France – Monet’s Garden

It seems a long time ago since my old friend Rosie suggested that I accompany her on a voyage of discovery around the British Isles. A chance to see new places and to re-discover my penchant for travel. We were to embark on an eight night cruise starting from Tilbury in Essex (London International Cruise Terminal)

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Leaving Tilbury

travelling in an anti-clockwise direction around the British Isles and stopping in Northern Scotland, the Isle of Lewis, the Isle of Mull, Ireland, the Scilly Isles and across the English Channel to Honfleur in France. The circle would be complete on our return to Tilbury. It was to be my first holiday for a long time and my very first cruise.

You need a ship to cruise and I was very pleased to find that this one met my perception of a traditional cruise ship. Small by modern standards but perfectly formed. This view was taken from the tender on our return from a day trip to the Scilly Isles.

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Astoria

From there, we crossed the Channel overnight to France  and docked, on the last day of April, in the small port of Honfleur which is on the southern bank of the River Seine in Normandy. The large commercial port of Le Havre is across the estuary on the north bank of the river.

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Honfleur

We boarded a coach at the dockside for our journey to Monet’s Garden but the route did not take us past the old picturesque 16th- to 18th-century townhouses which feature in some artists work, including Monet, so the above was the best view I could get.

It is about 85 miles, and took less than 2 hours to get to Giverny, where Claude Monet and his family settled in 1883. He set about creating a walled garden in front of his house which would be full of perspectives, symmetries and colours and became Clos Normand. He became a bit of a botanist, spending a lot of money collecting plants and after 10 years set about acquiring more land adjacent to his, but across a road and railway and which, importantly,  contained a brook. He used this to create a pond and water garden full of asymmetries and curves. It is inspired by the Japanese gardens that Monet knew from the prints he collected avidly. So, that’s the background and now my attempt to show you what there is to see.

From the coach park we entered through the water garden following the brook meandearing through bamboo and clumps of pastel hued plants.

You are required to keep to the paths and as you make your way through the aspect opens up and you get first sight of the placid, still, pool.

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Finding reflections

The biggest problem with trying to get some of these photos is the number of visitors in the garden (getting in the way 😉 ) and deciding how much time you can spend in any spot as there is so much to see and at this point you don’t really know the extent of the gardens.

Then you just know that you have come across the famous Japanese bridge covered with wisterias, which you cannot see as it is too early in the year.

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That bridge

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Reflection of the Japanese bridge

I did my best to capture the view but have not really done it justice.

From here you have to cross road and rail to get to the walled garden using an underpass. Emerging out into the open you get your first glimpse. The house can just be seen at the top of the photos.

We are now in the original garden which is laid out more formally than the water garden and has a number of avenues enclosing beds with clumps of flowers with co-ordinating colours. Fruit trees and climbing plants add height and structure.

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A riot of colour – tulips and wallflowers

It was spring time so flowering bulbs were everywhere.

I was very impressed to see these Crown Imperials standing high above the tulips and wallflowers and will have a go at growing some for next spring.

The main alley below, closed to public access, is covered by arches for climbing roses and provides a perspective to and from the main house.

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Avenue de la Maison

I made up that title by the way, but would love to see it when the roses are in flower.

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Tulips and tulips

A view across the garden, which I hope shows the extent of planting. I haven’t really shown any of the flowering trees, but this one caught my eye also while looking  across

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View through fruit tree blossom

Moving rapidly on we went into the house to have a look around and see how the master painter turned gardener lived, in some style.

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Monet’s house

The house and garden fell into disrepair after the Second World War and it was only about 1970 that work began on restoration.

“Almost ten years were necessary to restore the garden and the house to their former magnificence. Not much was left. The greenhouse panes and the windows in the house were reduced to shards after the bombings. Floors and ceiling beams had rotted away,  a staircase had collapsed. Three trees were even growing in the big studio.

The pond had to be dug again. In the Clos normand soil was removed to find the original ground level. Then the same flower species as those discovered by Monet in his time were planted.

