"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Visit to a Local Nature Reserve

As planned we visited Ladywalk Nature Reserve last Saturday afternoon. Ladywalk is a West Midland Bird Club Reserve, located on the edge of the Hams Hall Distribution Centre, consisting of woodland, wetlands, pools and reedbeds. We've been visiting intermittently for about 20 years.

We've seen Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (one of only three sightings I've ever had of this species) in the past along this public footpath which leads to the Reserve.

The River Tame runs alongside the Reserve.

Views of the Reserve from the Hide which overlooks the feeders.

Unfortunately, it was not (yet again) to be a good day for photos. We didn't arrive at the hide until 2.30 and 5 minutes later it began to rain. The light was really poor and its not easy taking photos of birds at one fiftieth of a second :( Most photos went straight into the recycle bin once I'd uploaded them later so I've included a few of the slightly better shots.

The first set are taken with my Olympus dslr and the 70-300mm lens.

Canada Geese

Mrs Pheasant

You might be able to make out River Walk Hide in the distance - we used to find this a good place to watch Bitterns and even spotted a Woodcock at dusk on one occasion.

Grey Squirrrel

The photos below were taken by D with the new Canon Bridge Camera

Canada Goose

Reed Bunting


Grey Squirrel

Birds seen at the feeders included Greenfinch, Blue Great and Coal Tits, Chaffinch, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Reed Bunting, Pheasant, Goldfinch and Blackbird. We will return - but next time will make it a morning trip when its bright and sunny and when we've studied the manual to the new camera more assiduously!

Here's an example of one of the shots that went straight into the recycle bin! Although I have to say there is something about this photo I quite like :)

To finish a photo of Great Spotted Woodpecker in our garden.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Another Fleeting Visit to Winterbourne and Winter Knitting

Another brief visit to Winterbourne House and Gardens last Sunday when I had half an hour to wander round whilst waiting for E. I had planned to try and get some photos inside the house this time but D decided to come along so it seemed only fair to let him see some of the gardens.

The light,if anything, was even poorer than on Saturday at Stoneleigh - in fact it started to rain not long after we arrived. Apologies that the photos are of the parts of the garden you've seen recently!

The weather was much cooler than on previous visits and as soon as we stepped inside the lean-too glass-house the camera lens (and my glasses) steamed up.

House Terrace - it would be lovely to sit out here with coffee and cake in the Spring and Summer.

View towards the gardens from the terrace

Nut Walk

Part of the Geographical Collection

The woodland walk towards Edgbaston Pool and the nature reserve

There was still some autumn colour around the gardens.

Japanese Bridge

Fungi in the rock garden


And a few photos taken by D with the Canon SX50

Instead of making yet more scarves this winter (after all there are only so many you can wear and I have dozens!) and inspired by the blanket CT made of knitted wool squares, I've decided to have a go at making a blanket too.

I treated myself to a new bag for my knitting last year. I went along to Hobbycraft to look at the proper knitting bags but to be honest I didn't like any of the designs and they really were rather over-priced. When E and I were in Leamington a few months later I spotted this bag in one of those lovely little independent shops stuffed with all sorts of treasures. Its not meant to be a knitting bag but it serves the purpose very well and if I ever get fed up of winter knitting it will come in useful as an all-purpose shopping bag.

Some of the squares knitted so far -I am using remnants of wool from all the scarves I have ever made and these colours were from a Doctor Who Tom Baker style scarf which I wear for birdwatching at this time of the year as the colours blend in well with the colour of the autumn leaves!

Sadly, the squares I first made in pastel colours don't really match but we shall see if I can hide the pastel stuff somewhere as the blanket progresses. I am making this one for D who only has a single bed so if necessary I'll keep the pastel type colour squares back for another blanket to be made at a later date. Although as I only knit when I watch tv and there aren't that many programmes I watch I suspect I'll still be making the first blanket this time next year!!

I'm hoping to go birdwatching tomorrow with D - weather permitting - to try out the new camera at a local reserve. Its a reserve I rarely visit on my own as its always rather quiet there and to be honest it just makes me feel very jumpy if I am alone. It does, however, have a hide which overlooks many bird feeders. In fact, its the only place (apart from our garden) where I have ever got close enough to take pictures of birds on feeders with my 70-300 lens. It will be interesting to compare results between the two cameras. On Sunday I'm hoping to make a start on Christmas baking by making the Christmas Puddings and am looking forward to using the "canon-ball" sphere again for one of the puddings - it was a huge success last year.

