Monday, 26 December 2011

Boxing Day Dip 2011, Sunderland

I was in two minds whether to bother with this one. It's been a while since I updated my Event Coverage section at so that was one good reason to turn out, but the blustery winds were in danger of getting the better of my indecision. I decided to man-up and get myself down to the coast at Seaburn, Sunderland to photograph my second Boxing Day Dip - the first one I covered was 2009 and a brief blog write up of the event can be found here. Cut and pasted from the online Sunderland Echo newspaper - 14th October, 2011 - It's time to get ready for Sunderland’s 2011 Boxing Day Dip. Hundreds of hardy souls with more charity than sense brave the freezing waters of the North Sea at Seaburn every year in Sunderland Lions Club’s event. This will be the 37th Dip and entries are already coming in – so don’t hang about in getting your form in or you might miss out. Lions spokeswoman Anne Fielding “Last year, 875 dippers took the plunge at Seaburn, raising £60,958 for some 69 different charitable organisations. “Just how brilliant is that? We look forward to this year’s dip being equally successful.”
From penguins and superheroes to characters from Star Wars and Alice in Wonderland, fund-raisers donned a range of wacky costumes for last year’s event. Club president Pam Oliver will make history this year when she dons a sexy lion costume to become the first president to enter the water.

I left the house quite early, giving myself ample time travel to Seaburn and get parked without any delays in time for the 11.00am start. I wish all event coverage was as easy as this one - I got in and out with no problems whatsoever, and even got parked on the doorstep, so to speak. After the event I even had time to grab a nice tray of chips from the shop on Seaburn Promenade, which was empty when I walked in! But enough of that - here a a few photographs I took during this cold, windy day. Well worth the effort though, looking back. To view a full slideshow of 26 images from this event click here.

Cheers, Ash

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Lakes Weekender 2 (Last Night At Camp)

And so it was, back to camp to put our feet up round a blazing open fire. We'd collected a fair whack of fire wood on our journey through the woods at Scarness, so once we touched base I prepared the meal while the others went in search for more wood to burn. I fetched a box of 20 Fosters from the car, which was met with approval from Carlos as he returned with a few logs. Massive portions of Pasta Bolognese were put away, in similar fashion to the lager as we sat round the fire to rest those aching muscles. Brian fell asleep at one point - I remember it well. We had a great weekend and once again I can't wait for our next trip, planned for Spring 2012 and an assault on Helvellyn via Striding Edge, check out a video clip of it here. Certainly not for the faint-hearted, and I'm shit scared of heights! Mind you, I got over Sharp Edge in one piece so I should manage this one no bother, ahem! Until then, a few more photo's of our base camp at Scarness in the Lake District. Have a Happy Christmas and a Great New Year!!!


Lakes Weekender 2 (Skiddaw Summit To Ground Level)

Skiddaw summit to ground level...

In this case 'Ground level' is another name for the Ravenstone Hotel, which is where our challenge started, way back at 10am - seems like an age!

After a 10 minute rest on the summit of Skiddaw, we made our way back down the loose slate path that we struggled with earlier. Of course it was much easier going down than up, but still a testing time for the ankles and knees, as well as the ever aching leg muscles that got us up there in the first place. Although there was still much work to do, it was all down hill from here and we headed off with a smile on our faces. Mission accomplished - it was a toughie but you learn to grit your teeth and push yourself. Had I been on my own I doubt I would have reached the summit - I probably would have thrown in the towel half way up Ullock Pike. My first photo (shown here) was taken just as we began our descent of Skiddaw and the time was 12:57pm - we had to get our skates on before the hotel bar closed, so we had a spurt on, alright. Lee led the way - he must have been promised a free pint, he he. I had much more freedom to take photographs now, as I was so much focused on reaching the summit on the way up that I cast aside any thoughts of stopping to photograph the views. That, coupled with mental exhaustion and my inability to lift the camera up to my eye, he he. I did manage to record a few HD movie clips on my phone though, despite the howling wind spoiling the audio accompaniment.

We continued to have the odd breather on the way down - see my second photo of the group on Carl Side, pausing before our approach to the summit of Ullock Pike. There were very few walkers about at this point, although we did pass a few that were heading in the same direction as us. The sun was quite low, so anyone coming up at this time would have been cutting it fine for a return before sundown. With my supplies of Red Bull and chocolate now spent, it was a case of holding out until we reached the hotel for any kind of refreshment. I'd worked up a decent appetite during this fell walk, so it was music to the ears when Davey announced that Spaghetti Bolognese was on tonights menu, followed by Rice Pudding, cooked on an open camp fire. I'm sure he thought of it gave us an extra gear as we picked up momentum going down the hill.

Again, the views were excellent as we made good time on our journey back to ground level. Probably the best view bar none was that of Bassenthwaite lake from the summit of Ullock Pike. Picture 3 (shown here) is that very view, with the contours of the waters edge turning in and out, showing a series of headlands in the process. The land lay like a patchwork quilt, with its many segregated fields, although I expected much more colour as Autumn was now in full swing. Can't complain though - it's not every day you come across a view like this. And the view stretched far and wide. Visibility was still high and the eye could see as far north as the Solway Firth and its line-up of turbine windmills in the far distance. We still had some distance to cover but this passed quickly with jovial banter accompanying us on the last part of our descent. We could sense that the hotel was just minutes away and joked about it being closed once we reached it, after all we'd battled through earlier. The thought was unbearable, so we changed the subject.

