Wednesday, 5 September 2018

5 in 5 - September 2018 - The Victorian Orchard

Welcome to '5 in 5' where on the 5th of 
each month I post 5 photos that I have 
taken in 5 minutes.

I have just spent a week away with my daughter and 3 grand daughters. It is our annual re-treat and I found two beautiful locations - the first a log cabin on the rivers edge where we canoed and sat round a cosy log in the evening - more for atmosphere than to keep warm.

The next was total contrast, the top floor of a beautiful old Hall dating back to 1189, with extensive gardens and farmland surrounding it. Here, there was some lovely walled areas and a orchard planted in Victorian times. The trees were gnarled and twisted and still giving plentiful fruit, and the orchard offered a lovely photo opportunity. So here is this months 5 photos captured in 5 minutes:

It was lovely to enjoy this tranquil space and be invited to take home apples, cobnuts, and windfall walnuts. The walnuts will be made into ink as the bottle I made last year has proved especially successful and I don't want to run out or be sparing with it.

The passing of holidays and summer bring a lust for more, but it is good to remember that nothing lasts forever and each season brings new opportunity and gifts. 

Thank you for visiting!  If you would like to join in this month's challenge you have until 25th to take your photos and post a link to your blog. Here's how it works:

1.  Choose a location.

2.  Have your camera ready.

3.  Set a mobile timer for 5 minutes.

4.  Take as many photos you can until the time is up.

5.  Choose 5 photos to download and share by using the link tool 

   You have until the 25th of the month to add your photos and if you want to know more about 5in5 there are details here.

And one more thing - when you use the link tool, please click on your post title.  This will show the web address. Please right click, copy and paste this as your link.  This will take readers directly to your '5 in 5' blog page and be easier for them to find.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Summertime Photo Scavenger Hunt 2018

Every year I take part in photo Scavenger Challenges and I really enjoy the fun these bring.  Mary-Lou over at Patio Postcards has organised a summertime list and I am late joining in, but there is still plenty of time so in case you want to take part too I thought I would share the list and the link so that you can find out more.  

The challenge started on June 1st and runs until September 30th and the rules are simple: essentially the photos must be taken during these dates. So I may be able to find some photos that I have already taken but if not, it will be fun looking for opportunities. 

Here is the list:
  1. The rosiness of red 
  2. Stripes 
  3. A framed view
  4. Wings
  5. Pedal power
  6. Glorious green
  7. An unexpected reflection 
  8. A pile of
  9. Looks smaller than you
  10. A field of plenty
  11. Pretty in pink
  12. Bell(s)
  13. Equal portions
  14. A trilogy of three
  15. Out of the blue 
  16. Something that could be from a favourite book/movie
  17. Re-purposed
  18. Currency; coinage or paper (the odd, the different, the beautiful)
  19. Picture postcard perfect
  20. Mellow yellow 
Alternate a: a shopping bag (not the store's plastic)
Alternate b: a coupon (voucher) to use

What a great list! I'm going to have fun with this! Already photos came to mind that I took at the weekend:

10. A field of plenty. This could also be Mellow Yellow (no.20!)
7. An unexpected reflection. It was the shimmering leaves in sunlight that caught my initial attention, as they looked silver. Then I noticed the reflection.

And I remembered that I have not yet shared my winter Scavenger Hunt photos! As I especially enjoyed taking these photos and completing the list this is something I should get round to. Especially as I completed this list in a record time, while on my trip to India. It was such a rich source of opportunity! 

Now, where's my camera?.....

Sunday, 5 August 2018

5 in 5 - August 2018 - Mindfullness On The Go

Welcome to '5 in 5' where on the 5th of 
each month I post 5 photos that I have 
taken in 5 minutes.

I am not new to meditation and mindfulness but when this book was recommended by a friend I decided it had a place on my bookshelf. The author, Padraig O'Morain, lists ideas and ways of being mindful within our busy lives and that has got to be useful, hasn't it! As I considered what photos to take for this months 5in5 I saw this quote:
Let there be

an opening

into the quiet

that lies beneath

the chaos,

where you find

the peace

you did not think


and see what shimmers

within the storm.

