Mike Dodman: Blog http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog en-us (C) Mike Dodman mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) Thu, 19 Jun 2014 15:26:00 GMT Thu, 19 Jun 2014 15:26:00 GMT http://salsin.zenfolio.com/img/s9/v2/u162565220-o392089905-50.jpg Mike Dodman: Blog http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog 95 120 A week in Cornwall. http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/6/a-week-in-cornwall Helen and Ant wanted Libby to have a "seaside" holiday and had found a lovely holiday house in the village of Treyarnon, just 10 mins. walk from the picturesque Treyarnon Bay, one of the famous "Seven Bays" around Padstow. I joined them and so did Ant's parents, Dave and Jen. For once we were blessed with superb sunny weather, after a couple of showers early on. As has become the norm with our "multi-generation" holidays, we each go our own way, sometimes meeting up during the day but sometimes not until back at base in the evening. The back of our house was west-facing with the sea just visible in the distance - and perfect for sunset photos.

I visited Tintagel Castle on the Monday (English Heritage and seemingly over-run with German visitors!). I'm glad I've "done it" but found it slightly uninspiring photographically - and probably won't bother to go back.

Tuesday I spent at the house, waiting for a delivery of wine from Waitrose (ordered via internet sunday and confirmed for delivery on Tuesday). It never arrived. It eventually came Wednesday midday, so effectively a second day of my holiday "wasted". I am now awaiting a response from Waitrose to my strong letter of dissatisfaction with their service. (I had taken one bottle of this rose down with me. Helen and Ant raved about it so, as a holiday treat, I decided to order more.)

Wednesday was a beach day.

On Thursday, I drove across to near St. Austell and visited the Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum and country park. Over the years, we have passed by or through the "Cornish Alps" on several occasions and I now wanted to learn more about this extremely important part of Cornwall's industrial and mining heritage. I found it fascinating, very well done and with a walk (hot sunny day) through what has now become a country park, up to a viewing gallery overlooking a working pit. 

Friday 13th and a drive up to Launceston to visit the Castle (also EH and as I am a member, I must get my money's worth!). An impressive keep and excellent views out over the town and surrounding countryside. Sauntered round the town; a typical small market town which reminded me a lot of Dolgellau in mid-Wales (except for the accents!).

Saturday and all good things come to an end. I did briefly consider finding a B&B and staying down in Cornwall for another couple of days in the beautiful weather, then remembered the lawns needed cutting. Back to reality!  On the way down, Helen and Ant had stopped off at Tyntesfield House, a NT property just south of Bristol, for a snack and to let Libby run off some energy - and had raved about the place. So I called in on my way home. An added bonus that day was a display of 50-60 classic cars, with owners delighted to tell you all about them! Had a long chat with 2 owners: one about his Jaguar E Type and the other his MGB. Nice restaurant there. NT always do very tempting cakes!! Then headed back to M5 and up towards home, stopping off at Gloucester to check out the new Gloucester Services, operated by the same people who created the very highly rated Tebay services up in the Lake District. I can confirm that Gloucester is following exactly the same theme, operating as a local community business with a very strong emphasis on the "local". All the wood used in the construction came from the nearby Forest of Dean and their food motto is "grown, not flown".

The album "Cornwall June 2014" has pics. of my week there with the family.

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) Cornwall English Heritage Gloucester Services Launceston National Trust Padstow Tintagel Treyarnon Tyntesfield Wheal Martyn china clay http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/6/a-week-in-cornwall Thu, 19 Jun 2014 15:25:24 GMT
Back to my roots - a trip to Norfolk. http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/5/back-to-my-roots---a-trip-to-norfolk Last week I went back to the "Land of my fathers" - Norfolk. I was born in Norwich, as was my father but the previous seven generations were all born in the villages surrounding Fakenham, up in north Norfolk. I wanted to spend time at the premises of the Norfolk Family History Society (NFHS) investigating their records of "all things Norfolk" and to soak up a bit of atmosphere by visiting some of the villages associated with my forebears. I also planned to go south into Suffolk, to Ipswich where I grew up and went to school; and finally to return home via Essex and call in on my cousin Judy (on my mother's side and one of my few living relatives). Four nights away, five days and a round trip of nearly 600 miles.

Travelling over on Monday, a fatal accident at 3am had resulted in the A11 still being closed at 2pm and total chaos on all surrounding roads. I therefore headed much further east to avoid the area and visited a little village on the Suffolk/Norfolk border where my mother's family hail from. Her father owned several farms in and around Mellis, whose main claim to fame is that it has the largest area of unfenced common land in England. Its iconic old mill buildings are also where respected British furniture maker, Multiyork, started up over 30 years ago. This also put me not far from ace model car maker Toby Sutton, whose beautiful 8" long walnut re-creation of the iconic 1958 Lister-Jaguar "knobbly" sports-racer takes pride of place in my study. (Genuine Listers with full provenance now change hands at auction for £1m - and are still raced). I had never met Toby but, having spoken on the phone, I knew we had much in common. Fortunately he was in that afternoon and we spent two hours chatting about all things car-related. He did his apprenticeship at Longbridge ("The Austin" as it was known in the 1950's) and remembered the Lickey Hills well. Small world!

