Saturday, 28 April 2012

North Yorkshire Coastal Route - Pt 4

Robin Hood's Bay

The final leg of my Coastal Tour of North Yorkshire was at Robin Hood's Bay, a small town, again with lots of history surrounding its past glory as a haven for fishermen. In the 18th century, Robin Hood's Bay was reportedly the busiest smuggling community on the Yorkshire coast. Its natural isolation, protected by marshy moorland on three sides, offered a natural aid to this well-organised business which, despite its dangers, must have paid better than fishing. Smuggling at sea was backed up by many on land who were willing to finance and transport contraband. Fisherfolk, farmers clergy and gentry alike were all involved. Fierce battles ensued between smugglers and excise men, both at sea and on land, and Bay wives were known to pour boiling water over excise men from bedroom windows in the narrow alleyways. Hiding places, bolt holes and secret passages abounded. It is said that a bale of silk could pass from the bottom of the village to the top without leaving the houses. The threat of the excise men was not the only danger to Bayfolk. In the late 18th century and early 19th century, the Press Gangs were feared and hated. Sailors and fishermen were supposed to be exempt but, in reality, rarely were. Once ‘pressed’, their chances of returning to their homes were not high. Village women would beat a drum to warn the men folk that the Press Gangs had arrived and it was not unusual for the Press Gang to be attacked and beaten off. The fishing industry reached its zenith in the mid 19th century and a thriving community existed in Bay. The townsfolk liked to amuse themselves in the winter and there were dances almost every evening. Church and chapel were well attended and funerals and weddings were occasions for a festival. Like other fishing villages, Bay had its own gansey pattern. From the early 19th century, Robin Hood’s Bay began to attract visitors from the outside and this has continued to the present day. 

Like the town centre of Whitby, Robin Hood's Bay has two parts to it - old and new, or relatively new. From the top of the hill the main road suddenly turns into a steep bank, flanked by houses and shops, which is where the Old Town begins. It is here that you get a taste of what Robin Hood's Bay is all about. Similar to the period buildings I found at Staithes, RHB is almost an extension of that town - both have a steep bank, taking you down towards the residential area, a 'Lost in time' world from days gone by. The character of the place is wholly untouched, which is something that has been deliberately done to avoid moving with the times, and thus losing its identity altogether. I've walked these streets many a time, often hoping to discover something new, something that has me lifting the camera once again, and quite often I find it. The Old Town is maze-like, and more often than not I'll find myself in no-mans land, before attempting to retrace my steps in the hope of getting back to familiarity. It's very easy to become absorbed in these surroundings, like walking a tight alleyway and wondering who walked here in years gone by - what did they look like, and where were they heading, and why? Fascinating.

Today was very much another typical day in the life of. Tourists here and there, on land on sand, and even in the water. The Bay is quite small, but when the tide retreats its rocky shore becomes a magnet for families engaging in rock pool searches. We joined in but there was little or nothing of interest, so we headed back towards the Bay Hotel, which is the starting point of the climb back up the steep bank. The ramp which joins the beach from the back foot caught my eye, with its cobbled stones that made for an interesting foreground, with the backdrop of the hotel as my focal point. The Bay Hotel struck me as one of those creepy style residences - which wouldn't look out of place on the set of 'A League Of Gentlemen'. Are you local? My second photograph gives you an indication of where I'm coming from - Landlords, Edward & Tubbs! Can I have a pint of lager and a gum shield, please Barmaid!!!

Outside the Bay Hotel were a few punters, sitting supping their ales. The smell of a nearby Fish n' Chip shop filled the sea air around us. Temptation crept up on your writer once again, as I fumbled in my pocket for cash of the paper variety, in the hope of sampling the fried scran once again. I must add that my previous blog entries from my 'North Yorkshire Coastal Route' include my indulgence with Fish n' Chips - well they were on previous days during our mini-break, so don't be thinking I necked 3 portions all in one day. I might be a greedy get now and again, but not on this particular weekend! A sandwich board, tucked away to one side of the road, directed us up a narrow back land towards the Fish n' Chip shop. Tiny it was, with people huddled inside, but how do you form a queue inside a sardine tin? A five minute wait and I was at the front of the queue - it was more Fish n' Chips. Well worth the money. The little fella visited the Chocolate Fountain instead and enjoyed a 'Kebab Style' fudge and strawberry covering, and covered he was! The missus picked away at my Fish Lot, although your writer saw off the Lion's share, he he.