We were almost there. This last photo of us on our walk was taken at 14:17pm, so it had only taken us an hour and a quarter to reach this point from the summit of Skiddaw. As you can see, we almost home and dry - Davy, Carlos and Lee lead the way, with me behind and Brian behind me. Fifteen minutes later we arrived at Ravenstone Hotel, absolutey knackered. Davey went in, looking for signs of life, while the rest of us took the weight off our feet by taking advantage of the spare seats on the hotel drive. Davey popped his head out the door and beckoned us in - we were in luck! We headed through to a small bar at the back of the hotel - we had the place to ourselves, which was ideal. Five pints of San Miguel on draught and that was it - there was a danger of us being there til midnight, but after two more pints we called it a day and headed back across the pastures to base camp. It was a lovely calm, bright evening with no breeze at all
and the 20 minute walk across the fields without standing in cow-shit wasn't as easy as one might think. We were collecting wood on the way, which was destined for another trademark 'Lloydo' camp fire as evening fell. We all got back to camp safely, although knackered by this time, and it was now time for further relaxation, with the aid of food and alcohol.

Here are two more photo's, taken in the Ravenstone Hotel. Good memories!
One last blog entry to follow of our Lakes Weekender 2, coming shortly.
Until then, see ya, Ash

Lakes Weekender 2 (Ullock Pike to Skiddaw Summit)

The final ascent of Skiddaw awaited us. We had the benefit of a 15 minute break to refuel our bodies before the final push and although this was a big help, it never felt like it once we began the final climb. This was a killer and I don't mind admitting it. We were already two hours into our fell walk/climb so there wasn't a great deal left in the tank, so to speak, but we had come this far and there was now little or no option to see the task through. Brian had confessed to Davey that he didn't think he could go any further at this point, but with those wise words of encouragement from Davey "Just get on with it man, what's a matter with ya", Brian was soon on his feet and contemplating the task ahead. Davey never did mince his words, he he. What we had endured since our walk began was nothing less than very testing terrain for even the most experienced fell walker. The majority of it was steep ascent, coupled with the odd scramble or two, but below boot was hard rock and ground, not the stuff we were about to come across. The last thing a fell walker wants at this point is loose slate under foot, and we were about to tackle this on our final steep push to Skiddaw summit. The first two photographs give you an idea of what I'm talking about. As I made my first few steps up this punishing slope the weak slate gave way under my boots, making the whole episode much harder than I first anticipated. I remember stopping and looking towards the summit, inwardly hoping someone could magically beam me up and plonk me at the top, escaping the ordeal that lay before me. As the lads passed me at this point I remember making a sudden surge to reclaim my slot near the front of the pack, not wanting to drift further back and finish the day as a knackered heap at the back of the pack. Looking back now, I often wonder where I generated that last burst of energy to reach the pinnacle - when the going gets tough...

Lee shouted at pointed to his right. On an adjoining path up the scree hill was what I can only describe as a nutcase. Yes, some geezer was riding down from Skiddaw summit on a monutain bike! I could have swore I was hallucinating. Yes, there he was - we marveled at his style as he flew down that hill of weak slate like his life depended on it. He was enjoying the moment, that's for sure. Who'd blame him - he must have nearly killed himself getting that bike all he way up there. And there was little old me thinking 'I' should be the one who needed my head looking at, he he. The final push seemed to last forever and just when I thought I could see the end of the line, there was that little bit extra to go, then more, and a bit more after that. I reached the top of the hill but then there'd be another peak further on, so it was much more of the same punishment that made you laugh with hysteria eventually. When I did finally reach the summit, Lee and Carlos had already been there for ten minutes or so. They were smiling broadly but I wasn't sure whether that was due to the realisation that they'd crossed the finish line or whether it was simply cos' they were supping Carlsberg as their reward. They kept that one quiet - smuggling beer up a northern fell should be outlawed, especially as they didn't carry one for me (the pair of knackers!!!).

Davey soon followed. He'd hung back to encourage Brian, who was just about dead on his feet by this point, but job very well done nevertheless (picture 3). I too was fust about finished by this point and the handicap of carrying a backpack of camera gear had definately hindered my progress up the mountain. I often wondered what posessed me to carry a 'Breeze block' on my back, and now it was time for a return. Out came the camera and I snapped away uncontrollably. The views were stunning, which made up for the freezing cold wind that was now hammering us at the summit. There were maybe 30-40 other fell walkers amongst us, all admiring the views at all sides. This was certainly a moment to savour - all that hard graft was well worth the end result. We sat for a few minutes behind a man made slate wall, sheltering from the wind, before getting to our feet and beginning the arduous task of returning to ground level - another hour and a half of torture for the joints!

The mountain structure of Skiddaw can be described as a network of sloping ridges. The actual summit of Skiddaw itself is a long straight ridge running from north to south with a number of lesser summits along its route. So in addition to the main summit, Skiddaw also has a north top, middle top and south top, some with little difference in height. Wainwright notes that Skiddaw summit "... takes the form of a stony, undulating ridge exceeding 3000 ft throughout its length of almost half a mile and provides a glorious promenade high in the sky where one can enjoy a rare feeling of freedom and escape from a world far below, and, for a time, forgotten "(Wainwright 1962, Skiddaw 22). This main ridge is connected from the south east by Skiddaw Little Man, a shorter ridge with the main summit at 865 meters. From the south west there is the curving ridge that connects Ullock Pike, Longside and Carl Side.

With Skiddaw conquered, plus Ullock Pike and the adjoining Carl Side and Long Side, that was four more peaks ticked off. This walk was my toughest yet, make no mistake. Carlos commented on the experience for him, saying 'It's one of the hardest things I've ever done.' Yet he strolled it, for me. At 48 years, and the oldest of our group, he negotiated the task very well indeed, defying his years. It was therefore ironic that the oldest geezer should reach the summit first and the youngest should show up last. It was 'Well done' to each of us, and I for one am looking forward to the next one. We had a good laugh from Friday to Sunday and for weeks beyond that, come to think of it. What, with disappearing toilet rolls, septic tanks, out of date sandwiches and speed camera's, who knows what awaits us the next time! That's half the fun though - it is what it is.

