Caroline Shipsey

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Continuing Holt Farm Photography

I made my first visit for 6 weeks to the beautiful organic gardens at Holt Farm and was surprised by the autumn colours even in the dull light. There had been a frost but unfortunately this had cleared by the time I got there.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Catching Up

My trip to Assynt was fantastic but I still haven't uploaded any photos, mainly because I'm not able to identify many of the locations and that is driving me nuts!!

A Sunday afternoon trip to the beach at Shurton was rewarded with a sunset, but generally the weather is typically November and Mendip.

Last weekend I went up to Snowdonia for some walking and photography but the weather on Saturday was appalling so had to make do with something more leisurely on Sunday as I needed to start the trip home in late afternoon.

I don't know where the rest of November went - the weather has been pretty rubbish but we've had the distraction of two foster dogs keeping us busy.

November 14th was significant as it was the last day I did any work for Clinic Appointments. Shame Callagenix who now own the business didn't have the same ethics as it's previous owners.

New month - New beginning, again??

Monday, 17 October 2011

Assynt - Photo Tour with Colin Prior

Today I'm flying to Inverness where I'll spend another day before joining the group on Wednesday morning at 8.30am for 5 days of intensive photography workshop.

Loonies go to the Waterfalls

Saturday 15th October - Wales playing France at Rugby in New Zealand and the Brecon Beacon Loonies go to the Waterfalls, again!

This comment by Mark08 sums it up -
"Well we had a great day...Plenty of activity...
Watched the rugby, visited waterfalls, watched a big group canyoning down the river, a marriage proposal under a waterfall, a canon/nikon/Sony banter with some tourists, and somebody wanting to hear stan's sexy welsh accent..

What a shame Wales lost the the rugby:(

The weather was perfect, beautiful soft autumn sunlight and warm enough not to need coats etc. Unfortunately I appeared to have lost my spare battery for the 60D, both G12 batteries were flat and worst of all the plate for my Manfrotto 410 head also appeared to be missing. I was somewhat distracted by this but the company was as usual great and the scenery fantastic so that made up for it.

Group photo by Duncan Simey.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Call of the Sea

I couldn't resist it, packed the campervan and headed off for the coast for 24 hours of sun, sea and sand. Several days of unseasonal warm and sunny weather just compelled me to head south to the Jurassic coast at Sidmouth.

I never go anywhere without a camera but this trip was really as a 'Grockle' - 'Grockle' is an informal and often slightly derogatory term for a tourist - and not so much for photography. The day's are much shorter now with the sun setting around 6.40pm and rising just after 7am. My drive down on Saturday as the sun was setting was stunning but unattainable - nowhere convenient to get the van off the road to snatch some memories with the camera.

Walking along the beach wearing shorts and a t-shirt at 8 in the evening was such a treat - in August when I was last here I wore a fleece most evenings and often during the day! At about 6am I was ready to watch the dawn breaking and sunrise, and hopefully get a photo or two!

The rest of the day was spent being a "real" tourist - coffee, ice cream, walking along the prom, paddling, and playing ball with the dogs. It had a great atmosphere, and although there were lots of people AND dogs on the beach everyone was happily making the most of the exceptional weather. Truly a day to remember and cherish through the winter!

Dawn breaking at Sidmouth, Sunday 2nd October 2011. Not a cloud in the sky from sunrise until late afternoon, temperatures around 23/4C.  The amazingly warm weather we've had since 27th September  drew me to the coast.  I just had to smell the sea air, paddle and walk along the shore before we're plunged back into autumnal gloom.  24 hours in Sidmouth was the perfect solution.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

142nd Mendip Ploughing Match at Deer Leap

Today has been Mendip at it's very best. Not a cloud in the sky all day, a gentle breeze and temperatures in the low 70's. It's not often the Weather God's smile on us but they certainly did today for the ploughing match. If this was my last day on the Mendips it couldn't have been better!

I've missed the past 2 or 3 years ploughing matches and have been looking forward to taking photos again this year, and of course the superb lunch prepared by team of 'super women'!

There was a fantastic turnout for all classes including the horse ploughing, hedging, and walling. The location as usual was superb, just above Deer Leap - it it's held in a different place every year. However, a cloudless sky with the sun high overhead doesn't make for great photography despite the location or event, and today was challenging to say the least.

There were many people I'd met in previous years, friends and neighbours, photographers and new acquaintances made. My photos give a flavour of this special day in the Mendip calendar. If you love the traditions of country life and would enjoy a day surrounded by tractors and ploughs, where dogs are accepted as part of life, in a totally un-commercialized environment then there's no better way to spend a day.

Horse Ploughing at Deer Leap - Mendip Ploughing match  28th September 2011

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Somerset Arts Work - Venue 60 Stoberry Park

Suddenly summer returned this afternoon and I was drawn to Stoberry Park in Wells where five artists are exhibiting their work in the beautiful gardens.

My particular interest was the stainless steel sculptures by Ian Marlow which I'd previously seen on many occasions in the Bishop's Palace gardens in Wells. Photographing stainless steel on a bright sunny afternoon isn't easy - burnt out highlights and deep shadows can be a problem but here are a couple of examples.

