Hardened campers…?

We had our inaugural camping trip of the year this past weekend when we went to Gibraltar Farm in Silverdale, Lancashire. The Telegraph rated this website as one of the top 20 best coastal campsites so I thought it was worth a shot.

We were a little afraid when we saw the weather forecast for sub-zero temperatures and snow but didn’t think about changing our plans… We’ve camped when it’s been cold before and the van is warm and cosy. We travelled up the M6 on Friday morning via a shopping stop at Carnforth and a walk at Warton Crag.  Warton Crag is a limestone hill which is part of the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It was the site of an Iron Age hill fort and there were lots of paths around to keep us entertained for a  few hours.

We were really pleased when we arrived at our campsite and found a pitch with an amazing view looking across the sheep fields out to the sea. We settled in and got the heater and electric blanket going.  We did note that the other occupied camping units on the site seemed to provide quite a few more home comforts compared to Frank so we patted ourselves on the back for being hardened campers.

We had a lovely walk the next day along the Silverdale coast.  On the way back we ended up walking through Eaves Wood and found the Pepperpot. The Pepperpot was built in 1887 to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria and the views were quite something from its perch on the ridge. The weather was cold and windy but despite a few snow showers, it was quite dry and the cold ground meant it wasn’t very muddy.  However, the temperature was even lower on night two… Stella’s water bowl froze over as did condensation in the front of the van.  Our little heater was just completely overwhelmed by the sub-zero temperatures.  We got in our sleeping bags at 6pm just to stay warm  and it was at that point that I made the executive decision to book a hotel for the next and last night of our weekend!  So much for hardened campers, right…?!

So on Sunday we got ourselves packed up and went for another walk heading north this time to Arnside. Arnside is a lovely little village with some nice shops and seemed to be very popular with groups of walkers.  Despite the temperatures, I still had an ice cream along the prom although I think the few people we passed might have thought I was a little crazy.

Once we got back to the van we headed south to Morecambe and the Midland Hotel. What a treat this was for us – it would have been a treat anyways because it was such a lovely hotel but because we’d been so cold the previous two nights it was like a little piece of heaven.  With the exception of the fancy restaurant, the whole hotel is dog friendly.  It has a great art deco style and an amazing central staircase.  Our room had a huge bathroom and comfortable furniture and was lovely and warm!  I can’t go on enough about how nice this hotel was.  Our stay there also gave me a chance to do a little reconnaissance for a wedding I’m photographing there in July.  It’s going to be great and there are some great places for photos!  We had our evening meal in the bar and breakfast the following morning was great too.  After a little walk along the prom we headed back to the Birkenbub.

And most importantly – the reason for this adventure was to celebrate our anniversary. We always try and go away for our wedding anniversary and most of these trips away have been camping – with a few cottages thrown in for good measure/warmth.  (Next year might be a cottage!) Happy Anniversary to Paul – 8 years married and he still loves me (so I tell him) and still makes me laugh. J

Our own private island

We celebrated Paul’s birthday this year with a lovely little trip to the Cotswolds. We set off on Friday morning heading for Cirencester and arrived at lunch time – perfect timing to sample the delights of the food market that was occupying the town square. After food, we had a wander around the streets and through the park. Cirencester is charming and well worth a visit – an afternoon well spent.

From Cirencester we headed south just a few miles to South Cerney and our cottage, Filly island. We were greeted by the cottage owner, Mouse, who was filled with lots of great advice about what to do and where to eat while we stayed. There was also a lovely hamper full of goodies for us to indulge in during our stay including a fresh loaf of gorgeous buttery bread. Filly Island used to be the barn where the cart was stored but it is now a stylish cottage for 2 (actually 2+1 – in the form of our furry baby Stella of course)! It suited us well for the 3 nights we spent there (although note to self for next time – 3 nights was too short!)… It was filled with quirky, unique touches such as the kitchen cupboards which were converted from the old barn door, the tennis racket converted to a mirror/key rack and the bath tub found in a bush and lovingly restored. I particularly liked the markings on the bedroom door recording the name and heights of the doggy visitors – Stella’s name was added to the collection. It was great to have this space to cosy up into each evening – the fire made it super snug.

