Get your head in the clouds

Get your head in the clouds

Late afternoons in the mid-autumn have their own lighting design with special colours, particularly on days like Sunday (25 October) when a clear sky was punctuated with decaying shower clouds reflecting the whole spectrum in the setting sun. So even though the clocks have gone back (for some reason I’ve never understood) if you can squeeze in a couple of hours’ walking late in the day you can be rewarded with amazing tree and sky hues. The Downe walk isn’t the most spectacular route on this site, but today it was beautifully lit, as pictured above.

I’ve always paid a lot of attention to sky. Since I was a kid I’ve always tried to work out what was likely to happen to the weather from reading cloud formations. I remember bugging my geography teacher about it: “So why did it rain for 40 minutes yesterday afternoon… was it a cold front or just a convection shower?” He’d study me with a bemused expression that said “yes, I know I gave a lesson on cloud identification yesterday but how the hell am I supposed to know?”, before giving me an answer in a tone of voice that suggested he was guessing.

I haven’t lost this childlike fascination with weather and hold in my memory particular freak weather moments from years ago.

I think an interest in clouds and meteorology (“I am a meteorologist not a weather man!” – sorry, Larry David reference there) adds something to the walks. The sky in the UK is ever-changing, constantly offers up clues and is often as beautiful as the countryside. It’s the greatest art gallery of them all; maybe Turner would have agreed. Here are some cloud photos from down the years from the walks and from south-east London.

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Tale of two orbs: a quiet evening awaiting Ciara

Tale of two orbs: a quiet evening awaiting Ciara

Saturday was a pleasant winter’s day so we ventured once again to the eastern Darent Valley watching the sunset and hoping for an early evening owl. We were rewarded instead by wonderful and close views of three juvenile buzzards hanging motionless above Fackenden Down calling to each other plaintively.

I haven’t got the lenses to capture wildlife unless it’s less than two feet away. My lack of super-duper equipment was also brought home to me by the rise of a huge moon behind Dunstall Farm; my camera could only represent it as a small white disc. Still there’s a bit of atmosphere in the shot, seen below. For starters, I love the pines that surround the secluded farmhouse, an attractive and venerable building with a hint of Normandy about it.

Today of course (Sunday, 9 February) I imagine nobody in their right mind went walking what with Ciara wreaking havoc across the land. (There is a shorter version of the Fackenden Down walk that’s quite handy for short winter days here – you can start it at Shoreham Station and walk up the track almost opposite to join the walk or park at the layby in Rowdown Lane as marked. It’s 2.6 miles but good exercise because quite up and down.)

 

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Why be the Fall guy?

When autumn gets it right these walks can be rather picturesque. Golden light, a fresh breeze, vibrant colours under a cobalt sky. And a pint of Harvey’s in the pub. But such days have been scarce for most of October and November I think we can agree. Autumn is great for cliches too (golden light, vibrant colours), which I am too readily resorting to. So I’ll shut up.

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A brilliant wildlife blog from further west…

I’m often accused of being Kentist or Kentcentric. Maybe north-west-kentcentric. So in the interests of clearing my parochial name, I recommend this magnificent blog on local flora and fauna a bit further west along the North Downs. It’s called ND&B the author of which, Steve Gale, has dedicated years to observing what goes on in his ‘uber-patch’ in north-east Surrey and has racked up an astonishing list of species. On a sombre note, however, he is somewhat downcast about the future of wildlife and has documented a steep decline in bird, plant and invertebrate numbers over recent years. Gale’s writing and photography is of the highest order, and his work is an education for anyone interested in life outside.

Check out my Travels page

Every now and then I get to escape from Kent and London. This year I’ve been lucky enough to visit Switzerland and southern California.

Yes, I know there’s a billion travel bloggers out there, endless newspaper articles and TV shows making you feel that you are an impoverished provincial recluse, but I have a powerful desire to share with you what I’ve found, whether you think it’s remotely interesting or not.

I like taking photos too, so I’ll try to let the pictures do the talking. I’ve created a Travels page, with hopefully informative captions about interesting wildish places I’ve come across. Below is a shot from Joshua Tree national park.

Suddenly it’s autumn in the Darent Valley

Two weeks ago I did the Shoreham circular in 25C heat. Now, dodging showers amid sudden switches in temperature I’ve ventured out on the Shoreham-Eynsford walk ( 3), the Eynsford-Lullingstone (walk 12) and to the eastern valleys of Shoreham (walk 14).

It’s often the case that the sky can make landscape photography easy; with the weather we are having this mid-September, the clarity of air and development of interesting cloudscapes transmit atmosphere and steal the scene with drama. Enjoy this slideshow…

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Eynsford, Darent Valley, Downe winter photographs

Blowing my own trumpet rather (an odd expression for a saxophonist to use of course), I’m rather pleased with these two photos, particularly the top one, taken at about 3.45pm on the Eynsford walk (shoreham-to-eynsford and lullingstone). I was struck by the sky colours, the shapes of the trees and how the flint stones in the field stood out white, seeming almost luminescent. The second one was pointing further towards the recently set sun, hence the orange hues. Anyway, enough pretentious twaddle from me… hope you like them.

Eynsford Lullingstone flinty field, winter

Eynsford Lullingstone flinty field, winter

Eynsford, Lullingstone, Kent. Flinty field.

Eynsford, Lullingstone, Kent. Flinty field.

Update, January 10, 2017: I did some major tweaking in Photoshop on the first of the pictures below to improve detail in the foreground. Cheating, some would call it. It was taken near Downe House at about 3.45pm in early January 2017, as were the pictures beneath it (even though they appear lighter, they were actually taken a few minutes later).

Downe near point 3 in winter

Downe near point 3 in winter

Downe, Kent, England

Frosty hillside fields, Downe

Field next to Downe House

Field adjacent to Darwin’s house, Downe, January