The nikau grove

Monday 18 October 2021 – Auckland Domain.

Having finally restarted work on the novel I’ve been meaning to write for at least the past two years I managed to distract myself again with an idea for a short story. I’ve not achieved much with the novel though I at least have the broad concept. I’d completed enough research to finish a historical timeline that gives context and background to the plot, and then stupidly left the notebook I wrote it in back in London. I’ve now redone that work and typed it into a spreadsheet so at least I can’t leave it somewhere again, though typing takes away some of the pleasure and spontaneity of hand writing notes. I have a new notebook, which sadly still remains unsullied by ink or pencil lead. I hope to change that situation soon.

The short story I have embarked upon is partly set in Auckland Domain so it was fortuitous timing to get a call from mum asking if I would like to meet her there for coffee. I immediately said yes, packed the camera in a bag and power-walked my way up to the domain, surprisingly the walk took less than 30 minutes. Auckland is smaller than it appears from car windows.

We picked up coffee and a wee treat each from a café and had a pleasant half an hour chatting by the duck ponds. There were very few people about. After going our separate ways I wandered around taking some photos to use as visual prompts for the short story, though I have chosen to not upload them. This statue from 1955 does not appear to have an official name, though it seems to to be known as ‘The Three Muses’.

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Naturally all the other photos were of trees, there are some magnificent trees in the domain and I have a tree obsession at the moment. My next planned photowalk should have no trees at all, maybe.

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Eleanor and I have walked though the domain a couple of times recently though stuck to the roads on both occasions, as I was walking down the grass bank taking photos of the big open trees I discovered some bush tracks I didn’t know existed. There seem to be three of four interlinked trails here and I chose to walk down the Nikau Grove, and wow, that was a great choice! The nikau is New Zealand’s only native palm they can grow quite tall and have an old-style house-brush shape when allowed to grow free. I really like them for their usually quite reliable geometry, though in a dense grove of both mature and immature trees they are a chaotic mess of crisscrossed lines, bright reflection and deep shadow, and great to look at and photograph.

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It was absolutely my sort of place to take photos and I’m definitely coming back here once I get my hands on the tripod legs that are stored at mum’s house, I shipped the head over from London and have been waiting to reunite the two pieces. It was just a little too dim for hand-held photos and there was just a little bit too much glare off the shiny reflective fronds in those rare places where the midday sun penetrated the cover.

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It had rained heavily overnight and the small stream that runs through the trees had overflowed and was utilising the well worn path as the water made its way down hill. I managed to avoid getting wet feet by hopping from one side to the other. It almost felt like a jungle adventure, and with a bit of imagination it was a much needed, though very tame, thrill.

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All in all it was a very enjoyable and unexpected day out.

Now Phil, less procrastinating and get back to story writing!

P.S. I now have the tripod legs.

The pohutakawas of Emily Place Reserve

Tuesday 05 October 2021 – Emily Place Reserve.

I have had a pretty lacklustre few days, there was a bit of rain which didn’t inspire me to venture out and the anticipated loosing of lockdown restrictions and a move to level two of lockdown didn’t happen due to the rise in numbers and the spread of Covid-19 cases to areas outside Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. As you will all know by now the Covid-19 case numbers are still extremely low by international standards, but still too much for Aotearoa New Zealand to support. Correspondingly my support for lockdown is slowly eroding as I see my increasingly expensive holiday disappearing into the distance.

There was a slight relaxing of the rules which means I will be able to see mum again for the first time in seven or so weeks, albeit outside only, so we are hoping for a fine weekend so we can get together. We came back to New Zealand so I could spend time with family and it has been extremely frustrating that I cannot yet do this small thing, even though we have been here for over two months. We spent a lot of money just to be in a small number of rooms together, something we could easily do in the UK, with better telly. Thankfully Eleanor and I still get on.

I had been hoping for another cloudy, maybe even a mildly drizzly day, I wanted to go to Emily Place Reserve to take some photos of it’s amazing and lovely mess of pohutakawa trees. I had walked past it a few days ago on a random roaming-the-city-centre walk but didn’t have the camera on me at the time. I was hoping against bright sunlight as I knew these trees would cast deep shadows and the contrast would be difficult for any camera to properly capture. I was bored and had no other photo mission planned so went out on this sunny morning with the faint hope it would fully cloud over. It didn’t.

