It’s bluebell time, come on grab your friends, we’re going to visit bluebell lands…etc
I don’t know a single person that isn’t impressed with a sea of these. Let’s face it, even a single bluebell sitting on its own is pretty good. Bees especially agree.
At the weekend we had an impromptu adventure to our nearest gathering of knock your socks off bluebells. Blackbury Camp is situated on the Ottery St Mary to Seaton road and it’s beautiful and interesting at any time of the year. I wrote about it last year when I was seemingly a bit mardy. Check out my grump here.
Photographing outside views is a lot different to product photography. I’ve had more practice at the latter but not much else. This was one of the things that was upsetting me last year. I’ve improved since then but I still don’t fully understand how to get the best shot. It’s not just about clicking away and hoping that one will turn out OK. Every picture you take should have something going for it. That’s what I think. Believe me, I totally click away and hope for the best but I also try and plan stuff too.
I wasn’t thinking about it at the time (hence the non matchy matchy) but these two pics are the left and right of the same view. We’re in an oval bowl of an iron age fort. You can run around the top “walls” or amble through the centre. What is not seen to the left is the lane that brings you here. To the right; an exit, a series of trenches and stunning views of the valley beyond. The pic above this one shows the other side of the wall and one of the trenches.
Do have bluebell woods near you? Anyone in Devon know of other pretty woods? What follows can only be described as Bluebell spam. It’s worth it though!
Spam over. And by the way, I cheated. The bumblebee shots aren’t from Blackbury Camp at all, I took them in my garden a few days before our jaunty outing! Sorry about that. The fun will never end.
It’s November and I live in Devon, that means one thing to me: Tar Barrels!!
I am alive and well after spending an evening being squeezed and squashed in amongst thousands of people. Saturday night was absolutely mental! It’s been a few years since the Tar Barrels was held on a Saturday night and the difference in crowd numbers is huge. If the 5th of November landed on a Tuesday, for example, it’d be comparatively sedate (I’m lying, it’d still be nuts).
Ottery St Mary is a town in East Devon and it’s been my home for seven years. It’s my favourite place too and there are many reasons why. Pop over to The Guardian’s latest Let’s Move To… for a bit more of an insight as to why I think it’s so special. (I wonder if you’ll spot anything interesting in that article… Let me know if you do! heehe). I can’t believe the article didn’t mention the beavers that live on the river: the only wild ones in England! Ottery obviously has so many good things, they can’t all fit into one article.
I wrote about the Tar Barrels last year but didn’t get many pictures (didn’t get much of an experience at all but that’slast year’s story). This year, I really wanted to get some decent photographs. Since I got my nice camera, I’ve spent the last eleven months practising taking pictures of crochet. I never thought to learn about taking pictures of moving flames, whilst trying not to get trampled in the dark. Silly me. The pictures I got on Saturday are not as good as I’d hoped for. There are people that have taken better on their Iphones. Meh.
The family set out just after four o’clock and made our way to one of the kid’s barrels. Luckily for us, one of our friends has a garden with the perfect vantage point for observing one of the barrel runs. It’s good for kids watching as they don’t always like being in the crowds and this event isn’t really recommended for children. We only take the kids out for the early barrels and the bonfire. After that, they have to go home!
Children as young as seven get the honour of rolling the barrels. It’s local families that do it, generation after generation. It’s a wonderful tradition and it’s a privilege to be able to witness it. This year we got to see Eldest’s class mates do it for the first time and that added something extra too. They’re all layered up so they’re not in too much danger of getting burnt.
We managed to miss the lighting of the bonfire as we’d gone home for tea. It’s one of the best bits, if you ask me! This year, even if we’d given it plenty of time, we still would have missed it. Dolly steps had to be taken to get over the bridge. It was rammed. I’ve been a few times on a Saturday but this is the busiest I can remember. I’ve had a look online today but I can’t find the numbers of attendance. I’ve seen estimates of up to thirty thousand people but I don’t know if that’s accurate. I’ve also spotted figures nearer ten thousand. I dunno. It’s a lot, whatever the number. (It’ll be busy next year as I think it’ll be a Saturday then too- they don’t do Sundays).
The bonfire is fierce. And massive.
We went to the fair as well. A funfair is great but it’s easy to spend all your money, so we ended up being mainly spectators. I love looking at the bright lights and hearing all the screams!
After the fair, we got rid of the children and went out to watch the big barrels. There’s no art to this bit, getting a good Tar Barrel experience is mostly down to luck. If you’re not in the right place it is nearly impossible to fight your way to a good spot. And you can’t always tell what will be a good spot until you’re either in it, or stood miles away, feeling sad that you won’t feel the heat or the thrill of getting right up alongside a great big burning barrel. That is certainly the case on a busy night. I’ve found it more fun and been more brave when there is that little bit extra room to move. You can follow the barrels and get closer.
I swapped cameras for the late night stuff. Crikey, I’d forgotten how annoying my old point and shoot job was. The delay on the button drove me crazy and I missed loads of potentially amazing shots. I have many pictures of the back of strange heads, my sister’s boyfriend’s bum (deleted, thanks) and out of focus close ups of the hessian mitts (that protect roller’s hands). The zoom wasn’t instantaneous like I’m now used to either. I’ve become spoiled by a fancy pants camera. However, it was too dodgy to take it back out again.
