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Picture this. Countryside to coast – Wimbleball Lake / Crow Point…

Week two of our dog-sitting fortnight began on Wednesday, when we swapped Ollie the spaniel for our regular visitor, Roo the border collie, giving us another reason to get out in the continuing spring sunshine.

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Friday.
This time we headed out onto Exmoor to visit my friend Chris, where he lives in a Devon longhouse, surrounded by the rolling hills and beautiful countryside of the national park, the idea being to take Roo, and ourselves, for a walk across the dam at Wimbleball lake.

The longhouse is a grade two listed, 15th century thatched building, with stables and outbuildings built from local stone, set in a steep valley with wooded hills all around.

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Our Wimbleball walk was slightly marred by the fact that work being carried out on the dam prevented us from taking in the view from there, but we nevertheless enjoyed a stroll through the moorland and woods bordering the lake.

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Saturday.
Today, since Chris has come to stay for a couple of days, we went in the opposite direction, away from the moor and towards the coast.
We drove out to Crow Point, on the Taw estuary near Braunton, which offers views across the river and over large areas of the sand dunes that make up Braunton burrows.

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This photo shows a sizeable gap in the dunes, (with Appledore visible in the background) the result of damage inflicted by the vicious storms that lashed the coastline earlier in the year.

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On the way back, Chris kindly treated us to a pub lunch at the imposing Braunton Inn, where I took a few more snaps across the estuary before heading home.

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Picture this. (abstract)

Two of the photos that didn’t make the final cut for my last post were these rather dull shots of the sun reflecting on the surface of a lake.

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What I’d been after was a nice clean reflection of the sun, along with some clouds, but the water was not still enough so I rejected it.

However, today I was mucking about with my various filters and effects and I had an idea.
Why not make some “art” out of my junk photos?

So here are the results of a considerable time spent on my trusty phone, digitally manipulating and generally “fiddling with” those two pictures, hopefully transformed into something a little more artistic.
A couple of the more starkly coloured ones have a whiff of Giger about them.

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While the rest are of a rather more psychedelic nature, almost resembling cosmic deep space photography.

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There, that’s my recycling done for the day.

Moral of the story: There’s beauty in everything if you look hard enough. (or something)

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Arts, Photography, Picture this.

 

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Picture this. Fremington quay in springtime…

After several weeks of weather that has ranged from merely drab and depressing to downright cataclysmic, the spring appears to have finally arrived (just in time for British summertime to begin in a couple of weeks) so it seemed like a good idea to make the most of this beautiful sunny Sunday lunchtime and go for a walk.

Fremington quay, just outside Barnstaple, used to be a busy port, with a railway station, (which now serves as a cafe and heritage centre) steam-powered cranes for loading and unloading cargo vessels and a thriving import/export industry.
The port was a vital link between Bristol and Land’s End, servicing ships that travelled down the North Atlantic coast, exporting the fine white local “ball clay” and importing everything from coal to potatoes.

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Nowadays it’s a popular stopover for hikers and cyclists on the Tarka trail and a favourite place for dog walkers and fishermen too.
The tidal river Taw was about halfway in when we got there, the water a vivid blue today in the sunshine and the majestic forms of the Fullabrook Down wind farm turbines visible across estuary.

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We made our way along the top of stone quay wall, towards the old iron bridge that crosses a small inlet bordered by mud-flats…

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I can never resist a good bridge, they make for great photos, sometimes acting as both subject and frame.

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From the path on the other side of the bridge, you can look out over the water to your right, as the estuary narrows ad enters the Taw River valley…

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…and to your left, two footpaths, one that takes you along the edge of the inlet, the flats dotted with small boats, the derelict carcasses of long-abandoned craft a sharp contrast with the shiny new ones moored nearby…

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…and a second path takes you up through the woods overlooking this small tributary.

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We eventually returned to the small viewpoint, looking back toward the quay itself and out across the expanse of the estuary, glorious in the better-late-than-never spring sunshine, before heading back to the car.

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(This weekend I spent a very pleasant couple of hours catching up with the elusive and widely-travelled Mr Darmon Richter from The Bohemian Blog, briefly back in the country during a break in his globetrotting schedule.
He had promised to take me on a bit of an urban exploration (urbex) adventure this morning at a local derelict factory complex but was unavoidably detained, prompting a quick change of plan, hence our walk)

Another reminder, should we ever need one, of how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful part of the world. If ever your plans fall through, just a few minutes down the road will get you somewhere like this, all for free and all a lot nicer than abandoned industrial buildings.

 

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Picture this. Some autumnal evening…

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Because I’m on holiday this week and we have Roo to take for walks, I’ve had the chance to get out toward dusk when I’m usually working, and get some photos of the countryside in the distinctive light we only get on these early autumn evenings.
Oh, and I might have slipped in the odd one or two of The Bridge (last time, promise).

