Circumstances have been against getting out in the daytime for the past few weeks however we have managed some evening walks. While it is good to be out in the day the light in the evenings can be lovely and is probably preferable photographically speaking too.
The images above were taken a couple of weeks ago now. The evening was lovely however there was a really strong wind blowing and at times it was quite impossible to hold the camera steady. This walk was on the western edge of the centre of the moors starting quite close to Princetown and walking in the King Tor, Swell Tor area. The upper left image is of the spare corbels caved for use on London Bridge at the quarry there – remarkable the work that must have gone into them, odd that the remain abandoned there. The other images are simply views in the evening light which was great. I’ve walked the moors in the evenings for many years now and there is something special about the quality of the light at that time of day at times. It has a warmth (although it was not warm on this evening) however it also has a very soft quality to it which I could sit and look at for a long time.
The image above were taken a week ago on a walk in the central part of the moors. Setting off from Dunabridge Pound we heading east towards Bellever forest and walked roughly north through there. It is a couple of years since we have walked that way and it is quite surprising how the forestry changes. Parts that were quite open get some real growth and other areas are cleared – certainly one path we have used before had fairly much disappeared! The upper right view looks east through the forest showing both colour tone changes and the differing growth of the trees. I am not really a fan on mono culture forestry but in that evening light it looked ok. The lower left image – one I really like – looks from Bellever tor north through the gap in the forestry. Again the quality of the evening light is simply love to me and as a plus on this walk there was no wind and it was quite warm. An even bigger bonus was that we heard a number of cuckoos and were fortunate enough to see a couple (at Bellever Tor) too. Hopefully there will be a few more walks like this during the summer.
One of the joys of wandering the moors these days is the fact that we rarely plan where will will go and, after starting a walk, we often have little idea of the actual route we will take. Having got to know the moors over many years and in many conditions it is great to just wander these days. We had walked up the Redlake tramway (long disused) when we reached this spot. It is Leftlake and is the remains of a pit where china clay was extracted many years ago. It is a pleasant spot for a break and I’ve seen otters there in the past. Today there were some duck on the water and some fish below it. The plan had we had one would have been to head in the direction this photo shows, over Three Barrows and back down the ridge. We decided to head west down to the Erme instead.
There is a stream down to the Erme from Leftlake which we both had followed before. However around half way down the rather steep slope we realised we had not taken that exact line in the past and came across this lovely (& somewhat hidden) waterfall. It was probably about 3 metres high and running well given recent rain.
We dropped steeply down to the River Erme already quite wide here. The above photo has at least one rain spot on and from here on we were in showers as often as sunshine (& at times both at the same time!). Again the river is running well after heavy rains overnight and the previous day.
The east bank of the Erme is not the easiest to walk along, the ground being steep and quite rough. We were quite pleased to see Piles Copse come into view as we knew there was a reasonable track from there heading part of the way back.
Piles Copse is one of three fairly remote copses of stunted oaks which are on Dartmoor. They are the remains of ancient forests which covered much of the area. Piles Copse is also one of the SSSIs in Devon. There is something quite “other worldly” about these places – stunted oaks among moss covered boulders with many lichens around. From here we rose steeply out of the valley of the Erme heading loosely for Harford Moor gate.
As I said at the start one of the joys is random wandering these days – you never quite know what you might find no matter how familiar you think you are with the moors. Having already “found” a waterfall, coming across the kistvaen above was an unexpected bonus. These were ancient burial sites with the body usually placed in a contracted position in the box like opening seen in foreground and slightly right of centre. There are quite a number of these on the moors and, while I’ve seen better, this is a well preserved one which I don’t recall seeing in the past.
This final shot was actually taken earlier in the day from the Redlake tramway and looks down on the valley of the Erme. We had not intended to head that way when I took the shot but it had been a good walk with some interesting features seen. Piles Copse is in the centre of the picture.
Regular readers will know that I am attracted to reflections generally and I have blogged on this topic a couple of times over the years. I have taken quite a few photos since the last blog however nothing has really struck me as a blog until I looked over some images from the past couple of months with a different eye.
Taken on the mill stream beside the River Dart in Totnes I was attracted by the clarity of the reflection and also the fact that the reflection had an illusive quality too. When I can “see” a good reflection they strike me as amazingly obvious however I am sure I pass a few without noticing them. As with the majority of my images this has not been manipulated in any way other than flipping it.
