England

Foggy Old England – Blame the French

Fog over fields, Lincolnshire - Ellie Kennard 2016
Fog over fields, Lincolnshire – Ellie Kennard 2016

Whenever the subject of the English weather comes up in conversation among those who have never been there, it’s never too long before I hear about how foggy it is there. I always laugh and say that what you see on TV shouldn’t be taken too literally, as often the programs represent Victorian England, when the pollution really did bathe the country in a murky dank smog. But those days are long over and England is no more or less foggy than other countries these days… Which is a shame in one way, because I really love foggy days.

For most of our stay in England last winter, the weather was absolutely glorious – at least during the dates we had planned to be there. We had to extend our stay due to illness and as if on cue, from that day the clouds, gloom and rain descended. And the FOG! I guess I have to revise my defence of the English fog as it really was very thick at times. But then I heard on the radio that this was an illegal weather immigrant phenomenon.

BLAME THE FRENCH!
So it seems that this deliciously atmospheric pea soup was wending its way across the channel and travelling hundreds of miles up into the heart of England, from France. We were driving through the Linconshire countryside as we heard this announced on the car radio and sure enough, there it was, creeping up the country, clearly visible across the field bordering the highway we were on. We pulled over and I took that photo you see above. So it’s not really English fog at all. But it stayed with us until we left.

FAMILIAR STREETS SEEM TO BECKON TO MYSTERIOUS DESTINATIONS

Foggy Street, Dogdyke - Ellie Kennard 2016
Foggy Street, Dogdyke – Ellie Kennard 2016

We took a walk down a familiar street which seemed to dissolve into a mystery just out of sight. Without the effect lent it by the Continental mist, this modern development had no more appeal than any other housing estate, but now it seemed to draw you along to see what secrets lay just out of sight. And then suddenly there it was! Right at the end there was a very English path with a lovely little crooked gate and a stone bridge through which trickled a gentle stream. It felt like we had jumped from one world into another!

A DIFFERENT WORLD

Country walk in the fog - Ellie Kennard 2016
Country walk in the fog – Ellie Kennard 2016

DUCKS IN THE MIST

The pond by this path was filled with ducks gliding silently through the reeds. The mist made them almost ethereal, like creatures of my past reappearing to remind me of all the ponds with all the ducks that had had bread fed to them when I stood by them on misty walks with my little girl.

Ducks in the mist - Ellie Kennard 2016
Ducks in the mist – Ellie Kennard 2016

It’s true that although England is no longer (usually) shrouded in thick smog, some of my fondest memories of the landscape of that country include mist or fog. All the same, I had not expected those memories would be so poignantly brought back to me on that short trip to Linconshire.

Jennie Feeding the Duck - Steven Kennard 1980
Jennie Feeding the Duck – Steven Kennard 1980

See the full gallery of my UK photographs here: http://elliekennard.ca/ekgallery/uk/

Deep in thought at breakfast

Pensive at breakfast, Gatwick airport - Ellie Kennard 2016
Pensive at breakfast, Gatwick airport – Ellie Kennard 2016

I’m not yet finished with England as far as my stories go, but this simply expressive photograph caught my attention today and I thought I would put it up to share. It’s one of the last taken on that trip, during our breakfast at Gatwick airport before we left and it doesn’t need anything more in the way of description.

Clicking on the image takes you to the gallery of photographs of our trip to England (more to come).

For the Birds

And now back to England. This post is for the birds.

Star Birds

Robin on feeder with cobweb - Ellie Kennard 2016
Robin on feeder – Ellie Kennard 2016

I have always associated England with birds as it was there that I first really started to learn about them. I have never been a bird watcher in the focused, knowledgeable and dedicated ‘twitcher’ sense. But I was very fortunate, when I was in my early 20’s, to take an adult education (evening) class given by the warden of Minsmere Bird Reserve in Suffolk, Jeremy Sorensen, who subsequently became a great friend. He loved birds and was a passionate advocate for conservation and protection of the habitat of the reserve. That love for birds that he had was instilled in all of us, to the point that it still forms an important part of each day wherever I live.

Whichever country I was in, I took special note of the sounds, sights and behaviour of the birds around me. I had already experienced the attacks and shrill cries of the protective arctic terns as they dive-bombed us in our little boat on the lake in Lapland, a few years before. (That story and podcast are here if you want to read about that wonderful night. http://elliekennard.ca/lemmings-midnight-sun/) Now I was even more aware and observed with an intense thrill my first ever osprey as I saw it dive into the Baltic sea off the coast of Finland and watched as it caught a fish and rose, flapping heavily, to take it to its nest where its young waited.