Even with the point and shoot, I do like those flames. I wish I’d been able to capture the sea of people around them. Next year. There’s always next year….
I’m a bit embarassed to admit that I only managed to stay out until half ten. My back was killing me and two days later it still hasn’t recovered. The plan is to train my muscles for the next 363 days so that I will not be a feeble old lady but have the stamina of a midnight barrel man. I was hearing stories in the playground this morning and I felt envious; people had seen late night punch ups and partying and I missed it! Pah!
We went and checked on the bonfire one last time, which had reduced in size, and heat. Beyond it, the funfair was still full of gusto.
And then I said goodbye to it all for another year…
Hello, Just here to share some bluebell photos. They aren’t very good I’m afraid. I think I’m using the wrong lens again. I’m on a bit of a downer though and that usually makes me think everything is rubbish. Boo flippin hoo. Maybe tomorrow they’ll look lovely!
Anyway, here is Blackbury Camp in East Devon (not blackberry, thank you). It’s a fabulous place for bluebells and I always time my visits incorrectly. Usually I’m too early and they’re not quite out. To be honest, I don’t think these are at their peak just yet. I could go back in a day or two, it’s only a ten minute drive from me but I bet I won’t.
This is me trying to be clever. I should work on perfecting the basics of photography before getting artsy fartsy.
I noticed white bluebells (?) dotted about the place. What’s that about?
It wasn’t the best day, weather wise. Mostly grey, turning sunny towards the end of the visit. Twas a Monday afternoon.
The history of Blackbury Camp is interesting. It’s an old Iron age fort, possibly somewhere I’d head in a zombie apocalypse. It’s a kind of oval shaped bowl with two entrances and a moaty type thing around the outside. Now it’s all mud n trees but it presumably would’ve had wooden ramparts sitting sturdily on the rim of the bowl. These pics don’t really show the shape of it but google does.
In previous years we’ve had picnics here among the bluebells in April/May or in the summer when the kids catch grasshoppers and run around playing hide n seek.
Because I was unhappy with these pictures, I admit I fiddled with them on Pic Monkey. I’ve had to warm them up somewhat because they looked so dull. Obvs, I blame the weather.
This one in particular got the editing treatment. It looks better than it did but no amount of fiddling can improve a truly crud photo… pah, onwards and upwards. I’ve asked for a photography book for my birthday, which is next week. The first anniversary of my very first blog post is coming up soon too. I think I’ll write up a crochet pattern for that one as it feels like it’s been a while. Right then, I’m off to go and cheer myself up.
There’s a little bit of pagan in the air and I love it. I was especially looking forward to last Thursday for a good old pagan fix. In the morning I popped into town to take photographs of all the signs that were being put up for shenanigans happening later in the day.
However, before the day could really begin, a poorly toddler threw up in my lap and I knew that the evening, for our family, had been written off. For everyone else, the roads close and at four o’clock Ottery St Mary becomes a land of awesomeness.
The first time I went to the Tar Barrels was in the year 2000. I was coaxed onto a coach from Exeter without knowing what I was heading toward. I had the best and scariest night ever. Thousands of people arrive every November 5th to stand too close to burning barrels of hot flaming tar. How great is that?
All the shops are boarded up to keep them safe from the hoards of visitors. There’s a risk of the glass smashing due to the massive volume of people potentially being squashed against the buildings. Such fun!
That first time I went I was petrified and spent most of the evening running for my life. Well, not really but that’s how it felt. In subsequent years I’ve found myself running towards the flames, trying to get as close as possible. I flippin love it! I’m not sure you’re supposed to do that. The key is to be respectful and responsible.
Sadly, this year, because of a pukey boy I was disappointed. I could hear all the cheers and shouts from home. The smell of bonfire wafted all over town and it felt ridiculously magical. I took eldest boy out for an hour, so I could say we’d given our support.
These were the only pictures I could get. I had a six year old balanced on my hip and I forgot to turn on my flash. I didn’t want to get too close because the boy gets scared. It’s funny because next year it’ll be his classmates taking part. Kids from Ottery families start “rolling” barrels from the age of seven. There are kid’s, women’s and men’s barrels and they take place all over town. The barrels start small and get bigger thoughout the night culminating with the enormous Midnight barrel. I like the picture on the bottom right. It’s of our walk home but the trees form a circle and the lights reflecting on the road surface look like flames. It’s an upside down barrel! Sort of.
I took this picture in 2011. I can’t be sure but I reckon this is one of the kids barrels. It isn’t big enough to belong to one of the men. A lit barrel is lifted onto the shoulders and the carrier runs up and down the street, giving a little spin to keep the flames going. Hessian mitts are worn to keep hands from getting crispy and then many layers of what are usually rugby shirts are worn to protect the body. Awesome!
There is also a huge bonfire, which gets built during preceeding weeks. I love the ritualistic lighting of the fire, it’s amazing to watch. It is seriously the biggest bonfire I have ever seen and the heat that emanates from it is super intense. I always expect it to still be going the next day but it has always burned to the ground.
I seem to have written an awful lot for someone who spent less than an hour there this year.
Any way, 2016 is going to be an amazing year. It’ll be on a Saturday, so the crowds will be huge. This adds to the atmosphere and noise. Great stuff.