After spending Monday night at the Travelodge at Cringleford on the southern edge of Norwich (only a few miles from Hethersett where my mother lived for many years. Her bungalow seemed virtually as I remembered it.) I spent time reading other people's research into the "Dodman" name, then in the afternoon headed north. The curator/librarian at the Gressenhall Museum of Rural Life (see photos) wasn't in but I now have a contact name for further research. I was aware that in the small village of Horningtoft was a "Dodman's Lane" (see photo) and I wanted to see/photograph it and hopefully find someone who might know of its history. A resident mowing his lawn directed me to the local historian a mere 50 yds down another track, a charming lady whose curiosity I aroused and she insisted on getting out all the old tythe maps. We established that a man called Dodman had lived in a cottage (long since demolished) by the lane. Her husband was from East Rudham, the village I was heading to that night and insisted on ringing a few relatives still living there to check on a few facts. More of this tomorrow!

I then drove the few miles to Weasenham to check out "Dodma Road" and see if anyone knew its derivation. As it is only a few miles from East Rudham, I reckon it is a corruption of "Dodman" - but could I prove it? I called at a B&B opposite the end of Dodma Road, but the lady there admitted they were "incomers" and had only been there 12 years. Her accent was definitely not Norfolk - possibly London/Home Counties. Two other locals also shook their heads. I called at the village pub but the licensee was a Londoner and there was no-one in the pub who could help. I drove away, then spotted an elderly lady watering her front garden and asked her. "No, but I know who will" was her comment. "Walk with me to the end of the lane and I'll point out his house". As we walked and chatted, I mentioned being born in Norwich, to which she replied that she was a Freeman of the City of Norwich. I replied that I was honoured to be talking to her. "Oh, it's nothing these days", she replied. "I think it gives me the right to graze my goat somewhere within the city walls!". On the edge of the village green lived the church warden so I knocked on his door. His wife explained that he was out but invited me in anyway as she was curious about my research and she gave me the phone number of someone else in the village (who I still have to make contact with) and it turned out that her husband is a retired RAF Victor bomber pilot and had been based at Marham, one of the many RAF bases in Norfolk.

And so on to East Rudham, the village where my grandfather was born in 1881. The Crown Inn is an old pub, but the restaurant was busy ("It's gone rather up-market", Mrs. bomber pilot had told me) and they have obviously hit on a winning formula. Dinner was excellent, the bed was comfy and I slept well till 5 am. That was when the heavy lorries started thundering past, on the main Fakenham-Norwich road! After breakfast, I strolled the village in glorious sunshine and talked to a lady at the church. She called over one of her colleagues to join in the conversation and this lady knew of my visit, her brother being the person the Horningtoft man had rung the previous afternoon. You can't keep any secrets in these small villages! I photographed the building (now a private house - see photo) which was formally a shop run by a "Dodman" and which sold saddles and all sorts of items made from leather for the farming community - and sweets, remembered another old local I spoke to later. This chap, who had lived in Back Lane (where my grandfather was born)(see photos) all his life, had been a truck driver, worked for a Fakenham haulage company and several times each week drove produce from the local farms to markets in Derby, Nottingham, Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Evesham. A 330 mile round trip, which "we had to do in 14 hours". No motorways, no tachographs then! A hard life I suspect, he looked older than his years. Another resident told me most of the properties were originally farm cottages, tied to two local farms. Like many of the local villages, quite a few residents are now "incomers". Londoners "discovered" the north Norfolk coast some thirty years ago and property prices rocketed; that same process now affects these more inland villages with many being "second homes". I could have spent all day talking to people there and just soaking up the atmosphere but I needed to get back to Norwich and further research. Two different people told me that Back Lane used to be called, by the villagers, "Cindermuck Lane" - now that is the sort of information you don't find on the internet -  that comes from talking to the locals!!!

Wednesday night was back at the same Travelodge (and I have to say that Travelodge do seem to be investing a lot of money in re-furbishing their premises. A few years ago Les and I had spent a weekend at Okehampton on Dartmoor. The bed was comfy but the premises were really so shabby and facilities non-existant). What was also very interesting was that the Norwich site also had a Manager who was there in reception in the morning, talking to guests as they checked out and asking for feedback. After more reading at the NFHS on Thursday morning, it was off to Ipswich, 40 miles south. I quickly found Sidegate Lane (see photos), the house where I grew up (see photos) and the first school I went to (see photo) a few hundred yards down the same road. I still recall the standing joke that the children who were always "late" were those who lived in the houses opposite the school! I then visited the crematorium where my father's ashes were scattered in 1958 and retraced the route I used to cycle from my home to Ipswich School. (No being dropped off by Mum in those days; you either walked if local, went on the ordinary bus or by bike). Considerable redevelopment has taken place since I left in 1963 but, by chance, a cricket match was taking place on the School Field (see photos) which brought back many happy memories.

After a night at another Travelodge just south of Ipswich (No food facilities other than a Starbucks which closed at 6pm but this meant that I could head into a local village and a lovely steak at the Bull Inn in Brantham), I headed down into Essex, to visit Judy and her husband Clive, a retired agricultural engineer, in the small village of Gosfield. I spent most of the day there; we had much catching up to do! - and then set off for home about 6.30pm. Total mileage 570 miles. The Audi is now nicely run in!!