And that closes the 'North Yorkshire' blog until another visit - maybe next year, who knows. The whole 'Weekender' was great, and a nice time was had, so I would recommend this stretch of coast to all who have an interest in a break by the sea. Of course, there's a lot more to the North Yorkshire Coast than what has been written here - this was just a taster of what was on offer. Why not check it out for yourself. And on that note I shall now contact the North Yorkshire Tourist Board, Accounts Payable, to claim my 20% commission! Maybe it will subsidise more Fish n' Chips!!!

Until the next time..

Monday, 23 April 2012

North Yorkshire Coastal Route - Pt 3

Three miles from Sandsend lies the popular town of Whitby, a seaside town, port and civil parish in the Scarborough borough of North Yorkshire, England. Situated on the east coast of Yorkshire at the mouth of the River Esk, Whitby has a combined maritime, mineral and tourist heritage, and is home to the ruins of Whitby Abbey where Caedmon, the earliest English poet, lived. The fishing port emerged during the Middle Ages and developed important herring and whaling fleets, and was where Captain Cook learnt seamanship. Tourism started in Whitby in Georgian times and developed with the coming of the railway in 1839. Tourist interest is enhanced by its location surrounded by the high ground of the North York Moors national park and heritage coastline and by association with the horror novel Dracula. Jet and alum were mined locally, and Whitby jet, which was mined by the Romans and Victorians became fashionable during the 19th century. The abbey ruin at the top of the east cliff is the town's oldest and most prominent landmark with the swing bridge across the River Esk and the harbour sheltered by the grade II listed east and west piers being other significant features. Statues of James Cook and William Scoresby and a whalebone arch all point to a maritime heritage. The town also has a strong literary tradition and has featured in literary works, television and cinema; most famously in Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula.

I've lost count of the amount of times I've visited Whitby with the camera in tow. I tend not to have a plan in mind when photographing, preferring to 'Go with the flow' and to see where I end up on each particular day. I mean, one time I will opt to photograph up top, in and around the Abbey. Another time I may find myself in and among the shopping areas, in particular Sandgate (The Old Town), with its many old fashioned shop fronts relating to times gone by, such as Victorian Costume, Whitby Jet and Maritime, amongst others. Today I concentrated on the area known as West Cliff, which overlooks the whole of Whitby and offers excellent views across the Harbour and Piers, as well as Sandgate and the Abbey. BE WARNED - the food part of this Blog entry is coming shortly, so if you're hungry as you read this, I take no blame if you suddenly have the urge to dash out and buy Fish n' Chips. Well, come on . . . no visit to Whitby would be complete without your writer indulging in a Fish Lot, eh. So heed the warning folks - the scran bit is on the way, he he. But before I rabbit on about that I'll fill you in on the photographs I've uploaded here.

Four new photo's, taken at Whitby, North Yorkshire - April 2012.(Click image to enlarge)
1. River Esk, across Sandgate towards the Swing Bridge - taken on West Cliff.
2. The world famous Magpie Restaurant, with NO QUEUE, which must be a first!
3. River Esk, across Sandgate towards the Swing Bridge - taken at ground level.
4. Panoramic stitch - Whitby, from West Cliff.

And finally, Fish and Chips at the Magpie. There was a massive queue at the restaurant door, which is very common no matter which day you visit. Not being a patient soul when me belly is rumbling, I persuaded the other half to dodge the queue and join the much shorter one next door, at the Magpie takeaway. We didn't fancy waiting an hour in the queue, for the restaurant to open its doors to us, so common sense prevailed and it wasn't long before we were at the counter next door, placing our order. Mind you, the Magpie has an excellent reputation for its food, which often means paying a premium to get yer gob round it. Ah well, it's only money and ya can't take it with ya when your number is up, so we filled our boots and done the necessary. Fish n' Chips cost £6.70 each - aye, the robbin' bastards should have worn a mask - Dick Turpin did when he robbed folk! I nearly keeled owa when yon lassie clagged an extra pund on the bill for small tub o' Mushy Peas. When I hoyd salt 'n vinegar on me scran I half expected yon lassie to shout 'That'll be an extra ten bob, mister'. They like cash in the Magpie. But hey, all thoughts of robbery were put firmly to the back of my mind when I took my first bite of that battered cod fillet - it was the Bee's Knee's, mak nee mistake about that. Nee soggy batter, like they dish out at some of these cheap seaside chip shops, this was the Real McCoy and the fish was thick and white - neen o' this grey rubbish that the Pakistani chippy's knock out! Lush chips anarl, norra bit o' fat on them, so ah hoyd the lot down me neck and weshed it doon wi' the usual Coca-Cola. In culinary terms - it doesn't get much better than this, unless it's a full blown Indian meal wi' all the trimmings. Nee wonder The Magpie is number one - no complains from us.

