Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The golden glow

Sunshine at last, just after tea on Saturday the sky cleared and I decided that I could miss the programme Merlin just this once, and headed off to Hotbank.

The climb up from Crag Lough to Hotbank is, to my mind one of the steepest on the Wall and, because it's not one of the paths that has been repaired with good stones to step on, it twists and turns.

I don't know about you, but when I'm out and about I look everywhere but where I'm putting my feet and of course I came a cropper. Because I was going uphill this time it was quite a gentle fall and I was soon back up on my feet.

Hotbank Crag (NY775684) doesn't get a lot of publicity, yet it's a lovely crag, (once you're up there) it's good to catch your breath and take in the views. To the east you have a lovely curvy Wall snaking across in front of you with distant views over Broomlea Lough and Sewingshields. At this time of the year the evening sun catches the south side of the Wall, lighting it up. I did take some photo's but it needs a good telephoto lens to exagerate the curves and the 17-55mm I was usuing on Saturday just didn't cut the mustard. That's one to show you another day.

The view to the west, into the setting sun, is just as spectacular, looking across Crag Lough and the crags that carry the Wall all the way to Winshields. Because there was no cloud at all the sun was a bit bright but I couldn't resist a shot.

I spent some time just enjoying the view, I know I've said this of many viewpoints but, this is one of my favourites.

Have you noticed how clouds seem to appear and disappear at the snap of a finger? I never assume anything and I headed back down to Crag Lough hoping some cloud would grace the sky giving a bit of colour. The lake was quite choppy and the golden light streaming across the water was lovely. I took several shots until the sun passed from view then I stood for a while just enjoying the peace of the evening.

I noticed a good number of swan feathers floating near the shore, I haven't seen the resident swans for some time now but hopefully the feathers are a sign that they are still around and moulting.

I've been doing some work to my website I'm aware that the viewpoints are the same throughout the seasons. While I do try to find new angles I have to admit I like the tried and tested spots the best. I suppose while the Wall itself is a constant the weather and the time of year add another layer to the scene.

Looking at the long range weather forecast that layer is thick grey cloud for the next week or so, gauling when the rest of the UK is having good weather.
Hope it's good where you are.

Catch you later....


Saturday, 26 September 2009

Cloudy days are getting me down

We seem to be wrapped up in a big grey blanket at the moment over on the west side of the UK.

It's so depressing not to see any 'light' for days on end.

Occasionally it brightens just before sunset, aand as soon as I saw a patch of blue I was out of the house and heading to Walltown Crags. I was hopeful that I might get a sunset but maybe that was being greedy.

The Crags at Walltown are a lovely place for an evening walk, if the air is clear you can see the sea glinting right over to the Solway. Some nice bits of Hadrian's Wall remain here and access isn't bad.

The sheep have cropped the grass to a lovely finish that would make any greenkeeper proud and for some reason Walltown is the only place you really notice this. As usual it was windy up on the top but even that didn't matter, gave the cobwebs a good blow through.

Hopes of a sunset faded away as the cloud moved back in but I didn't mind too much, I'd spent a happy hour in lovely fresh air, with sheep for company and one impressive sky shot of the Walltown Tree - enough for anyone.

While we've had cloud I've been taking pictures of the various helicopters zooming around Gilsland and up to Spadeadam - it's the Dutch airforce on manouvres at the moment.

They fly through the gap between our house and those up the hill from us and come over quite low - I was happily snapping away, practising my panning techniques and it was only when I uploaded the shots to the computer that I noticed the gunner had his gun trained on me the whole time!

For those who like to know, this was taken with a 200mm lens. Click the pictures to see them at a larger size.

Catch you later.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Cawfields and colour

Saturday morning and it looks promising, I load the car and head off to Hadrian's Wall.
Mists are swirling and at the turn for Walltown I can see across to Cawfields, not too much mist and a bit of colour in the sky.
I'm heading right along the Military Road to Sewingshields Crag, from Kings Hill you can get a nice view of Sewingshields and if there's colour to the west you can see the mists around Housesteads, Cuddys Crag and right on to Winshields Crag.
Stopped just before Housesteads to catch a photograph of the light over Beggar Bog,(NY788681) there's a stand of trees there that I like. Thick grey mist is drifting south like a cloud of smoke, knowing I have a 20 minute climb to Kings Hill (NY798693)I set off again but when I get to Moss Kennel that thick grey mist is covering the hill where I'd be standing.
Do I take a chance and hope it will clear?

