Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Back to black (and white) Day 99 - 111

I have been assured that my current mind set of 'never again' with regard to the A to Z challenge, that I completed today, will actually wear off and I may even look forward to next years!  I'm not so convinced and am just happy to be getting back to my monochrome challenge - which, hopefully will resume a routine of blogging every 10 days. But this is a catch up version of the last 13 days and as it crossed the Easter Holiday (did I actually get a break?) it hasn't all been routine. But here's a small change in format as I continue to ramble in the caption of each photo.
Day 99 A rope, a bit of water and hours of fun  - no children around - have they forgotten how to play outside? Of course the sun helped, as did the large knot!
Day 100 - And a trip with Ocean Breeze Rib tours, a treat for Rory and Jenny.  Another glorious day, more so for not having to work, and we followed it with a couple of pints and a meal at the Drift Inn 
Still Day 100 (well I think it deserves and extra mention for reaching that milestone), and a closer look at the figurehead on the Viking boat in Lamlash bay. The figurehead represents a black eagle and Arran has its own Viking Society!
Day 101 - And a walk around Lochranza head to see Huttons Unconformity and Fairy Dell.  Armed with a picnic (yes the sun was shining again), we strolled very leisurely, exploring rock pools along the way.  We also did a quick visit to the Distillery to have a look at Angela's exhibition of paintings.
Day 102 - Bank holiday Monday, but not if you teach at Argyll college.  I had a class.  Needless to say, a sunny bank holiday didn't encourage students to turn up.  So for the ones that did we had a lovely sunny field trip, with me setting photo challenges along the way.
Day 103 - I discovered I had a mouse in the dog food cupboard.  Tell tale signs of a shredded hole in the food bag and a couple of droppings.  So I left the door open, and Bowser patiently and very quietly stood guard.  Bowser is a dog but he has great cat like qualities when it comes to mice and sure enough within the hour our little pest had been dispatched.
Day 104 - Driving through Whiting Bay, it's only been the last month or so that I've been aware of a derelict house, complete with reliant robin in the front garden.  There has been some serious garden clearance going on, making it visible.  I presume some work will start to demolish what is left and rebuild as the position of the house is great.
Day 105 - Another workshop, this time with a client from Amsterdam.  Thankfully the sun shone (perhaps I failed to mention that my client on Tuesday got mild hypothermia and a good soaking!) The seals were on full view and the sea calm - but most noticeably there were no midges. 
Day 106 - Bad news for hay fever sufferers as the trees bloom and are a common cause of discomfort. I'd spied this one earlier in the week, and as I finished another day full of workshops, I managed a quick snap. 
Day 107 - Out with one of my regular groups and I have to say it felt like the middle of winter.  We were frozen photographing the sea crashing on rocks.  Then as we moved into Whiting bay the weather started to improve.  I love the planted boats in the village, and its only by walking round with a camera that the smaller details are noticed; like the planted cup and saucer outside Coast.
Day 108 - The blossom on the trees just screams of spring and was just too pretty to miss out.  I had taken quite a few pictures today, and this was not the one I planned to use for this project but it seems to work.
Day 109 - The skies were heavy and felt like a storm.  The midges have started and clearly the horse was having to deal with a few flies.  There seem to be a lot of horses in the field at the moment, and some are stunning, even to me who isn't a 'horse' person.
Day 110 - In danger of becoming too flora with so many flowers appearing.  But the humble daisy is still one of my favourites and I remember sitting on the grass at school making daisy chains - do they still do that?
Day 111 - Today its just a snap.  Playing catch up and looking around the garden for something non floral!  I settled on this hook and chain. Its actually 2 hooks with a centre ring, very heavy, and was left in the garden when I bought the house (amid some rubble).  I have no use for it, but wire brushed it and painted it with metal paint before hanging on the outside of my studio wall as a feature. I've no idea what it was used for.
Well that's another session done, see you in 10 days :0)

Zero (A to Z challenge)

I have finally reached Zero in the countdown to the finish line and what have I learned from this challenge?  Firstly I am not a writer, but neither am I a quitter (I did feel like it on several occasions). That I love [my] island - which is good as I did make a conscious effort to chase my dream and move here and I still have many places left to explore.
I also apologise to anyone who thinks they should have starred in my blog - but I made a decision to only have one main subject for each letter - and believe me it was hard to decide what to cover as Arran has so many delights.  But I'm not hanging around today, it feels like the end of term - Schools out - I'm off to play.