On Saturday we drove to nearby Kemble and took the train from there to Stroud. The farmer’s market in Stroud was really good – lots of choice spread around the town centre. It was a shame the weather was not playing but some of the market was undercover so those bits got more of our attention! After stocking up at the market, we walked back in the direction of the car – 14 miles mostly along canal footpaths and disused canal footpaths. It was very muddy underfoot in places and rained on and off throughout the day. So the tartiflette pie that we’d bought at the farmer’s market warmed us up and was a really nice treat dinner. This was washed down by birthday cake… made by the fair hands of Emma’s Cupcakery. I really love this lady’s creative cakes.

On Sunday the weather was much nicer so we took another wander… this time from the cottage to the nearby Cotswold Water Park . There are more than 150 lakes created by the mining of limestone. The lakes filled in naturally after work on the mines stopped in the early 1970s. It was still pretty muddy under foot (and under paw for that matter) but the camera saw a little more action on day two.

On Monday morning we said good-bye to South Cerney and Filly Island and set off for Bibury – a Cotswold village recommended to us by Mouse – to see Arlington Row. This is a row of cottages originally built in 1380 by the monks to store wool. The building was converted into cottages for weavers in the seventeenth century. I guess it’s one of the most photographed Cotswold scenes and is depicted on the inside cover of all United Kingdom passports. Cool, hey?

From Bibury we started our journey north. We had a lovely stop in Ludlow for a wander around the town and market before finishing off the last leg of the journey home. So it was another successful birthday pilgrimage to explore a part of the world we’ve not visited and, most importantly, spend some quality time together – just the three of us.

Voyage of Discovery

I love taking and looking at pictures.  I still don’t print as many as I should but it’s one of my aspirational goals to print more…

This past year Mum was having a sort out at home and found a box of my own film negatives from high school and university days… “Should I throw them out…?” she asked.  I couldn’t bear to say yes.  Although I knew extracting the pictures would likely not be a straightforward or quick process and would require some effort and expense, when we were in Canada for Christmas I packed them into my case and brought them back with me.

After some research, I invested in a negative scanner of reasonable quality and started the transfer process.  I quickly realised that this was going to be a long process and scanning the negatives is quite boring…

However, the results have been so lovely.  What gems I have found amongst the silver coated plastic… Every evening when I’ve had time to scan another pack has been like a voyage of discovery.  The negatives are in no particular order in the box so I’m never quite sure what’s going to come up.

It’s interesting after all this time what I consider to be the “important” pictures.  It’s not the 10 different angles of Edinburgh Castle that I am keeping for prosperity – it’s the pictures of Sammy our first cat, my Grandpa at the beach or Mum cooking the turkey dinner that are the pictures I value the most.  The people and animals that have influences and shaped me as a person.

It might take me a very long time to finish this project but I can’t wait to see what I’m going to discover along the way.

Watch for more updates here.  But in the meantime, here are a few of my favourites:

I’m cut off on the side but I love that Granny and I are holding hands.

We used to spend a lot of time playing music when we were learning instruments in high school.  This is Janet and Grandpa have a little duet.

Moel Fammau.  Look at the heather.  Is it like that now when we go up in the summer…?  I can’t think that it is.

My first pet Sammy.  And a pumpkin – just for that autumn twist.

Grandpa adopting North American sport!

I remember a snow day where Janet and I had to go out in the morning and bang all the snow off the trees because it was very wet and heavy and branches were breaking.  This is that day.

My Mum and my Aunt June.  Sadly, Aunt June is no longer with us which makes finding this picture even more special.

My Mum, her cousin Jennifer and Aunty Audrey apparently have just taken delivery of some British sweets.

Janet, Grandpa, Aunty Olive and Uncle Ron having a good laugh about something!