The final installment of Lakes Weekender 2 will be here shortly, with more scenic photo's taken on our descent, by yours truly, plus a few capsite shots of the lads. Until then, thanks for stopping by.

Lakes Weekender 2 (Climbing Ullock Pike)

Before the journey starts it might be a good time to announce the players this time around. It was four plus one for our Lakes Weekender 2. The original four consisted of myself, Lee, Davey and Brian, and the latest recruit, Carlos - oldest member of the squad at 48. This was to be Carlos' first fell walk, so he didn't have a great deal of catching up to do - this was only Brian's second, my fourth, with Lee and Davey ahead of that tally. The five of us sat round a big camp fire the night before, on the edge of Lake Bassenthwaite. As it was October, darkness fell around six-ish, so there was little to do other than congregate round the fire, chat, and drink lots of beer. A full cool box of Foster's Gold bit the dust, washing down our late meal of barbecued Steak, beans and potatoes, which went down a treat. The wind got up towards the end of the night, by which time we were a bit worse for wear and headed back to the three tents nearby. The night was over and a good sleep was needed before our task ahead the next day. This was put in danger when I staggered back to my tent - my inflatable airbed was doing a grand impression of a knackered one! Aye, the b*stard was as flat as a pancake. I certainly wasn't gonna attempt a puncture repair at this hour, not that I was capable of it anyway after a belly full of beer, he he. The next morning I was a bit worse for wear. I got a few hours sleep but that was broken. It didn't help due to the fact that I'd spent the whole night lying on a hard floor that was the farmers field. My whole body was aching and my head felt like it had been whacked with the business end of a shovel! Not nice, and I can almost hear those nagging motherly words of 'Well, ya stupid bugger, it your own daft fault.' I fried a pan full of sausages for the troops as Davey made us a brew. Everyone looked like shit, as expected. He he, this fell walk is gonna be a laugh! What was it again?...3,054 feet of ascent !!!!!!! With breakfast over we got our gear together and began our trek across the fields near Scarness towards the main road (A591), reaching the Ravenstone Hotel, some 20 minutes later. Ullock Pike was now right in front of us, towering over us infact, so we kicked off a days walking in fine weather, for October at least.

The stats - Start: Ravenstone Hotel, A591 .....Start (OS ref): NY235296..... Finish: Ravenstone Hotel..... Map (1:25,000): OL4 The English Lakes North Western area Distance: 6.6 miles (10.7 km).....Time: 4 - 5 hours..... Difficulty: Hard..... Climbing: 977 metres (3,054 feet)..... Hazards: Steep climbs and descents.

Well, Davey (Scout Leader) doesn't entertain Tourist Routes, so were greeted with a steep incline to begin our fell walk onto Ullock Pike - Cheers Davey! It woke me up from my morning lethargy immediately as I was climbing steeply from the first step and eventually through Dyke Nook. I pushed myself up the incline for the weather was promised fair and I wanted to get into the open and take in the first views from the mountain. Soon we reached a gate which took us onto the open fell. We had done 200 metres and climbed 80, resting briefly at the gate to catch our breath. As we did so I could see signs of a great day ahead, the weather was sound for October. We made our way through the gate and followed the Allerdale Ramble route toward Ling How. I was jiggered by this point and so were the others, although now was said, he he. This walking lark doesn't get any easier but the rewards inevitably push you on and it wasn't long before we caught our first sight of Ullock Pike. It was still a distance away, and with lots of steep incline to get past, but it there for all to see. Spectacular views unfolded before us - not just in front of us, but breathtaking 360 degree panoramic vista's. Although we were feeling the strain we offered words of encouragement to keep us going. As we approached the Carl Side/Long Side ridge we were greeted with the highest point, the grand slate laden summit of Skiddaw. Immediately Ullock Pike was the draw which appeared as a majestic rounded dome from our route to it. We had now conquered the first part of our gruelling fell walk - 2,270 feet of ascent, with only 784 feet remaining!

Again we paused for breath, taking in the brilliant views, especially towards Bassenthwaite lake and Broadness Farm, where we had set up camp (see picture). Again, it has to be said that the weather was very kind to us - we weren't expecting much during the run-up to our visit, as the weather in this part of the country is very unpredictable at the best of times, not least in October. Visibility was excellent, making the whole experience another one to remember. The usual banter was exchanged between us as we pressed on across the Carl Side/Long Side ridge, with a noticable lift in spirits as Skiddaw Summit was now in reach. We'd been on the move for a couple of hours now and the old legs were taking a bit of a hammering. To paint a picture, Carl Side is a flattish domed hill covered in grass. From Carl Side the final ascent of Skiddaw is grassless, a grey black mound of weak slate that crumbles under the impact of feet. Ahead of us were groups of walkers struggling up the incline from Carl Side to the top plateau. I could see they were working hard, not just to make the ascent but also to keep their feet. Before the final ascent we decided to take lunch - probably a wise move because we'd never really had a decent rest since the walk began, almost two hours ago. We had a few two-minute stops en route, but it was now 'Time out' for a bite to eat and a drink to re-hydrate that weary body. I had a large bottle of Red Bull, a Mars Bar and a bag of peanuts - see, I told you I ate rubbish! The others were tucking into similar goodies as Brian unveiled a pack of Chicken sandwiches - but the least said about them the better! Well, we were almost there. One last push and the summit was ours. Here are a few more photographs to be going on with. The final part of the journey comes next - Skiddaw Summit.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Group Shot (L-R) Lee, Brian, Ash, Carlos, Davey

Lakes Weekender 2 (Ullock Pike & Skiddaw)

"There'll be a lot more walking this time, so 'Be prepared', as the Scouts would say" (Davey Lloyd - one week before departure).

