The Heat Wave of 2018

I’ve not known a summer like this since I’ve lived here… so that’s almost 20 years in case anyone is counting!  The weather is warm (sometimes hot) and very dry.  The hose pipe bans have started and there are fires on the moorland – and on Bidston Hill too.  It’s been great weather for camping and walking though so I thought I’d give a little update of a couple of the things we got up to for the past few weeks.

We went for a  walk with Denis a couple of weeks back starting in Wilmslow.  There were lots of shady paths and it wasn’t one of the hottest days we’ve had which made it great for Stella.  Although 15 miles turned into 18, I still enjoyed it (but don’t tell Denis I did…it’s fun to tease him about this mileage increase!) One of the first stops along the route was Quarry Bank Mill and the Styal Estate.  Then we walked alongside the boundary of Manchester Airport and watched a few planes taking off.  We had a stop at the Merlin pub for lunch – that was a nice place and given that it was Father’s Day seemed to be a popular place for lunch.   There were also two ice cream stops and the last leg of the route was alongside a river which Stella was most pleased about.

We also had a camping trip to Abersoch on the Llyn Peninsula in Wales with Nicola and Cathy and their families.  Nicola has a caravan that they keep there and we joined them to experience the delights of this little corner of Britain.  I do love the lovely coast line and turquoise colour of the water – it always feels to me like being abroad.  Paul and I took Friday off and travelled down in the morning stopping at Aberdaron.   This is a lovely little village with a nice beach, a great bakery and some lovely little shops including an ice cream shop!  After ice cream for me and a pie at the bakery for Paul, we headed to the beach for a little walk and play.  Stella loved running in and out of the surf playing ball.

We headed to the campsite where we found ourselves on a farm in a camping field to ourselves.  Stella was in heaven.  Even more so when the rest of the party joined us – more friends to play ball with.  On Saturday we went for a coastal walk – estimated distance 8 miles, actual distance 15).  There was ice cream, a pub stop and 3 beaches along the way.  We all felt we’d earned the sunny BBQ that night – lovely to sit chatting and still being warm outside.

We got up early the next day to come away so we were home in time for England’s second World Cup football game.  I came away with a couple of extra horse fly bites and sun burns on the back of both legs where I’d missed with the sunscreen but we both really enjoyed the weekend, the company of the others, the food, the walk and the weather.     The van does get a little toasty when the sun hits full power but it’s a small price to pay.  Our next van adventure is not too far away in a couple of weeks… it would be great if it was warm and dry but fingers crossed for temperatures in the low 20s rather than the high 20s!

 

Susan and Callum’s Summer Wedding at West Tower Manor House, Lancashire

June 29 2018

Venue – West Tower Manor House, Lancashire

Flowers – The Flower Studio, Manchester

Ice Cream – Ice Cream Dub

The weather in June in the UK can be anything really – cold, wet, sunny, warm – take your pick.  I guess I probably thought that the warm and sunny option was unlikely when I first met with Susan and Callum to discuss their plans but as the heat wave continues in the UK, it turned out to be a very warm and a very sunny day.  On this occasion my camera bag packing list included sun screen… It’s not often that makes the cut!  I’ve still not figured out if booking the ice cream van (Ice Cream Dub) was as a result of the bride and groom’s sixth sense for what the weather was going to be like or if they also understand (as I do) that there is in fact no bad time for ice cream and it would still be appropriate if it was cold and rainy.

West Tower is a lovely place for a wedding – no wonder it has won so many awards.  For six years in a row it has been voted the County Brides North West Wedding Awards Best Wedding Venue.  I love that Susan and Callum and their family and friends had the place to themselves and were able to wander around the grounds (in between the ceremony, dinner and dancing) finding ice cream, shade and thirst quenching beverages at the bars. Apparently air conditioning was one of Callum’s *mustcriteria when they were searching for a wedding venue and I have to admit, that was a welcome relief throughout the day from the sun and warmth.  Well done Callum.

Susan is probably one of the most organised people I know so the day ran like clockwork.  I enjoyed my time with the girls while they got ready in the beautiful bridal suite watching the guests arrive on the lawn downstairs.  The ceremony was simple and pretty with bright yellow flowers from The Flower Studio injecting a real summertime vibe.  Another highlight for me was Callum and his speech – that little waver in his voice when he turned his attention to Susan gave me goose bumps… even in the heat.  The sunset was also something pretty special.

