I really take my hat off to the driver of this vehicle; I mean the flatbed truck and not the small plastic car driver. The truck was parked in the lay by at the top of the hill in Snitterfield on the way to Norton Lindsey with a particularly nice view across the Warwickshire fields towards Bearley and Henley in Arden.
You have to wonder whether it was a prank by the driver or some kind of amusing punishment for being the last one to arrive at the RDC. Either way the joke was being thoroughly exercised and it made my day.
Boat Trip from Stratford upon Avon to Evesham
Yesterday we drove a 70ft Dutch Barge/Trip Boat, belonging to Canal and River Tours from Stratford to Evesham. We had a great crew with some help from the Countess of Evesham team. it's not the first time I've done the trip but it's always a great opportunity to capture some nature shots in the dead of winter.
This year I wasn't holding out much hope as the forecast was for grey skies and possibly some drizzle, not exactly conducive to getting some classic pictures. The forecast did turn out to be correct by and large, with the sky only brightening on the last stage of the journey, literally as we pulled into Evesham Marina but the trip was far from being a disappointment.
I've done the trip in all kinds of conditions and my favourite, by far was a crisp, frosty bright blue morning where the river water seemed to part melliflously as we headed upstream. I think this trip nearly matched it though, as what none of us had expected was a low lying mist that hung above the river for the whole of the 5 hour trip. If you ignored the obvious difference in temperature you could imagine being Charlie Sheen in Apocalypse Now or heading up the Congo in Conrad's Hear of Darkness. At one point as we rounded a bend in the river we decided to test the boat's audio system, playing Ride of the Valkyries. We must have seemed a strange sight.
In the end I didn't take that many pictures. I got a few of a heron and a miserable looking buzzard but at an ISO of 1600 they were never going to be masterpieces. I did rather like the picture below though, which was taken near Barton Lock and hopefully conveys some of the quiteness, in fact silent isolation that marked the trip.
Apocalypse Now as we headed downstream near Barton Lock
Fairford in the early 1990s. I'd never been to an air show before but I was dragged along by Colin Pike, expecting it to be mildly entertaining with the odd plane taking off and the Red Arrows turning up to do their stuff but this was the most amazing spectacle. It left Madonna at Sceaux Parc, Dire Straits at the NEC, Art Garfunkel (not a natural stadium artiste) and even Springsteen at the Villa Park in its wake.
We stood barely a hundred yards from Concorde landing and taking off, there was the incredible sight of the red arrows following a spitfire at about 100mph and none of them actually looking like they'd fall out of the sky. Then there was the Sukoi, I think it was an S27 which just walked up and down the runway on its tail before taking off into the stratosphere like a rocket. Also we had the first glimpse of the B1 stealth bomber which came in like a UFO. The whole thing finished off with the Harriers doing a last hurrah whilst we headed for our car to avoid the inevitable queue.
It was all bewildering and much as I don't want to celebrate the war machine that drives this technology you have to admire the engineering. Unfortunately I don't have a single picture to show for it. I do however have several thousand from this year's show and I've picked this one as my favourite because it sums up some of the reactions at least from having a very loud aircraft with its afterburners flying yards over your head.
Also it's the best place to stand as long as you don't mind being in a potentially dangerous spot. It's free, it's just next to where all the planes land and you aren't moved on so I guess some basic risk assessments have been carried out. Watch out for the ice cream van though because it's acually louder than an SR-71.
Finally winter has arrived. Last week we had the first torrential downpours that made the river unnavigable and today we've got the frost. The Canal basin was frozen over and the crew on the trip boat had to work hard to get things going at 11am. Dutch Barges aren't the ideal shape to be ice breakers.
I was taking some pictures of the boat cracking through the ice when I noticed the sun was shining through the lamp in the Bancroft Gardens so I thought I'd grab a photo whilst the grass was white and I had a reasonable silhouette of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in the background. I know you shouldn't take directly into the sun but the results can be quite dramatic.
It's not the best picture and there's some distortion - I was using the streetsweeper 24-120mm lens but I can feel the grass cracking under my feet as I was walking and I like the shadows.
What to do in Stratford in Winter
Stratford upon Avon might not be the first place you think of to visit on a cold winter's day. For lots of people the town is forever associated with warm summer days and picnics by the river, but actually there's loads to do whatever the weather.
You could take a trip with Canal and River Tours in their heated, covered boat whilst listening to the free audio commentary. If you're lucky you might even see the ghost of the lock. The Mad museum is another great place to go for kids of all ages with its cunning contraptions. If you really want to get out of the cold then there's no finer place than the Butterfly Farm, with it's tropical temperatures and lush flora you'll leave winter behind for a while.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the town also has more than its fair share of theatres. If that's a little too highbrow then it also has a fantastic cinema, the Picture House, tucked away on Windsor Street. With a range of delightful places to grab some lunch or just a hot bowl of soup there really no excuse from staying away from Stratford in the Winter.