The image above was one that generated quite a lot of discussion at my exhibition at the start of April 2013. Taken in the same area as the one above but on a very different day I knew what I took it exactly what I was going to do with it. There were people who saw it who either didn’t “see the idea” it or didn’t like it. However it made quite a lot of people smile which is no bad thing. For some the brain attempts to process the image from the basic clues. Sky, houses and a tree… and then realises that the boat is all wrong and recalibrates. Once again the image is simply flipped and not processed in any other way.
I was in Barcelona for a short break recently. The camera came with me as usual however most of the images were more tourist ones than anything much else and there are plenty of images of the key sites there around already. I have put a few on my facebook page if anyone wants to take a look however some were taken more playfully. Wandering around the dock area one day we came across a very modern shopping centre which did little for me. Wandering outside I looked up and realised it did have a redeeming feature. The upper part of the fascia was set at an angle and covered with mirrored panels. The effect of looking up to see what was below appealed.
The above image was also taken there. I like the somewhat disjointed nature of the reflections giving a slightly incomplete view of what is there. I did take a quite a few and most came out fairly well. The image above is taken as a 1:1 ratio picture as opposed to the normal camera aspect rationthese days – so it is effectively a square plate format. The Panasonic camera has this setting as an option and I am finding the look a useful/interesting one in some settings and situations. I’d be fairly sure I’ll blog something on reflections again in the future too.
This blog relates to a walk from about a month ago as I have been busy getting ready for the forthcoming exhibition. The forecast was for better weather as the day progressed so we headed into the centre of the moors parking at Two Bridges. We walked north up the eastern bank of the West Dart past Wistman’s wood, the ancient stunted oak forest, which can be seen it the photograph above. Equally the level of visibility is fairly obvious and we hoped that would change. It was also very cold indeed.
We crossed over the West Dart when we were approaching the source as it gets pretty wet in that region and headed towards.Rough Tor. As can be seen the visibility hadn’t improved much – the rock to the left of the red and white range poles is Crow Tor and it is almost possible to see the Beardown tors in the distance. While we were in one of the military firing ranges at this point (& would be for most of the rest of the walk) we had checked before leaving and the range was not in use for the day. By this point we had realised that the reason the ground didn’t seem that wet was that it was largely frozen.
Heading almost due west from Rough Tor across what would have been mostly wet ground if it hadn’t been frozen we reached Beardown Man. This ancient standing stone is around 3.5 metres high and is in quite an isolated position near the head of the Cowsic (river) and a small tor called Devil’s Tor. We turned south and stopped at Devil’s Tor for a break.
The image above is taken from there looking towards the Beardown tors which are rather more visible in this shot that previously although the weather had not really changed significantly. It was too cold to sit around for long so we started towards the tors. In the past we have tended to walk the east side and head back into the valley of the West Dart however we decided to go more to the west and walk down the valley of the Cowsic.
The image above looks back up the valley of the Cowsic with the Beardown tors on the right of the picture. As can be seen nothing much had changed since we set off and certainly this was not one of the best walks or the best for photography. However it does show another all too common Dartmoor mood in terms of visibility and we enjoyed the walk.
When we left the car the temperature was -3 deg C. When we got out of the shelter of the trees and got on top of the ridge we realised that “minus 3″ was quite warm – the windchill took the temperature down far closer to minus double figures. I can’t say I was ever particularly cold but I did have on full winter gear and the wind found any gaps there were. The thought passed through both our heads that we might cut the walk short but we didn’t.
We walked up the east bank of the East Dart and then headed up the side valley towards Grey Wethers and Sittaford. It was obvious that the higher we got the more exposed and colder it would be. Grey Wethers is a pair of stone circles on the shoulder just below Sittaford and more information is available on Wikipedia here. The conditions were very variable with some patches of sunlight around but there was not much and it provided no real warmth.
It was one of those rare days where we didn’t see another person while we were out walking however there was evidence that the army were on exercise elsewhere on the moors. The image above was taken on the way up to Sittaford (Tor) and looks towards Cosdon in the distance. We walked Cosdon area a couple of weeks ago and the blog is here.
