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Last Moments Amongst the Stone, Cornwall Part 7

One of the last things we did last spring in Looe was to explore the rocks at low tide. We spent the last minutes of the trip looking in rock pools, climbing around outcrops and finally sitting on the top, taking in the sea, before setting off for home.

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Low Tide River, Cornwall Part 6

As well as travelling around the south coast of Cornwall we ended up spending a lot of time exploring where we were staying, Looe. The town lies where a river cuts in from the sea to the hills and is very tidal, with low tide almost draining the working quays completely. So low, that you can walk out with your two dogs.

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In The Hills, Cornwall Part 5

Tucked away in the woods are Carnglaze Caverns, old caves that were once used for harvesting the slate in the Loveny Valley. The woodland and wet gardens lead to the entrance at the foot of a cliff that then takes you through an entrance tunnel with a low ceiling. With eyes becoming accustomed to the dark we descended in to the quiet main chamber and to the first pools of water. These flooded sub chambers are lit and show the crystal clear pools lined with sharp edges, once carved by hand.

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Old Doors and Old Walls, Cornwall Part 4

What the what? Blink and months pass, I guess that is what photography is there for, to remember. I have dozens and dozens of photos to put up and need to post up the last of this Cornwall trip before we set of for the next one in a months time…

Lanhydrock House is a grand Victorian house nestled in to it’s estate of meadows, woodland and ornate gardens. Being out of season the house was quiet and the corridors still in their finery from all those years ago seemed to be awaiting the family of the house now long gone. The National Trust membership for the year meant we could breeze in and around the place and the stables converted cafe was perfect for Cornish ice-cream and watching the brazen birds looking for pasty crumbs.

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Steep Cliffs and the Submerged Rocks, Cornwall Part 3

Striking out in the early morning, springtime sun the heat and glare welcomed us as we tackled the coastal walk from Looe to Polperro. Due to the storms earlier in the year the path had been damaged which meant the walk was far steeper…but meant for some better elevated views of the Atlantic and the inaccessible shore hundred of feet below. The walk started around the Hannafore Point headland that sets off west from the river entrance at Looe. The tide was low so we could get in amongst the rocks, the lines and channels seemingly designed by nature and man.

The path soon headed steeply upwards as the cliffs rose sharply and then taking us in to farmland beyond the normal route, where sheep normally only get to take in the open ocean waters. The wet ground was drying quickly in the late morning light and with tired legs we decended down to the first stop, the tiny cove and beach village of Talland with a great beach cafe. A quick drink and some cake and then off to explore the empty sands and coves as the tide slowly turned its weight in to returning up the land.

With sand on our shoe we tackled the steepest climb out of the cove and up the cliffs, often walking backwards to rest the muscles and taking the view back towards the beach and hills behind us. The path again cut in a temporary route back across the clifftop and behind some houses before joining back up with the original path. From here you could see the shallow water below change colour with sandbanks and rocks capturing and reflecting the hazy sunshine.

With a good few miles now behind us the path dropped gently around a right hand corner and the bay entrance to Polperro appeared, with the high wall of the harbour welcoming visitors.

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A Harbour of Sharp Stone, Cornwall Part 2

Fowey is a popular spot to visit in the summer months but on the overcast day we visited it was as quiet as the tide was low. The steps down to where the Polruan Ferry departed also led out on to the stoney shoreline normally under many feet of sea water, with the ladder down (or up) showing the high water mark well out of reach.

We caught the ferry over to Polruan over the other side of the river harbour and climbed the narrow, steep roads to the old blockhouse that (like Portsmouth once had too) used to connect to the other side of the harbour entrance with a chain to protect against invasion. A small doorway led down on to the top of the cliff, with a view from the river to the north to the sea to the south. The rocks were sharp to the touch and the eye.

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Sea Walls Channel to the Open Sea, Cornwall Part 1

I don’t get away often enough and this is always brought to light on those rare days when I do get away, a bit of a cruel irony, I guess. Earlier this month I spent a week along the coast in east Cornwall with my camera, girlfriend, ice-cream, wildlife and the sea.

I have been to the northern coast of Cornwall loads of times but never the south coast and Looe was only a tad under 4 hours away, nestled in a bend where a river meets the open water. The village is as Cornish as the traditional tourist stereotype suggests but at it’s core, when you strip away the tourist tat (weirdly, uniquely intertwined with surf tat), is a working fishing town with a busy quayside. Our first weekend was spent slowly exploring the river’s edge, the tiny lanes planned out and built long before cars were conceived and the small pier that juts out in parallel with the opposite cliffs and rocks. The early spring high tide was creeping over the concrete lip as the river reached it’s peak height.

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The Stormy Shoreline of the East Part 4 – Pinhole Experiments

A little bonus part four from the series of photos from coastal walks over the Christmas period. While out with my Nikon FE2 I also took out a new pinhole 35mm camera to experiment with. The last time I had used a pinhole was actually at school (…a little while ago) so it was fun to try out a roll of film and check exposure times, etc. I think I need to ensure the camera is more stable to get sharper focus but it was fun to try this out after such a long time.