Hope you've enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Yard (A to Z challenge)

One place I am always guaranteed to get a photograph is the yard. Just down the road in the middle of Lamlash is a small boat yard and pier where all things nautical can be found, such as the Holy Isle ferry, Ocean breeze rib tours and of course the RNLI.
The boat yard at Lamlash
Many of the yachts seem to stay put all year round but other's regularly go out to sea, and are moored in the bay.  But its not just the boats but all the other things around that can inspire an image.  There are anchors, swans, and people.

Discarded anchor
The pier is also the site of the Boxing Day Dooking!  Where the hardy (and some would say foolish) throw themselves into the sea and swim around the pier in what is often freezing temperatures.  The RNLI have staff in the water so it does not turn into a tragedy and remains a fun event. My excuse for not 'dooking' is the camera would get wet!
Old boat put to good use at Whiting Bay

Monday, 28 April 2014

Xanadu (A to Z challenge)

The dictionary definition of Xanadu is of a place of great beauty and contentment, so what more can I say about Arran as I near the end of this challenge?
The seals bask in the sunshine
I have yet to meet Kubla Khan but I'm sure he's here somewhere. But meanwhile I can wander the mountains, explore the caves, splash in the rivers and paddle in the sea. I never really got into poetry, yet I love to read books, shame on me that I rarely remember the author as I immerse myself in characters.  And I like a weighty tome as I don't want it to be over too quickly.  I also like it to be made of paper - no kindles for me!
Goatfell viewed through the forest trees
But I digress from the beauty of Arran and as I sit here and write this little note, there is a red squirrel in my garden, and about 60 birds of several varieties.

For those who wish to read the poem here's a link.
Dyemill - my daily dog walk

Saturday, 26 April 2014

W is for Weddings (A to Z challenge)

Goatfell in the background of the Big Wooden House Garden
The Isle of Arran is a spectacular wedding venue and has plenty of unique places for people to get married. Every wedding is special but I just love to see the men in kilts with thistle button holes, gathering to the sound of bagpipes awaiting the bride.
Brodick Bay with Brodick Castle
Several of our venues have wedding organisers to smooth arrangements, make sure flowers and pipers arrive - all locally provided, not to mention the catering.  Lucky couples can get married outside (weather permitting), with views to Goatfell, on the beach or in beautiful gardens.
Gardens at the Auchrannie
Some of the venues, such as The Big Wooden House and Altachorvie, both set in fabulous grounds, offer exclusive use and full wedding packages, others like the Auchrannie have private rooms for ceremonies and dining along with a lovely sunken garden.

And if you're not quite ready for the wedding but planning a stag / hen do, we do those too!

Friday, 25 April 2014

Visit Arran (A to Z challenge)

Visit Arran stand
 Visit Arran works tirelessly to promote our little island as a tourist destination.  The Isle of Arran is known as Scotland in Miniature as it seems to have everything, in particular mountains and wildlife (red squirrel, red deer, golden eagle, seals and otters).
Sheila in the office
Sheila runs the day to day working, getting businesses on board, going to exhibitions, running the website & social media and is supported by a board of directors.  Amazingly, the ferry to Arran is only an hour from Glasgow on the direct train line (a bit less by car).  And if you've been following this blogging challenge you will already know a little about the island and some things that can be found.
Find Visit Arran at an exhibition and you may get a free bag!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Urie Loch, Isle of Arran (A to Z challenge)

Urie Loch - Frozen
This is just a short walk from my house, however it is quite a steep walk and qualifies as a 'good walk'! There is nothing particularly special about this Loch but being close to home and infrequently visited by locals or tourists, it's one I go to fairly often. I rarely see anyone when I do.
Bowser - one of my curious spaniels
In winter it's easy to find 'virgin' snow and sometimes the loch freezes over.  In summer it hums with insects flitting around the heather and birds.  I know the deer visit as I have seen their tracks by the water but the strangest visitor I came across was a naked man presumably meditating.  I guess he thought if he stayed quiet and still I wouldn't see him - highly unlikely that he would go unnoticed as I was accompanied by my two cocker spaniels - they miss nothing and bounded across to investigate!
My 'family' at the loch 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Tarsuinn - twice (A to Z challenge)