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) Essex Horningtoft Ipswich Norfolk Norwich Rudham School Suffolk Weasenham http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/5/back-to-my-roots---a-trip-to-norfolk Wed, 28 May 2014 15:22:08 GMT
Community Orchard at Lickey. http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/5/community-orchard-at-lickey During last year, I applied for a bench to be erected on the Lickeys in Les' memory, only to be told by Birmingham Parks Dept. (who administer the Hills) that they were not putting up any more as there "are already more than enough".

Then, a few months ago, I heard that the Lickey Hills Society (which we have been members of for some years) has been working with the Park Rangers to create a Community Orchard, in a very quiet, and previously neglected area of the Hills which is only a few hundred yards from the Visitor Centre but down a not-very-much-used path (actually called "Drovers Way"). The path eventually comes out to the Old Birmingham Road almost opposite the Old Rose and Crown pub at the foot of Rose Hill. Forty-two fruit trees, all old traditional Worcestershire varieties, not grown commercially any more and in danger of being lost, have been planted and the Society were looking for "contributions". Peter and Helen have given a very generous donation and "our" tree is No.6, an apple called Sandlin Duchess. This variety was raised in about 1880 by a Mr. Gabb at Sandlin near Malvern and subsequently introduced by William Crump, the head gardener at Madresfield Court. 

The first two pics. show me with Peter and Hazel when we first looked at the Orchard a few weeks ago, to decide if it was what we had in mind as a memorial, as we had also been invited to participate in another scheme near the Old Rose and Crown. The peace and tranquility of the Orchard appealed to us more than the other, which is much closer to the main road and therefore noisier.

Today (12/5/14) I decided to go and look at "our" tree whilst still (hopefully) in blossom - and I plan to re-visit each May and photograph it as it grows. What I had not realised is that the Orchard is surrounded by bluebells and the remaining pics. show how the whole area looks today. The ground drops away down to a bridge over a small muddy stream and then a footpath leads off into the Hills. There were a couple of ducks poddling around in the stream! Not a sound other than birds. Idyllic.

The other reason for choosing tree no. 6 is that it is close to the centre of the Orchard, which has been designed with an open space in the middle where the Rangers were hoping to place a picnic bench. They were delighted when I said I would sponsor it.  

 

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/5/community-orchard-at-lickey Mon, 12 May 2014 19:43:24 GMT
Weston Sandocross http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/4/weston-sandocross Once a year, the Weston-Super-Mare Motor Club hold an event unique on the British mainland - sand racing on the beach. I had visited it once before, with Les 6 years ago. The weather forecast for Sunday, April 13th was dry and sunny (though with a bitter wind blowing off the sea). I had previously checked with the Club that I would be able to sign on as media and go trackside to photograph.

When I got there, one other person had signed on and I just assumed he was either from the local paper or perhaps the club's own photographer. At one point, we passed each other and just nodded and exchanged greetings but I didn't stop to quiz him. I took photos from a couple of different corners, then after lunch settled on another corner where I reckoned that someone might just roll. During the afternoon, two cars did. Quite spectacular, fortunately neither driver was hurt though both cars looked decidedly the worse for wear.

At some point during the day, the commentator had asked me if I could let him have a photo for the local paper, as they apparently hadn't sent a photographer along. I agreed. During the day, with 2 cameras with different lenses attached, I took over 700 photos which that evening were whittled down to just under 300. I emailed four to the club for them to make a final choice and this was subsequently published in the following week's edition of the local paper, both the print version and the online edition. The club then asked if I could put all the photos into an online gallery for their members and the competitors to view. So I did. On the Monday, the Clerk of the Course, the Secretary of the Meeting and the Event Commentator all emailed me to thank me for the gallery link which they had viewed and thought the photos were fantastic.

A very enjoyable day out;  doing what I love doing and it was nice that the results gave other people a lot of pleasure too.

And the other photographer - I have no idea who he was.

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/4/weston-sandocross Wed, 23 Apr 2014 19:56:31 GMT
My new car. http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/4/my-new-car Before she died, Les and I had talked about getting rid of the Corolla when she retired. We both agreed on what we wanted. A bit smaller, newer, more powerful, more "image".

Last Christmas, I realised that, to find the spec. I wanted as  "nearly-new" would be impossible for probably another 12 months and, if I am to enjoy my "mini breaks away" I wasn't prepared to wait that long. The order for a new car was therefore placed early in January, with a predicted hand-over of late April/early May. In the intervening weeks, the dealership has been first-rate with regular courtesy calls and updates, including the good news that the "build-date" had been brought forward by the factory by two weeks. Keeping my personal reg.was no problem; all the paperwork was handled by them and the LE51DOD plates were on the car when I collected it.

The dealership; well, they trade as Birmingham Audi, are actually based in Shirley but we all know them as LISTERS. And I have to say that, from the very first time I walked into their showroom, they have been absolutely brilliant. (Unlike the first (and only) contact with my "local" Audi dealer in Halesowen. There, the salesman intimated that they really weren't interested in selling A1's (too little profit on them) unless they assessed that the next purchase would be a "bigger" Audi and which in my case it clearly would not be).

Needless to say, I curtailed the discussion, walked out and rang Listers. 

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) A1 Audi Listers car http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/4/my-new-car Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:44:06 GMT
The Ashes. http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/4/the-ashes The Ashes. For many people an iconic game of cricket between England and Australia. For me, it meant something completely different. After a family discussion, we had decided to scatter Les' ashes in two places; the Mawddach Estuary in mid-Wales and then on the Lickey Hills where she grew up.