Thanks to generous donors, mostly from the USA ,the house was given a facelift. The ancient furniture and the Japanese prints were restored. Then the visitor areas were fitted out.

The property has been open to the public since September 1980.”  – courtesy of http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/visitgb.htm 

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Interior of Monet’s House

The view from upstairs.

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A wider perspective

and the view down the central alley from the house

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Reverse Avenue de la Maison

I will finish with my personal favourite, a view through the window across the flower bed

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View from inside

which I think, looks great full screen.

I hope there were not too many photos for one post, that i have given you an idea of the marvel of Monet’s vision and that you have enjoyed your visit almost as much as the half a million visitors who pass through the garden each year.

Thanks for your time.

 

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Ripley Castle

Ripley Castle

There are two Bank Holidays in May and the second will be upon us before I can sneeze. I had better get on and report on my day out at the beginning of the month, May Day Holiday. I found somewhere that I had not visited before and the housemate and I set out to find Ripley Castle, near Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

Ripley Castle from the Deer Park

Ripley Castle from the Deer Park

Ripley Castle is a Grade I listed 14th-century country house in Ripley, North Yorkshire, England, some 5 km north of Harrogate. The house is built of coursed squared gritstone and ashlar with grey slate and stone slate roofs. Wikipedia
So, more of a fortified gentleman’s residence than a castle but from the front it looks quite impressive

According to the leaflets supplied on entry, the same family have been living in the castle for over 700 years, the Ingilby family. Apparantly surviving plagues, civil wars, religious persecution, involvement in the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot, two World Wars and numerous recessions. Obviously survivors!

I steer away from tours of the interior of these old houses, preferring to roam the grounds, so I apologise for presenting no details of the furnishings and fittings. The castle is set in extensive grounds encompassing Ripley Lake and Deer Park which is where this path leads to.

Looking back to the castle

Looking back to the castle

For a Bank Holiday, the weather was remarkably kind with some blue skies and little wind. Walking round the lake through the Deer Park, we failed to see any deer, which were presumably hiding from the Bank Holiday crowds over the brow of a hill. The view below, back to the castle, was taken from the far end of the lake.

Ripley Castle from Deer Park

Ripley Castle from Deer Park

Crossing the bridge over the upper weir lead us into the Pleasure Grounds, (their words) which are extensive woodlands interlaced with various paths and on towards the walled garden and back to the castle.  Quickly bypassing the children’s adventure park, we admired the many specimen trees, some live and some dead!

I seem not to have acquired many photos of these specimens, I think,  largely because when you are walking among them, you cannot get any perspective on them. So we carried on and arrived at the walled garden, where we came across this swathe of tulips, which unfortunately had just about passed their best, but still had all their colour.

A riot of tulips

A riot of tulips

The centre of this part of the garden was taken up with a rather nice stretch of lawn which may appeal to a certain resident of the Borders 😉

Striped lawn with statuary

Striped lawn with statuary

There was a lot to look at in the walled garden and here is just a selection of features that caught my eye.

Rhubarb anyone?

Rhubarb anyone?

And some very attractive bark on a eucalyptus tree.

To conclude a very interesting visit, a non flying bird for residents of Michigan 😉

A mallard on the lawn

A mallard on the lawn

Thanks for looking in.

Help – No pictures!

I’m getting a bit frustrated now. I bought the new camera because it has manual controls with a high zoom lens. I need the zoom lens to get close to my subject (birds in the garden) because I cannot get physically closer. Having tried it for a couple of weeks, I find that everything about the camera does work faster and more crisply. It starts up quickly, zooms quickly, smoothly and almost silently. It focuses quickly. It’s a small camera with little in the way of thumb and finger grips, so in my big hands, not so easy to handle, but overall, it is a fine compact camera and I am pleased with it.