Here are a few of the pictures that we took– Simon was very capably shooting with me throughout the day again.  I am always grateful for his perspective and  company.

Susan & Callum-4142Susan & Callum-4200Susan & Callum-4077Susan & Callum-4227Susan & Callum-4139Susan & Callum-Susan & Callum-4308Susan & Callum-4337Susan & Callum-4205Susan & Callum-4211Susan & Callum-4384Susan & Callum-4255Susan & Callum-4497Susan & Callum-4522Susan & Callum-29019Susan & Callum-4620Susan & Callum-4738Susan & Callum-4752Susan & Callum-2Susan & Callum-4526Susan & Callum-29313Susan & Callum-4644Susan & Callum-9642Susan & Callum-9682Susan & Callum-9683Susan & Callum-9706

A day in the life of Wirral Animal Sanctuary’s Hedgehog Centre

I took a trip down to Wirral Animal Sanctuary’s Hedgehog Centre last weekend with the idea of documenting a day in the life of the centre. It can be a very busy place – especially in the winter when they had more than 70 hedgehogs at the peak – but even with a mere 20 in (as was the case during my visit) there is still loads to do!

Liz was in charge of the centre on the day of my visit. She was supported by three dedicated volunteers with other team members popping in with donations and deliveries throughout the day.  Ghost the cat also kept popping in and out – for attention mainly it would seem – which he got by the bucket load.

Each of the occupied cages needs cleaning and the bedding refreshed every day. Sometimes medication needs to be given to help the patients ward off infections or to restore their water levels. One of the hedgehogs needed a foot spa because of its infected foot.  Another had some ticks which required removal.  One needed some cream on his nose where a strimmer had nipped the tip of it.  A faecal sample needed to be taken and analysed from another.

There are a couple of incubators for the really sick hedgehogs. Unfortunately one of those was Simeon, who didn’t survive the duration of my visit – he was very poorly indeed – but the volunteers did their best to keep him warm, safe and comfortable in the final hours of his life.  Rest in peace, Simeon.

One hedgehog was admitted when I was there – another victim of a strimmer with a rather large head wound and some missing prickles. There were admission forms to fill in, weights to be established and an assessment to be carried out.  Thankfully Joseph seems to be recovering, fingers crossed for this little one.

After my visit, I decided that I needed to see a hedgehog being released back into the environment… This is such an important part of the work of the centre.  I met Martin at the Butterfly Park in New Ferry where a group of volunteers were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their newest residents.  New Ferry Butterfly Park is a Cheshire Wildlife Trust urban nature reserve developed on a former railway coal yard, goods yard and water softening plant. Once Martin had established the best place for the feeding station and shelter, Potter and Cat Woman were moved from their travel crates into their new home.  Their enthusiasm for their new found freedom wasn’t exactly mind-blowing – although we did see the nose of Cat Woman tentatively peeking out of the house just before it got too dark to see any more.  These two have definitely landed on their feet with their release location – what a great place for them.

This experience has given me a greater appreciation for the work of the centre and my already great fondness for these prickly creatures has only increased. Although we all agreed nature can be cruel when we said goodbye to Simeon, the success stories of those hedgehogs like Potter and Cat Woman really demonstrate the benefit that the Hedgehog Centre brings.

Commercial food photography for The Canadian Cottage

Canadians are recognised internationally as a friendly bunch so as I’ve got to know a local Wirral-based business called the Canadian Cottage, working together made a lot of sense. The Canadian Cottage aims to bring products popular in Canada to British tummies – and in my case Canadians tummies living in Britain!

Laura, who is the brains behind the business, asked me to shoot some pictures of her lovely goodies – without eating them first. Well, she didn’t actually say I couldn’t eat them but I cleverly realised that if I ate everything there would be nothing to shoot so I adopted the “no eating policy” as a basic code to abide by…

We started out with a few profile shots of Laura and then moved onto the goodies – starting with the maple cookies. I’ve ordered from the Canadian Cottage a couple of times and Laura asked me what my favourite is… Without even thinking I said the maple cookies.  These double layer custard cream-esk cookies with their maple buttercream centres take some beating in my mind.