When I got home and uploaded the photos to my laptop I was a bit disappointed by my efforts, though not super surprised by that as the light was very contrasty. However, looking again today, a couple of days later, I revised that opinion, spent some time in Lightroom trying to balance the shade and light tones and below are my favourites.

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I don’t know much about Emily Place Reserve, other than what you see is what you get. It is just off the city centre, down from the much larger and better known Albert Park. It is tiny and sort of triangular, it cannot be more than 50 meters on any side. It has a flatish section at the top and then drops down via some steps quite steeply. The main reason I was there the tangled mess of huge and ancient pohutakawa trees that absolutely dominate the top of the park. These trees are so big and sprawling and low that you can no longer walk along the path that was, at one stage, under them. I love how there are steel struts under the branches holding them off the footpath.

Getting in nice and close it’s hard to believe that this is a tiny park in the heart of a city.

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In the midst of the trees are a couple of benches, which were thankfully unoccupied, and a monument with two dedications;  firstly to the memory of John Frederick Churton, who I have never heard of and will have forgotten tomorrow. He was the chaplain of the colonial garrison based nearby when he died in 1853. Secondly it commemorates the centenary of the laying of the foundation stone of St Pauls Church which was also built nearby in 1841. The church and the garrison were long gone when the memorial was erected in 1941. It seems the wanton destruction and replacement of buildings in Auckland has been going on for a long time.

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Anyway, the trees are what I was there for and they did not disappoint, they are fabulous and I am glad they have been left and no-one decided that another block of poorly built flats would be perfect for that small, triangular piece of city-centre hillside real estate.

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This final photo was taken outside Pt Erin Swimming Pool on a walk with Eleanor on Sunday.

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Pah Homestead and some big trees

Thursday 02 September – Auckland.

Flippen ‘eck, how can it be September already? Last time I looked it was only August!

For a year that has really dragged, the last 12 months have disappeared way too fast. Perhaps it is due to the exceedingly rapid approach of my 59th birthday, which, by my reckoning, is only one year short of 60 and then I will be proper old. If we are back in Blighty by then I will be eligible for free public transport in London, a sure sign of old age. Though knowing those bastard Tories they will change the rules just before its my turn and make it 61, then 62 etc. Maybe not having a free bus pass will keep me young?

Eleanor and I have been in Auckland for a month and two days, with only three of those days not spent in either managed isolation or New Zealand’s quite strict level 4 lockdown. We are expecting to be in some form of lockdown until October. Our timing wasn’t the best; maybe instead I should blame Covid and say it’s timing wasn’t the best?

Eleanor started her New Zealand contract on Monday, a job she managed to arrange from England (well done Lovely, x). I’ve been looking for work, though the lockdown has made that more complex. With Eleanor working and things being so expensive, me taking on a contract makes sense, it’s not as if we can bugger off on an extended road trip. Though I’ve been off work for just over a month and I feel partly rested, I haven’t had anything that remotely resembles what I would call a holiday. Some may say lounging around in a hotel room getting room service and reading books sounds like a holiday, but anyone who has read this blog for the last few years would know I like to do stuff on holiday, lots of stuff. Too much stuff usually.

I’ve been out walking for a couple of hours every day since my negative Covid test, even if one of those days was just to the supermarket (the long way) to get provisions. Spring officially started yesterday, though we didn’t experience an Auckland winter. It never got properly cold, though it hammered with rain on Monday night and there was some severe flooding in parts of Auckland, but not where we are thankfully. Unusual floods, another thing we seemed to have brought from London with us.

On Monday I took the camera for a walk down through Onehunga. I have started a series of photos of the old wooden churches and halls that dot the cities and countryside.

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Across the Manukau Harbour via this walk/cycle way that has been tacked on under the motorway bridge, to Mangere Bridge.

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There was nothing interesting on the far side (the grass was the same green), so I took a photo under the bridge and walked back. I had visions of walking to the stone fields, but they were further away than I thought, and I am lazy and was dressed in too many layers and needed a pee and all the toilets are closed due Covid. It was a listless walk, a walk for the sake of walking is not one of my favourite things. At least when we move to level three lockdown I can hunt for a coffee.

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On Wednesday I walked back to the harbour at Onehunga, and to a new walkway that has been built around the shoreline towards Waikowhai. I read somewhere ages ago that there was a plan to make a walkway right round this part of the coast and after spotting this on a previous walk I thought I would go and check it out when I next had the chance. I have lots of chance right now. I took a few photos, most of which were rubbish. The walkway is great!

