Tønsberg

Our first 24 hours in Norway, it rained (our first three days in Norway it rained).  A constant drizzle with intermittent torrential downpours that ensured that shoes were soaked through and hands became clammy and cold.

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We had arrived at Oslo Torp and made our way to Tønsberg, the oldest town in Norway, were we spent a day exploring in the rain and visited the tower on a hill in the middle of the town.  For the most part the camera stayed firmly in its bag, tucked up behind the waterproof cover.

We wandered down to the riverside which appeared to be where the most was going on, and stumbled across a viking shipyard.  The boats were under the cover of large canvas tents constructed with a simple timber frame, and the air smelled of wood and tar.

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Unusually (is there a usual way to build a viking ship?), this boat appeared to be being constructed by a pirate.

Tønsberg boasts 1200 years of maritime history, and at the quay is a replica exact replica of the Oseberg viking ship, and several smaller vessels are under construction.

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The Oseberg ship was built around 800AD and was excavated in 1904-5 from a burial mound along with the skeletons of two important female figures, and plenty of treasure in the form of ornately carved carts, sleighs, and ornaments.

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Maybe all that treasure is why the pirate is hanging around…?

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Ocean Hope

This month I’m trying out Plastic Free July – part of a wider campaign to reduce consumption of single-use plastic and as a result reduce the amount of plastic getting into our oceans.  Plastic in oceans is everyone’s problem and has huge impact’s on wildlife and ecosystems.  A million single use plastic bottles are bought every MINUTE worldwide,  and plastic is washed up on remote Arctic beaches that rarely see a human soul. 

I took these pictures last week outside the Maritime, Fram, and Kontiki museums in Oslo, Norway.  The Kontiki museum was particularly fascinating as it was Thor Heyerdahl – builder and Captain of the Kontiki – who started the ocean conservation movement after finding washed out oil in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a subsequent voyage on Ra II. 

I think the sculpture represents how much we lean on the ocean for so many reasons – fishing, shipping, recreation – but also put a lot of strain on it with pollution.  A lighthouse is designed to lead sailors safely into harbour and around dangerous rocks – perhaps this one will lead us around dangerous levels of pollution and lead us to change course to a healthier ocean. One can only hope. 

Upstairs

Lyme Park, in all of its rugged beauty, captured my attention from the moment I set eyes on it.  Course grassland and rocky crags hide interesting architecture from a time gone by, giving way to a house designed to impress and impose.

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Home to its 600 year old red deer herd, the park rises up from the house nestled within, onto the aptly named Park Moor and the edge of the Peak District National Park.

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After several rather fleeting visits to Lyme, last weekend I managed to find the time to go inside the house.  I’ve a love of stately homes, and Lyme didn’t fail to impress.  I can’t help but try to imagine what it would have been like to live here, in a time before the red ropes.

 

Did they collect artifacts from around the world and bring them back to exhibit in their homes?  Which of the many hundreds of books in the library did they read whilst they sat around a crackling fire in the drawing room after dinner?  What really went on below stairs, and who played that organ?

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Long corridors seem to ask more questions than they answer…

And finally one of my favourite rooms in the house – the dining room.  A room that fascinates me in any stately home.  How many conversations have taken places around this table? Good news shared, worse news contemplated, business discussed and children chastised for poor manners.   It’s a room of entertaining and extravagance, yet there’s something so ordinary about sitting down to a meal with family that it brings it all down to earth slightly.  And all the while ancestors look down from walls of ornate wood carvings, warmed by a fire in a marble hearth.

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Of course, we don’t all set the table with candelabras.

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Ping!

We walked for several hours in the rain yesterday from Strines to Glossop.  Everything is soaked and my flat now looks like a laundry with things hanging everywhere to dry, but this sheep provided some entertainment en route!

Shelf Moor and Over-exposed Crash Site

Recently I’ve started walking with the Manchester and District (MAD) Walkers, a local 20s and 30s group of The Ramblers.  A few weeks ago I set off on a walk with them from Glossop. 

It was absolutely stunning.  Snowy ground with dark gritstone  and peat glaring  through, giving a dappled landscape.

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Breath-taking.

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We climbed the Doctor’s Gate path out of Glossop and then turned left when we met the Pennine Way.  Here, we met an alien landscape of snow covered peat hags.  Dark peat glowed through the snow on the sides of steep troughs in between.

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Peat hags are formed when the vegetation that binds together the top surface of a peat moorland disappears, and the peat below is eroded away.  This is a problem for three main reasons.  Firstly, peat stores a great deal of carbon – it is a carbon sink.  When the peat is eroded this carbon is released into the atmosphere.  You already know about carbon, I won’t go on about the problems that this causes.

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Secondly, the peat also stores a lot of water.  When it rains on the moors the water is captured in the peat bog and released slowly, allowing rivers a change to take it away.  When the peat is eroded, the bog cannot hold as much water meaning the rainfall hits the rivers a lot quicker.  So peat can help to reduce flooding downstream.

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Finally, when peat is eroded it colours the water.  People don’t like to drink brown water, and so water companies spend huge amounts of money removing the peat from the water before it goes through your taps. And of course this cost is passed on to households.

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A flat moor is a healthy moor, and there is hope for restoration.  Programs by the Peak District National Park Authority (which you can read about here) and the National Trust (here) are working to restore the peat moorland and protect the vital services it provides.

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We carried on, up and down over the peat hags, to a rather sobering sight – the B29 Superfortress ‘Over-exposed’ crash site.

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This plane went down on Shelf Moor in 1948 whilst on a routine flight.  Whilst flying in foggy conditions, the crew thought the hill had been cleared and began to descend.  Unfortunately, it hadn’t and the plane crashed near Higher Shelf Stones, killing all 13 crew members.

