Birdlife along the River Weaver

Since I moved to Cheshire from West Yorkshire a couple of years ago I have spent many a happy hour wandering along the banks of the Trent / Mersey canal and the River Weaver, both of which are about a five minute drive from where I live.

This has enabled to me indulge my great interest in photography and particularly photographing the countryside and the wild life that inhabits the countryside in this part of West Cheshire.

Along the river we have Swans, Herons, Grebes, Coots, Cormorants, Kingfishers as well as many other common or garden species. I did hear a cuckoo recently but have still not had sight of it

Here are some of the images I have captured in recent months, apologies for some being just of of focus but the damn birds won’t stay still for very long!

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Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2020

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Arley Hall Re-opens to the Public

One of my favourite venues for taking photographs is Arley Hall which is about a twenty minute drive from where I live and just off the M56 motorway. For the last ten weeks it has been closed to the public because of the Corona 19 virus which has been doing the rounds here in the UK. However, last Wednesday I received an e-mail to say they were re-opening the grounds to the public on Friday 29 may 2020 at 10.00am,  but obviously with certain safety measure put in place.

We arrived just after 10.00am on a beautiful spring day, clear blue sky and sunshine to be greeted and welcomed by staff . The cafe was open for take away coffee and cakes and we were able to sit outside on the lawn to enjoy our early morning refreshment.

I noticed that many of the spring blooms were past their best but even this could not detract from the colours on display from the flowers still in bloom. We came across the Head gardener James who we have got to know quite well from previous visits and he told us that just him and a full time colleague had been in every day during the “lock down” to tend to the flowers, shrubs and gardens, and they have done a magnificent job. No wonder it is rated one of the “Ten Best Gardens in Europe.”

The lawns looked quite parched but then again we have had virtually no rain for a month, but even so they still looked stunning. We wandered around the various gardens and the colours of some of the flowers was breath taking.

Our membership of Arley Hall expired on the 24 may 2020 so we asked if we could renew our membership for another year. The Lady in the office said we are extending everyone membership for a further 3 months as we have been shut for that period and members have not been able to visit. We both said this was an incredibly generous gesture as the Hall had no control about closing to the public and I certainly did not expect such a gesture.

I would suggest that some large organisations and bodies which have membership schemes take note of this. This thoughtful little bit of generosity by Arley Hall has generated such good will and the Marketing / PR implications will pay rich dividends in the long term.

Below are some of the photographs I took yesterday.

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Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2020

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Mahler 8………..Mirga and the CBSO

I have been following with interest the career of  Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla the young Lithuanian conductor since she was appointed Musical Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) in 2016.

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Her appointment seemed to be very “left field” although there were very strong rumours in Birmingham that the orchestra had been extremely impressed with her when she guest conducted them.

Since then she has enhanced her reputation with her dynamism on the platform, enthusiasm and willing to take chances with programmes that embraced modern music and that of “lost” composers e.g.  Mieczysław Weinberg.

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Earlier this season I travelled down to Symphony Hall in Birmingham to see her perform Mahler 2, possibly my favourite Mahler symphony. A very good performance was almost spoiled by a mother and pre-teen daughter sat in front of me who talked throughout the performance and the young girl was also eating and playing on her iPad! If you are going to introduce children to classical music (which I would support) I suggest you don’t start with one of Mahler’s longest symphonies.

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When I found out that there was to be a performance of Mahler 8 (Symphony of a Thousand) I immediately booked tickets as it is performed rarely because of the huge forces required.

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So, on Sunday 19 January 2020 I travelled down to Birmingham for the evening concert. It was almost a full house with just the odd empty single seats here and there. There was a great deal of anticipation in the air as the orchestra came onto the stage and then the five choirs that are needed for the piece.

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Finally the eight soloists walked on accompanied by Mirga, it seems that she is simply known by her first name these days by concertgoers and indeed many music critics simply refer to her by her first name.