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I passed this (I think) school building from 1920. It says ‘19 BOYS 20’ over the door it. Next door is the complimentary GIRLS building. They have been converted into houses and I think they are lovely. I took this on my phone.

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I also passed this very sad mini buried in a hedge on a quiet residential street and I wonder how long its been there? Decades possibly. I had a quite laugh to myself that someone had dumped a shopping trolley there as well.

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Today (Thursday) was glorious. Sunny and warm and the perfect day to go back to Monte Cecilia Park and take some photos of the Morton Bay Fig trees, then home via the supermarket to get more pinot; both noir and gris. Nice pinots are so cheap here compared to the UK and it is all I have been drinking since we arrived (he says while drinking a can of APA), though we are now on restricted Thursday-Saturday drinking to try and reduce any further belly expansion.

On Monday the legendary reggae/dub producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry died in Jamaica at the ripe old age of 85. After years of just dabbling with listening to dub I have been listening to and enjoying a lot of it over the past 18 months. His music was the perfect accompaniment to a walk under new spring sun. R.I.P The Upsetter.

Pah homestead was built by James Williamson (not the Stooges guitarist) in 1879 as a ‘gentleman’s residence’. It was the largest house in Auckland when it was completed. Monte Cecilia Park surrounds the building and is all that remains of the large original grounds, there are a large number of trees from the original grounds, including the oldest Morton Bay Figs in Auckland. It is a great residential park and it was nice to see there were a lot of people walking; both their dogs and their kids. Park walking in New Zealand means saying hello/good morning/gidday to lots of people which is fabulous and made more difficult with masks, and in my case headphones on.

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After a year of renovation the house was opened to the public as an arts centre and cafe in 2010, and is run by the council who took over the property in 2002. Prior to the council owning it the building had been used as a homeless shelter, migrant housing and nunnery since 1913 when the Sisters of Mercy (not the band) bought the house from the bank. It is closed at the moment.

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I spent an hour or so wandering the park taking photos of the Morton Bay Figs, they are just so magnificent and I have not really done their size and complexity and wonderful, amazing root systems the justice they deserve. Trees can be difficult to take photos of, especially when the sun is bright and the shadows deep.

I love how those huge roots look like the back of a massive great eel or some mythological worm rising and descending back into the earth.

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On Saturday we move out of my sisters’ place and into an Air BnB at the Eden Terrace end of Mt Eden for at least three weeks. It has been great staying here after coming out of MIQ, especially with Covid restrictions meaning we cannot see other people.  It gave us the chance to settle into Auckland, get some basic things organised and for Eleanor to start working from home, without having to worry about too much. Thanks sister of mine xx

I will miss our day time friend, and I think she will miss us next week when my sister is at work and their is no-one to provide daytime tummy rubs.

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The Epping Forest Project, Phase 6 – June.

The Epping Forest Project, Phase 6 – June.

Another crazy month! June passed in a blur of activity and as I sit here writing at the end of July, June just seems so long ago. This year is disappearing too quickly. Some days I find myself mentally looking for the stop button so I can put a temporary halt to life and get some rest, though I can never find the damn thing. As I look forward to August and further beyond I see no respite, I am going to have to plan a weekend of NOTHING. Sticking to it will be the hard part.

A few months ago I started seeing a career coach, Nat. I was looking for advice on how I can transition from my IT job into something different, something I enjoy, can make a basic living from and can carry into those first years of ‘retirement’. I have really enjoyed seeing Nat and over time the sessions have morphed into discussions on a range of things. The last couple have looked at what holds me back from doing things, and tactics to challenge those barriers. One of thing has been a reluctance to do anything with my photography. Another is an inability to take photos when I feel people are watching and perhaps judging me. I miss taking a lot of photos if I feel that I look like some sort of weirdo taking photos of inane or uninteresting objects or scenes. Stupid I know, but this is something that goes on in my head pretty much every time I go out with my camera.

Both of those things are around bravery and confidence. I am not, not have very much of either. I know I did a lot of travelling back when this blog started, that took a massive leap in confidence. Looking back it was still very safe travelling, not that I am disrespecting my travelling and what I achieved with it. It was life changing. Some may say that continuing to write this blog is a challenge to the reluctance to put myself out there. However the blog is pretty anonymous, I would be surprised if many people I know actually know this blog exists. I I do not share the blog widely, rarely is it linked to in FB or Twitter.

