Thursday, November 24, 2016

Cornwall (Kernow)

The County of Cornwall makes up the very southwestern tip of Great Britain and includes the most southerly point and the most westerly point of England. The county is the 9th largest by area (out of 48) in England, and is the only county to border only one other county (Devon). Kernow is the Cornish name for the county, the dialect is still spoken, deriving itself from Common Brittonic (the language spoken in Great Britain before English started to dominate).

Cornish Flag

Cornwall is surrounded by beautiful coastline which is a huge draw, especially in the summertime when the tourists flock to the golden sandy beaches. The county is bordered to the north by the Celtic Sea, the Atlantic to the west, and the English Channel to the south. The coastline stretches around the county for 422 miles, and varies from steep cliffs along the north coast to more sheltered softer landscapes along the south coast.

If you are a surfer you head to the north coast, Trevaunance Cove at St. Agnes is such a place, although I myself prefer to photograph the waves rather than ride them.

Trevaunance Cove

Trevaunance Cove

Trevaunance Cove lies along the St. Agnes Heritage Coast, a stretch of coastline designated a nationally protected area. The Heritage coast stretches for 12 miles, beginning at Godrevy Head and ending just past St. Agnes Head. St. Agnes Head is perhaps the most prominent point along this stretch of coast, and sitting on top of the point is a coastguard lookout.

St. Agnes Head

St. Agnes Heritage coast

St. Agnes Heritage coast

Godrevy Head lies to the east of St. Ives bay and lies within a Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The golden sandy beach stretches for 3 miles from Godrevy Head to Hayle to the south and is another surfers paradise. On top of Godrevy island sits a lighthouse, said to be the inspiration for Virginia Woolf's novel "To the Lighthouse". 

Godrevy with the lighthouse in the distance

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Autumn Colour, Summer Heat

I think perhaps Autumn (Fall) is my favourite time of the year, the summer heat "typically" gives way to pleasant daytime temperatures and cooler nights; and this definitely makes this Colorado Brit happy. Autumn 2016 in the Colorado Front Range has been particularly warm and dry though, with the first snow not arriving until November 17th (Average is October 18th), the 16th was 80f!. The positive side to this late snow is, the leaves on the trees have hung on until naturally dropping, and the colour has lasted longer.

St. Vrain Creek, Longmont, CO

The city of Longmont has some great parks, greenways, and open space areas, most within a stone's throw of my home. The St. Vrain Creek runs through the city and provides a peaceful natural corridor within the urban environment. Golden Ponds Natural area on the western side of the city is a particular favourite of mine, these old gravel pits were donated to the city in 1990. The reflection in the lakes of the mountains, mixed with Autumn colours from the surrounding trees can be an amazing sight!.

Mount Meeker seen from Golden Ponds

Golden Ponds Autumn colours

November 14, 2016 saw the largest supermoon since 1948, and the last one until 2034. I did not plan enough in advance, or scout out shooting locations; so my capture of this rare occurrence was not optimum. I headed 10 miles east into farmland that typically has less light pollution, but unfortunately could not find a good anchor for more shot, except for the odd farm light.

November 2016 supermoon

Saturday, October 22, 2016

An island cloaked in myth and mystery

St Michael's Mount (named after the Archangel) is perhaps the most iconic landmark in south-west England, if not in all of England. This famous island lies off the south coast of Cornwall, and has been used by man since the neolithic period, the first building perhaps appeared in the 8th century, with a monastery being built in the 11th century.

If the name of the island jogs a memory, it could be because you have heard of Mont Saint-Michael in France. There is a connection, in fact, the English island is the sister island of its French counterpart. The monastery on St Michael's Mont was given to the Norman Abbey on Mont Saint Michael as a Priory in the 11th century. Come the 15th century, the war between the nations under the rule of Henry V, ended the association between St Michael's Mount and Mont Saint-Michael. In the 16th century, the mount became more fortress-like and more or less resembles what you see today.

The Mount as seen from Marazion

In 1659 Colonel St. Aubyn purchased the island, the descendants of the family still live there to this day. The population of the island peaked in 1821 when 221 people resided there, it was mainly a fishing port at that time. In 1954 the St. Aubyn family gifted the island to the National Trust to manage, whilst retaining a 999-year lease.

15th-century chapel of St Michael

The gardens that surround the rocky island are from the Victorian era, the frost free climate means that flowers and shrubs flourish here, and it is quite a sight viewed from the highest point on the island.

The victorian terraced gardens looking towards the mainland

As a visitor to the island, you can either walk along the causeway (low tide only) or for a small fee catch a boat from Marazion to the island. The harbour dates from at least the 15th-century but was enlarged in 1823 to accommodate larger vessels. The boat journey is short, but can be a bumpy and wet ride on occasion!.

