Back on Dartmoor after a winter of very bad weather

Misty morning

The weather this winter has really not been good for walking as it’s been the wettest for many years. The walking I have done has been nothing like as interesting as I would have hoped for.  A spell of reasonable weather was forecast so we decided to get out and make the most of it. In practice it was very misty when we set off so our hopes were not high. However it was dry which was a great improvement on the past couple of months. As we got to the spot we planned to park it got noticeably brighter so we had our fingers crossed.

Almost as soon as we set off the sun started to break through although the mistiness stayed with us for most of the walk.  We parked close to Grimspound but headed west to walk south down Challacombe.  We passed evidence of tin mining and the old farm buildings at the base of Challacombe have a number of old features.

Heading back up the western side of Challacombe you get a good view of the forestry at Soussons. Quite a large area has been recently cleared as can be seen above. Equally the work was still under way to some degree. Odd trees are left for the benefit of the bird population. Fairly quickly you get back into evidence of tin workings with leats and remains of old buildings clear to see.

Walking on up the valley into open moorland there are a lot more old tinners buildings and workings. The whole Birch Tor area has been intensively worked over centuries.   I’ve blogged this area a time or two before (just use the search box to see others) however this time it was the effects of the gales that caught my attention. Both the trees photographed above show the signs of damage. The monochrome one (made a change! ) had been severely cut back to remove damaged branches and left an intriguing shape. The other tree shows a simple break but the sunlight on it was good.

South west from Birch Tor

We wandered on up the stream through deep workings and were surprised how dry it was. I’ve walked the area many times and at various times of the year and,  given the weather there has been,  I thought it would have been far wetter under foot. Realising just how unfit we were we got to the top of Birch Tor and were happy to sit there enjoying the sunshine and the view while eating some lunch. The walk made me realise just how much I’d missed the moors – fingers crossed for the opportunity to get out again soon.

PS – 1st blog done on a tablet so excuse any errors :)

Along the railway line at Dawlish

By this time of year I would normally expect to be posting on here about walks on Dartmoor in wintry conditions.  However with a rare exception this winter has simply been wet and it hasn’t really been worth heading onto the moors just to trudge through water.  The storms that the West Country and indeed most of the country have experienced this year have been truly exceptional.  It is now being stated that this has been the wettest winter since records began.  The flooding in Somerset started over Christmas and persists; the politicians seemed to have felt it wasn’t that important until land nearer them started to flood.  In addition to the rain there have been very high winds coupled at times with storm surges and one of these events destroyed part of the railway line at Dawlish recently.  As I’d been in Lancashire at the time I’d only seen the coverage on television and decided I’d like to take a look for myself.

The railway line at Dawlish

I assumed that access to the beach would be restricted given the level of destruction I’d seen and the work that would obviously be required to repair the railway line.  The view above gives some idea of the work going on however the main area of destruction is just past the station which can be seen almost in the centre of the picture.  Beyond that on the edge of the sea you can just about make out the shipping containers that were placed there and filled with rocks to try and prevent further damage – these containers have already been badly damaged by the sea in further storms.

In practice there is no access from Dawlish to the actual sea at present.  I headed west of the town to take a track that goes over the railway tunnel here in the hope I would be able to walk back to the town however the route is blocked and there are obvious signs of damage of beach huts and the like here.

The railway track from Dawlish Warren

I decided to head for Dawlish Warren, to the east of Dawlish, to see if I could get any access from that end of the beach.  The railway runs on the top of the line of boulders, part of the sea defences, that can be seen above.  However the coast path which runs on the seaward side of the railway line is also shut from this side.  I guess the level of work being carried out might be seen as dangerous to the public at large.  You can just make out an orange crane at work on this end of the line.


It was half term and really quite a nice morning (although the rain started in the early part of the afternoon again).  There were quite a few people making the most of the rare fine weather on the beach.  Hopefully better weather will be with us all soon allowing the floods to clear and, if I’m lucky, I’ll get back to some regular walking again.

At Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

In the Autumn of 2013 I spent a day at Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire.  Large historic ruins are not something that I usually enjoy however I really did love the time at Fountains Abbey.  So many old buildings tend to just have relatively small amounts of the foundations of walls however, as can be seen, there really is quite a lot left of this ruin.

The effect of these large remaining windows really appealed to me. I felt a sense in which I preferred them without the glass – the view of clouds etc through them was lovely.  The height of the remaining walls meant that there was still a feeling of a large sacred space.

The structure was impressively both in the large scale and the smaller scale. The colour and texture of some of the remaining stone was stunning and made for a very real sense of history.  The site was in use from around 1130 until it was destroyed by Henry VIII some 400 years later.  The fact that the site has not been unduly degraded since then makes the experience far more enjoyable.

Georgian water gardens at Fountains Abbey

The site is not simply the Abbey but also includes a medieval deer park, Fountains Mill and Hall and a church. In addition there is also The Studley Royal Water Gardens dating from the early 18th century. Walking around these even on a rather dull day was a real treat.
Georgian water gardens at Fountains Abbey

The landscaping is of a very high standard and being well maintained by the National Trust. The vistas of water catch and lead the eye.  The trees were getting a nice level of Autumn colouring at the time adding another dimension to the walk.

Another visitor

There is enough space over the site as a whole for it not to feel too busy though I think that in peak season it would feel a little more crowded. We were not the only people there that day but there was a sense of space enjoyed by all I imagine!

Walking back up through the Water Gardens to the Abbey again there was clever use of the landscape to give glimpses and larger views of the Abbey again.
Fountains Abbey

Walking back and arriving the other side of the Abbey to the one we left from gave other views of the impressive amount of the structure remaining. The combination of all the different attractions here as well as a well designed visitors centre made it a very worthwhile day out to me. I would certainly suggest that anyone in the area with an interest in such things should make the most of it and go – on a good day weatherwise it would be very pleasant to pass a whole day there. I’d like to return myself in another season maybe.

A short walk in wintery weather on eastern Dartmoor

It was far too long since I’d managed to get out on the moors and I needed to give some new boots a bit of action so I decided to make the most of a spare morning. The Haytor area is easy for me to get to so I headed that way. It was very cold but quite bright and clear. There were a few clouds over the main bulk of the moors however generally it looked like a good day. Looking towards Saddle tor

Looking back towards Saddle Tor (the tor in the centre) and Haytor it really looked like a good day for a walk and some photos.  The snow on the ground was enough to make it look interesting too.  However walking along the ridge and looking west towards Widecombe it was clear that there was a snow shower over Hameldon which might catch me in its path.  Given I had full winter gear on I was looking forward to it.  I’d just bought a couple of items of new winter orientated gear in addition to the boots so it might test those out quite nicely.

Snow passing!

By the time I’d got to the end of the ridge and started heading towards Cold East Cross I was in the snow.  As can be seen from the above photo the snow was not all that light and was filling the sky quite well.  Equally it was obvious I was only on the fringe of this shower which I congratulated myself on thinking it allowed some photography without any real exposure – I was a little premature as it turned out.

Some snow on my rucksac

Reaching the road the shower had cleared through and I crossed it and started up towards Rippon. A quick glance at the sky made it clear that I was not going to be on the fringe of the next shower which was close. For most of the walk up Rippon it snowed heavily and there was little visibility. Both my pack and I were well covered with snow on our west side – taking the pack off to get the image shook a fair bit off but my left arm and glove were also well covered.

Once the storm had moved on the sun came out again.  The images above show something of the aftermath.  The storm itself had an impressive cloud structure as it headed away (and the shot is taken looking roughly south).  Equally it had covered the western side of anything around as can be seen around the gate though equally the sun was coming through again quite strongly.  I stopped for a while at the top of Rippon to enjoy the day and the scene.  It is quite rare to get enough snow to be interesting without the roads being compromised as well as some sun to sit in.  Indeed I don’t recall walking in such snow as early in the winter as this before – 19th of November 2013 just for the record.

