The alarm went at 3.30am and it was time to haul myself out of bed. I was going on a journey of 50 minutes to a field in Bewdley, Worcestershire. There were reports of poppies in the field near to Blackstone nature reserve. Sunrise was at 4:54am so I needed to get there promptly. I met up with an old friend and work colleague who I had not seen for several years. He was there armed with his camera ready to take pictures. The place was very quiet and the weather was on the chilly side. There was more cloud cover than my app “Clear Outside” was indicating. Will there be a good sunrise? Time to find out as we crossed the road and set off for the poppy field.
Social Media had left instructions of how to get to the field. This was from the Poppy and Flower finder Facebook page.
“Park at the (Blackstone) picnic site, walk across the road as there is no vehicular access. Follow the path to just under the old railway bridge and take the path on the right by the bridge and it’s there.”
The poppies were there in their glory and I spent the next two hours taking pictures in the field. The sunrise was fleeting although I was able to get a starburst as the rays broke through the treeline.
I took many pictures with one or two more memorable ones. Blue cornflowers added a blue dash to the red sea of poppies. There were some pops of white from cow parsley who were unsuccessfully trying to compete with the poppies.
I was starting to get cold standing out in the field and the cloud cover had smothered the sunshine. It was time to say good byes to the field and to my friend and head home to process the pictures. The early start to the day was memorable and I hope you enjoy the pictures that I selected.
Postscript – I learnt on social media that the farmer was out on his tractor and mowed the field that evening. Presumably he was fed up with all the photographers and other sightseers. The action set social media into meltdown as people vented their frustrations as they realised that would not be able to experience the field. I am not here to judge the action of the farmer who owned the land, I was just pleased that I had seen the poppy field in its prime.
I have been fortunate over the last few years to see several fields. In 2020, I visited the fields in Minworth, near Sutton Coldfield. The next year I was pleased that a poppy field turned up in Leamington Spa which was close to me. Last year, the field was in Churchill, Kidderminster and again was a beautiful summer experience. I have documented my poppy field travels below.
As the weather improves and spring is well established, there are lots more opportunities to photograph gardens. One of the best gardens to visit in Birmingham is Winterbourne House. This Edwardian house and garden have a captivating charm. The House was originally owned by the Nettlefold family and has a long history. The House and Gardens are owned by the University of Birmingham. The house has been restored to what it would have been like at the time of the Nettlefold family. The gardens that surround the house are an example of Edwardian living and several acres are planned out to take advantage of the lay of the land. There are several areas including the walled garden, a lime walk, a rhododendron walk and a glass house area. At the furthest end of the garden is the Japanese bridge and sandstone rock garden. All through the gardens is the influence of the Edwardian approach to design and then there are quirky structures created by the University of Birmingham during its ownership.
Glass Houses and Alpine Garden
The house has been restored and the rooms reflect how an Edwardian family will have lived their lives in the building. There was ample opportunity to view the bedrooms and admire the collections of belongings including children’s toys.
More views around the Gardens
There were around 20 IgersbirminghamUK photographers and we all enjoyed taking the photographs and also meeting each other to have a chat and catch up on the world of photography. Many of us met at the terrace for a cup of tea and a chat before moving on to the rest of the weekend. These are a selection of my pictures and I would encourage you to view other photographers pictures which are posted on Instagram.
Follow the tags #igersbirminghamUk, #igbUk_meet_winterbourne and #winterbourneHG.
I have two other posts on Winterbourne one written before the Pandemic and the other when the house reopened after the Lockdowns. They give more insights into this wonderful place in Edgbaston.
My challenge for this week’s 52 weeks project was black and white photography. As I was in Birmingham for my research work, I took the opportunity to wander the streets of the city looking for pictures of buildings. Armed with my trusty Fujifilm x100v, I stepped off the bus at the O2 arena stop. On the opposite side of the road, there are new high raised buildings going up. All are aimed at the residential market. These skyscrapers are going up all over and the city looks unfinished or going places depending on which way you think.
My next stop was the square area of buildings that house the Holiday Inn, 3 Arena central and the Alpha Tower. Many shapes, angles and lines as the tall buildings are all clustered together. The Library of Birmingham and the Town Hall were also the subjects of my study on black and white architecture. Finally the rain, which had been falling heavily all day, got the better of me and soaked through, I headed towards Snow Hill Station for my train home. I still managed to get a few pictures of the Snow Hill skyscrapers.
My processing was a mixture of simple black and white or enhanced work with Silver Efex. The results were interesting and I was surprised that I captured so many buildings in different ways. I reflected all this was done without the need to photograph those iconic Birmingham buildings of the BT Tower, the Rotunda or the Cube. I will probably give the ones that I missed the black and white treatment another time. Meanwhile enjoy the ones that I have in this blog.
If you enjoyed this blog then how about a splash of colour with your architecture.
The cemeteries of the Jewellery Quarter offer a fascinating glimpse into Birmingham’s past. There are two sites, Key Hill and Warstone Lane, with both cemeteries containing the burials of notable Birmingham people. The Friends of Key Hill cemetery and Warstone Lane cemetery work to maintain and protect these important historical landmarks. An @igersbirminghamuk Instameet was held in conjunction with @JQ_BID (Jewellery Quarter Business Improvement District). We aimed to start at Key Hill and then move to Warstone cemetery. As it transpired, we spent so much time in Key Hill that we agreed we must return for a Warstone Lane Cemetery tour later in the year. This blog is about our visit to Key Hill Cemetery.
Key Hill is part of the Jewellery Quarter and I have visited the area before. The sister cementery Warstone is more popular due to it being nearer to the heart of the Jewellery Quarter. Key Hill is often overlooked yet it has so much to offer in history and stories of people buried in the cemetery. As organiser of the meeting, I had arranged for people to meet at the Key Hill entrance near to the ring road, forgetting there is another entrance at Key Hill Road. Then a few people got mixed up with the 2 cemeteries. Luckily, we all found each other and the Instameet got started. Josie from the JQ_BID was our host and proved to be a knowledgeable guide. Her enthusiastic storytelling brought the past histories of the area to the present. We were very fortunate as Josie agreed to open the Catacombs for viewing. First she gave some fascinating insights into the background of the cemetery. There was the obligatory group photograph and then we congregated outside the entrance to the catacombs. The large cast iron doors were unlocked.
This was the first opening of the year and, as Josie explained, catacombs may work well in Mediterranean climates but in Birmingham the inside chamber was cool and damp. We used our iPhones for illumination and looked around the walls which included inscriptions of the people who were buried there. Picture taking was not straightforward due to the lack of light. The many iPhones helped bring some light to the dark interior. Some of the IgersbirminghamUK photographers did well with the low light levels and I encourage you to review their photographs on Instagram and other social feeds. The links are below.
Following the tour of the catacombs, Josie took us to several notable graves. The first was Constance Naden (1858 – 1889) who was a writer, poet and philosopher. Whilst Constance’s work was well regarded in her lifetime, there has been a resurgence of interest in her writings especially her ability to bring science and literature together. Learning about her life and legacy proved to be enlightening and she achieved so much in a short life succumbing to ovarian cancer at the age of 31.
Other notable graves that we stopped to discuss further stories included John Benjamin Tolkien (1784 – 1840) the grandfather of J.R. Tolkien and Thomas Walker. The grave of Thomas Walker has a brick design and the coat of arms of the City council. He had the idea of using highly durable blue engineering bricks for paving roads which led to better pavements and roads throughout Birmingham. We moved onto the family graves of the Chamberlain family which included Joseph Chamberlain (1836 – 1914). As former Mayor of Birmingham and founder of the University, the city owes a great debt to Joseph Chamberlain but as Dr Matt Cole writes on the University of Birmingham web site “Chamberlain’s legacy is so broad and idiosyncratic that it likely to leave no-one in full agreement with him.”. As a group we discussed his legacy and then one of the IgersbirminghamUK organisers @James_never_jim noticed the adjacent grave of James Austin Gargory who lived in Bull Street. He was an optician but also brought in different engineering items and was also an enthusiastic photographer.
Other graves included the Martineau family which linked to our previous Instameet at Martineau Gardens. We also visited the grave of Alfred Bird, the inventor of Custard. An interesting grave was that of Shadi Mohammed who died during the Blitz, In an episode known as the “Sand Bag” deaths, Shadi, his wife and several others died when a wall of sand bags collapsed on them. There were many many more stories to be told.
The storytelling of Josie was excellent and we lost all track of time until she remembered that she needed to help at the JQ beer festival. The morning was eventful and many photographs were taken. We thanked Josie for hosting the meeting and we all made our separate ways. A few of us ended up in the Rose Taven in the centre of the JQ for a drink and a chat about the photographs we took and those that got away.
If you want to catch up on photographs taken by the IgersbirminghamUK community then please use these hashtags to search Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for more pictures.
Whilst we were visiting, we could see many bluebells getting ready to bloom in the next few weeks. I aim to return and take some pictures of the flowers when they are in full flower. Hope to see you there!
If you like this post then you may like the following blog.