I have taken a couple of steps to challenge this lack of confidence. Firstly I talked to Buhler and Co, our local cafe about holding an exhibition there during the e17 Art Trail during June 2019. The art trail is a big event, lots of artists and lots of venues, it has been running for years and is quite popular. Sadly, they already have an artist booked for next year, but they have asked me if I would like to show some photos for two months starting in October. Two months to plan, shoot, frame and hang a number of photos for three walls in a very busy cafe. No challenge then!

Secondly, I decided for the June month of my photo project I would go to the busiest part of Epping Forest, suck up my reluctance, my lack of confidence and my avoidance of any potential embarrassment and take photos of what I wanted, how I wanted and where I wanted.

It was an interesting session, this area of the forest is not the most photogenic in my opinion, and summer is not great for forest photography – it is all too green. 

I was again experimenting with intentional camera movement photography (ICM). Continuing to develop my style within this genre. I was initially proposing using some of these in this exhibition and the cafe were happy with this idea.

I am still pondering using  ICM images, but am tending towards doing a series of close up photos of grass and the plants within them. I have been taking a lot of photos like this lately. This is one of those areas where I feel uncomfortable. Standing in a field with my camera shoved into the grass,  ‘What will people be thinking’ is what goes through my head, not ‘wow this grass is amazing to take photos of’.

I loved this tree and its fungal growth. Sadly none of the photos I took of the fungus were interesting or good enough to share. But I liked the face in the tree and the jaunty cap. I spent a lot of time on this tree, using the tripod, different lenses, and avoiding looking at the people looking at me as they walked past.

It was good to challenge my own fear. I just need to do it every time I pick up a camera!

The Epping Forest Project, Phase 5 – May.

The Epping Forest Project, Phase 5 – May.

Reluctant at first I headed down the gentle slope and into trees, uninspired and frustrated at myself for not being able to relax into this morning alone in the forest.

As I descend towards what I suspect will be a small stream the noise from Epping Road slowly recedes, the bird noise becomes prevalent and I start to hear beech nuts and other tree fall crunching under foot. The peace of the surroundings is settling my busy mind and soon enough my footfall is quieter, my march has become a relaxed stroll and my ears and eyes are tuning into the frequency of my environment. I hope to see deer.

Another busy month, another with few opportunities to get to the forest of a weekend. I must try and get up after work some time, battle my way through the late afternoon traffic, or this project will never take place.

For the first time this year I took the mountain bike for a quick ride before El and I went out. I didn’t go far, just to Higham’s Park Lake, though even that was enough for me. The newly arrived adult hay fever has been particularly bad this summer, even with the daily pill I am left sneezing, coughing and streamy of eye on the worst days. It was still great to be out on the bike for the first time in months, though I did suffer for it.

I also found my new favourite tree, so gnarly!

I bought an Epping Forest book the other week, it was mentioned on Twitter and just seemed like the perfect book for me. Written by the naturalist Edward North Buxton in 1884, I found a second edition copy from 1885 on the internet for £17. The book is in fabulous condition and contains the author’s description of the forest and 6 maps, all drawn from his exploration of the forest. Epping Forest have recently released an updated version of their forest map, so it was with great delight I spent some time comparing the two. There were not too many differences, the roads and paths were almost all the same, interestingly Hollow Pond did not exist in Buxton’s book. I looked it up and the pond was only created in 1905 when stone was quarried for the construction of nearby Whipps Cross Hospital.

This morning’s walk was to look at Ambresbury Banks, one of the two ancient earthen forts in the forest; the other being Loughton Fort which I have visited many times in the past. The construction of the earth fort is believed to have commenced around 700BC and the site was occupied until at least 42AD. There is a 6ft tall bank and moat surrounding an area of around 4 hectares.

There is not a lot to see to honest, a bank and some beech trees, some pollarded and some not. It is quite close to Epping Rd and the traffic noise was quite loud, verging on unpleasant. It was not what I needed this morning. I walked the perimeter, where possible I used the top of the wall. Walk in the footsteps of those ancients who created this haven for their families and their livestock. It is more clearly defined than Loughton Fort, but I feel less of it than I do for Loughton, perhaps it was just the nearby road?

Completing the loop of the site I consulted my new map and decided to head towards Theydon. I did not have a huge amount of time this morning, so started walking along one of the mapped pathways, taking the opportunity to experiment further with impressionist photography.

