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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


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


Sunset, Cricks Wood and Cracks Hill, Northamptonshire

On one side of the M1 is Warwickshire, on the other is Northamptonshire. Most of the time, I am in Warwickshire visiting my daughter and so Rugby is my final destination. Google maps is a wonderful tool for browsing and looking for new places to visit. Often, I use canals as my compass and it was following the Grand Union canal along Google maps that I was intrigued not only by Cracks Hill but also the surrounding area. I discovered the Friends of Cricks Wood web site and learnt about the good work being done by the community there. Close by is Cracks Hill which was formed by a retreating glacier during the last ice age. Running through this area of natural beauty is the Grand Union Canal. This looked like a good place to photograph especially if the conditions were just right. The one ingredient that is needed is good light and on an evening in December, it looked as if there would be a good sunset. I packed my camera gear and set off to the woods. On arrival, I spent some time in the Jubilee woodland as the sun was setting. The colour on the leaves in the light at the end of day was something to behold.

The next place to visit was the summit of Cracks Hill. It was not disappointing and I was pleased that I had brought along my Canon D5 Mk4 with tripod. The windmills were fascinating to watch at such a distance and at a height. I was also taken by a lone tree on the side of the hill. Needless to say the tree featured in a few photographs. So it was a successful day and I made my way back to the car.

Sunset, Cricks Wood and Cracks Hill, Northamptonshire
The soft light on the surrounding countryside
Sunset, Cricks Wood and Cracks Hill, Northamptonshire
The colours of the sunset from Cracks Hill.
Sunset, Cricks Wood and Cracks Hill, Northamptonshire
Loving the Windmill silhouette.
Sunset, Cricks Wood and Cracks Hill, Northamptonshire
A lone tree on Cracks Hill

As I reached the bridge over the Grand Union, I met a dog walker and I let him pass. He moved onto the bridge and started walking into the embers of the sunset. I fumbled but I got my Fujifilm x100v just in time to capture a picture of the walker on the bridge. The resulting picture was dark but I used my editing suite to bring out the colours of the sunset. So part capturing the scene and then relying on a preset edit to produce the scene that I observed over that bridge and far away.

Sunset, Cricks Wood and Cracks Hill, Northamptonshire
Over the Bridge and far away. On the Canal bridge over the Grand Union walking towards Cricks Wood

The final part to this series of photographs is the selection of the walker over the bridge by England’s Big Picture. It was my second feature of the year on the BBC site. I was very pleased with the outcome.


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

I like taking pictures as you gather and I needed some inspiration to make the daily exercise more interesting. When the Visit Knowle site published a close up of one of the buildings in Knowle then I knew this was an avenue I could explore. So we have a series of images below all taken in the village of Knowle near Solihull. I hope you like them and you might even want to guess what some of them are if they are not that obvious. The lesson learnt from photography is always try and look at everyday objects with a different eye. You will be surprised what you get to see. There are examples of textures, materials, architecture and decay. All give a different but also uplifting views of my home village. The pictures are here to provide some of the character old and new of the village. I also found a reflection picture of the local church which was pleasing.