The river Trent at Stapenhill

Our morning walk today was by the Trent, mainly because we were interested to see how much the river level had risen. Fortunately not as much as floods in some parts of the country but enough to cover a few of the footpaths making them impassable in parts.

This meant that one of our regular circuits was not possible but it was still an enjoyable walk, rewarded at the end by the sight of daffodils pushing through the wet ground and the remaining autumn leaves.

A welcome reminder that, in the words of C. S. Lewis, “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Farewell to 2020

Our village Peace Park is a good location to see the sunset at this time of the year. I must admit to a feeling of satisfaction at seeing the final sunset of 2020 as we say farewell to such a challenging year. The silhouette is of the memorial stone erected to the memory of the men and women of Winshill who served their country in the two world wars and other conflicts. Wishing you a happy, healthy and peaceful year in 2021.

Lichfield Cathedral Illuminated

Little did we know when this photograph was taken in December 2019 what lay ahead for us in 2020.

We had planned to visit the ‘Lichfield Cathedral Illuminated’ event again this year but sadly it was cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions. It really is a special event with lights and music in the cathedral close and this impressive ever-changing light display inside the cathedral.

We used this photograph for our Christmas card this year and are now delighted to post it for our blogging friends and followers. A very happy Christmas to you all and we wish you a healthy and peaceful year in 2021.

John and Sue

Captain Edward John Smith

Two recent posts about Titanic museums by fellow blogger Andrew Petcher Andrew’s post reminded me that we have a Staffordshire county connection with the captain of the Titanic, Captain Edward John Smith. In a quiet corner of Beacon Park, Lichfield, just about as far from the sea as it can be in England, there is a statue of Captain Smith. It is larger than life at nearly 8ft (2.4m) tall, mounted on a granite plinth, and cost £740 to commission and manufacture. It has stood there since 1914. The artist who sculpted it was Lady Kathleen Scott, widow of Captain Robert Scott, a victim of yet another ill-fated excursion; two tragedies entwined in one statue.

Smith was born in Hanley, Stoke on Trent, so why did the statue end up in Lichfield, some 30 miles away? There are two main theories.

One suggestion is that it was put there because although the people of Hanley had initially raised the funds for a memorial statue, they, or the authorities, later decided they did not want a statue of a man associated with such a tragedy, and that they would be embarrassed to have Smith’s statue in the town.

Secondly, that Lichfield was picked because it was on a major tourist and coaching route, halfway between London and Liverpool, where the head office of the White Star Line was, and a good place for American tourists to pay their respects to the man who went down with his ship. Because of the cathedral, Lichfield was and still is the heart of the diocese which includes Stoke and Hanley. A further possibility is that the bronze statue may have been cast at a foundry in Lichfield so it was already there and would not incur any transportation costs after the people of Hanley had rejected it although there is no evidence to support this.

So there is nothing new about statue controversies. A few years ago there was an unsuccessful attempt to get the statue relocated to Hanley but it now seems certain that it will remain in the museum gardens of Beacon Park looking towards the distinctive spires of Lichfield Cathedral.

The most precious light

The most precious light is the one that visits you in your darkest hour. – Mehmet Murat ildan.

November, part of this season of ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness, close-bosom friend of the maturing sun’. The days are getting shorter and more and more of them are dull, grey and misty. What’s more, we have just started lockdown 2. We still try to get our daily walk but these are now directly from home or at the most, a short drive away.

After one such walk the other day, we were just about to return home mid-afternoon when the sun suddenly broke through and made a brief appearance.

It was indeed a precious light in an otherwise darkish hour. Photographing directly into the low sun can be a bit pot-luck but always worth a shot or two. In these days of digital photography there is nothing to lose. We have image editing software and apps at our disposal to rescue our efforts, and if all else fails, the ‘delete’ button is never far away.

Tutbury Castle

John O Gaunt’s gateway.

We have lived just six miles from Tutbury Castle for over 40 years and have seen it from the outside many times but until quite recently I had never actually been into the grounds. In July, as lockdown restrictions continued to be relaxed, Tutbury Castle reopened for three days a week and we took the opportunity to visit. It turned out to be a good choice as it was a beautiful day and there were not too many people about.

