Sunday, 30 December 2012

Light on Glastonbury

After a couple of days cooped up at home I think we were all about to go stir crazy. Got to get out. Somewhere. Anywhere. Never mind the rain.

Everywhere around here is awash. If it's not flooded it is ankle deep in mud which is not fun. The path up Glastonbury Tor is at least mostly hard so it won by a mile.

I've photographed Glastonbury before several times so I was looking for something a little different and I wanted to take advantage of the bad weather. It was also mid afternoon with only an hour or two until sunset which made for some interesting light which I hoped to capture.

It had ( just about ) stopped raining at this point so I seized this opportunity of an unusual view of the Tor.

The view from the top. This is not Photoshopped in any way. The combination of heavy black clouds, rain and the occasional appearance of late afternoon winter sun combined to give some  interesting lighting effects. This one of the Somerset Levels .

Taken from inside the ruins of St Michael's church, the sun was   low and so bright reflecting off the floods.

Walking down along the shoulder of the Tor, the clouds gave way to blue sky but the light had an eerie feel which is reflected in this shot. A few moments later and the had light changed completely and the mood was lost.

And finally - a short detour to the White Spring which was open and beautifully lit with many candles. The heavy rain and subsequent  water flow meant that the entire floor was flooded and the roar of the water  meant that talking in a whisper didn't work too well.

They do not permit photography inside to preserve the ambiance (and I guess the privacy of the bathers in the healing pool) but I couldn't resist the fabulous bracket fungus just outside the door!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

An Enchanted Christmas

A little different this week. As most people ( at least in the UK) will already know, the South West has been badly hit by torrential rain and flooding. Although the roads around here are mostly  passable with care, everywhere is extremely muddy and the thought of a walk wading through mud and water not  terribly appealing.

The ( fairly ) local arboretum at Westonbirt  does a regular Christmas event which involves a woodland walk with special lighting effects. It's a mile of easy walking and given that it was pouring with rain we didn't think it would be terribly busy!

So after dark we set out. It wasn't terribly busy but even so we were far from the only ones to brave the appalling weather. The walk is lovely and some of the special effects dreamed up by the lighting specialists were extremely effective. Not all photographed well and most of the following pictures were taken on my daughter's BlackBerry which proved more equal to the conditions than my fancy Nikon!

A lot of the lightening effects had movement with the spot lights fading out and coming back on. The rain added a whole new dimension to the scene with the patter of rain drops falling from the trees - well pouring off the trees would be more accurate. The rain didn't let up at all. Those said raindrops contributed an otherworldly mist around the spots as they evaporated in the heat - almost like dry ice.

The following selection of pictures were our best attempts at capturing some of the effects. Unfortunately the bubbles which provided some of the most memorable vistas proved to be somewhat camera shy.


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it's a giant smoke ring!

and another

A tree with a face ( thanks to a camera and projector). Very spooky this one.

and finally a very bad picture of the Green Man  (the others were worse!)

As well as the illuminated trail there was a craft activity for the children ( somewhat underwhelming; most of the children thought so too as I didn't see any actually trying it and only one Dad carrying around the completed project!)

I was hoping for some nice rural crafts as well but I was to be disappointed on that score. We were also faintly horrified by the price of the mulled wine  (£4.00 a cup) so passed on that one.Given the price of entry they could have at least given us a free mince pie :-(

However all credit to them - a traditional Father Christmas. Not a red robe to be seen. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Turkish Delight - A fine place for a long sleep

After the Atemission  we were ready for a nap  so where better to visit than the cave of the Seven Sleepers!

This is close to both Ephesus and the Temple to Artemis but is the focus of Christian mysteries. The seven sleepers are 7 Christian  men who were said to have been walled up in a natural grotto to save them from persecution.

Safe in their cave they fell asleep only to wake 200 years later around 435CE. Walking down into Ephesus they were amazed by the number of churches and the ability for them to worship safely. Eventually they died natural deaths and were buried in the cave where they had slept.

Obviously the site of such a miracle became a place of pilgrimage and a church and mausoleum added later.

Many others also wanted to be buried on such a sacred site ( may be in hope of waking up themselves in the future) and there are many other grave slots above the original grotto. This was a major place of pilgrimage up to the 15CE but nowadays it doesn't seem much visited. There were just a handful of other visitors despite the location of a busy tourist trap just below on the road.

These legends of people falling asleep  only to wake  and find that many years have passed are found worldwide. Indeed  King Arthur is said to slumber under Britain awaiting the time when  he will waken and save the country in its time of need.

Possibly the most interesting thing about this site was the discovery of a series of clay lamps found in the grotto. Many were decorated with Christian themes but many other bore pagan images such as  the head of the  Attis  ( Consort of Cybele and a god of death and resurrection, born of a virgin mother....sound familiar?).  

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Turkish Delight - one of the 7 wonders of the world. The Artemision

As you may have gathered from the previous instalment, Ephesus was far from my favourite site this trip.

However leaving Ephesus we stopped at the Artemision. This temple, dedicated to Artemis, was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. It was also much less busy, Most of the cruises don't seem to bother with it. They have no idea what they are missing!

 The site is right on the outskirts of Selcuk and easily accessible. I wasn't complaining about the lack of crowds though!

The site is mostly rubble now but there are tantalising hints of what it must once have been like. This model in the Selcuk museum gives an idea of the sheer scale of the place. 

The original temple here dates back to the Bronze age and was destroyed by flood.

The temple had a tempestuous life, destroyed by arson. rebuilt, destroyed again....

Like many of the sites in Turkey, the columns seem to have been randomly reconstructed with odds and ends of masonry. I suppose this travesty does give an idea of the height of the original column but still.....

Much of the site slumbers buried under the scrub grassland, deserted apart from a few tortoises exploring the boulder strewn ground. 

The heart of the temple is now quite swampy so it looks a lot greener.

This gives an indication of the location of the columns.

Most of the contents or the temple are now in the British Museum but the local one in Selcuk has the two main temple statues. This one is known as the beautiful one and it is not misnamed.

The quality of the carving is breathtaking and the whole piece just radiates beauty and serenity. Even better, it is not fenced off so you can get close enough to appreciate the quality of the workmanship that went into this statue.

A close up of the detail down the side panels of the skirt - bees yes but the Tudor Rose? Some symbols recur in the most unlikely places....

The Ephesus Artemis is distinctly different from the Greek goddess and her cult shares more similarities with that of Cybele, the mother goddess of the region.


Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Green Man of the Woods

We've been here before  - Sugar Loaf  (Mynydd Pen-y-Fal) near Abergavenny that is.

The southernmost peak of the Black Mountains it's just shy of 2000 ft but we cheated by starting from the car park which is about half way up!

We chose a different way up from the last time though oak woodland and along the stream. It's been a bit wet over the last week or two and the watercourses and springs were busy relocating the water from the hill stops to the rivers in the valley bottoms.

The car park was busy but the woods were quiet - almost supernaturally so. There was no wind so other than the noises of the water rushing down the hill there was no sound - not even birds, and the stillness was absolute. It would be hard not to believe in the fairy folk in such a setting.

Close to the tree line the oaks were stunted and twisted into fabulous shapes. Many of the trees had faces  - here are just a few.

OK this one is lichen but the green man it definitely is!

More of a gargoyle than a green man perhaps  but the way he was waving his stick at us made us disinclined to linger too long.

Finally I couldn't resist taking a few pictures of the purple alder catkins that lined the stream

And yes I did make it to the top - It was a hard slog but the views were worth it; even if the ravens at the peak were camera shy!
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