After an enjoyable time in the Lake District back in June 2011, on our first 'Lakes Weekender' (Blencathra), we quickly put together a plan for our next trip across the A66, which came to fruition in October. It was business as usual as we camped at the same location for two nights - Friday to Sunday, and after successfully negotiating Blencathra and its rather intimidating 'Sharp Edge', we obviously wanted a new challenge, and this came in the shape of a double-barrelled assault on Ullock Pike and Skiddaw. For a bunch of Forty-Something's, these fell walks - climbs - scrambles, whatever you want to call them, are no picnic, yet if you're physically fit, make regular visits to the gym, and eat all the right things, then you should find this kind of experience quite a doddle. Unfortunately I don't do any of those things - I don't profess to be fit, I don't know what the inside of a gym looks like, and as for eating healthy food...he he, I'll not even bother going there! My only advantage was the fact that I already had Blencathra in the bag, yes, Sharp Edge too (albeit an arse-twitching experience of the highest order, he he), so I knew the workload and was capable of crossing the finish line. However, as the opening line of this blog entry suggests, this weekends task was going to push the limits, as Ullock Pike & Skiddaw was to prove a tougher proposition than Blencathra, although you have to be thankful for small mercy's - there was no ridge scramble on this trip (Phew!!!). So, in essence, the plan was to reach Skiddaw Summit from our starting point at the Ravenstone Hotel, on the A591, rattling off Ullock Pike, Long Side and Carl Side on the way.

A little bit of background info...

Ullock Pike is a fell situated in northern part of the English Lake Distict. It is located seven kilometres north west of Keswick and achieves a height of 692 metres (2270 feet). The fell sits on Skiddaw’s south western ridge along with two other fells (Long Side and Carl Side), this ridge is regarded as the finest way to ascend Skiddaw, with Alfred Wainwright commenting:
“There is no doubt in my mind that by far the best approach to the top of Skiddaw is by way of its north-west ridge. This offers a fine expedition along a narrow crest in exciting surroundings and provides excellent views throughout … for the collector of summits here are three waiting to be picked off in addition to Skiddaw”. (photo 1 - Ullock Pike & Little Dodd, from Scarness, Lake Bassenthwaite).

Skiddaw is a mountain in the Lake District National Park in England. With a summit at 931 m (3,054 ft) above sea level it is the fourth highest mountain in England. It lies just north of the town of Keswick, Cumbria, and dominates the skyline in this part of the northern lakes. It is the simplest of the Lake District mountains of this height to ascend (as there is a well-trodden tourist track from a car park to the north-east of Keswick, near the summit of Latrigg) and, as such, many walking guides recommend it to the occasional walker wishing to climb a mountain.
The mountain lends its name to the surrounding areas of "Skiddaw Forest", and "Back o' Skidda'" and to the isolated "Skiddaw House", situated to the east, formerly a shooting lodge and subsequently a youth hostel. It also provides the name for the slate derived from that region: Skiddaw Slate. Tuned percussion musical instruments or lithophones exist which are made from the slate, such as the Musical Stones of Skiddaw held at Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
. (photo 2 - Skiddaw Summit)

Now that you're aquainted with Ullock Pike & Skiddaw, and what lay ahead of us, it's now time for the story and pictures.

Coming next...


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Roker Pier - Open At Last!

Continuing the Lighthouse theme for one more day, I was glad to see that Roker Pier was reopened recently, after months of closure whilst repairs were administered to the weather beaten concrete structure. It was purely by chance that I noticed the pier was open. I had earlier visited a stretch of coastline at Seaham Harbour, hoping for some good sunrise shots, but alas there was very little colour in the sky shortly before sunrise, so I headed towards Sunderland. I stopped off at Hendon beach, another place that I had never previously visited, but again there was little or no promise in what lay in front of me so I got back in the car and headed for Roker. This place has become something of a comfort zone for me down the years, a place that I'm very familiar with and there's always a decent photo or three to be had here. I was driving along the coastal road past Roker Hotel when I glanced across towards Roker Pier, surprised that there was actually people walking along it. The pier had been closed for months because of damage to the structure, and many a time I'd gone down there hoping to photograph the lighthouse at sunrise, but the gates were locked. That was it - I drove down, parked up, then passed through the gates and approached Roker Lighthouse with camera at the ready.

I passed a few fisherman en route. God knows how long they'd been fishing - probably an all-nighter by their haggered appearance. The sun was now shining brightly in an almost cloudless blue sky. Cold it certainly was, so I had little intention of prolonging my visit, despite the fact I'd waited months on end for it. The North Sea didn't look that rough, but the occasional crashing wave smacked against the pier wall and soaked its deck every now and again, so I was rather vigilant of the fact in the hope of avoiding an almighty soaking. The blinding sun hit the stone cobbles of the pier in front of me. A strong shadow of the perimeter fencing was cast across the floor, letting me know immediately that a potential photo was right in front of me. I waited until one of fisherman cast out his line firing the shutter at the right moment. A sense of action added something extra to the shot, as opposed to static figures with little or no purpose to the scene. I think it worked quite well. If there's people in a shot it's best to get them working for you as best you can - just wait for the precise moment to present itself! My first shot (above) demonstrates the 'Moment' - a fisherman that looks like a fisherman.