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The Stormy Shoreline of the East Part 3

After the walking back down the river path during the flash storm the sun tried breaking through as I finally returned to the water meadows and the edge of the beach. This is the corner where the Colne River meets the sea. The steps lead down to a flat beach, with lots of pieces of dark, wet and decayed wood jutting out of the low lying sand. As the tide continued to climb the wood sunk away again, with always the question of who placed it there and why. Due to the location of the beach the lines of waves intersect, climbing in from two different sources.

With another storm fast approaching, wet feet and all my film used up it was time to return home.

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The Stormy Shoreline of the East Part 2

On Christmas Eve I wanted to re-explore an area of Mersea Island I had briefly explored before, in sunnier weather. The easterly edge of the island lies where the mudflats of the Pyefleet channel meet the wide River Colne which together join the North Sea. I had visited the beach and marshes but I hadn’t discovered what lay upriver so as the rain clouds closed in from the stormy weather the UK was experiencing I set off up the footpath with a low tide to my side.

The mudflats here are zigzagged with small channels, feeding the water from the fields down to the river. With low tide these flats led the eye out to the lonely moored boats, out in the channel itself. Despite the time of year the air was full of birdsong, the geese seemed restless and were circling and I was lucky to see Heron and Cormorant too. At rare breaks in the mud there are access points for people to take small craft down to the water’s edge, these both give access to the water and to the broken, haphazard mud lines that bank these access points.

About a mile upriver I found a deserted shellfish farm. The open yard and pool area above the tide level had small hills of leftover shells, with that dark tinted smell of rotten seafood strong in places. This area led down to a launching channel that opened up to reveal the shellfish farms and farmed mudflats. The broken tooth like shuttering of the mudflat boundaries was rapidly disappearing as counter-intuitively the tide rose rapidly, but coming down from upriver, rather than the sea. The edge of the dark rainstorm coming from the north east hit and must have been the original source of the rising river water, rising by inches as each minute passed.

As the storm edge hit my location, the rain haze fell and in seconds I was soaked as I set off back the way I came on the coastal path. With a cold, wet smile on my face I sensed that I may have well been the only soul to experience that particular place, in those particular conditions.

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The Stormy Shoreline of the East Part 1

After a manic last few months of 2013 it was a much welcomed break for Christmas that allowed me to spend some time walking with my camera again. My family live up in north Essex and on the drive up from Portsmouth I always travel through the village where I used to live and up the coastal roads rather than the main A road (the A12). The Essex coastline is something very, very special and all the more so in the winter months with the mudflats, beaches and villages quiet.

I say quiet…but for all the time I spent over the Christmas period out coast walking it was all during the period of harsh storms and the first walk at the Heybridge Basin was the windiest and wettest of all. Heybridge Basin is a naturally sheltered area of water where the River Chelmer joins the Blackwater Estuary. The small village and local pubs were quiet with people tucked up inside in the warm while I braved the rain and sticky mud with the tide fast approaching with the howling wind behind it.

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The Skies, Bricks, Sand & Trees of The North Part 2

As well as discovering the coastline of Aberdeenshire on our Scottish trip we also spent time in both Aberdeen and deep in the countryside. The city of Aberdeen in many ways felt a lot like my home town of Portsmouth. It might be the nautical history, its general geographical makeup and also in many ways its current cultural feel with the arts. One of my favourite things is exploring a new city with my camera.

The second part of our trip was our good friends’ wedding which was out in the countryside about an hour east from Aberdeen. We stayed in a cabin tucked away in a pine forest for the two days and hid from the world. The cabin with its log burner kept us warm but it was the pine trees that drew me out, with the faint warmth from an autumnal sun creeping through.

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The Skies, Bricks, Sand & Trees of The North Part 1

A week or so ago I went up to Aberdeenshire as two close friends who were getting married out in the countryside. Despite being warned about it being grey, wet, cold and windy when we landed at the airport the sun was shining and it was t-shirt weather by mid morning. We had the Thursday free so decided to take the hire car and get lost up the coast north of Aberdeen, when we saw a sign for Cruden Bay we thought it sounded good and turned off of the main road for the sea.

Weirdly, while at the airport we saw a tourist poster of a derelict castle but no name or location and whilst driving down a hill in to Cruden Bay we saw the very same castle up on the bluff to the north of the village so we went to discover it before finding the beach. Slains Castle is thought to be the inspiration for Dracula’s Castle as Bram Stoker visited the area and castle before the novel was written. The castle is now a roofless, derelict structure overlooking the rocky cliffs which if anything, is really in keeping with the atmosphere of the book. We explored around the old and very old sections, catching views through arches, doorways and windows out to the North Sea.

Walking back along the path covered in scallop shells we made it down to the perfect sandy beach of the bay, which was empty and silent apart from the oil rig helicopters passing overhead in quick succession. After a picnic on the dunes we set of back for Aberdeen.

