Suffolk Archives - Wandering River
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Parallel Worlds in East Anglia

Parallel Worlds.

Parallel worlds, for many years, only existed in Science Fiction… Now, however, theoretical physics indicates parallel worlds may not be a flight of fancy after all.  “The truth is stranger than fiction” they say..

“Parallel worlds”.. the thought popped into my head as I walked along the north shore of the Orwell river.  As was the case in all my previous visits, the tide was out. Vessels of all shapes and sizes were moving up and down stream, all utterly dwarfed by the Orwell Bridge.

As I ambled along, the sight of a tree began to totally absorb my attention. Many trees along this stretch of the river have had their roots undercut by the encroaching river. Some have keeled over completely and soon succumbed to the waters. Others however, may have taken on a serious lean, but are holding on regardless.

The Ent and the River

The River Orwell and the eroded banks where trees lean in toward the river.

The parallel world I speak of here is a literary one from the mind of J.R.R. Tolkien. For me, one of his most enduring creations are the Ents. For those of you that have yet to read his ‘Lord of the Rings’, Ents are tree-like and sentient. They can move about and talk – think benevolent Triffid 🙂 From the instant I first read of them, I simply adored the idea of a ‘shepherd of the trees’. So, from that time, I would find a tree here and there that looked a likely candidate and I would wonder if it would, well, ‘up sticks’ and go for a wander after I was out of sight.

The tree in the foreground of this shot is such a tree. While it belongs in one world, it has found its way into ours and is leaning out to see how the world of Man crosses a mighty river.

Was he impressed, I wonder? Or was he thinking “houmm, root and branch, very odd.. very odd indeed”?

If you would care to see a much higher resolution version of this image, you can find it here on my 500px pages.

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Fangorn in Suffolk

Only followers of Tolkien would know Fangorn. So I wonder how many of us that have read Tolkien, have had their lives at least in some small manner, altered by the experience? Some may argue it is folly to suggest that a work of fiction could (or should) have such an effect.

Not I though.

The imagination is one of the few human characteristics that can be free of the rigours of ageing – if we allow it 🙂 Life in the ‘real’ world is often a matter of dealing with all sorts events that cause physical and mental wear and tear.. The imagination too, can suffer but keeping it safe from all the corrosive events in our lives can maintain a potential to maintain and boost even, the colour in our lives. We do, however, have to allow it to remain open to all sorts of influences – including, therefore, what we read.

So what brings this on? A tree… a gnarled old tree.

Fangorn, Wandering River

“For all Hobbits share a love for things that grow” – I don’t know if this line was written by the great man himself but even if it was written by Peter Jackson’s script writers, I am sure Tolkien would approve of the sentiment. This lovely old specimen has been through the wars a bit.. Now I come to think of it, this is probably true in the literal sense as well as figuratively. Nature has seen fit to take its top; whether by wind or lightning, I don’t know but in the years we have walked by, we have seen it in all seasons.. something reassuringly constant in countryside.

One Chestnut tree does not, I know, make either Mirkwood or Fangorn.. In Suffolk, trees are not as commonly found as they in other places and reminds me of a passage in the Two Towers (I think) where Treebeard speaks of the Ents walking far and wide to find the long lost Entwives.. So I see this tree and the imagination starts to wonder…

So, what of you? If you are out and about for a walk, do you pass a solitary tree and does your imagination tell you a tale?

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2014 in Photographs

2014 in photographs

The idea of using photography to reflect the passage of a year may not be an original idea – 2014 in photographs is, nonetheless, my way to present a set of ‘markers’ from a purely personal perspective. Each image represents a bit of a struggle – though not an onerous one. Simply an effort to be faithful in representing what I see. “Ah!” you might say 🙂 “What does “Faithful” mean in this context? Well, the answer is simple and complex all at the same time.

The ‘simple’ answer is I always strive to portray an accurate representation of a place or a thing from an image. The complex bit? To imbue a sense of the spirit of the scene. The latter is, or course highly subjective.

