It was a cold dark evening in which I found myself heading to the theatre. This evening marked the annual task of photographing the latest show performed by the very talented cast of Petts wood Operatic Society.

I have had the pleasure to do it for several years now and it’s always a something I look forward to.

The show, like so many before took place at the rose bruford college of theatre, one of my favourite places to photograph. The theatre from the outside dosent look like much, the long glass windows that conceal its entrance simply gives it a modern college feel, it’s only when you step inside and ease back the black heavy doors the theatre comes alive. The stage itself is flat to the ground and the seats curve around in a horse shoe. This adds to the real intermit feel you get with the theatre, the cast are so close you don’t miss a line or gesture.

I made my way inside giving a nod to the faces I recognised and a reassuring smile the ones I didn’t. I always try to pick a seat as close to the middle of the theatre as I can. I am full aware that’s where the performers act towards and for me it helps ensures I get the best shots. I sat on the front row one seat to the left of the middle, my normal position taken over by a small group of musicians poised to play the sound track for tonight proceedings.

I laid my camera bag out on the seat next to me and spent a few minutes ensuring they were set up correctly, no time for mistakes when the lights go down.

There is something magical about photographing the dress rehearsal, i get to see the full show performed in front of me, with no other audience memebers , I also get to see how the show is constructed, a behind the scenes performance.

One of the unique things about this theatre is there is no curtain and so any stage props or items but remain in the stage or be carefully moved about during scene changes. Just to the right sat a wooden desk a permanent fixture of the show and to my left a collection of large boxes. I watch as the director instructed the cast to move them, giving them once practice of how to effectively change their positions and use on stage. I watched as several cast members each picked up a box from where they were nearly stacked and moved them positioning so they now represented several desks. A type writer was placed on each stack finishing of the effect, a quick nod from the director and they were quickly returned.

Soon the lights dimmed and I knew it was time for me to go to work. Although I have never seen the musical before I had seen the comedy film starring Dolly Parton several times, so I had a pretty good idea of the story and scenes that would make good shots. For those that haven’t seen the film I would recommend giving a watch some time.

I sat in my seat, changing from one camera to another as I watched the performance acted out in front of me. The lights complimented the scene perfectly and I was able to get some real great images. Some of my favourites where of Hannah, she played the Judy character, I watched as she sang adding real emotion to every word, the lights were low except a single spot light that highlighted her scene.

It was a great show filled with exceptional singing and acting. I really enjoyed being part of it, as the final scene draw to a close, the musicians played Dolly’s famous title song as the performers took one last bow and headed off stage. This too was my time to leave. Camera full of shots I done up my coat and headed into the dark content for another year.


A walk with Ramsey

On a cold Sunday morning, I left my house and headed out for my first photoshoot of the year. Today’s shoot would be slightly different to what I had done previously, with the Kent countryside as my backdrop, I planned to photograph a very excited miniature schnauzer by the name of Ramsey.

I always prefer location shoots, I feel it adds a more of a natural feel to the images and today’s plan was to simply take Ramsey and his owner Mandy, for a walk a setting up shots along the way. The walk I had chosen had a mixture of fields and woods and these would act as my backdrop.

We started the walk through a wooden gate and out into a muddy field all of us full of excitement about the possible shots and the results. The ground was muddy from a previous days rain and the clouds were heavy almost threatening to do so again.

We crossed the field and headed to a small patch of woods at the end of the path. A flock of sheep could be seen in the distance, keeping a wary eye on our four-legged friend.

Ramsey is a classic miniature schnauzer in appearance. His fur was silver, well at the start of the walk anyway, with a long a beard and bushy eyebrows. He was a very well behaved and with little encouragement he sat and posed beautifully. We stopped at a different point along the walk posing him with just enough background in focus to make the photo interesting without taking away from the handsome little model.

He seemed to have had great fun exploring the walk, the different smells and environments only adding to his exciting and helping me get some great shots. I was surprised he stayed so clean considering the thick mud the walk presented us with and then very quickly he had found a small puddle and his silver beard became tainted with streaks of brown.

The walk itself was a lovely one, the early hour and cold weather helped ensure we were pretty much on our own. The last stage had us crossing one last and heading into woods once more. Bird hides concealed themselves to the left and baby trees protected by plastic guards gave us an insight into the replanting that was going on. Exiting the woods we found ourselves in the grounds of a quaint little farmhouse. The small field that surrounded it was lined with sheep, a beautiful horse stood in the middle dressed in his finest winters coat. We

Continued along the dirty path stopping at the small gate that leads to the courtyard. Once inside we found the courtyard to be filled with chicken and geese. The smell of a log fire pumped out thick smoke from a nearby chimney. I stopped for a moment and imagined what it would be like to call us a place home.