St Michael's Mount harbour

Mural painted on the side of one of the 19th-century buildings

Marazion is a small parish only 1/2 mile from St Michael's Mount, and the gateway to the island. The town itself is quaint and has a small selection of shops and restaurants, and a bakery serving possibly the largest Cornish pasties in the county.


Largest pasty in all of Cornwall

The island has long been steeped in myths and legends. As far back as the 5th-century tales of sailors been lured to the rocks by mermaids exist, and during the 6th-century the island was said to be home to a giant named Cormoran. This giant as legend has it was slain by a farmer's son named Jack, the giant's heart still remains on the island in the form of a stone. The island is also said to be on top of a major ley line "St Michael's Line", so is a spiritual place on many levels.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Escape to the Country

I have called home quite a few places across the UK, and the USA: from Cities to Suburbia, to Towns and Hamlets; from humid hot climates to a dry desert climate, and everything in between. Whilst I do love cities, particularly London and New York, my heart has always been in the countryside. I spent most of my school years in Thame, Oxfordshire, a small historic market town (11,500 population +/-). 

Thame dates back to the Anglo-Saxon era and gets its name from the River running to its north. The town is situated close to the Chiltern Hills (area of outstanding natural beauty), and a stone's throw from the County seat of Oxford. In 1138 Thame Abbey was founded, later demolished in the 16th century, and incorporated into what is now Thame Park house. The parish Church "St. Mary the Virgin" dates back to the 13th century, and the nearby Prebendal (Church buildings) date also to the 13th century.

Thame's 13th-century parish church

The Prebendal in the background, once the home of Robin Gibb

Gravestone from 1668

In the center of Thame stands the town hall, a relatively new building in Thame's history, built in 1888. Several other notable buildings line the high street, mostly dating from the 16th and 17th centuries; including the Six Bells and the Bird Cage pubs, the latter doubling up as a prison during the Napoleonic wars.

Thame Town Hall

Six Bells public house

The Bird Cage public house

The Chiltern Hills lie a few miles southeast of Thame, and are one of my favourite "local" areas for walking and cycling. Much of the chalk hills are designated as an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty", they encompass approximately 300 square miles over 4 Counties.

View from the Chilterns

Chiltern wildlife - the Common Darter

On the southeastern edge of the Chilterns, close to the towns of Chalfont St. Giles and Chalfont St. Peter lies the "Chiltern Open Air museum". This museum was founded in 1976, and its purpose is to preserve buildings from the Chilterns that would otherwise have fallen into disrepair. The museum has quite a range of buildings, and you could easily spend half a day or more exploring.

18th-century barn converted into cottages in 1770

WW1 Nissen hut

1886 Tin Chapel

1826 Toll House

Friday, October 7, 2016

Dockyards and Dickens

"Rule Britannia! rule the waves: Britons never will be slaves" - this famous Poem by James Thompson dates from the 1700's, and has long been associated with the Royal Navy, and sung famously every year at the last night of the Proms.

Great Britain has had a close link to the sea for many many centuries, and shipbuilding was a very important industry during the heyday of sea supremacy and exploration. One very important dockyard was Chatham, on the River Medway in Kent, established in 1567 by Elizabeth I. The dockyard at its peak employed over 10,000 workers, and over its history built 500 ships, including Lord Nelson's famous HMS Victory.

HMS Cavalier WW2 Navy ship

One of the most striking buildings at the Royal dockyard is the Ropery, this building dates from 1728, is 346m long, and is capable of producing 300m (1000ft) long hemp ropes (still in use today). The quickest way to travel along the length of the building when making rope is by bicycle.

The Ropery

The Ropery

Every September the Royal Dockyard hosts a 1940's weekend, you really feel like you have been transported back in time. The sound of Vera Lynn, Andrew Sisters, and Frank Sinatra fills the air; the smell of fish n'chips tempts you to the food vans and costumed actors really look the part.

Just a short distance south along the Medway river from Chatham Royal Dockyard is the City of Rochester. Rochester has links back to the Celts, the Romans, and Saxons, and in more recent times has strong links with Charles Dickens. Dickens lived just across the river Medway, many of his stories are based in and around Rochester, most famously "Great Expectations".

Rochester Cathedral dating from 1080AD

The city has long needed guarding against an attack due to its proximity to the river Medway and the Kent coast. Rochester castle is a very prominent landmark; dating back to 1087, the stone keep is one of the best preserved in England.

Canyons overlook the Medway

The impressive stone keep