Keeping Them Guessing, Shetland November 2016

It wasn't quite an out-of-office message - but it was my twitter equivalent as I arrived on Shetland at the weekend.

If anyone wants me, I'll be on the beach

Nicely ambiguous.  There are a lot of beaches at the south end of Shetland, and even on a short trip (with some dodgy weather) I managed to walk quite a lot of them.


West Voe Beach
Quendale Beach
Scord Beach
St Ninian's Beach (northside)
St Ninian's Beach (southside)
Spiggie Beach
And just to keep the variety up, I also spent quite a lot of time on Scat Ness too in both mild and wild weather.

Scat Ness - mild
Scat Ness - wild
Quite a good record, since I was only on Shetland for about 20 daylight hours this time.

On Show. November 2016

I’m going to be showing photographs at a number of events over the next few weeks.

If you're in Oxford over the next couple of months you’ll be able to see some of my pictures (alongside other Arctic-related artworks) at the Oxford Museum of Natural History.  http://www.oum.ox.ac.uk/index.htm

Artweek Arctic is open from 11th November until 29th January 2017.  http://www.oum.ox.ac.uk/visiting/whatson.htm#EX

I’m also going to be giving a talk (about polar bears) at the Museum on the evening of Monday 5th December http://www.oxonmammals.org/

I’ll be open for Oxford Christmas Artweeks – from midday-6PM on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th November at 34 Stile Road, Headington, Oxford, OX3 8AQ https://www.artweeks.org/festival/2016/ross-mackenzie-susanna-reece

And finally (at the moment) I’ll be at St Andrews School Headington, Oxford OX3 9ED for their annual craft fair on Sunday 4th December.

Ilulissat Icefjord, Disko Bay, Greenland

Different Perspectives. October 2016

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in the Cairngorms and along the coastline of northern Scotland over the years.  I love both areas and always enjoy the escape that being there as a visitor brings.

Sometimes however you need to look at things through a different set of lenses.  

We’ve just spent a week in the northern edges of the Cairngorm National Park, which let us spend time both in the mountains and on the coast.  The new lens was  “What would it be like to live here?”.  

This gave us the excuse to think about things a bit differently. What would road/rail/air communications be like?  Where would we go to do the weekly shopping? Where’s the nearest bookshop?  Is the weather always like this?  What are the house prices like?  Will my mobile phone ever see 4G again?

Suffice to say we had a really good time exploring, and that more research is needed…

Lochindorb Lodge
Loch Morlich
Nairn Beach
Loch Morlich
Nairn Beach
Findhorn Beach
Findhorn Bay 
Evening Mists




Walking The Walk. October 2016

2015 was my Lairig Ghru year, over the 12 months of a rather strange and disrupted year I managed to stick with my resolution to walk up from Aviemore into the Lairig Ghru every month of the year.  Some months the weather intervened and I was only able to get part way before being blown or blizzarded off my feet.  In other months I was able to have a picnic at the Pools of Dee looking over into Deeside.

Then at the end of the December I stopped doing the walk - project done, just needed to sort out the photographs and write about the whole endeavour.  

The real problem has been that I’m missing the regular walks. I stopped off briefly in June en route to Inverness for a quick fix, but until today (October 2016) I hadn’t had, or at least hadn’t conjured up, the chance to redo the walk.

Today I got reminded of how lovely the walk up from Loch an Eilein is.  

I started by watching the mists rolling across the Loch, before climbing up through the autumn colours past Lochan Deo, over the Cairngorm Club Footbridge, turning right at Piccadilly before climbing up through the tree-line and to the Rothiemurchus Lodge turn.  

People talk about knowing a path like the back of their hand, and there are times when I think I could walk the walk blindfold, or at least in the dark.  (I have walked bits of it in the dark, when I’ve dawdled too much).


But truth be told, it’s not a walk I’d ever want to do blindfold, the views are just too good to miss.

Loch an Eilein
Rothiemurchus Autumn
Above Allt Druidh
Near the Rothiemurchus Tree Line
Looking into the Lairig Ghru
Every Autumn Colour 

North Wales, October 2016

When I announce that I’m heading North that often means I’m heading off to the Arctic Circle, or at very least to Shetland.  This time my ‘North Weekend’ wasn’t quite so far away, only to 53N.  My excuse was a John Muir Trust meeting in the Snowdonia National Park, and a chance to spend a couple of days on the North Wales coast.