Cloud over Haytor

For Rippon I started down heading towards Heytor (or Haytor – there are several valid variations). The cloud over Heytor was one of the most striking I’d seen. I do love cloud formation however this one had a look of a genie having been let out of the bottle.  The new winter gear had performed well and who knows what the weather will bring on the moors this winter – I just hope I get enough time to get out and enjoy it!

More public art


I’ve wanted to see Anthony Gormley’s “Another place” statues for quite some time now.  It has always struck me as both an interesting concept and possibly photogenic.  So, while in Lancashire a couple of months ago, it seemed worth taking a trip to see it even though the weather didn’t look that good.  In practice I found them striking and evocative.  As can be seen the light was possibly not the best I could have hoped for but it certainly could have been worse.

The light on the water was constantly changing and the backdrops to the statues of the Welsh hills and the offshore wind farm provided some varied images that I rather like. It really is somewhere I’d love to return to in other conditions both in terms of light as well as tide and wave conditions. It is quite hard to grasp the scale of the installation as there are 100 statues there.

I’ve blogged on the subject of East Lancashire’s Panopticon series of public artworks before and the posts are here and here.  There are four works in this series and this is the third one I have visited.  Known as the Haslingden Halo it is situated above the town of Haslingden on an old landfill site. Once again I wasn’t that lucky with the weather. Indeed these two images were separated by a very heavy rain storm. The elevated nature of the site meant I could see it coming and so I managed to stay dry.  While the “Singing Ringing Tree” remains my favourite I’d like to go back to this one again in better or at least more interesting weather conditions.

Wandering around Malham area

Walking in to Malham Cove


Climber on the rockface at Malham

I’ve yet to find a National Park or remote, wild area that I do not like however a favourite over the years has been the Yorkshire Dales and particularly the area around Malham. As I wasn’t far away when I was in Lancashire recently a visit seemed like a good idea. The day didn’t start particularly well – rather grey and overcast however we parked outside Malham and walked in and then up to Malham Cove.  This geological feature never ceases to amaze me and we walked in on the path that can be seen ahead of us.  As is usually the case there were a number of climbers on the wall of the Cove.

While Malham Cove itself is remarkable I often wonder why folk don’t go just around the corner from there and take a look into Goredale Scar.  The walk in, while impressive, doesn’t really give much of a clue to what is around the corner and folk going there for the first time are often surprised at the sight that meets them as they come around the corner particularly after periods of heavy rain.  There are multiple falls here (and at least one more – Janet’s Foss – just downstream.

Having spent time looking around that area we headed up to Malham Tarn for a while and then walked back over the limestone moorland toward Malham Cove to arrive at the top of the Cove. If anything the views from above and even more appealing to me than those from lower down and the path that we walked in on that morning is clearly visible. The weather also showed signs of improving a little too.

One of the joys of the Yorkshire Dales generally for me is the areas of limestone pavement and there are some quite large areas just above Malham Cove. Even in the light condition on that day they look interesting to me though they would be better in early or late light to emphasise the contrast a little more.
Going back to Malham Tarn

Heading back up to Malham Tarn I turned back and looked down the now mostly dry valley that the river responsible for the erosion at Malham Cove flowed in a long long time ago. It really is a stunning part of the world to me and I’d like to think I’d get back to that area for a longer visit in the not too distant future.

Looking over Morecambe Bay

This post is really a very belated one however I have had a few issues to deal with over the past couple of months or so. The computer – while not perfect – is better and I have a little time to try and catch up. These images are from a stay on the very edge of Morecambe Bay in early July this year. As I was within metres of the sea I walked along the edge with the camera each evening and took rather a lot of images (at least some of the delay was in making my mind up just which images to use in this blog). With the hills of the Lake District as a backdrop and the mudflats of the bay always a little different in the foreground it was one of the most enjoyable photo shoots I’ve had.