- Jan Richardson

And so this month I thought I would share some of the suggestions, and things that I have been doing:

Most of us look forward to our first drink of the day, but rather than drink this while you flick through the newspaper, social media, or think about all the things that you need to do - just take a couple of minutes to pause. Bring awareness to any aroma, the colour, and surface of your drink - for example, is it smooth, frothy, are there any bubbles, reflections or movement? How does the cup feel in your hand? Notice what you notice, and then as you take your first sip again bring attention to any sensations, taste, texture, and feelings. Just allow your mind to notice these, and if it wanders away just bring it gently back. Notice how much more you enjoy your drink when you are paying gentle attention.

When we eat we can sometimes get into bad habits. We might watch tv curled up on the sofa, or dash around eating a sandwich, and before we know it our plate is empty! It doesn't matter that we might have spent ages preparing and cooking a meal, or maybe choose something special, so pausing to enjoy time eating can give pleasure and be a more satisfying experience. So, similar with the drink, give attention to the food you are about to eat. Notice the colour, texture, and temperature; and if you eat a biscuit or piece of fruit, notice how it feels to hold it in your hand. Are there any sounds as you bite into it? Just give a few minutes to notice what you notice, and become more aware of the enjoyment of eating.

In our busy and distracted lives we can sometimes forget to listen  and instead, as someone speaks, we might be thinking of a response or something that we want to say.  So another mindfulness practice involves truly listening, and giving the other person our full attention. As well as making that person feel valued, it allows our busy minds a moment to pause and to be in the present, rather than jostling to be in the future.  

One of my favourite practices is to sit quietly and just to notice what sounds I hear. One way to increase this experience is to notice what you can hear in front, each side, from behind, above and below. Listen for different frequencies, as some sounds are more difficult for our human ear to pick up, and be prepared to be surprised. When I was at the river the other day the tide was out and I was surrounded by thick mud. But as I listened I could quietly hear the movement of water, even though there was no visible sign. 

Another practice I enjoy which you can do anywhere, is to be aware of your own presence.  Notice your breathing, the rhythm, or where the breath is coming from (chest or belly). If opportunity allows, sit quietly with your eyes closed; but you can still do this effectively with your eyes open if you are sitting in traffic or for an appointment which is running late. There is much evidence that mindfulness can create a calming influence, so much better than feeling irritated or anxious!  

Or do a body check: Start at your head and work down each part of your body, noticing what you notice without judgement or focus. If unwanted thoughts intrude, allow them to pass in a gentle way, and return to your practice.  

As well as using your body, you can also notice what ever is around. I enjoy watching clouds, reflections, or the way the wind blows through the leaves; but there are so many different ways of practicing mindfulness.  Living in the present moment has so many benefits, and it also enriches simple every day experiences and makes us more aware and in tune. For anyone interested, you can use mindfulness when taking photos and I wrote about this back in January 2017, in 'Adventures in Seeing'.

So, thank you for visiting!  If you would like to join in this month's challenge you have until 25th to take your photos and post a link to your blog. Here's how it works:

1.  Choose a location.

2.  Have your camera ready.

3.  Set a mobile timer for 5 minutes.

4.  Take as many photos you can until the time is up.
5.  Choose 5 photos to download and share by using the link tool (for this month only please go HERE to link)
   You have until the 25th of the month to add your photos and if
you want to know more about 5in5 there are details here.

And one more thing - when you use the link tool, please click on your post title.  This will show the web address. Please right click, copy and paste this as your link.  This will take readers directly to your '5 in 5' blog page and be easier for them to find.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

How to read water - The Packing Shed

Yesterday I went to a different part of the coast and decided this was a good opportunity to learn more about how to read water. Essex has some beautiful islands and interesting history, and I have wanted to visit The Packing Shed for a long time. The building sits on a small spit off the coast of Mersea Island. It was built for the packing of oysters, a traditional fishing trade in Essex since Roman times. There are five open days a year so I took the opportunity and visited with a friend. The only access is by boat....

When we arrived it was approaching high tide and you could see the beds that were used to filter the oysters before cleaning and packing. 