Those were the moments of drama and excitement. But life is mostly made up of the everyday, the ordinary, the mundane. And with birds, my memories of England are the fondest when I think of those that fit that description.

The Robin

For me, on returning to England, I wanted to find and photograph a robin. The little bright, cheery fellow who is so belligerent and so cheeky will always represent that country to me. And I was not disappointed, as he appeared on this feeder you see above, decorated so nicely with the cobweb. But I hoped to see and hear more of my old friends, as many as I could in the time I was there. During my trip there were times when birds were the stars, and there were times when they were important components of the landscape, still a vital part of the visit. This post is dedicated to the stars. The next will be the incidentals.

The blue and the great

I also wanted to see a blue tit again. They are such pretty little things, too, I have many fond memories of them during my time in England.

Bluetit - Ellie Kennard 2016
Bluetit – Ellie Kennard 2016

This little one sat so nicely for me so bright and pretty on this stake and gave me just enough time to take one photo before he flew off in a hurry.

A close relative of this fellow is the great tit. This one sat only a few feet away, safe in a hedge, watching the feeder and making his mind up as to whether it would be a good time to make a dive for it. I was glad to get a photo of him in this environment, as hedges are also a great part of the English countryside, protecting and sheltering so much wildlife. There are not many left but small gardens such as this often have such a hedge, where you can usually find all kinds of creatures hiding.

Great Tit in a hedge - Ellie Kennard 2016
Great Tit in a hedge – Ellie Kennard 2016

And Pigeon

The pigeon is an oft’ maligned bird that I love. It isn’t bright and flashy, but its gentle sound is so comforting to hear in the garden that I was glad to see this old favourite sitting on top of the same hedge, also eyeing the feeder.

Wood Pigeon on a hedge - Ellie Kennard 2016
Wood Pigeon on a hedge – Ellie Kennard 2016

Ducks, too

On one very foggy morning in Lincolnshire I went for a walk along the river bank (which is behind the hedge you see above) and saw a lovely scene on the other side of the bank with a pond and reeds and ducks and fog. It was just gorgeous, with that soft mist and the ducks moving in and out of the reeds on the water. I knew I just had to get that photograph. I picked up my camera and focused… on nothing! The ducks had decided that I must be there to feed them. And so they had all left the water and gathered at my feet! I did get one or two photographs of them on the pond and in the reeds when they got bored and went back in, but this seemed to be the photo to share here, as they milled around me at the edge of the water.

Curious ducks in the fog - Ellie Kennard 2016
Curious ducks in the fog – Ellie Kennard 2016

The Swan

I have already posted about my swan sighting, on here, but I should include that photo again, as it really was a star on my visit. I love the elegance of these beautiful, royal birds.

Swan by the river Witham, Lincolnshire - Ellie Kennard 2016
Swan by the river Witham, Lincolnshire – Ellie Kennard 2016

and now for a …..

Surprise!
Well I bet you weren’t expecting this last bird, were you? In a strange way, this, too, represents England. Bringing up a child in England usually involves visiting a farm park nearby and as we spent time with our grandchildren we did exactly that. And there was yet another bird, this beautiful Emu. So although an Emu is not your typical English garden mundane bird. He does have a place here, bringing back memories of all children’s farm visits over the years. I don’t think Joe or Elsie gave him a sideways glance as they ran off to play on the trampolines or climbing frames, but I lingered and caught his eye before I left him to his dinner.

Emu at Jimmy's Farm - Ellie Kennard 2016
Emu at Jimmy’s Farm – Ellie Kennard 2016

Now you’ve seen the star birds that made my trip special as they brought back a memory of bird watching days in Suffolk. The incidental birds that are an important feature in some of the landscape photographs I took will be in another post.

Martlesham Sunset Multiplied

The sunsets in Suffolk are legendary. Beloved of the painter William Turner, I understand that they are produced by the particular quality of the misty droplets in the air from the North Sea which refracts the light in a certain way. We had some truly spectacular sunsets while we stayed in Suffolk and this one was taken through a window where the foreground was filled with the rooftops of the neighbouring houses and the trees. Once again, a multiple exposure showed the scene off to best advantage. My friend who lives in this house sees these kind of sunsets every day (when there is actual sun…) from her kitchen window! Just imagine.

Martlesham sunset multiple exposure - Ellie Kennard 2016
Martlesham sunset multiple exposure – Ellie Kennard 2016

Start at the Beginning

It’s the only place to start. The beginning of the day and the start of the trip back to England, the country of my young womanhood.