It really was so hard to narrow the choice down to this small number however I tried to make the selection as varied as I could.  While they are all special to me the evening when the heron was feeding in the pool was particularly good even if he was reluctant to allow me as close as I would have liked.  The only other one I’ll say anything about is the whimsical one of the stones arrange to make the word.  On quite a number of evening there was a word in this particular spot on the beach which changed from time to time – the one shown above simply amused me.  Hopefully I’ll catch up with a few more outstanding blogs in the next week or so.

A blog or two behind

For a variety of reasons I’ve not updated this for a while sadly. One of the main issues is a rather dead computer. I do have decent backups so I’ve not lost anything important however recovering the hard drive would be easier than getting a new drive and re-installing Windows and some things need thinking through. In addition there are a few things in RL that have been distracting me so I thought I should post this for now.

I’m using a small (slow!) netbook at present but any interesting images may find their way on to my facebook feed in the short time. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible :)

On public art

I’ve been away for a while hence the lack of postings and I’m trying to catch up with quite a backlog of images now.  I realised while working my way through them that there were a number of themes in the images I’d taken.  This one was quite easy to deal with and so is the first of the blogs.  I’m not someone who has paid a lot of attention to public art installations generally preferring to find things in the natural environment however, while in Lancashire last year, I saw and was very impressed by The Singing Ringing Tree installation which I blogged here.  It is one of a series of four installations and so returning to the area again I thought I’d track down another one.

This one is called The Atom.  Not for me as interesting as The Singing Ringing Tree however the setting on the edge of the moors is good and if the weather had been better I’d hope to have got some better shots.  I do like it and the idea generally – they are referred to as the Panopticons – I will certainly try and get to another one next time I am in the area.

Alice Nutter - Pendle witch

Staying in the same area of Lancashire for now we were walking in the Pendle Hill area again.  The main reason most people know of Pendle is from the witches trial in 1612.  The image above is the statue of one of the Pendle witches, Alice Nutter.  The problem faced by the women was proving that they were not witches and proving a negative is very difficult.  A few days later we looked around Lancaster Castle where the witches were kept in prisoned – not a cheerful place to be at all and certainly not in 1612.  Again I do like the statue though with the chains and slightly rusted metalwork.

Venus and Cupid

I found this couple very appealing. I love the lines created and the mosaic texture of the statues, known as Venus and Cupid.  Once again the setting, with Morecambe Bay in the background, gives a wonderful feeling of space in which to set the artwork.  The statue is at the northern end of Morecambe and a little out of town.  On a good days the views over to the Lake District are great.

The above two statues are far more in the centre of Morecambe.  The town itself is probably best described as a old fashioned seaside resort that has seen better times.  However there are obviously efforts being made to try and improve/update the image of the town.  The stature of Eric Morecambe probably needs no elaboration for anyone in the UK and it is a well worked image of the entertainer.  The “big bird” is a little different and is one of many bird statues on the jetty area.  I find it more than a little angry looking and I’m not really sure what its connection with Morecambe might be but appealing nonetheless.  Again the views behind are towards the Lake District.


I spotted this rather less formal carving walking the banks of a canal in the Midlands.  Someone has obviously taken advantage of an old tree stump to create this carving of two kingfishers and it really is perfectly appropriate sat on the edge of the canal like that.

So my views on public are are changing and have changed. In the end it is simply a case of whether it does “something” for you. A little like my photographs – they are only interesting to those who find them appealing. All the ones above I like (& I will certainly look for more); if I had to pic a favourite it would be Venus and Cupid because of the lines created by the statue and the setting. More images and themes to come in sure course as I catch up.

Two evening walks in the sunshine

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.

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