I had already decided that, for the next several years, I would spend April 1st (our wedding anniversary) at the Mawddach and had already booked a room at the George III hotel on the water's edge at Penmaenpool, near Dolgellau. The kids rented a lovely cottage for the weekend, a few miles inland near the Coed-y-Brenin forest. We drove over in three cars on the Friday, met for a "family get-together" on the Saturday including lunch at the George and a short beach session at Barmouth (too windy really!) and then devoted Sunday to the ashes scattering. I had already decided that I wanted to scatter Les' ashes in four distinct locations along the estuary. The first was by the "old" road bridge over the Mawddach, at a quiet spot where the tidal estuary and the river merge. We frequently went there, standing on the bridge just looking down at the water, inland up into the hills or towards the coast and over to Cader Idris. More than once we saw a herd of cows (Les loved cows!) drinking down at the water's edge. The second place was another quiet spot, very close to the George III, where the estuary's course kinks and leaves a lovely marshy spot where sheep from the adjoining hill wander down. I scattered some ashes here on the Sunday morning after breakfast, on my own, watched by some new-born lambs and their very wary mothers. (The toll bridge and the small jetty by the George III were the scene of a major maritime tragedy as recently as 1966. A pleasure boat on a day-trip up from Barmouth was attempting to turn, to moor at the jetty. It hit the bridge and overturned. 16 people drowned.)

After linking up with Peter, Helen and her family, we headed down to where the estuary meets the sea, opposite Barmouth. We parked and walked to the water's edge, only a handful of other people around so early on in the year. We scattered some of the ashes at the foot of a slipway used by pleasure craft; on the "inland" edge, hopeful that maybe they will remain there, watched over by the magnificence of Cader Idris. We then walked a few hundred yards round the end of the spit, to where the outgoing tide was flowing and scattered the remainder there, to flow out with the tide. Les' maiden name was Livick, a very old Norse family name (and one that is actually mentioned in the 1856 book called "The Northmen of Cumberland & Westmoreland" which details the influence the Vikings had on that area. Les was very proud of this book which I bought her some years ago.) Who knows, her ashes may, depending on the influence of the tides, go back to Scandinavia.

When we organised this, none of us had realised that Sunday was also Mother's Day, which gave the scattering even more meaning. For that same reason, Hazel had departed in the morning with Joe and Beth, to spend the afternoon with her Mother, but Peter stayed with Helen and me. The weather was warm and sunny; we could not have wished for better. Afterwards Libby was able to play on the sand, helped by Ant making the sand castles while Freddie had his first "sunbathe".

Late Sunday afternoon, Helen, Ant, Libby and Freddie set off on the journey back home, while Peter came back to the George to stay with me. He and Helen had decided that I should not be on my own on April 1st. Monday was another sunny morning and I was determine to find a certain narrow lane on the opposite side of the estuary, high up in the hills. It was a road Les and I found 20-something years ago and at the time I reckoned it was the narrowest road I had ever driven along. With a stone wall on either side, to break down would have been problematic - impossible to open either door. Sun roof as an escape hatch! All this was actually academic as the walls only extended about 50 yards! With Peter on the maps, we ventured up into the hills. Roads change over time and a road which I am sure we had used then was now signed "Unsuitable for motor traffic". So we approached from another direction and yes, we found it. Another difference; then I was probably driving a VW Passat estate, a somewhat wider car than the MX5 and possibly with bigger wing mirrors. I was slightly disappointed. There were several inches either side of me now!

The challenge now completed, we drove into Barmouth for a snack lunch. Barmouth out of season is OK but is a place we always tried to avoid during the main summer holiday weeks. Call me a snob, but it had a very "down-market" air about it; too influenced by the large funfair. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Barmouth is now trying to improve its image - a volunteer group of locals called "BRIG" - Barmouth Resort Improvement Group, are working very hard to smarten it up - and the funfair seems much smaller than I remembered it.

Back in our hotel room late that afternoon, we suddenly heard the very distinct low, heavy throb of a Chinook helicopter. Peter reacted first and ran outside; I grabbed my camera and followed him. There, in front of us and flying low up the valley was an RAF Chinook, below the tops of the mountains opposite. Amazing.  

The following day, Tuesday April 1st was again warm and sunny. Les did us proud with the weather. I wanted to re-visit Cregennan Lakes, 800 feet up in the foothills of Cader, along another single-track road. Owned by the NT, this is a beautiful spot (read it on TripAdvisor!) overlooking the Mawddach estuary and the Barmouth Railway Bridge. The narrow roads and very steep descent into Arthog village keep it very quiet. When we arrived, there were just two birders, hoping to see a Peregrine Falcon and having to make do with a stonechat (which flew off as soon as I looked through his spotting scope!). Then a lone biker arrived, to photograph his lovely BMW touring bike with the Lake in the background. With a 6-cylinder 1600cc engine, the bike just purred when he pulled away again. I have no desire to ride a motor bike but the technology in them is amazing. Continuing the NT theme, Peter and I then headed for Barmouth. I knew that the very first piece of land donated to the NT over 100 years ago was at Barmouth, 4 1/2 acres of headland called Dinas Oleu, rising above the town. I wanted to visit it. Peter loves walking and, as a NT member himself, was keen to see this piece of history. As the photographs show, we did and the views are pretty spectacular. Octavia Hill, one of the founders of the NT, spoke of "creating open-air sitting rooms for city dwellers to have a place to breathe." (Remember, conditions then for many people were pretty horrible by today's standards).