I don't have the words to describe Ian's work, so taking the words straight from his website, they are:-
"sculptures in stainless steel which explore natural movement."

ian marlow sculpture

ian marlow sculpture

It was real pleasure to meet Ian Marlow, and also Sonja Klinger who is a hot glass artist. Do take a look at their sites to see more of their beautiful work, and then take a visit to Stoberry Park.

stoberry park

Sunday, 25 September 2011

SAW - Somerset Art Works

SAW was born in 1994, at that time it was Somerset Arts Week and a fairly small affair. I participated in the very first event and continued until 2005. Times have changed and it's now a two week affair with many more artists showing their work across the whole county. The following quote defines it's present form.....

Somerset Art Works (SAW) is a non-profit making organisation promoting the Visual Arts and creating opportunities for Visual Artists in Somerset through advocacy, promotion and development.

Now I've got that out of the way and if you've always wondered what the yellow arrows with numbers written are that appear around the county every September - they are the venue numbers in the catalogue! Put these 2 weeks in your diary next year if you enjoy driving around our lovely county looking at what our local artists are doing.

I had one artist singled out for a visit today - photographer Stephen Spraggon. I already knew his work would be first class, but isn't it great when you get to meet someone and they're first class too? It really adds to the enjoyment of the images when they've been created by such a thoroughly nice guy. Everything about his images and their presentation reflects this.

Anyway enough of this, check out Stephen Spraggon Photography - spend a while exploring the beautiful landscapes of the South West of England through the eyes of Stephen Spraggon.

At the same venue the work of artist Jennie Thomas was on show - another delight! Her beautiful evocative landscapes and coastal scenes are very yummy! I'm so pleased to have met Jenny too, a lovely lady whose love of the countryside shines through her images. Do take a look at her work Jennie Thomas - Art.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

You might have noticed over on the right of the page this....

It's called a 'badge', not sure why, and doesn't quite fit the space allowed but you get the idea I expect. is a great site with some stunning images showcased every day and the spirit of it is that people only upload their best work. So I'm picking out some of my favourite and hopefully best images that don't fit on my website or just get lost.

Experimenting with abstract images and photographing flowers, have been bubbling under for a long time but I want to develop my vision and style in both these areas - will be the new home for these images in future.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Cycling - Tour of Britain Stage 6 - KOM Old Bristol Hill

As one who hasn't ridden a bike since I was about 10 years old, it's strange that I should get caught up in the enthusiasm surrounding the Tour of Britain cycle race with the finish of Stage 6 in Wells yesterday, 16th September.

The Somerset stage started in Taunton and eventually came up through Cheddar Gorge, and then after going through Wells came up the Old Bristol Hill and right past our house. It was a beautiful sunny day but not too hot and the wind had dropped at last. The atmosphere was amazing, crowds lined the route with picnic chairs to ease the wait for the racers come past, and hundreds of cyclists too. When they did come for most it was all over in a flash - literally!

I chose to watch them coming up to the top of Old Bristol Hill, just half a mile from home, where they would be going much more slowly and so have a better chance at getting some decent photos. Hundreds of others gathered along the road too but it was a great vantage point for everyone and so exciting to see them coming up the hill!

It was amazing that so many people turned out to watch and support the riders - the ordinary people of all ages, and the huge numbers of cyclists, of all ages too!
Apparently Somerset County Council had sponsorship deal of £775,000 for the event over 5 years but aren't going to renew it. What a shame, with cycling gathering more followers every year, and being a fantastic way for the whole family to get out get exercise, surely hosting such a prestigious event can bring nothing but good to the area.

King of the Mountains climb of Old Bristol Hill, Johnathan Tiernan-Locke leading

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan Heritage Coast

27th August - A fantastic day trip to the beautiful Dunraven Bay, not ideal weather for photography in the practical sense though!

Grey skies were cleared by about 11.30am by the strong winds and as the tide turned and started to run back in, the sea and sky were everything a photographer could dream of.

"We" - a group of 13 photographers brought together by the TalkPhotography forums - started the day on the beach at Dunraven and then after lunch went down the steep, narrow path to Traeth Mawr. Here, the tide was coming in fast and the sea getting rougher with massive waves crashing into the rocks.

Trying to catch the wave at is biggest, most spectacular point of impact was almost addictive, but not the best environment for expensive cameras and lenses!

Some practical points to consider:-

Don't leave lens caps off, protect the lens form the weather at all times!

Have cleaning cloths handy.

Try not to change lenses too often - both the camera body and lens are vulnerable to the elements. Make sure to be as protected as possible from wind, rain etc.

Keep an eye on the weather, keep kit organised so it can be packed away quickly and don't lose small items.

Traeth Mawr - Glamorgan Heritage Coast, South Wales, UK - incoming tide.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Priddy Fair 2011

Priddy Fair 2011 - family fun in the horse field, supper is cooking!

Another year, another Priddy Fair - every year since 1348! The fair has been continuously held every year since 1348, apart from the recent 2001 and 2007 foot-and-mouth epidemic years, and even in 2007 there was an event but without any livestock.

The past few years have seen a massive effort to return the fair to a more traditional style, cutting out some of the stalls that were tacky and some of those only of interest to travellers. The aim has also been to stop the influx of travellers camping around the village and breaking into fields, dumping rubbish etc.

