UK Landmarks and Visitor Sights

Do not feed the hippies Welcome To Stonehenge

Stonehenge Winter solstice 2016

Posted by on Dec 22, 2016 in Travel, UK Landmarks and Visitor Sights

Why it makes sense to visit Stonehenge at the Solstice

I’m often at the winter and Summer solstice celebrations that take place at Stonehenge in Wiltshire – and I’m not always working; mostly i’m there just for the hell of it because there’s  something quite special about getting up early and going to such a landmark to welcome the dawn.

 

Druids gather to celebrate the solstice

Druids gather to celebrate the solstice

Each year there are two solstice celebrations – one in Summer and one in Winter and as this is the only time each year you’re allowed to touch the hallowed stones, or even get really near them, it can make sense to plan a solstice visit.

Contemplation at Stonehenge

Contemplation at Stonehenge

The solstice attracts a wide variety of folk – from druids witches and warlocks to curious tourists and families. All are welcome and the best thing is that the usual entrance fee to the stones is waived each solstice morning and entry is free.

Witches at large

Witches at large

 

pagan amongst the stones

Pagans take cover

This year there was a lot of organised singing in the centre of the stones from Shakti sings choir.

Inside the stone Circle

Inside the stone Circle

Jigging and Spinning

Jigging and Spinning

One of my fave guys to see – under the rags and colour is an accordion player who spins and plays around the stones.

A chance to touch the stones

A chance to touch the stones

Of course one of the best things about the solstice is the chance to actually touch the stones rather than walk around them via a perimeter path.

Walking amongst the stones

Walking amongst the stones

Entrance is free on solstice days as it’s an act of celebration and worship to many people. Organised parking is £5 but it’s quite possible to park in the nearby village of Larkhill for free and simply walk about a half mile to the stones.

reveller at stonehenge

The sun in winter is low and cool

Moss and lichen on stones

Moss and lichen are clear

 

Moss on monoliths

Moss on the monoliths

The Drove at Stonehenge

The Drove at Stonehenge

One of the main semi-public thoroughfares near the stones is called the drove  – and hard-core devotees can arrive early and park up and overnight for free. There’s no shortage of good humour as this home-made sign makes clear…

The drove leads pretty much from Larkhill village straight to the stones. If you park up in Larkhill simply follow the other revellers down the drove, or listen for the sounds of the drumming for directions …

 

Do not feed the hippies

Welcome To Stonehenge

 

Happy Solstice!

Cretaceous Coastline Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Whale Chine, Isle of Wight

Posted by on Oct 29, 2016 in Photography, Travel, UK Landmarks and Visitor Sights

I was Visiting Chale Bay Farm B&B for a well-known online Travel company (hem hem trip advisor cough cough). It’s a well placed B&B close to St Catherine’s Point and with good prices and smart owners so i can recommend you stay there if you wish to escape the seething elderly hordes and coach parties of shanklin and Sandown… see the note at the end if you want info on accommodation).

As the crow flies the fastest access to the fossil rich cliffs and beaches from here is via the old footpath at Whale Chine. The path is heavily eroded and has been shut for a while now but anyone with a liberal attitude to personal safety can still use it…..

In the picture below you can clearly see Whale Chine with a couple of people on top of the cliff and with the remnants of the old wooden stairs to the right and descending the cleft in the cliff. If you look really closely you’ll see one of the trickier parts of the remaining path way in the form of a ladder descending a sheer part of the rock face.

The descent is worth it as it takes you back in time to the Cretaceous Period – 65 million years ago and just before the mass dinosaur extinction. In other words this is home to T Rex and all those other rather groovy dinosaurs that make great film stars.

Whale Chine Isle of Wight, UK

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

A little closer and the ladder (which is in fact two ladders strapped together) is indicated.

Details of Path at Whale Chine Isle of Wight

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

In the picture below i’ve indicated the pathway with a thin green line. The ladder(s) are secured at the top with a piton driven into the earth/rock at top. The piton is a little wobbly and as the ladders are bound together at centre with old rope the feel of the descent is…… enough to give you a cheap thrill.

