Archive for Britain

Jul
28

Sunrise over the River Stour in Essex

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If you believe most photography tutorials, you could be forgiven for think that almost every image captured is the result of planning, equipment setup, patience waiting for the right moment and the right conditions. However, this isn’t always the case and you can take some great images at a moments inspiration.

I regularly took an early train to London and the route passes through Manningtree, a little place on the River Stour where the counties of Essex and Suffolk border each other. The river is tidal here and this provides some wonderful lines for an image at low tide. One of the few advantages of catching early morning trains is that at certain times of the year, the sunrises are stunning.

The train line cross the river as it slows down to pull in to Manningtree and although there are several trees in the way, there are some gaps. On one journey earlier this year when I would be passing by around sunrise, I had my camera with me. You could see the sky was colouring up nicely as I stood by the door and with the window open (yes, the train still had windows that open on the doors), I started shooting as the train approach the station. In all, I took around 60 images and in the end, 3 were good enough to take into post.

The image below is one of those 3. Little planning, no special equipment or filters, taken from a moving train.

Sunrise From A Train

This was a single shot image taken with the following settings:

  • ISO 100
  • f/5
  • 18mm focal length
  • 1/500 seconds exposure

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Jan
24

My Favourite Photos of 2013

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Rather than pick out a load of pictures I took in 2013 with my trusty old Nikon (or Olympus for underwater pics), I thought I’d showcase my Instagram skills. For those of you who don’t know, Instagram is a popular, free photo sharing app available for your smart phone. It always you to crop, rotate and apply some basic effects to the image taken with the camera on your smartphone and I’ve been pretty impressed how easy it is to use.

Below are a sample of my favourite images I took using my phone. Any editing was done within the Instagram app.

Sunrise over the Cunard Building, Liverpool, UK

Ipamena

Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro

Knutsford

Dawn in Knutsford, north west England

IMG_20131102_161841

Rainbow over Dedham Vale, England

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Houses of Parliament, London

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The last sunset over London in 2013

2013-06-02 15.08.56

Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro

 This isn’t a photo I posted to Instagram (Instagram pics are always square, this is panoramic) but I took it with the camera on my smartphone. It is the famous Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro where the 2014 World Cup Final will be played.

I’ve found Instagram to be a great little app to share photos which. A huge number of people have smartphones with cameras and the app is free to download. It is easy to use and allows you to share your photos quickly and easily onto Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites.

If you would like to see more of my Instagram photos, my account can be found here – www.instagram.com/robatherton

Jan
01

Lavenham Medieval Market Town

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MedievalTimberBuildingsLavenhamIf you ever visit the heart of Suffolk, you will find a number of medieval market towns that prospered from the wool trade during the 15th and 16th centuries. Places like Bury St Edmunds, Long Melford and others all have a charm of their own but without doubt, the most enthralling is Lavenham.

At its height, Lavenham was among the top 20 wealthiest places in England as the it reaped the rewards of the wool trade paying more tax that the large centres of Lincoln and York. Today, many of the beautiful old buildings remain and it is a wonderful place to walk around at your leisure visiting the museums, tea shops and browsing the antique stores looking for a bargain.

De Vere House, Lavenham

De Vere House, Lavenham

In the early days, the estate was owned by a tenant-in-chief of William the Conquerer called Aubrey de Vere. One of the many timber buildings in Lavenham today bears his name – De Vere House. This 14th century cottage was used to create the fictional village of Godric’s Hollow in the film “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part One”. If you fancy staying at De Vere House, it is a luxury self catering accommodation with two guest bedrooms.

Of all the wonderful medieval buildings in Lavenham, the best known is the Guildhall of Corpus Christi. This Tudor building has a number of museum rooms telling the tale of Lavenham’s history. The Guildhall was probably built in 1530 although the exact date is not known. The building has a chequered history and at one point in time was used as a prison. Some of the basement windows still have bars across them.

Guildhall of Corpus Christi, Lavenham

Guildhall of Corpus Christi, Lavenham

During World War II, Lavenham was home to one of the many American air bases and Station 137 was manned by the US Army Air Force 487th Bombardment Group between September 1943 and November 1945. Much of the base has been returned to fam land although parts of the runway still remain and the Control Tower is in the process of being restored. In the square in Lavenham, there is a plaque to the memory of the men of the 487th along with a more recent British casualty Lance Corporal of Horse “Jo” Woodgate who died in Afghanistan in 2010.

In all, there are over 300 buildings of historic significance in Lavenham which today is home to around 1,700 people. If you want to visit one of England’s finest examples of medieval history then Lavenham is the place to go. It is within easy driving distance of Colchester, Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge and should be one the list of any itinerary if you are ever in Suffolk.