Regardless of all, here it is.. I recall pressing the shutter release for all of them – The scene touched me for different reasons and now I would love to know what, if any, emotions these may evoke in you.

January 2014 Diamonds and Spiders.

Frozen Dew on a Spider's Web

If ever there was a demonstration as to the strength of the humble Spider’s web, then this image goes some way toward proving one!

The winter of 2013/14 was shaping up to be one of those nondescript, damp affairs… Cloudy, dull skies and little sign of Winter. Then in late January, frosts started to descend and late one evening, before the frosts arrived, there was a heavy mist. In the small hours the temperature fell and all around was turned into a crystal world.

In the shot you see, small branches of a hawthorn had the dew frozen to its surface and to a spider’s web. Its remarkable strength is made clear and illuminated by flash, the frozen drops of water sparkled like diamonds.

February 2014 Martlesham Creek.

Martlesham Creek

A still morning on Martlesham Creek.


I was asked if I had some shots of Martlesham Creek in my collection of Suffolk landscapes…. Well, at the time, “no” was the answer. So, never needing too much persuasion to visit a place yet to be seen, I went along to check it out.

The weather was overcast and cold but the place was LOADED with atmosphere. On this day, the air was so still and wreaths of mist were appearing and and then disappearing.. wonderful stuff.

March 2014 The Making of Harry Potter

Hogwart's Castle

The set for the Harry Potter films has to be seen to believed. The sheer skill and artistry is, at times, too much to hoist in.


This is the month of my birth. Guess where I was taken out for the day?

What a place. What a day! I can’t help but wonder if J.K Rowling has to pinch herself at times when considering the huge world that has been built around the product of her imagination. I hope so..

The scale of the work is awe inspiring. The attention to detail. A day here is not long enough so if you have yet to go, book a time in the mid morning to give you plenty of time..

The Castle was one of many, many highlights. It is a 1/24th scale, if I recall and so very detailed.

April 2014 Sea defences at Old Felixstowe.

Infinity

Who says concrete can’t be beautiful? This breakwater, a wee step from the pier at Felixstowe, is more than just a defence against the sea….


I am indebted to a fellow photographer for being able to to present my own ‘version’ of this. Such structures serve a single and simple purpose and are often made from shaped concrete blocks with little that is pleasing to the eye. These, however ‘break the mould’. I do not think I have ever seen a coastal defence structure that looked so elegant. The curve is so graceful and the way it appears to disappear into infinity. Also, the mood of the structure changes with the tide and how restless the sea is.

There is a dream-like quality to this… but only because the way the sea was washing over the pillars presented that sense to me. In a simple shot, this would not be apparent. So this was a 30 second exposure – time for waves to wash over each other while the shutter was open.

May 2014 The Abbey Gardens in Bury St. Edmunds.

The Abbey Gardens, Bury St. Edmunds.

Colour in the Abbey Gardens

As they do every year, the gardeners for the Abbey at Bury St. Edmunds pull another ‘rabbit’ out of the hat… The Gardens are always glorious.

It was a dull ol’ day when I was here but looking at the blaze of colour these Tulips offered, it did not matter how dull it was. In my very limited knowledge of such things, I knew I had never seen such vibrancy. As much as I like a sunny day, it no longer seemed quite so important to get one after seeing this.

June 2014 All Creatures Great and Small.

“As large as life” is an old saying…

Wildlife in the Garden

A Cricket resting on the petals of an Aquilegia

I was about to set out for an evening walk. I managed to get no further than the path that leads from the front garden to the road when I saw this wee fellow basking in the last of the day’s sunshine. It was still of much of the time – then, very slowly, it would stretch one of its limbs and return to stillness..