Access Path at Whale Chine

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

I made the descent with a camera bag slung over a shoulder and carrying a tripod in one hand. I would not have done this had conditions been wet as the slope is full of loose earth and prone to becoming very muddy. The descent when the slope and cliffs are dry is reasonable for anyone with a head for heights and good footwear…. but it would i think be foolhardy to attempt in wet conditions. There are areas where you need to stand on heavily sloped mud and once you start to slip…. you aren’t going to stop until you reach the bottom.

If that happens you may be leaving the beach via a helicopter and a stretcher.

One more thing….. there’s a rather nasty section after the ladder where you may need to hold onto some rope and swing around on a ledge…… I didn’t photograph this as….. i had my hands rather full at the time. It’s not as bad as it sound though and if you can come down the ladder… you can ‘do’ the rope section.

Whale Chine, Isle Of Wight UK

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Once at the bottom of Whale Chine,  the beach is often deserted simply because  it’s hard to get to. There won’t be any elderly folk or fat people with lardy thighs bad tattoos and mobility scooters…. and at best you will encounter another rambler and the occasional fossil-hunter or photographer.

The atmosphere is serene and all you can hear are the waves hitting shingle; It’s really a little ‘other-worldly’ and truly peaceful.

Cretaceous Coastline Isle Of Wight

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

The Jurassic layer is below sea -level here… with the cretaceous at sea-level and above. This means cliff erosion of the friable materials facing the sea reveals new cretaceous fossils at regular intervals. Large ammonites are regularly found here and at low tide on this coastline dinosaur footprints and casts are very much in evidence. (Although for the footprints I think you really need to be at Compton Beach  – slightly further North West of Whale Chine and the tide needs to be a spring low rather than at Neap levels).

The area here is attractive to fossil hunters primarily because it is harder to get to than other areas and therefore there is less competition for ‘finds’. Good luck with getting that 20lb Ammonite in your back pack and up the ladders though…. you may be better off lugging it up the coast to Compton Beach and taking an easier route back to civilisation.

Cretaceous Coastline Isle Of Wight

My Own Footprints Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

The cliff strata and the beach itself seem rich in Iron – hence the lovely reds and oranges.

Cretaceous Coastline Isle Of Wight

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Closer to the rock face there are plenty of signs of ancient plantlike, burrowing, and coral or aquatic creatures. There are rocks that seem agglomerated with coral remains (correct me if i’m wrong) and there are many rocks that seems to show ancient tree stumps.

Fossilised tree stumps

Fossilised tree stumps, Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Fossilised tree stump

Fossilised tree stump, Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

It’s easy to see the sedimentary strata on this side of the isle of Wight and the area at Whale Chine – although harder to get to quickly as you need to walk a long way along the beach from one of the more accessible areas or take the perilous ladder descent it’s well worth a visit simply for the relative isolation and sense of peace. For any geologists or fossil hunters it’s really a splendid place to spend some time – certainly at low tides.

Rock Strata and erosion

Rock Strata and erosion, Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

As noted above, the closest B&B near here and by far the most reasonable  – (with excellent bang for your buck) – is called Chale Bay Farm B&B. It’s got some scenic views and a good choice of accommodation with excellent parking and easy access to both ends of the Island and many top spots such as St Catherines Lighthouse and the Oratory. The owners are well travelled folk with a real grasp of hospitality and it’s really good alternative to any of the resort hotels in nearby towns.

 

Bembridge Windmill Bembridge Windmill, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Bembridge Isle of Wight

Posted by on Oct 22, 2016 in Photography, UK Landmarks and Visitor Sights

There are a couple of spots in Bembridge on the East coast of the Isle of Wight that attract regular photographers – the windmill and the RNLI Lifeboat slipway that officially houses and provides a launchway for lifeboats, and unofficially provides a nice little pier and vantage spot from where to view shipping and the Portsmouth Mainland.

