Monday 27 November 2023


A couple of weeks ago I had a walk around the village to photograph the autumn scene. Some of the best colour is to be found around people's homes; in fact there are probably as many trees in gardens as there are in the fields and hedgerows in this arable country of South Cambridgeshire. I'm also aware that my photos tend to make things look idyllic, so I thought I would include some of the human clutter for a change. Then I decided I wouldn't publish these photos. Now I'm backtracking and think that maybe I will....

Near to home. All the leaves have gone now.

A mix of housing.

Repair Cafe - I didn't know about that.

On the corner of Chiswick End.

Just across the road from the last photo.

There's a window in there!

ACE OF WASTE - I like that.

I liked the way those faded blue garage doors contrasted with the leaves.

Near the horse paddocks.

Old barn through a gap in the hedge.

Fenny Lane - (is in my ears and in my eyes)!

Where I used to wait for the bus.

School sign.


Looking down the High Street.
The way I used to bike home after work.

In Malton Lane.

Sun just peeping through.


So that's how it looked a couple of weeks ago. Today most of the leaves have fallen and it's grey with drizzle.

Take care.

Tuesday 21 November 2023

From Blue To Gold

Hitch Wood, in Hertfordshire, is a well-known local beauty spot. It's so popular that it has its own small car park and a special waymarked trail to lead you through the best bits. But that's in spring, when the bluebells are in full bloom. What's it like in autumn?

We began our walk at the church in St Paul's Walden, which we visited back in May. A path then leads behind back gardens and alongside fields, reaching the road at the gate to Stagenhoe Park, a former manor house which is now an assisted living facility for those with long-term neurological problems.

Two impressive stags adorn the gateposts. From here we dodge across the road, go through a wood, across a meadow, over a muddy field, and then follow ancient tracks to come out opposite Hitch Wood.

Our very brief survey suggested that a lot fewer people come out to see the autumn leaves than the hordes who visit the bluebells. Not only that, but of the handful of folks we saw, one was talking so loudly that their thoughts must have been elsewhere and another looked puzzled when I commented on the beauty of the scene. But.....

 A mossy heart-shaped stump sits like a coral atoll in an ocean of gold.

The paths were a lot harder to follow at this time of year, covered as they were by the fallen leaves. It's important to try to stay on the paths here, not only to avoid getting lost but also because trampling the ground where bluebells grow can harm the plants, even when the bulbs are lying dormant.

A Buzzard was crying overhead and though I didn't spot the bird I did notice (and photograph) the vaulted canopy.

We didn't quite follow our intended route, but drifted on to a parallel track we which brought us out of the wood within a few yards of where we wanted to be.

A very English landscape unfolded before us, probably because this land is used for shooting pheasants which need the cover of hedgerows and scattered woods. 

Soon we were on a muddy path through Chalkley's Wood.

There were lots of small fungi in the wood - and then there was a line of these impressive forms. I think they might be what are called Trooping Funnels; they grow in straight lines and have this general appearance. But then again I'm no expert.

A walk beside horse paddocks brought us to a place where we could see over the rooftops of Whitwell in the valley of the River Mimram. Here we turned north towards St Paul's Walden Bury.

This is the house where the Queen Mother was born and lived part of her early life. We sat for a while on a tree stump where we were approached by a woman who told us she'd suggested putting a proper bench there, but in the end it was decided to site it elsewhere.

We are now on the country lane leading from the big house back towards the church. Big houses are OK, but this is the one that always fascinates me....

It backs on to the walled garden and is said to have been built about 1770 for the head gardener. In style it's a quainter and more restrained version of what is known as Strawberry Hill Gothick.

I particularly like those quatrefoil windows as they catch the autumn colours.

Then it was just a matter of following the lane back to our starting point.

Take care.

Saturday 18 November 2023

A Lynford Scrapbook

It should be easy enough: go out on a sunny day to Lynford Arboretum in Norfolk and photograph the autumn colours.

But, while glancing through some of the many books and websites that inform this blog, I noticed that the church in the scarcely discernible village of Cranwich looked interesting. We could pop in there on the way.