July 2014 Lavenham Guildhall

The Guildhall in Lavenham

The Guildhall, Lavenham

The Guildhall in Lavenham – built around 1530…

We thought a day out to Lavenham was in order… It was sunny at home – a beautiful morning but by the time we had travelled the few miles to Lavenham, the sun had been lost behind cloud and the temperature became almost autumnal. Regardless, the light made the old Guildhall an interesting subject and once again, using B&W to portray the venerable old building has not, I hope, done it a disservice..

The carvings alone are noteworthy but the scale of the building shows the wealth that was about this town when wool was still king.

The Guildhall has a very chequered history… The Hall was built by the Guild of Corpus Christi, a religious organisation of local merchants. The main focus however, was on religion and charitable works. Donations were made by the wealthy though not always to help the less fortunate. As was often found in the middle ages, some bequests lined the pockets of the clergy for favourable reverences in the form of prayer. The clergy was always open to donors in the best possible light when face with the pearly gates…. for a fee 🙂

Economic turbulence was also to add more colour to the history of the Guildhall. With many fortunes dependant on wool, the collapse of the cloth trade in the early 16th century was to add to the woes of the building.

Between the 16th century and contemporary times, the Hall has been home to a council, a prison wool-store and workhouse. In the early 1950’s the National Trust took ownership.

August 2014 Awe inspiring Skies.

Wild Skies

A heart-stopping sky over Suffolk…

August 2013 was to herald a series of unreal skies. The same, it would seem was to be so for August 2014. For a period of a few days, you could be forgiven for believing “the end is nigh” when looking at the sky. Torrential downpours were forecast – serious enough to warrant amber warnings from the Met Office and from this high point in the county of Suffolk, we could see the squally rains pass us by.

To walk under these heavens was a time to remember.

September 2014 Time rolls into August.

Shaggy Inkcap

The Shaggy Inkcap… also known as “Judge’s Wig”


September brings the hint of Autumn and with that season, Mushrooms! This specimen is the ‘Shaggy Inkcap’ and lies on a well trodden path that is our “round the block” walk. It passes through the graveyard of the village church and passes by the wonderfully named “World’s End Lane”. Considering how flat East Anglia is, this part of Suffolk has ups and down that almost qualify as hills…

Almost.. but not quite.

October 2014 Wilderness Calls

The Shores of Lindisfarne

A sandy beach on the northern shores of Lindisfarne..

There are a number of photographs that would fit in the space for October… and many would show a sunny day. So why this one? The answer lies in the pristine beach and vast skies that are a feature of Lindisfarne. The tide was on its way out when we arrived and this, combined with the fact it had rained heavily the previous evening, had wiped away any footprints that may have been set down the previous day. The rain had left a dipped texture to the sand making it even more alluring.

Then, there is this little branch. Almost like a skeletal hand.

November 2014 Rosehips and Diamonds.

Summer into Autumn

The Autumn sun sparkles through rain drops that had collected on rosehips..

At another point in the “around the block” route, a sparkle of light caught my eye. Move a fraction this way or that and the mote of light disappears. Finding it again, I managed to snag this shot… Luck was with me on this day. The sun was shining through a gap in the trees and no more than 10 minutes earlier or later, these rosehips would be in shadow.

December 2014 Deep Mid-Winter.

Winter Descends

This is the road that connects our village to the world…. but not for this day.


Rarely do have a winter we can actually call a winter. Many days, often dull, neither warm or cold. Sometimes though, temperatures take a tumble and the skies take on a scene W.M Turner would have recognised.

Snow and ice in our neck of the woods makes getting about tricky. Since snow and ice are rare, it is the reason us Brits just ain’t geared up for it. That said, we seemed to be taken by surprised whenever it does snow 🙂

On a day like this, I am raring to get outside. The fact the temperature may be well below the line makes the desire to get out even stronger. It was the case on this day. During the night, there was wind enough to blow snow across the road that passes between my village and our neighbours. By the time I was up and about the wind had settled to the merest of zephyrs. The clouds in the sky were like a freeze-frame.. for a long while, it seemed, they hardly moved.

