In Pictures: Churchill’s birthplace and a tourist hotspot

It is a World Heritage site after all so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised but I am. The number of foreign visitors is staggering, they arrive by the coach load and yet I’m guessing that many people from the UK have never visited. Anyway the thing is Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is a tourist hotspot. 

Blenheim is famous, among other things, for being the birthplace of Winston Churchill and there is an excellent permanent display at the house telling the story of his life.  In the gift shop too, you can buy all sorts of Churchill souvenirs, including a book about the great man by one Boris Johnson!  No doubt we will continue to hear more Churchill influenced rhetoric from its deluded author. 

Churchill is buried a short walk away in the village of Bladon. We were stopping just around the corner from here at the Caravan and Motorhome Club’s Bladon Chains site.  

One benefit of staying on the Club site is the thirty percent discount on admission charges to Blenheim. Once you have purchased your admission ticket you can then upgrade it to an annual pass at no extra charge. That makes a return visit even more attractive.

A downside of its popularity is the painfully slow pace during the route through the house.  We didn’t bother with the iPhone-type audio guides, which may well be an interesting addition to the tour experience, but they did result in hundreds of people stood blocking the route like some sort of half human creatures, staring and tapping while gazing at the rooms and walls. 

Anyway, armed with our annual pass, we will return but probably at a quieter time of year when the visitor numbers have dropped off a bit.

Here are a few photos from our recent visit: 

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In Pictures: A home of learning since 1264

Not quite as grand as some of the other Oxford colleges (but it’s all relative!) and tucked away a little bit, Merton College is still worth a visit. Some of the dates are mind blowing. Merton College has been involved in education and research at the University of Oxford since 1264!

The College has approximately 300 undergraduates studying a wide range of subjects including mathematics, physics, history, literature and law. Well known Mertonians include JRR Tolkien, TS Elliot and Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan.

As a visitor, there is a small charge to enter but you are free to wonder around the central areas of the college site and visit the impressive Chapel. The Chapel itself was built between the late 13th to mid 15th centuries and it served as a parish church.  Outdoors you can visit the oldest quadrangle in Oxford, which goes by the really quite funky name of the ‘Mob Quad’.  Sounds like a good name for a four piece band! It’s not a new name by any means; it was first used around 1797 and probably refers to the undergraduates who lived in this part of the college. 

A few pictures…

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Statues in the Merton Chapel

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A big organ!

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Inside the Chapel

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College Buildings

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Historic passageways

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The Fellows’ Quadrangle

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Double Arch Gateway

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The Chapel 

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Front Quadrangle view of The Chapel

 

In Pictures: One of the grandest colleges anywhere

The University of Oxford is steeped in history. One of its most famous colleges is Magdalen College (pronounced Maudlin), it was founded in 1458 and was designed to be one of the grandest in Oxford. Some famous alumni include Cardinal Wolsey of Henry VIII fame, Oscar Wilde and CS Lewis.

As you walk along the paths, go under the archways and enter the buildings, it’s easy to imagine you have stepped back in time or onto a film set. The worn stone steps could probably tell a story or two and there’s a certain romance about a visit here. The College is open to the public but there is an admission charge. This charge does includes an informative colour leaflet/guide book.

If you are visiting Oxford it is well worth spending a bit of time looking around this historic college. I hope these few pictures give you an idea of what you can expect to see.

Remembrance

The Cloisters

Steps with character

The Founder’s Tower

Around the Cloisters

Steps to The Hall

Roses in Summer

The Water Walks

CS Lewis 

Roof detail

Stunning Sepia toned stained glass Chapel windows 

Inside the Chapel with reredos screen at the far end

Chapel interior

Founder’s Tower

Inside the Dining Hall

Gates from the Water Walks

The New Building and Lawns

Summer flowers

David Wynne’s Statue

The President’s Lodgings

Inside Tewkesbury Abbey

When we head south to Cornwall we often stop at the Tewkesbury Caravan Club site.  It’s just a few minutes off the motorway and there’s enough to see and do in the town. We always include a visit the historic Tewkesbury Abbey. 

The Abbey played a key role in the War of the Roses. Following a battle in the town the defeated Lancastrian soldiers took refuge in the Abbey but when the York army came calling they were handed over to be hanged on the town’s main street.

Here are a few photographs from our last visit to the Abbey.

Inside Tewkesbury Abbey

 

Inside Tewkesbury Abbey and the magnificent

 

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In Pictures: Cornwall Beaches

I’ve not posted anything on the blog for a while but thought it was about time to add something new, so here is a quick post with a few photos from a recent visit to Cornwall.

The beaches are beautiful. Some have a rugged beauty, some have gorgeous sand and gentle lapping waves and others are great spots for capturing a sunset. Here’s a selection of pics from Newquay, St Ives and Godrevy.

Man on Godrevy beach in the shallow water in SummerWoman in white hat paddling in the shallow water on Godrevy beach in CornwallSurfboards lined up on Godrevy beach in CornwallSt Ives, Cornwall 2019-3095St Ives, Cornwall 2019-3235St Ives, Cornwall 2019-3554St Ives, Cornwall 2019-3024Newquay, Cornwall, UKCornwall-3877St Ives, Cornwall 2019-3511

Opening Night at The Larder Cafe

Just over a month ago I was asked to take a few photographs at the Larder Cafe in Preston for a magazine feature. The Larder is a ‘not for profit’ organisation which has a focus on sustainable, locally sourced food and is well worth a visit.

The event to mark the opening took place just prior to the cafe opening to the public. There was music, food critics, the Mayor, plenty of people who had been involved in getting the venture off the ground and a couple dogs – this is also a dog friendly cafe!