I ask no forgiveness for yet again reverting to the mountains for my inspiration, and use this opportunity to mention my favourite walk on Arran.  Despite being a very popular little island I am amazed that even in the height of the season I can do this walk and often not cross paths with anyone beyond the main Glen Rosa track. The three beinns takes in Beinn Nuis, Beinn Tarsuinn and Beinn a Chliabhain, a stunning route along ridges, at the side of waterfalls and with a small river crossing (that can prove difficult in winter if the waters high).  
The Old Man of Tarsuinn - on a clear day!
Next to the path is the famous (and well photographed) Old Man of Tarsuinn a naturally occurring sculpture in the many contours of the rock face.

Like all mountain routes, care must be taken especially in poor visibility or weather as navigation can be tricky - not to mention the possible confusion when you find out there are actually 2 Beinn Tarsuinn's on Arran, the second on is further to the west and not quite as high!
With my two favourite walking companions

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Stones, standing and in circles! (A to Z challenge)

Follow the forest track
Arran is absolutely full of standing stones, circles and ancient stone crypts to the point that many are not marked or even noticed in everyday life.  So I decided to show you one that you may not visit, preferring to go to the larger and I have to say higher up on the reward for effort scale! At the top of the Brodick to Lamlash Road there is a car park marked Dun Fion, walking from that taking the right hand track a small sign can be found on the left to note  at this point there is an overgrown burial cairn, but go further down the steep, slippy slope and through the forest trees to a little clearing and you will find this single stone and another cairn (also overgrown), not much to see but quite a mystical place – and remember originally the forest would not have been here so the views would have been right across Lamlash Bay.
Sign at side of track where overgrown Dunan Mor Cairn can be found
If you do visit this one don’t miss out the little stone circle near the carpark!
Beyond the the cairn is a further sign heading towards Dunan Beag Cairn - fittingly slanting downwards as the slope is steep and slippy.
However I do feel I should mention some of the more famous sites such as the big standing stones on Machrie Moor where there are also at least 6 circles. Nearby is the circle at Auchagallon, not to mention the Druid stone, also at Machrie near to the Olde Byre visitor centre.  But in Brodick an unmarked stone sits at the end of the driveway to the Big Wooden House and easily goes unnoticed, as do many in the fields along the Brodick Castle driveway.
Small standing stone near the Dunan Beag cairn.
An interesting stone can be found in the forest at Stonach, where rare cup and ring markings are etched into a large slab. In Whiting Bay, a walk up the hill at Glenashdale brings you to the Giants Graves, and I could go on and on, naming different points of interest. 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Red Squirrels (A to Z challenge)

The Isle of Arran is a haven for these little creatures who are slowly being pushed out of mainland Britain by the bigger greys (and also by the pox carried by the greys).
For those who follow my blog, you will have already read about ‘stumpy’ the one with half a tail, who after a short absence has just reappeared this week.

The colour range of this little creature, is from a light orangey red right through to almost black.  They have amazing long fingers (or should I say toes - apparently they actually have fingers and toes on each paw - not sure if I believe this) and claws and swivelling joints on the ankle that allow it to sprint down tree trunks without falling.

Young squirrels are called kittens. Oh and squirrels can swim! There are some more amazing facts on this link .

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Quackers! (A to Z challenge)

Ducks quack, geese honk but what do swans do.  Well apparently not quack - they hiss, so there goes  my opportunity to put up some lovely pictures of swans!  And I've settled for some ducks in flight.  Ducks are not the most graceful of birds, especially when taking flight, in fact some of the larger mallards, appear to defy gravity when taking off with their plump bodies.
Mallard in flight
Arran has an abundance of wildlife and in particular birds. For the last 34 consecutive years a bird report has been produced by the Arran Natural History Society (through the hard work of various bird recorders over the years, currently Jim Cassels) and in 2013, 160 species were recorded on Arran.
Shelduck in flight
Now ducks are often overlooked, after all, most towns have a duck pond somewhere.  And most people have at some time lobbed stale bread on some muddy bank.  But here the ducks are in their natural habitat, varied in species, with the beautifully marked Shelducks, Wigeon, Mallard, Eider, Teal, Red breasted Merganser, and other less frequent visitors, they are worth watching.  More on the birds of Arran, including recent sightings can be found here.
Wigeon in flight