Then there were the Nanaimo bars. When I make them they taste quite nice but are all a bit of a mess with ragged edges and crumbly bits – Laura’s were perfect to look at so after envying them (and then photographing them) we moved onto the peanut butter truffles.  And then the butter tarts, maple pecan tarts, chocolate chip cookies, ginger cookies, peanut butter cookies and the banana bread.  Is your mouth watering yet?  In the Canadian Cottage shop there are a couple of selection party packs you can buy so I took some photographs showing what these looked like as well.

    

We worked outside in the garden under the shade of an umbrella so the lighting was lovely and soft and the weather was fantastic. So there I am outside in the sun, enjoying being warm, photographing some of my favourite things to photograph while being able to discuss Canadian things to someone that understands.  We both agreed that this work stuff took some beating.

And to top it off, when we were done I left the shoot with a little care pack of cookies. Oh my goodness – the Peanut Butter cookies.  Are these my new favourites…?  I just ordered some.  And some of the ginger ones too.  I mean it would be wrong not to give this lovely company my business, right…?! 😉

You can find out more on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/TheCanadianCottage/

And most importantly if you want to buy something, go here:

https://the-canadian-cottage.myshopify.com/

Photographing rescue animals with Wirral Animal Sanctuary

I love my little days shooting for Wirral Animal Sanctuary and last Saturday it was a pleasure as always… I love being able to see first-hand the success stories that result from the work that the charity does.  I had four visitors – full of their own individuality and personality.

Here are my favourite pictures of each of my guests. I dare you not to say “awwww” at least once.

The first to come was Benji – still just a puppy. Benji is a Bichon Frise/Maltese cross that had to be rescued rather rapidly.  Thankfully his new family made some quick preparations and were ready to receive him at incredibly short notice.  He has totally landed on his feet and is such a curious guy.

Phoebe, the ferret, was hand reared by the charity and spends a lot of her time accompanying the volunteers to the events.  She is a beautiful caramel colour and loves playing and people.

Mishka – oh Mishka.  I’ve kind of lost track of how many times I’ve photographed Mishka but I always look forward to my kisses. But apparently my face needed a good clean this time.  Mishka is Corrie (the Wirral Animal Sanctuary Rescue Co-ordinator’s) dog and likes hanging out at the events and the shops and is a very good ambassador for the charity.

And finally along came Hattie.  Hattie is a lovely boxer dog who eventually took a liking to a striped squeaky monkey but what she wanted was simple really – just to be close to and in the attention of her new master. How lovely.

Spring family photo session at Dunham Massey National Trust Property in Cheshire

I spent a lovely afternoon last week at the National Trust property, Dunham Massey National Trust Property in Cheshire with Sarah, Chris and Evelyn for a spring family photo session.

Sarah and Chris were keen for pictures of Evelyn at this stage of her life as well as for some pictures of them all together interacting and doing what they do. A perfect brief – I love capturing natural expressions and I especially love the spontaneity of children.

We had a wander around the gardens together and saw some lovely bluebells, tulips and a very tame squirrel… and after Evelyn trusted me to carry her bag, we all got along very well indeed! The weather was dry and bright and the sun wasn’t too harsh – ideal conditions for the session.

They have so much love for each other which I hope comes through in the pictures.   They make me smile a lot anyways.  Here are a few of my favourites.

The hottest May Day on record!

It is always a happy coincidence when some amazing weather and a planned camping trip coincide as was the case this past weekend…

We started our adventure on Friday enjoying a leisurely drive up to Cumbria.  We stopped at Broughton in Furness for a visit to the butchers, green grocer and the bakery too.  Oreo brownie’s – oh my!  Our first two nights were at the National Trust Campsite in Wasdale.  The adjacent car park is the main starting point for the quickest route up Scafell Pike and it was interesting to see it busy all times of the day… This is the season for people doing the 3 peaks challenge where they climb Ben Nevis, Scafell and Snowdon in a 24 hour window so when I say all times of the day, I do mean that.

On Saturday morning we walked from the campsite up Lingmell and then along a very famous walking route called the corridor route to Sty Head Tarn.  There was a lot of low cloud when we started but it cleared as the day progressed leaving behind some fabulous views.  From the tarn we heading up towards Kirkfell.  Going up was okay but the very steep, stony descent from Kirk Fell pretty much finished us all off.  Mine and Paul’s legs felt like jelly and Stella was not impressed either!  We stopped at Wasdale Head Inn for a well deserved cold drink in the beer garden by the river and then visited our wedding church before heading back to the campsite- it’s been a few years since we’ve been in so it was lovely to be back.

