We’re celebrating purple for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week and purple is one of my very favourite colours. From the shiny rayon fabric of my vintage shirt above, to my favourite flowers, landscapes and vivid Winter sunrises, purple colours my world.
As Winter turns to Spring, I always look forward to the purple crocuses blooming in my yard. For me, this is a sign that Spring really has sprung.
“the colour of Summer for me is definitely purple.”
Summer is when most of our purple wildflowers bloom. We see several members of the thistle family in their varying shades of purple. Thistle flowers are popular with bees, butterflies and other interesting insect-life.
And here is more Rosebay Willowherb below …
The Rosebay Willowherb Epilobium angustifolium paints our roadsides, riversides and railway embankments with its purple spikes. As I also noted in my previous Purple Wildflowers post, it was the Rosebay Willowherb that led Sir Edward Salisbury, the 20th century botanist and ecologist, to coin the word “empurpled”, as he described the propensity for this flower to cover London’s World War II bomb sites.
In Summer, whole landscapes become coloured in their own purple hues. Large patches of Tufted Vetch adorn the grassy clifftops along our North East coast. Nearer to home, our valley view across to the North Pennine moorland develops its characteristic purple tinge when the Bell Heather blooms.
Autumn is not without its own occasional entrant in the seasons’ celebration of the colour purple. Sometimes we’ll see clusters of this fungus, the Amethyst Deceiver Laccaria amethystea among the leaf litter on the woodland floor.
In Winter, the landscape and its inhabitants may be taking their well-earned season of rest, but then it is the sky that puts on its spectacular performance in the celebration of purple. We are often treated to magnificent Winter sunrises in vivid yellows, pinks and purples.
Sometimes it’s just fun to take photos from a different perspective … but sometimes perspective can also help us to show an additional concept or aspect of the subject of a shot.
In my header shot above, I was shooting at the sky, but my subject was the tree tops that encircled me. I was an insignificant dot in a very tall landscape. I also loved the contrast between the silhouetted beech twigs and the muted greens of the background pines.
My next two shots are from a family trip to St Mary’s Lighthouse at Whitley Bay a few Summers ago. The steps inside gradually become steeper and steeper as you climb until eventually the steps you are climbing become very narrow as you near the top.
From the angle of my photo and the position of our boys climbing up, you can judge the steepness of the steps.
My purpose in this photo was to capture the essence of just how far we climbed to the top of the lighthouse.
Now for a fun shot to finish off my entry for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week. This is Alice falling down the rabbit hole, on her way to Wonderland. Here in Newcastle we have a large department store called Fenwicks and every year at Christmastime their main display windows are given over to a large-scale animated display. Last Christmas we were treated to some classic scenes from Alice in Wonderland. When I saw the theme for this week’s challenge was perspective with unusual angles, this was the first shot that came to my mind.
I hope you enjoy my unusual takes on perspective. Do take a look at how others have interpreted Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.
Historic churches are very much part of the fabric of North East England. To find some fine examples for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week on the theme of Churches or other religious buildings, I’ve taken a look through my photo archives.
My header image above is of St Mary’s, Gateshead. Much of the current building is Victorian but it retains some medieval features. This church is no longer used for worship and is now Gateshead’s Heritage Centre. Not only does this church building enjoy an impressive view of the River Tyne and the city of Newcastle but it also has the award-winning international music venue, Sage Gateshead as its more recent next-door neighbour. You can’t see it on this photo, but to the right hand side of St Mary’s is Gateshead’s Hilton Hotel. It may be keeping good company nowadays, but back in its medieval history, St Mary’s was the scene of the grisly massacre of William Walcher, Bishop of Durham and his entourage. The church and its land was also commandeered by the Scots Covenanters during the Siege of Newcastle in 1644, part of the English Civil Wars.
The lantern spire of the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas is one of Newcastle’s famous landmarks. This medieval church building is mainly 14th and 15th century, so it too has seen its share of the historical conflicts that affected North East England. One story tells that during the 1644 Siege of Newcastle, the mayor, Sir John Marley, held the Scots prisoners in the church, right underneath the lantern spire, to deter the Scots army from aiming their cannons at the church from their position across the River Tyne at St Mary’s, Gateshead.