I grabbed the windmill using a Canon 50mm 1.8 STM lens – a cheap and cheerful lens that i pretty much always have on me and takes up no room and little weight in the bag and on camera.

Bembridge Windmill

Bembridge Windmill, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Being prime you need to run around a bit to create different frames but it’s worth the effort and the windmill si approachable from many sides via a public a walkway so there’s no need to pay National Trust to get close to it (unless you wan to photograph the insides).

Bembridge Windmill

Bembridge Windmill, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

In the setting sun the windmill is lit beautifully from the west and has a rosy glow to it that is so powerful i felt the need to knock back the saturation otherwise it looked unnatural…..despite the fact that it was natural.

 

Bembridge Windmill

Bembridge Windmill, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

I often suck colour out of a picture via a gradient map  – the result is a very controllable ‘semi’-black & White picture where you have fine control over saturation that is slightly more pleasing that a simple saturation adjustment alone.

 

Ont to the Pier or Lifeboat slipway….. it’s a popular place for photographers early morning and at dusk. When the tide is fully low there is a rock shelf that extends out to the end of the pier and in which water pools…. at low tide it’s not too pretty and i prefer to see it at high-water…. which meant i need to be there for dusk.

Bembridge Lifeboat

Bembridge Lifeboat launchway, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

The large construction at the end houses the lifeboat which can launch even at the lowest of tides – courtesy of the concrete pier way. A 50mm lens isn’t going to be very effective here – so i’m at about 20mm via a Canon 17-40mm Zoom.

Bembridge RNLI Lifeboat launchway

Bembridge Lifeboat launchway, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Being concrete is has an interesting texture and from underneath the single pillar supports make an interesting line out to the channel.

All the pier pictures here were taken using a circular polariser and a 10-stop ND filter which allowed a minute exposure at ISO 100, F.8.

Bembridge RNLI Lifeboat launchway

Bembridge Lifeboat launchway, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Up above and on the walkway the public area allowed access to the station and it’s a pretty cool diversion for eat kids to be allowed to tour the station and see the RNLI at work.

The circular polariser limits the amount of reflection off the water and gives clearer definition to what clouds there are….. it also deepens the colour of the water and sky and is pretty much an essential part of any landscape photographers kit.

Snettisham & RSPB Reserve

Posted by on Sep 17, 2016 in Photography, UK Landmarks and Visitor Sights

It’s one of those days when cloud stretches in a formless uniform mass from one end of the horizon to the other. Typically British basically.

I head out to Snettisham from King’s Lynn where i plan on walking a little way along the coast that forms part of an RSPB nature reserve. It’s blustery and the walk from the car park to the coast takes you alongside some interesting salt/freshwater lagoons.

Snettisham Concrete

Concrete slabs at Snettisham
(Photo, Grant Pollard)

The concrete slabs are remnants of a roadway that was ripped up during a particular storm.  Water is seriously powerful.

Snettisham Mud Flats

Snettisham Mud Flats – An RSPB Nature reserve

The mud flats at the coast aren’t you usual idea of a picture postcard form the sea but the wind and the barren nature of the place are very peaceful. There are no fat people with bad tattoos to spoil the view.

Jetty at Snettisham RSPB Nature reserve

Jetty at Snettisham RSPB Nature Reserve

Opposite a Bird Hide on the reserve is an old jetty that was used for loading and unloading when the area was excavated for gravel manufacture. The blurring at bottom is caused by the wind moving the grasses about during this 20 second exposure.

Taste The Feeling

Taste The Feeling

The mud flats are home to geese, waders and all sorts of bird that frankly i am not qualified to talk about. There’s not too much rubbish around but this coke can caught my eye as it’s in stark contrast to the promotional ‘save the planet’ cobblers all the drink manufacturers pump into living rooms via adverts. If coke production was stopped tomorrow i think we’d get over it very quickly. Soft drinks are … well… they’re just soft drinks. If you want to be green and help save the planet drink water from the tap.