Monday, 24 July 2017

Canoe Trip - River Nene



A nice bright start to the day with rain forecast for later in the afternoon. It would be a close run thing to beat the anticipated heavy showers. Logistics not simple, two cars needed one to be left at destination point Wellingborough Embankment. Then a drive back to the starting point at Billing Mill.

 I managed to get soaked and almost overturned the 17ft canoe before we had even got going! The balance of the canoe is a delicate business and my ungainly entrance left a lot to be desired, taking my companion by surprise who nearly went in too. Thankfully I was only drenched down the left hand side. Just a few barges and the odd riverbank to avoid as we gently made our way upstream. The water was very clear and the fish were quite visible amongst the reeds and lilies. Our journey took us past the edge of Cogenhoe caravan park and up to Earls Barton. On several occasions we had to haul the canoe out of the river and carry it on land to pass the locks. I believe the proper term for this manouvre is know as 'Portage'. Unfortunately as we got level with Summerleys Nature Reserve the sunshine gave way to grey skies, before long the heavens opened! Like the cows it was time for us to find shelter. The only vague shelter was a narrow bridge that provided at least some relief ..
Luckily the rain did ease off and we continued our adventure albeit sodden. As we approached Great Doddington locks we were treated to a very special sight. It was the unmistakable blue and then the orange flash of the fantastic Kingfisher. Very fast but we watched as it made it's way backwards and forwards across the river, a real treat. We also saw several Terns divebombing into the water. As you approach Wellingborough Embankment two things are very obvious.The first is the old and decaying Whitworths flour mill. A more modern version is built next door , the old one seems to be a luxury pigeon hotel these days. The second thing is the amount of swans (at least 100) that permenantly congregate here. I'm not sure if there is a warm undercurrent or some form of extract from the mill ? Whatever it is the swans seem to love it !

Friday, 14 July 2017

Stowe Landscape Gardens (Summer 2017)

Always one of the great pleasures in life to visit Stowe Landscape Gardens just over the border in Buckinghamshire. Certainly one of my favourite places whatever the season , with a phot opportunity at every turn. So no waffle from me this time just some photographs taken an a beautiful English Summers day.
Gothic Temple
Lord Cobhams Pillar
Shell Bridge
Stowe House and School
Palladian Bridge
Temple of British Worthies

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Ward Thomas -Roadmender Northampton

Nice to have a local trip in Northampton for a change ! In fact this gig should have taken place last week but was cancelled as a market of respect following the Manchester terrorist attack. I wasn't sure quite what to expect as it was Marina who was very keen to see Ward Thomas. But before more about them let me tell you about the support band 'The Wandering Hearts'. They are a new band and have signed a record deal with Decca Records it has been announced. The group will release their debut single 'Wish I Could' on 5th May 2017.Mixing folk and Americana into their music, The Wandering Hearts – AJ, Chess, Tim and Tara – keep their British roots at the heart of their music. Their harmonies and pop sensibility has seen them compared to Fleetwood Mac. They went down well with a very mixed age audience playing about seven songs. Looks like a busy time coming up for the band with a new debut album being recorded and playing at many festivals during the Summer. They looked like they were having a great tome too and look destined for a bright future. Ward Thomas are a British modern country music duo, composed of 23 year old twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas (born 28 March 1994) from Hampshire. They have a distinctive American sound yet still remain indefinably British. The only song of theirs I was familiar with prior to seeing them live was 'Cartwheels' which has been getting airplay. The album 'Cartwheels' was released 2nd September 2016 and reached number 1 in the UK charts. On 9th July 2017 Ward Thomas can be seen supporting Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in London's Hyde Park. Before that they are at Glastonbury along with a host of other high profile festival dates during the Summer. For me, Ward Thomas really come into their own and find their strengths with the ballads and they have an undeniable talent which will see them fill much bigger venues than the Roadmender. Which incidentally was as packed as I can ever recall it! Towards the end of the show, the band congregated in the middle of the stage for an acoustic section, inspired by 'The Dixie Chicks' who they saw perform a similar thing in Australia. which included performances of ‘Proof and ‘I Believe In You’ which definitely worked for them too.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Rockingham - Track Day

Europes fastest racing circuit at Rockingham Northamptonshire was the venue for Marina's track day driving an Aston Martin ! Rockingham has 13 configurations of track, which can be used for anything from touring cars to motorcycles to rally cars. The Oval circuit is American in style and is 1048 miles in total. It is only one of two in Europe.

