New light through old windows

The weather has been so dull over the weekend, that I have been going through old photographs on the computer. I was actually looking for some Lake District photos to put into this year’s calendar (April? Don’t ask…) and came across a few old files that I had dismissed before.

It is surprising what you pass over as being “not worth it” when you look back after a couple of years.

The first one was taken on a walk up St Sunday Crag about four years ago. We’d been up there one weekend in February 2008 and sat on top of Catseye Cam overlooking Helvellyn and Red Tarn. The weather was glorious, especially for February and when it got to Tuesday of the following week and it hadn’t broken, on a whim I took the Wednesday off and for the only time ever, went up a mountain on my own.

I walked from Glenridding car park, over St Sunday Crag and back – a decent walk – but must have seen no more than a dozen people all day. If I’d fallen and broken an ankle, I’d have been in big trouble, but I didn’t, so I wasn’t. The weather was fantastic, as you can see from this panorama of Patterdale and Ullswater, taken on the way up.

This shot was printed to a canvas soon after I took it and is currently hanging on the wall.

However, it was the following shot that I’d passed over at the time and it’s taken me over 4 years to spot some potential. I really like the way that the distant mountains recede in the mist and the lone figure, walking towards me. I have no idea why I didn’t see this one before.

Still, I am glad I did. Now I will need to print that one too…
The second shot that passed me by, but more recently, is this one. 
Again, not sure why I didn’t bother with it before, but I like it in a simple, pastoral sort of way. I tried this one in black and white too, but much preferred the colour version – I think it almost has a slide-like quality to the colours, I can’t quite put my finger on it.
This one will make it to the calendar.

A great place to live

We were walking the dog this morning along The Parade, a street which used to be a quayside  of a small fishing port, but is now just a road alongside a huge expanse of marshland. The village is Parkgate, on The Wirral, in Cheshire

In the 1700s, it was the main embarkation point for people wanting to travel from England to Dublin. Trans-Irish Sea ships would moor in the main cut of the river, and small lighters would be rowed to the quayside that you can see here. Handel did his final tweaks to “The Messiah” here, prior to its debut in Dublin and Emma Hamilton, Lord Nelson’s mistress, used to take the waters here.

In the 1730s, part of the river was canalised, which diverted the main flow to the other side of the estuary, leading to a gradual silting up on the English side. This, together with the opening up of Liverpool as a commercial dock and the pushing through of the turnpike road to Holyhead, meant that the village’s trade with Ireland came to an end.

Just before the Second World War, grass was planted further upstream to stabilise a firing range – within 30 odd years it had taken over the whole of the estuary. Today, for the most part, the estuary is an odd mixture of marsh grass and inlets – “the remains” as my young daughter called them – trapped ponds being “the remains” of the River Dee. The marsh is now a nature reserve, administered by the RSPB and the local authority.

A couple of times a year, with the spring tides, the water is high enough to reach the quayside once again. I have known this place 20 years, and I have seen it breach the wall when the tide is exceptionally high. Today’s is only 10m, but there was an 11m tide a few years ago. If the wind blows up the estuary, that can add another 1m to the level.

The real beauty of living here is that from our house, in 5 minutes, we can be watching any number of wading birds on the marsh. Anything from various gulls, oystercatchers, herons, egrets, a couple of spoonbills are now resident too. We get short-eared owls patrolling the marsh of an evening and a hen harrier is a regular visitor.

What a privilege.