There's no doubt it's been successful but from my point of view it's taken the 'colour' out of the event. Gone are the horses being ridden bare back through the crowds, gone is the singing in the Queen Victoria and Fair on the night before. Gone are the deals being made outside the New Inn and the fights in the bar.

The village has barriers on all 3 roads entering from the day before and the only access is by a pass for residents or other authorized vehicles. This year the police presence seemed more than ever, and the RSPCA were out in force too in an attempt to cut down the illegal sale of puppies.

It doesn't attract me as a photographer because the excitement is gone, though there were more people than ever taking photos this year. I've got some great memories and photographs of how things were in the past 20 or so years - that's what photography is all about for me, making sure I have a record of how things are, and to share them with you.

You can see some images from previous years at Priddy Fair on my website.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Mendip Hills

I came across a website this morning that stated the following:-

Everything you need to know about Mendip Hills is right here. If you are visiting Mendip Hills for holidays or even for just a few hours this site will help you find accommodation in Mendip Hills , activities, restaurants, shopping and more about the Mendip Hills Surrounding Area.

There are sections called 'Mendip Hills Pictures', 'Mendip Hills Accommodation' etc. Sadly the information is in the main useless and inaccurate. I would hate to think that any overseas visitor found the site, and then planned a visit using the information it provides. It might even confuse some residents of Mendip!

So in the spirit of sharing there is an excellent website, that provides some of the best information for visitors and local residents alike, about places to eat, visit and stay.

Of course if you want to explore the Mendip Hills in photos then my own website has a wide selection of images, or you could go straight to Mendip Hills Photos.

The stone building is a post-medieval barn at Deer Leap, that has been restored.  There are fine views across the Somerset Levels from this area and a large car park.  Deer Leap car park and Picnic Area  - grid reference ST 518493 on the OS Explorer 141 map.

Restored post-medieval barn at Deer Leap.

View across the Somerset levels from Deer Leap.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Another Sunset, so soon!

Sunset from North Hill, Minehead.

Yesterday was a perfect summer's day, puffy clouds in a bright blue sky, a gentle breeze and the temperature hovering around 70°F. The air was relatively clear and my head and heart were being drawn towards Exmoor - more specifically North Hill, Minehead.

I wanted to see the sun setting over the sea, cliffs receding into the distance. I wanted to be alone, except for the dogs, just taking it all in.

It's just over 50 miles and about an hour and a half in the campervan so despite not leaving until 5.30pm I had plenty of time to have a good walk once I'd settled in.
At around 9.30pm the sun sank into the sea and the colours began to fade from the sky, which was a bit disappointing as sometimes the afterglow can be spectacular.

As I settled down for the night the moon appeared and illuminated the landscape but I was soon asleep and before I knew it the dawn was breaking at 4.30am. I watched the moon set into the moors towards Dunkery Beacon and then the sun rising - an amazing 12 hours! By 7 I was heading for home, ready to start work at 9am, and 6 hours on the phone ...Ugghhhh!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Sunrise/Sunset ?

Looking back through some photos from last year I found a folder I had called "Sunrise Sunset", and realized that I hardly ever take a sunset. For many, getting a great sunset image is an achievement, but I find that psychologically I much prefer the effect the sun rising has on me. The start of a new, exciting day, changing light with increasing brightness rather than getting darker, feeling the warmth of the day on my body rather than the advancing chill of the evening.

End of the day at  Llynnau Mymbyr, set amongst Snowdonia's highest peaks, are also known as the Capel Curig Lakes and are around 3/4 mile long, with a depth of 30 feet. The lakes are situated just outside the village of Capel Curig on the road to the Llanberis Pass (A4086). A delta halfway along the north shore, dissects the lakes.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Dusty - 29th June 2011

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Some happy memories of Dusty, who lived life to the full for 16 and a half years. A wonderful companion, great character and dearest friend. Running free with Bessie.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Moon Daisies Again.....

After becoming semi-obsessed with photographing Bluebells it's now the turn of Moon Daisies to be my No.1 subject.

Moon Daisies- it's becoming addictive trying to find perfect examples, they don't exist in nature.

I've searched constantly for the perfect daisy because I like perfection, but nature isn't like that! Tiny blemishes and marks are a real distraction, and although I'm not a great fan of post processing and retouching I had to do a little work on this photo. Actually there was a fly on one of the daisies too, so that had to go.! Why aren't all the petals evenly spaced? What insect nibbled tiny pieces from the petals?

I much prefer to use Photoshop for my retouching as I've used it for 15 years now. Lightroom tools never seem quite so intuitive me.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Making a Photo Book

Having had a couple of books published back in the 90's I've got an idea about layout, paper quality etc, perhaps more than most. This still doesn't make the choice of which company to use or what format it should be any easier.

I'm saying 'it' because foremost in my mind at the moment is some kind of special memento of Bessie's life and also Fly, who died 3 years ago. I did make a start on one for Fly but every photo just tore my heart out - not that I'm any less upset about Bessie's death, it's just that I'm more driven now. For all they gave to me in companionship, loyalty and affection, I need to honour that in some way, with a book.

Trying to decide which service to use is something of a minefield, so many 'publishers' to choose from! Several years ago when photo books were still pretty new on the scene I had a 'test' book made by Blurb which was quite good quality in both finish and image reproduction. I'll be spending some time researching before I make my final choice though.

