Bluebell Walk, Heart of England Forest, Great Alne. April 2023

Who doesn’t love the sight of bluebells gently swaying in the breeze.  Many of our ancient woodlands are at risk by the creeping threat of development and that is why I support the annual Bluebell Wood Fundraising Open Day in the Heart of England Forest.  Conserving our woodlands for future generations is very much a priority.  Great Alne Woodland is just off Spurnal Lane, and is a part of a Natural Burial Ground.  The ancient wood has a stunning display of bluebells at the end of April and is open to visitors for two days.  

Bluebell Walk, Heart of England Forest, Great Alne. April 2023
A typical woodland scene with bluebells.
Bluebell Walk, Heart of England Forest, Great Alne. April 2023
Bluebell carpet running up the hill.
Bluebell Walk, Heart of England Forest, Great Alne. April 2023
Bluebells gather around a fallen tree.
Bluebell Walk, Heart of England Forest, Great Alne. April 2023
Bluebells with a scattering of white bluebell flowers.

My daughter loves visiting this quiet and picturesque woodland and there are so many good photographic opportunities.  I brought along my camera equipment and found that the early morning light was perfect.  The contrast of blue and green is a joy to see and photograph.  My lensball was also put to good use for a few pictures.  A useful photographic tip for maximising the benefit of your lensball is to use your macro lens for the pictures. This technique works a treat.  

Bluebell Walk, Heart of England Forest, Great Alne. April 2023
Using my lensball in the bluebell forest.

My 52 week project challenge was bokeh and the bluebells provided several opportunities to focus on the flowers with a wide open lens (f/2.8). This throws the background out of focus producing lovely Bokeh.  

Bluebell Walk, Heart of England Forest, Great Alne. April 2023
A bluebell with a blue background.

During my visit to the woodland, I met Toby, who is the organiser of this charity event.  He kindly agreed to have his picture taken and be part of my 100 strangers project which is slowly moving forward on my Flickr pages.

Bluebell Walk, Heart of England Forest, Great Alne. April 2023
This is Toby who organises the Bluebell charity walk.

The organisation of the day is excellent.  The walk starts in the car park and takes you through the woodland with some well positioned spots for those important selfies.  I noticed that the event is becoming more popular but via the use of ticketing, our family took part in the walk and did not meet many other people.  For a short time, the woodland was ours to enjoy and we were able to take in the sights of those beautiful bluebells.  My grandson loves the place as you can see from the following pictures.

Bluebell Walk, Heart of England Forest, Great Alne. April 2023
A boy and his dog.
Bluebell Walk, Heart of England Forest, Great Alne. April 2023
A portrait in the bluebell forest.

Please consider donating to the Heart of England Forest charity and look out for future events that they organise.

If you want to see my other blogs on Bluebells, including last year’s walk in the wood, then I have provided links below.  

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Winter in Clowes Wood

Woodlands are wonderful for getting back to nature and clearing the mind.  Clowes wood in Earlswood has a mix of birch and coniferous trees in a rolling woodland.  There is the Stratford upon Avon railway line cutting through the wood and following work by Network Rail, the railway bridge has been reopened. 

Railway bridge, Clowes Wood
The new Railway bridge over the Stratford-upon-Avon line in Clowes Wood

On the day of the visit, it was bright weather, but Storm Dudley was waiting in the wings.  I felt the wind as I walked over the railway bridge waiting to photograph the trains as they approached Earlswood train station.  The sun was strong, and the tall trees broke the light, softening it before it hit the woodland floor.

Path through Clowes Wood
Path through Clowes Wood

There was a great deal of surface water in the woods and all the rainfall had created temporary ponds.  I had brought along my Canon D5 mark VI and several lenses.  My tripod was used to good effect although it came apart when I started using the central column.  Following on from this, I have become an expert of delving into Manfrotto spares website and reassembling my tripod.  I did a couple of bracketed shots and then single pictures where the light was fleeting.  Practice makes perfect and I am starting to get slick on the bracketing of pictures and using a 2 second timing delay on my Canon camera.  I used both by EF24-70mm (f/2.8L II USM) and EF16-35mm (f/4L IS USM) with a polariser filter. I am looking forward to spring and seeing the leaves back on the trees until then I hope you enjoy the photographs.

Reflections in the woodland pools.
Reflections in the woodland pools.
Clowes Wood
Clowes Wood
Winter in woodland.
Winter in woodland.

If you liked this then you may wish to read my earlier account of Clowes Wood.
Details on visiting Clowes Wood are in Forrestry England’s Website

Thumbnails for explore

The Instagram algorithm is often blamed for not giving your photographs sufficient exposure. In reality it is how you engage with Instagram that brings success. I find the Flickr algorithm just as fascinating. This year I have had three pictures “In Explore” compared to the same number for all of 2020. All algorithms require you to constantly interact with your social media feeds. Flickr Explore is no different. In Instagram, the algorithm relies on several easily identifiable factors. Searching the web will immediately provide tips on how to improve your Instagram likes. They are not rocket science and are generally in relation to timing of posts and the interest in your photograph. Of course this is social media and the secret is keeping your audience happy with liking and commenting on their pictures as well. That is not a secret I hear you say! The Flickr Algorithm is just the same and it is about interacting with the people who are posting the photographs. They term the algorithm interestingness and on many occasions it is not necessarily a great photograph that gets into explore. However taking good photographs does help to get your photograph noticed in the first place. Amassing a large number of likes is so intoxicating and being on Explore is a popularity contest. I find that with the Flickr app my phone starts flashing first thing in the morning and then continues during the day with all the likes tumbling in. It is not uncommon to receive in excess of 40k likes for a highly placed picture in the Flickr top 500 of the day.