And what a gem it is. A Saxon church with a round tower and a thatched roof set back off the road in an oasis of greenery. It's a church that could easily have fallen into disuse; its small and aging congregation could never have been expected to keep it in good repair. However a grant from the charity English Heritage sparked renewed interest in the building.

Everything I read online said it was open every day, but when we got to the porch we found the door firmly locked. Perhaps the keyholder was lingering over their bacon and eggs this morning....oh well, off to the arboretum.

Sun was streaming through to illuminate the maple leaves, though photographing the wider scene proved unusually tricky.

Someone was cutting the grass, making quite a mess and plenty of noise. We sought out the tranquility of the woodland.

The low winter sunshine was raking through the trees and lighting up the bracken which is just beginning to turn golden.

The gnarled oak trees were also backlit by the November sun. We made our way to the old bridge where we met a birdwatcher who told us there was a flock of Crossbills** feeding in the trees at the back of Lynford Hall. We steered our footsteps in that direction but had no luck locating these handsome birds. Our helpful friend must have told everyone he met about the flock, but no one we met had managed to see them.

** the links take you to the RSPB's new improved website that now includes outstanding photographs

Even if the handsome red birds had flown elsewhere, at least this handsome red tree had the decency to stay put and be photographed!

The local Mallards were swimming on a shimmering mirror of gold. Another friendly birdwatcher said he'd seen a Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail up at the weir, so we dawdled on in that general direction. It was unlikely that the Kingfisher would hang around but Grey Wagtails often linger. 

What does it matter if you fail to spot the birds (or take your intended photographs) when autumn is putting on such a splendid show anyway? Some of the trees here are species planted in the grand days of the Hall, when its grounds spread far and wide.

The same tree hanging upside-down in the waters of the lake - an ornament for the ornamental lake. Of course, the Kingfisher and Wagtail had moved on! Those of you who remember my excursions here in earlier years may recall that this is the place where the Hawfinches are and we made our way around to the meadow where they are most often seen. Thanks to some help from more birdwatchers we struck lucky and a pair of Hawfinches sat posing for us for several minutes. Too far away for photos, but near enough to see them clearly through the 'scope.

It would be good to say that I searched out this perfect trio of Shaggy Inkcaps deep in the woods, but they were actually growing right beside the car park as we made our way back to have our sandwiches!

In the afternoon the skies clouded over and caused a soft, diffused light to fall over the scene. The colours of the birches in particular sang out beneath the grey skies. The walk here, alongside the flooded sand and gravel pits gets a lot less visitors than the paths near the arboretum, but it is not without its charms.

Silver Birches were among the first trees to colonise the land once the quarrying ceased, though the Forestry Commission are also very active here, as they are in much of the wider area.

The sandy soils are not much use for agriculture, though free-range pigs do well nearby; the fast-draining sands mean that even pigs can't make it too muddy. The Forestry Commission has its largest lowland forest here and, though it was once uncompromisingly planted with endless conifers, it now contains areas for wildlife and recreation.

I don't know how much is forestry and how much is nature here, but it's certainly pretty!

I couldn't resist an impressionistic take on the gentle autumn shades beneath the overcast sky.

And here's a pretty pastoral scene - but it's actually part of "Stanta" or the Stanford Military Training Area, 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares) that the army took over in 1942. The populations of six villages were evacuated and told they would be able to return after the war, however the army has always found some reason why they needed to hang on to the land. 

I think I nearly always photograph this isolated house when I pass - there can't be many dwellings with such ornate windows. This was, of course, supposed to have been a simple post about the colours in the arboretum, but we seem to have digressed somewhat!

It was still mid-afternoon, but we were already losing the light. Time to pack up and travel homeward. As often happens I didn't quite get the shots I was hoping for but we still had a randomly varied day.

Perversely, once we were on our way home, the sun managed to find a gap in the clouds, just above the horizon, and line itself up with unerring precision to shine straight into our eyes.

Take care.