There is a hidden gem close to Birmingham city centre and must be ranked as one of the places to visit. Martineau Gardens is a beautiful community garden just off Priory Road in the middle of Edgbaston. After getting off the 61/63 bus that leaves the city, cross the Bristol Road and make your way up the hill on Priory Road. After a short walk, Martineau Gardens is on your right. There is a wooden entrance hut that leads you into two and a half acres of beautiful gardens. Martineau is a mixture of traditional gardens and a woodland towards the back of the property. The hub of the gardens is the Pavilion, so named, as there were originally tennis courts here as part of the land. The building, which will be renovated in the coming year, is a welcoming centre for the gardens. There is the opportunity to sit out on the table and chairs and share a cuppa with the volunteers and other visitors.
IgersbirminghamUK run Instameets where we invite local photographers to a venue. We tag our pictures and share them both on Instagram and also with the venue who kindly allowed us to photograph their property. At the start of the meeting, we were met by Jenni Fyer, CEO of Martineau Gardens who gave us an introduction to the gardens. Jenni outlined the history of the place where it was once used by teachers to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Now it is a community garden and is maintained by volunteers. The gardens pride themselves on being a therapeutic environment of organically maintained land, close to the city centre. The environment helps the community and supports people from different backgrounds especially those with various special needs. Jenni invited us to roam around the gardens, which were just waking up from the winter months, to take as many photographs as possible and then to join her and the volunteers for a cuppa at the Pavilion. After the obligatory group photograph of the IgersbirminghamUK participants, we were then left free to wander around the grounds.
– I do love Instameets as it is a chance to catch up with old friends. Therefore there was much chatting with people before the real business of the visit; the photographing began. I made my way to the entrance and then into the formal gardens. There were spring flowers around and the buds were only just appearing on the trees. Next was the herb garden and the orchard. The sun was out making shadow play on the greenhouse glass and the wood of the garden huts. The shipwreck play area looked fun, and a mental note was made to bring my grandchildren back to see the place. Whilst the wildflower area was not yet up and running, I enjoyed taking pictures of the wheelbarrows, watering cans and the potted flowers. I then moved onto the woodland walk and was immediately surrounded by tall trees and foliage.
This part of the gardens is Designated a Site of Local Importance for Nature Conservation (SLINC). Jenni Fryer had mentioned that this area is teaming with wildlife and is a welcome green corridor amongst the urban conurbation that surrounds the gardens. There was a pond that looked a great place for dragon and damsel flies over the summer months. Next along the path was a Sacred Circle for meeting on a common ground and then a collection of beehives. There was much activity in the hives so I did not get too close! I slowly wandered back as I found myself content just strolling through the gardens. There was the occasional sound of tennis balls against rackets as we were neighbouring onto the Edgbaston Priory Tennis Club but otherwise you could lose yourself in the environment.
Upon returning to the Pavilion, one of the volunteers made me a lovely cuppa. Then there was time to chat talking about the photography and the gardens. Before saying my goodbyes, I purchased some apple and mango chutney from the shop. Something to remind me of the visit later.
I started off this blog saying that this is a hidden gem. It is no longer hidden to me and this will be a place to visit in the future with the family. Martineau Gardens is a place to visit to meditate, to unwind and let the stresses of life fall away. There is so much to enjoy and see.
– Finally thank you to all the volunteers and staff and thanks to Jenni Fryer for welcoming us and to Sarah Hill-Daniel at the gardens for arranging the date and timing of the IgersbirminghamUK visit.
Please follow these tags on Instagram to see more photographs by the talented people @IgersbirminghamUK. #martineaugardens #igersuk_meet_martineau
Venturing into China Town Birmingham to celebrate the Chinese New Year was a colourful affair. Hurst Street was set up with a stage and there were a number of market stalls set up along the street. The main action when I arrived was down in the Arcadian where the dragon dancers were in residence. The dancers put on a great show and these are a few pictures of the costumes and people that were in Chinatown to celebrate the New Year.
“Walking after you” is a line from an old CCS song called Walking that was released in 1971. The band CCS was led by Alexis Korner and was my introduction into blues music. The song mirrors my photography as I walk along the streets of Digbeth. Arriving early on a January morning before 8am, the street lights were still on in Floodgate street and there were not many distracting cars around. I quickly got out and started taking pictures. In my excitement, I did not get the right focus on my Fujifilm x100v but my iPhone came to the rescue. The opening picture caught the reflections in a large puddle formed from the overnight rain. This is a classic view of Floodgate Street and one that fortuitously worked very well. It did not need much processing and the cropping was critical to remove lettering and stray reflections.
Having parked my car in Selfridges multi story, I wandered back to Digbeth as I had time before my morning appointment in town. I used my x100v exclusively for the majority of the pictures. The streets were shiny as the rain had been heavy the previous morning. Puddles were grouped along Gibb Street and Floodgate Street providing more photographic opportunities. My visit included a wander to the edge of Deritend to see the sunrise and then back down Upper Trinity Street which completed my trip around of the area.