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Although I have all of the Mahler symphonies on CD I would say the eighth is the least played one. Hearing it live is another matter altogether, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla plunged headlong into Part I, a setting of the hymn ‘Veni, Creator Spiritus’. The opening few minutes were an explosion of sound (think Phil Spector and his famous “wall of sound” but x 5) and when the music relaxed somewhat for the first entry of the septet of soloists there was a simple transition without losing momentum.

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The start of the second section of the symphony featured some stunning playing by the orchestra and it is easy to forget how beautiful this part of the symphony is. One could not fault the soloists who all sang with passion and commitment, but for me the stars of the evening were the five choirs assembled for this demanding piece of music. Tremendous plaudits should go to Simon Halsey, probably the best chorus master in the world today for his work with the choirs.

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The end of the symphony is enough to reduce anyone to tears, as it did with some of the audience sat near me. 85 minutes (without a break) passed so quickly and at the end the audience responded with rapturous applause.

It was noticeable that Mirga shunned the limelight and took her bow with the soloists and in front of “her” orchestra. She is an extraordinary talent and the orchestra and musical public of Birmingham should value what they have got. Let us hope she remains for a good number of years and doesn’t get “poached” by one of the leading international orchestras.

A magnificent evening of music from all concerned and I look forward to attending my next Mirga concert.

Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2020

 

 

 

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Foxes and Fossils revisited (2019)……

 

Three years ago (in 2016) I wrote a blog about a group I had discovered on YouTube, namely Foxes and Fossils. I had come across them doing a cover of Suite Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Still and Nash.

At the time I was of the opinion that no one could ever do justice to this song other than the original group, as it requires exceptionally good harmony singing. Well, as I was to discover I was completely wrong and was blown away by a live performance by the group in a small club.

What was even more remarkable was that the two young ladies singing with the group were just 15 and 16 years of age at the time but sang with such assurance and maturity.

I later discovered they subsequently left the group to continue their high school education and the personnel of the group changed on a number of occasions.

But joy of joys, I recently found another performance on YouTube of the group with the original young ladies back with the band and still singing wonderfully well. Moreover, they happen to be performing Harvest Moon by Neil Young, which just happens to be one of my favourite songs.

I think they have done a wonderful job with this, but give it a listen and make up your own mind.

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Douro Valley……….and Oporto

In November 2018 I attained the ripe old age of 70 and I explained to my family I did not want a party or any gifts, My request was for a quiet meal out with my wife, daughter and husband and my two grand children.

So off we went to El Gato Negro a will known Tapas Bistro in Manchester for an informal evening. As we were finishing our meal my daughter handed me what I thought was a birthday card. Instead it was a card with a photograph of the Six Senses Hotel in the Douro Vally in Portugal and she said casually, I have booked you into a luxury suite for 4 nights, there will be a special meal arranged for your last night and a taxi will collect you in Oporto to drive you to the hotel 120 kilometres along the Douro Valley, and then drive you back to the airport in Oporto at the end of your visit. This has been arranged for May 2019 and everything is paid for.

To say that I was taken aback would be an understatement, I was utterly speechless, and according to my daughter for the only time in my life.

We decided to make the most of the trip and booked an appartment in Oporto for three days so that we could see something of the city before our journey to our hotel in the Douro.

We tried to pack as much sightseeing in during the two full days in the city including a “port tasting tour”, a visit to the wonderful tiled railway station, a walk across the spectacular bridge plus a visit to the photography museum which is housed in an old prison but is quite beautiful architecturally.

Our taxi ride along the Douro Valley took in some spectacular scenery, stunning bridges before arriving at the Six Senses Hotel. Well, I have been to some up market hotels but nothing like on this scale. Our room was enormous and with a very large window overlooking the River Douro where we could sit and watch the boats going up and down the river. The hotel oozes luxury and the breakfasts have to bee seen to be believed.

During our stay we got a taxi up to the small town of Pinhao and then took a leisurely boat trip up the river past many of the vinyards and wonderful scenery.

We also managed to fit in a visit to the Quinta da Pacheca to do a tour of the winery and ended up tasting around six red wines plus a variety of Ports , including a stunning 40 year old one, courtesy of the wonderful Pedro who was our very knowledgeable guide on the tour.