20210124-Snow on the canal

The three photographs featured here received around 4k in likes plus invites into different groups. Someone told me that Flickr is dead in the water. I tend to disagree as when a picture gets into explore it feels like the site is truly alive and kicking. The three pictures featured offer nothing different to my other photographs on my Flickr feed but each has its own story. The first one featured this year is a canal boat in the snow and is a particular favourite of mine. I deliberately took the picture side on and wanted to layer it so that the lower third featured the boat and then the eyes move upwards to see the snow covered trees. It provides that snowed in feeling and it also looks very cold. The question is whether there are people living in the boat and are they feeling the cold as well? There is a sense of isolation. This picture was taken during Lockdown #3 so isolation is very much on the viewer’s mind.

20210208_Knowle Park in the winter

The second picture was in Knowle park. The back story was that there have been many dull days during this third lockdown and on this particular evening I was desperate to get a great sunset. Early in the afternoon, it looked promising when I set out and then when I reached the park the clouds closed over. I was so annoyed and started to make my way back home. Suddenly and to my joy, the clouds parted once again for around a minute. I saw a walker and aimed to catch him in the image but by the time I had lined him up he was far to the right of the picture. When I got home I was still not impressed with the photograph so I went to work with the sliders. I was a bit slap dash in my approach although it did look pleasing to me. The Flickr algorithm picked it up and the likes and comments followed.

20210303 – Clowes wood

Once you have been on Explore you cannot get back on for around 9 days. If you are in favour with the algorithm then after this time you can anticipate when the next selection is about to occur. I had a large spike in likes for one picture but no explore and then two days later this woodland scene went into explore. I took the picture in Clowes Wood near Earlswood reservoir. All the trees in this part of the wood were straight and in the foreground there was this one crooked tree. It had eventually found out how to be straight when placed against its siblings in the background. Again I played around with the photograph in post production and whilst it was misty, the fog was not that evident. I went for a Silver Efex Pro 2 filter and used the Hi Key feature. It looked good so I posted it on Flickr – once again there was a great response to the picture.

Clowes Wood in Black and White

I have done a colour version and for this one I used the Skylum AI filters which also gave a nice effect. You can judge for yourself which you feel makes the better picture.

Many people now look down on Flickr and have drifted off to Instagram but the SmugMug team have updated the Flickr algorithm and made it more relevant to present photography users. Therefore I would advise, people to give Flickr another chance.

I will leave a discussion on the Instagram algorithm for another blog as it is slightly different approach but again the key as with Flickr is interacting with your audience.

So you want to know more!
Here are the Flickr Explore links
Flickr Explore which is the official link for the top 500 photos of the day
– Although I do like the Fluidr display which is retro and cool
Here are all my pictures that are in Explore

Some previous posts on my activity on Explore
– In Explore from 2019
“In Explore” from 2017 (I have been blogging for some time!)

Finally if you want to get yourself noticed on Flickr then have a read of this article by Jeff Sullivan

My take on Instagram will feature soon!

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, Austy Wood opened its doors .  The wood is privately owned and is normally not accessible to the public.  There is a footpath that navigates the edge of the wood and it is possible to look into the wood and imagine what it is like.  Three charities came together to make it possible to visit the inside of the wood.  Volunteers from Cure Leukaemia, Rotary Club and the Firefighter’s Charity helped organise and arrange for the woods to be open.  It was not only the charities that benefited as there was also a donation to Wootton Warren primary school.

Austy wood boasts the best Bluebell display in Warwickshire and is located on the Stratford Road just past Wooton Warren.  The route is approximately 1 ½ miles long.  The walk starts at Yew Tree Farm and initially you pass over the Stratford-upon-Avon canal and then move onto the farm houses where representatives from the charities take your fee.  A gentle uphill walk leads to the wood.  Look back and you see a magnificent view of the Warwickshire countryside.  Don’t worry about a picture as you revisit that view at the end of the walk.  Entering the woods, I was excited by the sporadic displays of bluebells but this was just a taster to the real show waiting.  Meeting volunteer firemen, the path moves through a meadow and skirts some beautiful carpets of blue flowers.  Yet again this is just the prelude to the main event.  As the path moves deeper into the wood, the carpet becomes thicker and with the sun relatively low in the morning sky, there are lovely shadows to be photographed.

The path then doubles back and drops down into varied parts of the wood.  By this time, you are able to take in the bluebell vista and there are a few surprises such as badger paths and old upturned tree trunks.  Then finally the path leads out of the woods and it is back to that wonderful vista of the Warwickshire countryside.


There was so much to photograph and the colours of the bluebells was intense.  The light and shadows was exhilarating and needless to say many photographs were taken.

Thank you to the three charities who helped organise the event.  Dave of the Rotary Club asked if the pictures could be used to advertise the event for next year.  I know that I will be looking out for the dates when the wood is open next year.

The pictures include those of the different volunteers that I met on my walk through the woods.

The opening picture was featured by the BBC on their weatherwatchers site “Record breaking bank holiday weather”

Stratford-upon-Avon Canal

Setting off

Volunteers at the start

Long shadows in the morning

Made in Oz?

Onwards and upwards

Bluebells at the start of the walk

Firefighter volunteer

The beautiful blue carpet

Green paths through the blue

The blue carpet thickens

Wide angled view

Pine “fruit”

Light and shadows on the Bluebells

Close up and bokeh

The morning sun breaks through the trees

More blue views

The views go on and on

More happy volunteers

Who made this path?

Coming to the end of the woodland walk

The arrow shows the way out

Not a bad place to volunteer.

Thank you to our sponsoring charities

The beautiful Warwickshire countryside

More visitors arriving

It is busy at the start

The car park is filling up

A great family day out

A friendly face at the car park. I will be back next year.