lea Wood in the snow
Lea Wood in the snow

My first stop was Lea Wood nature reserve which I had not visited before on my travels. The wood used to be a tree nursery and the trees now fully grown are aligned in lines. This creates many leading lines along the paths in the wood. There were several walkers in the wood so I was able to compose some eye-catching pictures with leading lines towards the silhouettes of people . The low level of the sun also produced lovely light that I was able to shoot towards the sun with the trees as a backdrop. I hung around for some time fascinated by the trees and the patterns caused by the light.

Sunlight in the woods
Sunlight in the woods
Sunlight on the tree branches
Sunlight on the tree branches
A leaning tree
A leaning tree
Snow on the trees
Snow on the trees
Trees on the way to Breuton Park
Trees on the way to Breuton Park

Finally I moved onto Brueton Park proper. It was very muddy despite the frozen ground. When I got to the river Blythe, I made the decision to go into the old Wood on the west bank to the River Blythe. The place was deserted and following the muddy path, I threaded my way deep into the wood. I arrived at the north end of the water pool which interestingly is unnamed on the map. The sun was shining brightly but the thick canopy of the trees diffused the rays. The path led around to the south side and here I was able to get close to the water’s edge. With the light low, bright and just right a beautiful scene opened up. I was so pleased with the pictures of the water and the framing from the trees. It was a richly rewarding photo walk with many different variations of the snow lying on the ground reflecting the sun. It was a much different day than yesterday and very productive.

The river Blythe
The river Blythe
Path around the pool
Path around the pool
The pool in Brueton Park Woods
The pool in Brueton Park Woods

Photo tip. Don’t be hasty in taking your pictures and try and slow down. I was very excited at first especially in Lea Wood. Then with time I started to enjoy myself in the woods and came away with many different pictures. I had my iPhone, large Canon camera with lenses plus my Fujifilm x100v. Yes it was a bit over the top in terms of photographic equipment but I was glad that I had all of them with me.

More pictures of local parks can be found on my blog
The photographic delights of Umberslade Park
Coombe Abbey Country Park during the Golden Hour
Watching the sun go down by Bracebridge pool, Sutton Park

More information
Brueton Park and its sister, Malvern is on the Solihull Council Website
Malvern and Brueton Parks
or check out Trip Advisor



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.
Hay Wood Adventure

Forestry England have a number of woodlands located across the West Midlands and my closest one, Hay Wood, is located near Baddesley Clinton. I have been a number of times and always found it a wonderful place to visit. It is best described as a peaceful ancient woodland site with a great diversity of wildlife. Usually I have walked around or cycled into the Wood via bike.

Hay Wood
A beautiful day in Hay Wood

When walking, I have usually stayed around the front part of the forest near to the road as it is a bit of a hike into the far end of the wood. This time I wanted to delve deeper into the wood and therefore walked up to he end of the central road and instead of going left or right at the end, heading into the deeps of the wood. It had been raining heavily the night before and I started to regret my decision as the going was very soft and wet. There were old tractor grooves which allowed you to walk on the ridge away from the water.

Hay Wood
Sunlight streams down

Deeper into the forrest the light became more interesting. The sun came out and there were small pockets of light that managed to get through the trees. I encountered a young conifer and it was bathed in light which made for a good photograph. The dying ferns had turned a yellow orange colour and added an interesting layer to the forrest floor. It appeared to be a carpet of colour.

Hay Wood
A new hope in the Forrest

It was very difficult moving through this part of the wood and after a while I made my way to the roads where it was obviously much easier to move around. I took a selection of pictures and they show the light and colour of the forest.

Hay wood
Sunlight above, water below

The web site encourages you to escape to Hay Wood for your next forest adventure. Whether walking or riding, Hay Wood is the perfect place to get away from it all and relax. I could not agree more.

Hay Wood
Paths in the Woodland
Hay Wood
Mos growing on logs of wood
Hay Wood
Hay Wood Colours
Amongst the trees JQ

I love the area around St Paul’s Church and in Autumn it starts to look colourful with the leaves on the ground.  It was one of my stops on my way to walk.  The sky was also very colourful with the sunrise and rain clouds making pretty patterns. 

Livery Street and it is only “A matter of opinion”

I took a picture down Livery street which is a very long street/road.  There is a Brummie saying that you look like you have “a face as long as Livery street”.  There are some good sign posting on the buildings in the area.  A matter of opinion has been up for a while and is shown on Livery Street. 

Compared to what
Compared tp what….

I noticed at one of the corners of St Paul’s Square that there was more signposting with the words “Compared to what…”  They add a fun element to the streets of Birmingham. 

St Paul’s Church in the Jewellery Quarter

A picture of St Paul’s Church was well received on social media.  It is a a very photogenic church.  Taking a picture of both the spire of St Paul’s and the BT Tower is another photo opportunity. The area is very pretty and it was after discussion on social media that I realised that there are more hidden squares around the Jewellery Quarter. It is a place to return to time and time again.

St Paul's Church and BT Tower
St Paul’s Church and BT Tower

Every year this arguably unremarkable square bursts into a riot of colour which is provided by the blossom on the two rows of trees on either side of the square. I am being harsh about the square, as it does have the IKON gallery which is an imposing building at one end. The blossom and the white pebbles of the square are beautifully offset by the IKON gallery. This display only takes place for a few weeks of the year. It is enjoyable taking the pictures and my iPhone picture of the square was featured on the late night news.

Sunny morning in the square
Blossom
Trees
Tree shape
Great start to the day
A row of trees
Branches