Mapped pathways are not really my thing so spotting a bike trail pointing roughly where I wanted to go I wandered off into the trees. Finding the small stream at the bottom of the valley I could see loads of deer sign in the mud, clearly this place, without a steep bank is where wild life came to drink. I decided to follow what looked to be a well used deer track through the twisted young scrub. No human or cow sized animal could walk though here, it was all very low. I was making so much noise bashing though that I gave up any idea of seeing any wildlife at all.

I followed the stream until it joined with a proper trail and finally I found a scene that was worth spending some time setting up the tripod and getting angles just right. The tripod thing is a whole story in itself, though I am never sure on how to express it, one for another day.

Soon after I found this big old beach, I think it is one that was a coppice (chopped at ground level) which has led to these four separate trunks. I decided to take some time with my camera, walk around the tree, set up some shots and try to make some crisp photos. Then the noisiest man in Epping Forest turned up with a friend and they sat right by the tree I was taking photos of. Talking inanely, he at the loudest possible volume, I quickly lost my happy vibe , took two pictures and stomped off.

Almost back at the car I came across a small open plain area with some lovely tall silver birch on the edge and a wonderful old oak surrounded by fern in the centre. I took a lot of images, though the light was hideous; bright and flat, filtered through low light cloud. I will come back here again when there is some big cloud going on. It is a lovely spot.

These silver birch just screamed out for a bit of panning, so tall and straight.

After a fairly flat and uninspired start to this walk things really did pick up and I was happy with the photos I took, and the time I had outside. My enjoyment increasing the further I moved away from the noise of the traffic; something to add to my mental health toolkit.

Autumn in Epping Forest – Week 2

Sunday 22 November 2017 – Epping Forest.

I was a little disappointed with the finished product after last week’s photo walk in Epping Forest. I had some good compositions and had the light pretty much right in most cases. Two key photographic objectives made. Where I had let myself down was the crispness of some of the images. There were a couple I was quite pleased with that were just not sharp enough in the areas that counted. What really galled is that I had humped the tripod around with me for the entire three half hours, yet I only used it for about ten minutes. What a waste; and don’t ask me why I did not use it. I have no reason.

I decided to go out again this weekend, take the tripod, but actually use it. No proper walk planned. Just photograph near to where I park and take more time, but producing less output.

I left home a little later than last week, it was another cracking autumn day, crisp, but not cold, with little wind and a clear sky; perfect for everyone and there dog to go outside. The car park near where I had planned to check out was full when I arrived, damnit! I ended up driving to another location, one I am familiar with, but it was second choice due to it being close to one of the more popular areas of the forest.  I do like to do my photography on my own.  The forest is the one place locally I can let my mind run free, clear out all the garbage that comes in over a working week, then reset and prepare thoughts and ideas for the week ahead. I always feel refreshed when I get home.

I was amazed at how much the forest had changed in just a week, a lot of the leaves had gone and there are a lot more bare trees than before. Next time I come up there will only be tree skeletons left. I took significantly less photos than last week, I had given my self a lot less time, and I only strayed a couple of hundred metres from the car, but I did use the tripod and I did get much sharper images. 

Mission accomplished!

I love how this tree has managed to reconnect its roots and has survived being blown over.

I spent a bit of time trying to photography these two trees, I liked their shapes and their relationship and I liked the way the light plays on them and with their leaves. I just could not seem to get the shot I wanted. I took enough, and this was the best of an average bunch.

Perhaps this couple sitting nearby put me off.  I always feel restrained when others are around.

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My favourite image from the session.

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Autumn in Epping Forest – Week 1

Sunday 22 November 2017 – Epping Forest.

Last year I managed to pretty much miss the changing of the seasons in London. Autumn arrived quite late and the trees had not started properly changing colour until after I left for India. This year I stayed for the show.

I have not been to Epping Forest for a few weeks, and was really looking forward to this trip. I had a walk planned, batteries for the big camera charged and the tripod in the car.

On a normal trip to the forest I am looking for flat grey light, however today I was hoping for some nice low sun. Actually, what I was praying for was some dense mist, though I settled happily for the clear sky that I got.

I have a semi regular walking route I follow when I go to the forest, covering decent sized groves of beech and silver birch trees. The actual paths taken vary each time, and I often stray in to small blocks of trees that I have yet to thoroughly explore before. Blocks that feel remote, that are quiet; though always my new favourite block.

Though I took the tripod, I barely used it, something I utterly regret now as I do the edit, as most of the images are not really, really crisp. I was disappointed with that. I have no real explanation as to why I did not use the tripod much. I am blaming the fact I had planned too large a walk, for the limited time I had.