There are hundreds of photos to choose from and I may even have to scan some negatives to make the story complete - 16 and a half years takes us back to 1995, pre digital for me. It will be a painstaking labour of love and also useful to share my findings for the benefit of others.

This is the earliest digital photo I can find at the moment, taken on New Year's Day 1999, at Beacon Batch on Blackdown, in the fog. Left to right - Bessie, Dusty, Fly and Minor

Monday, 30 May 2011

Priddy Friendly Society Club Day

A typically 'Mendip' day - a 'Blog From The Fog' day - rain and misty/fog!
Undaunted though, a good crowd gathered at the New Inn for Roll Call and then made their way to church. Hopefully the weather will improve this afternoon for the children's games etc.

Priddy Friendly Society was established in 1883 for the benefit of the community, many of whom were agricultural workers. There are only 4 or 5 remaining in the country and 2 of these are on the Mendips. It is controlled by a committee elected annually 2 weeks after Club Day.

Photos from last year's Club Day.

Priddy Friendly Society 'processing' from Roll Call at the New Inn to church followed by lunch in the village hall.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Goodbye Bessie 27th May

Friday was such a sad day, it was obvious that it was time to say goodbye to my dear, sweet Bessie. Old age finally caught up with her and life was just too hard.

It all ended very peacefully in the garden with us all there and the sun shining - couldn't have been better. David, my vet came specially to do this even though he was on holiday really. Quick, kind, gentle, hugs, tears.

Bessie's Diary - her last few months in photos.

22nd March - This was taken about 3 years ago, and I'm including it because I don't want to dwell completely on what is happening now.Bessie loves to make 'nests' outside to sleep in and can hide herself away completely, not responding to any amount of calling!  This was taken on the towpath of the Kennet and Avon canal. She looks so serene to me, and so pretty.Notice her ears, how softly turned over they are now?  Since she has become almost totally deaf they never lie like this anymore - as though she is always straining to hear just a little sound.

Sleeping in the garden in a favourite place waiting for David to come - peaceful and comfortable, her last photo.

27th MarchI ran ahead to try again for a shot of them side by side but Dusty was distracted by the number of dead frogs on the path - Yuk!

24th MarchAll together in the Forestry, a beautiful spring morning perfect for walking dogs.  Bessie had a nasty upset tummy - severe diarrhea, thankfully it happened outside!  I was going to rest her today because of this but she had other ideas and so did Dusty. We  walked in the woods at Masbury at around 3 o'clock and then again in Harptree Woods at about 5pm.  Both her and Dusty asked to come on the last walk so why not?  I'd rather have a knackered but happy dog on her last legs through doing doggy things than a sad, miserable one.The biggest surprise of all came at suppertime, she came into the kitchen looking  at me with the expression that used to say 'I'm hungry', but hasn't of late, so I gave her some Hills AD, and more, then more again.  She ate a whole tin - 150gm from her bowl! It's the first time she's eaten from her bowl in weeks.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Blagdon Village Fete

What better way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon than at a good old fashioned village fete!

The setting was idyllic - the garden of Mary Mead overlooking Blagdon Lake. There were all the things one would expect to find - a bottle stall, plants, cakes and preserves, White Elephant! Oh what memories this brings back of my childhood. The White Elephant stall was always a mystery to me as a child!

Blagdon Village Fete 21st May 2011 - relaxing in the garden of Blagdon Court, overlooking Blagdon Lake.

In addition to afternoon teas with homemade cakes there was Yeo Valley ice cream AND hot Yeo Valley organic beef, so tender and succulent it really did almost melt in my mouth.

There was Maypole dancing by the children from the village school, while others
were queuing to have their photo taken with Ted the Owl from the world famous Yeo Valley Rap, which has now received over 1.8 million views on YouTube.

Blagdon Village Fete, 21st may 2011 -  School children Maypole dancing.

It's 11 years since I left Blagdon and there were many faces I recognized. 20 years of my life was spent in the village and I was so sorry to leave but it felt very comfortable to slip back in for an hour or so, and just a little sad not to be part of such a great village community.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Hawthorn Blossom

I absolutely love this phase of spring when Cow's Parsley is growing tall on the verges and Hawthorn blossom is flowering on hedges accompanying them, giving the hedgerows a dusting of white.

Looking back through my photos it seems that every year I can't resist making yet another image of the creamy white flowers, and so it is this year too. However, in my garden I have a beautiful red version of the Hawthorn called 'Paul Scarlett' which grows as a standard tree. So by way of a change here is the blossom and the tree!

'Paul Scarlett' Hawthorn from my garden - wonderful splash of vibrant colour amongst the greens.

It's interesting how much more subtle the colour of the flowers look when viewed on the tree from even a short distance as compared to the photo above of the blossom close up.

The tree 'Paul Scarlett' Hawthorn from my garden - wonderful splash of vibrant colour amongst the greens.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Photography Trip to Wales - Steve Lewis Workshop Day 2

Making the most of every possible opportunity, and being prepared for the unexpected is what makes photography so enjoyable. If I set off on a trip with just one objective in mind the chances are I'll be foiled - the most likely reason being the weather! However, it's not just about making photos, it's the whole experience that really matters.