The river Taw was at high tide when I was wandering the banks yesterday, as the sun began its descent to the horizon.

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Roo and I walked down the river bank in the park, heading for the old iron bridge.

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The storm drains were running fast from the recent rain..

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..and the tidal river had risen almost to its limit.

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Steps up from the riverside take you to a junction, with a shady tunnel of trees in one direction..

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…and in the other, the old railway bridge, now carrying only pedestrians and cyclists.

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Over on the far bank, the landscape is more open and natural, with rolling fields, berries in the hedgerows, the still surface of a stream reflecting the sky, and the science fiction forms of the copper hued teasel heads…

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…and we were just in time to catch the spectacular sunset as it sank behind the hills with a fiery flourish.

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(A slightly expanded preview edition of this post appeared on Life Cherries, why not pop over and check out Lanthie’s blog with with this link)

 

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Picture this. Architecture and mortality…

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My walk with Roo, our canine visitor for the next two weeks, took me down to the park again today, but I thought I’d vary my usual route and head for the Trinity Church graveyard to take some photos.
On the way round the park I got a couple of shots of an old favourite, a disused railway bridge, and my brain had one of those synaptic lightbulb moments.

Only this morning at work we’d been listening to an Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark compilation, including tracks from their masterful 1981 album, Architecture and Morality.
(You can hear the whole album via the link at the end of this post)
And here’s me, taking pictures of a bridge and about to take pictures of a graveyard.

I feel a blog post title coming on.

Architecture and mortality…

The old iron bridge has an industrial grandeur undimmed by time and colourful graffiti tags…

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…and is in marked contrast to the quaintness of the miniature lodge house on Ladies Mile, at the entrance to the park.

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From which its just a few yards up the road, along a shady, yew-lined path, into the sunny churchyard.

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The views up towards the church and its recently restored tower are framed by an avenue of pollarded chestnut trees, now just beginning to show the rusty gold tint of autumnal colour.

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Despite my lack of interest in religion, I can appreciate beautiful buildings of any sort and anyway  I’ve always liked a good graveyard. They are full of striking images and brooding atmosphere.

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Some monuments to the dead lovingly tended..

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…some forgotten and besieged by the encroaching tide of nature.

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And presiding over them all, the imposing presence of the church tower.

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Definitely worth the detour.

Hope you enjoyed my alternative Sunday service, albeit a bit late.  Now sit back and relive those heady days of the early ’80s, when the new wave of electronic music was breaking into the mainstream, and you could have a hit on Top of the Pops with a song about Joan of Arc.

Ladies and gentlemen, OMD…

 
 

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Picture this. The sky’s the limit…

While we may be sandwiched between the wide open panoramas of nearby Exmoor to the east, and the even more impressive sweep of the skies above rugged Dartmoor further west of us, here on the River Taw estuary we still get some pretty impressive sights overhead,especially in the evenings.

Having had some nice comments recently about a few pictures of these natural oil paintings in the clouds that I’ve posted online, I thought I’d go back through my many photos and put together a small gallery of meteorological awesomeness.

All of these photos were taken within half a mile of our house in Barnstaple, North Devon.

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              Low winter sun.

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               Cloud Angel.

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               Dusk in the fields.

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               Thunderheads.

The sky can go from distinctly Turner-esque…

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.. to apocalyptic.

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This next one seems to involve a cloud floating in front of a house (no manipulation involved on my part I assure you)

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You can see why I like to sit outside by the pond with a pint and watch the sunset can’t you?

And what better tune to chill out to at the end of a beautiful summer’s day than this ambient classic from the Orb.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2013 in Photography, Picture this.

 

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Billy, Sir Bob and Moor. (Chagstock 2013, part two)…

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Waking on day two to a hazy morning that none the less promised another scorcher, just looking at the view from our luxuriously appointed B+B was enough to lift the spirits.
A dense carpet of bright red poppies covered the fields outside the window, the vivid splash of colour practically shouting summer.

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A bowl of home-grown garden strawberries, two hen-fresh eggs, 3 local beef sausages, and one damn fine cup of coffee later, we made for the campsite, collected Ho and made for the second and final day in the happy land of Chagstock.

By the time we got into the arena the sun had made short work of the haze and the temperature was climbing again.
But wait, what’s this? A breeze? The ideal festival climate – hot, but with just enough air moving around to provide some relief from roasting.
Nevertheless, we decided to start off cool and work our way up to baking gradually, and with that in mind made for the Live Lounge tent.