I am going to return next week and stick to one small area.

Here are the images I ended up with.  I must admit I took an awful lot, way more than I normally do, but the forest was utterly spectacular. So much colour and so much vibrancy. I will leave it to you to judge 🙂

 

November 2017

It is now less than a month to Christmas. 2017 has been another really busy year and I am not really sure where it all disappeared to. But disappear it did. This year has been the first time in the six years since I left New Zealand (on my two year holiday) that I have not been back for a visit.  Mum did come to see us, which was fabulous, but that meant I missed out on seeing my two grand children.  I need to make sure that I return in 2018.

I have not taken a walking trip this year either, not even a couple of sneaky days away, again highly unusual, and another symptom of my busyness. I am going to try and squeeze a weekend away on my own in before the end of the year. Take some photos and do a little bit of walking.  My long term goal to walk the south west coast path have been thwarted, but there is no one to blame but myself, though at least I did visit the path a few times in 2017.

Though we have been busy, a lot of that busyness has been doing fun things, and we have been out and about for numerous walks and other activities. I have no cause for complaint, I just want to do too much I guess. Most of those activities over the year have been written about.

I generally take a camera most places I go, the ‘little’ Canon G16 is in my backpack most days, and if it isn’t, I at least have my phone with me the rest of the time. So, this post may be the start of a regular end of month wrap-up post of the random images I take that do not fit in to another narrative.

The only thread that remotely links even a small number of these images together is ‘Autumn’. I love autumn in the UK far more than in Auckland. Here, even in London, we get much more colour in the trees, and the dead fall on the ground. So I will start with some of those.

Most weekday mornings I walk from Green Park Station, down through Green Park, across the Mall and through St James Park to the office. I have really enjoyed watching the trees turn, it has been a beautiful experience and the walk is a good start to most days.

A couple of weeks ago, Eleanor and I walked to, and then through the recently opened ‘Walthamstow Wetlands’, Europe’s largest urban wetland area.  It is not the best time of year for urban wildlife; and the place was pretty crowded with other visitors, so we kinda just walked through from the Ferry Rd entry to the Copper Mill Lane entry, where I took this picture.

There were piles of leaves all along the end of the Copper Mill Lane, so I stopped to take a few photos of the brightly coloured leaves, drying and dying on the ground. The rich array of coloured leaves, all from the same type of tree is a constant reminder of how  amazing the natural world is.  I also tried a little bit of ‘Intentional Camera Movement’ photography to get this blurry, splash of colour, painterly affect.

On Saturday we went to Tate Modern to see the Modigliani exhibition, as members we got to  enter the exhibition an hour before the ‘public’. It was really good, I am not overly familiar with his work, but I particularly liked his early portraits. There was no photography allowed in the exhibition. However, I did quickly snap this picture outside, a scene I really liked, and one I am going to go back to to try and get a better image.

Along with this one of the wonderful silver birches outside.

El and I went separate ways after walking to Liverpool St Station. I was on a mission to a record fair at Spitalfields (unfulfilled), though I did find this wonderful light sculpture around Broadgate.

And this old shop front, which I surprised myself by never having seen before!

There are a couple of posts coming from two short photo missions I have made in Epping Forest over the past couple of weeks, and that will be a wrap of November 2017!

Searching for Obelisk

Sunday 30 July 2017 – Epping Forest.

The day after we returned from our south coast road trip I visited an exhibition at the wonderful Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge on the edge of Epping Forest. The exhibition was a collection of photographs taken by Marion Sidebottom, who is the current artist in residence at the forest. The focus of the work was the ancient trees in the forest, a subject I to am interested in. There were some lovely photos and I enjoyed a brief chat with Marion as well.

The exhibition did inspire me to get out and take some more photos in the forest, and maybe, just get lost wandering around for a while. My mission for this walk was to find a tree that was named in Marion’s exhibition as Obelisk. Two beech trees that appear to be wedded together. Helpfully Marion identified the location for the tree, so it was off to Loughton Camp I went.

Parking in the car park on Epping New Road, I headed off into the trees with the 5d on my back and the tripod under my arm. I was fully prepare for a photography session.

I know this section of the forest pretty well, so I was off the path and into the trees as soon as I left the car. The first scene I stopped at was one I had seen when I was last here on my bike. I am not particularly happy with this shot, though I am also not unhappy with it. This pretty much sums up all the photos I took today.

