I know I've mentioned a few times that I feel very fortunate to live only a few minutes drive from beautiful countryside. But I don't even have to travel that far to enjoy wonderful parks and lakes as Leeds has plenty of both.
Today I revisited Golden Acre Park, my first visit since April last year - a visit I wrote about at the time. I promise you no more close ups of flowers but there will be photos of wildlife as the park is a dream if you like wildlife. Nothing spectacular you understand. No wildebeest being dragged by their throats into the water, no giraffes stretching up to eat the leaves from the tallest trees, no leopards resting on the...well you get the point.
GAP may not have anything to offer in the way of Attenborough style wildlife but what it does have, comes to you begging to be photographed. But more of the critters later.
As it was a lovely sunny afternoon, I went into the forest area at the top of the park to try and get some shots of the light filtering down through the trees.
This photo represents the views I came across. I was hoping for a few shafts of sunlight but I guess you need a bit of mist or dry ice for that. Maybe I need to visit the park early one morning.
Yeah that's likely !!
Anyway I was happy enough to settle for the light and shade I found today.
I was also happy that I seemed to have the entire place to myself.
Ok so I did occasionally hear some rustling in the undergrowth but after Florida, it was comforting to know that any critters in there wouldn't be likely to bite me, poison me or carry me off to be devoured at a later date. Not even a slightly larger than usual squirrel.
Still on the lookout for light and shade, I made it down from the depths of the forest and onto the main path that runs around the lake.
I sat on a bench to have the ham sandwich I'd brought from home and watched the other park visitors going by.
Then, for a fleeting moment, the sun picked out this couple like a spotlight picking out the main characters in a play.
Of course being a sci-fi fan and a lover of the movie Cocoon, I could also have been a witness to an alien abduction. Abductees always seem to be transported by beams of light after all.
"Stay away from the light" I shouted. Everyone knows that.
But to put all our minds at rest, the couple continued on their way and passed me and my ham sandwich a few seconds later.
I think I was the only person in the park today who wasn't part of a family, in a group or one half of a couple. Grandparents and their grandkids made up a large proportion of the visitors and it was so nice to see so many of them them pass me on my bench.
I'd just finished my sandwich and taken a swig of my can of Pepsi Max (Pepsico, please send me a 12 pack for this gratuitous product plug) when a couple of oldies came along with their granddaughter.
Maybe she wanted a drink or something but I was a bit unnerved when she stood right in front of me.
Still, emboldened by the fact that gramps and gramma were a few feet away, I asked them if it would be ok to take her picture ?
Well she wasn't getting any of my drink, that was for sure !!
This is exactly how she was standing in front of me so you can see why I was unnerved. Sadly in this day and age, you have to be very careful what you say and do.
Thankfully she was happy enough with the photo, which I showed her, and she danced off to meet up with a little girl who was coming the other way with HER grandparents.
This was my cue to skedaddle before I was added to some sort of registry and I headed off towards the lake. This was waterfowl central and the cute little things were everywhere. You had to be careful not to stand on one as they were all over the grass banks.
There was a stream leading to the lake and to add to the scene, there was a small wooden bridge leading across it.
It was while taking this photo that I saw that the path in the distance was bathed in sunlight when the passing clouds allowed this to happen.
From the comparative 'safety' of my location, I watched as walkers, joggers, families, couples, dogs and every combination of them all walked along and hit the areas of sunshine on the path.
A large family group came along, preceded by a little boy and girl. These kids ran up onto the steep grass bank beyond the path screaming and laughing and generally having a fun time. As they came down, the boy stooped to pluck a flower and I watched him give it to the girl.
Awwwwww. They held hands for a few seconds and just then they entered the small area of sunlight that I'd already spotted between two trees.
This was the shot I got and I don't care if I'm hauled up before the narrow minded people who may frown on taking such candid photos - it was a moment totally missed by every member of that family who were too busy chatting amongst themselves to notice it.
I'll never know if they were brother and sister or just good friends but wouldn't it be wonderful if this was the moment, THE moment that they'll say their lifelong friendship, or more, actually started.