My Grandpa used to like taking pictures too.  It’s in the genes…

The land of fire and ice

On the way back from our snowy and wintery Christmas in Canada, we stopped for a few days in Iceland to explore a small corner of this fascinating country. My camera was in action every day trying to get a few pictures that captured the nature of this surreal place. No – we didn’t see the northern lights but with so much else to see, I couldn’t be disappointed.

We rented a car while we were there which was a really good thing to do. It gave us the freedom to explore further afield to our own schedule but for the first couple of days of the trip we just hung out in the city of Reykjavik exploring the harbour, streets, cathedral and essentially trying to get over the jet lag.  It was difficult with such a short flight and such a significant time difference but we were pretty much there after a couple of days. Our apartment was great – it was very modern, well equipped, had lovely views across the harbour and lots of space for us to spread out in. It was also just a short walk to the centre of the city too.

My favourite trip was the day we drove around the Golden Circle. This is a very popular tourist driving route for people like us who’d hired cars and also for people who book on coach tours as well. The popularity slightly affected our enjoyment of the spectacles but not too much really. The first stop of the tour was a volcanic crater lake called Kerid. It was neat to see dawn breaking over the frozen lake at the centre of the volcano’s depression.

From there we moved on to the most spectacular waterfall of the trip which was called Gullfoss. The water just seemed to come from every direction falling dramatically into a ravine. The views around the area were pretty amazing too. Some of the paths in the area which would be readily accessible in the summer were closed off as they had turned to ice with the spray of the water. I wasn’t taking any chances on icy paths next to deep ravines either – despite my Canadian winter boots!

The highlight of the tour for me was the next stop at Geysir. I’d never seen a geothermal area before and I was a little awe struck by it. There were warnings that the temperature of the surface water was between 80-100C and there were spouts of steam coming out from everywhere. It was such a beautiful day which made for what I think are some spectacular pictures with the steam in the foreground and the snowy mountains in the background. The main geyser seemed to be erupting in about 5 minute intervals to the delight of the crowds of people waiting for it. I joined them and stood with my camera ready to go and managed to catch it in action.

After this, we found a lake containing geothermal springs called Laugarvatn. It was very picturesque and has become a popular spot for swimming.  There is a spa with geothermal baths there too.

The final stop of the Golden Circle was the national park of Þingvellir. I’m quite sure you could spend days there wandering around the trails and exploring the general vastness of the place. We got there as the sun was going down and used the hour or so we had at dusk to take a little wander and find the park’s church. The park was also very busy at the main viewing points and car park but I can imagine once you got away from the popular spots you could quickly find yourself on your own.

We had another day out to a place called Vik which was about a 2 and a half hour drive from the city. Because of the short days, it was dark for most of the drive in the morning. We arrived at Reynisfjara beach just before sunrise to the see the basalt columns, sea stacks and black sand beach. We walked down the beach and wondered what Stella would have thought of the black sand and crashing waves. There were lots of warnings about “deadly sneaker waves” (their words not mine) – unexpected waves that would come in and sweep you off your feet when you were least expecting it. These waves are the result of the fact that Iceland is situated on a plateau and the waves reach the shore from depth without being visible to you on the beach. If you google it you’ll find news stories of drownings and videos of the sneaker waves so not something to be scoffed at.

On the way back home, we found another place (off the beach away from those waves!) to view the cliffs from, a lighthouse and a couple of waterfalls (Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss). Getting fuel for the car was interesting as not all information was provided in English and the stations were unattended… Thanks to a helpful local we got there in the end.

The last day of the holiday we headed to the Reykjames peninsula where the airport is. This area has an active volcano system under it and there were large lava fields, hot springs and very little vegetation. We saw some cool cliffs which apparently are the home to lots of birds (including puffins!) in the summer, a geothermal water inlet that was used for teaching children to swim, a lighthouse, more geothermal areas including one used for power generation and a bridge that spans between the two continents of Eurasia and North America.

I really do recommend a visit to Iceland – although Reykjavik is a great city to wander – hire a car and explore the island as well. It is a fascinating, surreal and otherworldly place. But a lesson learned from us is that if you’re are desperate to see the northern lights, book on a tour.  These guys are able to coordinate and communicate where the lights are playing on any given night and your chance of seeing them increases significantly compared to trying to find them yourself!