Wednesday morning was dull and rainy as we meandered along the coast road to Tywyn (best forgotten about) and on to Aberdyfi (Aberdovey) where I do want to spend a "mini break"; and then headed for home. I had been away for five nights, my March and April "mini breaks" rolled into one. An emotional few days, both for me and for Peter and Helen; but despite the sadness at the reason why we were there, we all felt very positive about our time there. I will finish with the words of the Mawddach Poem, written in 1891:-

  • Who planned upon this mountain rock to build
  • High o'er the shifting sands of Mawddach flood,
  • They knew the soul of man had need of food
  • From Heaven and that the world's Creator willed
  • That from far hidden deeps should hearts be filled
  • With touch of ocean's wild fortitude.
  • They drank the dews of morning as they stood,
  • and with the sunset's latest awe were filled.

 

 The Mawddach is a truly magical place which I adore. I shall return.

 

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) . Barmouth Chinook Cregennan Lakes Dinas Oleu George III Mawddach Penmaenpool Wales http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/4/the-ashes Wed, 09 Apr 2014 21:58:16 GMT
March 10th - one year on. http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/3/march-10th---one-year-on Today was a very difficult day for all of us; Helen, Peter and me. We had decided that we would spend the day together, to comfort each other. Peter took the day off work and arrived about 9.30. He and I went off to Willowbrook Garden Centre to have breakfast and just "talk". After taking Libby to a morning activity and then dropping her off at nursery, Helen arrived with Freddie about midday. We had previously agreed that we would spend the afternoon on the Lickeys, an area special to all of us as a family but even more so because it was somewhere Les loved, where she had grown up and where she and her elder brother Wayne had spent much of their free time as youngsters, enjoying the freedom of the Hills and being at one with the natural world. (Only a few days ago, Helen had bumped into her, now-retired Headmaster from Lickey First & Middle School at, of all places, a garden centre near Redditch. Small world!)

There was another reason too. Having failed in our attempt to get a memorial bench erected in Les' memory on the Lickeys, (too many benches there already according to the Parks Dept.), I had discovered that the Rangers are creating a new "Community Orchard" in a previously undeveloped corner of the Lickeys and are looking for sponsorship. I wanted Helen to see it and decide if she felt this was worth following up. It is literally only three minutes from the Visitor Centre, but adjacent to a footpath not commonly used. We "checked it out" and Helen and Peter agreed that I should set up a meeting with the Chief Ranger to discuss placing something there as a lasting memorial to Les.

After a lunch at the Visitor Centre, we went for a walk, along a path Les had probably walked many, many times in her youth. We talked and, at times, we were silent, each of us no doubt with our own thoughts and memories.

We talked about how lucky we are to have the Lickeys right on our doorstep and yet sometimes, for that very reason, we ignore it. We will drive for an hour or more and rave about somewhere, yet we have a "country park" equally appealing only a few minutes away from where we live.

It is at times like this that I am so glad of the very strong family bond we have. Helen and Peter have their own growing families but they do ensure that I am very much part of "their" lives as well. I am so grateful.  

Peter has departed to collect his two from school; Helen has gone to pick Libby up from nursery. The house is silent; just me and my thoughts; what might have been, what can no longer be and yet, what I still hope to achieve.

In one sense, photography was the last thing on my mind today; yet I felt it was important to record what we did. The first photo is the four of us (three + Freddie) at the new Community Orchard and the second is of a brother and sister "walking the Lickeys".

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) Lickey Hills http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/3/march-10th---one-year-on Mon, 10 Mar 2014 18:13:22 GMT
February short break. http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/3/february-short-break In Autumn 2012, Les and I spent a long weekend based in Truro and one day were exploring the Roseland peninsula. We had lunch at the Rising Sun Inn. Back home we decided we wanted to spend more time there and so I booked for us to spend Les' 65th birthday there. Then, with Les in hospital, I had to cancel but they agreed to carry my deposit forward for a future visit. I decided that I would go back there at the same time this year. I knew it would be very emotional; and it was.

I had a rough plan; drive down Wednesday (via the King Harry ferry - Les loved ferries!), get my bearings and have a wander round. Thursday, catch the foot ferry from St. Mawes into Falmouth, wander round and "do" the National Maritime Museum. Friday, mooch around the area. Saturday, "do" St.Mawes castle, then back across the King Harry ferry and back home.

Talking to Jo, manager of the Inn, I discovered that St. Mawes has quite a strong connection with the motor sport world. Frank Williams, founder of the Williams F1 team, has a house in the village but even more interesting is that David Richards not only has a house there but also now owns two hotels in the village, the Idle Rocks Hotel and the St. Mawes Hotel. David was a very successful rally navigator who then went into the "business" side of motorsport, established Prodrive (running rally teams for several manufacturers) and eventually became chairman of Aston Martin. He bought the first hotel in 2012, gave it a multi-million pound refurbishment and it opened last summer. Currently it is closed again for another refit as the recent storms smashed up the ground floor pretty badly (see pic.)

Jo reckons that possibly as much as 60% of the village is "non-residents".