All was silent. Just me out and about.

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A Videographer’s day

A view from Behind the Scenes.

If you have ever watched a concert on the telly or online and was curious about how it is all done, read on 🙂 Like all professions, what is visible to the public is the tip of the iceberg – so it is for the Videographer. This wee missive sheds a little light on the preparation that is done before the ‘Record’ button is pressed. Parts of the account border on ‘technical’ but it is all kept, hopefully, within the bounds of ‘normal’ human speech 🙂

When I was offered the chance to produce a video recording of a classical concert by The Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra, I jumped at it. The venue was to be The Apex – an excellent venue in the Suffolk town of Bury St. Edmunds. It was an exciting prospect – many times have I seen a production from the audience perspective but not since my school and college days, have I worked on a stage. To add to the fun, I would have to understand how to use the venue’s audio infrastructure. -There were microphones to set up and their signals returned to the other end of the auditorium where the camera would be.

The Venue.

This is The Apex without a soul about – apart from me.

The Apex, Bury St. Edmunds

All is quiet at The Apex, Bury St. Edmunds.

It is a great venue. Being on my own in the auditorium was an experience in itself. All that space and the hushed quiet.

The reverie quickly dissolved. The thought of having to complete as much of the setup on the stage as possible before the orchestra arrived was enough to bring me back to the present! The main tasks were twofold. First, the initial placement of microphones.’Initial’ because their final location could not be set until the orchestra’s seating arrangement has been fixed. Second, the routing of cables to the microphones. On each side the stage, cables can be passed through wee doors allowing access between the stage. Cables are then forwarded to’patch panels’. These allow you to reroute signals should the need arise. From there, to the rear of the auditorium. As for the cables on the stage, trip hazards were identified and dealt with.

Once the players had arrived and had organised themselves on the stage, I could then position the mics and their stands appropriately. In this shot, the rehearsals had finished and the microphone on the left placed close to where the soloist, Benjamin Baker would stand. To its right, another can be seen – this one was to pick up the sound from the Cellos.

Setting the Stage

Setting microphones for a soloist prior to a concert at the Apex, Bury St. Edmunds.

Ideally, I would like to have positioned them closer to the instruments but this was to be a public performance. Positioning microphones to gain best sound quality had to be measured therefore, against the reasonable expectations of a paying audience.

Of the 8 recording channels I had available, six originated from microphones on the stage. A channel each for Violins, Horns, Percussion, Cello and Bass. One additional channel allowed me to record any announcements made over the auditorium’s PA system. The remaining channel was used for a synchronisation signal – an aid to quickly link the audio to the video when the time comes to edit the recording.

Last Steps

All the wires that carry the microphone signals pass to the rear of the hall. There, setting up the audio was reasonably straightforward. First, the feeds from the stage were connected to a seriously clever box of tricks. Under the control of a laptop, each microphone input from the stage was labelled, the sensitivity of each input adjusted. A stereo mix from all the inputs was created and passed on to the video camera. Last but not least, all 8 channels routed to the software that was be responsible for recording the concert audio.

Setting up

Setting up audio recording gear….

“..the sensitivity of each input adjusted..” What’s that all about? Well, the incoming signals need boosting to a useable level – a level that will vary depending on what instrument a microphone is close to. A cello usually needs more ‘oomph’ than a kettle-drum 🙂 This process can only be done once the rehearsals begin but has to continue during the concert. Keeping watch on how the levels are looking helps you avoid ‘clipping’ – an awful sound that you can do little to correct. The reverse is also true – sound levels that are too low run the risk of unwanted noise intruding.

On the video front, the videographer has to take some essential steps. First, to set ‘White Balance’. Under stage lighting, video and stills cameras need to ‘know’ what white looks like. Once this is established, the recorded video has a better chance of representing colours faithfully. It is always best to ensure what ‘goes in’ is as close to correct as possible, this makes the edit process that much simpler.

