Seasons Greetings Gallery

Canal and Laboratory BuildingLit Canal and Laboratory Building

Seasons Greetings Gallery

I’ve been a bit quiet on here lately. One of the many reasons for my absence has been the creation of this gallery to send to all my family, friends, blogging buddies and followers, Seasons Greetings and Best Wishes for 2017! I just love the lighting display at RHS Wisley Gardens for Christmas!

This year they have outdone themselves with the beautiful floral light-sculptures, floodlit trees and the eerily-outlandish Glasshouse After Dark. Cacti and succulents are often quite alien in appearance but lit with neon-green, blue and red lights they really did become completely otherworldly and I LOVED it 🙂

So, Happy Holidays wherever you are in the world, and however you celebrate this special time of year! I’ll speak to you all in the New Year 🙂

Lighting The Path

Frosted Beauty

Glasshouse After Dark

And a festive friend!

Festive Robin

Part of WPC: Path and Travel Theme: Shimmer which is dedicated to Vladamir Brezina from Wind Against The Current. He will live on in his photographs!


Blue Monday: Softly Sought Memories


Blue Monday: Softly Sought Memories

Softly Sought Memories

Recall to me these
Softly sought memories
Of hazy spring meadows
Thick with flowers,
Alive with the buzz
Of bees, the gentle
Flutter of gossamer wings,
Bright pretty things
To delight the mind
Of an innocent child,
Of the forgetful youth,
Of the hasty adolescent,
Of this wishful woman.
Recall to me those
Lazy, gentle days,
That I may become
Lost in them.

The image is of the forget-me-nots in our front gardens, which inspired my poem on reminiscence. They always remind me of Spring as a child growing up in the countryside.

Part of Blue Monday, hosted by Jeanne at Backyard Neighbor, and Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Poetry

Smiling Sally


Unlocking The Landscape Part 7 – The Future

The Future's Bright And Golden

Unlocking The Landscape Part 7 – The Future

I have delayed bringing you the final part of my series on the Basingstoke Canal so that I could spend the seventh day of the 7 Day Nature Photography Challenge actually by the canal, taking photos. I want to say thank you to Seonaid for originally nominating me as I may not have otherwise thought about doing a series! It’s been wonderful to share so many different aspects of this beautiful, local landscape.

This week Jen at WP headquarters has asked us to look to the future for the Weekly Photo Challenge. She asks us to “share an image that represents the potential of things to come”. The future of the canal is a fine balance between the power of nature and the influence of man. Mostly the input of people into this landscape is incredibly positive. The Basingstoke Canal Society was originally formed in 1966 to save the privately owned waterway, and campaigned for its restoration under public ownership. They continue to work tirelessly with their partners, in local councils and other bodies, to maintain the canal and promote it’s use by local people and wildlife. In 2016 the Society celebrates 50 years since formation and 25 years since the canal re-opening! These two important anniversaries will be celebrated at the Woking Canal Festival in August.

Abridged history of the Basingstoke Canal from the society’s website which is well worth visiting and reading the full story!

The Basingstoke Canal was conceived as an economical means of transportation for the development of agriculture in central Hampshire. From its junction with the River Wey Navigation at Byfleet, three miles from the Thames at Weybridge, the canal was built to rise 195ft by 29 locks to Aldershot. The canal was completed in 1794 at a cost of £154,463 – almost twice what had been estimated. Timber, flour and chalk were the principal cargoes to London. Barges returned with coal and fertiliser. But the canal did not prove to be a profitable venture; tonnages were below expectations, inflation led to rising costs, and road improvements from 1750 onward made overland transport increasingly competitive. The construction of the London and Southampton Railway in the 1830s, followed by Aldershot Camp in 1854 and the short-lived brickworks at Up Nateley in the 1890s for which the canal was restored and deepened, all brought periodic trade. However by 1866 no dividends had been paid to the shareholders and the original canal company was bankrupt, 72 years after the navigation was fully opened. The last boat reached Basingstoke in 1910, bringing 10 tons of moulding sand from Mytchett for the local agricultural engineers, Wallis & Stevens. The canal was taken over by the Army at the beginning of the First World War and run by the Royal Engineers using German prisoners of war as part of the labour force. The last cargoes from Aldershot were 22 barge loads of aircraft spares from the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough destined for Woolwich Arsenal in 1921. The most stable commercial period was under the ownership of A J Harmsworth. He bought the canal for £5,000 in 1923 and secured contracts carrying coal and timber to Woking. Alec Harmsworth died in 1947 and the canal was sold at auction two years later for £6,000 to a Purchase Committee convened by the newly formed Inland Waterways Association (IWA). In spite of efforts to keep it navigable, insufficient maintenance coupled with increasing vandalism, not least by the army who blew up the gates of Lock 22, took their toll and by the mid-1960s the locks were decaying, the channel was silted up and choked by weed and rubbish and much of the towpath had become overgrown.

Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society, formed in 1966, embarked on a 7-year campaign for public ownership and a policy of restoration. A successful outcome was signaled late in 1973 when Hampshire County Council acquired their 15-mile length, giving the go-ahead for the first official working party. Surrey County Council bought the Surrey length for £40,000 in March 1976. Over the next 17 years the two county councils funded a programme of restoration with voluntary working parties along the 32 miles of the waterway. The Canal had not been maintained for navigation by the previous owner, and as a result it had declined into a parlous state. Bridges had also slipped into disrepair and some into long disuse. However, by far the most serious problem were the locks. By the mid 1960s all 29 on the canal had ceased to work. The gates were rotting, the brickwork was deteriorating and the chambers were knee deep in mud, vegetation and rubbish. Clearing the water channel of thousands of tons of accumulated silt, several feet deep, was a major undertaking. The Canal Society tackled the 15-mile and less accessible western end using a 70ft steam powered floating dredger aptly named Perseverence. There were many delays during the years of dredging, caused by maintenace stoppages, unexpected breakdowns, annual boiler inspections etc. In September 1985 the crew celebrated the dredger’s 50th anniversary. The event proved so successful that another “open day” was held in October 1986 when the dredger reached Poulters Bridge. Perseverance finally reached Fleet in March 1990. In March 1993 Perseverance reached Pondtail Bridge, east of Fleet, and in October of that year, its work on the canal finished, having served the Society for 18 years. The protracted project was completed in 1990 and the canal was formally re-opened on 10th May 1991.

Today, the canal not only serves as a recreational amenity but is also a notable wildlife habitat. The alkaline water from the chalk springs at Greywell and the acid water content eastward where the canal passes through heathland, has given rise to one of the largest varieties of aquatic plants and invertebrates in the UK. As many as 25 of Britain’s 39 species of dragonflies and damselflies inhabit the canal. Recognising the unique ecological importance of the canal, English Nature (now Natural England) designated the entire waterway, except for a length through Woking, as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1995. Strategic management of the canal is provided by the Joint Management Committee, which has representatives from the two County Council owners, the six riparian (neighbouring) Borough and District Councils, the Basingstoke Canal Society, Natural England and other conservation bodies. Day-to-day operational management is in the hands of the Basingstoke Canal Authority (BCA), based at the Canal Centre in Mytchett. It is certainly true to say that although the Basingstoke Canal has never been a very successful transport route, it has provided a highly valued recreational facility for the local population for well over a hundred years; in its hey-day there were about a dozen boat stations on the top two pounds where pleasure boats could be hired. However, the majority of the people using the canal have always been the walkers, cyclists, wildlife lovers and anglers who just enjoy its tranquillity. Their support perhaps has been the secret of its survival.
Posted by Craig Shanks on 15 April, 2013 © Copyright The Basingstoke Canal Society

Sadly some people who use the towpath have less consideration for the environment than others. Volunteer work parties are regularly brought together to clear the water, towpath and surrounding woodland of all kinds of litter dumped heedlessly by people. I’ve seen all sorts in the canal, plastic or glass bottles, cans, plastic bags, bicycle wheels or entire bikes and the ubiquitous shopping trolleys. The worst offenders are often local children on their way to and from school. It always breaks my heart when I see a youngster casually lob an empty bottle into the canal. It’s not just what they’re doing to the environment but I find it so incredibly sad that they don’t have the love and respect for nature that I was brought up with. These children are our future and the future of the natural world. I want so much for them to love and enjoy it as much as I do!

It’s one reason why I go out of my way to talk to people when I’m by the canal. While watching the kingfisher I stopped at least half a dozen passers-by, including a family out on their bikes, so they could watch this little wildlife gem with me for a while. The children really liked being able to see the kingfisher on my camera screen through the 500mm lens! There was a lot of banter on Sunday while I was there as the first brood of ducklings had recently hatched and these tiny, little bundles of golden fuzz were delighting everyone on the towpath. I saw quite a few people pause in their runs, step off their bikes and gather together to enjoy the sight of these precious future residents of the canal. Mum has eleven of them in total! She may lose some to predation but it’s a healthy clutch.

A dog walker has told me that the Canada Geese have a brood a bit further down toward the beginning of the canal, where it joins up with The Wey Navigation, so I shall endeavour to find and photograph them soon. I’m hoping to stake out the kingfisher’s patch at the weekend with a wildlife photographer friend of mine. It means a very early start which I’m not at all good at but it will be great to see and photograph them again! I’m looking forward to showing Dean some of the other treasures of the canal too. No doubt we will be entertained by the grey wagtails and nuthatches. Last Sunday I didn’t see the kingfisher but I did spot long-tailed tits, goldcrests, nuthatches, blue tits, robins, magpies, blackbirds, grey wagtails, crows, chaffinch, woodpigeons, mallards, moorhen, gulls, mute swan, buzzard and what I believe is a willow warbler! It’s hard to clearly identify the warbler as it’s only a little bird and was on the far bank of the canal. Not only that, they’re almost identical in appearance to the chiffchaff. I’m certain that I heard the warbler song though so I’m sticking with that identification. Not bad for one afternoon along half a mile of canal 🙂

