When we are away on our family holidays, we always seek out a trip out to a brewery or equivalent. In Cornwall we visited the St Austell’s brewery and last year we visited the Glengoyne whiskey distillery whilst we were staying at Loch Lomond. This summer, we booked a holiday home in the Herefordshire countryside.
Our research of the area around Hereford led us to the Wobbly Brewing Company which was not too far from our Holiday home for the week at Swinmoor House. The brewery has a rising reputation, and we were keen to taste their beers. We got a lift to the trading estate in Wobbly on a warm August evening. The Brewery is in a lock up unit on the Beech Business Park. When we arrived, there were several comfy chairs and benches outside the entrance with the brewery is located towards the back of the unit. They had a terrific range of beers available and throughout the evening, we tasted many of the beers on the list. We also tried the gin flavours on offer. There was food available, and service was friendly and efficient.
By the end of the evening, we were the last customers and one of the team, Taylor, gave us a quick tour of the working part of the brewery. We left with a couple of cans of the Gold variety. Overall, I would recommend the brewery as a pub visit with a difference and was very similar to another outing that we took to the Burning Soul brewery in Birmingham. Such independent places should be supported as the beer is always served with enthusiasm and gives a different taste variety to the mass-produced offerings from the larger companies. Well done on Wobbly and yes, we did leave a bit wobbly.
Swinmoor House was our holiday home for a week in August. The house was set in the beautiful Herefordshire countryside near to the village of Madley. Comfort and space were qualities that spring to mind about Swinmoor and the well equipped games room was a favourite with all the family.
The grounds around the house were beautiful with dramatic views towards the Black Mountains in Wales. In the garden, there was a traditional tree swing that hung from branches of an old oak tree. We have so many memories around that swing and my grandchildren loved it. There were squeals of laughter whenever they were on the swing and whilst all the family enjoyed taking turns, it was the younger two grandchildren sitting together who enjoyed moving back and forth through the air. I took several photographs of the grandchildren and the family by the swing. I hope you enjoy the pictures. There are several pictures of Swinmoor House is in the background. If you are looking for that special place to take a family holiday then Swinmoor House is highly recommended.
Living near Birmingham, any night sky photography is severely limited due to light pollution. During lockdown there was the chance to undertake star trail photography and I featured this in a previous article on my website “Stars in the Sky”.
In 2022, our family holiday was deep in the Herefordshire countryside at Swinmoor House, Madley. We were blessed with several clear nights with little cloud cover. I had never seen so many stars up above for a long time. Such clear nights were a great opportunity to get back into taking pictures of the stars. I use the StarWalk2 app which has a virtual view of the night sky.
Setting up the camera on a sturdy tripod, I am considering 3 settings. For the aperture, I wish to get as much light as possible, so I set my camera at f/2.8. For the shutter speed, I need a long exposure and 25 seconds is selected. Any longer and I would start creating star trails which would show the stars as lines. I will come back to this later. To allow sufficient sensitivity, I set the ISO at 800. My camera is a Canon D5 mark IV and the lens is a Canon EF16-35mm f/4L. The wide angled lens captures a broad viewpoint which is useful when featuring the sky in the photograph.
Firstly, I do a few test shots with the ISO set at 32,000 to provide viewable pictures of the scene and allow me to compose the picture with a strong foreground object which in this case was Swinmoor House. Also, I turned off as many lights in the house as possible but balanced the need for some to provide a focal point for the picture.
The first picture is of Ursa Major which was very bright and identifiable in the sky. It is also nicely framed by the surrounding trees and the house. The second picture was the night sky looking out over the Sagittarius star cloud better known as the Milky Way. Unfortunately, there was some cloud cover and light pollution in this direction. However, you can make out the milky way in the picture. These were the best pictures I could get during the week of the Milky Way due to cloud cover.
Editing was done on the RAW files correcting the lens profile, adding contrast and bringing out the shadows. Next I reduced the highlights and took the strong house lights down. The Ursa Major stars were bright and I helped a bit with some dodging. Finally I produced good pictures of the night sky.
Two nights later there was another clear sky and this gave me the opportunity to have a go at star trails. The camera set up and composition was as before although this time the exposure was increased to 30 seconds. The Canon camera has a built in intervalometer which I set at 1 second. Therefore, the camera shutter would be open for 30 seconds, shut, quickly process for a second before opening again. This continuous cycle was possible as I had a fast SD card in the camera for the processing of the pictures. Once I was happy everything was working properly, I left the camera to take the pictures. I was very tired and started at 10.30 and eventually after a few rounds of pool in the games room, switched the camera off at approximately 11.45. I am sure I could have gone for a longer time period but it would have meant leaving an expensive camera unattended during the night. The next morning, I collected all the jpg pictures (124 of them) into one folder. I downloaded the StarStaX freeware software and pasted the pictures into the program. I clicked a button and watched in amazement as the stacking software created the picture. There were a few edits required to remove stray light and the picture was cropped to provide a pleasing result.
The resulting picture looked great. A couple of satellite trails had crept into the picture and add some nice diagonals. I wish I had not gone to the bathroom during the picture taking as the light from that particular room is very bright. Another wish is to have taken more pictures to get stronger lines for the star trails. Then again, the pattern created is very eye-catching with a strong foreground image of the house setting off the trails nicely. You can see Polaris the North star plus a couple of satellite paths moving diagonally across the picture. What is helpful is the large number of stars as they provide a denser number of star trail circles compared to my previous attempt.