Tutbury Castle sits on a hill close to the Staffordshire/Derbyshire boundary which at that point is the River Dove. There are excellent views towards the river and hills of Derbyshire.

The path leading from John O’Gaunt’s gateway.
South tower.

The first record of the castle is 1071 as one of the new castles built to stamp the authority of the Norman conquerors across the Midlands.

In the background is Julius’ Tower, a folly built in 1780

The castle is best known as one of the prisons of Mary Queen of Scots, who was held here on four occasions. It was here that she became involved in the plot that ultimately led to her bloody execution at Fotheringhay.

Her first visit began on 4th February 1569 when she arrived with no fewer than sixty attendants. She had been many hours in the saddle and for the first time since her arrival in England, she realised that she was now in prison. Mary loathed Tutbury, not only because of what it represented but also because it was cold, draughty and extremely damp – threatening her already delicate health. She wrote of its miseries and rather than waxing lyrical about the magnificent view Tutbury offered, she described it as ‘sitting squarely on top of a mountain in the middle of a plain’, subjecting her to all the ‘winds and injures of heaven’.

It is suggested that letters to and from Mary were smuggled concealed inside beer barrels from the brewers of nearby Burton on Trent who were supplying Tutbury Castle.

North tower.

Tutbury Castle website

Bluebells 2020

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Bluebells postcard backIt is exactly a year since I first posted about bluebells, and here we are again – bluebell season. The difference this time is that we are in coronavirus lockdown so we have been walking close to home and enjoying a nearby small wooded dale.

P1090587My post last year stated  – ‘Here in the UK we have more than half of the world’s bluebells and you can see them in woods up and down the country each spring. They are powerful magnets for photographers and artist alike, although strangely not always the easiest of subjects to photograph and capture the colour accurately’. The photographs this year were taken in the little known local bluebell woods. There is no car parking nearby and consequently they are only used by nearby residents and they do not attract people from other parts of the town. This year they are being used by local families were the parents are clearly on the ‘home schooling’ duties. What better classroom?

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Last year I also wrote ‘Native bluebells are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It’s against the law to dig up bulbs in the wild and landowners aren’t allowed to dig them up to sell them either’. This year we have our 3 and 4 year old grandchildren with us and whilst it is a pleasure to see their joy and excitement when seeing bluebells it can be quite difficult to stop them picking them and taking some home. I remember one shortened and simplified version of the official Countryside Code was ‘Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints’.  Today, I only took photographs but the ground was dry and firm so I didn’t even leave any footprints.

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Mid-May Landscapes

We have been out and about this week taking a few mid-May landscapes. I only tell you this so that I can use the expression ‘mid-May landscapes’.

I first heard the description over 30 years ago, when a colleague, who was also interested in photography, told me he would be taking his mid-May landscapes the following week. Ron’s birthday was in the middle of May and each year, without fail, he would book the whole week off work. This was partly to celebrate his birthday but mainly to capture his mid-May landscapes.

Each day of that week Ron would load his car with his camera gear and set off in a different direction, towards the open countryside, sometimes with a destination in mind, but more often than not, just follow his instinct, the light, the dramatic sky or whatever else caught his eye. He would drive down roads and lanes he had never explored before and thoroughly enjoy his week of self-indulgence.

I hadn’t heard the expression until I met Ron but I immediately realised that it meant the time of the year when the leaves are new, fresh and vibrant; when the grass is lush; when the whole of nature buzzes with life and energy and the light often has a special quality about it. I thought perhaps it was a well-known term used by photographers and artist which had somehow passed me by.

That was back in pre-internet days but the term stuck with me and several years later I consulted Professor Google expecting to find a long list of famous artists or photographers who had used the description, but nothing. Perhaps it was an expression Ron had made up, or had once heard and it stuck with him just as it stuck with me and perhaps after today, with you too.

6x4 Mid-May landscapes

Mid-May landscapes

Mid May 10

Mid May 11