On Sunday we had a rather tortuous journey out of the valley as the good weather had prompted everyone (it seemed) to head into Wasdale for the day.  The single lane road with passing places just wasn’t really coping with the volume of traffic.  Once we’d escaped the grid lock, we made a beeline for Muncaster Castle for their Cumberland Sausage, Food & Drink Festival.  Again the fantastic weather brought the crowds but it’s a big place so it was easy to find quiet places.  It was nice to wander first around the bluebell woods – they looked amazing – and then around the food festival.

We camped up for the next couple of nights at Ravenglass this time – one of my all time favourite campsites.  We got settled and enjoyed the warmth of the evening sun.  We even put the sun canopy out to provide some shade it was that warm – we usually use it to give us a dry space to get in and out of the van when it’s raining!

On Monday we ended up abandoning our walk plans – Stella was still suffering with grazed, tender paws from Saturday’s walk and was tippy-toeing around the site avoiding the stones as much as possible.  Although we were both disappointed, it wasn’t fair on the little doggie who was obviously not very comfortable on her feet.  We enjoyed the sun, had a little wander into Ravenglass and a lovely lunch at the Pennington Hotel instead.

We hit the road home Tuesday morning – with a stop for some Cumberland sausage in Waberthwaite of course! – both having really enjoyed the weekend.

Here are a few of my favourite shots.

Molly and James’ Spring Wedding at St. Thomas More Church, Coventry and Warwick House, Southam

Molly & James

April 7 2018

Venue – St. Thomas More Church, Coventry & Warwick House, Southam.

What a day this was to be a part of…

When I heard that Molly’s Dad would be officiating the wedding service in his role as a church deacon and that Molly’s Mum had made her wedding dress by hand, it was a given it was going to a pretty special day with lots of individual touches.  Then there were the wedding favours… beer made by James’ Dad adorned by felt flowers made by anyone that dared enter Molly’s parents house in the run up to the wedding  and the cake made by Molly’s aunt.  And if that wasn’t enough, the 80 year old veil that Molly wore had been her Grandma’s when she got married but had also been worn by her Mum when she got married.  Enough already – are you trying to make me cry…?

On the day, everything went so well from very timely getting ready of the ladies to the lovely service and precise organisational skills of the venue.  And unbelievably the rain that was forecast never materialised.  Thank-you Mr. Weatherman!

As I begin the process of editing the pictures that my most excellent second shooter Simon and I took throughout the day, I’ll leave you with a little taster preview.  Hope you like it!

Hardened campers…?

We had our inaugural camping trip of the year this past weekend when we went to Gibraltar Farm in Silverdale, Lancashire. The Telegraph rated this website as one of the top 20 best coastal campsites so I thought it was worth a shot.

We were a little afraid when we saw the weather forecast for sub-zero temperatures and snow but didn’t think about changing our plans… We’ve camped when it’s been cold before and the van is warm and cosy. We travelled up the M6 on Friday morning via a shopping stop at Carnforth and a walk at Warton Crag.  Warton Crag is a limestone hill which is part of the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It was the site of an Iron Age hill fort and there were lots of paths around to keep us entertained for a  few hours.

We were really pleased when we arrived at our campsite and found a pitch with an amazing view looking across the sheep fields out to the sea. We settled in and got the heater and electric blanket going.  We did note that the other occupied camping units on the site seemed to provide quite a few more home comforts compared to Frank so we patted ourselves on the back for being hardened campers.

We had a lovely walk the next day along the Silverdale coast.  On the way back we ended up walking through Eaves Wood and found the Pepperpot. The Pepperpot was built in 1887 to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria and the views were quite something from its perch on the ridge. The weather was cold and windy but despite a few snow showers, it was quite dry and the cold ground meant it wasn’t very muddy.  However, the temperature was even lower on night two… Stella’s water bowl froze over as did condensation in the front of the van.  Our little heater was just completely overwhelmed by the sub-zero temperatures.  We got in our sleeping bags at 6pm just to stay warm  and it was at that point that I made the executive decision to book a hotel for the next and last night of our weekend!  So much for hardened campers, right…?!