However, my big problem is that the camera keeps turning down the shutter speed and I end up with a blurred subject. When I try to use the options for controlling the aperture or the speed everything looks good until I depress the shutter button to focus and then the camera decides what speed it will shoot at and I end up with such a slow speed that a clear picture is impossible. If I try in full manual mode, the screen stays dark because I am obviously not getting the right exposure. I have to turn the speed down to below 1/50 just to get minimum exposure. I can set a higher ISO but it doesn’t seem to make much difference to the shutter speed.

The best results are still in Auto mode where I let the camera decide everything, but the shutter speed is still too slow to stop motion blur. The exposure is ok and sometimes the bird stays still but it only has to move it’s head and the body looks fine but the head is blurred.

I have now realised that the problem is compounded by using the zoom lens. As you zoom in on the subject, the aperture gets smaller and the shutter speed is slowed.  The annoying thing is that no matter what I set the controls at, the camera changes them to try and get the exposure right and ignores my moving subject (and my shaky hands lol).

Is it really so dark at this time of year that even at midday, I cannot get a decent shutter speed with a decent exposure?

Have I wasted my time buying a camera with manual controls? Is a compact camera only good in sunny weather?

Am I doing something basically wrong,  or perhaps I am just having a moan when I should be practicing?

I know this isn’t a camera forum, but if anyone has the time or inclination to comment, you may just save my sanity 🙂

Excitement in Boro Garden

Today started off as usual after a cold night, around freezing, with an overcast sky and little wind. There were birds about in the garden and the bird table had been topped up with seed. There were a few more birds than usual actually, – blue tits, great tits. a robin, chaffinch, greenfinchs. The blackbirds were chasing each other around in and out of bushes up and over the fence and back again. The mating season appears to have begun. The wood pigeons and a squirrel were doing their best to consume everything in reach.

Then after lunch, while casually looking out of the window, I caught a glimpse of some small bird darting about in the apple tree, but with the blue and great tits flitting about as well I lost track of the newcomer for a moment. Then I spotted it on the trunk of the apple tree pecking at the bark and it was tiny! I thought what is that? The size struck me most, it was about the size of a wren, but I was sure it wasn’t that. The colour was wrong; there was a faint green tinge to the back and it had a white and a black mark on the wings.

I managed to get hold of my camera and point it in the direction of the bird, but had an awful job trying to get it in the frame. I was using a high zoom as the tree is half way down the garden and the bird wouldn’t stay still. It worked up and round the trunk of the tree and up and down all the major branches pecking at the bark. In addition, it’s colouring was perfect camouflage on the bark of the tree trunk and it really was tiny.

Goldcrest

Can you see it?

Of all the shots I took only these three were not completely blurred. After a pass along the top of the fence and a rummage in the ivy at the bottom of the garden, it was gone.

On checking the camera and zooming the image I found one shot that showed a yellow patch on the head, you can just see it above. I had no idea what the bird was and couldn’t find anything in my little bird book.

So, turning to the internet I searched images and finally, there it was! No doubt, that was the bird I had seen. Such excitement, a new species for Boro garden, a bird I had never seen before anywhere, let alone in my garden.

It was a Goldcrest, smaller than the Wren and Europe’s smallest bird.

The general appearance of a Goldcrest is that of a dull olive-green bird with pale whitish underparts and a conspicuous gold stripe on its crown. On closer inspection, there are two whitish wing bars and a dark mark on the wings. The black-bordered crest stripe is orange in the male and yellow in the female. The dark eye is easily seen against its whitish face. The thin bill is black and the legs are brown. (Courtesy of British Garden Birds.co.uk)

Wow, I am having a good year – greater spotted woodpecker then a jay and now a goldcrest. I have had the smallest bird in Europe in my garden.

Strangely, the next bird I saw was a wren, darting about in one of the garden planters. Another tiny bird.

I am sorry for the quality of the photos, but I had to show that the bird was there. I am persevering 🙂

That’s it for now. Hope you enjoy.

Yes! It is happening again.

