At the end of September this year I had the chance to go visit my aunt and uncle in England for a week. They live in the wee town of Ruspidge, located about 3 hours west of London near the border with Wales. It’s a beautiful area known as the Forest of Dean and I spent an amazing relaxing week hiking around forests, ponds and wildlife.
The area is incredibly hilly and used to be mining country. This statue dedicated to the miners of the Forest of Dean can be found in the neighboring town of Cinderford.
My aunt lives at the bottom of a hill close to one of the trails that go through the forest. The first morning I was there we strolled through the forest and came across this waterway. The weather while I was there was around 15 degrees and misty, foggy and rainy (mostly due to the geography of the area). As a result, all the greenery was incredibly lush and robust.
We took several drives to walking trails while I was there. The fantastic thing about the area is that there are a ton of walking trails that you can drive to. The next few pictures were taken in the Cannop Pond area. We came across this cormorant sunning himself. My poor aunt ended up acting as a tripod for me as my hands were shaking too much to get a steady shot. I cropped this picture so that he was at the bottom right and pointing towards the greenery at the top left to balance it.
As we walked around the pond I came across this tree and loved the way the light was playing through the leaves. I walked back and forth and took a few different shots until I settled on this one.
Just before we left the area, I noticed this bird feeder by the side of the road. I had to creep through the trees to get this angle but I loved how the close branches acted as a frame for this shot. The feeder was crazily busy with birds and I took a bunch of shots. I finally settled on this trio as I liked how different they looked and they were nice enough to be facing in the right direction:)
On one of our trips we headed out to a lookout point know as Symonds Yat. The name is said to come from Robert Symonds, a 17th-century sheriff of Herefordshire, and yat, an old word for a gate or pass (Wikipedia). The weather had decided to cooperate with us and we could see clearly to Wales. The view was breathtaking and we spent sometime just looking out.
We took advantage of some of the more unique places in the area. In the nearby Wye Valley was a butterfly zoo. For those that have been to the butterfly place in Niagara Falls it was very similar. For those that have never been, you walk through a greenhouse type area where the butterflies flit around. If you are still enough they will come and land on you. The credit for the shot below goes fully to my aunt. These are known as windowpane butterflies and it was her idea to take a shot where you could see the edge of the leaf through it.
We had a number of meals out while I was there including fish and chips, full English breakfast and in the case of the shot below, we headed to an inn for a traditional Sunday roast dinner. Before the meal came, I enjoyed my traditional English pub drink Pimms. They went to town on this one and the fruit and cucumber were all freshly sliced for my drink.
One day, my aunt and I drove to the town of Ross on Wye. They had a walking path along the water which was lovely and then we walked through town. We came across the statue below that was called Mallards. I don’t think it was meant to be as terrifying as it seemed but it looked like they were diving in to eat your face:) I decided to do this one in black as it didn’t have a lot of color in it and the sky was quite grey. I found this helped focus on the contrast of the metal in the sculpture.
In contrast to the picture above, we strolled by the nearby candy store. I felt like I was walking up to Willy Wonka’s. We arrived just before 3PM, and at 3PM all the schoolkids began shuffling in just as they do on TV!
As we were walking along the water we came across this red door in the stone wall. It was so vibrant compared to the stone area around it.
The final day we were there we drove to Slimbridge, a nearby wetlands sanctuary. I’ve include a few shots here, but standby for the next blog post where you’ll learn more about it.
They have a mix of protected birds that stay year round, and those that migrate through. The first ones we say were these flamingos. Every time the wind picked up they would do this display with their wings. The black underside was quite eye catching.
I came across this dragonfly sunning himself. I’m very happy with the diagonal angle of this picture. It allowed my to crop it so it almost perfectly divides your view in half.
We came across these guys hanging out on the fence near the local cafe. I loved that they both kind of have this stink eye expression on their faces. Felt like we were about to get mugged:)
Slimbridge has about 5 different types of flamingos. Not all the flamingos have the same amount of coloring and I liked that these two pale ones were just sauntering through all that color.
Finally, you can buy bird feed to toss out to the birds as you move around the area. As a result, birds will come right up to you. While my aunt was feeding some Mandarin Ducks these Hawaiian Geese sauntered up with a “what about us” look.
One of the things I wanted to take pictures of were birds that we do not have here in Ontario. Of particular interest were two specific birds and I spent the week hunting them. Below you’ll see a English Robin. They are much smaller than ours, about the size of a sparrow. I found this one singing out his heart near the butterfly zoo.
The other type were Magpies. I stalked these birds for almost the whole week and only got this shot at the far end of my telephoto lens on my last day. Usually they hang out at my uncle’s workshop by the bunch. I maintain there was a conspiracy to keep away from me while I was there.
The last set of photos were all taken around my aunt and uncles house. We had an incredibly foggy morning and I like how eerie it looked out the window.
When they moved in this garden area was empty. My aunt has worked hard to fill it in over the years. It was a great place to explore, with lots of details and nooks and crannies. I took this shot through the kitchen door.
One of these details was a spiderweb underneath one of the ledges. The morning dew was still caught on the web.
The entire week I was in England was grey, overcast and rainy. On my very last morning just before I left to catch the bus back to the airport the sun came out and gave me this view from my aunt and uncle’s driveway. They both claim it was a sign telling me I have to come back and I couldn’t agree more!
Below you’ll find my hosts with the mosts, my Aunt Fiona and Uncle Phil taken up on the Yat. It was amazing to spend time with them as well as explore the area. I can’t wait to go back again.
In the next blog, we’ll spend more time at Slimbridge Wetland Sanctuary. Be prepared for more birds (and perhaps an otter)!!