I don’t usually sit by the window when we fly together. Towards the end of our flight, Steve had got up to stretch his legs and I picked up my camera and slid across to his seat. I looked out of the window as we flew into the morning, nearing the shores of the British isles. Just then I was startled to see, out of the corner of my eye, a flash, almost like a flame coming from the jet engine under the wing. It was glowing with the reflected sunrise just as if on fire. Such golden promise for the future.

Sunrise Jet - Ellie Kennard 2016
Sunrise Jet – Ellie Kennard 2016

And so the day began, with the rising sun appearing over the blue and white cloud layer beneath. A dawn in the sky has such an immense purity about it, with all of the earthly complexities rolling and tumbling beneath the clarity of the still sky blue yonder. This so well describes our stories as we recall and relate them, with their moments of supreme clarity shining still through the confusion beneath that threatens to suck them under.

Sunrise in the Wild Blue Yonder - Ellie Kennard 2016
Sunrise in the Wild Blue Yonder – Ellie Kennard 2016

My England always has an airplane at the beginning and at the end of it. And I remembered back to where I was many years ago, sitting in an airplane flying from Montreal to London for the very first time. So this return would be a trip for memories and for clarity. I really wanted to cut through to the essence and this dawn was the way to begin, before we started our bumpy descent through the ever present cloud layer lying over England.

Joe and Elsie

One of the best things about our trip to England was finding family waiting for us. This was a really special trip for us as we met our two youngest grandchildren for the first time. In this post I am simply wanting to share with you, my dear readers a couple of photos I took of them. They are absolutely wonderful.

Meet Joe

Joe - Ellie Kennard 2016
Joe – Ellie Kennard 2016

And Meet Elsie

Elsie - Ellie Kennard 2016
Elsie – Ellie Kennard 2016

‘England Swings’

Steven Kennard as the laughing 'Bobby'
Steven Kennard as the laughing ‘Bobby’

… like a pendulum do’ as the song goes. When one of my readers (yes, Jesse, that’s you!) said he wanted to see a pair of Bobbys on bicycles two by two, I had to fix it for him somehow. Well they don’t ride around on bicycles in pairs anymore, and certainly not where we are.

So here’s my laughing policeman! Part of my England!

Where Else But England?

I lived for 21 years in England in total and have been away from it except for short visits for almost 30. There are some scenes that are uniquely English memories for me (though they might well exist in other places) and I am hoping to find some of them on this trip and share them here. These are two special scenes to start off with.

Walk along the river Witham in Dogdyke - Ellie Kennard 2016
Walk along the river Witham in Dogdyke – Ellie Kennard 2016

As you gather from this post, we are back in England for a visit to family and friends. Today we went for a lovely walk along the bank of a river near where Steven’s parents live. There is something so very English about a river in the country, with the weird and wonderful boats moored along a rickety jetty and the ‘Walk here at your own risk’ sign posted there. The path was damp and muddy with blackberries still in the hedgerows which surprised me as ours have been over with long ago, as well as the bright red wild rosehips. The trees still have some leaves and, though they lack the brilliance of the autumn foliage we see, there is a rich depth to their colours of yellow and browns and to the greens and rough black earth of the ploughed fields. This is always intensified by the dampness in the air and on the ground. A lonely horse grazed quietly in a field, hardly bothering to lift his head to watch us go past.

The sun was setting behind the misty paler clouds that were gathering in the distance beneath the darker cloudbanks. It was by no means the most spectacular sunset, as my father-in-law assured me. In a way that made it more special for me, in the understated quiet ending of the day. So very British.
My landscape gallery is here: Landscape Gallery

I Wished For Swans

Swan by the river Witham, Lincolnshire - Ellie Kennard 2016
Swan by the river Witham, Lincolnshire – Ellie Kennard 2016

The river is just by an RAF station and suddenly there were jets screaming deafeningly overhead as they practised whatever manoeuvres they were performing. The sound of the engines ripped through the air and buried itself in my chest so that, with my fingers in my ears I instinctively pulled my elbows in to protect my heart. I can’t see how this noise is permitted in an area where people and wildlife can be so assaulted, but it is.  (I felt so sorry for the poor horse grazing nearby who couldn’t put his hooves into his ears.)

And then, just as if they had read my mind and placed themselves where I couldn’t miss them, I saw two swans dabbling in the reeds of a pond on the other side of the river bank. I don’t believe I have seen a swan since I last lived in England. They are the quintessential royal bird, indeed they are the property of the Queen, no matter where they are found in the UK. They never turned their heads when the jets flew over. Their very presence and calm, elegant dignity turned that humble reedy pond at the edge of a muddy field into a place of silent, glowing, pristine beauty. It’s all part of my England.
My gallery of animal photography is here: Animals – they enrich our lives now and fill our futures with wonderful memories.