On the other side of the path I spent a bit of time trying to get a shot of the green moss popping out of the brown and yellow leaf covered soil. There was a lot of fast moving cloud about so it was quite tricky trying to get the light right. In the end I elected for a shady look.

Walking on I soon arrived in a clearing close to Strawberry Pond.

The sun was a lot brighter which made photography a more complex, there was also a strong and gusty breeze blowing, moving all the foliage around. I spent a bit of time trying to get a close up of the bright green ferns against the heather.

I very much like a strong contrast and am constantly on the look out for a bright white tree trunk against a lush dark green background. I like the concept of this photo, but it still not quite right, another one of those, not too bad but not great shots that were the mark of the day.

Crossing over Earls Path I slogged my way up the hill towards Loughton Camp, stopping on the way to photograph the trunks of this beech. I particularly liked the contrasting moss and the way it slowly moving up the trunk.

Arriving at Loughton Camp I was annoyed to find a small group of youf riding mountain bikes over the mounds. As a mountain biker I don’t blame them, they look like they would be a lot of fun, but this is an ancient site and should be preserved so it is still there in another 2500 years. There are a couple of signs saying no bikes, but not enough of them and they are not very clear. I didn’t want to point my camera at them in case they thought I was going to tell on them. I do think it restricted my taking photos though. So here is some of Loughton Camp, facing away from the boys on their bikes. You can see there is a well warn path through here.

With the boys riding around the north end of the camp I decided to explore the south and west, looking for the ‘Obelisk’ trees. The area is huge, and there are a lot of beech here. Apparently 60% of England’s ancient beech trees are in Epping Forest. I did not find Obelisk, but I did find this outline of New Zealand in the thin scraggly grass between the trees.

I spent a bit of time on the flat area looking for Obelisk and for anything else worth photographing, I took a few other images, but nothing I was overly happy with. Mildly frustrated I decided to head back towards the car, though walking down through the trees rather than the main path.

I spent a bit of time at this small grove of silver birch that were backed by some nice dark holly. It was fairly dim now, and I was shooting at quite a slow shutter speed to get a bit of depth. With the breeze and the incline I was not able to get a perfectly still shot. I made a note of the location and will come back here as autumn comes and the leaves start to turn.

The forest was quite dense, surprisingly so. I am used to quite open sections that can be ridden through. I ended doing more of a bush bash than I expected, finally working my way back to the path, Long trousers next time, will save losing skin on my legs.

Once back across Earls Path I took another side trip into the trees in the general direction of the car. I hit another gnarly dense section of forest, mainly holly bushes, which are never fun to push through. Bizarrely I came across a chair in the middle of the trees, there was nothing around to show that it had been the old camp site of a forest dweller or dwellers. Just a chair. Alone. I took a few photos of it. I love the forest!

It was a semi-good afternoon out. I wasn’t overly happy with my pictures, and I was disappointed I did not find the tree. I have two trees to find near Loughton Camp. The ‘skull tree’, from Will Ahshon’s book, and now Marion’s Obelisk.

More reasons to go back , though I do not need a reason to go back other than it is a magnificent section of a lovely forest.

Old school fun fairs and ancient trees. Life in e17

Sunday 11 June 2017 – London.

Summer is coming along nicely now, we have had a bit of rain but that was during the week, and who cares what the weather is like during the week? I don’t, at least while I am working in Hammersmith which is too far to ride to from home. Maybe when (if?) I start this new job which is a lot closer to home I will start riding to work again.

It has been an interesting weekend, quite busy, yet there seemed to be plenty of time to get a few chores done as well. The e17 art trail is on at the moment, it is a two yearly art happening in Walthamstow, which has grown significantly over the past couple of events and now features dozens of exhibitions in local homes and public spaces. El and I decided to take in one of the furthest away exhibitions and do a supermarket shop on the way back. It was nice day for a walk.

We passed Walthamstow Cemetery on the way, I have driven past it a couple of times, but have never been in, as we were on foot it seemed like the right time. It is pretty interesting, unlike the graveyard at our local church which is grassed; and very overgrown at the moment, Walthamstow cemetery is almost grass free. There has been some weird subsidence and earth movement here and a lot of the graves are now rough and tumbled, it was quite an interesting place, though the light was really harsh and I only had my cellphone. I will come back one day soon when the light is better, bring the camera and have a really good look around.

It turned out that the art exhibition had finished the weekend before, but the walk was still worth if for the cemetery visit alone.