For anyone with an interest in the sea, water, boats, weather, the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth is well worth a visit. I spent 4.5 hours there! Not as mind-blowing as Yeovilton last month, but much more "up-to-date" and family friendly than the Haynes car museum. The NMM also remembers the WW2 raid (combined RN and commando) which set off from Falmouth to destroy the dry dock at St. Nazaire in France. FIVE Victoria Crosses were awarded as a result of this successful sortie, the largest number ever for a single action. The jetty used by the St. Mawes ferry has inscriptions relating to the action, some of which (particularly the humorous ones) are in my photographs. 

 

Friday was a bit of a dead loss as the weather was cold and rainy. Spring had definitely not come early to the Roseland! I did a lot of reading.

Saturday, I explored St. Mawes castle (with the aid of a handheld personal audio guide) which I found fascinating. A few of the photos are of the "purely a record" type but with others I have tried to capture (sorry!) the way the light, shapes and textures all interact with each other. Then, I did manage to buy some local Cornish daffs (which Les loved) for the family, back across the King Harry ferry and back to home.

And the Rising Sun Inn - yes, I can recommend it. Comfy bed, friendly staff, good (pub) food and a superb waterfront location. Watch the ferry come and go from the bedroom window, and the enthusiastic gig racing team practicing.

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) Falmouth King Harry ferry Mawes National Maritime Museum Rising Sun Inn St. http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/3/february-short-break Mon, 03 Mar 2014 15:20:14 GMT
Race Retro http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/2/race-retro Visited the annual Race Retro exhibition at Stoneleigh last Friday. It acts as a showcase for the classic and historic racing scene which just seems to keep on growing and growing. Very enjoyable. Over a burger at lunchtime, I started chatting to another chap. After the usual polite pleasantries, we realised we were both on the "same wavelength". Turns out this chap spent many years on one of the Silverstone recovery trucks; had quite a few tales to tell. Remembered Martin Brain's fatal crash.

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/2/race-retro Mon, 24 Feb 2014 17:36:38 GMT
The motor sport season begins with a Sporting Trial. http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/2/the-motor-sport-season-begins-with-a-sporting-trial Too cold for racing, so enthusiasts gather at a muddy hill to see who can make a (purpose-built) trials car get as far up a marked section as possible. If you get to the top, you are deemed to have "cleaned" it. This year, the Hagley club (who run the Loton hill-climb) were using a new venue by the Long Mynd in Shropshire. A sunny day in beautiful countryside, what more does one want.

Twenty-one competitors rose to the challenge, with varying degrees of success. It is a very skilful branch of motor sport, albeit run at very slow speed. Lots of revs and a "gung-ho" attitude is not always the answer. Sometimes the subtle approach pays off, searching out the tiny bits of grass (rather than mud) and letting the car move forward slowly. Enjoy the pics.

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/2/the-motor-sport-season-begins-with-a-sporting-trial Mon, 17 Feb 2014 12:46:46 GMT
Upton Warren Nature Reserve. http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/2/upton-warren-nature-reserve After the snow yesterday morning, early afternoon the clouds cleared and I thought there was a chance of some sunny weather. Grab the camera and big lens combo. (300mm +2x converter) and nip down to Upton Warren.

A couple of other guys there, one of whom comes over from Kidderminster and implied that he comes once a week! Told me his normal route was flooded at Chaddesley Corbett and he had to detour and approach via Droitwich. Very friendly atmosphere in the hide, the others seem genuinely keen to help me as a "newbie". OK; I'm an experienced photographer but I know relatively little about birds, ducks etc. Half the time, I'm not even really sure what breed I'm looking at - but that doesn't matter. I'm a photographer looking to create some nice pictures, not a birder recording what he sees. Interesting mix of people. Each time I've been, I've asked them - are they birders first or photographers first. The answer - about 50/50.

A piece of old country folklore is that if you want to know about the weather and the seasons, study the wildlife. Well, if the grebes are right, Spring is on the way! Look at the pics and you'll see why. The "action" took place way out in the middle of the "lake" - really way too far off to photograph. However, with the benefit of a full-size sensor on the 1DX body, I knew I could crop the image without losing too much quality. Again, it was an experiment. Part of my learning curve with this very complex camera I am still getting to grips with. The results; well, judge for yourself.

As I've reviewed these pics. I have tried to put "human" captions to them. Not sure if it works or not, but it is amusing to try.

Enjoy.

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/2/upton-warren-nature-reserve Wed, 12 Feb 2014 14:20:13 GMT
January short break: Somerset museums. http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/2/january-short-break-somerset-museums Knowing that January brings the possibility of bad weather (!), I planned this to be an "indoor" activity, visiting two major museums, one aircraft related, the other cars.

On the way down (on the Wednesday) to my base a few miles outside Yeovil and close to both museums, I called in at the National Trust property Montacute House to have lunch (NT cafes always have lovely cakes!) and to stroll the grounds of this old house built around 1590. Cold but dry, it was a chance to relax. Unlike at Hanbury Hall and Charlecote Park (two other properties I have visited recently) where one walks in peace and solitude, this place was only a stone's throw from a major A road into Yeovil and the constant traffic noise was in complete contrast to the other two.  

I stayed at the Kingsdon Inn (highly rated on Tripadvisor), an old thatched Inn in a tiny village a couple of miles off the main A road I would use to get to the museums. Verdict: excellent. Comfortable bed, excellent food, friendly staff, small characterful premises; what more does one need? I would go there again and would recommend it to anyone.

