I’ve always found that the lower the resolution, the better my self-portraits look.
Taken at Brook Leys, Eddington, Cambridge.
Yesterday, we took the day off and went to the North Norfolk coast. Maintaining social distancing wasn’t too hard. And Tilly got lots of exercise.
That old pipeline that runs out along across one of our favourite beaches has clearly seen some action in the past:
Rose said this looks like two friends embracing across a fence:
And at times, sections of the pipe emerge like a sea monster from the deep:
Here you might be walking on fresh samphire…
or crunching on cockle shells.
It was great to return to a place we’ve visited often and always enjoy.
(I posted a rather different photo from here on a previous visit.)
Now, you may well be asking, how did you manage this, when almost everything is closed? This particular beach is about an hour and three-quarters’ drive from Cambridge, and that poses some challenges when it comes to… ahem… the need for a comfort break.
Well, the answer is that we’re fortunate enough to have a small campervan.
We can’t use it for any overnight stays at present, but it does make a jolly good vehicle for day trips. It has a fridge, a table, a stove, fresh water…
And it also has a loo. Sort of. Even in a van this size. Now, we don’t often use the loo, because we usually stay on sites that have such facilities, and, well, frankly, a loo that you have to pull out of a cupboard before use isn’t that much of a ‘convenience’. Sometimes we leave it behind, because the cupboard space is more useful, and when we have used it in the past, it generally goes in a little loo tent we pitch beside the van.
Having said, that, these facilities have come a long way since the more primitive equivalents I remember from my youth. Ours is one of these, in case you’re interested, and it’s remarkably civilised. All the necessary seals are good, modern chemicals do a good job, it incorporates a loo roll holder and even, would you believe, an electric flush! There are some places I never expected to install AA batteries… but it works well. We probably wouldn’t have chosen quite such a luxurious one, but it came with the van.
Anyway, the point is that this does, pretty much single-handedly, enable day trips during lockdown. “Would you like to take the dog for a short walk, dear? I’m just going to draw the curtains…”
Anyway, back to the beaches. The Norfolk beaches we visit are never crowded, but the car parks can be, so we made sure we arrived early. By the time we departed, a couple of hours later, somebody was grateful for our space.
We had lunch in a different car park, at Blakeney. There was still plenty of space here.
We managed to get a takeaway coffee and cake from a favourite spot in Holt which does an awfully good job of both, and then headed for a rather different beach at Weybourne in the afternoon.
Here, you’re walking on pebbles, which is not quite so easy, but they’re beautiful none the less.
We always bring some of the more colourful pebbles or shells back from our seaside trips, and they end up decorating the bird-bath in the garden.
Talking of birds, there were lots of happy ones bobbing about.
And there are suitably picturesque scenes to be snapped even from the car park.
The standard way to get one of these boats over a pebbly beach into the sea, by the way, is to attach a small accessory.
It’s basically a big chunk of ferric oxide with a diesel engine.
Anyway, all in all, a very pleasant day, and, being aware of the hardship many others are going through at present, I was enormously lucky to be able to enjoy it in such a versatile vehicle with my two favourite companions.
In the flat, low-lying eastern part of England, where we live, much of the land is only just above sea level, and for many centuries the inhabitants have been working hard to avoid the appearance of large areas of water.
We have rivers, of course, and dykes and canals, and they are all kept carefully in order and they generally behave and do as they are told. There are village ponds, too.
But to see a body of water of any size here is a rarity, which is why I occasionally make the pilgrimage to Fen Drayton Lakes, about 12 miles from my house. Until around 30 years ago, it was a gravel quarry, but that’s been enough time for nature to re-adopt it and flourish around it. Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far, and it was pleasant to walk in the shade along the tree-lined paths and catch occasional glimpses of expanses of cool liquid.
It’s tantalizing, too, because you can’t go in or on the water: it’s an RSPB reserve, and home to a vast number of birds, who were clearly having a good time. I foolishly only had an elderly iPhone with me, so just took a couple of more general snaps of the scenery.
There are certain areas where you do need to make sure your dog pays attention to the signs.
But it’s a lovely spot, and very different from Cambridge just down the road. There’s even a quick and efficient guided-bus service from the city — when we get buses back — for those without other means of transport.
Despite all this, surprisingly few people in the area seem to know about it. Don’t tell too many of them…
Around Christmas and New Year, I was in Scotland in my campervan. I took lots of video footage. Far too much, in fact, so I’ve been gradually working my way through it, on and off, for several months. This evening, I came across this rather pleasing scene. It’s just a still frame captured from video, and on a GoPro too, so the quality’s not great, but I hope you enjoy the view!
This is a dawn dog-walk at Uig on the Isle of Lewis, on New Year’s Eve. Not only was I up at dawn, I had already breakfasted and was setting off for a hike! However, this sounds a bit less impressive when I point out that sunrise in mid-winter up there is after 9am.
The small black blur on the right-hand side, which you may be able to see if you click for a larger version, is Tilly romping in the heather.
The Callanish (or Calanais) Standing Stones, on the Isle of Lewis. New Year’s Day 2020.
I’ve had fun in the last year or so playing with spherical cameras (often known as 360-degree cameras) and I’ve posted a few on here. But they’ve always had a problem: you really need a plugin to view them, which is untidy. This one of the Sacré-Coeur, for example, relies on a plugin from the Ricoh site.
Here’s an example from Pittenweem, a favourite spot I discovered on my campervan trip over Christmas, just north of Edinburgh.
You can drag the image around to look in different directions, and you can zoom in and out by scrolling, or using Shift & Ctrl keys.
On my early experiments, it seems to work very well, even on my fairly elderly laptop. It even has a full-screen button…
So you may be seeing a few more of these here in the near future!
I visited the stone circle at Callanish this morning. Wonderful spot.
Not a peaceful spot today, though: the photo doesn’t show you the 40mph winds whipping across the island!
This put me in mind of the splendid 1976 TV drama Children of the Stones, filmed in Avebury, Wiltshire, which also has some dramatic standing stones, encircling half the village. One of the themes of the plot is the rumour that the stones sometimes turn into people and come back to life. I love the Avebury stones, but these ones looked more as if they might do that, given a little encouragement.
I didn’t watch Children of the Stones in 1976, which is probably just as well, since it has been described as “the scariest programme ever made for children”. It’s fun to watch as an adult, though, and is a great example of how you can tell a compelling story with a very low budget and some spooky music! Also, for people of my vintage, it has the added interest of featuring Gareth Thomas, better known as Blake, from Blake’s Seven.
© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser