John Passmore Photography is based in the beautiful Cotswolds and offers a wide range of photographic services.
Today I went for a walk in the beautiful Tetbury countryside just 10 minutes drive from my house with my good friend Tony. The town of Tetbury is in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds with 1300 years of recorded history since 681 when Tetta's Monastery was mentioned in a charter by King Ethelred of Mercia. In the Middle Ages, Tetbury was an important market town for the Cotswolds wool trade. The town is known as an 'architectural gem' as many of the wool merchants houses still look as they did 300 years ago. Prince Charles' home, Highgrove, is a five minute drive away.
Near Highgrove is Dougton Manor House in the hamlet of Doughton. Built between 1632 and 1641 it was probably always the old manor of the village, as mentioned in 1328. It is a conservative Jacobean country house typical of the Cotswold vernacular, with unusually thick walls (so thick that they were once said to be made of cob), built modestly in rendered rubble with stone windows and dressings, and a central stone porch. The builder was Richard Talboys, a wool man from Yorkshire, who bought the estate of just 4 acres in 1631 in order to build a country house, away from his business in the smoke of Tetbury. The gate piers to the north bear his mark: ‘R.T. 1641’. Doughton Manor later became a farmhouse, united in the same ownership as the grander house at Highgrove. Part of its appeal is that it has remained little altered. It was put into repair by the Arts and Crafts architect Norman Jewson, in 1933.
We returned to Tetbury along public rights of way through the Prince of Wale's Duchy Home Farm. The Duchy estate was created in 1337 by Edward III for his son and heir, Prince Edward (later known as The Black Prince) who became the first Duke of Cornwall. The Duchy’s primary function is to provide an income from its assets for The Prince of Wales.
The Prince believes passionately in the advantages of organic farming. In 1986 he converted Duchy Home Farm to a completely organic farming system. Today, the farm is highly successful and a recognised model for organic farming. The farm focuses on 5 key areas:
Rare breeds - Animals such as Large Black pigs, Tamworth pigs, Irish Moiled cattle and Hebridean and Cotswold sheep are highly prized by the Prince for the quality of their produce and their natural affinity with the British farming landscape.
Duchy Originals - The first product in the Duchy Originals range was the Oaten biscuit made with organic oats from Home Farm in 1992. Years later, the organic food business has gone from strength to strength selling everything from jams to garden furniture. All profits, currently at around £1 million a year, go to charity.
Education and Research - Home Farm has links with the Soil Association, the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA), and is one of the Elm Farm Research Centre’s network of 12 Demonstration farms (for those interested in converting to the organic system). Visits, literature and workshops are used to promote the links between food, farming, health and the environment
Vegetable box scheme - The Farm now runs a successful vegetable box scheme providing locally sourced and fresh organic produce to over 140 families in the area. The Duke encourages the growth of heritage seeds for the box scheme, sometimes just on a very small plot just to keep the gene pool alive.
Mutton - Organic mutton from Home Farm is sent to Calcot Manor Hotel near Tetbury and the Ritz in London. The Duke is enthusiastic about restoring mutton (meat from a two year-old sheep), to the dinner tables of the nation after speaking to struggling sheep farmers who found they could no longer get a decent price for older ewes. To this end, The Duke launched the Mutton Renaissance campaign.
We were lucky to spot these traditional draught horses being put through their paces. I personally think it is important that we not only eat healthily but also protect the environment that gives us everything needed for us to survive. And with the current issue of dwindling bee populations it is vital to limit, as much as we can, the use of pesticides in our food production.
We were sent on our way home with a friendly nod from the locals!
Photographs taken with Lumix G3 (except Norman Jewson which is from Google).
This year winter has seemed a long, cold tunnel with spring warmth seemingly still out of reach of our icy grasps. The coldest March and April in many a year means that spring is locked tight in winter's unrelenting grip with the only upside of the stubborn high pressure system being the cold, dry but often bright days. Such days beckon me out for a walk in the brisk air - no need for botox as the wind blasts the wrinkles on tightening skin.
Sunday was such a day and I walked locally along Seven Mile Plantation near Badminton. Seven Mile Plantation is a long ribbon of woodland that is located near Petty France. It starts at Bodkin Wood and like a green tendril reaches southwards for seven miles. There were some heartening signs of spring including these delightful daffodils.
The woods lie near Petty France; a delightful Cotswold hamlet on the A46 north of Bath in South Gloucstershire. At this time of year (and especially this year) there isn't much sign of life and so these daffodils give a welcome splash of colour. I wasn't alone in the woods. Ambling along as quietly as i could - I know there is a pair of roe deer that live here. I often see them at a distance in the adjacent fields in the early morning or late evenings from my window. Sure enough, there's a crash to my left as the skittish creatures start at my footsteps and instinctively run deeper into the wood casting a single look back at me before melding into the undergrowth.
A beautiful feature here and around the Cotswolds generally is the dry stone walling. Dry stone walls are walls that are made without the use of mortar or cement. They have been used as boundaries throughout Britain for centuries, and are a particularly important and attractive feature of the landscape within the Cotswolds.The earliest known example of dry stone walling in the Cotswolds can be found at Belas Knap near Winchcombe in the North Cotswolds, a Neolithic long barrow built about 2000 BC. Most of the dry stone wallswe see now date from the 18th and 19th century, when large tracks of open fields and downland were enclosed for livestock. Stone and labour were both readily available, so walls were relatively cost effective to construct. In the second half of the twentieth century, many walls became redundant as livestock numbers fell and fields were used for growing crops. There were also fewer people employed with the skills to maintain and restore the walls. Stone used for dry stone walling in the Cotswolds comes from thin strata of oolitic limestone. The thickness and colour of the stone varies considerably throughout the area. As a result, the appearance of the walls, also varies. In the north of the Cotswolds, for example, the stone can be honey coloured, while in other parts of the Cotswolds it can be grey or white.
Features in the dry stone walls in the Cotswolds contribute to the diversity of the area and reflect local history. Walls contain many unusual features, including holes for livestock to pass through, stone steps, water troughs, stone styles, archways and bee boles - a shelter within the wall where beehives used to be kept.
In the context of modern farming practice, dry stone walling is expensive to maintain. Within the Cotswolds they are a unique and distinctive feature of the landscape and their conservation and management is a high priority. It can cost £100 per metre run to restore a damaged wall and so it must be a blow for owners to see collapses like these.
On my way back I encountered a hapless crow with what looked like a broken wing. It could only hobble across the field away from me rather than fly whilst holding up the sorry looking appendage. I wondered if it would see the day out in that sorry state and keep out of sight of the hungry foxes that abound here. They too must be fed up with this long, cold winter.
Photos taken with Lumix G3
This week took me on a jaunt to Salisbury. It was my first time to visit and whilst the antique and bric-a-brac shops entertained my better half it was the cathedral that drew my interest. Salisbury Cathedral has a curious number of interesting facts associated with it, apart from having the tallest spire in the United Kingdom ....
Salisbury Cathedral houses one of the 4 exemplar copies of the Magna Carta and is in fact the best preserved of them.Magna Carta (Latin for "Great Charter") is one of the most celebrated documents in English history. At the time it was the solution to a political crisis in Medieval England but its importance has endured as it has become recognised as a cornerstone of liberty influencing much of the civilized world.
A visit to view the best preserved original Magna Carta in the Chapter House is for many visitors the highlight of their time at Salisbury Cathedral.
How did the Magna Carta come about?
The feudal system bound medieval society together in a hierarchy of relationships. Under the feudal system the King was all-powerful. Dispute grew between the barons and bishops and King John over his poor government, heavy war taxes and quarrels with the Pope.
Weakened by his defeat by the French in 1214 and keen to avoid a civil war he feared losing, King John met the barons at Runnymede (between Windsor and Staines in Southern England) on 15 June 1215 and agreed the terms of the document now known as Magna Carta. Its content, driven by the concerns of barons and church, was designed to re-balance power between the King and his subjects. When King John set his seal on Magna Carta he conceded the fundamental principle that even as king he was not above the law.
I was lucky enough to be meandering through this magnificent building as the Cathedral Choir was practising. Salisbury Cathedral Choir maintains a tradition of church music that has been offered in the Cathedral since its consecration in 1258
Salisbury has been well known for the lead that it has given in liturgy, and music has always played an important part in the Cathedral's worship. In the early days the music in the Cathedral was performed by two groups of musicians, the Vicars Choral and the choristers, either together or separately.
In the sixteenth century there first appeared the Lay Vicar, a singing man who was not in Holy Orders and whose duty it was to assist the Vicar Choral with the singing. Today the music is provided by sixteen boy choristers and sixteen girl choristers aged between 8 - 13 years and six Lay Vicars.
Salisbury Cathedral is a must visit for anyone who wants to steep in the atmosphere of one of England's great architectural and spiritual treasures.
Photos taken with Lumix G3
We visited the Big Apple earlier this year for the first time. Approaching JFK, the excitement was palpable. Four hours later - having endured the longest passport control queue I've ever experienced - we were in our yellow cab heading into Manhattan. There is nothing else quite like the scale of the Manhattan skyline and our necks discovered new, painful shapes and positions as we craned to catch a glimpse of them.
We stayed in a delightful boutique hotel, the Iroquois in West 44th St, located right in the beating heart of the city. The word "Manhattan" has been translated as "island of many hills" from the Lenape language. At the time of European contact in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Lenape inhabited a region on the North Atlantic coast in what anthropologists call the Northeastern Woodlands. Although never politically unified, it is frequently referred to as Lenapehoking ("Lenape country"). It roughly comprised the area around and between the Delaware and lower Hudson rivers.
NYC is iconic and every corner reveals a new delight and possible photo opportunity. I like taking candid shots, and my Lumix G3 allows me to be fairly surreptitious having a swivel LCD screen allowing me to look down at a scene directly ahead of me. These NYPD officers were deep in some kind of discussion and largely unaware of my presence.
These two gentleman had just exited Bill's Piano Bar and I thought they looked as though they'd walked out from the set of an old movie. Not so surprising, as to walk into Bill's Piano Bar is to walk right back to the mid 1920's. www.billsnyc.com/history/index.htm
Whilst the weather was a little dull, we had a wonderful day of snow which was the visual icing on the cake. It will be a long time before the delightful memory fades of our snowy stroll through Central Park fired by some Bloody Marys at The Boathouse beside a roaring log fire and amid a cheery and eclectic mix of New Yorkers meeting up and making the most of the weekend.
We visited the 9/11 Memorial site on a crisp, razor sharp winter's day under an impossibly blue sky. Once there, the scale is such that it took our frozen breaths away. One re-plays back in the mind much of the now iconic imagery that appeared on our tv screens and it can be difficult to really picture how that day must have looked, sounded and tasted as those tragic events played out. The memorial is tasteful and I found the sheer scale of the events astounding standing as we were in the exact spot. The new replacement building, The Freedom Tower, ascends defiantly skywards and will stand 1.1776 feet tall on the site of the former World Trade Centre and is the work of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. I'd recommend New York to anyone. There's just so much to see and do and the food is wonderful. We cannot wait to take another bite out of the Big Apple!
All images taken with Lumix G3.
We were in North Devon this week for a couple of days in the seaside resort of Ilfracombe.
Beautiful Exmoor tumbles into the Bristol Channel along the North Devon coastline and the jumble of houses and hotels in this pretty Victorian seaside town cling like limpets to the jumble of ragged crags where the land meets the restless Atlantic.
The drive home along the coast road was breathtaking, winding along the cliff-tops and up and down the rolling Devon hills. We passed Lynmouth, scene of the terrible flood of August 15th 1952. After continuous rain throughout the day, the East and West Lyn rivers rose suddenly and filled with the waters from the Exmoor catchment. Large boulders and rocks were carried in the flow towards the village, destroying houses, roads and bridges. Many lost their lives during that dark and terrifying night.
Between Lynmouth and Porlock, the road sweeps over the high cliff-top moors and you can often come across little herds of Exmoor ponies as we did yesterday. One of the world's oldest breeds, the Exmoor Pony has been preserved unchanged on Exmoor for centuries. This means that unlike most horses and ponies, they are all very alike. They are extremely hardy and are unworried by the most severe winter weather. They are charming and intelligent. They are strong and can easily carry an adult for a days riding but can show amazingunderstanding and sensitivity in the hands of a child. Sure-footed over any terrain, they are often described as the ultimate 4 x 4!
I came across the most wonderful trees that were coated in a rich, green moss hidden in a little wooded gulley beside the Porlock Hill toll road junction. It's said that moss on a tree is often an indicator of direction. In the northern hemisphere, the northern side of the trunk is more shadowy and therefore damp. Dampness favours the growth of mosses. The southern side of the same trunk is sunnier and drier and therefore has less moss.
All photos taken with a Lumix G3.