In conclusion, I think the future’s pretty bright for this man-made landscape, that has become a vital wildlife corridor and a peaceful place of natural beauty for residents along it’s 32 mile length. The intervention and participation of man upon our environment is what holds the key. Volunteers are always needed by the Canal Society and the Basingstoke Canal Authority are presently looking to recruit a new Canal Ranger. A new campaign has been launched to try to safeguard walkers along the towpath Share The Space, Drop Your Pace Campaign – Consideration Of Other Towpath Users Is Key. It’s a fine balance to keep everybody happy and the canal healthy but the results are well worth the efforts from all!

Part of Weekly Photo Challenge: Future and Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Balance


Unlocking The Landscape Part 4


Unlocking The Landscape Part 4

Lock Gates and reflections

The Saturn Trail on the Basingstoke Canal is the perfect landscape in which to reflect upon the beauty of nature!

Part of WPC: Landscape, Travel Theme: Refreshing and The 7 Day Nature Photography Challenge


Unlocking The Landscape Part 1

The Kingfisher

Unlocking The Landscape Part 1

To truly appreciate a landscape I like to explore its environs, discover all the constituent parts that make up the whole. As part of the 7 Day Nature Photography Challenge (as nominated by Seonaid), the Weekly Photo Challenge: Landscape and Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Refreshing, I spent a gloriously refreshing afternoon investigating the many components that make up the local landscape along the Basingstoke Canal.

The stretch of canal that I like to visit is half a kilometre in length, running west from the Woodham Lock in West Byfleet, Surrey. On good days I like to attempt to walk along parts of the towpath, known as the Saturn Trail, but knowing I needed my 50-500mm lens and my tripod for the images that I hoped to capture, I made the short journey in my wheelchair. I certainly needed my seat for the several blissful hours I spent photographing the undisputed jewel of this landscape – The Kingfisher!

In this, I have now fulfilled a lifelong dream. Over the years I have, on occasion, caught a fleeting glimpse, a dart of iridescent blue and orange zipping along the water’s course, or diving fast and silent before vanishing in yet another magical burst of blue! The still waters barely show a ripple or disturbance, hardly a sign that the fisher king has been and gone. Often I have been left questioning my own eyes!

But no longer! Now I have a pair to watch and study, to photograph, film and simply delight in their existence! I feel truly blessed by this gift of nature and I’m so thrilled to be able to share some of my experiences with you all. I would like to challenge EVERYONE to spend at least seven days exploring the nature and wildlife that inhabits a local landscape, be it urban or countryside. If you want to share what you find in photography, sketches, poetry, notes or a story then that would be wonderful too!

Also part of Blue Monday, hosted by Jeanne at Backyard Neighbor
Smiling Sally


Weekly Photo Challenge and Travel Theme: Inspired Transition


Rainbow Over StonehengeWeekly Photo Challenge and Travel Theme: Inspired Transition

I often find that the very scenes that I am photographing inspire me to create changes in their appearance that transform the original to something from my dreams.

Visiting Watts Chapel in Compton is always an inspiration! The chapel was created by Mary Watts, an Art & Crafts potter and sculptor, and her husband George F. Watts, the Pre-Raphaelite sculptor and painter. When I visited at the end of summer I wondered how the chapel would look at night. Here is a gallery of the Chapel’s transition through processing:

A week ago Simon and I went to visit his step-daughter, my friend Sam, in Somerset for the day. We drive right past Stonehenge every time we go to see them. This time I asked Simon if we could briefly stop near the henge so that I could capture a few photos. There’s a dirt road near the site itself that is just about okay to drive down in our car. I managed to capture the stones from a few different angles and this one pleased me the most. Being one of the most popular tourist attractions of the area, the scene was busy with people even though heavy rain was forecast and the skies were very threatening! Those fabulous skies inspired me to add a rainbow to my image. It’s the scene that I dream of seeing for real one day! Until that magic finally happens for me, my imagination will have to do. Here is a gallery showing the scene’s transition through processing:


Weekly Photo Challenge and Travel Theme: Paint A Happy Place

Claremont Gardens

Weekly Photo Challenge and Travel Theme: Paint A Happy Place

Before fibromyalgia affected my manual dexterity I painted in many mediums, oils being my favourite. Chronic illness can’t destroy my creativity though! Art is not simply something that I do, it defines me. I just love Painting With Light, almost the literal meaning of photography. I’m often at my happiest finding scenes that inspire me, like these ones captured at Claremont Landscape Gardens, and using my imagination and creativity through digital processing to paint my visions. For these pieces I first processed my images in Camera Raw then worked on them extensively in Photoshop. I wanted to capture the essence of an old masterpiece by Constable or Turner, focusing on rich tones with strong elements of light and shadow.