And so we carried on to the trig point, and the descended back into Glossop.

 

Laugh, Kookaburra

Keeping up with the blog has failed completely miserably.  I think, now, that I’ll still write the rest of the Canada blog posts, but I’m going to do them in between other things.  Today I want to share some photos with you, that I’m very pleased with.

My cousin runs a business with birds of prey, keeping owls, raptors and even a kookaburra for the purpose of education.  She visits schools, events, runs children’s parties and, along with a local photographer, runs photography days.  I was lucky enough to attend one of these days a couple of weeks ago and can’t believe the difference it made having someone standing by me, teaching me how to set up my camera and set up the shot.

First came Edna, the blue winged kookaburra.

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Photographer Tim Doggett had brought a reflection pool, so we stuck Edna on a log and let her pose.  Kookaburras are a type of kingfisher, so she was quite happy sitting by the water.

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Edna loved to pose for the camera!  The title of this blog is a bit misleading, blue winged kookaburras don’t laugh in the way laughing kookaburras do.  Edna, however, loves to chatter away to you.

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Despite not being the quickest flier, a combination of her relatively small size and clumsy nature meant getting a good photograph of this bird in flight really was challenging.

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Kookaburras are native to Northern Australia, living in open woodland and Melaleuca swamps where they eat fish, frogs and small mammals.

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And, like most birds of prey, when she was full she just wanted to sit.

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Next up we brought out Sparrow the Ashy Faced Owl.  Whilst they look a bit like a grubby barn owl, these owls come from the Caribbean, hence Sparrow being named after Captain Jack!

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Their dusty colour hides them well in the dry shrubland they live in.

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Like all owls, they have poor eyesight of close objects, and use the fine feathers on their face to identify where their food is.

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And finally, Igor the Kestrel.  Named after Igor Sikorsky, credited as the inventor of the modern helicopter, because one thing kestrels are known for is their ability to hover!

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He enjoyed stretching his wings in the sunshine and I think the patterns on the underside are just beautiful! I particularly like the heart shapes on the feathers.

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A much faster, lighter bird than the others, and much more of a hunter.  Native to Europe and Asia, you’ve probably seen one hovering over verges looking for unfortunately placed mice!

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Igor is only a young bird, but isn’t he gorgeous?

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Of course there were many, many more photos but there are only so many hours in the day! I’m hoping next time to be able to photograph some more of the birds, particularly the natives as I love the idea that I might see them in the wild.

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For more information on the birds and photography days, please visit http://www.thefeatheryfolk.co.uk/

All pictures taken using Nikon D3200

 

The Bow Valley Parkway

After a couple of nights in Calgary to get over the jetlag, we hired a car and headed west towards the Rocky Mountains.  The view once we left Calgary was spectacular – Calgary faded away behind us, but in front the mountains rose out of the prairies, cloud bubbling over them like rapids over rocks.

Once we got into the Rockies we took a slight diversion off Highway 1 – the TransCanada Highway – onto Highway 1A, also known as the Bow Valley Parkway.  The Bow Valley Parkway runs from just after Banff, alongside the Trans Canada as far as Lake Louise, taking a more scenic route with a higher chance of seeing wildlife than on the main highway.  There are also several places to stop along the route.

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A wildlife bridge on Highway 1

The first place we stopped at was Johnston Canyon.  There is a resort with cabins at the bottom of the canyon, and a restaurant, as well as a car park for visitors who are hiking the canyon.  The car park was full and so we did what many, many other people were doing and parked alongside the highway, and then walked back to the entrance.

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In Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon was formed by Johnston Creek, and within the canyon are lower and upper falls, with the upper falls being 1.7 miles away, and taking about 45 minutes to walk to.  From there you can continue almost 1.9 miles (3km) to the Inkpots – seven coldwater springs which rise beside a meadow.  We didn’t make it this far as we wanted to stop at other places on the way so we only went as far as the Upper Falls, however having seen a picture of the Inkpots when I got back to England I wish we had carried on!

The walk through the canyon is an easy one, along wide paths and metal catwalks.  There were a lot of people when we visited – it’s certainly a popular spot so aim for low season or either ends of the day.

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A catwalk in Johnston Canyon

In terms of wildlife, the most exciting thing we saw was a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, although there were signs warning of wolves in the area which had become bold around humans and were stealing from picnics!

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A Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

We ate at the restaurant at the bottom of the canyon before we left, which was very pleasant and surprisingly quiet given the popularity of the trail.  It was perhaps slightly expensive, but that was to be expected given its location and the lack of other eateries in the area.

Carrying on up the Bow Valley Parkway we stopped at Emerald Lake in the Yoho National Park.  When we arrived the weather had deteriorated somewhat and we looked around and took some photos in the mizzley rain.  We decided to hire a canoe anyway, and luckily the rain stopped and we even had a bit of sunshine!  We paddled to the other end of the lake, where it was very peaceful with a shallow creek running across a beach into the lake.

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Emerald Lake – the sky was a little murky but it was beautiful nonetheless! 

We left Highway 1A at Castle Junction and continued on the main Highway 1 to Canyon Hot Springs where we swam in the hot springs and stayed in a cabin overnight.  From there we went to Sicamous where we hired a houseboat and spent four days on the Shuswap Lake, which I will write about in my next blog.

Highway 1A was beautiful, but naturally much slower than the main highway.  To drive on Highway 1A, or to stop anywhere in the National Parks, you need to buy a parks pass from Parks Canada.  There is a kiosk for these at the entrance to Banff NP, or they are sold in lots of places within the parks.  At the entrance to the Bow Valley Parkway, Parks Canada were stopping every car to check for a pass.