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Dec
27

My Favourite Photos of 2012

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The problem with writing about all the wonderful places I’ve visited in 2012 is that I simply couldn’t do them justice in a single blog post. Instead, I’ve chosen my favourite photos I’ve taken this year.

Donbass Arena

Donbass Arena, Donetsk

Donbass Arena, Donetsk

I travelled to the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine for the Euro 2012 match between England and France. It was a beautiful summers day and I had time to look around the city and soak up the sun. The game was played in the Donbass Arena, a magnificent, modern football stadium. As it as the summer, there was still a hint of sunlight after the game and I was able to capture this photo.
http://bbmexplorer.com/donetsk-euro-2012-host-city/

Blue Dragon Nudibranch

Blue Dragon Nudibranch

Blue Dragon Nudibranch

In April, we took a family holiday to Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, a place where I have dived many times before. I’m not sure what was different about this trip but I seem very tuned in to find different nudibranchs and slugs whilst I was diving. I found this Blue Dragon Nudibranch on the wreck of the Yolanda at the very tip of the Sinai.
http://holidayblog.easyjet.com/dives-in-egypt-rob-atherton/

Oslo Harbour

Oslo Harbour

Oslo Harbour

Oslo Harbour is one of the main tourist areas of the city and is wonderful place to be during the long summer days. It is also the starting point for a number of short cruises around the many beautiful fjords and inlets.

Scallop, Aldeburgh

Scallop, Aldeburgh, Suffolk

Scallop, Aldeburgh, Suffolk

There are some lovely towns and villages along the Suffolk coast. Aldeburgh is one of these places and although it is probably best known for its wonderful fish and chips the Scallop just to the north of the town has been the cause of discussion. This sculpture is dedicated to the composer,  Benjamin Britten who used to walk along this stretch of beach. Some people think it should be taken down as it is inappropriate for a man made object along such a beautiful setting.

Liverpool

Liverpool Skyline

Liverpool Skyline

I’ve been spending a bit of time in Liverpool recently and although the city is the butt of a number of jokes, parts of the city are absolutely wonderful. One evening I took the opportunity to head over to the Wirral on the other side of the River Mersey and took this picture of the Liverpool skyline at night. It shows the iconic towers of the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building, the Port of Liverpool Building, the Echo Area and in the distance, the Anglican Cathedral.

Avebury Stone Circle

Avebury Stone Circle

Avebury Stone Circle

The stone circles in the Wiltshire village of Avebury contains the largest stone circle in Europe and is one of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain. It dates back to 2,600BC during the Neolithic period and today is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Titan Triggerfish

Titan Triggerfish

Titan Triggerfish

I wasn’t sure whether to include a second underwater picture but I really like this picture of a Titan Triggerfish. These fish can grow up to 70cm long and are sometimes incredibly agressive. I’ve been attacked by them a few times although luckily, I’ve never been bitten. The thing I like about this picture is I was able to get so close to it head on.

Sep
17

Wanted – Free WiFi at airports

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One of the many advantages of smartphones is the growing array of travel apps that help make our journeys easier. Airlines such as British Airways and Lufthansa are among a host of companies that provide apps free of charge. One of the excellent features they offer are boarding passes that are sent to your phone.

There is no waiting around at machines or counters to collect bits of paper as the boarding pass is sent straight to your phone. When you get to the airport, all you have to do is click on the app and the boarding pass appears, nice and easy.

However, there is a hidden cost to this. In the UK, I have an unlimited data plan with my phone so accessing boarding passes isn’t really an issue but when abroad, I need a connection to retrieve the boarding pass. Data roaming charges are usually outrageous and when I’m abroad, I turn off my smartphone’s data. Instead, I use wifi hotspots.

In the UK, wifi is available in airports but it is a paid service. Visitors to the UK either have to pay to connect to the airport wifi or incur expensive roaming charges. I have noticed that many airports around the world offer free wifi. In some cases, it is free for as long as you want, in other cases, it is free for a limited period of time.

Passengers wanting to retrieve boarding passes from their smartphone wouldn’t need much free wifi time so I struggle to understand why UK airports don’t offer this. Many leading hotels have always charged outrageous amounts for wifi but last month, Accor announced it was going to scrap wifi charges at all of its 500 hotels. In the 21st century, this has to be the right thing to do and hopefully, UK airports will soon realise this and do the same.

Picture: Flickr User – Joseph Hunkins

Categories : Big Blue Marble, Britain
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Aug
26

Should We Have Travel Regrets?

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I was sitting on a train the other day and thoughts drifted (as they often do ) to places around the world. Not so much ones that I wanted to visit but I for some reason, I was thinking about the places I didn’t visit when I had the opportunity.

Last year, Jordan seemed to be the destination of choice for the discerning travel blogger and I took a 10 day break there with my family during the summer. I tried to plan an itinerary that suited us all. My aim was to see new places but also leave enough time to visit other spots on the spur of the moment. Jordan has many wonderful places but one place we didn’t go to was Wadi Rum. As we left Jordan, I kept thinking that I’d go there next time but as the months have passed, I’m wondering if I will go back to Jordan. I’ve seen a lot of it including Petra, Madaba, Aqaba and the Dead Sea but I’m not sure I’ll go back any time soon. If I don’t, it does seem such a shame that I didn’t get to Wadi Rum, a place I first heard of in the film “Lawrence of Arabia”.

Seven Pillars of Wisdon, Wadi Rum (Photo: Dale Gillard on Flickr)

As ever, when you have plenty of spare time on your hands, one thought leads to another and I started to think of other travel experiences I missed. Ironically, many of the missed experiences are close to home. This was a subject I wrote about back in February – Travel Adventures On Your Doorstep. The local places are easy enough to visit but its the further afield destinations that I may never get to see again. Five years ago, I spent nearly 3 weeks in Cuba but apart from a couple of days in Havana, I spent the rest of the time in Varadero at a beach resort. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but on the flight home, I felt I should have tried to see other parts of the country too. I think of trips to Australia, South Africa, the United States and a number of cities in Europe where I had the opportunity to see and do more but didn’t.

Why Have I Never Been to Vegas? (Photo: GlacierTim on Flickr)

On reflection, I don’t think you should have any regrets about travelling. There is always something else to see and none of use are going to get to see everything we want to while we are on this earth. For the first time ever, I’ve started compiling  bucket list of places I want to visit. I’m sure I’ll never get to some of them but its always good to aim high. I think we should all be grateful for the numerous travel experiences we’ve have and try to get the most out of all future trips. Top of the list for me at present is to travel Route 66 from Chicago to the Pacific. Its something I’ll only ever do once and when I do, I’ll see and do as much as possible. It won’t be easy as there are endless things to discover as you head West across the USA.
Share your thoughts?  Do you have any regrets about places you didn’t see when travelling?
Aug
19

Heathrow Pods at Terminal 5

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If you have ever flown from London Heathrow Terminal 5, you may have seen this strange little pods approaching the terminal building on a concrete ramp near the end of the runway. A number of them can be seen at any one time and they are quite small so for a time I wondered what they were.

A few months ago, I discovered they were used to move passengers from the T5 Business Car Park to the terminal. It seemed like a great alternative to the more traditional bus. Ahead of a recent trip to Zurich, I was flying from T5 at Heathrow and needed to pre-book some parking. The BAA website usually has some pretty good rates when you book in advance so it is part of my trip routine if I’m driving to the airport.

When I logged on to their website, I hadn’t really considered the Business Car Park. Generally, they are a lot more expensive and with the Swiss Franc being so strong, I wasn’t looking to spend any more money than I had to on this trip. I needed to park for 2 days so I typed in the details and the search results came back. I was pleasantly surprised to see the Business Car Park was only £4 more than Long Stay (£36 as opposed to £32). The opportunity to have a go on the Heathrow Pods was too good to miss so I booked them straight away.

On arrival, the Business Car Park is pretty similar to any other airport car park although it is a bit small in terms of number of bays. There are 2 pod stations; A and B. You simply walk to the nearest one and wait for a pod to arrive. When it does, there are a couple of very simple options on the touch screen, you jump in and away you go.

Inside, the pod will seat 4 people comfortable along with their luggage. The journey takes 5 minutes and drops you right in the heart of the terminal. On your return, you follow the signs to point you were dropped off, pick one of the waiting pods and chose your destination; Station A or Station B.

Heathrow quite often gets a bad rap, usually unfairly but I have to say that the Business Car Park pods are as efficient as anything I’ve experienced anywhere in the world. I’m not sure how much extra I would be prepared to pay for them in future but I will definitely consider them in the future. Unfortunately, they only operate at Terminal 5 which is where most (not all) of the British Airways flights operate from. Travelling in the modern age can be a real pain and it is little things like this that make our journeys a little easier.

Heathrow Terminal 5 Business Car Parking can be booked online at the BAA website*

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*Affiliate link

Categories : Britain, Europe, London
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Jul
08

Travel Assistance at London City Airport

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Guest post by: My Mum

Courtesy of Flickr user "1541" Darren WebLondon City Airport (Picture: Flickr user 1541 under Creative Commons) is one of Londons gems. Situated on the south bank of the river Thames I found that this is an efficient and well run airport. It was initially used by businessmen due to its close location to the City of London but more and more people are using it for leisure trips.
Ten years ago my husband and I discovered the joy of travelling via London City Airport and today I can only endorse the most favourable impressions that were made in 2002.
Today, there is an excellent rail connection from the City Airport to the main rail routes which has encouraged people like me to use this wonderful little airport.
Last year, I flew to Australia and I arranged wheelchair assistance along the way. This time, my destination was much closer but I felt so much more at ease knowing that people would be there to help me at the airport. Once my flight to Zurich was booked with British Airways, I contacted them to arrange wheelchair assistance. It was very simple and free of charge.
When I arrived at the airport, I went to the customer services counter. The staff are friendly and helpful and the wheelchair that had been ordered well in advance was soon on the scene. They helped me all the way through security, passport control and right to the aircraft.
My journey was so much more enjoyable thanks to the wheelchair assistance provided at London City Airport. I believe that most, if not all, airlines off this service and most airports.
Long live London City Airport!
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Feb
13

Travel Adventures On Your Doorstep

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Whenever we think of travel, it usually conjours images of airports, exotic destinations, unfamiliar languages and the like. One thing we all tend to overlook are the travel adventures on our own doorsteps. I’m more than happy to admit I’m guilty of this and I’m sure a lot of you are too.

I live in the county of Suffolk in England and these are just some of the places people from far and wide come to see;

 

Sutton Hoo

Sutton Hoo Visitors Centre (Photo: Sharon Hall Shipp)

 

In 1939, a 7th century burial mound was discovered not far from the town of Woodbridge. A ship had been taken from the nearby River Deben and a burial mound, believed to be for an Anglo-Saxon king was constructed here. Many of the treasures that were discovered are currently on display at the British Museum in London. The visitors centre at Sutton Hoo is run by the National Trust and all the up to date visitors information can be found there.

Constable Country (Dedham)

Will Lott's Cottage, Dedham

This is on the Suffolk / Essex border but I’m claiming it anyway. The artist John Constable painted a number of wonderful works of art, the most well known being “The Hay Wain” (1821). Will Lott’s cottage which is featured in the painting can still be visited and its lost none of its charm over the years and the area has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

 

Southwold

Southwold Beach Huts

Southwold is a little town on the North Suffolk coast and is a wonderful place to visit. It has everything that one would look for in a quintessential English seaside town. The sandy beach is lined with colourful beach huts or you can take a stroll on the award winning pier. From the cliffs overlooking the North Sea are a number of cliff top canon and a working lighthouse. The town is popular with day trippers and those wanting to stay a bit longer.

 

Framlingham Castle

Framlingham Castle (Photo: topcastles.com)

The magnificent castle in the market town of Framlingham has over 800 years of history waiting to be explored. From its origins when it was built in post Norman England, Framlingham Castle has served various roles including a Poorhouse as well as forming part of the defences against any possible German invasion during World War II. The castle is looked after by English Heritage.

 

Newmarket

Newmarket Races (Photo: Jonathan_W)

350 years ago, the “Sport of Kings” was born in this Suffolk town. Today, Newmarket is still the home of British Horse Racing. It is home to a large number of training stables and the racecourse has two courses; The Rowley Mile Course and the July Course. Between them, they host meetings in Spring, Summer and Autumn. Entrance to meetings can be very reasonable leaving you a bit more money as you try to pick a winner or two. In addition to the races, music concerts are also held here and often feature leading artists.

 

Bury St Edmunds

Abbey Gardens (Photo: Running in Suffolk)

This historic market town is packed with history. At it’s heart are the cathedral and wonderful Abbey Gardens. There are a number of museums in the town including Moyse Hall Museum which dates back to 1180, Greene King Brewery Museum and the Suffolk Regiment Museum. If you are looking a great place to eat or stay, the Angel Hotel in the heart of the town offers superb food in a wonderful ambience. Whilst you are in town, you can also visit Britain’s smallest pub, the Nutshell. The bar measures just 15′ x 7′ and was first opened in 1867.

 

Clare

St Peter and Paul Church, Clare (Photo: Cuthbertian)

Hidden away in the Suffolk countryside is the old wool town of Clare. Some buildings date back to the time of William the Conquerer (it appears in the Doomsday Book as ‘Clara’) and there are many unique and charming structures including the 13th century Priory and more than 125 listed buildings. The timeless beauty of the village is all part of its appeal to visitors who can come here on a day trip or stay a bit longer in one of the local B&Bs.