And on that note, I shall bid thee farewell til the final part of my North Yorkshire Coast blog - Robin Hood's Bay.

DISCLAIMER - Should you now be rushing out to order Fish n' Chips, simply blame me and forward the bill to Ashley Corr Photography, where I shall promptly 'Return To Sender'. That is all.

Friday, 20 April 2012

North Yorkshire Coastal Route - Pt 2

Staithes to Sandsend

The short journey from Saltburn By The Sea to Staithes was approximately 9 miles, heading south by car along the North Yorkshire Coastal Route. The tiny fishing village of Staithes is a place I've visited on many occasions, mainly to photograph it from the many vantage points along its steep cliffs and hilltops. Exploring the many back streets is one thing, but it's not until you 'Get up top' that you see what Staithes is all about. From the dizzy heights of Cowbar Nab you are able to see right across the rooftops of picturesque Staithes - a sight that almost has you believing you've travelled back in time, judging by the old fashioned buildings that have deliberately been left untouched over decades (shot one). The place is oozing character - you only have to walk its streets to witness this. The powers that be must be hellbent on retaining Staithes' character so much so that planning permission for any building work must be considered very carefully. There's not a great deal in Staithes to attract the tourist to be honest, other than it's Olde Worlde existance and its photogenic attraction. Shops are very few and far between, there's a couple of pubs and the odd antique shop and art gallery. The Cod & Lobster is where you'll find a decent Real Ale, if you're that way inclined. No decent food on offer though - toastie's were as good as it got - no thanks missus, I'll give that one a rain check. On each occasion I've been to Staithes it's been blue skies all the way, but chilly also. Odd that - maybe it's like that most of the time. I have an uncanny habit of turning up when the tide is out - something that I'll have to put right next time as photographs from Cowbar Nab are much better when the tethered boats are floating on water, as opposed to sitting lopsided on dry harbour. I'll have to check the tide tables prior to my next showing.  

From Staithes we headed south through Loftus, eventually stopping off on Lythe Bank to photograph a stretch of great coastline from Sandsend, heading towards Whitby. Conditions were ideal - visibility was perfect as I photographed the coastline from Lythe Bank (shot two), next to the Church Of St Oswald. Some fine beach lay straight ahead of me, with its clean sands, so I spent a short while photographing it using a bog standard 18-135mm lens, followed by a 300mm Telephoto, to pull in the scene from afar.  This was to be our last stop before the 3 mile journey to our next port of call - Whitby. The weather was kind to us and it made for ideal photography conditions once again. Hang about and bring ya more photo's. The wait won't be too long (wink).