Hexham Abbey is the oldest of the churches I have chosen for this challenge, with Wilfred’s original church on this site dating back over 1300 years to the 7th century when Hexham was part of the Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria. The town of Hexham lies only a few miles from Hadrian’s Wall so it is not surprising that the original church was built mainly from stone salvaged from nearby Roman ruins. The Saxon abbey in turn was ruined by Viking invaders in the year 875 and the church was subsequently replaced by an Augustinian Priory around the end of the 12th century. The current building of Hexham Abbey largely dates from the 12th century priory. Only the crypt beneath the abbey was part of the original Saxon building.
Hexham Abbey’s other remaining relic from the Saxon era is a special stone throne called the Frith Stool. Whenever I think of Hexham Abbey I always recall a moment of acute embarrassment on a family visit to the Abbey some years ago when my then toddler son decided it would be fun to jump up and down on this ancient stone relic! I am glad to say that despite the aged caretaker’s look of absolute horror, the Frith Stool survived that invasion just as it had stood up to the Danes in the 9th century 😉
Please do take a look at the Churches and religious buildings that others have found for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.
Wood is one of my favourite natural materials and it can always surprise us with its beauty. From seedling trees to decaying logs, for me wood provides a metaphor for the cycle of life. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, we are looking for weathered wood. Weathered wood is often a visual feast as it develops its own individual natural character with unique grain patterns, shapes and textures.
When we walk in our local woodlands we see many tree stumps, fallen trees or logs where the forces of nature and time have left their mark. Along some of our regular paths we have observed the effects of these natural processes on particular stumps and logs over several years. With the gradual effects of decay and weathering, some of our old log ‘seats’ have cracked open to reveal their woody chambers within.
On damp days in early Autumn colourful fungi will sprout from the weathered wood of old tree stumps and logs. The Sulphur Tuft fungus Hyphaloma fasciculare is one of the more common and easily recognisable species that grow on old wood from deciduous trees. Here it is growing on a small Beech stump in one of our favourite beechwoods. We find beechwoods tend to be quite rich in fungi.
This dead tree on the woodland edge was felled by the wind last Spring and now it has developed its own little niche under the holly hedge. The thick grey vines of ivy continue to thrive on the weathered wood of the fallen trunk. On this particular day the late Winter sun was streaming through the trees and lighting up this normally unremarkable spot on the forest floor. I thought it looked quite beautiful and a little magical. You could almost expect The Little Grey Men to suddenly appear from under the fallen tree.
This old tree trunk sits on a steep bankside in a small stretch of ancient woodland within one of our local woods. I love the shapes and patterns that have developed in this old wood and the contrast between rough and smooth. In Autumn this is another old tree trunk that we have previously seen covered in fungi – not the Sulphur Tuft as I showed you earlier, but hundreds of smooth, white Stump Puffballs Lycoperdon pyriforme .
Weathered wood is such a fascinating material. Do take a look at the weathered wood others have found for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.
Spring is always the ‘busy’ season for those of us who enjoy gardening and for me this week has flashed by in a whirl. To capture my Spring ‘busyness’, I decided to browse through all of the photos I’ve taken this week and create an abstract vision of my week.
This image contains some of my Spring favourites. Some milder, sunny days have encouraged our crocuses to bloom this week. I love the contrasting colours – the purple and orange of the crocus against the new season’s greens. I love the heart shaped ‘wild food’ leaves of the Garlic Mustard with their energy-rich texture of veins. I noticed in my image the triangle shape of the crocus is enclosed and echoed by a larger green triangle, both pointing upwards in this picture as if towards the source of their renewed vitality, the sun.
My willow garden screens have survived well over the cold and windy Winter but before I put them to use again as climbing plant supports I decided they needed some aesthetic attention. Some readers may remember me writing about creating my willow and crochet jute garden screens last Summer. When I originally made the willow screens I left the tops quite wild-looking and unfinished but this year I’ve gone for a neater cottage garden finish.
