Thursday, May 18, 2006

Spring Into Summer

Sometimes I take this country for granted. Sure it has it's problems, but then what country doesn't ? I love the scenery for one thing and I'm very lucky that I live on the edge of a city and yet only 15 minutes walk from the countryside - see previous entry.

I've also been lucky enough to have visited a few other countries and the one thing that I notice most as I fly back over the England, is the unique landscape below me. Many countries have green fields. Many have walls and fences. Many even have shorelines. So what is so different about England and the UK ? I think it's that we have it slighly different ! Our irregular shaped fields are greener. Our stone built walls contain nothing but stones. Our shoreline............surrounds the whole country. Ok so we're an island and you'd expect that !!!

Springtime can be wonderful here. The colourful flowers are in such contrast to the green fields. For some reason, graveyards are great places to see flowers of all descriptions. Most are wild but many more have sprung up from flowers planted by visitors to the graves. Go figure - life from death.

Daffodils are such beautiful flowers - simple in construction but so complex in the feelings and memories they evoke.

They are spring. Pure and simple.

I love seeing well maintained gardens and public areas - be it large municipal parks or just areas
off the side of the road. I came upon this profusion of flowers and had to stop just to check they weren't artificial !

You can see the road going off into the distance on the right hand side but to come upon a blaze of colour like this is not that unusual here. There is still a fierce pride in English village life and some of my best days out have been driving to, and walking around, the Yorkshire villages on my doorstep and many others further afield.

The buildings themselves have a charm all of their own and in this age of high rise skyscrapers and conformist city buildings, they stand as a symbol of a bygone age and of a simpler and dare I say, more respectful time.

Obviously every village can't have jigsaw lid houses, but there are plenty to go around.

Some even have thatched roofs to keep the tourists cameras clicking. I imagine it's a mixed blessing living in such houses - how many times a day in the spring/summer would you get a knock on the door and find some foreigner asking if they could come in for a look around ?

Mind you, just charge a fee each time and you're laughing all the way to the thatched bank

This particular cottage is in the charming village of Thornton-le-dale, just in case anyone wants to go there and knock on the door.

Goood luck.

Going back to churches and churchyards, many countryside ones can be worth a springtime visit even if you're not into daffodils !! They are usually in beautiful locations and the peace and solitute of the grounds is so refreshing for a city boy.
This one is in the village of Collingham, about a 15 minute drive from my house. Thousands of people drive past it on their daily commute to Leeds and have probably never even thought to stop sometime and have a look around.

Our fast paced lives allow little time for such 'luxuries' but one of the benefits of retiring early in life is that I do have time now...........and when I come across somewhere as beautiful as this church, I try and stop and if nothing else, take some photos so that I can enjoy the memory of it over and over again.

Another feature of the English countryside is the great British pub ! I'm not going to try and extol the virtures of pubs as most people know about them already. I'm somewhat unusual as I rarely go to one for the food and drink they serve - but love to come across one in a beautiful
location like the one here. There are few better ways to spend a warm spring afternoon than sitting outside in a pub beer garden, or even just on the grass, enjoying a refreshing drink or a freshly cooked meal. Best to get a table for that meal though !

The cheap and cheerful type pub meal of yesteryear (pie and peas or similar) has been replaced by excellent fayre for the whole family and ranges from bar snacks to a full blown 3 course meal at a very reasonable price. Children are encouraged to join their parents and thankfully this doesn't always condemn them to a life of drunken debauchery in their teenage years - although for many this IS the case !

As well as stunning scenery, the parks and open spaces also boast their share of wildlife and spring is a wonderful time to get up close and personal with many varieties of birds, ducks and other critters.

Maybe they are still half asleep from some sort of winter ennui, but I find it is at this time of year that you can practically bang your camera lens up against their beaks before they'll move off.

This one was a bit wary and kept one puzzled eye on the heavy breathing human crawling towards it like some overweight commando who failed boot camp a long time ago. Thankfully it stayed put just long enough for me to take the photo and roll off with some shred of dignity intact. Not much......just a shred.

There is one 'truism' which I've had re-enforced over the years and that's the one about the eyes being the best lenses in the world. How often do we come upon some stunning vista and take a photo of it and expect it to come out like we saw it ? Yes it can happen, but rarely does. Maybe I'm just a crap photographer ! I make no claims to be gifted or even above average but this is one area where I could, and should, do much better.

Bare scenery is my achilles heel, if you like. I need a building or a person or a nearby tree/hedge/bush to successfully capture many sights I come across in my travels. When these are missing, I tend get a photo that, although it accurately captures the scene, somehow lacks soul. Ok the daffodils help this one, but the valley beyond them was breathtaking - sorry but you'll just have to take my word for it

Right at the start I mentioned shorelines and the fact that we're an island race. Yes we have many splendid beaches and seaside resorts but they are not where I would choose to go on a spring weekend.........sunny and warm as it might be. When it is such a day, these places are packed and crowds I can do without.

Thankfully the UK coastline is dotted with hundreds of picturesque fishing villages which could be used in any movie - assuming said movie was set in a picturesque fishing village !

This one is called Staithes and sadly for me, I got to it when the tide was out and so it's not as 'pretty' as it could be. It's main claim to fame is it's connection with Captain James Cook. He was born 25 miles south of the village but moved to it when he was 16 and gained a love of the sea. He moved on to Whitby 2 years later and the rest, as they say, is history.

I'm sure he'd be proud to know he's given his name to the next series of Survivor. World's greatest ocean explorer ? Well yes, but come on..........having a motley bunch of Americans spending 39 days on one of the islands named after you has to be up there with discovering Australia and New Zealand !!! Hmmmm the jury is out on that one !

So, springtime in jolly old England ? Is there anywhere to match it ? Probably. Almost certainly. But it'll do for me, yes it will. I've leave the last word, or words, to someone who is slightly better than me ( and just a bit more famous than me ) at expressing what we Brits may take for granted and not shout about ( except during the upcoming World Cup), but are really quite proud of........our country.

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,--
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

William Shakespeare "King Richard II", Act 2 Scene 1

Way to go, Bard.


jen said...

You are certainly one of the most amazing and expressive photographers in England! Thank you for the vibrant pictures and beautiful descriptive words.

silverback said...

Thanks for the kind words but I'm just a snapper - although I'd like to think that what I lack in technical ability, I make up for in composition.

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