Yes I'm an old romantic. They're probably brother and sister and he ripped the flower from her hand a few minutes later and made her cry !
I moved on to the edge of the lake where there is a very nice paved area where you can sit at picnic tables and watch the incredible variety of life on the water. And on the land. Yes these critters have worked out that people at picnic tables means food for all and very little chance of getting hurt in the process - as long as they watch out for toddlers who run around like headless chickens lashing out at anything smaller than they are.
There were loads of silly little coots - no I'm not talking about the toddlers - and they really are the most ridiculous looking creatures.
I suspect God was in playful mood when He created them as not only did he give them stupid looking white beaks on jet black heads but he decided to go totally of His cloud by adding the bird version of clown feet.
I had to wait for the right coot to come near me as I was far more interested in getting a good photo of its feet than its head.
This was the best I got and so, sorry about the head. But get a butchers at those feet. They don't need to swim across the lake - they could walk across it !! And as you might imagine, their gait is hilarious as they have to raise those silly big feet up quite a way to avoid bending parts of them under with every step.
It was like watching Krusty The Clown walk onto the stage in Springfield. Hilarious.
I sat and watched while families came and went. The kids fed the ducks. The men nibbled the women. The mallards bullied the coots. It was all good stuff. Not exactly Attenborough worthy, but it worked for me.
This little fella had suicidal tendencies and right before my camera lens, he decided to end it all and chucked himself off the ledge and into the water.
But it was all fruitless as the drop was only 18 inches AND he could float.
Time for a rethink, ducky.
Even though I'd no food to offer them, this didn't stop dozens of them approaching me on the off chance that I'd held back some of my ham sandwich. By now it was after 5pm and most people had left the area, and the park, to head home for supper.
I was actually the only person left at the picnic area and so, like some sort of cross between Dr. Doolittle and The Pied Piper, everywhere I went, a plethora of wildlife went with me. Even the clown-like coots tried to keep up.
This handsome little fella (or fellette) went as far as to peck my jean bottoms and so I rewarded his attention by crouching down and taking his photo.
I think you can see a definite mischievous smile. Cheeky chappie.
It was time to head home myself but as I looked back over the huge grass area that led to the bottom exit at the lower end of the park, I saw a family having a bit of a late afternoon picnic in the waning sunshine.
Once again a standard image was improved photogenically by the presence of a small child. Kids and critters. Always a good combination.
Like I said earlier, there weren't many people left in the park and so the birds and ducks had made their way to this family and the little girl was enjoying every moment. Just as I framed the image, she held her arms out to the nearest ducks and turned a good photo into a very good photo. IMHO of course.
This time I didn't ask permission. After looking at the dad, I decided if he came at me, I'd be able to take him !
I could out stroll him any day of the week.
Just then my camera battery gave up the ghost as I'd not recharged it since my canal trip weekend. This trip to the park was a spur of the moment thing and I just grabbed the camera and went.
So I started to walk up the steep path to the top of the park when I'd parked the car. As I went through the forest again, I heard movement in the bushes and a cheeky squirrel ran over my foot. I knew I could get a few more photos out of the 'dead' battery as that's how it goes.
It tells me it needs replacing and I say not yet. It tells me yes. Really.
But I know that if I turn the camera off, I'll get a few more photos out of the battery later.
And so here is cheeky squirrel. The one that didn't get away.
As they often do, he'd scampered up a nearby tree and then, in relative safety, had posed for photos.
My battery allowed me 2 more shots and this was the better one.
And that was it. A nice little trip to a local park on a sunny July afternoon.
I got fresh air, good exercise and about 120 photos.
I was nibbled by a duck, run over by a squirrel and best of all, I wasn't arrested for taking a few photos of kids. Always a bonus.
Yes it was a good day. Tomorrow we're due to get thunder, lightning and plenty of rain.
You really have to make the most of the sunshine here as, unlike with the ducks in Golden Acre Park, you just never know when the next one is coming along.