In this project I have also been using some of my home-grown willow that grew on from last year’s willow cuttings. This week I have turned the tops of my two garden screens into willow arches and bound them in place with the home grown willow. I’m sure there will be a gardening post or two to come on this project 😉
My plan from last Spring to build a wooden planter trough for my willow cuttings has finally reached fruition this week. The wooden planter has been a woodwork project that my son has worked on with me over the past few weeks. The idea was to build a rustic planter entirely from locally available raw materials and I have been really pleased that this was possible. The logs are pegged together with turned wood pegs that my son made on his pole lathe.
In my abstract image of the new wooden planter I have exaggerated the contrast to show the turned wood pegs in the hand-hewn timber.
The partial solar eclipse on Friday was one of those phenomena that should not go by unnoticed. We have been preparing for the eclipse during the week and then on Friday we were ready with our pinhole projectors to observe the moon passing between Earth and the sun. For us this was between 9.15am and 10.00am. ‘Pinhole projectors’ sound very scientific don’t they? Actually, they were simply small squares of cereal box card, about 8cm (3″) across, with a pinhole approximately in the centre. Whilst we didn’t enjoy constant clear skies during the eclipse, there were enough sunny spells to be able to observe the moon’s movement. The sky noticeably turned darker and the air colder during the eclipse.
The abstract image I have chosen of this event is one of my son’s photos of the eclipse projected onto another piece of card.
Watching your children learning about the world around them is one of the pleasures of parenthood. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week our theme is ‘Catching People Unawares’. As a home educating family, taking photographs is one way we use to record our children’s learning experiences. This means I take a lot of photographs of our boys getting involved in all kinds of interesting activities. For this week’s challenge I decided to pick out some unusual or fun images from my archives.
History and the out-of-doors are two favourite family themes for our educational excursions and sometimes they overlap, making double the learning fun.
A woodland and heritage skills activity day in one of our local woodlands gave Matt the irresistible opportunity to try out the old craft of blacksmithing. We have previously seen blacksmithing demonstrations and also visited a renovated blacksmith’s shop complete with working forge. Entering that old building was like stepping back in time!
In days long gone, every village would have had its village blacksmith to make or mend items locally in iron and steel. Nowadays, it is mainly by people blacksmithing as a craft and as an art form that has prevented this heritage skill from dying out. On this occasion Matt produced a rather impressive pendant under the patient guidance of the visiting blacksmith.
At last year’s annual Heritage Skills Festival, Matt learned how to put together an old two-stroke engine with the helpful assistance of an engineer from the local museum service who was overseeing this activity. Learning to maintain two-stroke engines was once part of the standard apprenticeship training for young engineers and was a particularly useful skill in our north east region as two-stroke engines were widely used in industry and ships. Shipbuilding used to be a huge industry on Tyneside up to the late 20th century.
The UK-wide Heritage Open Days are often a good chance to visit places and learn about things that are not always open to the public. One such event we enjoyed was at the end of our ‘Roman Summer’.
We’d visited special touring exhibitions and been on guided tours of Roman forts with a renowned expert on Roman history. We’d learned about “the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain” – the Vindolanda tablets, among many other Roman treasures at Vindolanda.
Then in September, the Heritage Open Days gave us the opportunity to spend a morning with the county archaeologist, learning about a very significant nineteeth century local historian with a keen interest in Roman history, John Collingwood Bruce. Bruce is best known for his systematic study of Hadrian’s Wall. His “Handbook to the Roman Wall”, now in its thirteenth edition, has continued to be the main academic guide to Hadrian’s Wall.
On our visit, we were able to examine a copy of Bruce’s original “Handbook to the Roman Wall” – the large brown tome you can see on the table in my photo is Part 1 of this work. We also saw other books, maps and artefacts belonging to John Collingwood Bruce, including the rather magnificent wooden bookcase at the end of the room. Incredibly, the bookcase is made from old bridge timbers.