That's the thing with mist it can clear in an instant or simply get more dense.
The sky is colouring up beautifully and I have to stop dithering.
I turn the car around and head back to Cawfields, in the car mirror I can see th
e most amazing colours but my indecision has cost me and as I pull into the car park at Cawfields Quarry (NY713665) the colour is fading and the mist that swirled 15 minutes ago has gone.
I take a shot of the light reflected in the water and then tink as I'm up anyway I might as well walk up Cawfield Crags (NY718667) a while.
I love the way Hadrians Wall twists and turns here, and the Wall itself is in remarkably good condition. I need to get to the point where you can see the progression of the hills, in parts that view is blocked by trees, but eventually I'm happy and in place, as the sun starts to appear.
This is a lovely spot and I enjoy the day waking up, the farmer from Shield in the Wall Farm is making his rounds on a quad bike, cows graze and the rooks caw. I stop to wipe the condensation
off my filter (a real problem at this time of the year) and a couple of black labradors rush up to say hello. Their master was just behind them and we chatted for a while, agreeing that on mornings like this the world is a wonderful place.
Looking forward to more the same.
Catch you later.


Friday, 18 September 2009

So tranquil

Another day, another entry for my Hadrian's Wall blog, I don't get much feedback so it's become a bit like a diary for me, going through my photographing doings for the day.
Sunset's around 6.40pm at the moment, seems like just last week I was hanging about on the crags at 10pm waiting for the sun to go down.
In another month our clocks will change and I'll be trying to catch the sunset and then coming home for tea!

The sky last night was, well, gentle, wispy clouds and a bit of a haze so I hoped there might be a bit of colour in the sky as the sun set.

As it was a still night I headed off to Crag Lough, the lake that you look east to from Steel Rigg. We don't have many areas of water that are easily accessible on Hadrian's Wall so Crag Lough features in most of the local photographer portfolio's.

Last night it was so still, not quite a mirror but still enough to reflect the sky nevertheless and it was lovely.

John Pattinson, the farmer at Hotbank Farm was bringing in his hay so there was the gentle buzz of a tractor in the background. As the sun set the rooks on the crag all took off in a big swirl of wings, noisily cawing and whirling about. I stood and just watched them in action, it looked as though they were having fun. I have to wait until they settle again before I can use the camera, in low light the exposure time is too long and moving birds, and midges, make blurry dots all over the shot.

Mrs Pattinson stopped and had a word, I caught up on the news about her daughter's wedding, sounds like they had an amazing day, then I took a few more shots before packing up and walking back down the track to my car.

I never cease to think how lucky I am to live in such an amazing place and to know that if I don't get picture I really like tonight, then I can just try again tomorrow.

We're coming to the end of another busy tourist season so if you fancy visiting when things are a bit quieter maybe now's the time to book up.

For the Steel Rigg bit of Hadrian's Wall you could try http://www.saughyrigg.co.uk/ , just a ten minute walk away.

Catch you later,


Joan Thirlaway

Monday, 14 September 2009

Just some photographs

I take so many shots when I'm out that sometimes it takes me a while to get through them

So here are a few recent ones.
Sunrise at Steel Rigg - lovely red sky that morning.

It's coming to that time of the year when the sun rises to the south of Hadrian's wall leaving the Crags in heavy shadow - not ideal for photography - but it's autumn we get most misty mornings so I'm still getting up early.

Next is a photograph from Cawfields

This is a great spot for early morning mist, sometimes there's too much to see anything at all but, if it's a clear morning, the rising sun begins to burn off some of the mist. As ever with photography it's a case of just wait and see.

Another from that same morning but zooming in on Cawfield Crags.

And finally today we have two from Walltown and sunsets this time.

So you might wonder why I insist on showing you my photographs, well as you may know from previous posts I very rarely see anyone else when I'm out with my camera, most visitors are either tucked up in bed or having their breakfast in the morning, at sunset they're sitting having their evening meal.

Maybe just for once it would be worth arranging to have your meal at a different time and come out to enjoy the spectacular show nature puts on for us all.

A quick check with the metchecck site ( http://www.metcheck.com/V40/UK/FREE/today.asp?zipcode=NE47) will show you what the weather will be like, NE47 is the postcode for Steel Rigg.

Catch you later.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Sometimes there's magic

I've been up for a sunrise two mornings in a row, not a particular hardship at this time of the year when the alarm's going off at 5.20am.