I have visited around twenty five different countries in the world and there are some where you see sights that you say are beautiful, others you say quite breathtaking and others the response is stunning. But never have I visited anywhere where all these three comments could be made at once, but in the Douro valley this is certainly the case.

It was difficult to think how I could say thank you to my daughter for providing me with such a wonderful birthday gift, but on the last day my wife led me to the verandah overlooking the river and I thought we were going for afternoon tea. Imagine my shock as I opened the door to see my daughter sat there with her husband drinking a glass of wine. They had flown out to Portugal for one night to have dinner with us on our final night…………..such a beautiful end to a wonderful holiday.

Below are some of my photographs from the trip taking in Oporto and the trip down the valley.

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Looking down to the boats on the river at Oporto

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Riverside in Oporto

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The magnificent tiled railway station in Oporto

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The view from our bedroom at the Six Senses Hotel

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Boat trip up the River Douro

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One of the many vineyards along the Douro River

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The Six Senses Hotel

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Cellar at Quinta da Pacheca

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Wine bar at the tiny station at Pinhao

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The “little train” that travels along the valley

Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2019

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The Triana Ceramics Museum ………..

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During our recent trip to Seville we set out one morning to just wander down the side of the river (on the west side) starting at Pasarela de la Cartuja bridge. After a while we came to the area known as Triana, once one of the less salubrious areas of the city and indeed was known as the “red light distrct” but all of that has changed now.

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It is being redeveloped and rapidly moving upmarket (not dissimilar to Uzupis in Vilnius). It was here that we stumbled on the Triana Ceramicas Museum and decided to explore it. But first a little back ground history.

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The Triana Ceramics Museum is the most recent chapter in the long history of the Fábrica de Cerámica Santa Ana (Ceramics Factory of Santa Ana), which has lent itself to the design, production, exhibition, and sale of ceramics for a long time. The new centre offers a space for interpretation in the heart of the historic quarter of Triana.

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The workshop was in production up until the end of the 20th century, which permitted the preservation of many of the elements including: seven firing kilns, a well, pigment mills, workshops, and storerooms. An archaeological survey uncovered remains of another 8 kilns, the oldest of which were in use until end of the 16th Century.

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The project develops on an old pottery complex, an exhibition centre of ceramics, an interpretative centre on different tourist routes in the quarter of Triana, as well as different areas for the commercial and productive activities of the Santa Ana Pottery Factory.

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As you wander through the various rooms you get a real feel of the extent of the industry and many of the artefacts on display are stunningly beautiful, and if you are the least interested in tiles and how they were used to create artistic masterpieces, then this is a place you must visit.

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I realise that many would shake their head at the idea of visiting a tile museum, but this place is about history, industry and the creative arts and has excellent and tasteful displays. The video showing the work of the hand painters is worth the entrance fee alone, the skill factor is amazing and shows what a lost art it has become.

Photographs (C) Kindadukish 2018

 

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Flamenco, Street Style in Seville…………………………….

On my recent visit to Seville in Southern Spain I spent many happy hours wandering the streets of the city as well as those in Cadiz, Cordoba and Jerez de la Frontera. With trusty Pentax K50 camera (with 18 – 250 Sigma lens) in hand I set about shooting all the things that interested me.

My favourite photographs from my visit were the ones I took late one afternoon in Seville and near the cathedral. In a square there was a camera crew shooting a video featuring a young woman who was dancing traditional flamenco. It was a bit of a stop, start affair as the cameraman kept asking for certain moves to be repeated.

The young lady in question looked absolutely stunning in her long black dress as she practiced her dance moves. I tried to get up close to try and take some photographs but was warned off by one of the “minders” for the shoot. However, as more and more people got out their phones to take photographs I think he just gave up, so I was able to get reasonably close to get some shots.

I have no idea what the video was about but it did feature quite a number of Japanese participants, so perhaps it was to advertise something back in Japan e.g. more tourism, although I have to say there was no shortage of Japanese tourists in the city whilst I was there.

I hope the photographs posted capture the spectacular dancing and also the stunning dress.

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Photographs (C) Kindadukish 2018

 

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