So on Sunday we got ourselves packed up and went for another walk heading north this time to Arnside. Arnside is a lovely little village with some nice shops and seemed to be very popular with groups of walkers.  Despite the temperatures, I still had an ice cream along the prom although I think the few people we passed might have thought I was a little crazy.

Once we got back to the van we headed south to Morecambe and the Midland Hotel. What a treat this was for us – it would have been a treat anyways because it was such a lovely hotel but because we’d been so cold the previous two nights it was like a little piece of heaven.  With the exception of the fancy restaurant, the whole hotel is dog friendly.  It has a great art deco style and an amazing central staircase.  Our room had a huge bathroom and comfortable furniture and was lovely and warm!  I can’t go on enough about how nice this hotel was.  Our stay there also gave me a chance to do a little reconnaissance for a wedding I’m photographing there in July.  It’s going to be great and there are some great places for photos!  We had our evening meal in the bar and breakfast the following morning was great too.  After a little walk along the prom we headed back to the Birkenbub.

And most importantly – the reason for this adventure was to celebrate our anniversary. We always try and go away for our wedding anniversary and most of these trips away have been camping – with a few cottages thrown in for good measure/warmth.  (Next year might be a cottage!) Happy Anniversary to Paul – 8 years married and he still loves me (so I tell him) and still makes me laugh. J

Our own private island

We celebrated Paul’s birthday this year with a lovely little trip to the Cotswolds. We set off on Friday morning heading for Cirencester and arrived at lunch time – perfect timing to sample the delights of the food market that was occupying the town square. After food, we had a wander around the streets and through the park. Cirencester is charming and well worth a visit – an afternoon well spent.

From Cirencester we headed south just a few miles to South Cerney and our cottage, Filly island. We were greeted by the cottage owner, Mouse, who was filled with lots of great advice about what to do and where to eat while we stayed. There was also a lovely hamper full of goodies for us to indulge in during our stay including a fresh loaf of gorgeous buttery bread. Filly Island used to be the barn where the cart was stored but it is now a stylish cottage for 2 (actually 2+1 – in the form of our furry baby Stella of course)! It suited us well for the 3 nights we spent there (although note to self for next time – 3 nights was too short!)… It was filled with quirky, unique touches such as the kitchen cupboards which were converted from the old barn door, the tennis racket converted to a mirror/key rack and the bath tub found in a bush and lovingly restored. I particularly liked the markings on the bedroom door recording the name and heights of the doggy visitors – Stella’s name was added to the collection. It was great to have this space to cosy up into each evening – the fire made it super snug.

On Saturday we drove to nearby Kemble and took the train from there to Stroud. The farmer’s market in Stroud was really good – lots of choice spread around the town centre. It was a shame the weather was not playing but some of the market was undercover so those bits got more of our attention! After stocking up at the market, we walked back in the direction of the car – 14 miles mostly along canal footpaths and disused canal footpaths. It was very muddy underfoot in places and rained on and off throughout the day. So the tartiflette pie that we’d bought at the farmer’s market warmed us up and was a really nice treat dinner. This was washed down by birthday cake… made by the fair hands of Emma’s Cupcakery. I really love this lady’s creative cakes.

On Sunday the weather was much nicer so we took another wander… this time from the cottage to the nearby Cotswold Water Park . There are more than 150 lakes created by the mining of limestone. The lakes filled in naturally after work on the mines stopped in the early 1970s. It was still pretty muddy under foot (and under paw for that matter) but the camera saw a little more action on day two.

On Monday morning we said good-bye to South Cerney and Filly Island and set off for Bibury – a Cotswold village recommended to us by Mouse – to see Arlington Row. This is a row of cottages originally built in 1380 by the monks to store wool. The building was converted into cottages for weavers in the seventeenth century. I guess it’s one of the most photographed Cotswold scenes and is depicted on the inside cover of all United Kingdom passports. Cool, hey?

From Bibury we started our journey north. We had a lovely stop in Ludlow for a wander around the town and market before finishing off the last leg of the journey home. So it was another successful birthday pilgrimage to explore a part of the world we’ve not visited and, most importantly, spend some quality time together – just the three of us.