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In the land of Pooh…

In the land of Pooh…

The best of our recent trip back to the wide open spaces of Sussex…

Photo Sans Frontiers

Last week we went to see friends and family in Crowborough, East Sussex, where the dramatic vistas of Ashdown Forest provided A A Milne with the settings for hisWinnie the Poohstories.

We were lucky with the weather and took the opportunity to wander amongst the pines, heather, bracken and gorse bushes of this, the real Hundred Acre Wood, as well as taking Audrey on a tour of some the other rural playgrounds of my youth.

Becky, who I hadn’t seen for years, joined us on the more-or-less-compulsory trek to Pooh Bridge for a game of Pooh Sticks; whilst Biff, another old friend, provided entrainment for Audrey in the shape of Luigi, the loveable Staffordshire bull terrier and he also kindly organised a trip to a riding stables, where we met some of their horses (before stopping for refreshments at one or two local hostelries).

Come on, let me…

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Travel n Ravel post: Barging in…

Here’s another repurposed post that I’ve tweaked for Ian Cochrane and his eclectic travel blog. (see link below)

There’s nothing like a nice country pub when you want to relax and unwind, especially when you can meet interesting people, explore the local history and hear a few amusing stories whilst sampling the delicacies of the region.

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But whatever you do, make sure you know the geography of the area, otherwise you might find yourself…

Barging in.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2015 in Guest spots., Humour, Personal anecdote, Travel

 

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Photo Sans Frontiers Showcase: Créma Alma…

I have to say, I’m delighted at how my Facebook photography page is growing into an international collective of photo enthusiasts and today I’d like to introduce you to one of its newest members.

image Créma Alma lives in Casablanca and her photos beautifully capture the exotic atmosphere that name conjures up.
From stunning landscapes and scenes of everyday life, to ancient architecture and colourful geometric patterns on traditional pottery, her pictures really evoke the blazing sunshine and fragrant Arabian nights of Morocco.

And of all the photography groups, on all the websites, in all the world, she walked into mine.
(Oh come on, you didn’t think I’d be able to resist that did you…?)

Ladies and gentlemen, the photography of Créma Alma.

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Picture this. Instow beach…

There’s really nothing like a bracing walk on the beach in winter to give you an appetite on Sunday lunchtime so, after fortifying ourselves with bacon and French toast for breakfast, we made our way to Instow, a twenty minute drive along the estuary, to where the rivers Taw and Torridge reach the sea at Bideford bay.

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A small fishing village with a large and attractive beach at low tide, Instow is always popular, no matter what the season.
Whether it’s tourists flooding the area in summer or dog walkers and locals like us taking advantage of the vacated sands in winter, the flat expanse of the beach and undulating, grass covered dunes make for an ever-changing landscape that has a wild and natural grandeur of its own, even in January.

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The nearby village of Appledore makes a colourful backdrop to the panoramic views across the river and there are many juxtapositions of colour and texture, both natural and man-made, wherever you look.

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From the elegant colonial styling of the old Commodore Hotel…

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…to the ancient stone of the sea wall and flood defences…

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…and the strange organic shapes made by the ever-present driftwood, dune grass and spiny buckthorn.

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After an hour or so of clambering around amongst the dunes and hunting for seashells on the blustery sands of the beach, it was pleasant to rest for a drink in a local beer garden, after which we strolled into the village to sample the mouth-watering wares at the fabulous delicatessen on the harbour before heading home.

I can’t think of more fitting musical offerings to accompany a Sunday stroll on the beach than these two, so close your eyes and picture the waves lapping on the sand to enjoy Travis with Driftwood and the Bloom album in its wondrous entirety from Beach House.

Happy Sunday everyone.

 
 

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Picture this. A winter walk…

After the hailstorm we had last night, it was nice to see the watery winter sun trying to poke it’s feeble fingers through the clouds this morning. Perfect weather for a Sunday lunchtime walk.
I’ve joined various photography groups on Facebook in the last couple of weeks and, having plundered my gallery for introductory shots, I thought I’d better get some new material to post (but not before I post them here, obviously) so I took my trusty phone for a stroll along the riverbank and fields around Rock Park to see what I could see.

The lowering grey overcast was different from the usual backdrop of blue sky and fluffy clouds in my photos, giving the light an interesting tone which nicely evokes the season.

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One of the camera groups I’ve joined has bridges as a theme this week but despite the fact that one of my favourites, the old iron railway bridge is in the park, I thought I’d include pictures of the other two on this stretch of river for a change; the current rail bridge and the large concrete road bridge, both crossing the River Taw.

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Following the trails and footpaths around the park, through tunnels of trees and along the banks of the river, the bracing wind certainly blew away the Sunday cobwebs.

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I look forward to watching the countryside come back to life, it’s always fascinating to see what new images each season brings…

 
 

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Picture this. Autumn colours at Arlington Court…

This weekend I’ve once again been playing host to my old friend Ho, who has been taking a well earned break from a frantic work schedule to join me for a spot of relaxation in the beautiful autumnal Devon countryside.
This time we decided to take a stroll around the extensive grounds of Arlington Court, ancestral home of the Chichester family for over 500 years.