At one time I used to visit Snowdonia quite regularly - it was an ideal mountain location for weekend trips from Bristol in my student days (the Lakes were good too, but it took a bit longer to get there, and Scotland really only worked for longer trips).  I’ve got clear (nay, vivid) memories of being in North Wales, and in almost every case the memories involve getting wet and being wet.  The one exception was getting burnt to a crisp walking the Snowdon Horseshoe over a Bank Holiday weekend.  My other recollection of weekend walking in Wales (in the early 80s) involved trying to figure out which places were dry on Sunday (and I’m not talking about rain).

So back to North Wales it was.  This time no tent or youth hostel involved, just a little hotel with a seaview in Llandudno.  I suspect that if I went in search of a meteorologist s/he would tell me that it rains on something like one day in three in North Wales. I’ll dispense with the science, and confirm that based on my recent observation it does indeed rain on one day in three in North Wales.  In my experiment, this meant one day of almost continuous rain from just after dawn to just before dusk sandwiched between two days of cloudless blue skies.

The first sunny day lured me up onto the Great Orme just outside Llandudno - visitors are lured to the top by tram, cable car, road and foot.  I opted for the foot option and climbed the 200 metres to the top of the Orme - splendid views, with the Isle of Man just visible on the horizon (there’s an island I’ve not yet visited).  Having climbed up (and down) 200 metres, the next stop was out to sea (and back) by 700 metres along the Llandudno Pier.

Top of Great Orme - looking down towards Llandudno
Llandudno Pier
On the rain day, the sun did put in a very brief appearance as it crept about the top of the Little Orme at the eastern  end of Llandudno Bay. And having popped above the headland it promptly disappeared behind thick cloud and the rain started.  Fortunately I got to spend the entire day (inside) at the Plas y Brenin mountain centre talking about rewilding in Wales, and it was (as our hosts pointed out) a very good day to be inside.

Early Light over Llandudno Bay
Plas y Brenin in the Rain
Having got the rain out of its system, the weather returned to summer.  I took this as a prompt to add a new entry to my list of visited islands, and headed along the coast road and across the Menai Strait onto Anglesey.  Anglesey is connected to mainland Wales by two bridges - an older one built by Telford in the 19th Century and a much newer one rebuilt in the 1970s to carry traffic to the port at Holyhead.  I spent a little bit of time exploring Menai Bridge (the town at the Anglesey end of the old bridge), and around Beaumaris.  

Sunny Sunday Morning in Llandudno, with the Clouds clearing from Snowdon
Menai Bridge
Beaumaris Castle
Having spent long enough there to be able to add Anglesey to my list, I heading back along the A5 across the old bridge and through into the Snowdonia National Park.  

Through the Mountains, Snowdonia National Park
It was a beautiful autumn day to be in the mountains, and an awful lot of people had came to the same conclusion, and I suddenly recalled one of the challenges of being in North Wales.  The scenery is fantastic but it is very accessible to a huge population - and the paths and parking spaces all fill up very early on good days.  So with the occasional roadside stop I wound my way through the mountains surrounded by caravans, motorbikes, cyclists and classic cars. I’m sure the roads would have been quieter if if had been raining, but I guess the views wouldn’t have been as good.


Copenhagen, September 2016

One of the bonuses of a trip to Greenland is that you can’t fly straight there from the UK.

The last couple of the visits involved city breaks in Reykjavik and Ottawa (yeh, not the most direct route that one) - this time the lucky winner in the city breaks lottery was Copenhagen.

Amalienborg

On the way to Greenland I opted for the hotel closest to the airport (which was about 6 minutes from the terminal by S-train), on the way back I decided that a rather longer stopover in the city centre was in order.  I had the added bonus of my other half joining me there and a collection of local relatives who were able to step up to ensure that we got a proper tour of the city.

Torvehallern Food Market 
Street Food Market, Paper Island

Copenhagen is a fabulous city for a quick city break - everything is walkable, and getting in to the city centre from the airport takes less than 15 minutes.

We spent time in numerous food markets (Paper Island is fantastic) and bars - and found time to watch the changing of the guard (it’s not just at Buckingham Palace), visit New Harbour (not so new these days - started in 1670-something), have a boat trip round the harbour, visit the Little Mermaid and wander the (slightly suspect) streets of Christiania.  And try a few of the 61 beers on offer at Copenhagen’s Taphouse.

Changing Guard
Ropes at Nyhavn
Nyhavn
Nyhavn
Opera House
Little Mermaid - being distracted by the other tourists
Probably the best floating bar....

And next time we’ll make sure there is time to visit Tivoli rather than just go past the gates.

Tivoli at Night

And on the theme of next time - I think Hans Christian Andersen was right - and we should be doing more city breaks (as well as the longer ones!)