I was hoping to catch mist at Cawfields and when I got there it was misty but so much so you couldn't actually see anything. I kept on the Military Road and turned off for Steel Rigg, the sky was a wonderful red, and although there was no mist today it was worth a shot. There's a marquee on the field at Steel Rigg at the moment, the daughter of the Hotbank Farm family gets married today and the guests will all enjoy that wonderful view from Steel Rigg.

Took half a dozen shots until the sun started to rise then I headed back to Cawfields to wait for the sun to burn off enough of the mist for me to get a shot.

I drove along the road until I was above the mist, found a safe place to park and waited.
Cows came to see what I was up to but as it didn't involve fodder they quickly lost interest.

There are some wonderful bog areas along Blake Law, some rare mosses and plants grow there.
Being full of water as soon as you get a cold clear night the mist forms. I imagine it has done that since time began and I like to imagine the soldiers of Rome up there on the Wall surveying the mists in exactly the same way that I do today.

I took loads of photographs, mist twirls and dances across the landscape so each second is totally different - parts of Cawfield Crags appear and disappear from view making each photograph unique. The sun came up and tinged some of the mist with a golden glow and caught the spiders webs in the reeds at my feet. It was just magical, I wish you could have been there with me it's something money can't buy.
Catch you later...

Friday, 11 September 2009

Calm and collected

Well I've just about recovered from the traumatic events of the last two posts.
The decision to sell all my camera equipment has been put on hold and a spell of beautiful weather has tempted me back out onto the Wall.
There's a scrubby little hawthorn tree that hangs over Hadrian's Wall at Caw Gap and although I have this particular shot on my website it's long overdue an update.

I headed out to Caw Gap, a blue sky and amazing clouds, I have a personal mission to get another of my shots onto the BBC national weather spot. They don't say where the shots are taken, so I'm looking for one that is undisputably Hadrian's Wall.
Alas, Hadrian's Wall at Caw Gap is not the best example, in the main it's just single width and in lots of places it's falling down but I entertained myself for a while, trying to compose a shot that included all of the important elements. Harder than I thought!

Masses of people out walking, one Dutch lady passed me dressed as though going to an afternoon tea dance with sling back sandals and a handbag, not ideal for a muddy hike up and down the Hadrian's Wall Path. The majority of people did have appropriate gear and lots of folk are using two walking poles, everyone I asked agreed this made an enormous difference, it's something I shall try when I'm not carrying a tripod.

I spent several hours out in the September sunshine, took masses of 'chocolate box' photographs and came to the conclusion that this bit of the Hadrian's Wall Path has some of the most amazing views, especially to the west.
Two photographs today, one of the wonderful sky and the other looking west along the line of Hadrian's Wall to Cawfields Quarry then onto Walltown in the distance.

Catch you later.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Another game of catch up

8.30am and I was out at Once Brewed as requested.
Managed to have a catch up chat with Michael the Ranger until the crew from Radio 2 arrived at 9ish after breakfast at the Twice Brewed.
Off up to Steel Rigg so they could be filmed by for a bit on Look North.

They were suitably impressed by the scene at Steel Rigg, Stuart Maconi is doing a tweet with photographs he's taken along the way.
They walked back and forward for the camera and while they stopped on the top of Peel Crags to be interviewed, I legged it along the bottom track to catch them at Sycamore Gap.

I don't know who planned the trip for them but I'm guessing they looked at a map measured the distance and thought it was an easy trek.

Of course the terrain isn't flat, the climbs are steep and the descents are too, especially when it's muddy underfoot.

Because they were doing a show at 8pm they were in powerwalk mode, way above my speed, so I was taking the flatter tracks that run parallel to the actual Wall to try and get ahead of them.

I'm definately too old for this :) At Cuddys Crag, Mark Radcliffe and his team flashed past without stopping.

Stuart was walking with David McGlade, the Hadrian's Wall National Trail manager, they kind enough to wait for me and so I have more photographs of Stuart.

The publicity they're giving the Hadrian's Wall Path is priceless and they seem to be mentioning everyone they come into contact with ( except me which probably means I was a total nuisance)

Be nice to get back to proper landscape photography, the view never has a deadline to meet, much more my pace.

Catch you later.

Sunday, 6 September 2009


I was out at Willowford today, Lauren and Liam were expecting the two presenters from Radio 2 to drop in and interview Lauren about her work as part of the team trying to get Fairtrade status for the whole of Hadrian's Wall corridor .

I was supposed to photograph the event, happily for me I don't get paid (I declined payment) so no pressure there then :)

I really don't do any people photographs, in fact I'm usually trying to avoid getting people in my shots.