In The Aberdeenshire Pines

I spent a few days up in Aberdeenshire last week and was in awe with how beautiful the coastline and countryside were. We spent a couple of nights in a cabin in a pine forest and on the morning after our friends’ wedding I went for a walk with my iPhone and captured a few clips. This edit was then made using the iMovie app on the phone whilst I sat in front of the log fire after the walk. I’ll have the photos back from the developers soon.

Marwell Zoo (1)
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Where the Almost Wild Things Are

I don’t really remember the last time I went to a zoo but I do remember going as a child to London Zoo and Colchester Zoo and it really being a special experience. Despite the ever ongoing battle of arguments for and against of which I can appreciate both sides I do really feel that by seeing the animals that are at risk in person it builds a sense of understanding of the issues around conservation.

I recently visited Marwell Zoo in Hampshire for the first time and as zoos go it seemed to really focus on creating an environment for the animals that allowed them to have a sense of place in some way. Beyond that, it was pretty incredible to see such beautiful, interesting, characterful, funny and unusual creatures up so close. Even the crows that occupied the outside of the cafe were curiously intriguing with their behaviour (as well as being photogenic in their own particular macabre way).

Shooting photos on film rather than digital meant that each photo I had to think a little harder, react a little faster and think about light, colour and composition a bit more. It also meant I didn’t end up experiencing the whole zoo through a viewfinder, with plenty of time to enjoy the place and the animals after one or two photos.

Favourite animal there? The Red Panda.

Visit to Christchurch, Dorset (4)
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Time Away With The Sails, Wings and Leaves

Last autumn my girlfriend and I were pretty desperate for a short trip away after having a difficult summer. We wanted to go somewhere quite close but where we haven’t explored before, somewhere with sea and trees and we ended up picking Christchurch in Dorset. Christchurch is near Bournemouth with it’s own small harbour and west of the New Forest and despite it being a bit showery we did get some sun, some peace and we did well exploring as much as we did.

You can view lots more photos over at the Quiet Corners Facebook page.

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Old Friends and The City

It was my 40th birthday the other week and part of the weekend was spent up in London with lots of friends, skateboarding around the city. The first time myself and some of these friends skated london was in the late 80s so it was something special to relive that in part with skating through the streets before ending up at Mile End skatepark for a wind down with some drinks.

I’m really lucky to still have skateboarding and some amazing friends still in my life.

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Searching For The Seals

After discovering some years ago that seals frequent not only my local harbours Portsmouth Harbour & Langstone Harbour but they also live and travel as far as Southampton in the West and and Chichester Harbour and beyond in the east I’ve wanted to see them in their natural environment. There are two types of seals in this area, the Common or Harbour Seal and also the occasional sightings of the rarer Atlantic Grey Seal too.

A while back I went out on a boat trip in the harbour to try and find some seals, who particularly enjoy the low tide muds around places like Thorney Island and the plentiful food the harbour provides. The beat travelled down to the harbour entrance, past East Head before exploring the smaller channels in to the wide, remote mud flats, inaccessible from the shore. We spotted a single seal initially and then as the boat came around a corner a group could be seen enjoying the sunshine and seemed happy to have some photos taken before we had to leave and return to the harbour entrance, with a wide view of the Solent out beyond. I’m hoping to see more of these residents of the local harbours this summer too, with a little luck.

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Earliest Light on the Cold Hands on the Wet Sand and Rock #2

Reaching the wet but warming by the sun sand of Aberporth beach meant finally walking out in to the open, early spring morning sunshine. the first thing to explore was where the stream exited from it’s hill source under a road bridge and joined a channel down to the seawater. This was where the few fishing boats were located, with their pots and nets. From here it was a short explore to the lowest cliffs, perfect for climbing up and giving a central, elevated perspective of both sides of beach and the bay as a whole.

The cliffs had been worn away by millennia of weather and tide but there were also human wear too, with names scratched in to the rock. It was difficult to tell the age of these scrawls but some could date back to the early history of the village, some hundreds of years ago. My time on the cliffs and beach quickly past and I had to both leave the sands but also get ready for the drive back to Southsea.

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Earliest Light on the Cold Hands on the Wet Sand and Rock #1

On a recent week long trip exploring the west coast of Wales I had a bit of a camera malfunction with my Nikon FE2 so ended up using my digital camera for the trip. On the morning we were set to return to Southsea I got up with the very early sun and grabbed the camera anyway (no light meter and shutter fixed on 1/250) and some rolls of film and went down and explored the two beaches and pathways around the village we were staying in, Aberporth.

We stayed in a converted train carriage on top of the cliffs overlooking the beaches and Aberporth Bay and I was lucky to get out just after dawn with the low, golden light breaking over the serrated shoreline. The quiet path down through some trees to the first beach ducked in and out of the sunlight as it weaved down the cliff to the back sand and to where the river meets the beach. The view of the village and the beaches unfolded as the path got closer and closer to it’s destination.