While dredging work was being carried out on the River Tyne, Bruce arranged to have some old bridge timbers salvaged from the river bed. At the time, he believed these timbers were from the original Roman bridge across the Tyne – Pons Aelius. However, the archaeologist explained to us that it is now understood these old timbers were from medieval bridges that had subsequently been built in the same place. The timbers were then carefully dried out and Bruce had them made up into this elaborate bookcase. The bookcase now stands in the Archaeology Education Centre at Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields.
When studying the natural world, sometimes there is no better way than direct observation. For our boys, this often seems to include lying on the ground to capture the best view of the object or creature under scrutiny …
… especially when there is the possibility of a competition with your brother for ‘best shot’ 😉
The creature under scrutiny in these images was the rather beautiful, though predatory, Green Tiger Beetle Cicindela campestris.
This relatively large beetle is about 1.5cm (5/8th inch) long and is irridescent green with yellow-gold spots. Green Tiger Beetles have quite long, maroon legs that enable them to run around rather energetically on this steep sandy bank where we find them on sunny Spring days. These beetles choose bare earth or sandy banks for their burrows as it warms up faster in the sun and this is beneficial for the Tiger Beetle’s hunting technique.
I hope you have enjoyed my ‘candid camera’ shots of our boys engaged in active learning. For more images of ‘Catching People Unaware’ do please visit Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.
“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.”
For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week Cee has chosen the chorus of “My Favourite Things” as the theme. I’ve decided to share some of my favourite things that I have posted here on my blog during my first year-and-a-bit of blogging.
My regular blog visitors may have spotted my new blog header – beechwoods in Springtime are a great favourite of mine and we love to walk in the woods and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Spring. For my post header image I have chosen one of my very favourite Spring flowers, bluebells. I posted about the “Beautiful Bluebells!” in our woods last Spring.
I’m glad to say we’ve never experienced bee stings while spending happy warm Summer hours watching and photographing bees on flowers.
Here in Northern England we experience all kinds of weather conditions and we have learned to enjoy them all. A rainy day at the river in Spring is always an uplifting experience – you can read my post about this wet woodland walk here.
The old railway path through the woods is a path we have seen in all weathers, from sunny days to Winter snow. The Victorian railway bridge has featured several times on my blog especially as part of my great interest in history in the landscape. The image above is the bridge in colour from my post, “Old rail trails and a bear hunt”, and below it is in black and white for “Victorian railway bridges in black and white”.
Both of these posts were for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which has been my favourite weekly photo challenge here on WordPress. It was from creating the black and white images for the Victorian bridges post that kindled in me an ambition to try my hand at creating more black and white images and taking part in Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge. I do enjoy taking part in the photo challenges and learning from others.
Wild roses are another of my very favourite flowers. I think I’ve probably said before, I have different favourite flowers depending on the season – there’s always something to look forward too … or in this case, look back at, after the Summer was done and the cooler days of Autumn were with us. I love my son’s photo of the wild Dog Roses. The roses appeared in my “Pastel pink wild roses” post last October.
Purple crocuses with their bright orange stamens are one of my favourite early Spring flowers. These one are in one of my back yard pots along with daffodils and some seedlings of one of our ‘wild’ edible leaves, Garlic Mustard. You can see more about my back yard gardening in “My Blooming Back Yard”.
As well as gardening outside in my yard, I also love indoor gardening too and I grow salad leaves and herbs on my window ledges. In the above photo are my first seedlings of last year – a favourite moment in my gardening year. Just today I was photographing my first salad leaf seedlings of 2015.
A Summer delight for me is picking wild fruit. These delicious raspberries grow in a small patch of woodland not far from our house.
Last Summer I had fun with an interesting vertical gardening experiment in my back yard. I made a jute and willow garden screen and then grew Sweet Peas in air-pruning plant pots to grow on the screen. I shared a number of posts about this project on the willow screen, the air-pruning pots and the Sweet Pea flowers. I was so pleased when my Sweet Peas finally flowered!
I couldn’t post about my favourite things without including a crochet project or two. The jute and willow garden screen was crocheted and my recent “Mending a Woolly Jumper Craft Project” involved several types of crochet too.