The party of 5 came up from Willowford Bridge and to start with I didn't know which of the 4 ( the fifith was Lizzie so I knew it wasn't her) I was supposed to photograph but someone took pity on me and the guys posed for a photograph.

They had a refreshment stop at Willowford, enjoying Liam's chocolate brownies and did a live phone in to the Michael Ball show. I did take some photographs but I always feel photographing people is a bit intrusive so I sort of hovered and 'is it all right if I just.....' my way through the morning.

I have to report that Mark Radcliffe is utterly charming, a real gentleman. (leading the way in the photo above)

They were walking quite a way today from Banks to Steel Rigg over some very muddy stretches of the Hadrian's Wall Path, no doubt they'll be looking forward to a hot bath and a pint.

Nice publicity for Hadrian's Wall and we're grateful for all of it.

Catch you later.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Elastoplasts at the ready...

It's September so it must be - drum roll - - - -calendar time.

Last year it was a big production with several varieties of calendar, professionally produced by File Print and they did a grand job.

But it got completely out of hand mainly because I'm very laid back about paperwork, so my records of what was where, left a lot to be desired.

This year it's another do it myself offering in the little plastic cases, perfect for sitting on a desk or next to the phone.

I print and hand cut every sheet, and from day one I needed an elastoplast for both thumbs.

It is great fun to pick the photographs I'm using for each month and I try to be true to that month, but I take loads of shots every month and it's not unusual for me to decide to change a photograph half way through the print run.

The Sycamore Tree has to feature - it's such an iconic tree and people associate it with Hadrian's Wall so that's fairly easy to sort out. For some reason Birdoswald gives me problems as does Walltown ( some of that's to be blamed on William's barn!)
Steel Rigg can offer a mass of shots, as can Cuddys Crag.
I have a soft spot for the mists of Cawfields and Sewingshields Crag and of course Hadrian's Wall itself must play a starring role.

Then there's the front page, it has to say to anyone picking up the box that this is Hadrian's Wall, easy to take the soft option and pick the Sycamore Tree again but this year I found a little gem of a shot overlooked in my file.

A misty sunrise taken at Cuddys Crag and as I print up my little calendars I'm liking this picture more and more so I'm getting a large version done to put on my wall at home, and there's not many make that grade!

If you want a copy of the calendar they're available from Walltown Refreshments and La Toot in Haltwhistle, no more than 150 produced this year so be quick, get yours while I still have thumbs :)

Todays picture is the calendar front page, click on it to see it a bit bigger.

Catch you later.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Rainy days

My goodness have we had rain, it's poured from the heavens along with strong winds which must have made walking the Wall a real challenge over the last few days.

There are sections of the Hadrian's Wall Path that get really boggy and if you don't have good walking boots and gaiters you could get into trouble.

I've just bought a new pair of boots, the do say waterproof on the label but I've yet to find a pair of boots, that aren't rubber, that actually do what they say on the label. Still there's always a first time.

I've been waiting for a break in the weather to get out and see how comfortable the boots are, just after tea tonight there was a chink of light in the sky and hoping that a sunset might be in the offing I set off for Caw Gap.

Rather than go up the steep path I followed the track that skirts around the edge and discovered a quagmire.

Took me ages to work my way around it and all the time I could see lovely light on the other side of the crag.

Scrambling up the grass bank I came to a herd of cows, I'm not usually nervous with cows but these had some very young calves. I took my time passing through them, making sure I didn't get between a cow and her calf.

I also talk to them all the time, nothing but gibberish and they do sometimes roll their eyes at me but I got through unscathed, to the spot I'd planned for my photograph.

It was a very windy, I use a carbon fibre tripod because it's light enough for me to carry but in a good wind it's not that stable. Even worse I was on tussocky grass.

I settled down to wait for some colour in the sky and got the fright of my life when a couple of cows came up behind me and snuffled loudly in my ear.

Nothing much happened sunset wise and the cows were becoming curious so I decided to cut and run, well more cut and crawl as I didn't want to spook them. Don't know if you remember I had a bad fall a few months back, that was at Caw Gap as well, and I'm beginning to wonder if it's jinxed for me.

Nice big moon tonight so maybe I'll get a sunrise outing tomorrow.

Couple of Radio 2 presenters are walking the Hadrian's Wall Path and were getting lots of nice publicity - wish they'd brought some of that southern sunshine with them.

Catch you later