Saturday 26 November 2011

Top Of The World!

A free day. A fine day. A day to blow away the blues, put away your cares, pull on the walking boots and just get out there. So, with camera, binoculars and map, I hit the road. Or more accurately the rails, since I hopped on the train, rode a couple of stops up the line and got off at Ashwell and Morden station. The station is shared by the two villages, Ashwell and Morden, but isn't in either of them; it's in Odsey which doesn't even get a mention.

First a gentle climb up Gallows Hill which did its best to look as threatening as its name implies, despite the generally benign weather. When you see a little copse of trees on a hilltop in England you can often find an old Bronze Age burial mound squatting at the highest point and this was indeed the case, though a rather low and scruffy affair it turned out to be. The views northwards were already opening up despite the modest elevation. But the path then turned downhill to Heath Farm which thankfully lacked the usual welcoming committee of disreputable dogs.

I then had a stretch along a quiet and narrow country road. The feeling on these low, rolling chalk hills, with their huge fields and wide-open skies is really one of being "on top of the world". Once this was all heathland used for grazing sheep, the last stronghold in Southern Britain of the Hooded Crow, also known as the Royston Crow from the name of the nearest market town. But the Hoodies are to be seen no more on these hills, though birds of prey are making a real comeback in recent years. Right on cue a shadow crossed the road and I looked up to see the first Buzzard of the day. (Note to US readers: a completely different bird to your buzzard).

It's difficult country to photograph satisfactorily. The sheer openness of the country, which is its charm, disappears as soon as you put a frame around it. It didn't stop me from trying though!

I came to a junction of roads and found myself at one of those half-familiar scenes. Somewhere I'd flashed through in a car with a brief thought of "might be some photos there" and then given it no more consideration. But here I was now with as much time as I wanted. Snap-snap-snap!

....the sky soared above the little signpost....

....the road dipped away through the trees....

....strange patterns made by distant fields....

....a fragment of grazing land...

....and this odd, almost monochrome, image. The chalky soil give this sepia-toned effect. What appears to be a brown sky is just more fields beyond the trees.

A little further along my way I spotted more photographic opportunities. This skeletal tree was outlined against the sky. The kind of tree that Health And Safety no longer allows to stand anywhere that children might venture, with sad consequences for some insect- and bird-life.

Some rough grazing land near the village of Kelshall where the dead grasses were catching the light. A Red Kite appeared in the sky, twisting and turning as it grappled with a gusty wind.
A herd of thirty or so Fallow Deer skittered across the horizon. Then as my walk drew towards its end there was a reminder of the past; a flock of sheep grazing peacefully in the late afternoon sun.

Take care.



  1. Another wonderful four. In England, there is such diversity in a small area. In Canada, we often have to drive for miles to change our "view".

  2. a feast of images--love the open spaces, colors, and textures.

  3. It may have felt difficult to capture, but you did a fine job anyway. Wonderful photos. Thanks for the tour. Jim

  4. Great photos! I love to see skeletal trees left where they are, both for the wildlife that benefits and because they look good and add a bit of interest to the landscape.

  5. Thanks once again for the wonderful photographic tour for us around the world. Great capturings.

  6. John, I've spent some time looking at your 11th photograph, the one of the dead tree outlined against the sky. Have you tried looking at it in black & white? I think you'll like it. Jim

  7. I love your photographs. I'm always trying to capture the patterns and particular 'feel' of chalkland and I think you have really done this... I'm quite envious and very impressed! Jane x

  8. A wonderful walk in the country John- I love the pic "where the road dipped away through the trees" makes me want to put on my walking shoes.

  9. Wow... what a wonderful place to walk! I love those shots of the rural roads rounding a bend...

  10. It’s a good idea to ride on a train and then walk with a camera and a few necessities. I understand how you were on top of the world through my senses while seeing your photos. I feel free and comfortable. Thank you for sharing the British countryside, John.


  11. Some really nice scenery John.
    At least you have actually got some hills there.{:)

  12. Thank you all for your encouraging comments. If I've succeeded in getting some good shots then believe me I've had plenty of failures too! Pretty insignificant hills when you're walking, Roy, but plenty big enough when you're on your bike! Yes, Jim, I do like that shot in B+W.

  13. I can imagine a group of these photos framed and on the wall in a room where I would spend many hours--if I had your skill in photography my walls would be covered.
    Such beautiful scenes: "landscape plotted and pieced___fold, fallow and plough."


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