Saturday, 14 April 2012

North Yorkshire Coastal Route - Pt 1

Saltburn By The Sea

Another day out by the sea, from Houghton le Spring to Robin Hood's Bay, via the North-Yorkshire coastal route. No car journey from Tyne & Wear to the quiet olde worlde fishing village of Robin Hood's Bay would be the same by taking the 'Route One' path, missing out the towns and views that lie in between. This stretch of coastline has a lot to offer the tourist, if he or she is prepared to go looking for it, so you'd be cheating yourself if you didn't make the effort. I say this because of the picturesque towns and villages that lie along the coast, just waiting to be picked off, one after another. Forty Four miles into the journey we find ourselves at our first stop-off, at Saltburn By The Sea, a town that has retained much of its charm as a Victorian seaside resort. Saltburn has the oldest water-balanced cliff tramway that is still in operation, linking the town with the pier 120 feet below. You can park the car at sea level where the old fishing village straddles Skelton Beck. The Ship Inn remains as a focal point, steeped in smuggling folklore, but there wasn't time to prop up the bar today, opting for Fish n' Chips at lunchtime instead. The takeaway next to the pier car park comes well recommended - trust me.
The fully operational Water Tram Lift and Pier are without doubt the most eye-catching attractions at Saltburn, which is why I decided to photograph them during our one hour pit stop. The weather was fine, although a tad on the windy/chilly side, and the fluffy clouds had me reaching into the 'Tool Box' for my Circular Polariser - a must for these conditions. My first shot shows Saltburn Pier, stretching out towards the North Sea, propping up many a visitor that decided to tread its boards. A stretch of pier railings was adorned with knitted figures to commemorate thesforthcoming Olympic Games in London, although mystery surrounds the origins of this artwork and who was responsible for attaching it to the pier. Rumour spread recently that it was attached to the railings during the early hours when no-one was around to witness it. Dozens of knitted characters, featuring athletes from various disciplines, such as Cycling, Running, Rowing, Fencing and Swimming, covered at least 40 feet of the pier railings - hours of work and effort, from an unknown creator! A small section of it is shown in my second photograph.

After lunch we headed, rather gingerly, up the steps towards the top of the Water Lift tracks. From here there was an excellent view across the bay of Saltburn, including the Beach, Pier and Water Lift, right ahead of us. A brief history of the Water lift...

The two 10 person cars are each fitted with a 1,000 imperial gallons (4,500 L) water tank, and run on parallel standard gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) funicular railway tracks. Double steel wire ropes are attached to both cars, controlled by a brakeman in the upper station. The car at the top has its water tank filled until its mass exceeds the mass of the car at the bottom. It then travels down the incline, counter-balanced by the mass of the other car, which travels to the top, with the brakeman controlling safety and the speed of travel. When the car reaches the bottom, its water is released thus reducing the mass of the lower car, and pumped back up to the top of the cliff. It is believed that the Cliff Lift opened on Saturday 28 June 1884, but there was a period of inconsistent operation at the start. The opening of the Cliff Lift allowed the pier company to undertake an extension to that structure. The original cars, capable of seating 10-12 passengers, had stained-glass windows. But when the Cliff Lift was refurbished in 1955, the car bodies were replaced without these. When the wholly new aluminium cars were introduced in 1979, modelled on the original design, stained-glass windows were reinstated. Owned since post-World War II by the local council, Marks' design was so good that, beyond maintenance and refurbishment, little has changed since 1884. In 1924 an electrically operated water pump was installed, and in 1998 the main winding wheel was replaced for the first time, together with the installation of a new hydraulic braking system.

The best view across the sands were up top next to the Water lift, as it led the eye straight into the composition, taking me through the frame that was interesting from front to back. Positioning the moving Tram in the composition was pretty straightforward - I thought the shot would balance better with the car at a certain point on the track as I fired the shutter. It worked well, as did another effort with the stationery car at the top, preparing its descent to the promenade below. Many a lazy bugger used the tram lift, opting to dodge the steps, taking the preferred soft option. Mind you, if it wasn't for the lazy folk there would have been no tram movement and ultimately no photographs of it in operation - so maybe I should take back those criticisms and thank myself lucky. Maybe I've just had too much my own way, he he, Fish n' Chips weshed doon wi Coca-Cola - not to be sniffed at. Returning to the car we found we were blocked in by an Ambulance, for a good 30 minutes. Lights flashing, and judging the way the Ambulance was bouncing up and down it seemed someone inside was most definitely in a bad way. Eventually it drove off - lights off and no sirens - not a good sign.
We then headed down the coast to our next anchorage, Staithes - A 9 mile journey to another idyllic fishing village on the North-Yorkshire Coast. Coming next...
Cheers, Ash