Ramsey wasn’t interested at all, tiredness had driven him on and as we made our way over a small railway bridge we found ourselves back at the point of origin. My camera full of great shots and my legs tired, it had been a great shoot.

Check out the images from our walk below



The Crook O’ Lune


The Crook O’ Lune


One of the my favourite places to visit recently was the beautiful The Crook O’ Lune.  Situated near Caton, four miles from Lancaster, it is a popular and highly attractive spot, the view up the valley is superb, looking north east to the plateau of Ingleborough. The river passes under Penny Bridge and the bridge which once carried the Lancaster to Hellifield railway line, which now forms part of an extensive network of cycleways and footpaths.

It was on one such footpath in which we explored on a sunny Saturday morning. We pulled into the carpark at the picnic area and smelled the freshly brewed coffee coming from a nearby outlet. With coffee in hand we moved through and patch of trees and took a seat on a bench positioned in front of us. Like all well positioned bench this one gave the explorer a seat to a stunning view point, made famous my the the artist JMW Turner.


We slowly moved from our bench and guided us down a side path finding ourselves on top of Penny Bridge, a once former railway bridge that once carried the Lancaster to Hellifield railway line, we continued to along the path to find ourselves at the bridges feet. The River Lune glistened in the morning sun as we stop and gazed at it for a while before continuing along our route crossing into the field, and passing by the herd of sheep that currently called it their home. The walk guided us around the field the view of the bridge behind us improving with every step.

It was a lovely stroll through the countryside, the day was crisp and the grass damp from the morning dew. Due to its our early hour we the walk was quite and we were allowed to enjoy the landscape undisturbed.

The walk allowed along the bank of the river Ingleborough, one of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks,  could be seen in the far distance.  After passing through a gate, the riverside path becomes a wide stony track that soon moves away from the river, heading towards the village of Caton. This seemed a perfect place to stop for refreshments and we headed to a fantastic pub called The Ship. It was a lovely country pub and the owners were very friendly as we sat down and enjoyed some amazing food and drink.

We retraced our footsteps and returned to the track which this time lead us through a small patch of woods the stone path under our feet. The path lead us out on to bridge once more and gave us a final view of the stunning river beneath our feet. It was a great walk one I really enjoyed it.



Toys Hill

Toys Hill

This weeks adventure was a trek through the forest at Toys Hill, in Sevenoaks.  Believed to be part of the Common of Brasted Chart, a historic are where local people once kept pigs and cattle.

I parked at the small gravel carpark, the excited cheers of school children on a school trip could be hear from a nearby clearing. I watched for a few minutes as the teachers tried to round up their pupils and almost impossible task as the tiny explorers ran through the trees desperate to explore the environment around them. A large board informed us of the different walks we could take around the woods, each route slightly different in length. Confident in out abilities we decided to take the longest, the red route. This route is 3.5 miles and allowed us to explore the most about of the forest in one walk.

We started by entering a section to the left, the trees curved above our path creating a tunnel effect beckoning us to go forward. The path lead us in deeper within the woods creating a barrier from the outside world, the only noise that could be heard is the crunch of leaves under out feet. The leaves created a natural carpet under out feet, the autumn colours a constant reminder of the season I found myself.

Toy Hill_WM-7

The route guided us through the forest successfully an occasional views graced our path, well positioned benches let us take in the beautiful countryside that surrounded us. The walk was great fun, with a mixture of steep climbs and winding trails, we were transported to some far off unexplored land.

The guided red arrows were a great assistant to our hike they were positioned at a far enough distance not to be intrusive but not to far to allow us to get lost. Its a circular walk and although a brief journey across a small country road, most of the walk took place within the woods.  It was one of may favourite forest walks and I certainly will be doing it again.

Wyreside Hall and River Wyre Walk.

Wyreside Hall

Address: Wagon Road, Dolphinholme, Lancashire, LA2 9DH

Wyreside Hall_01a.jpg

We decided to take a trip up north, a week away in the countryside fresh air and peace and quiet was all that was required. We had looked at a few places to stay and final settled on a cottage within the grounds of Wyreside Hall. A beautifully restored 17th century Manor House in Lancashire, set in over a hundred acres of private grounds. A short distance from the manor sat 3 cosy cottages all fitted out with basic luxury, such as underfloor heating, our cottage was a perfect base for our week of exploring.