Inside the Packing Shed there is a small collection from its working days. These wooden boards were worn on your feet to stop you sinking into the deep mud that surrounds the island. 

Our visit included a cream tea. What an amazing view! And as we sat there we watched the tide go out. Soon the filter beds were covered.

This gentleman joined us at the table and told us about the history of The Packing Shed. He bought examples of oyster shells and told how the local oysters were devastated by disease on several occasions. The last survivors were sadly lost in the 1963 winter when this area of the coast froze over. Stocks were replenished from other sources and they have gradually re-established. Meantime it was suggested that oysters from Portugal was also introduced. These are a much larger variety and fairly resistant to disease, and so far stocks are doing well and traditional oyster fishing continues. We also learnt that the 'slipper limpet' was bought into local waters by US ships during WWII. Because these encrusted the bottom of the ship and slowed them down, they dragged them off using chains. The limpets have since grown in huge numbers, and frequently seen around the coast.  

Meanwhile the tide continued to go out, and the spit got smaller and smaller.

We could still walk around the last narrow stretch, being careful of the resident birds.


Maybe the time passed quickly because we enjoyed learning about the island and exploring, and it didn't seem long before we spotted the tell tale sign of the tide turning. We saw Samphire growing in abundance, a delicacy more seen in restaurants than in shops. 

The stretch of shingle stretched and stretched with the outgoing tide until we could walk right out. 

And once again island revealed the oyster filter beds, and The Packing Shed said goodbye to its visitors until next time. 

Something I learnt during my visit was the importance of this spit of land and the two small islands that lie next to it. Together these protect the main harbour and fishing grounds of East Mersea, reducing the silt and coastal erosion. I've read about this is the book 'How to Read Water' but it never occurred to me that these small islands so far from shore could have such an impact. So, granite and sea shells have been added to raise the height and stabilise The Packing Shed island, and more is planned in the near future. It was also interesting to learn that the shells come from local waters to maintain ecology, and that the granite is also carefully chosen too. It was a wonderful visit and the weather was just perfect with blue skies and a cooling breeze. I am already looking forward to my next visit!

This post is part of a project in an attempt to learn 'How to Read Water'. It includes daily observations and visits to local rivers over a 30 day period. You can read more about it here. 

Monday, 16 July 2018

How to read water - A visit marked with sadness

My second visit to the river was marked with sadness. As I took my photos I noticed a swan on the tide line, separate from all the others. A passing dog walker expressed her concern too, and a man  went to look at the swan and told us it had been shot. Apparently there was a hole in it's back, and it's prospects didn't look good. 

After much effort I managed to contact the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Protection of Animals) who luckily have a wildlife welfare team. I gave the location and was asked if I could stay with the swan or let them know if anything changes. Some time later I saw a voicemail, telling me an officer was on his way but would not be there until after 10pm. I had not gone prepared for a long stay. The evening had turned cool by now and my daughter had come down with coffee and warmer clothing for me, but by 9pm I decided I couldn't wait any longer. I needed to eat and still had things to attend to, so I phoned the RSPCA back, gave them precise location and update and let them know there was no change in the swans condition. By now there was no dog walkers or other people walking along the river so I was less concerned about the swan being disturbed. I had done all I could as there were no local vets open this time of evening, and I could only trust that the RSPCA would attend as promised.

The next evening I arrived at the river and saw the swan was gone. But after taking photos of the state of river, I started to walk along the sea wall and that's when I saw the swan. 

Maybe the officer had put the swan out of it's misery and left the body there; or maybe for some reason they did not come and the swan died of it's own accord. Either way the tide would have been high on two occasions since my visit, so I'm guessing the water carried it further along. Clearly it has been food for birds or maybe foxes, and it was sad to see the fate of this beautiful creature. When choosing to 'read water' I hadn't anticipated this might be part of my experience. But realistically, it is part of life and it was heartening to see the concern of other people who stopped to talk that first evening.

I continued my walk along the sea wall as planned and this time I noticed other things:

A jelly fish. 

An oyster shell. I now know this variety originates from Portugal. More about that in my next post.