I was taking the photographs for a feature in Live Preston and Fylde magazine which has now hit the streets so am happy to share more shots from the night here. Click on any picture to view larger.

Royal Visit to Blackpool

When it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would visit Blackpool, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to grab some newsworthy pictures.

The visit schedule included a 20 minute walkabout to meet the public on the promenade in front of Blackpool Tower and that’s where I headed.

The last Royal visit I covered was Prince Harry when he was in Lancashire. On that occasion I was part of the official ‘press pack’.  My view however, is that unless you have a ‘Rota’ pass (a sort of access all areas thing – only a handful are made available), it doesn’t really offer much advantage and so this time I joined the public, ironically right next to the press pack to get my shots.

I was stood with a lady who had driven up from Shropshire, arriving at 6.30 in the morning to get a glimpse of the Royal couple. Considering the walkabout wasn’t scheduled to take place until 1.30pm, that is real dedication.  She did assure me that it wouldn’t rain until after the walkabout had finished but she was wrong! Minutes before Kate and William arrived it started to rain and that was still a good hour before the walkabout, so a soaking for members of the public while the couple got a welcome briefing in the Tower.

Fortunately the rain stopped and the walkabout took place.  William went one way around the crowd and Kate headed straight for me!  Perhaps she saw my camera or more likely the small child two places along because that’s where she started to chat to people and I was lucky enough to get some shots close up.  

I had two Fujifilm cameras, one with a long telephoto lens and the other with a standard zoom, so I had to quickly switch cameras as she got close.

I am reasonably happy with the photos I got but as with all things there are lessons I learned from the experience and a couple of silly errors relating to how I had the cameras set up which I can learn from. So what were the lessons?

  1. Always carry plastic bags to use as rain covers on the cameras 
  2. Synchronise the times on the cameras – I had them slightly off and that meant the order on the computer once downloaded didn’t follow the timing of the walkabout properly.
  3. Face recognition focussing was great for shots of the Duke and Duchess when together but as soon as Kate moved to the crowd, the focus was all over the place. Far too many faces!
  4. At one point I needed to switch to continuous focus but forgot so some images not as sharp as they should be – include the image at the top of this blog but I like it anyway!.

Many of the photos I took are available through the Alamy Image Library but given the number of photographers taking pictures it is probably unlikely that any of mine will sell.  When shooting events like this it isn’t easy to stand out from the crowd but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the experience. 

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving at Blackpool Tower

Kate arriving at Blackpool Tower

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The Duke and Duchess leaving the Tower to commence their walkabout

Duchess of Cambridge meeting the public on Blackpool’s Comedy

Waving as they approach the ‘Comedy Carpet’

Duchess of Cambridge meeting the public on Blackpool’s Comedy

Waving to the crowd

Duchess of Cambridge meeting the public on Blackpool’s Comedy

The Duke and Duchess meeting school children

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The Duke and Duchess meeting school children

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The Duke and Duchess meeting school children

Duchess of Cambridge meeting the public on Blackpool’s Comedy

The Duke and Duchess meeting school children

Duchess of Cambridge meeting the public on Blackpool’s Comedy

Meeting the Public

Duchess of Cambridge meeting the public on Blackpool’s Comedy

A young admirer

Duchess of Cambridge meeting the public on Blackpool’s Comedy

Chatting to the crowd

Duchess of Cambridge meeting the public on Blackpool’s Comedy

Meeting the public

Can Lake District weather be too good?

I love a bit of drama in my landscape photographs and normally, the Lake District in February has it in abundance.  Last Friday however, the clear blue skies and sunshine was more reminiscent of a fine summer day – with clear views and visitors sunbathing!

It was a day we chose to walk around Derwentwater and dramatic weather aside, it was the perfect day to be relaxing in the Lakes. A rare occasion when the weather is this good in February and too good for the type of photography I’d intended, but what’s not to like about this area of the country at anytime of year?

Here are a few photos from the walk. I’m sure anyone who has done the walk around Derwentwater will recognise these views.

DSCF9196DSCF9199DSCF9202DSCF9223Lodore Jetty on Derwent WaterDSCF9247The River Derwent close to Keswick in the Lake District.

Waves on the Lake, surely not…

When you visit the Lake District in February, you expect some photographic challenges.  

On the day we arrived the sky looked typically brooding and the sun was doing its best to break through. Just the sort of day you want for landscape photography, especially as the rain was just about holding off. 

I wanted to get a photo of the Millennium Stone on the shore of Derwentwater with water around it,  as last time I visited it was high and dry.  No danger of that this time after the recent rain and snow. The real challenge in getting the picture on this visit was going to be the wind.  

The wind was absolutely battering the shore of the lake, but seemingly just in this particular cove! The normally calm lake was being whipped up into a frenzy and waves were crashing over the stone. Long exposure shots were near enough impossible to keep sharp as the tripod was also being battered.  It was also bitterly cold but I did manage to get a few shots, not the greatest pictures but I’ve included a few here anyway.

My next post will feature some pictures from a circuit of the lake two days later, when the weather was, if anything too good. 

DSCF8968DSCF8979DSCF9208-2Edited in Photoshop-1330

In Pictures: Preston shivers

The end of January brought some wintry weather to Preston. A flurry of snow and ice, nothing too serious but enough to cause travel problems.  For most countries this level of cold and snow is not noteworthy but in the UK every year we seem ill-prepared for any bad weather.  Perhaps it was the wrong type of snow and ice or maybe, more likely, the wrong type of tyres but at least it looked nice for the photos!

These pictures were taken on a walk along the Lancaster Canal and down along the Ribble Link.