Kingsdown and St Margarets Bay, Kent.

13 October 2019 – YHA Weekend, the south Kent Coast.

Our Walthamstow social group has been holding a weekend away for many years, well before I came on the scene. These are family affairs with 20 or 30 people or all ages attending. This is the fourth year that El and I have gone, and these weekends have appeared in past posts. The events are held in Youth Hostel Assocation (YHA) or similar properties, often in off-the-beaten-track locations. This year we were staying in a big old hostel building in Ringwould, just up the coast and slightly inland from Dover. I am guessing there was about 25 of us, including the ‘kids’, the youngest are all at university, so maybe kids is not quite right, maybe youf is more apt. Everyone was of drinking age, and there was a lot of drinking.

I have recently become a director of the residents association for the block where my flat is. The AGM was on Friday night so I worked from the flat during the day, attending the meeting in the early evening before joining El who had come down to join me after work.

The Saturday activity at the YHA weekender is a bike ride, as El doesn’t ride we didn’t rush up the coast from St Leonards to Ringwould. We eventually arranged to meet some other non-riders for lunch in a pub in the small coastal Kent village of Kingsdown.

I severely under-estimated how long it would take to drive from the flat, thinking it was going to be an hour or so. It took close to two hours, and not just because of bad traffic, it was a lot further than I expected. Apparently maps would have me this, lesson learned. I was very tempted to stop on the way and take some photos; it was quite gloomy out, lots of drizzle and low cloud. It would have been a great day to visit Dungeness, a place I had just finished reading a book about. However, we had committed to meeting friends for lunch, so I carried on. I finally conceded we were going to be very late so we rang out friends and found their deadline had changed so they could not wait for us any longer than they had. I then stopped and took this photo of the pylons half shrouded in cloud, my favourite of the photos I have taken on the Polaroid. These cameras are made for a ghostly bleak environment.

Even though our friends had left we chose to visit Kingsdown regardless, it is very close to where we are staying and had a pub that looked like a nice spot for lunch. The Zetland Arms was mentioned in another book I had recently finished reading and as it was right on the beach I thought it might make for some good photo opportunities. It did. It was also a great pub, with a very good pint of red ale, a friendly vibe, and a difficult to choose from excellent menu. We both had fish chowder and it was delicious.

I immediately liked Kingsdown, it is a small village nestled in a narrow strip between the sea and the cliffs, and it will not exist when the sea level rises. Off the main road the ‘streets’ are pebble, like the beach. The line between the beach, the roads and gardens is a blurred, marked by fences and chains. After heavy rain the ‘road’ was full of luckily, not deep puddles.  Its permanence seems quite temporary.

Kingsdown sits between the northern end of the white cliffs of Dover and Walmer/Deal. It is not on any tourist trail, maybe with the exception of the Zetland Arms and its great view and menu. Camera and Polaroid.

After lunch we took a very quick walk around, and I took some pictures on both the Polaroid and the digital cameras. I really like this place, and I love this stretch of coast for its not quite barrenness, it’s almost isolation and it’s almost bleakness.

After our late lunch and the brief photographic stroll we drove the six minutes to the YHA and let ourselves in, everyone else was still out. Once settled I had a glass of wine; the less said about the evening the better! Sunday morning was slow, very slow.

Once packed up we all drove to St Margarets in Cliffe, another village one Kent coast. Just south of Kingsdown, between there and Dover. The weather continued to be poor, not cold, but windy, damp and miserable. I have been here before, a couple of years ago when El and I did a week long tour of the south coast; trying to find the perfect location for me to buy a flat. Not that we were looking at St Margaret’s Bay, there is nothing here, but it does have a view of some white cliffs, which is what we were came here for back then, as now.

We had a brief walk, and stare at the sea, I took a couple more photos before we got in the car and I drove us back to Walthamstow.

Unpacking the car at home I managed to drop the Polaroid again, this time it was in \ bag, and juggling for house keys while carrying too many things I dropped the bag. The camera did not recover this time, and no longer works 😦

I was very angry and upset with myself, this was a gift from El, something I had wanted for a while and I had broken it inside five weeks. I was lucky that El was more forgiving. Thank you lovely xx

I have now bought a replacement, the same model and of similar vintage, thankfully they are reasonably common on eBay. I hope it works as well and as magically as the one El bought me.

The Polaroid.

24 September 2019 – London and St Leonards.

In May I attended a photography workshop in the North Yorkshire Dales where we primarily used Polaroid and Instax cameras to make images. I had a lot of fun that day and have wanted an instant camera ever since. It was my birthday last week and that want became a reality as El picked me one up from ebay. A Polaroid Impulse AF. My first ever instant camera.  A plastic  work  of art.

First made in 1988, this is a proper vintage Polaroid camera, and it certainly looks it. I am not sure when this one was made, but you can buy them new from Polaroid Originals, a company started in 2017 by the Impossible Project. I don’t think this one is terribly new. The Impossible Project is Dutch company founded in 2008 when Polaroid announced they were no longer going to make the film they were so famous for. Impossible Project bought one of the manufacturing plants and continued to make the film, before restarting the brand and releasing new cameras.