White Christmas

This year we took flight across the Atlantic to spend Christmas in the great white north with my family… It was great to spend this time with Mum, Dad and Janet – and it’s been a while (+8 years?) since I had a Christmas with them. Of course, we missed our “usual” Christmas with Jayne, Paul and the kids.

And this is the thing about living away from my original home… no matter where I am in the world, there will always be people I love who aren’t nearby. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that…

On the first day of the trip, we headed into Alliston for a spot of shopping- I needed a pair of winter boots for starters. As well as the boots, we picked up some other essentials and paid our first (of several) visits to Tim Hortons. Timbits for me – yes please! In the afternoon we had a trip (back in time for me) to the Hockley honey farm that we used to go to when I was a kid (www.facebook.com/Eagles-Nest-Apiaries-202629179804133/). I came away with a jar of blueberry honey and a second jar of cinnamon honey. I was trying not to think about the weight of these jars in my suitcase!

The snow started to fall in the evening and the world was looking very wintery when we woke up the next morning. A perfect day to head down to a maple syrup farm (www.breedonsmaplesyrup.com) to learn about the effort that is involved in making maple syrup. The best time to see the process is in early spring when everything starts to thaw out but we really enjoyed our visit there in what felt like the depths of winter and I think I can now explain properly why it’s such expensive stuff!  Another Canadian first for Paul in the evening when we headed into Alliston to check out the Alliston Hornets playing their last game before Christmas.  Unfortunately despite outshooting and generally outplaying Stayner, the Hornets lost the game but I was suitably entertained by their efforts.  Better luck next time!  Go Hornets, Go!

On Saturday there was another trip to Tim Horton’s to see Mum and Dad’s gang that they meet there each week. We had another look around the shops and then home to make first a snow man and then a pork pie on Saturday afternoon for dinner that evening. Janet arrived home on Saturday afternoon so we ate the pork pie and caught up with her before heading to see my Mum and Dad’s friends Pat and Ewart and their two very soft, very big, very friendly cats Sam and Sylvester of course. Pat is a wonderful host and spoiled us with baked goods and other nibbles. No visit to Pat and Ewart is complete with a look at a vehicle, tractor or similar and this one was no exception!

After making it to church on Sunday morning to see Mum on duty and the children’s Christmas pageant, I spent the rest of Christmas Eve on the couch… Mostly sleeping but generally just feeling sorry for myself. I had somehow managed to pick up a stomach bug and didn’t feel much like eating anything and I had a fever too. This was along with the cold I’d brought over from England with me. Merry Christmas to me! Christmas Day there were some presents to open in the morning and I just about managed the dinner that I had so been looking forward to at the Nottawasaga Inn (www.nottawasagaresort.com). I love Christmas dinner there – it is a very festive atmosphere and there is something for everyone at the buffet.

On Boxing Day we said goodbye to Mum, Dad and Janet and headed into Toronto to spend a couple of days in the city. Toronto has yet to be toppled from it’s spot as my favourite city in the world to visit. Our time in Toronto aligned nicely with the cold snap that fell on southern Ontario – -20C while we were in the city. We still got out and explored (it was particularly neat to the see the harbour frozen over) but we did make quite significant use of the underground path that connects the city. We had a really nice meal with Andrew and Katrina and their awesome kids at an Italian place right near our hotel on the second night.

But it was time to move on before we knew it. Another visit that went by way too fast and the usual regrets about not seeing everyone I would have liked to see and those people that I did see, not being able to spend the time with them that I would have liked to… But I’m so glad we had these few days together and this time in the winter wonderland that was the mother country this trip!



Winter Wedding at Chester University

The 2017 wedding season finished for me in a very special way with the wedding of Natalie and Jamie.  It was Nick from www.crystallogicphotography.com leading the day in his most capable and chilled out way with me taking up second shooter duties.

