Saturday, 25 March 2017


January, February 2017.  Winter 2017.  Still no snow.  For two years now, I have been photographing Milton Country Park, and in that time we have had no snow at all.  Unless, that is, you count a flurry of snowflakes in the wind that did not settle and quickly turned to sleet.  But at least this year, we had a spell of bright frosty weather, enough to freeze the water in the pits.

Block of ice sitting on top of frozen water of the pit
Ice on Dickerson's Pit - 24 January 2017
The ice near the shore is richly textured
A texture that is subtely altered around the white lump of ice.

Why do people feel compelled to throw things on the ice?  No sooner had the ice appeared, then stones, logs, branches, balls, and general rubbish littered the frozen surface.  It is as if the sight of its smooth white surface was too much for mortal eyes and had to be covered up.  But as my first photograph shows, the surface of the ice close to the shore is richly textured, even without the debris.

Bare branches of trees in orchard covered in rime
Frosty Orchard - 22 January 2017
Almost the only time I have successfully photographed the orchard.

The same cold spell produced a couple of mornings when conditions were right to cover not only the low growing vegetation, but also the branches of at least some of the trees with rime.

View over Dickerson's Pit, with bare trees and golden reeds
Dickerson's Pit - 14 February 2017
A scene that could easily have been taken three months earlier
but not three months later when leaves on the bushes in the foreground
will completely obscure the view.

Apart from the frost, little has changed over the last couple of months.  The changes that have happened are the gradual growth of plants such as cow parsley, comfrey and nettles.  But this new growth is only a couple of inches high, and make almost no impact on the appearance of the park.

White fluffy clematis fruit catching sun amongst bare branches
Clematis Fruit - 24 January 2017
Fluffy white balls catching the light

Far more apparent are the fluffy white clematis fruit which are still in abundance on the climber, and very noticeable when they catch the low sun.

Small group of snowdrops growing amongst trees
Snowdrops - 19 February 2017
A typical scene in the woods in the park
with an isolated clump of snowdrops growing amongst the trees.

During February, the snowdrops finally blossomed, probably at least a month later than last year.  The name 'snowdrop' refers to the large pendants or drops that were worn by ladies in the sixteenth century either as earrings or on brooches.  I was surprised to find that alternative names for these flowers include death's tear; and that the only folk lore surrounding them is that it is unlucky to take them indoors.

Conversely, snowdrops are seen as a symbol of hope.  One legend has it, that after Adam and Eve were evicted from the garden of Eden, Eve became depressed with the apparently endless  cold wintry weather.  To cheer her up, an angel appeared and changed some of the snowflakes into flowers, as a sign that the dreary weather would eventually cease.

Wooden jetty backed by gold and orange willow trees
Jetty - 26 February 2017
The willows are probably even more colourful in February
than they were in the autumn - their yellowing leaves drab
compared to their branches at the end of winter.

A far more earthly sign of the imminence of spring is the gold and orange colours of the willow branches at this time of year.

Next: Tree Down 

Saturday, 11 March 2017


Sprat-weather - fisherman's slang for those dark depressing days of late autumn and early winter when it never seems to get properly light. It seems such weather is good for catching sprats; perhaps the fish suffer from SAD and lose the will to live. On that basis, December should have been an exceptional month for sprat fishing. Almost every day was damp, and gloomy with a biting cold wind penetrating the thickest of coats.

Glimpse of sun through break in clouds reflected in dark muddy water
Dark Days - 13 December 2016
Sun reflecting in a muddy inlet off Dickerson's Pit

For me, this first image captures the mood of the whole depressing spell, a dark muddy patch of water reflecting a small rare glimpse of the sun. 

An oak leaf stuck in the grooves of a white frosty table top
Frosty Cheer - 8 November 2016
The frost provides little more than a white backdrop to the colourful leaf 

Enough of the gloom and a whole lot more cheerful picture! It has not all been grey murk. There have been spells of bright frosty weather, although there have been none of those gloriously pretty winter mornings when all the trees are covered in rime. At most, only the table tops, the grass and the low growing vegetation in the more open parts of the park have been covered in rime. This picture was taken on the first frosty day of the season at the beginning of November.  The brightness of such sunny mornings more than make up for the cold.

Moss on a Precipice - 8 November 2016
Again the frost brightens up the picture

I love the way a photograph can remove any sense of scale, and literally make a mountain out of a molehill (or vice versa). In this case, the moss growing on one of the planks of a table top is left teetering on the edge of a precipice.

Frost Candyfloss - 5 December 2016
The brown of the dead grass at the base of the plant, and
the colour of the trees in the background, underline how little
was affected by the frost.
A further brief frosty spell at the beginning of December, painted the grass and low growing vegetation with a veneer of ice, and left this plant looking like a stick of white candy floss.

Close up of sprays of winter jasmine
Winter Jasmine in the Sensory Garden - 2 January 2017
This winter jasmine climbs over the gate to the sensory garden
With most of the trees now bare, the only bright colours in the park were to be found in the garden. The bright yellow of the winter jasmine climbing over the gateway to the sensory garden bringing some much needed good cheer to the day.

Small dogwood bush, red and yellow surrounded by copper beech hedges
Dogwood - 2 January 2017
The bright yellow and reds of the dogwood,
eclipse the copper beech

In the garden opposite, the dogwood stood out brightly against the dull copper of the beech hedge and very muted greens and browns of the bushes and trees behind. 

Next: Winter