Turning a shirt collar is one of those old-fashioned mending tasks that I have always done to extend the life of favourite shirts. The shirt that features in my “Turn a shirt collar” tutorial belongs to my son. He is very fond of this shirt so when the collar began to wear, there was only one thing for me to do …
I decided to post a tutorial on the collar turning process and it has certainly been a favourite among my blog visitors – it is one of the most visited pages on my blog.
To complete my collection of favourites, I want to close with one of my very favourite things, a beautiful sunrise. I am lucky to see a lot of beautiful sunrises and I often share them in my Wordless Wednesday posts. You can see more of my sunrises if you click on the Wordless Wednesday tag on my tag cloud in the sidebar … a beautiful sunrise doesn’t really need many words does it?
I’ve had a lot of fun strolling through my blog photos choosing my favourite things – and I must say I have had to leave out a few too or this post would have gone on forever! Do take a look at what others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week for the chorus of “My Favourite Things”.
Lets Go Fly A Kite is our theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week. We have had lots of family fun with kite flying over the years. I remember when our younger children were still quite small, we made a homemade kite from upcycled plastic sheeting – it was almost as big as the youngest child. This kite lasted several years but then our youngest decided he wanted to make the really old fashioned kind of kite – from broadsheet newspapers, sticky tape, garden canes and string. When it was completed, this one flew well and provided hours of fun on windy days.
We generally go kite flying in our local park, close by to where we live, but on our Summer visits to the seaside at South Shields, we often see a different type of kite flying – kite surfers enjoying their energetic sport. Our seaside sport tends to be a little less exerting as we stroll off along the cliff-top path, enjoying the views of the rocky coastline and nature-watching as we go.
One of the pleasures of the coastal path walk is watching the sea birds as they ride high on the air currents or swoop low over the sea to seek out a tasty snack.
As we walk a little further along the path above Marsden Bay, we can see Marsden Rock. The remaining piece of this Magnesian Limestone sea stack stands 50 metres high and is alive with seabirds. Kittiwakes, Herring Gulls and Cormorants tend to be the most numerous when we have visited. Many of these birds nest on the cliff edges of the stack. My photo was taken in late July so the youngsters would all have fledged by now. You can just make out the white dots of the birds flying around above the rock.
Here we are kite flying in our local park, our nearby kite flying area that I mentioned earlier. Our eldest son had found some Star Wars themed kites whilst away on his Summer travels and this windy day provided the ideal opportunity to try them out.
Sometimes big brothers are handy when you are having a spot of kite trouble. But a little readjusting of the string and up we go … just mind the trees and the electricity wires over there!
We do have one particularly well-remembered family kite incident – not on this visit but another time – when our youngest’s kite became stuck in a small tree. He was determined to retrieve it and so set off to climb the tree. This was not as easy as he’d anticipated, but he persevered. Just as he finally swung himself up into the branches, the wind blew the kite free from the tree! Oh the joys of kite flying 😀
We humans have proved to be quite adept at harnessing energy to assist us in our daily lives. Wind and water powered our mills before we learned the ‘magic’ of steam engines and then electricity. Where would we be now without electricity? Just looking here around my kitchen, I would be in the dark, it would be cold and I would not be drafting this post on the computer! For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, our photo theme is Industrial and I decided to seek out some shots that feature energy production in some format.
My first shot reminds me of a wonderful sunny Summer day out we had at the seaside. This magnificently restored windmill was originally built in 1790 and stands overlooking the North Sea at Whitburn on the north east coast of England. In its day, the mill would have been used to grind corn for the nearby village. You perhaps also noticed another rather more modern form of ‘green energy’ in this photo, the solar panels on the roof of one of the houses behind. We spotted quite a number of houses sporting solar panels during our visit to sunny South Tyneside.
Here in the UK, home owners can opt to fit solar panels to their roofs whilst also remaining attached to the National Power Grid. This allows them to provide for their own electricity needs when there is sufficient sunshine and even sell any surplus electricity to the National Power Grid, but also enables them to draw electricity from the national mains supply if they need to. Whilst the UK isn’t always the sunniest of countries, solar power is very much a viable sustainable energy source here and I think a lot more could be done to support it.