I walked the length of Roker Pier, circling the Lighthouse at the end, before a brief stop to photograph another fisherman who was reeling in a raking bite. He landed a canny size cod, which brought a wide smile before it was tapped on its head and thrown into a box nearby. No doubt his frying pan was was the eventual destination of his fresh catch! Who would deny the fella a nice fish supper eh - the poor bugger had probably been fishing all night for it.

Well, whadda ya know - Roker Pier open for business once again. Looks like I'll be back soon. Thanks for stopping by,


Friday, 16 December 2011

St Mary's Island, Whitley Bay

At this time of year my low-light shots always seem to take precedence over any other photography I have planned, mainly due to the short days and convenient times when the light is low. I recently turned out at St Mary's Island, on the Northumberland Coast near Whitley Bay. Another early rise and a 25 minute journey via the Tyne Tunnel to this coastal haunt that has become more of a regular thing for me during recent weeks. Today was one of those disappointing days when the sunrise wasn't a sunrise and drizzle was most definately drizzle - a wipe out in photography terms and certainly not what I was hoping for. I'm sure those people at the Met Office have inside information of when I'm planning a trip up the coast as they always say the right things but the weather on the actual day is quite often a far cry from their earlier prediction. Maybe these weather apps for mobile phones aren't what they're cracked up to be, eh. Ah well, with a 'No Show' from Mr Sun it was a simple case of taking a few photo's for the sheer sake of it, so here are a couple of efforts from last Sunday's visit. I wasn't aware that St Mary's Lighthouse was lit up during the night and this was the first time I'd actually seen it in artificial colour. The tide was very low so the causeway was accessible, although I only photographed from the first half of it and went no further. This is the point where small pools of sea water offer reflection and this lends some content to the shot, rather than a messy foreground, which would have definately been the case with a clutter of rocks without the water. I was the only mug on site today! The last few times I've been here there's been at least 3 other people following suit, but not today folks - just the one 'Muggins' flogging a dead horse, he he. Aye, just wait til the next time though - I'll show ya how it's done (wink). The best part of my 30 minute stay was getting back into the car and opening a flask of coffee. The accompanying Mini Roll made the experience even better, so I sat there and indulged - this was as good as it got, unfortunately. Thank god for Mini-Rolls and allowing myself to be very easily pleased.

The heaters were on and I left the scene. Ah well, with this one behind me I have a feeling I'll hit the bullseye next time. Rough with the smooth, and all that jazz...

Until then, AC

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Roker Sunrise, Sunderland

Last weekend I set the alarm clock for an early rise and headed off towards Roker, on the North-East coast of England, for another crack at some sunrise photography. As expected, it was brass monkey weather and I asked myself once again 'What the hell am I doing', as I swapped a warm comfy bed for a freezing cold walk along the beach at Roker in search of a decent viewpoint before the sun showed up. As said many times before on the owld Blog, you have to do this kinda thing to get sunrise shots and Winter time is the softer option as the sun rises at a sensible time. A few layers kept the chill at bay for the most part, but you can never escape the cold altogether so you learn to suck the preverbial lemon and simply get on with the task in hand. The real pisser (pardon the french) is when you make the effort at the crack of dawn and the sun doesn't show up - or if it does it heads straight behind a low bank of cloud on the horizon just as soon as it has risen. Been there a few times - not nice - balls like prunes and icicles forming on the end of one's nose - never again! A flask of coffee comes in handy when you eventually return to the car, but unscrewing the lid is an ordeal and a half when your hands have seized up during a sub-zero temperature. Yes folks, photography has a knack of drawing you in and spitting you out like a spent force, but who gives a hoot when you've bagged a batch of good un's on the owld memory card, he he.

Hey, enough of the prattle, here is a small selection of shots that I pulled in during my recent visit to 'The Beach'. The first shot is a panoramic stitch of two exposures, shot from the sands of Roker Beach near its iconic pier and lighthouse. The incoming tide forms the foreground to this shot and the angle of the pier sweeps across the frame in a snake like fashion until it reaches the lighthouse. The dawn sky probably makes the picture what it is - without it the result would be quite bland, IMHO, but we all love a nice colourful sky, eh. The sun was about to rise when I panned across between the two shots, but the low cloud cover had its say and the drama was lessened by the orange ball's absence. Ah well, still a decent shot. My second was taken after I left the beach and headed back onto dry land. In front of me stood what I can only describe as a marble effect 'Viewfinder' that was positioned in such a way that the viewer (me) could look straight across towards Roker Pier. The opposite side of the 'Viewfinder' appeared to look like the aperture blades of a conventonal camera lens, so I was obviously barking up the right tree in this case. Standing there almost numb to the bone by this time, I grabbed a single shot and returned rather gingerly to my car which was parked nearby. Heaters on full blast to blow some life back into the old dog then it was off up the hill and into the car park of Roker Hotel. Now warmed through and returned to slight sense of normality, I was back into the fresh air and taking my last few shots from the main road that overlooked Roker Beach. A decent viewpoint, it has to be said, with a highter viewpoint and a good angle to photograph the pier from. And this is it (shot 3), after sunrise but still no sun in the shot as the clouds were also calling 'The Shots'. And that was enough for me - done!

Still planning that jaunt up the Northumberland Coast for more sunrise shots, so I'll keep you up to speed with that one. Bamburgh Castle - now that should be worth looking forward to. Prunes and Custard, anyone?

Later, Ash

Tyne-Tees Television (Parts 29-34)

Hello again!
It's been a while since I posted any video clips on my Blog page, so without further ado...
To be honest, I haven't submitted many photographs to Tyne-Tees Television in 2011 for one reason or another so I'll have to get my arse back into gear and do the necessary. Here are my most recent efforts, which have been sitting on my hard drive for weeks now. I've uploaded three weather photographs to each video player below and they are as featured...