Constant change is synominous with the area. Shops have changed hands, new restaurants and night clubs have sprung up. There is new Street Art and old graffiti has to survive the constant mindless tagging that takes place. Around there are new building projects and Digbeth High Street is still scarred with tram works although one lane is open for traffic.
For street photographers, there is a constant stream of scenes forming in front of your eyes and most of the inhabitants seem resigned to being photographed as it goes hand in hand with living in such a creative district. Walking after you is my theme and we have several people set against the backdrop of the Digbeth buildings. There are also pictures of the latest street art on the different buildings. The street mural highlighting Parkinson’s disease was previously advertising Peaky Blinders. This wall next to the High Street has become a sought after location.
There are more pictures below taken during my visit to Digbeth. At the end, I have put links to several of my past Digbeth blogs for further reading.
Looking back through my blog, I found that I have an extensive collection of pictures that feature Digbeth. This includes a few more pictures of Floodgate St and Gibb St as well. Please feel free to browse through my pages and comment on what you see and read.
Each year photographers share their top photographs and I am no exception in doing this. I wrote a blog about my personal favourites for 2021. Now it is the turn of 2022 and I have limited to my top 4. Why four? Well the arrangement works well for Instagram and I am not such a fan of the Top 9 where the pictures are even smaller. The four pictures that I have selected all have a story to tell. The picture may have done well in national or local competitions. There may have been some nice comments about the style and composition that were pleasing to hear. I hope you enjoy the selections.
Broken Life I am not very good at Still Life photography and it was one of my assignments in a 52 week photography group that I belong to on Flickr. I am not sure why I went for this picture approach and it was well received on the Weeklies. It was my only shortlisting last year for #wexmondays. I am going to do more photography like this for 2023 so watch this space. Also read my blog about how it came about.
The IgersbirminghamUK team were invited to view Orelle, the newly opened restaurant situated on the 24th floor of 103 Colmore Row. Three of the Igers team, Lena, John and myself arrived at the Orelle Cafe on the ground floor where we received a warm welcome from the staff and then we took the lift up to the 24th Floor. Once again we were greeted warmly by the staff working in the Restaurant. This week, the restaurant was undergoing a soft start and the official opening was still to take place on the Friday. We were shown to the private dining room and served a glass of champagne. We had the room to ourselves and we duly obliged by taking lots of photographs. The sun was setting over the city and whilst the sunset was not a spectacular one it still threw up some lovely colours.
Having exhausted all the possible photographic opportunities we could think of in the private dining room, we moved into the main restaurant area. There are several aspects to Orelle’s that set it apart from other similar places I have visited. First the views are spectacular and the sunset followed by the blue hour made the surrounding landscape stand out. Second the restaurant is well designed and the ambiance and design is very easy on the eyes. Finally the staff are so pleasant and enthusiastic. They are proud of the place. This showed in their willingness to chat about the restaurant and discuss what it was like working there. I talked with Bart, one of the waiters, who described the menu options. They sounded delicious. I wish Orelle restaurant every success and hopefully I will return for an evening dinner along with another sunset.
The Bull enjoyed an intense period of adulation during the Commonwealth Games as the Birmingham Public took the Bull to their hearts. Standing tall next to the Central Library, the Bull became the main attraction in Centenary Square. I visited the square several times with the family. Whether you were young or old everyone loved the Bull. However, rumblings about its future began to surface as we learnt that it was not going to be a permanent fixture. There was an open debate what would happen after the Commonwealth Games were over. My blog account of that first day when the bull was moved to Centenary Square after that amazing opening ceremony, shows how much it was loved. There was much discussion about the future and the decision was to keep the Bull on show till the end of September.
On the hour during the games, there was an amazing display from the Bull. The animatronics included leg movement, shaking of the head and smoke coming out of the nostrils. All this ceased as the team who operated the internal levers and controls moved onto other contract work in the UK. The Bull remained standing proud and was admired by the many visitors who came to Birmingham. Then not quite at the end of September, the Bull was moved from the square. It quickly transpired that its new home was a piece of waste ground in Ladywood near to the Birmingham canal navigations. There were coverings over the structure to protect it from the elements. Protection is needed as the Bull is of mixed construction with a metal outer skin, but internal organs made of foam and electronics. Within its centre was a telehandler, a type of tractor that enabled the bull to be moved around.
So how is the Bull these days? My pictures reveal life as a Bull in Birmingham after the Commonwealth games. The Bull stands alone by the canal behind barbed wire, covered with a tarpaulin. There is a single security guard on duty. My pictures show it is lonely and that people do not know it is around. My picture of the lonely bull with the couple passing by captured the imagination of Instagram and it was featured by BirminghamLive bringing its plight to the attention of the whole of Birmingham.