A couple of weeks ago it was London Tree Week, something I was not ready for. I did see a couple of photos of what is supposed to be one of, if not, the oldest tree in Epping Forest, along with a rough idea of its location.It was such a nice morning so perfect for jumping on the mountain bike and going on a tree hunting mission. Trying to find a tree in a forest. It could be interesting!

With no real idea of the location of the tree I skipped all the fun bits in the small interlocked sections of forest and park that connect home to Epping Forest proper. I was not planning on stopping until I reached The Lost Pond, where the tree I am looking for is be located. However, there are longhorn cattle in the forest at the moment, and as I had to stop and open a gate it would have been rude to not take a photo when this cow came over to check me out.

My next stop was Loughton Camp, pretty much the furthest North I have been in this block of the forest, Loughton Camp is the site of an Iron Age fortified village from approximately 500 years BC. Obviously there is not a lot to see, but the banks, ditches and ramparts that were formed are still there. I think it is quite cool – a 2500 year old piece of history made of earth half hidden in an old forest.

I also found this very pretty old tree, a back up in case I do not find the one I am looking for! It too is a copparded beech. A copparded tree has been coppiced (pruned very close to the ground) and then pollarded (pruning of the top branches to promote growth) at various times over the decades and centuries.

North and west of Loughton Camp lies The Lost Pond, I have never ventured to this part of the forest before, so as well as the adventure of looking for an old tree I also had the added adventure of riding into an area I haven’t been to. I often end up on trails and in bits of forest I haven’t been in, but that has always been by mistake and in areas I generally sort of know. 

From an adventure perspective it was all rather boring, I rode up the wide walking track for a little bit and then ducked off into the trees on a bit of single track. Two minutes later I found Lost Pond. It was not particularly lost, and I did not feel lost either. I stopped to take a photo of the pond, and two elderly couples wandered out of the forest to look at the pond as well. This made me feel even less adventurous. This section of the forest is particularly beautiful, though I think that every were I go.

Getting back on my bike I started to look for the ‘tree’, I knew what I was looking for, but trying to find a tree in a forest is like not seeing the wood for the trees. There are a lot of really nice beech trees in this section of the forest, which was a very good sign seeing as I was looking for a beech. I was quite surprised but I found the tree almost immediately, admittedly it did not require a huge amount of effort. It was disappointingly easy to find…

However finding it was not disappointing at all, it is a lovely tree. Possibly the oldest in the forest, and possibly over 1000 years old. It is a magnificent and regal specimen. It is a copparded beech tree. , as far back as Saxon times. It has been cut many times, pruned for firewood, fence and house building; who knows what for, but over centuries bits have been lopped off, but always leaving enough for it to continue to grow. Providing a source of wood for future generations.

I will come back to Lost Pond and this lovely ancient tree.

As is tradition on any ride, no matter where I am in the forest I always head to the tea hut at High Beech for a cup of instant coffee and piece of bread pudding; energy to ride back home. High Beech is usually the furthest part of the forest from home that I ride to. There is, of course, plenty more forest on from High Beech; and one day I will explore more of it.

The added bonus after eating the bread pudding is that from this ‘high’ point in the forest there are some really nice down hill tracks towards home, with so many choices and so many criss-cross tracks I inevitably end up somewhere new. This time I found myself in a wonderful little glade, with a couple of great, tall and straight trees. I must take my tree book up next time. One of the joys of randomly riding around the forest is coming across these sunny little spots, with possibility of never finding them again.

It was very peaceful, I could hear birds and the wind ruffling the trees and nothing else, and just as I was taking a photo of some lovely fungus a group of rattling chatting mountain bikers passed on through. Moment of reverie over. It was time to ride on home.

I was pretty knackered when I got home, I had been out for over three hours, which was quite a long time by my current standards and level of fitness. Every ride gets easier though!

After lunch and a wee lie down El and I walked round the corner to Lloyd Park which was hosting ‘Carters Steam-powered Funfair’ over the weekend. It was fabulous. Beautifully restored fairground rides, loads of families and kids. All the fun of the fair as they say. I only had my phone with me, but took a few photos anyway. I love seeing this sort of thing, things from my youth, looked after and being enjoyed by today’s young. Who cannot get joy from old school dodgems. So much better than Playstation.

And to finish, here is a photo of some wild flowers that have been planted in the street behind ours. We pass here every morning on the way to work. Lovely.