I was surprised to find the camera had a film in it with some shots left. I had to test it out immediately, so snapped a photo of El sitting on the couch. She was a bit quizzical about the whole thing.

Coinciding with the arrival of the new camera and my birthday, and not directly related, was the separate arrivals of my sister and my daughter. My sister is over from New Zealand for work and has a week with us before returning home; my daughter is here after working in Croatia and is on the way to a three month Yoga teaching job in Sri Lanka. It was lovely to have two family members visit at the same time, though my daughter did have to sleep on the floor in the back room!

Saturday afternoon the three of us went for a three hour loop walk including a section along the River Lea from Tottenham Hale to Walthamstow Marshes. A loop El and I have done on a few occasions. I wanted to show my sister a little bit more of Walthamstow. I took the Polaroid with me.

I love this section of the Lea; Tottenham to Stratford is a lovely walk with a nice variety of things to see. River boats, water birds, families walking, cyclists and fisherman, old cranes, trees and the river. I was pleased to see that this, the second photo I took with the Polaroid, and the first in daylight, came out OK. There was some artifacting which was fine, I like that in a Polaroid.

I was carrying the camera, among other things, in a cotton tote bag slung over my shoulder. Putting the camera away I completely missed the opening of the bag and the bag flew past the opening of the bag, crashing on to the path on the edge of the river bank. My first reaction was ‘crap, it’s going to fall in the river’, but luckily it didn’t. My second thought was hoping it was all OK. When I picked it up two images came out at the same time, not a good sign. The both looked like this abstract image, which I actually quite like. Having a weird abstract image as the last from a broken camera was not going to be any sort of comfort, and I was not looking forward to telling El I broke the gift she had just bought me. This is the first she will know about this….

Not much further along the river are these lovely old crane booms. This was a good opportunity to test if the camera was OK after its fall. Clicking the shutter release, another two frames came out. One looking pretty good, there was some striping, which is not too bad. I actually really like this to be honest.

The second frame was just the striping. I was hoping this was not going to be it for the camera. Gupl!

20 minutes further on, at the bridge crossing the Lea to the Walthamstow side, I took a photo of my sister and daughter and thankfully it came out very nicely and there was no wasted, damaged frame with it. Phew. It all seems to be OK. This was the final image from the film that was left in the camera. I have no idea how old the film  was,nor  how  long  it  had  been  in  the  camera.

The camera has three exposure settings, I am guessing a -1 stop, neutral and +1 stop. The first film I shot on neutral and it was a bit under exposed in my mind.

The next day, Sunday, El, my sister and I visited relatives on both sides of my family. An aunt and uncle on my father’s side and the same on my mother, with added extra uncle, a cousin and their children. After a very large lunch we headed off down to St Leonards. I wanted to show my sister my flat, and a little bit of the area I (occasionally) live in. We arrived late afternoon, still full from lunch, once settled we went for a short walk along the sea front.

There was a very typical, colourful, cloud strewn sunset. I set the camera at what I thought was +1 stop to let a bit more light in for the sunset, however after playing with the -1 setting the following day, I must have had this around the wrong way. I took these two images one after the other, it was a little cool so there was a not enough time for them to process fully before I realised that they were going to be so dark. I do really like them though. These are the first two shots from a new film, so I am A) very happy that a camera bought from ebay is very good, and B) the fall yesterday did not damage it!

I had also brought the digital camera with me, just in case.

The following morning El and I too Sarah on a longer walk around St Leonards and Hastings, taking a walk up Hastings Pier. Walking to the end of the pier is not something I have done before.

I also took a photo on the digital camera, back over the St Leonards sea front, fast becoming one of my favourite views.

I love the walk from St Leonards to Hastings, under a mile, but the sea air, the sound of the waves on the stony beach, the fact it is not deserted but also not crowded. It is just a nice walk in any weather.

At The Stade I took a quick detour down amongst the old tractors and bulldozers used to haul fishing boats up and down the beach. They were a nice subject to experiment with the Polaroid, though mostly came out over exposed. The sun was quite bright and I was pretty much shooting directly into it. I am happy the way these turned out, and experimentation is always fun.

I was quite surprised at how busy the old town was on a Monday, and most of the shops were open, given this was the end of September, verging into autumn, this is a good sign for the state of Hastings at the moment. My sister liked it as well, thankfully. Picking up a bottle of wine we went back to the flat for a pre-dinner drink before heading down to Farmyard in St Leonards for a very nice meal. There are a number of really nice eating and drinking establishments around, Farmyard, possibly being my pick of the bunch at the moment. London prices though!

I am still learning the art of scanning, the second film were scanned better than the first. The images have all been through Lightroom, but I have not done much too them, bit of sharpening and tone adjustments, so they are very close the original. I am happy enough with the camera that I have bought another three 8-packs and hope to get out with it next weekend.

A most excellent birthday present. xx

I am now experimenting with some leaf photos, a bit of still life for the winter.