We stopped at Sittaford for a break and realised that it was possible to find some shelter there despite being quite high up. It is quite a good viewpoint and the one above is taken looking roughly north and gives an idea of the remoteness and bleakness of the moors at such times. Again there was sun on Cosdon but it didn’t last long.
The terrain in this part of the moors tends to be less good walking at almost any time of year. The grass is in tussocks which makes walking hard and the area is really very wet. The consolation today was the the wet aspect was irrelevant as the ground was frozen hard. However the walking was hard still. Path finding was not really very easy as there was enough snow to mask the paths in many places. The images above give some idea of both the terrain and the prevailing weather – it was snowing from time to time. Reaching Stats House (an old tinners hut) we decided that it was worth continuing further into the centre of the moor towards the head of the East Dart river.
We aimed for a small pile of rocks known as Kit Rock. It was a while since either of us had been there and the route we took was certainly not a straight line. I had certainly forgotten just how small it was and finding it was made harder by the fact that is was largely covered in snow. The above photograph was taken close to Kit Rock and shows the East Dart with quite a covering of ice on the surface. I’ve certainly not seen it quite like that for many years. The ice had obviously formed when there was more water in the river (although more of a stream this close to its source) and then had collapsed and had refrozen. It was snowing fairly steadily at this point.
Crossing the river here is fairly easy normally and while not too hard we did need to be careful of the ice that was around – we were some miles from any roads at this point. Rather large boggy areas on either side of the river meant that we had to change the bank we were walking on from time to time. We were heading for the Sandy Hole Pass area – a deep cleft in the valley – partly created by tinners centuries ago. We thought that we would have some shelter from the wind here and were wrong; the wind blew along the valley and we didn’t stop for long. There really was little colour in many of the images I took and so processing some as monochrome seemed appropriate.
There is a small waterfall just below Sandy Hole Pass and we thought it might look quite interesting in the current weather conditions – we were right. Much of the waterfall was frozen and appeared to have been for quite some time. We stayed for quite a while – it was sheltered by comparison to most of the rest of the walk and the photo opportunity was not to be wasted. It had certainly been one of the best walks we had had in recent years; very cold – yes but with stunning scenery and views. I doubt there will be any more like this until next winter but the photos will keep the memories alive.
Having done quite a few walks on the south moors in the past few weeks we decided it was worth heading up on the north moor for a change. It takes a little while to get there however it really does make a change and so, after checking whether the army were firing, we parked the car at the village of Belstone. The first thing that struck us was the sound of the wind – getting out of the car we realised that there was a very strong wind blowing indeed. Quickly getting on our gear we headed off to the moor gate and it was clear that, for a while at least, the wind was going to make some of the walking quite hard and, although there was some sun, the wind chill would be an issue for the walk. Deciding to avoid the summit of the Belstone tors we walked along the west side of the ridge. Although the wind was blowing from almost due south there was no warmth in it at all. When we got to Oke tor we were grateful of the shelter it offered. The image above was taken from there looking roughly west with the highest tor on the left of the image being Yes Tor, the second highest on the moors. The lower tor to the right is West Mill Tor.
Continuing on along the track from Oke Tor we headed through Steeperton gorge and past the remains of Knack mine – long disused. The image above shows the gorge around the area of the mine with Belstone Tors where we started the walk in the distance. In the valley we were protected to some degree from the wind, however as the track rouse up to the shoulder of the ridge we really were walking into the teeth of a very strong wind.
We reached the end of the track at the base of Hangingstone Hill and walked east to pick up the ridge down towards Cosdon Beacon. Because of the wind we didn’t stand around much to take photos. However the image above is a Watern Tor which is a favourite spot and I blogged a walk which took me up to it here last year.
Stopping off at Wild Tor for some shelter we had something to eat and drink but realised quite quickly that we were out of the wind but also out of the sun and getting quite cold. Before we set off I decided to grab one or two shots. I’ve not done many panoramas recently and they are not easy to show on the blog because of the width however this one is only two shots stitched together and does give a feel of the space and shows some of the north moor tors. The left hand tor is Yes Tor again and the right hand tor is Steeperton. I do like the feel of the winter expanse of the moor.
Given our experience of being out of the wind on Wild Tor we decided to stop for a short while at Little Hound Tor (sometimes called Little Round Tor) a little further down the ridge. We found somewhere with a little shelter from the wind but more importantly still in the rather weak sunshine so that break was far warmer. The image above is taken from this spot looking north towards Cosdon and shows Cosdon and the track up there.