Natalie and Jamie did it their way.  They got married in a very simple early morning service  at Chester Registry Office… with just two witnesses.  After the ceremony, we spent a couple of hours with the newlyweds wandering the city centre and hanging out in a pub.  Then Jamie left Natalie so she could get ready for a second time…. for their humanist service at Chester University.

It was the first wedding that Chester University had ever hosted but Churchill House on the Queen’s Park campus was an amazing wedding venue.  The ceremony was in a room with glass on three sides overlooking the River Dee.  Natalie entered the room to a James Bond theme tune looking amazingly sparkly and elegant – what an entrance.  Jamie’s use of a phone book to reach his new wife for a kiss was a hilarious and endearing touch and their  reenactment of their first web chat had everyone giggling away with them.  The speeches involved audience voting and a quiz and fajitas for dinner went down a treat.   The band was still rocking when I snuck away once I’d got what I needed to…

I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling so privileged to be part of someone’s wedding day. Hope you enjoy having a look through some of my favourite pictures from the day.

A Secret Retreat – Wedding Photography Workshop

I was completely intrigued when I heard about the Secret Retreat wedding photography workshops (www.the-secret-retreat.co.uk) from a fellow photographer.  The workshops take place in Italy for a week in September and are directed at women photographers who want to grow their business and develop their photography skills.  I found the reviews about it being a life changing experience,  giving an unrivalled boost to your business as well as offering the opportunity to make lifelong friends along the way very appealing.  I stared at the workshop dates on the calendar when they were announced and watched as the limited spaces that were available filled up like a rock concert.  Although I knew it would certainly be worth the time and money, this year I just couldn’t justify it so I let the opportunity pass.

Then I heard that the Secret Retreat intended to run a one day workshop right here on home soil called the Secret Retreat – Fireside (www.the-secret-retreat.co.uk/fireside)…  When the bookings went live, I managed to secure the last available place (… they actually ended up setting up a second days training due to the popularity.)

The workshop was held at Ponden Hall (www.ponden-hall.co.uk) in West Yorkshire at the end of November.  The Hall appears to be the inspiration for Cathy’s home in Wuthering Heights and Emily Bronte may have written a large part of the novel at the Hall when she visited with her siblings – drawn by a friendship with the people who lived there and a very large library.  With its remote setting in the middle of the Yorkshire moors, it felt untamed and very much in keeping with the imagery of the novel and the tortured romantic Healthcliff.

There were 14 of us eager students who listened to and participated in some great discussions about the business of wedding photography.  Lucy (lucywoodrow.co.uk) prompted us to think about our personal values and how they were reflected in our business.  Claire (www.clairepenn.com) talked about pricing and Andrea (www.andreaellisonphotography.com) talked about the “perfect” clients.

In the afternoon, we headed outside with our models – Casey and Mark.  They are getting married next year and Claire and Andrea are going to be their photographers.  They were great at enabling us to direct them (after some very useful tips on ways to do this from Andrea which I will definitely be adding to my “tool kit”).  Casey was so cool – up for being out in the rain and getting wet in a little dress while us photographer types stood around all dry and toasty in our wellies and winter coats!   When we got back into the dining room, there were four great cakes (great in both size and nature) waiting on the table for us.  My only disappointment at cake time was the fact that I couldn’t try a piece of all four.

Melisssa (www.thedesignspace.co) gave the final presentation of the day focusing on websites.  She also gave me a bit of a personal critique on my website which was invaluable in providing me with some great suggestions to take the space forward.

We finished by heading down the road to a pub called the Old Silent Inn (oldsilentinnhaworth.co.uk) where we ate yummy food.  As well as some down time with the people we had just spent the day with, we also met some of the others who were joining the following day’s course – a lovely bunch of people.

I left the day feeling inspired by the experience and with my brain full of ideas of things I want to do with Flying Canadian Photography.  Thanks to the Secret Retreat – Fireside and my fellow trainees for making this such a fun experience.

Oh yeah – and I got some cool pictures too!

Casey’s hair and make-up by Jenn Edwards & Co. Hairworks. Flowers by Stems Design.