Old Coal truck – a relic and reminder
The form of energy most associated with the north east of England is coal. Our valleys and coasts were mined for coal for hundreds of years. Our Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries was powered by coal. Coal has played a huge part in the history and culture of our region. It was for the transportation of coal that railways were first invented. This old coal truck stands on its short stretch of track beside the old railway footpath in our woods, a reminder of the industrial history of our area.
The dust and smoke no longer cloak our lungs and lives, but coal mining, iron and steel working and the railways to transport the products of these industries have all left their legacies in our landscape. In its heyday at the turn of the 20th century, about 3000 tons of coal a day rattled their way along this railway en route to the River Tyne where the coal was loaded onto steam-driven collier ships to continue its journey. By the mid-20th century, much of our local coal was being transported only a few miles further down our valley where it was ‘cooked’ at the coke works to make coking coal (coke). The benefit of coke over coal was that it burned hotter and more efficiently and was therefore more suitable for industrial uses such as powering the furnaces for steel making and at power stations for electricity generation.
Old mine entrance
All of this industrial power came out of the ground beneath our feet, dug from coal mines that are now long gone … well, almost. In our woods it is possible to still find traces of old coal mining activity. In this photo you can see some cream coloured brickwork. This is a closed-up entrance to a coal mine that was operational until the around the mid-20th century.
Along the miners path
The coal would have been brought out of the mine in wooden waggons that rode along wooden rails, drawn by pit ponies. Now largely reclaimed by Nature, this levelled track in the wood suggests the waggonway continued from the mine entrance along to the colliery yard (approximately 300 metres away).
A bridge to the colliery yard
To reach the colliery yard, the laden waggons also needed to cross the steep-sided stream. We discovered the remains of an old brick-built bridge. The two green mounds you can see in the photo are, I think, the bases of the arch that would have supported the bridge over the stream. However, we also found further brickwork to suggest the bridge itself was built up to a higher level, around two metres, to allow a level approach from the path from the mine on one side to the level of the colliery yard on the other.
A LILY brick
Brick-making was another industry very much associated with coal mining in our area, as the clay from which the bricks were manufactured formed another strata in the same geological deposits as the coal seams. The brick clay in our valley was a cream colour rather than the red colour we more generally associate with bricks. I recall as a young child going on a school visit to the brick works where this LILY brick was made. For some reason, I remember this visit quite clearly although it is over forty years ago.
The Lilley Brick Works with its landmark tall brick chimney stood only a few yards along the road from the school. When we arrived we were each given a small extruded piece of the greyish white brick clay. Then we saw how the clay was placed into wooden moulds which were in turn encased in what I guess now must have been fire-proof clay. The moulds were then pressed and placed on racks in a large oven and fired – ‘cooked’ – into bricks. You probably noticed a difference in the spelling between the brick itself and the brickworks name! My guess is that only four letters would fit on the brick mould! I remember there were large stacks of these bricks on wooden pallets in the yard of the brick works. I wonder if this early insight into brick-making fired my interest in industrial history in our landscape!
Time to transition from coal to sustainable energy sources
Coal has certainly played its part in fuelling the growth of UK industry over the past two centuries. However, we now recognise that, as well as fuelling significant developments in science and engineering in their support of industry over those historic years, fossil fuels have contributed significantly to climate change and this is something we can no longer afford to ignore. Those natural and ever-giving sources of power are still there – the sun and the wind.
The wind turbines in my above image are now part of our everyday valley landscape, though rather more distant from us than in my photograph. The curious foreground in this image is due to the fact I shot it from a moving bus – I just waited for a suitable gap in the hedge! Modern wind turbines look rather different to the windmills of old, but their underlying function is the same – to harness the power of the wind to provide for one of our basic needs, now via the production of electricity rather than to directly grind the corn for our bread.
Personally, I believe that a lot more of our energy should be produced locally, close to where we need to use it. I have had some crazy ideas on how we could perhaps make better use of roofs on schools or supermarkets as well as thinking that more of us should be enabled to generate electricity for our own use. Sometimes I get a little bogged down in the science that needs to underpin my mad ideas – I’m working on that! – but I still retain an ambition to build a wind-up toaster 😀