We had choose to stay out of season and so for most of the time, we were on our own. We drove past the large steel gates and edged our way along the driveway, road signs made us aware of the possible wildlife that might cross our path. As the drive way edged slowly up the path we noticed the wild pheasants in a nearby bush checking the new strangers.

The stone path spiralled up to the top of the hill a beautiful spot for overlooking the River Wyre. Behind us sat the manor, a large white building that looked like a palace surveying her kingdom. Just to the left of the manor sat the holiday cottages, a separated by small walled area it really had an exclusive feel.

After unpacking the car I decided to explore the grounds. Returning to the tip of the hill I looked down at the fields below. There was a circular walk that runs through the grounds, this walk ran along the river Wyre crossed through woods and fields and the part of the village of Dolphinhome. So with walking boots on and camera in hand I set off.

I begin by I heading back down the main grass field and through an open gate, to the left I caught my first glimpse of the river Wyre and diverted slightly to get a better look. The cold weather made controlling the camera a challenge but I was still able to capture the beauty of the water as he flowed over the rocks. River Wyre_01a.jpg

Returning to the drive way, the walk continued through a second field and then climbed up through the woods letting me once more gaze down on the river. The trail lost some of its definition as it cut through the woods but then opened up to an area of such beauty. The crisp orange leaves carpeted the floor and a wooden bench allowed me to sit for a while to admire my surroundings. It was so peaceful and I felt I had the whole place to myself, this changed as I left from the woods and passed by a local farm. Despite the trail leading me this way for a moment I felt there was a mistake. I passed so close to the farmers cottage I could see him making his morning coffee through a nearby window. Checking once more I spotted the little yellow arrow nailed to a wooden gate post I continued in that direction through the farmers field avoiding the judging grazing of the sheep around me. Leaving the field I returned to the woods once more the path highlighted by a stone wall separating me from the cattle. The path ended and a sign post guided me to the beautiful stone bridge that stretched over the River Wyre within Lower Dolphinholme.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the village of Dolphinholme played an important part in the industrial revolution. Slave trader Thomas Hinde founded a mill in Lower Dolphinholme in 1795, and as I crossed the bridge a house sign nailed reminds me of the exact location.

It was a quite street the early hour along with a few only a few residents meant I was able to stroll through unbothered. Leaving the village slightly I took a path to the right and once more returned to the fields and woods that surrounded the area. The long grass brushed my trousers and the wind whipped my face, making climbing over one of many stye a real challenge.

The path lead me though more open fields and woods, before a narrow wooden bridge returned me to a small country road, a cyclist rode past me waving as he greeted me with early morning cheer. The road swung around to the left high hedges either side hide the fields and houses from my view. One more bridge and another section of the river, a slightly less furious part, flowed beneath my feet. I turned and gazed up sign directing me down a small set of stairs. I slowly edged my way down the wooden rail wet from the morning rain, and once more returned the side of the River Wyre. As I trudged along I reflected on this mornings excitement, I recalling how much I have enjoyed the walk despite the cold and confusion. I opened the final gate and was surprised to be greeted by a familiar flock of pheasants totting across my path, turning left I edge up the driveway and back towards the Manor. A good 3 and half mile walk before breakfast, is there a better way to start the day.



Postcode TN3 9QX

A beautiful idyllic village straddling the border of Kent and East Sussex and this weeks location for a walk in the countryside is Groombridge. I had heard of the village and had often travelled through it but never stopped and explored.

Parking at the free car park a short distance from the border (postcode given above), the walk into the village was a peaceful one. History tells us that this was not always the case and between 1733 and 1749 Groombridge was home to a violent gang of smugglers. When looking at the cyclists and dog walkers pass through the tranquil location it’s hard for me to images.

I strolled slowly up the small hill the, 18th-century tiled cottages line the village green to my left helping to create a view of the perfect English village.

To the one side of the green is the village pub, the Crown Inn and we are told the one time headquarters of our historic gang of smugglers. Next door to the pub is the church and the first point of reference on my walk.

I paused taking a last look at the village green making sure I took a picture or two before turning down a small alleyway on the right. The church and graveyard pass me as I step through the gate, the path leads me away from the village to an open field. My first glimpses of Groombridge Palace can be seen peeking through the trees as head down a small lane on the right.