29. Seven Sisters, Copt Hill, Houghton le Spring
30. Catbells, Northern Fells, English Lake District
31. Bassenthwaite & Ullock Pike, Lake District

32. Angel Of The North, Gateshead
33. Angel Of The North, Gateshead
34. Seven Sisters, Copt Hill, Houghton le Spring

Until the next time...


Saturday, 26 November 2011

Penshaw Nursery & Tea Rooms

In late 2008 I began exhibiting and selling my work in Penshaw Tea Rooms, Tyne & Wear. I have sold dozens of framed prints, canvasses and mounted prints, as well as postcards featuring Penshaw Monument, which overlooks the Tea Rooms from nearby Penshaw Hill. This place does a roaring trade throughout the year and especially during its two peak seasonal periods of Spring and Winter. The site was originally opened to the public as a Nursery, offering many plants and hanging baskets as well as garden ornaments like oak tubs and bird tables. Business was extended to include an on site Tea Room, which was something of a coup for the owners who have never looked back since getting the go-ahead from the local council. Situated off the main Penshaw to Sunderland road, and opposite Herrington Country Park, Penshaw Nursery & Tea Rooms is a very busy passing place that attracts visitors from far afield. Here is a brief insight, cut and pasted from the brand new official web site...

Converted 3 years ago from an old stable block, Penshaw Tea Room & Nursery are a family-run business located adjacent to the Penshaw Monument. The Victorian monument is designed in the style of a Greek Temple, and has been a muse for many a local artist over the decades. Some of the artwork of the Monument by local photographer Ashley Corr is exhibited and sold in the tea room. The tea rooms sell fresh, homemade fayre and many of their ingredients are locally sourced. Their traditional scones are notoriously popular. Set in a beautiful, airy converted barn, exposed beams and large windows create a warm and friendly atmosphere, truly making the most of the stunning surroundings of the tea room.

Penshaw nurseries have been selling homegrown fruit and veg since 1988, and now brothers Robert and Tony sell a range of perennials and roses. They also pot their own hanging baskets on site.

Visit the official web site -

Penshaw Tea Rooms – A room with a view

A large range of my work is now available to buy in Penshaw Tea Rooms, including a selection of seasonal prints which feature Penshaw Monument after last years snowfall. Seasonal prints tend to sell very well at this time of year, especially when they can be given as Christmas presents to those who maybe have a special affinity to this well know iconic landmark. Tony Green, co-owner of the Nursery & Tea Rooms, told me he'd had interest from as far as Australia since the new web site went live recently. A midnight phonecall from down under came as a surprise when he was told how the caller was due to visit Sunderland with her family and how excited they were at the prospect of visiting Penshaw Monument after browsing the new web site. No doubt they were also planning to stop off for a coffee and a fat chunk of gateaux whilst relaxing in the room with a view. It has to be said that the food is top notch - all prepared freshly, using locally sourced ingredients. I tried the steak sandwich with caramelised onions and it certainly hit the right spot - that's another freebie you owe me Tony, for the free plug, he he.

In Summer 2011 Penshaw Nursery & Tea Rooms was featured on Radio Newcastle. A live broadcast was aired during a busy mid-week morning at the site, and presenter Sue Sweeney commented on the 'Lovely pictures adorning the walls'. A nice piece of exposure for Ashley Corr Photography - can't be bad, eh.

So, if you're in the region and fancy taking the weight off ya feet, pop into Penshaw Tea Rooms - A room with a view. Oh, and don't forget to check out those frames on the wall (wink).

Later, Chaps and Chapesses

Friday, 25 November 2011

More Autumn Colours, 2011

As Autumn passes and December draws nearer, I'd like to share a few more colourful photo's that I took during a recent run-out with my camera. Four shots have been added to today's blog entry and they were mostly taken in Durham City, with the exception of one - St Peter's Church, Sunderland.

Haway then, here's the first one. Nowt special, just a random shot that was taken as I walked through a wooded area in Durham City, in search of a vantage point on Whinney Hill that overlooked Durham's dramatic Cathedral. The sun shone brightly through the tree's as I headed up a steep wooded bank towards the top of the hill, on the outskirts of a built up residential area. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the Autumn colours were well and truly on display, so it was now a case of leaving the woods behind and hunting down that vantage point. Before that though I took a couple of shots in the woods, especially as the floor was a carpet of golden brown. There were squirrel's everywhere, but photographing them was another matter of course - these creatures were hard to pin down with a lens, so I gave up the ghost after five minutes or so. Back to the task in hand - up the bank, over a stile, and into the pasture that became the place I'd been hunting down for the past 30 minutes or so.

And here I was. Three Sycamore tree's lined the top of the hill beyond me as I made my approach, wondering what view would greet me at the top of the hill. The wait was soon over and I stood there for a short while, admiring Durham Cathedral from a totally new viewpoint for the very first time. The shot was right there in front of me and I paused for another moment to tell myself that although this place was totally new to me, it would be somewhere that I would be visiting a lot more in the near future. My regular vantage point to photograph Durham Cathedral is over the other side, near the railway station, but this one was equally as impressive and I could only imagine what it would offer at night time, when the Cathderal is lit-up. Aye, I promised myself I wouldn't have to wait too long to see that one, and you won't either as I plan to get back up there very soon so watch this space. Photographing Durham Cathedral at ground level is one thing, but capturing it from afar and from a modest height is something else. As I fired off a few frames I composed to include the Autumn colours in the foreground. The third shot (shown here) was taken from Whinney Hill and includes the roof tops of the nearby estate. I imagine a similar shot after a heavy snowfall would be one worth grabbing so I'll add that to the memory bank for future reference. My third shot was taken from my usual haunt near the Railway Station, and again features Durham Cathedral. A ten minute drive from my last stop-off at Whinney Hill - the views across the city are something else. There was no-one else on the hill while I was there so it was nice to have the place to myself. It is what it is - the money shots are here, it's a simple case of picking the right time to get them. Ten minutes later and I was out of there.