Clee Hill Summit (Titterstone Clee) in Shropshire has drawn me every time I travel to Snowdonia, dominating the distant skyline for miles. This trip, despite the light being poor for any kind of landscape photography, I decided to take a look.

This is Wikipedia's description of the place:- Titterstone Clee is the third-highest hill in Shropshire, beaten only by the nearby Brown Clee Hill (540 m) and Stiperstones (536 m). Much of the higher part of the hill is common land, used for the grazing of sheep, air traffic control services and working or disused quarries. The summit of Titterstone Clee is bleak, treeless and shaped by decades of quarrying. Many of the structures still remain, and lend to the ghostly atmosphere of the hill top, especially during the prolonged winter fogs that descend over the hills.

The weather on Titterstone Clee Hill can be particularly hazardous, with locally infamous fog and drizzle being commonplace. Snow can also cause problems in winter, as well as gales.

Most of the summit of the hill is effectively man-made, the result of years of quarrying dhustone (dolerite) to be used in road-building. Also, many derelict quarry buildings are scattered over the hill, now used only by sheep sheltering from the worst of weather. Combined, these give the summit of the hill an eerie, other worldly feel.

I hadn't read this before my visit but it is absolutely spot on! Sudden bouts of driving rain and a howling gale made it difficult to stand at times and almost impossible to use a camera. It is a very spooky place - bleak and mostly unattractive - the potential for the view though is what will draw me back there I'm sure.

Well worth making the effort to investigate but need to re-visit!

Cwm Pennant - ultimately reached by a long lane through several farm gates that require both opening and cash! The attraction to this place was the possibility of
bluebells clothing the side of the valley!

From Ephotozine:-Cwm Pennant has often been called "The most beautiful Valley in Wales". (Cwm means valley in Welsh) It is a narrow valley bordered on three sides by the mountains of the Nantlle Ridge, Y Garn, Mynydd Tal Y Mignedd, Moel Lefn and is situated south west of the main Snowdon range of mountains.

The valley was home to slate workings in the late 19th century employing up to 200 workers. The slate was quarried, brought to be dressed and then shipped off in trams down the valley to its destination.

The valley is mainly used for farming nowadays with farming stock indiginous to the area - Welsh Black cattle and Welsh Mountain, Welsh Mule and Lleyn sheep.
Welsh poppies grow wild here and there is a magnificent abundance of bluebells adorning the valley sides in the spring, giving breathtaking views and a wonderful aroma.

Unfortunately neither the bluebells nor the weather obliged. It was a dull day with the occasional hint of decent light, but almost too fleeting. And the bluebells? Perhaps I've been spoilt by our lush woodlands but these were stumpy little things, perhaps grazed off by the sheep, and maybe I was a week or so too early with my visit!

Obviously a beautiful location but again need to revisit, although the window of opportunity for seeing bluebells in their prime, and having good light for photography is pretty narrow.

I spent the night on the edge of Llyn Gwynant on the campsite, it's a stunning location and on this occasion was very quiet - thoroughly recommended, though it can get very busy.

The weather on the day of the workshop with Steve Lewis started well enough but by the time we had walked up the Watkin Pass to the waterfall at Cwm Llan the rain came.
It poured for almost an hour and though spirits were good in the group it was disappointing not to be able to even consider getting the camera out!

There was a short break of about an hour when we all got busy before returning to Caffi Gwynant (Gwynant Café) located near the base of the Watkin Path up Snowdon and a welcome cup of tea.

Our final location for the day was Llyn Dywarchen, a small lake with an island and some ruined cottages, and two small hills which offer unfamiliar views towards Snowdon. This was a pleasant enough location, and I've seem many stunning photos but again the light was not in our favour. I did climb one of the hills overlooking the lake which definitely gave a much better perspective and was well worth the climb but didn't manage to get the 'Aaaah' photo I'd hoped for here!

Having lived for a large portion of my life adjacent to and overlooking Blagdon Lake, seeing it at every time of the day, in all moods and seasons it takes a lot to impress me where lakes are concerned!

This kind of trip isn't just about getting good photos though, the friendship and camaraderie is what makes the day too.

Photos to follow...

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Holt Farm Organic Garden

The Garden at Holt Farm opened to the public for the first time this year on 25th April, a beautiful warm, sunny day. It was ideal for wandering around amongst the five acres of contemporary organic garden where everything from the cakes and scones in the tea rooms through to the potting compost is home made.

Several years have passed since I last visited but I knew I wouldn't be disappointed, either as a closet gardener or photographer. On this occasion however, it was difficult to do justice with the camera as a cloudless sky and brilliant sunshine overhead isn't the photographers friend.

The Perennial Meadow, full of deep blue camassias with the Tea Crab Avenue at the far end made a stunning entrance to the rest of the garden, though there is no specifically defined 'route' to follow.

The Annual Meadow is re-sown each year and was just bare but later will be a delight full of annual flowers including poppies, cornflower and toadflax.

The Bronze Garden is a formal area with a pool reflecting the unusual colours of the planting, while the Gravel Garden is a patchwork of lilac, pink and blue. The Tea Rooms overlook the ornamental Veggie Garden which will be a delight later in the year as the plants mature.