 

Orford Ness

Orford Ness

The shingle spit of Orford Ness was for many years a top secret area under the control of the Ministry of Defence. One of the many projects believed to be run from Orford Ness was Cobra Mist, a beyond the horizon radar system. Today it is owned by the National Trust and is popular with bird watchers. Some of the old military buildings remain as is the lighthouse which some believe was the source of the strange lights witnessed in Rendlesham Forest in 1980. The well documented UFO incident is sometimes referred to as the British Roswell. If you do plan to visit Orford Ness, make sure you wrap up warm as the wind can be biting.

These are just some of the places within an hour of where I live. You don’t have to look too hard close to home to find interesting places to visit. If you fancy a day trip close to home, do a bit of research, you’ll be surprised what is going on right on your doorstep.

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Dec
31

My 10 Top Travel Photos of 2011

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2011 has again been a good year for me to discover wonderful new places in the world. Rather than bore you with a very brief and inadequate description, I thought I’d rely on the old saying of “a picture paints a thousand words” or rather in this case a photo. Here are my favourite photos I took during the last year.

Kronborg Castle

My first trip of the year was to the Danish capital of Copenhagen. I’ve been there many times and decided to head up the coast to Helsingor and the famous Kronborg Castle. It is said to be the setting for Shakespeare’s famous play “Hamlet”.

Kronborg Castle – One of Northern Europe’s finest Renaissance castles

 

Sveti Stefan

I spent a couple of days on the Montenegro coast at Sveti Stefan overlooking this iconic iselt.

Sveti Stefan – Famous visitors here include Elizabeth Taylor and Sophie Loren.

 

Mandarin Fish

My first diving trip to Manado was extremely rewarding. On a night dive I managed to capture a couple of pictures of the elusive Mandarin Fish on a night dive.

The elusive Mandarin Fish on Bunaken Island, Manado, Indonesia

 

Queens Colours 1/24th Regiment

The Battle of Isandlwana in 1879 was the greatest defeat a British force ever suffered at the hands of a native army. On that fateful January day, the Queens Colours of 1/24th Regiment were lost in the Buffalo River. Two weeks later, against all odds they were recovered. Queen Victoria added a wreath of immortals around the crown as reminder of what happened to those colours at Isandlwana. Today, they are hanging in the Havard side chapel in Brecon Cathedral, Wales.

Queens COlours of 1/24th Regiment that were lost and later found after the Battle of Isandlwana in January 1879.

 

Burning Bush / Fire Extinguisher

High in the Sinai Mountains in St Catherine’s Monastery. It is a hugely significant religious site and  this picture is of the Burning Bush. I found it slightly amusing that there is a fire extinguisher next to it…just in case.

In 2011, the Burning Bush is less of a safety risk that back in the days when it was described in the book of Exodus thanks to a fire extinguisher.

 

Soldier on guard, Hall of Valour

The Battle of Stalingrad was an horrendous fight to the death for hundreds of thousands of Russian and German soldiers. Today at the Hall of Valour at Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd, there is a permanent guard.

A soldier stands guard in the Hall of Valour, Mamayev Kurgan, Volgograd

 

Petra through the Siq

The Siq at Petra is a long passage all visitors have to travel through to reach the famous Red City. As you approach the end, you get your first glimpse of the Treasury in Petra.

Nearing the end of the Siq and catching a first sight of the Treasury at Petra.

 

Kotor – cruise ship

The old walled town of Kotor in Montenegro is a popular cruise destination.

A cruise ship docked at Kotor, Montenegro

 

Pufferfish

This photo isn’t so much a favourite, I just want to highlight a problem (excuse the blurriness). When threatened, Pufferfish expand their bodies. Its a rare sight and is incredibly stressful for them. On this night dive in Aqaba, the guide annoyed this Pufferfish enough for it to puff out it’s body. I was really annoyed that someone meant to educate and protect the marine environment could do this. It was at a 5* PADI centre in a marine park.

This poor Pufferfish was annoyed by our dive guide and felt it had to expand it’s body to defend itself.

 

Ma’In Hotsprings

If you want to visit a fantastic spa resort in a stunning setting, the Ma’In Hotsprings 260m below sea level in Jordan will not disappoint.

The main waterfall at the fabulous Ma’In Hotsprings in Jordan.

 

I regularly update my Flickr account with my latest photos which you can find here:

http://www.flickr.com/bbmexplorer

Please feel free to add me as a contact.

Thats all from me for 2011, now I’m looking forward to 2012 which will take me to more new places and the Euro 2012 Championships in Ukraine.