Finally, AC was back in God's Country and in the grounds of an ancient Anglo-Saxon church - St Peter's at Monkwearmouth. St Peter's Church, founded in 674AD, is one of the UK's first stone-built structures with the tower and west wall remaining as fine and rare examples of Saxon building. Fragments of the oldest stained glass in England are on display, dating from the 7th Century. The Venerable Bede, who lived and worked here, wrote an account of its foundation. St Peter's along with St Paul's has been short-listed as a World Heritage Site. The sun had risen only twenty minutes before I took this shot and I remember waiting as it rose above the trees to cast it's early morning light across the ancient stonework. I like this shot as it typifies Autumn in a picturesque fashion, although I wish there was more colour in the overhanging leaves that I used to frame the top of the shot. Ah well, baking my cake and eating it wasn't on today's menu so I settled for what was on offer.

And on that note I shall disappear. Until the next time...ta ta!


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Autumn Colours, 2011

Autumn shots have been few and far between this year, but I did manage to grab a few last week during a recent trip to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. It was a bright, sunny day and the seasonal colours were on display in Leazes Park, near the local football ground, (St James' Park) and as I was in the vacinity of SJP I was afraid I would break out in a nasty rash at any moment, but luckily that didn't happen. Maybe this was due to good preparation the day before - I visited my local GP who administered the necessary jabs! Infact, the only thing that did break out in Leazes Park was the Autumn colours. This was my first visit to the park and I was quite impressed with it - very tidy and well maintained, although I couldn't help but notice a stone eagle with its beak broken off due to obvious vandalism - evident signs of charver intervention, me thinks. You wouldn't witness such things in Sunderland mind you - No, because the whole eagle would have been smashed in, never mind its beak! Joking aside, Leazes Park was fairly quiet during my brief visit, give or take a few 'Student-y types' passing through. A barney broke out on the lake between a couple of Mute Swans and a cackle of Canada Geese, seemingly at odds over a slice of bread thrown to them by an Andy Capp lookalike. The drama was swiftly over when one of the swans clouted a goose over the head with its outstretched wing - it and the rest dispersed, quite sheepishly it must be said.

Whilst walking back through the park in the direction of the RVI Hospital, my eyes were drawn to a rather odd looking tree bark. Its yellow leaves were shining through the sunlight and a good shot suddenly appeared there and then. Overhanging branches give the shot some edge as I composed to suit. Just then a couple of 'Student-y types' ran up to the tree and swung from the branches in front of me as I was about to take some shots. Ignorant tw*ts (that's twits, by the way...wink!). Then one of them climbed up the tree and stood there looking down whilst his mates sparked up a conversation about nowt. They were obviously blind or taking the pittle, as they had total disregard for me being there, taking photo's right in front of them. Ah well, there's nowt as queer as folk, eh. I bided my time until they'd moved on before continuing with what I'd started. I got there eventually. There are plenty of photo opportunities in Leazes Park, and although the inclusion of the football ground wasn't part of todays plan, it probably will be the next time I visit. It dominated the top end of the park near the bandstand and the nearby tree lined paths added to a potential panoramic shot. I'll have to keep that one in mind for future reference.

After leaving Newcastle I headed home along the A1(M) past Team Valley Trading Estate. It was at this point I decided to stop off at the Angel Of The North, which was literally a couple of minutes drive away from this point of my journey. I was after another Autumn shot and as the Angel is almost surrounded in tree's I was hopeful that some would offer the colours I was looking for. When I arrived there were a few people taking photographs of their own so I had a scout about for a good spot and took it from there. I walked through a break in one of the wire fences and positioned myself near a small tree, facing the Angel. This was as good as it got - the leaves were on the turn and I used fill-in flash to give that extra punch to them in the foreground (shot 3, shown here). Nice blue sky and broken cloud filled the top of the frame and overall this was a decent shot as the sun bounced off the rusty structure that towered in front of me. The obligatory extra or two was added in the shape of passers by, which once again gave a sense of scale and finished the shot off quite well. And that was that, as they say. Back into the car and a stop-off at Washington B&Q for Chicken Curry & Chips. Well, it was mid-day and my stomach was dropping subtle hints that it had been neglected for a few hours. Time to compromise. Slightly miffed that the folks on the snack van hadn't replenished their stocks of 'Bick's Extra Hot Chilli Sauce' that I usually add to my Curry & Chips - now that stuff puts hairs on ya teeth! Last time out I over-indulged and the following day my arse was like the Japanese flag! He he, a gluton for punishment, you may claim, and I couldn't disagree, to be honest.

See ya next time,

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Transporter Bridge, Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough's Transporter Bridge is 100 years old.

The structure was officially opened on 17 October 1911 by Prince Arthur of Connaught. Designed by Darlington-based Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Co, the bridge cost £87,316 to build. The Grade II-listed Transporter Bridge, linking Middlesbrough and Port Clarence, is one of only six of its type still operating in the world and the only one in England. At its peak in 1919, 5.1 million pedestrians crossed the bridge, compared to just 16,000 (and 120,000 vehicles) in 2010. Often threatened with closure in the past, it is now seen as Teesside's icon. The bridge has survived German bombing raids, been featured on TV and in films, and on the video and cover of the single High by the Lighthouse Family. The running of the bridge is funded by both Middlesbrough and Stockton councils. Motorists, it seems, are opting to use 100-year-old engineering rather than take the often jammed Tees flyover.