I can't wait to return in a few weeks, hopefully at a time of day more suited to photography when the light is a little kinder.

The garden is open every Thursday from May until September from 10am-5pm with an admission charge of £4. For further info visit The Organic Gardens.

I now have a gallery with more photos of The Organic Gardens at Holt Farm which will be a work in progress for the next 12 months.

Holt Farm Organic Garden.  The Tea Crab Avenue - it only takes a strong wind to blow for a while and all this delicate beauty is gone.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal Wedding Day

The Rose and Crown, Wells

There can't be anyone in Britain who doesn't know who got married today!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Music of the Morning

Do you have a minute? Not any old minute, a minute to spare right now? Yes?

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Bluebell Time in the UK

It's been a sweltering week with temperatures more akin to July or August and this has brought the bluebells into flower really quickly.

I'm Bluebell obsessed - there are places I visit every year, almost like making pilgrimages. It's quite a frustrating exercise because I never find quite what I envision, a deep blue carpet stretching into the distance with a few beech trees strategically placed with some dappled light coming through their fresh, new leaves.

Second choice is a winding path flanked with bluebells and a deer looking straight into the camera, standing in a patch of sunlight - dream on Caroline!

The reality is that the woods where 'my' bluebells grow have patches of scrubby brambles, fallen branches, and other vegetation that intrudes into my blue dream with annoying splashes of yellow or just too much plain green.

The colour of Bluebells has always been notoriously difficult to reproduce both on film and digitally. More than any other flower I find the colour is affected by the direction and brightness of the sun, and so it's necessary to experiment and make visits at several different times.

In 2000 using my first digital camera, a Nikon 950 (I think - or maybe 990, I can't be sure), I took a photo of a path, winding up through a bluebell wood. It wasn't perfect but came close to fulfilling my ideal components, without the deer!

Vintage 2000 photo - taken with my first digital camera.  I've tried to reproduce this but despite taking  a printed copy of this pic with me I cannot find the place I took this from.  I walked the path several times but it seems trees have either fallen or been cut down and 11 years of change has beaten me!

And so with a print of it tucked in my camera bag I decided to return to the area and see how things have changed. Despite walking up and down the path several times examining every key detail, I couldn't find the spot this photo was taken from. More disappointing was that I wasn't inspired by what I saw to press the shutter at all.

There's still time to capture more Bluebells this year so I'll keep looking for the perfect shot for a couple more weeks yet.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

A Quiet Country Sunday

After all the excitement of last Sunday -the fire at Priddy Mineries, followed by a double shooting in Westbury sub Mendip,. today has been rather uninteresting.

The weather is very settled in a warm and sunny phase, though cold overnight, so the countryside is really beginning to look lush and green. Bluebells are on the point of flowering, Ladies Smock providing a gentle lilac haze along verges and wild garlic will be filling the woods with their wonderful aroma in a couple of weeks or so.

It always amazes me how quickly nature responds to warmer weather. I was taken by surprise this afternoon when I walked by some Beech trees with buds barely open 24 hours ago, yet now their translucent, delicate leaves are rapidly unfolding.
This delicate phase is soon over so if, as usual, I'm going to indulge my passion for these beautiful leaves I'll have to be quick.

Fresh young beech leaves

Any lover of the countryside with a camera is in Seventh Heaven if the weather is kind at this time of year. We have a window of opportunity that lasts for about 2-3 weeks before the fresh bright colours of spring deepen into more even shades of green.

So grab your gear and make the most of this spring. You don't need any expensive equipment, a modestly priced compact camera or even the camera in your phone is a good enough starting point. Take a walk or bike ride - maybe I'll see you somewhere!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Community Farm Open Day

The Community Farm held it's first Open Day on 9th April and the weather Gods were certainly smiling on us. More like a midsummer's day than early April with unbroken sunshine and the merest wisps of cloud.

I hadn't actually committed to attending as there were several other interesting possibilities for the day in question, but a last minute decision to go along was a good one.

I was able to join the last tour being led by Phil Haughton but had missed out on the introductory chat. There were about 20 of us in our group with ages ranging from tiny tots to senior/retired people.

There are currently 22 acres of land under cultivation and we were taken around areas growing the last of the leeks, land being prepared for runner beans, long, long rows of onion sets, and brassicas. There are strawberry beds, with flowers already set, fruit bushes, raspberry canes and 2 large polytunnels with salad greens.

Phil explained about the problems the lack of rain during March has caused - when beds are cleared of crops they have to be rolled to pack the surface down to prevent further drying out and wind erosion. If you doubt that Global Warming and Climate Change are real, and how serious the consequences will be, then just listening to Phil talking from the perspective of farmers and growers will make you think again.

There was talk of bee hives in a more sheltered area of the farm and the possibility of rearing some sheep too. The more Phil talked, the more enthusiastic I felt myself becoming and he really made me feel as though I am part of the farm - not just a person who invested a few quid! I AM A SHAREHOLDER AND CO-OWNER of The Community Farm and proud of it!

Around 100 people in total came to the farm, not bad out a total membership of 410, with a good percentage cycling rather than using a car. 30 volunteers worked on the farm during the morning, which I felt rather put me to shame, after all I'm fit and healthy!