Despite the snow showers that we have had today and I know that the worst of winter is still to come, there is evidence that once again Spring will happen this year. I was out in the garden this weekend and noticed the tough green shoots of spring plants breaking through the cold bare earth. I just wanted to record some of the little wonders and perhaps keep track of their progress. So, most of the shots are not very pretty but I find that their appearance in the depth of winter is worthy of comment.

The alliums are a new planting. I was impressed enough by some on one of my visits last year to formal gardens, that I decided I had to try some in my little garden. I am sure the adjacent picture is of daffodils because I moved them last year.

The star of the show is actually in bloom and is always a welcome sight in January.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

I know it is only a little bunch of snowdrops, but they have been there for a few years now and I have no idea how they got there. I cannot remember ever planting snowdrops. In fact I never used to plant bulbs before, despite vowing every spring to do so. I took half a dozen pictures of them and only this one was worth showing. I used to think it was an easy task to take photographs of stationary objects, I am beginning to find that is not the case, especially when they are down there on the ground and it is wet and cold!

So, I know it’s not very much of a post, but I have been encouraged to persevere. I can’t wait for the alliums to develop although I think I may have a few months to go.

The birds in the garden were a bit sparse today and when they did visit, their appearance was brief and twitchy. The best I could capture was this green finch on the sunflower seeds. They do hang around a bit and will chase off other pretenders for the feeder. I did get some pictures of chaffinches, but none were good enough. They will turn the other way just as you squeeze the button 🙂

Greenfinch

Greenfinch on feeder

Thats it for now. Hope you enjoy.

More Garden Visitors

It is a bright start this morning in Boro garden where the temperature last night dropped to around freezing. I have fed the birds, although they don’t seem particularly interested and set a camera running on the bird table. Before I go for the paper, a Saturday morning ritual, I thought I had better get this post published.

Last night I put together a few more pictures of visitors to Boro garden, taken since the New Year with my new camera. This greater spotted woodpecker paid a visit on two days running. The first was late in the afternoon in poor light. Each time he feasted on the peanuts long enough for me to get a few shots and I am quite pleased with the picture from the second visit. I still need to practice an awful lot because despite taking a lot of pictures, only a few are worthy of showing to anyone.

Two collared doves turned up one day and I managed to catch this one in the apple tree but couldn’t place both in the frame at once.

Collared Dove

Collared dove

This squirrel is normally a nuisance in the garden, but on this day he did look cute with his big bushy tail.

Grey squirrel

Squirrel on the sunflower seeds

To finish, on the bird table is one of the smaller visitors, a great tit who seems to be looking for a particular seed on the table. I get a number of great tits, blue tits and coal tits visiting, but find them particularly difficult to catch in a full pose because they dart about so quickly.

Great Tit

Great tit on bird table

Just another brief post to ease my way back. Hope you enjoy.

Garden visitor

In an attempt to bypass blogger’s block and get going again here is a short post showing an unusual visitor to Boro Garden.

Jay in the garden

Jay in the garden

He (or she) has visited the garden before but never stayed long enough for me to pick up the camera and get a picture. It is also very shy and disappears at the slightest sign of movement from me.

Jay

Jay

It is a Jay which is a colourful crow that is about the same size as a Jackdaw. They are not uncommon, but I don’t often see them in the garden. For information, (from British Garden Birds), they are mostly a pinkish brown, the underparts being slightly paler. The head has a black and white flecked crown, black moustache and white throat. The white rump contrasts starkly with the black tail. The iris of the eye is a pale blue, the bill is black and the legs are pink-brown. The wings are mostly black with white patches but also have striking blue patches, but close to these wing patches are actually bands of graduated shades of blue.

Jay feeding

Jay feeding

It was feeding on the fatballs, which required a fair bit of acrobatics, but it’s strong bill soon got a purchase. It hung around for a while but I eventually gave myself away and it was gone. These pictures were taken with my new camera and I am quite pleased with the result. They are shot through the kitchen window so I do use Photoshop (Elements) to try and remove any reflections from the glass.

Hope you enjoy.