Next, a series of simple house-keeping measures: Make sure the video camera was fixed to a levelled tripod. Sounds a minor thing but panning can look very strange if this simple step was not made 🙂 Next, video recording settings checked and sound levels from that ‘clever box of tricks’ also checked.

So. There you have it. I hope this has given an interesting insight. From arrival to a state of readiness had taken about three hours. I had time to grab the stills camera and take some shots of the orchestra as they rehearsed. For me, this is a great time.. to be so close to the musicians as they rehearsed is a memorable experience. While I was on stage with them, the sound was all around me – something that does not happen when at the back of the auditorium.

There are shots of the event in one of the galleries on my Facebook page… you are welcome to check them out:-)

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Kentwell Hall

Kentwell Hall

The Hall is sited in the midst of timeless grounds, close by the Suffolk town of Long Melford. “Timeless”? A quizzical eyebrow may be raised at such language but Kentwell Hall is not like other of our old manor houses where much is done to preserve them in aspic.

On this visit, my time was restricted to the grounds. I was sure many hidden gem would have been waiting for me if I had more time! Still, I am content with what I have seen – the walled garden on the northern aspect of the house. A long established deciduous woodland borders the garden so the path I found myself following was lit by a green gloom – this enhanced the sense of mystery further.

Long Forgotten

The old and abandoned boiler house for an equally abandoned Greenhouse at Kentwell Hall.

Ruins

A long wall is to my right. Soon, a corner is turned and a derelict building canbe seen that adjoins the wall. There is a door – but it is barred shut.. There is a glassless window above it that gives a tantalising view of the long forgotten interior.. Oh, how I would love to be able to explore!

The building is long but narrow and soon, a flu can be seen – so a fire once burned here… A thought occurs. Many such places had grapevines growing under glass. I wondered if this was a boiler house to generate steam?

Within a few steps of entering the walled-garden, it was evident there had indeed, been glasshouses built into the wall. There were three.. all to a greater or lesser degree, in ruins. The one closest to the door had only the brickwork surviving and a curious structure it was. It appeared these used to be a greenhouse within a greenhouse. Huge steam pipes ran the length of the ruin.. so perhaps the building attached to the wall was a boiler house..

Abandoned to Nature

An abandoned greenhouse at Kentwell Hall

The remaining pair had, not only some of the timber structure still standing, but also a magnificent and all but wild vine. It had long forgotten the touch of human hand and had grown well beyond the boundary of the glasshouse that once contained it. Gnarled and twisted it may be but it looked as though it was still vigorous enough to produce grapes.

In its day, these glasshouses must have been remarkable. The remains of Victorian engineering was seen everywhere – a handle that used to open roof-vents..

Iron Brick and Timber

An old iron crank that, long years ago, had been used open vents in a greenhouse roof…

..to the cast-iron structure that formed the roof of the ‘inner’ glasshouse. No expense was spared it would seem, in constructing the vinery.

Ivy and Timber

Only the timber frame remains of this end wall of the Greenhouse.

There was one section of the original wood frame that remained relatively free of the vine. It towered over my head though what was keeping it in place, I don’t know – it just seemed to hang there.

How wonderful it would be to see it restored but part of me feels to do so would in itself represent a loss. Seeing these remains made me stop and wonder about the past and the intervening years. Would that still happen if, on returning someday, these glasshouses were restored?

Kentwell Hall… If you have not visited, then it is well worth the trip. If you would like to know more, click here.

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Gig in the Garden

The Gig in the Garden

As fund raisers go, Gig in the Garden has to be amongst the best. The gig is held in the wilds of Suffolk near the town of Stowmarket. It had its first outing last year – a one-day event that was a stonking success. This year’s event was held over two days (July 12th and 13th, 2014) and despite a decidedly damp second day, the entire show was a blast.