It is a fairly easy walk up to Cosdon Beacon and the wind was at our backs which maybe made it a little easier. The visibility was not as good as it had been earlier in the walk although the sun was more constant than when we started off – the wind remained constant throughout! Cosdon is one of the high points of the north moor and has quite broad shoulders to the west which was the direction we wanted to go in order to return to the car at Belstone. The track heads north so we set off across the open moorland and after avoiding one or two wet areas quite successfully we started to lose height. The image above is probably not my best photo however it does show that we were not the only ones who appreciated some shelter from the winds. In the middle of nowhere there was a small patch of gorse with quite a few ponies using it for shelter. We left them undisturbed and headed on back to the car. It struck us as odd just how quiet it was when we shut teh car doors and were out of the wind for the first time in a number of hours. We will certainly walk this area again soon I hope – weather and army firing permitting.
One of the challenges of walking over a winter with weather such as we have had has been to find anywhere where conditions underfoot are not too wet. In the end I guess it has mostly been impossible but it has led to us walking in some places we might not have otherwise done. This walk from about three weeks ago is one of them. We thought that walking the coast path after a particularly bad spell of rain might be drier underfoot than on the moors however we realised quite quickly that we were wrong. Setting off from close to Noss Mayo were were quickly out on path of the South West Coast Path which was very exposed to the prevailing winds which made the seas fairly dramatic too.
We were heading east along the path towards the mouth of the river Erme. I’d walked part of this route before however I had not walked the whole of the section. Parts of it have quite good paths – these were very waterlogged and very muddy. Parts did not have good tracks and they were worse! However I must walk it again in better weather as the views were great even in these conditions. The above image looks westwards and gives some idea of the state of the sea.
The above image looks east and gives a feel of what the day was like. There was a little sun around from time to time. However this really only served to emphasise just how bleak the day was at times. The visibility was not that good however the sharp eyed ones of those reading this might just make out the outline of Burgh Island in the distance of the photograph.
Arriving at the mouth of the river Erme and Meadowsfoot Beach we stopped for some lunch. The scene here was great. We were around the headland so protected from the worst of the wind and the tide was out so there was a feeling of tranquillity too. The sun, such as it was, had the watery winter look to it. We decided that walking back along the stretch we had just covered didn’t interest us much and the low tide allowed us to walk around to where the road reaches the river and we set off back inland heading west to where we left the car.
It is so often the unexpected finds that are interesting! Walking back along the road we noticed the building photographed here. It looked like a lodge house (there are a number of large estates in the area). However I have never seen a chimney at that angle. We felt that it had to have been damaged although there was no signs of repairs as far as we could see.
Certainly one of the more unusual architectural features we have seen. We will try and walk the area again another time in better conditions although we did agree the walk would be memorable for a number of reasons.
I guess by now I should be immune to weather forecasts however just before I left the house the forecast on the radio said “mostly sunny with little wind” – wrong! Given just how wet it has been over the winter (seems a very long time ago I was blogging about the drought) the idea of a day without rain, even after prolonged spells of it, seemed like a good idea for a walk. Having walked quite a bit of the south and eastern moors in the past few weeks we decided to walk up the river Plym from the Cadover Bridge area. We set off going up the east side of the river and quickly realised that the ground was very wet indeed.
Even quite minor tributaries were challenging to cross in places and the leat running along the eastern side had breached its walls in places so that, in one case, it was easier to cross over the leat than try and cross the breach. The predicted sun didn’t really appear and, while nothing like as cold as some of the walks recently, there was quite a wind blowing.
Arriving at the upper end of the Plym near Plym Ford we found a fairly sheltered spot for a break. The view above is from near where we stopped. When I originally thought of this route my real reservation was whether we would be able to cross the Plym at all however it was actually easier to cross the river here than it had been to cross the tributaries earlier. We walked up the old track towards Eylesbarrow passing the disused tin workings that litter the area. The track itself was often more a stream than a track in places however the walking was quite good as the track was solid unlike much of the ground covered up until then.