Soon after we got there we were treated to short acoustic set from a young lady I shall describe as a petite blond, in order for you to more fully appreciate the surprise I felt when she began to sing.
With a powerful, soulful voice at odds with her diminutive stature, she charmed the audience with a great set that included a fabulous version of Dream a Little Dream of Me. (I believe her name was Fiona Richards but apologies if I’m mistaken)

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A quick trip to the bar, via some rock shops for Elaine, (the crystal sort, not the seaside sort) and a stroll round the rest of the stalls, then we made for the Acoustic Stage in the marquee.

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And I’m very glad we arrived in time to see the amazing Marc O’Reilly, a riveting performer with a voice I instantly compared to the late, great John Martyn and a finger-shredding guitar strumming style, he captivated the crowd for his whole set and was rewarded with wild applause and whoops of enthusiasm.

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Marc O’Reilly. You should see his pianist.

Time to venture out into the breezy sunshine to catch the Main Stage performance by someone Elaine and I had both been looking forward to seeing.
Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo play a hybrid of Country, Folk, and Aussie blues with a fair bit of rocking thrown in for good measure, and on a balmy Saturday afternoon on beautiful Dartmoor it felt like the music was part of the landscape.

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By time their set finished, despite the breeze it was still pretty damn hot in front of the stage so we retired to the tent to sink a couple of cheap cans, (no alcohol allowed to be brought into the arena from outside) grab some shade, and cool off for an hour or so before heading back for the final session of music.

There’s one band that you know is going to play Chagstock every year, and that’s the band fronted by the man we’re all grateful to, the founder and organiser of the whole event, your ringmaster, Mr Simon Ford.

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His band, New Crisis play good time party music for an early Saturday evening and they really get the crowd on it’s collective feet with songs by bands ranging from Status Quo to ABBA.

Here’s a taste of how much the punters enjoyed it, please excuse the wobbly camera work.

We elected to keep our seats set up in front of the main stage, grab some more food and have a rest before the two main acts came on, and at 8.15 the man they call the Bard of Barking strode onstage with his newly grown silver-streaked beard, to the introduction “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the legend that is Billy Bragg!”

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I’ve seen Billy Bragg a good few times over the years and he never fails to entertain. This time we got the benefit of both sides of his musical personality – What I like to think of as his “strumming and shouting”, alongside the mellower folk numbers by Old Timers like Woody Guthrie.
And he still has the same quick wit I remember too.
When heckled by a group of circus themed whiteface pierrot clowns, The Bard spake thusly;
“Oi, Pierrot, if you’re gonna do it, do it properly, mime your heckles”

He did the to-be-expected good natured politicising, and the bigging up of the unions speech, but more importantly he did Sexuality, he did an updated Waiting for the Great Leap Forward, and most important of all he led the crowd in a singalong to A New England.
And I bet I wasn’t the only man of a certain age present who would flatly deny getting a tingle on the back of the neck or a need to swallow an unaccountable lump in the throat, as Billy yelled for us to “Sing it one last time for Kirsty!”

But if it was legends we were after, we didn’t have long to wait, because as ten o’clock approached the crew began hoisting a new backdrop.
One with a distinctly rodenty appearance.

And half an hour later nobody would have had the slightest doubt who the final band were.

A monumentally thudding techno beat began pounding out of the speakers, along with sirens and noises more associated with Prodigy gigs.
Then, with the stage still in darkness, a chant joined the beat “BOOMTOWN RATS BOOMTOWN RATS!”
Then the lights came up and there they were, the punk survivors (minus original pajama-clad pianist, Johnny Fingers) with Bob Geldof wearing what he described as “a fuck off suit” of fake snakeskin.

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There was nothing fake about their performance though, thundering through an extraordinarily tight set list that included the manic Like Clockwork, a mid-set I Don’t Like Mondays which had a much extended pause before the final chorus, presumably symbolic of the continuing tragedy of school shootings, and a totally superb Rat Trap.

Before many songs, Geldof drew parallels with the times they were written and the present day, citing their continued relevance and giving us all an Irish history lesson into the bargain.

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I don’t know if it’s his saintly status, but every photo I took of Bob had his whole head so brightly lit that you can’t make out his features.

After a rapturous encore of Diamond Smiles the Rats left the stage only to return when their ludicrously over the top intro music started up again.
Only this time it carried on.

What followed can only be described as sounding like the bastard lovechild of the Utah Saints and the KLF, with the whole band riffing, thrashing and bellowing over the top of it.
It was, not to put too fine a point on it, Absolutely Fucking Astounding. I was so stunned that I forgot to film it.

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I’ll leave the final word on the subject to Ho who, when I asked him if he was looking forward to seeing them, said he was “resigned to it”.
At the end of the gig he said “Now I’ve got to go back to Brighton and try to convince people that the Boomtown Rats really were amazing”

And that, apart from one more visit to the food stalls and a quick nightcap under the stars, was Chagstock 2013.
Another sellout year, and long may it continue.

I’ll leave you with a little taste of the festival that brings out your inner smile.

This is Chagstock…

 

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