The event is in aid of Action Medical Research – A Charity close to the heart of many of the movers and shakers of the Gig. The work done to make the event a smooth running success was immediately obvious when I arrived. Car parking was organised and marshalled, the redoubtable St. John’s Ambulance were visibly in attendance, high quality caterers (including a lady that served CRACKING coffee), room to camp if you wanted to stay over for both days and of course, the essential ‘rest’ err… ‘cubicles’ 🙂

Most important of all, a remarkable array of musical genres lined up…

I arrived at around 1pm.. It was grey and overcast but with a promising forecast. By the end of the evening, there was to be a light show no one had expected.

Wandering River at Work

I was there to capture the mood of the day. Right from the ‘off’, the grey skies did not cast a shadow on an atmosphere that was light and easy. I watched folk find a space, lay out rugs and organise picnics. As more arrived, the open spaces gradually filled with folk content to sit on either picnic rugs or chairs of all shapes and sizes. Inevitably, the beer tent soon had folk propping it up… and since this year’s event provided room for camping, some had no concerns about drinking and driving – aa fact soon made evident 🙂

'Happy Days' at the Gig-in-the-Garden

Making a Summer weekend of it.


Photographing gigs is a favourite but this adds another element.. The daylight hours opens up opportunities for people-watching. Folk of all ages were there – from months old to ages old and it was great to watch them revel in the company around them and in the day’s entertainment.

As time went by, the clouds did indeed give way to the sun. Some folk had bubble makers and in the lazy breeze, bubbles large and small drifted about with many picnics in full swing. Gig in the Garden was well underway and filling the air with music.

Bands and Stages

Two stages, one of them provided by the John Peel Centre, were hosting a seriously diverse range of bands.. it was so good to see they included (like last year) bands made up from folk in their teens as well as those on their 20’s and up. Some made a repeat (and very welcome) return – the redoubtable Underline the Sky, Polar Collective and Chasing Storms to name but a few.

Solo artists too featured large with Gion Stump (all the way from Switzerland no less) and Zak Macro to name but two. Double Acts also featured all with seriously talented guitarists and vocalists. Jo and Rob were on stage when I arrived and they were performing a fabulous version of Nancy Sinatra’s “these Boots are made for Walkin'”… I could not recall how many years it has been since hearing that one!

Underline the Sky were as energetic as ever – and certainly, the decibels went up a notch or two judging by the extra pulses of air the stacks were throwing at me as I walked by them. I checked out one of their videos and I loved it 🙂 A fabulous ballad with video covering a trip to Wales… with an interesting insight into their culinary skills..

Gigs in the Daylight Hours

I attended last year’s Gig in the Garden and not until I reviewed the shots I had taken, did I realise how different the atmosphere can be between daylight hours and after it gives way to the dark hours. A ‘conventionally’ timed gig gives the atmosphere a kick start. Not so for an event during daylight hours. Something else, beyond a well composed shot, has to replace what the darkness provides. I am, by no means, certain I know what that “something else” is but it is great fun trying different options in the processing.. Please do offer your own thoughts on the matter.

So darkness falls… and the time comes around for the headline act. The Bohemians. I had always been a little wary of tribute bands. Last year’s main billing was Ultimate Madness and they did much to banish any misgivings. So this year, my mind was a little more open to a tribute band that focused on all things Queen. Until I checked out their website, I had no idea how accomplished this band was. This will give you an idea…

A wee while after Bohemians had started their set, I could see flashes in the sky.. In no time, I knew it was lightning and it was to be the beginning of one the best natural light shows I had seen for many a year. I had enough material by then so I thought a graceful exit was wise. All the wile I was packing up, the lightning was taking up more of the sky and becoming more frequent. Better still, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the current cover being performed with “thunderbolt and lighting, very,very frightening” coming over the the PA… I am not sure it could have been scripted better…

Soon after, I could hear the gig coming to a premature end and a wise decision it was too. The heavens opened and the storm passed right overhead.

That is what I call a good ending 🙂

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