The bridge, which turns 100 on 17 October, is a sign of home to some, and a sign of great engineering to all. The giant blue steel structure joins Port Clarence to Middlesbrough across the River Tees, and although passengers are now on the up, they hit a low in 2006 when only 90,927 made use of the bridge. Now on the rise, more than 122,000 passengers have used the blue bridge's yellow gondola to cross the river in 2009. Pedestrians can even buy a ticket to walk across the top of the bridge. Those who do not have the stomach can board the gondola at one side of the river and be carried across to the other. Commuters form the traffic these days, with many shoppers and tourists using it during off peak periods. The bridge is not only a symbol of the industrial north, it has also far exceeded the working life envisaged by its designers when it opened to traffic in 1911.

Centenary celebrations included a concert, interactive light display and people bungee jumping off the bridge. The event spanned a total of two weeks and it wasn't until the penultimate night that I made the 30 minute journey down the A19 to grab some photographs before my chance had passed. I arrived at the site just after sundown, which was probably the best way to begin my visit as I captured a fine silhouette shot with the bright horizon positioned right behind the bridge. The Transporter shipped its last vehicle across the river shortly after six o' clock - my first shot captured the crossing, shown above (picture one). I got chatting to a Proffesional Photographer who'd travelled down from Newcastle to photograph the bridge. He told me the Transporter Bridge light show was due to begin at 7.30pm and seeing as it was only 6.15pm at this point I decided to nip off for something to eat and return later to catch the light show. Within fifteen minutes I found myself in a fish and chip shop at nearby Seaton Carew - no surprise there!

Belly full and back to Teesside via the many power stations en route. It was a bit nippy by this time but I was soon in position on the river bank and awaiting the light show. A few photographers had gathered with tripods nearby. At half-seven precise the light show began. Rotating spotlights covered almost every inch of the giant structure, producing a shimmering effect on the steel, in a similar way that water reflects on a subject during bright sunlight. It was quite spectacular! As the evening light subsided the job of photographing the bridge became more challenging. The bridge ends were almost impossible to see through the viewfinder, making composition a bit of a task and 'Tight crop' certainly wasn't in my plan. Gone was the deep blue sky, replaced by a muddy brown tone, but still offering a nice shot.

Approaching 8 bells and it was time for the off. Back up the A19 towards God's Country - BYE BYE SMOG!

Cheers, AC

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Latrigg - The Lake District

Another fell walk...

It was back to the English Lake District once again for a one-night camping stint at Castlerigg Farm near Keswick. The day hadn't started very well as we witnessed a derby day defeat to Newcastle at the Stadium Of Light, Sunderland. The weather was the only good thing about the match - the sun was beating down and it was definately tee-shirt weather at the tail end of Summer. We were hoping for much of the same as we left Sunderland and headed across the A66 to begin our camping trip. We were half way there when the weather took a turn for the worst and grey clouds suddenly covered the region, which meant rain was almost certainly on its way. Upon arrival at the campsite we pitched the tent in no time while the rain drizzled down and Keswick was now under heavy dark cloud. And so the rain bucket loads. After cooking a meal in the tent we headed off in the car and drove along the A66 towards Lake Bassenthwaite, but there was little or nothing to see in such poor weather so we headed back to Castlerigg Farm. Time passed quickly and before we knew it we were tucked up and heading towards a sleep. And sleep we did - the rain continued during the night, but as dawn broke the place had faired up dramatically and we made plans to go fell walking whilst tucking into a nice fried breakfast. The plan was to tackle Latrigg, a modest climb of just over 1200 feet.

Latrigg is one of the lowest fells in the Lake District, but is a popular climb due to its convenient location overlooking the town of Keswick and the excellent views down the valley of Borrowdale from the summit. It is the least mountainous of the Skiddaw fells, the summit being almost entirely devoid of rock. The slopes of Latrigg are partially wooded, and logging work is currently being undertaken. One lone tree just south of the summit is prominently viewed in silhouette when approaching Keswick from the west along the A66. Commonly Latrigg is ascended from Keswick, the route beginning along Spooney Green Lane near the old railway station and then either making direct for the top or swinging north via Mallen Dodd. Threlkeld is another starting point, first crossing the Glenderaterra Beck and then climbing up the east ridge. The easiest way is to park at the end of Gale Road, from where the summit is a simple 10 minute stroll on grass, the most accessible of all the 214 Wainwrights. This car park is commonly used as the starting point for the ascent of Skiddaw, although the purist will first climb Latrigg from Keswick before setting foot upon its parent. A recently constructed path allows disabled access to the summit of Latrigg from the car park.

This was my sons first fell walk and he was very much looking foward to it. Latrigg was the ideal introduction for a ten year old, so off we went. It took us around 90 minutes to reach the summit from ground level, which wasn't bad at all even though we only stopped for drinks and a rest on two occasions. The first half of the walk was under blue sky with a scattering of broken clouds, but the second part was quite different as the sky clouded over and the wind crept up on us. Just short of the summit was a wooden bench that was sited in a perfect spot on the edge of the peak, overlooking the town of Keswick, and Derwentwater in the distance. On a better day the views would have been quite impressive, but today the light was poor and I quickly got the feeling that I would have to return another day to get the full benefit of the panoramic views from Latrigg, especially if I wanted to photograph it in all its glory. And that's what I intend to do, one day. All round the walk the views are of the surrounding fells are great, especially the ones of the Skiddaw Range. It made me feel like climbing it there and then but that was a non-starter, especially with my ten year old camping partner at my side. Today this was a very short, very easy walk to the summit of Latrigg, the small mountain that looks over Keswick. A blessed job.

Until the next time...