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The house itself is an imposing stone built mansion, surrounded by rolling lawns, lakes, and woodlands, criss-crossed with pathways that lead you to various viewpoints overlooking not only the gloriously varied vistas of the estate but also the picturesque church of St James (not owned by the Trust, but adjacent to the house) which just happened to be staging a flower festival at the time of our visit.

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We began our tour on the front lawn of the house, heading down to the ornamental lake, stocked with lazily cruising carp and topped with a proliferation of water lilies, pausing on the way to admire the splendor of an ancient oak tree that has stood on the site since well before the house or grounds existed.
The tree is preserved primarily for the scientifically important and internationally recognised variety of lichen, moss and fungi that festoon its gnarled and twisted trunk.

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The church is just visible through the trees that overlook the lake, providing a focal point for visitors, an invitation to investigate the hidden beauty of the peaceful sanctuary as you make your way round the estate.

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But before we headed into the cool vaulted space of the flower-strewn chapel we made our way down the shady path amongst the trees to discover what the woods had to offer.

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Before too long we came upon a small camp in a clearing, complete with a traditional clay oven beneath the billowing folds of a parachute canopy, along with rustic huts constructed from sticks salvaged from the woodland floor.

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The woods have the quiet atmosphere of a primeval forest, rotting trees left where they fell, allowing the verdant moss to take hold and making perfect burrows for small animals and insects, creating shapes that look for all the world like the backbones of long-dead dinosaurs or mythical dragons.

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Occasionally a gate or stile will allow a view across the cattle grazing fields of the deer park, to the densely wooded slopes of the valley, the trees starting to display the muted tones of autumn foliage.

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We retraced the path back to the lake and made for the tower of the church, immediately seeing signs of the floral attraction within…
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…already catching the scent of the expertly designed bouquets before we even entered the light and airy space of St James’s, the vibrant colours of hundreds of flowers perfectly complimenting the stained glass windows and ornamental carvings on the walls.
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Our final two stops were at the formal and walled kitchen gardens, the latter of which provides fresh produce for the house and its cafe.
There was even an imperious peacock to welcome us to his domain, although he didn’t seem keen on me taking his picture and I required several stealthy attempts to capture him in all his iridescent glory.
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There is even an “insect hotel” high-rise apartment block for bees and other pollinators…
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…and there is always something intriguing around the next corner or through the next inviting door.
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…and of course the Chichester family symbol, a heron grappling with an eel, is in evidence everywhere.
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All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable visit to a place that I’m sure I’ll visit again and again, because there is always something new to discover.

Arlington Court house and gardens are open until the end of October, I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys relaxing amidst spectacular scenery, basking in the more genteel atmosphere of days gone by and leaving the stresses and strains of modern life behind for a few hours.

 

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Picture this. Summer’s end at Broomhill…

With the days becoming noticeably shorter and meteorologists once again starting to reach for descriptions like “autumnal” to make “cold and wet” seem more acceptable, I thought I’d take the opportunity to visit Broomhill Sculpture Gardens again before the summer came to an end.

Plenty of the sculptures that I photographed in my previous post are still on display here and I know from several other visits to Broomhill that many of these are semi-permanent installations, giving them the feel of familiar old friends, aging gracefully amongst the trees and lush foliage of the beautiful woodland valley setting.
But there is always something new to see here and the gardens are currently playing host to the National Sculpture Prize, displaying work by the 2014 finalists in the woods and wildflower meadow down by the river.

Walking up the winding drive from the visitors parking area, the entrance flanked by sleek curving steel forms…

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…you encounter all manner of surprises, rearing above you from the steeply sloping banks or tucked away within the green alcove of a hedge.

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Reaching the top of the hill, your first view as you round the final curve in the drive is this impressive gryphon, towering over the terrace in front of the hotel…

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…where I sat for a few minutes, looking down over the valley, reading about the sculpture prize and enjoying a refreshing local cider in the late afternoon sun.

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Making my way down the zig-zagging path through the wooded garden, I first encountered sharply stylised African influenced stone figures…

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…juxtaposed with more abstract, modernist pieces, both on the ground and suspended in the branches overhead.

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The path eventually leads down to the lake, the area around it dotted with more sculptures, peering out from the surrounding trees and the still water itself.

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Following the meandering track back up through the woods, I couldn’t resist dropping in on the strange, post-apocalyptic world of the abandoned tennis court, an exhibit I am always drawn to when I come here and one that never fails to provide some striking images.

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Then I made my way to the main display area for the prize finalists, on the way passing what looked like a yoga lesson, frozen in time.

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Details of all the 2014 NSP finalists are included in the links at the top of this post, but here are a selection of some of my favourite pieces, starting with an oversized piece that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, I can’t think why…

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And I had to get one final shot of this piece, another of my personal favourites, the atmospheric Watchers, frozen in enigmatic contemplation amongst the dappled shade by the riverbank.

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If you can get down there, I recommend that you visit the National Sculpture Prize exhibit at Broomhill, the voting ends soon and the winner will be announced in October.

 

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