Tours were led by Phil Haughton - Operations Director; Ben Raskin - Horticultural Adviser, Andy Dibben - grower and John English - seasonal grower.

After the tours had finished we headed for tea and cake at a 'secret location' on the opposite side of the lake. Most of the visitors were taken there on the specially provided tractor and trailer. Yummy cakes and tea finished off a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

There are plans to run courses at the farm so as I've got a lot to learn I'll be looking forward to these and also to working as a volunteer.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Forum Fever

I don't belong to many forums, they can be great sources of help, information and advice or they can be time wasting, or they can get nasty.

Such is the case with a private forum that I belong to - why write about it here then? Well, this is my blog and I can express my feelings here, after all I'm just talking to myself.

There are always people who are regarded as being superior because of the number and content of their posts. Then there are the ones who write 100 words when 20 would suffice, the pompous ones, full of themselves who just have to keep on and on making the same point - their point of view, in case we forget who they are.

It's all too easy to overstep the mark when correcting a statement, demanding justification of facts etc, banging on and about how this or that is wrong. Too easy to forget there is a real person on the receiving end. Of course we can never know what is going on in another persons life, and that is why I believe we should always write with courtesy and consideration.

I don't want to be part of a community that reduces a lady to tears, who says she wants to die because of how she has been treated, especially when this lady is struggling at home with a loved one who is very ill.

Of course the perpetrators of the unpleasantness are only a tiny part of said forum but they make a big noise, some are moderators. It's a 'no win' situation, shut up and put up etc and nothing I can say or do will make any difference, but at least I've got it off my chest.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Photo Books Online

Making your own photo books online is a great way to share your photos and also makes a special gift - perhaps for Mother's Day. In a matter of minutes you can create a personalized book with hardcover, and for an additional fee have it sent to you within 3 day. This amazing service is being offered by Photobox as a special offer for Mother's Day.

The reproduction quality is quite outstanding in all respects and although it's fantastic to produce a real book of your photos, this isn't going to be commercially viable. Whilst the cost is quite reasonable for something totally unique, to be able to sell multiple copies in a shop or gallery you would need to either negotiate a special price or find another way to get them produced.

Almost 20 years ago Tim Shipsey(my now ex husband) and I had our first book published
- Images of Exmoor. It took weeks of work with a designer to settle on the layout, size, number of pages, jacket design etc. Then the prints were sent to Singapore where the book would be printed. Several weeks passed before the proof pages arrived for scrutiny, and in some cases rejection. Then a further 6 weeks or so before the books were dispatched from Singapore, yet another delay while they sat on the docks at Tilbury, and then the big day when the pallets were delivered to the publisher.

The original print run was for 5,000 copies which sold in around 18 months without being remaindered, apparently a great achievement for a very specialized market! Five years later our second book hit the bookshop shelves and was similarly successful, though some copies were remaindered.

There is no denying the sense of pride and achievement when holding the first copy in my hands, and then on receiving the first royalty cheque!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Seasonal Affective Disorder Depression

Just over a week ago I started to use light therapy in desperation to try and help with the depression that has really knocked me this winter.

It's difficult to tell with depression whether you really are depressed, just feeling a bit down in the dumps or have some kind of clinical depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is sometimes referred to as 'Winter Blues' because many people in the UK are only affected during the winter months when the clocks go back an hour. It is caused by a lack of sunlight during the winter – light that the body relies on to function correctly.

Lack of sunlight which the body requires to produce two essential chemicals - serotonin and melatonin - causes SAD. When the body is exposed to sunlight it produces serotonin which is connected to feelings of well-being, and also the trigger to stop producing melatonin which prepares the body for sleep.

When you don't get enough sunlight, typically during the winter months, then you can feel lethargic, slow and weary, generally down. By using special lamps which emit light at the correct intensity, the body behaves as though it's received a healthy dose of sunlight.

I've always been wary of whether this is true, possibly because I've been depressed and on medication for several years now, but no matter, I always feel much worse during the long grey days of winter.

The winter of 2010/2011 has been a particularly dismal one up here at Priddy - day after day of rain, fog, cold, grey, dark skies - and even now it still isn't very spring-like outside.

So in desperation I thought I would try a neat little product called the Litebook. As it has a 60 day guarantee I had nothing to lose and having spoken with the suppliers was confident returning it wouldn't be a problem, with no questions asked.

I could hardly wait to get to this bit - IT WORKS!! My miserable, pessimistic mood has completely gone, I've got new energy and my concentration and my thought process is so much better too. I've only had it a week but there is no way I could be kidding myself about this, I'm almost scared though, that I'll wake up one morning and the gloomy mood will be sitting on my shoulders again. However, this does feel quite different to just a passing moment of euphoria and I would certainly recommend anyone who has an inkling of SAD to try the Litebook.

You can see images of Litebook SAD Light and read about the other conditions it can help with.
I would like to add that I received mine the next day after ordering and subsequent contact with customer services has been excellent.

You can read more about depression on my website, starting with the depression checklist.

Monday, 7 March 2011

-3°C Brrrrrrrr!

The past few days have been quite pleasant weatherwise, the sun has almost broken through a couple of times and there's no doubt that nature thinks that spring is here.