Thursday the weather wasn't great so glad that i would be indoors all day. The Fleet Air Arm Museum (FAAM) at Yeovilton was only about 12 mins away by car and I was there soon after 10. The fact that I didn't emerge till nearly closing time at 4pm says it all. It is FANTASTIC. Expensive maybe (but there are "offers" available if one trawls the internet) but worth every penny. Spacious, modern, highly interactive for children (and me!) and with the most realistic "Aircraft Carrier Flight Deck Experience". It starts when you climb into what is clearly a "real" helicopter, for a 90 sec. "journey" out to the carrier. The noise and vibration really does simulate a real helicopter ride. You step out onto the "flight deck" - surrounded by parked aircraft. The roar of the sea, sound of gulls, ship's engines throbbing, orders being given over the tannoy, all make you feel it is real. The loudspeaker directs you to the rear of the deck to watch (on a massive screen the size of a hanger door) a Buccaneer aircraft landing on the flight deck. On his first run-in he has to abort when gulls fly across the flight deck (!) and warning flares are fired. His second attempt is good and you are suddenly confronted with the sight of this plane hurtling towards you. The arrestor wires stop it before it reaches you but the lady standing near me did actually jump sideways, so realistic is it!!!

After a few minutes wandering round the "flight deck" the tannoy announces that a Phantom is going to take off from the front of the deck. Once again, a very realistic simulation of a take-off, complete with engine noise, vibration, commands from the "bridge" to the pilot and finally you see the plane take off on another massively-large screen in front of you and disappear out over the sea.  Mere words cannot do it justice. I actually stayed "on deck" for some 20 mins. or more watching these simulations several times. I was that enthralled. It was worth the money just for that. But that wasn't all. You were then directed through some of the carrier's "passage-ways" to see different aspects of the daily working life of a carrier, complete with commentary as to what you were seeing before you. Brilliant. All done inside one hanger.

There must be about 40 other aircraft and helicopters on static display, telling the history of the Fleet Air Arm right from its early days. Lots of TV monitors showing film of those planes in their heyday, right up to a special display on the role played in the Falklands War. There is also a real Concorde, 002, but as this was one of the prototypes, the inside is all rigged up with the test equipment rather than seats, which does spoil the experience somewhat.  

Yeovilton is still an active base and at several points, you could look out over the runways but it was pretty quiet that day.

The following day (Friday) I went to the Haynes International Motor Museum. Whilst I did enjoy a trip down nostalgia lane and saw a few cars I had never ever seen before, it was very much like a traditional museum, rows of static objects with a little notice giving a few details about its history. Very little in the way of TV monitors showing film of them in action. The admission fee of £10 looked rather steep by comparison with the £12 at the FAAM in terms of value for money. Verdict: I would go back to FAAM again but not to Haynes.

Saturday was back to home day, but even this was eventful. I went first of all to Somerton (the ancient capital of Wessex and where the name Somerset comes from) to look at a craft gallery. Lovely things there but nothing with a "wow" factor for me. Then on to Castle Cary to a second-hand bookshop I had read about. Nothing there of interest to me however. By now I was well East of the M5 so I plotted a route due north up to Bath (that was slow to get through) then straight up into Gloucestershire because I wanted to be near Dursley on the off-chance that Ted Walker, who runs Ferret Photographics, was at home. Ted has over 7 million motor sport negatives (and still growing!) and has already offered to buy mine if/when I want to part with them. At present, I don't. However, It was to discuss another photographer's work that I called in. Sadly, Ted hasn't yet persuaded this guy to sell, so another ongoing project of mine is still "on hold".

The day wasn't over yet as I then headed to Staverton (edge of Gloucester) to the Jet Age Museum there (volunteer run to celebrate the strong connections the city has with the history of flying). My reason for calling in was to go up into the Vulcan cockpit they have on display. Not a mock-up but a real one. My guide at Doncaster had told me about it in December so I just had to go. Wow, is it cramped. Must go back there again as I was running out of time and the volunteers wanted to go home!

And that was my January "outing".

 

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) Fleet Air Arm Gloucester. Haynes Kingsdon National Trust Staverton Yeovilton museum http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/2/january-short-break-somerset-museums Tue, 04 Feb 2014 18:59:59 GMT
Upton Warren Nature Reserve. http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/1/upton-warren-nature-reserve Right on my doorstep (well almost), actually half way between Bromsgrove and Droitwich, on the A38 by Webbs Garden Centre, is this Nature Reserve. Originally old gravel quarries from when the M5 was being built, now a major attraction for "twitchers" because one of the pools is saline and so attracts birds not usually seen other than at the coast, yet until fairly recently it had escaped my radar.

From our numerous visits to the Mawddach in mid-Wales, Les had developed an interest in birds (herons in particular) and we had actually joined the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust with a view to visiting Upton Warren more as it was so local.

I have visited twice since Xmas and intend to keep visiting. I am not a "twitcher" and never will be but I do find it very relaxing - and a new photographic challenge. My photos will not be "record" type photos, the sort which might go into a bird guide book, but more my own interpretation of colour, shape, light, movement, texture, reflections etc.