And I have been surprised at how much the tide changes day by day. It's one thing knowing it from a tide time-table, and another to witness and pay attention. I am trying to visit at roughly the same time and today, instead of a trickle, the water was still deep enough for this red boat to swing gently on it's anchor. 

These shallow curves of waterflow are also teaching me about the depth and flow. I wonder what other things I will be discovering, and hopefully there will be no more injured birds or animals. 

Friday, 13 July 2018

How to read water - In 30 days

Recently I bought a new book as I want to have a better understanding of tides and currents. I have lots of local waterways  and I would love to explore them in my kayak; however, lack of knowledge and experience makes me wary. But this is a good thing isn't it - because it would be foolhardy to go out into tidal waters without some knowledge and preparation. 

I have learnt so much from just two chapters and I thoroughly recommend this book if this is a subject that interests you too. We hear so much about the moon's gravitational pull on the earth and how that creates tides. But did you know that the sun also has a gravitational pull. How have I lived all these years and not realised?! Suddenly, so many things have become clear and as well as learning a lot it is also an enjoyable book to read. 

And as I read the book this morning, I was suddenly had an idea for a project. So for the next month I plan to visit the river every day at about the same time.  Naturally life goes on and there will be days I miss, but I'm looking forward to getting involved and seeing what comes from this.

And to start, I have unwrapped a beautiful handmade book that a friend recently sent me. It has a sea chart cover and watercolour painted pages that representing water. It's just perfect! I will make notes of all the interesting facts and things I learn. I knew I would find a special use for this book!



The purpose of my river visits are to observe and connect with my experience. Because, we can miss so much when our thoughts distract us. These are the times when our mind can be in a different time or place, and so it is my intention to practice being present and to  awaken all my senses. 

Today I paid attention to:
  • The tide lines, as these mark the highest level of the water.
  • Flotsam - what gets left behind along the tide line.
  • Wind direction and speed - It was a light breeze today but it was interesting to notice that it blew in the opposite direction from the flow of tide. This was deceptive, as on first glance you'd be mistaken to think the tide was coming upstream, but the photo below shows otherwise. 
  • The flow of water - being mudflats and estuary this makes for interesting features. I was reminded in 'How to Read Water' that when water runs through narrow channels it becomes faster and more active. I saw this for myself, and could see the directional flow. The boats on their mooring can tell you this too, as their bow always points to where the water is coming from. But today they were stranded on the mud, the water a mere puddle around their keels.

  • The current tide - it happened to be at it's lowest at the time of my visit. Probably the lowest water I have ever observed, although that might be because I was paying proper attention today rather than just noticing it as low tide. I realised that if I had boots on I could probably wade across easily. Many years ago, before a school was built this side of the river, children used to have to cross to the other side to go to school. They'd be ferried across by boat at high tide, and come across in a horse and cart at low tide. What a fun way to go!
  • Relation to the sun and moon - today is a New Moon so I couldn't have chosen a better time to start my project. This is purely coincidental and not planned!
  • Plant and animal life in and along the edge of the river - I was lucky to see a pair of egrets, and as always, the large flock of resident swans came up the causeway to see if I had any food. For the first time, I became aware of the funny padding sound that their feet make on concrete, and how their feet are reptile-like in appearance. I always admire the swathes of sea lavender and the reeds blowing in the breeze. Today was no exception.

  • How the water makes channels and gradually changes course - I love this landscape and have always been fascinated by this, but today I was even more attentive. I looked for small hollows in the mudflat, and others that have grown deeper. And I saw how  eventually a new water course has cut through, or a mudflat is separated to form an island. I also paid attention to the stickiness of the mud. In places there was water still lying on the surface, or making a small channel. Most of the mudflats are covered with course grass and sea plants. But one was partly exposed, the surface cracked and crusty. Perhaps it was baked by todays sun, because I am certain it is covered by each incoming tide. I will have to look on future visits. 

I will use my photos as a record and I plan to make a book to keep them in. Today's photo collection numbered 200+ but that's because it was low tide and I could see all the different landscapes and features. My main focus will be to record the tide levels, and learn to read the water. Of course I won't be an expert in 30 days, but I should know a whole lot more than I do now!  
So I'll be back with more photos and progress soon. 
Thank you for visiting...  

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