Buds are filling out on bushes in the hedgerows and daffodils are tentatively opening their flowers, bringing such a welcome splash of colour in my garden. Amazingly snowdrops are still hanging on, as a drive from home to Blagdon, followed by a walk at Ubley proved - patches of white on the verges, and nestling at the bottom of hedges in many places.

This morning is frosty yet again but at least it looks as though it will be a sunny day. My enthusiasm for gardening increases 1000 fold at this time of the year but more so this year because so much damage has been done by the snow and very cold temperatures in Dec/January. Everything I planted in pots and baskets that should have provided some winter colour just rotted away:(

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A New Month - Where are the spring flowers?

Today is St David's Day - the patron saint of Wales and the beautiful, bright, cheerful Daffodil is the spring flowering bulb associated with it - no sign of any up here on the Mendips though:(

The first spring flowering bulb to appear is always the Snowdrop and these delicate little flowers are still hanging on in my garden and in banks and hedgerows all around. Forsythia is almost into flower and other buds are breaking on shrubs in the garden but the weather is stuck.

Day after day has been cold and grey, foggy and damp or worse pouring with rain. I'm sick of it and sick with it - I'm sure that my problem (one of them!) is Season Affective Disorder - a type of depression which is worsened in the type of weather I've just described and can be relieved by using a special kind of light box. So today, even though it's supposed to be spring I've given in, and am now eagerly awaiting delivery of my Litebook Elite. I'll let you know how things go, I've got 60 days to decide whether or not it works for me - if it doesn't it can be returned for a full refund.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Weight Loss 4 Idiots

Yes, there really is a diet plan called Weight Loss For Idiots! I'm not a fan of diet plans - South Beach Diet, Atkins Diet, Weight Watchers - water off a duck's back to me.

I've been researching weight loss for my website and what an eyeopener it has been. Some people even believe that drinking large amounts of water washes fat from your body!

For me there is a simple explanation about how to lose weight, and yes you can do it without dieting. Eat a healthy diet, lots of fruit and veg, appropriate amounts of protein, cabs etc, exercise for around 30 minutes every day and the weight or rather fat will gradually go.

Experts agree that a safe amount to lose each week is around 1kg or 2.2 pounds, at this level it should be sustainable. Obesity is a real threat to life so please do take the first steps towards saving it by eating a healthy diet.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Community Farm

Today I'm feeling pretty good, possibly even excited despite yet another day of fog, rain etc which has left me pretty depressed lately.

So why the high spirits today? Well I'm about to become a shareholder, albeit a small one, in The Community Farm - my cheque is in the post!

The Community Farm is a not-for-profit CSA project which reconnects people with how and where their food is grown. They are Organic growers and run a veg box scheme.

From their website:-
The Community Farm was started by Luke Hasell, Phil Haughton and Jim Twine who all live in the Chew Valley. Luke and Jim started The Story Group a few years ago and supply organic beef and lamb to the local community. Phil runs The Better Food Company, which is an organic supermarket in Bristol, and he has been growing vegetables locally for the last 7 years. All three have a lifetime’s commitment to the principles behind organic farming. They have a shared vision to work with people from Bristol and the Chew Valley and hope to play a small part in reconnecting the local community with agriculture.

The Community Farm is based on Luke’s farm on Denny Lane in the heart of the Chew Valley where 11 acres are currently growing a wide range of organic fruit and vegetables. The farm has been in Luke’s family for generations and is a beautiful and tranquil place with stunning views over the lake.

Having a project like this locally to my home means that I can be really involved if I want to as they run volunteer workshop days, or I can just go and take a look at the progress from time to time.

They still need to raise money to fund the project so no matter where you live please consider sending them a cheque and become a shareholder in this brilliant project. This is the way forward for our food production - locally grown and distributed, eating seasonally, community involvement, fresh organic produce free of pesticides and chemicals.

So yes I am excited about The Community Farm. I already have my vegetables from an organic veg box scheme so I know from experience how good they taste. I think more about planning my meals and make a great effort never to waste anything now.

Please support this project or if there is one closer to you give them your support!

Visit The Community Farm for further information.
Photos courtesy of The Community Farm.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Where are the Snowdrops? - Favourite Spring Flowering Bulb

Of all the spring flowering bulbs snowdrops are my favourite. They bravely push their way through hard cold ground, so delicate and slender but surviving snow and frosts.

Some snowdrop bulbs have a surprisingly high value. They are sometimes sold for as much as £150 for a single bulb and can even be found for sale on eBay! I had always thought of them as being a typically English plant but not so - they come from Turkey, Greece and the Caucasus, though two kinds in particular grow well here – Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus plicatus.

To the novice enthusiast it comes as quite a surprise to discover just how many different varieties? there are. If I was a Galanthophile I would know the answer - this is the term used to describe a snowdrop enthusiast, taken from the Latin name for the snowdrop which is galanthus.

There is something about bulbs that I find appealing, especially the spring flowering bulbs. Such variety of colours and shapes starting with the snowdrop, then crocus, daffodils, hyacinth, tulips - all flowers which over the years I've enjoyed photographing and continue to do so each year without fail.

If you love these beautiful spring flowers and want to see them in your garden next year, try to buy them 'in the green' - this means with the leaves of this years growth attached. Specialist suppliers can provide them like this and they naturalize really well.

The first flowers of spring - Snowdrops