Even at a reserve and in a hide, the birds are a fair way away and big lenses are needed. My second visit (yesterday) was a spur of the moment affair, when there seemed to be the promise of a short spell of late afternoon sunshine, and in my haste, I forgot to check that my 300mm lens was in the bag. It wasn't so I had to make do with the 70-200 + 2x converter. "Only" 400mm when it should have been 600mm. It makes a big difference. Many of the experts will be using a 500mm and a converter - rather like photographing through a telescope, but the only way to get real close-ups. 

Some of this last batch therefore are crops from the very centre of the original image. The image quality does suffer but it's all part of the learning process. I shall improve.

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/1/upton-warren-nature-reserve Thu, 23 Jan 2014 12:49:44 GMT
The one that got away! http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/1/the-one-that-got-away Anglers frequently tell about "the one that got away".
Well, it can happen to photographers as well.
At Charlecote last Saturday, I spotted this one deer, standing on its own (which always help with composition), nicely framed by trees, the light was perfect. Just one problem - it was facing away from me.
Be patient, I thought. It will turn. I waited, camera trained on it, for probably 10-15 mins and the damn thing would not turn.
I even tried the trick of coughing; a very positive, quite loud, pronounced cough. He twitched his ears but that was all. It was almost as if he was talking to me; saying yes I know you are there but I'm not bothered about you but I am a bit concerned about this other family which have wandered up  over the other side. Sure enough, mum, dad and two youngsters, all in bright winter clothing were watching him from the path by the lake.
Then, another deer wandered over and into the shot. And then they both strolled off slowly together.
Moment gone. No pic.
Reason to go back to Charlecote again.
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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) Charlecote National Trust deer http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/1/the-one-that-got-away Mon, 13 Jan 2014 11:49:56 GMT
Jan. 11 2014 - Charlecote Park. (National Trust) http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/1/jan-2014---charlecote-park-national-trust Why have I never been here before? (It's only 30 mins from Bromsgrove down the M40, between the motorway and Stratford). It is just stunning. I came primarily to photograph the herd of fallow deer. Helen had challenged me to "go out with your cameras" so I did!  I had both Canons on the go; the 1DX with the 70-200 zoom for the deer close-ups and the 7D with a 17-40 zoom for the more scenic shots. I saw a small herd of young males, about a dozen in total. Clearly not bothered about people. I spent at least an hour with them, letting them get used to me and slowly getting even closer and changing viewpoint so some are front-lit and others back-lit to try and bring out the shape and textures. I believe there is another herd in a different part of the park.

I then strolled round the lake, looking at reflections and "people-watching". After three hours, it was time to head for the cafe and refreshment. (NT cafes do lovely cakes!). As I came out and carried on strolling around the grounds, I noticed two people heading for the rear of the main house, one with a tripod. That's usually a sign of a "serious" photographer so I followed. The three of us realised there was potential for a superb sunset. The place closes at 4pm at this time of year but she does do photographic work for the NT and had specifically asked to stay on, with her friend. I just tagged along!

Talk about "right place, right time". It just got better and better.

 

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) Charlecote National Trust deer sunset http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/1/jan-2014---charlecote-park-national-trust Sun, 12 Jan 2014 16:01:09 GMT
The future - http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/12/the-future 2013 has been a sad and difficult year for me, but also some happiness with the arrival of a new grandson Freddie in October.

In January, Helen, Ant and Libby came to live with us "temporarily" until they could move into their new home. When Les died in March, it was a godsend for me to have them here. Eventually, at the beginning of September, they were able to move into Lickey End, only about two miles from me and I then started thinking about life on my own.

I decided that I would have regular monthly "awaydays" - one or two nights away, visiting places I have always wanted to see - within this country.

November - I spent two nights near Monmouth, exploring the Wye Valley. My base was a lovely old inn called "The Inn at Penallt" - superb food! (Les and I had planned to stay there last February but had to cancel at the last minute. The owner kindly agreed to hold my deposit against a future "stay"). I visited Chepstow Castle for the first time, what a magnificent old building; and revisited Tintern Abbey (bringing back memories of a visit many years ago when Les and I were first going out). My route back home was via Longhope in the Forest of Dean to visit Les' brother and his wife.

December - I am a supporter of the Trust which owns/operates the only Vulcan V-bomber still flying. I have seen it display at air shows and was keen to see it close-up. During the winter months, as a way of generating revenue, they organise hanger visits. A two hour guided tour hearing all about the plane from a very knowledgable expert. As part of a package deal, I went up the previous afternoon and stayed overnight at the Crown Hotel, an old coaching inn in Bawtry, a small town only a few miles from the hanger at Robin Hood Airport (the old RAF Finningley) just outside Doncaster. 

Plans for the future:-

January - visit the Haynes Motor Museum at Sparkford, near Yeovil and the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton.

February - spend Les' birthday at St.Mawes on the Roseland peninsula in Cornwall.

March/April - spend a few days either side of our wedding anniversary at the George III hotel at Penmaenpool, on the Mawddach Estuary in mid-Wales. This is an area we visited often, loving the peace and tranquility of this 10-mile estuary from Dolgellau to Barmouth on the coast. For a few years we owned a static caravan in Dolgellau and came to know the area very well. After we were both made redundant, we sold the van but continued our love affair with the area.

 

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mfdodman@gmail.com (Mike Dodman) Bawtry Chepstow Doncaster Monmouth Tintern Vulcan Wye Valley http://salsin.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/12/the-future Sun, 22 Dec 2013 11:53:58 GMT