Caroline Shipsey

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.