Monday, 9 April 2012

Penshaw Tea Rooms

Situated between Chester le Street and Sunderland, just off the the A183, lies one of the North East's most iconic landmarks - Penshaw Monument. To those of you who aren't familiar with the Monument click here, it'll save me the bother as I'm off out to collect an Indian takeaway shortly and time isn't on my side, he he. At the foot of Penshaw Hill is Penshaw Nursery & Tea Rooms, a place that has been exhibiting and selling my work for over two years. People flock here from far and wide, if not to buy the plants and shrubs, then probably to sample the fine food and drink that is on offer each day. Who knows, some folk might even make the journey just to admire the artistry on the walls, before digging deep and walking out with a piece of their own. Although one or two other artists exhibit their work in the Tea Rooms, I have established myself as a popular photographer, judging by the amount of sales that Tony and Robert (The owners) have made during the last two years. It all started off with an enquiry by myself, which led to my feet getting well and truly underneath their table, before going on to bigger and better things. Originally, half a dozen mounted prints were sold, then I hooked up a couple of A4 framed prints to test the water, and they sold. I then exhibited larger mounts and larger framed prints (A3), which followed suit. The trend continued well into my second year of involvement so expanded my product range to A2 framed prints, Canvas Prints and Postcards. The decision paid off handsomely as more of my work was ordered due to the sales of previous deliveries. The majority of orders by request are photographs of Penshaw Monument, although we have had success with other subjects, such as Angel Of The North, Durham Cathedral and various coastal scenes throughout the region. Penshaw Tea Rooms is now stocking a large range of my photography in a variety of formats, featuring lots of new scenes. There are approximately 20 framed prints in a variety of sizes and colours, 6 Canvas Prints, 30 Mounted Prints and a small selection of Postcards. No spare hooks to be at at the moment, but hopefully that will change soon, especially after the heavy volume of people that pass through the doors over the Easter period and beyond.
Why not get thee'sel owa and check it out!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Another Close Encounter

Venus/Jupiter Conjunction (March 2012)

Well, as promised, here's my second batch of photo's of the recent terrestrial event, known as the Venus/Jupiter Conjunction. I was aware that this 'Meeting' of the planets was due to last only a couple of weeks, so I made every effort to get out there to strike while the iron was hot - this was my second and third attempt to photograph this optical illusion and once again I was presented with a clear night-time sky on both nights - perfect visibility for this kind of photography. My second outing took me on a short car journey to Gateshead, home of the Angel Of The North, where I was very hopeful of landing some good shots, as I usually shoot the sculpture when facing West, the same direction the conjunction appears to the viewer. On arrival I had the place to myself, apart from my 11 year old son who was 'Helping Dad' by posing in the frame, here and there, Lowepro bag weighing him down! (see picture 1). Once again, the inclusion of people offer a sense of scale to the shot, so if you've never visited the Angel you'll get a rough idea of its size when compared to the 'Extra's' in the frame. Mind you, it's a pain in the arse when folk start climbing onto the feet of the sculpture as this spoils the photograph and I usually rely on Photoshop to bail me out with the odd bit of brush work. Luckily this time round the group of youngsters didn't bother with climbing routine, so there was no need for me to run at them with an extended tripod, he he. Sensible Geordies they were - I never knew they existed!
So there I am, for a short time, probably ten minutes or so, pulling in a half dozen shots of the Angel with Venus and Jupiter lending themselves to the shots. As night fell rather quickly I was running with 30 second exposures. Any more loss of light and I was heading quickly towards Bulb Mode, a function that allows shutter speeds of beyond 30 seconds, which is the maximum speed when shooting in Manual mode (my preferred function mode for low-light photography). For the tech heads amongst you, I made these pictures with a Canon 7D, with an attached 10-22mm wide angle lens, fired remotely with the camera sat on Manfrotto legs. The unwritten rule applied - image recorded in RAW format, highest possible resolution and the lowest possible ISO setting of 100, to give crystal clear 'No Noise' clarity when printed out at A2 size (25x17 inches). Those remote control units are priceless! I got my hands on a piece of cheap Chinese rubbish via eBay, which actually does a brilliant job - it does as it says on the box (Yes folks, I do know the odd word or two of Chinese ya know...............................Chow Mein! Oh no, here I go again, turning the subject towards food once again! Sorry about that. Yes, the small hand-held transmitter communicates with a receiver that slides onto the camera hot shoe. With a range of 50 metres the transmitter triggers the shutter and Bob's yer Uncle. At a price of just eleven sheets ya can't get robbed. Camera shake is most definitely a thing of the past. God bless the Chinese!
And I wasn't done there. The very next night I was at it again. Penshaw Monument was the venue again, just like my first excursion to photograph the Venus/Jupiter Conjunction. This time there was another guest to the show - the Moon. Sitting close to the two planets, my luck was in and conditions were once again very favourable, so three planets make up my last batch of shots, shown here. Penshaw Monument - let's av it...