From here we started down the western bank of the Plym although initially some way away from the river. Passing over Higher Hartor Tor we made our way down through the antiquities in Drizzlecombe. One of the stone rows can be seen in the image above. The area has barrows, standing stones, cairns and stone rows and is interesting from an archaeological viewpoint. Continuing on down the valley we stopped at Ditsworthy Warren House (used in the film War Horse) as it offered a little shelter from the wind. Both Drizzlecombe and Ditsworthy Warren have been blogged by me previously – just use “search” to find them.
Setting off again we realised that the stretch of the walk that remained covered an area neither of us were familiar with. Although we have both walked the moors for many years it was refreshing to realise that there are some small areas still to explore more. There are a number of reasonable paths between Legis Tor and the Plym and we tried to find the driest of these as we made our way back. Getting closer to Cadover Bridge we could see the car on the far side but we still had to walk back to the bridge to cross over the river – it was far too wide at this stage to consider anything else. In a number of places there were “tide lines” showing us just how high the Plym has been recently. Some of these were several feet from the actual bank of the river. Having thoroughly enjoyed the walk we have agreed to go back and do roughly the same walk in better weather. While it was very wet under foot it was great to get out while it was not raining nor extremely cold which it has been all too often recently.
I am a few blogs behind at present partly because the walking has been very wet indeed and partly because I have been trying to get things ready for my next exhibition (details here). However last weekend I was in the area of the Forest of Dean and went with friends to see a rally there. It was interesting for me to see and understand the challenges involved in capturing images of fast moving vehicles. As can be seen above some of the images only just caught a car (indeed some didn’t but they have been deleted!). I was using the Panasonic Gx1 so I had some issues with just how familiar I was with the some of the controls but as time went by I got better. Sports photographers of all sorts use rather different settings for their cameras compared to landscape photographers.
The above images showed some improvement as the afternoon went on. The centre image is rather more “me”. The red car on such a grey day made for a possible colour pop and came out reasonably well. A little more information about the rally is here. It made for an interesting afternoon both from the point of view of the rally as well as the photography experience. Some of the corners meant cars sliding quite a bit and the muddy pools there often made spectating “interesting”. I’d certainly go there again – good fun for a muddy grey afternoon in February.
Just before we left one of the friends we were with noticed the scene above and pointed out that it was my kind of image – they were correct!
January 17 2013
Grabbing the opportunity of a walk we decided to head towards the Haytor (or Heytor) area on the eastern edge of the moors. It has a wealth of easily accessible tors but lacks the openness of the central moors for extended walking. However we decided it would be possible to do a reasonable circuit and parked at the base of Rippon Tor. As soon as we got out of the car we realised what sort of day it was going to be. It was very cold and very grey – not the most interesting weather for either walking or photography sadly. Starting off towards Saddle Tor we realised that there snow or sleet in the air.
The top image is taken on Heytor looking back south towards Rippon and Saddle tors. While the sky looks rather grey it is as much white as grey with steady flurries of sleet and snow passing horizontally in the wind. We continued north on to Black Hill. The ground was really quite wet with only small amounts of ice so the sleet and snow was not lying generally. We dropped down into the valley of the Becka Brook and were glad to stop somewhere sheltered for a drink and a snack.
The walk up from the Becka Brook to Hound Tor is very steep! We walked past Greator Rocks and the Medieval village below Hound Tor and up to the summit. Looking back towards Heytor gave us a good view however from time to time the visibility was very poor with the sleet becoming more intense. We walked on past the bluebell area which I blogged here in 2011 – it looked very different today.
Making the walk a little longer we headed west towards Honeybags and Chinkwell Tors. Reaching the top of Chinkwell we realised just how sheltered we had been on the climb up the tor – it really was very cold on the summit and other than a photo or two looking towards Hameldon where some of the snow was lying we headed down towards Bonehill Rocks fairly quickly. At no time during the walk did the temperature get above zero degrees so we were happy to shelter in the lee of the rocks for a bite to eat and a break. Not a day to hang around so we moved on walking along the ridge that is to the east of Widecome-in-the-Moor and reached Tunhill Rocks. From there we headed back via Top and Pil tors to the car. A good walk if rather cold.
As a postscript – the snow in this part of Devon was quite extensive on Friday 18 January. On Saturday it was obvious that there was still quite a lot of snow on the moors though it had cleared at lower levels. I’d planned to go up with the camera on Sunday 20 January but was not able to get the time to do so – the snow is still there, rather patchy and temperatures are sub zero.