Back to the forest

07 September 2019 – Epping Forest.

It’s all a bit a green, this forest. Up, down and around, no matter what direction the eyes face, a sea of green. The dark of the dense and wild holly, the light of the highest leaves filtering the sporadically shining sun, the moss on the trees and dense ferneries, the golf course, everything and all. Monochromatic, green.

Late summer is not my favourite time in Epping Forest, it is too close, too narrow, dense, prickly, it can be humid after rain and claustrophobic. It is noisier than I recall, and not good noise either; cars and dogs and too many people, a tannoy from the running club blaring, a jack hammer breaking up something in the distance, planes overhead. I need to visit a few times to learn again to filter these out and the natural sounds, and silences, of the forest dominate. 

It is my first visit to the forest in 11 months, and bloody hell, did I enjoy it.

For most of 2018 I managed to get to the forest at least once a month. It is hardly far from home, I can walk to the fringes in 10 minutes and drive to the middle in 15. There has been no particular reason for not going, obviously St Leonards is taking up most of my spare time, but I am in Walthamstow enough to at least have visited once. The lack of walking has been noticed and really struck home this morning when I pulled my walking trousers on and had to take a few deep breaths to do them up. A baggier t-shirt than normal went on top, cover up the overhang. I am getting fat.

I took the bus to Chingford and walked to The Woodbine Inn to the north; catching a bus, a train and a tube back home. I won’t repeat it. The walk was great, the journey home was expensive, long and a come down from the high of the walk.

I wanted to make this a decent walk so started by walking along the side of the golf course and up to Pole Hill. The path is wide and used heavily by walkers and mountain bikers, the scrub on both sides of the path; one separating the path from the road and the other the golf course, has not been maintained for ages, and it is full of bramble and nettle. Council cuts due to austerity; I bet the golfers hate it, though this is Tory country so austerity is their own fault. I do not sympathise for them.

I tend to not use the formal walking paths, but this is the only option for most of the walk up the ‘hill’; at about 70 meters it is not much, more a large mound than a hill. There is a good view of London city from the top. Though I don’t usually stay, just turn down one of the dirt tracks and head back towards the forest proper.

As I mentioned a post or two ago I bought a new, cheap(ish) mirrorless camera, the Lumix GX800. I had this with me today along with one of the old lenses I had from when I went to Sri Lanka in 2013. The camera is very small and light so I didn’t need the camera bag to carry it. I took the light tripod, though as often happens when I got to the forest I did not use it. One of the very cool features of this new camera is the ability to shoot natively in 16*9 format as well as the traditional 4*3.  16*9 gives a much more landscape look to the image and is great for woodland photography, allowing for more width and less sky. Obviously I could do this crop in Lightroom, but being able to do things ‘in camera’ is much more my style.

Hawkwood, the strip of forest down the side of the golf course is not very wide, and is under some sort of clearance regime at the moment, a lot of undergrowth has been cleared, hopefully this will not mean a mad rush of holly over the autumn and winter. There is quite a line between the cleared and the yet to be cleared.

I really like the walk through Bury Wood and Black Bush Plain, I generally start on one of the mountain bike tracks and then wander off down one of the side tracks, generally heading in a northerly direction, though I don’t really care. I am not going to get lost and this is a lovely, varied bit of forest. Host to a fine stand of hornbeam surrounded by ferns.

This area has been cleared by the Epping Forest Volunteers who have removed the holly and new growth saplings to allow grasses and ferns and more traditional undergrowth to flourish. The ever expanding and ubiquitous (and evil) holly, is a species introduced in the past couple of hundred years. Traditionally self managed by cattle and wildlife, with nothing to curtail it it grows wildly and densely and does not all anything to grow beneath it.


Heading up through Hill Wood, one of my favourite sections of the forest I followed a lose path up to High Beach.


I stopped for a coffee and sandwich before carrying on into territory relatively unknown. I have not walked in the section north of High Beach before, I have visited to the north east a few times, but this section was new to me. It was also very busy and I was a little uninspired by it, though I was now following one of the main paths, primarily as I thought I had at least an hour of walking to go. It turned out to only be 45 minutes, which was disappointing, I could have wandered off into the trees and seen a little more, and been a little more alone.


Crossing Claypit Hill Rd I came across a really nice little downhill mountain bike section with a couple of tasty jumps I would have enjoyed 10 years ago. It was not long, but it looked good. I must get back on to my bike again. The final section I walked through was a flat plain, I think it was Honey Lane Quarters. There were some nice trees and I would like to have taken more photos but the camera had run out of battery! On the fringes of the trees just before the road I spotted three small deer. In truth they spotted me first, and I only saw them as a flash of movement, only realising what they were when they stopped further away. As I turned towards them they ran off and out of sight.


It was close to my final destination, The Woodbine Inn, so off there I toddled. I have heard good things about the pub, good beer well kept and a welcome place for walkers.


I did not find it that welcoming, the staff were friendly, but most of the customers seem to be staring at me like I was some sort of alien. I drank my pint, caught the bus to Waltham Cross Station and waited for the outrageously priced train back towards home. A pint in my local was more enjoyable, and I do not feel particularly home there either.


I loved being out in the forest again, I took a few photos, summer is not my time for photography, but it is a good time to walk.