Early Autumn Inspiration

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With Autumn Equinox just a day away I woke up feeling inspired this morning to get out and enjoy the late summer-early autumn sunshine. It’s that time of year when you need layers for the chilly mornings and late afternoon, which can be removed during the day when the temperature warms up. I love the colours that start to emerge; the greens giving way to orange, yellow and red towards the later stages of the season.

Lucky as I am to live by the sea, I went out for a stroll with my camera to experiment with a new prop I found the other day. I’m quite pleased with the results.

Sunny and shinny

I hope the Equinox tomorrow will inspire some creative actions in you too.

Photograph©VCUzzell2015

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History and Light at Hurst Castle

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Hurst Castle 1 Hurst Castle 3 Hurst Castle 2

Yesterday was an unexpectedly warm day and I had not dressed to handle the heat; I’d gone for trousers and a shirt with my walking boots, but wished I’d opted for something much lighter as my family and I crunched loudly over the shingle that stretches out from Keyhaven, on the edge of the New Forest National Park in Hampshire to Hurst Castle, which is all but stone’s throw from the Isle of Wight.

We hadn’t actually planned to go inside the castle, but were glad of our impromptu visit because it was fascinating.  The castle dates back to the 16th century, but was also used during WW2 as an important line of defence against any potential invasion.  As we wandered around the grounds, climbing up to 360 degree views of the Isle of Wight, the Needles, white-sailed boats gliding through the Solent and Keyhaven Marshlands; and then down into dark, cold, extremely damp store rooms, we were aware of those who had been stationed here throughout the Second World War.

Some of the guns are still on display in their original positions; frightening, yet awe-inspiring machines of warfare, which were loaded with shells that must have taken several men to lift.  The netting around the hole through which they fired acting as protection from any fragments of incoming bombs is still in place.  Yet even the everyday concerns have also been preserved, with the remnants of kitchens and bathrooms, such as they were, on display in all but empty rooms.

A small, circular section of grass has been given over to red poppies and a memorial to those who lost their lives defending this country, in addition to several exhibitions which detail daily life, battle plans, and bring that link closer to the present day with old weaponry, clothing and interviews with ex-soldiers.

We took our own food, but there is a small café and shop and we saw families tucking into what looked like delicious, decently-sized slices of cake.  Dogs are welcome too, but they may struggle getting up and down some of the steps, which are quite large in places.

My camera loved the light and perfectly-framed views through the castle windows, and I could have spent hours wandering around chasing the light as it moved and shone through every gap in the walls.  I hope to go back with my Bronica as I think the square format will work well with the natural framing of the scenery outside.

As our boots crunched back towards Keyhaven, I thought of all those who had made their way back and forth to the castle, and spent freezing winters and hot summers there in scratchy uniforms, while I was bemoaning my cotton trousers and shirt.  I realised that my luxury to moan about being hot in such an outfit, and wishing I’d worn a dress, was all down to those self-same, brave individuals who had fought so I could have the freedom to amble around an old castle with my camera and my attire was of little consequence.

If you have a chance, I’d recommend a visit to Hurst Castle, preferably on a sunny day.  Go early and you’ll have the place almost to yourself for a while, and can make the most of that incredible sunlight.

Photographs©vcuzzell2015

For more information, check out:

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/hurst-castle/

Nature Calls

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Old Harry Rocks, Dorset  Swanage, Dorset

I am extremely lucky to live in the beautiful county of Dorset, with The New Forest National Park just over the border in Hampshire too.  This weekend I went for a walk in the spring sunshine up to Old Harry Rocks with my family and many other walkers and tourists.  There was a slight chill to the breeze, but otherwise it was a lovely sunny day to walk and take photos.  Luckily, it was a clear day too, so we could appreciate the expanse of ocean that stretched out ahead of us, as boats, both fast and slow, went back and forth across the relatively calm waves.

The water at the base of the rocks was clear and inviting, although it would have been freezing cold.  My brother and I snapped away as our mum stood a little further back; she’s not keen on heights, and we probably worried her a bit as we looked down from the edge to get the best shots.  The rocks were quite busy with visitors but we all took turns to stand or crouch down at the best spots to get the photo we wanted.

Once we’d had our fill of Old Harry, we walked up the hill towards Ballard Down, greeting fellow walkers and grazing cows on our way.  The cows were predictably indifferent to us, and seemed to offer a withering glance at a tourist as he photographed them.  Further on up the climb, we began to observe the bright colours of hang-gliders silently drifting through the blue sky above.

The view down into Swanage Bay was wonderful; as was the sight of Poole Harbour on the other side.  No camera could really do them justice, but we tried; if nothing else, but to record the moment and remember being there on that day.  To recall the sights, the birdsong all around us, the waves below and the smell of cows (maybe not that last one so much).

Just a simple walk like this, to be out within nature and away from the four walls of our homes, laptop screens, phones and traffic flow was healing and rejuvenating.  There are times when I long to immerse myself within woodland, to feel small in a vast landscape and be reminded not just of the beauty nature provides but connection it offers us with our true selves, away from the ever-powerful call of the virtual world we increasingly live in.  We need a break sometimes, to re-charge with the earth.

We planned the next walk on the way home.  I’m already looking forward to it.

Photographs©vcuzzell2015

The awakening energy of Spring Equinox

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Beach Hut  Bicycle shadow

This weekend has been so sunny, that you could be fooled into thinking that summer was just around the corner, even with the cold wind that has been blowing.  It has certainly been two days of getting out and about, enjoying the feel of the Sun on my skin, and photographing the shadows it creates as it shines on beach huts and bicycles.  This renewed sense of energy which characterises Spring Equinox, is also a reminder of the need for balance in our lives and as the length of both day and night are equal on this day, so too should we strive for equilibrium among all the demands of daily life.  As I walked along the beach front today, it made me smile to see so many people, and their dogs, taking a break and balancing out their busy lives with an hour or so of ambling along the shore, eating ice cream and catching up with family and friends.  Having spent the winter resting, we must use all the stored up vitality we have acquired over the darker months to realise new dreams and move on with the next phase of our lives.  This is also the time of the Golden Gorse, which cheers the grey, rainy days of spring with its bright yellow glow of hope; it is a symbol of the courage and optimism needed to face the changing seasons and challenges in our lives.  It is often easier to imagine what we could do if only this was better, or that was different etc.  We frequently make all kinds of excuses why we can’t do something.  Yet on these sunny days, when you walk in nature, or simply sit in the sun, take a moment to listen to that voice which is quietly trying to nudge you in the right direction and face those fears of the new and the unknown with determination, and the positive outlook of the Golden Gorse.

photographs©vcuzzell2015