Friday, 18 April 2014

Pipe Band (A to Z challenge)

What could be more Scottish than a pipe band, and of course Arran has its own. The history of the pipe band goes way back and some detail can be found on the Isle of Arran Pipe Band website.
During Brodick Highland games, many bands come and put on an amazing display culminating in a mass parade around the main show ring.  How they manage to march and play (and breath) is quite beyond me.The highland games is a true spectacle, and for anyone who has never been to an event like this, it's definitely one for the 'bucket list'.  Pipes, Scottish dancers, tossing the caber (and other huge weights), whisky, Scottish beef burgers and generally a fun time. Brodick Highland games are on 9th August this year.
The Arran pipe band can also be seen at other events on Arran throughout the year, such as the agricultural show in Lamlash, at the Castle and also at the museum.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Getting behind but not giving in! Day 85 - 98

Daily blogging is harder than I thought (the A to Z project) and as such my regular blogs for this project - 365 monochrome - has fallen behind a few days.  But I have been taking the pictures, it's quite addictive after the initial pain barrier has been passed. The challenge of B & W has definitely made me look at things with more regard to light and form, so I hope it is doing me some good along the way. So here's a bumper crop of my latest.
Day 85
I love swans (I actually love lots of things), but they are photogenic and the ones at Lamlash see quite amenable to my camera, allowing me to get quite low down without getting a broken arm!
Day 86
Sometimes as a photographer you get to enjoy other peoples happiness and today was one of them when  I had the privilege of joining this small family wedding.  Everyone radiated happiness, looked beautiful and despite the earlier rain the sun came out for the photographs.
Day 87
People often describe themselves as some sort of 'animal' person, ie. he's a cat person, she's a dog person - well I am definitely not a horse person!  They scare me, big hooves, bigger teeth and clever to boot.  No I didn't get that close - it's what telephoto lenses were made for.
Day 88 
Last week these bulrushes were intact, a few days later an explosion has occurred and it looks like something has emerged - maybe miniature aliens? I remember back in the 70's my mum having some of these in a big vase!
Day 89
Today I stumbled across the work of 'Artist in residence' Karen Rann at Brodick Castle.  With some new concepts and utilising natural resources she manipulates the environment to create 'art'.  She's back later in May, so I'm sure I'll revisit and you may get to see more of her workl
Day 90
This delicate little flower is a Stitchwort and has some other great nicknames such as 'wedding cakes' and 'daddy's shirt buttons'.  Snapped in a hedgerow in Brodick.
Day 91
The day after being told the geese had flown, I came across 8 Canadian geese on one of the water features at Machrie Bay Golf Course. A little camera shy, I had to hide behind a bush to get these.
Day 92
Today was a day of photographing fields for a land survey - see it's not all exciting work! GPS in hand, map fluttering in the wind, and naffed off drivers when I planted my tripod in the middle of the road.
Day 93
Military manoeuvres in Lamlash Bay, it looked a peculiar shape and I couldn't find out anything about it - not that it hung around for very long.
Day 94 
Back to the regular dog walk at Dyemill - tents are appearing on the grass near the car park - Easter is coming (ha and so are the midges).  Love to see everyone outdoors enjoying themselves, so long as they take their rubbish away.
Day 95
A new visitor to my garden.  Pied Wagtails are common around here, I just don't normally get them in the garden - and long enough to get a snap.
Day 96
With no real urban areas on Arran, there aren't massive opportunities to photo interesting architecture and buildings.  But this is Dougarie Lodge at Machrie.
Day 97
And today is day 97 (a bit excited that I've nearly reached 100) but running out of steam and think I need to get that bottle opened.  So nice to be able to do some outside shots today when working on some new holiday properties with a client.  So now it's late and I'm off to get my nightcap.