Groombridge Place is a beautiful country estate with a 17th-century moated manor house, sculpted formal gardens and 200 acres of parkland, it is everything you might expect from a traditional English country estate. The romantic setting has inspired such legends as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jane Austen. The route guided me across the front of the driveway and for the first, I get an unrestricted view of this breathtaking building.

The guide directs me to the far right of the building and I get to see the back of the building, the moat separating it from the grounds around it. I pass through a gate and once more into a field this time scattered with large hay bundles.

I climb a stile and the path leads along the canal. Children’s voices can be heard ringing through the trees, playing in a nearby play area. Family’s walk along the other side of the canal the distance drone of a barge rings out edging its way towards me, soon the craft and captain wave me good morning as they pass by. A small wooden bridge carries me into an open field the turrets of an Oast House guiding me to the next section, I turn right down the lane and cross over an empty railway line.

Horses line the fields either side, these gentle beasts belong to the local riding school. I stop for a moment watching them feed and gallop in the fields. I turn right again passing by some cottages an old Land Rover left to decay in a field while a horse feeds from a nearby bag. The picturesque countryside is replaced by a large unattractive metal stable and I am reminded that the countryside is a place of work as well as beauty. I a large industrial shed sits to my left filled floor to ceiling of this seasons hay. As I make my way down a nearby path a peaceful pond attracts the photographer in me, I sit down on a well-placed bench and admire the view. The water still and untouched reflections from the surrounding trees paint the surface of the pond.

I continue along the path and across another field, a railway line to my right carries passages on their journey as I climb the stile at the far end. I walk through the long grass as oak trees shade me from the sun. Through a few more gates and stiles and the path brings me back out on to the road. The pavement is none existent on this section but the traffic is light this morning so I make my way along with ease. I continue up the road and reach the foot of the railway bridge reflecting how beautiful my walk was I am distracted by the cheering and bells ringing of a small selection of Morris dancers performing on the station platform below. Two cyclists stop at my side interested as I am in the scene below. They rest their bikes against the wall and I watch as one raises her mobile phone, no memory is complete unless you have taken a selfie. An idyllic train station and Morris dancers performing their merry jig could it be any more of an English scene. I have loved this walk and will definitely be returning again sometime soon.

Trottiscliffe and the Long Barrow

Hidden away in the heart of the Kent countryside is the small village of Trottiscliffe. I am ashamed to admit I had not heard of the place before today, but flicking through a walking guidebook the place seemed too good to miss. We had chosen this particular walk as I was fascinated by the description the Neolithic Long Barrow, a ancient collection of stones placed in the area a million years ago.

Despite the rain we parked and started our walk by making our way across the first of many muddy fields, the spire of the medieval church beckoning us ever closer.

Our route guided us through a harvested corn field and us the first glances of the North Downs exciting us with every step closer. The rain, now easing off a little, ensuring that our route was free from other explorers. Walking past the occasional house window we could see the occupants tucked up warm inside enjoying that afternoon’s entertainment.

Weaving in and out of the wooded paths we passed a field of horses. We stopped briefly to admire the beautiful creatures while they looked back in confusion, trying to work out what kind of people would venture out in such weather.

The guidebook instructed us to weave through a small section of woods before we began the steady climb up the hillside. The goats grazing on the hillside raised their heads for a moment before returning to the wet grass that covered the track.

The walk promised us stunning views and from the top of the hills and it didn’t disappoint. We sat for a while on a nearby bench gazing down at the rolling fields and forests spread out in front of us.

The rain ceased and we headed once more into the woods passing by the remains of a long abounded building. All that remained today was a few brick walls now decorated with some very impressive graffiti.

The route guided us past a second bench and once more the picturesque countryside reminded us why we had scaled up the hills in the first place.

Slowly we started the descent back down, and towards the areas most notable feature, the Neolithic Long Barrow also know as the Coldrum stones.

Long barrows are a style of a monument built around the fourth and fifth millennia. These monuments often contained human remains interred within their chambers, and as a result, are often interpreted as tombs.

We headed up to the ancient structure via a small wooden staircase and looked at the remains. I stood for a while trying to picture what the full structure may have looked like. The structure sat a stone’s throw from the prehistoric track know as the Pilgrims Way. Positioned on the grass is facing the stunning views of the North Downs.

The history and beauty of the place filled our thoughts as we headed back up the track and finally returned to the car. It was a great hike and despite my wife falling several times in the mud, a hilarious sight, we will certainly be returning hopeful in better weather.