Have a good weekend everyone :)

Monday, 17 November 2014

A Stroll Around a Picturesque Warwickshire Village

D and I visited Stoneleigh - a pretty and historic village near Kenilworth on Saturday afternoon to try out the new bridge camera. Well in actual fact I took along my tried and trusted Olympus and let D do the experimenting. Why is it that a twenty something can pick up a new camera and, without even looking at the manual, have an instinctive knowledge of what all the buttons, controls and dials do whereas after studying the manual for half an hour or so I hadn't a clue? Conditions were far from ideal for photography - it was rather dull and gloomy with rain promising to fall at any second and, as we didn't arrive until two thirty, it already seemed to be getting dark.

Stoneleigh, originally called Stanlei, was once situated in the vast forest of Arden - sadly only a few trees from this forest remain in the area in nearby parkland at Stoneleigh Abbey. Around 45 cottages built in the 1500's remain in the village today although many have undergone alterations over the centuries.

The front of Chestnut Cottage shown in the photo above is a seventeenth century framed cottage with much of the original wattle and daub infilling of the walls still to be seen.

There has probably been a smithy on the village green since the sixteenth century - the present building was built in 1851.

The Almshouses were built in 1594.

The Seventeenth Century Bridge Cottage is sometimes called Van Dieman's Cottage - stories tell that brothers who lived there were convicted of poaching and deported to Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania). They survived their sentence (unlike many others) and eventually returned to the village.

The present day bridge was built in the early 1800's replacing an earlier one.

Here is D on the bridge composing a picture (please see the photo of swans below). On Saturday I finally understood why my family are always leaving me behind and moaning about me taking photos (and stopping to identify every butterfly and flower). I strolled round snapping away as quickly as possible (a habit I have got into due to the moans and groans when I am with others) whereas D was taking his time and composing each and every photo. I remember thinking to myself why doesn't he just hurry up and take the shot so we can move on - no wonder they get fed up with me!!!

A lovely example of layered sandstone in the bridge.

I loved the higgledy piggledy arrangement of rocks in this wall in front of one of the houses.

By now the light was absolutely awful - even on ISO 1600 (which I've never used before outdoors) and using F8 I was only getting a shutter speed of about one thirtieth of a second.

Jane Austen once visited this area - her mother's cousin inherited Stoneleigh Abbey in 1806 and a visit to the Abbey provided her with inspiration for novels such as Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Before leaving we had a quick look at the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin - parts of which date back to the first half of the twelfth century. There were extensive alterations in the Fourteenth Century and it was restored during the nineteenth.

I didn't take many photos inside the church as it was very dark and gloomy and, as another couple were also looking around the building, I didn't like to start using the camera flash.

I did manage to get a photo of the late 11th or early 12th century font though. Arcading round the sides contains figures of the Apostles. It is believed the font was brought from Maxstoke Priory where it had lain among the ruins for 250 years.

This modern collage made in 1970 by students at the Birmingham College of Art represents the Dove - the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

This effigy of a woman was brought into the porch from the churchyard and it has been suggested she is holding a child. There is a rather sad story behind the effigy that tells how many centuries ago a knight who lived near the church went to war leaving his pregnant wife behind. On hearing news of his death she is said to have ripped open her belly and killed herself. She was buried on the north side of the churchyard under the effigy of a woman and child.

We had noticed there didn't appear to be any pubs in the village and on reading a booklet on the history of the village and church when I got home I discovered that all 3 village pubs had been closed by the local Lord of the Manor - Lord Leigh - when his daughter who was cycling to the church was laughed at by a number of drunks!

I've included a few photos taken by D with the new camera - on the first photo (you may need to enlarge it) you might be able to make out in the far distance a few 100 yards away a white speck.

And here is the white speck on full zoom - a pair of white swans. I know its not the best of photos but it just show how good the zoom capacity of the camera is.

This is a macro shot of a tiny piece of moss on the bridge - am looking forward to trying the camera with moths and insects when winter is over.

Finally, just to compare a photo very similar to one I took when we first arrived.

We did take the camera for a very brief visit to Winterbourne House Gardens on Sunday when I was family chauffeuring again but I'll put those photos in another post later in the week.

Reference : Booklet entitled "A Walk Round Stoneleigh looking at the Historic Buildings" and a Guide to the Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin leaflet.