Marina, privately a little worried?
Construction of Rockingham started late in 1999,it opened for business on Monday 15 January 2001 and was formally opened by the Queen on 26 May 2001. Unfortunately after weeks of dry weather in which 'drought' had already been whispered quietly we met with a deluge of rain. In fact it was with us for the whole day making for a wet experience.. We were not on the Oval Circuit today thankfully, using the inner racing track instead. Before and driving tough a full briefing was in order detailing the safety aspects and the spec of the cars available. These cars included; a Mclaren, 3 Lamborghini's, Porsches, Nissan GTR'S, Aston Martins, BMW's and Ferraris. First up was the Aston Martin Vantage a car Marina has always had a soft spot for. It seemed as though everybody had decided that today was the day when they were going to have a drive. As the numbers swelled the rain came harder and the drive in the Ariel Atom was cancelled because it was deemed too dangerous. Unfortunately with so many people waiting for their rides the queues were long ... probably at least an hour wait between cars. It was a matter of staying dry and warm as much as possible. Next in the firing line was the Lamborghini and things were not going to go well and end in disappointment. Thankfully no harm was done but due to the windscreen constantly steaming up it was virtually impossible to drive at any speed. At least that was her story ..... Our last ride involved both of us in BMW M3 in what was called a 'drift experience'. This is a driving technique where the driver intentionally oversteers, with loss of traction in the rear wheels or all tires, while maintaining control and driving at high speed through the corner. With all the water on the track it enhanced the experience and made it easier for the professional driver. The first lap was 'hairy' enough and actually quite enjoyable from my position on the back seat. The second lap he definitely upped it a bit ! It was strange, a bit like a roller coaster ride that is exhilarating but at the same time you are glad to get off. I don't think I could have done a third lap, my head was starting to go a bit under the helmet and being thrust from side to side. A great experience though.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Ely Cathedral


Bank Holiday Monday and a little trip out to the picturesque City of Ely in Cambridgeshire. The landscape is completely dominated by 'The Ship of the Fens'The Anglican Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity or 'Ely Cathedral' .The cathedral has its origins in AD 672 when St Etheldreda built an abbey church. The present building dates back to 1083, and cathedral status was granted it in 1109. Built in a monumental Romanesque style architecturally it is outstanding both for its scale and stylistic details. Its most famous feature however is the central octagonal tower, with lantern above, which provides a spectacular internal space and, along with the West Tower, gives a unique exterior landmark.

The Chapel is 100 feet (30 m) long and 46 feet (14 m) wide, and was built in an exuberant 'Decorated' Gothic style. You can't help but be impressed by the sheer vastness once inside and it does feel like being on a ship. I always enjoy a good stained glass window as well as savouring a feeling of spirituality that you don't get anywhere else. Leaving the Cathedral we headed down towards the river where we were treated to some live operatic music from one of the narrow boats. It is the River Great Ouse that flows through the southeastern boundary of the city. The riverside and Jubilee Gardens host a variety of events throughout the year from the annual Eel Day which includes the World Eel Throwing Competition ....Anguila Anguila is the scientific name of the remarkable fish that is best known by the name that gave Ely its name – The Eel. The type of eels that live in the river in and around Ely are European Eels and they have a fascinating life cycle which is spent partly in the ocean and partly in freshwater rivers like Ely’s Great Ouse.