‘Your Own Back Yard’

I do hope my Hordle Cliff walk has not yet become boring for my readers. It is, you see, the safest route to take from the house. I trod it this pleasantly mild morning.Cattle

The cattle on the hillside seemed divided as to whether we were due more rain. Apparently they sit down when it is expected.Cloudscape

A solid bank of cloud over The Solent met the inland blue skies, forming a fascinating diagonal echoed by an evaporating jet stream.

Pondering on my ramble, I thought of Chris Weston. This other Chris had ably led a weekend tutorial on digital landscape photography. In September 2008 I was still using positive film to make colour slides, but knowing I would learn much from this man I accompanied Elizabeth on the weekend course. I was in fact the only person without a digital device.

The best place to seek out subjects, according to our tutor, is ‘your own back yard’, that is territory with which you are most familiar. He was fortunate in having Portland Bill on his home ground. He took us out on a splendid Dorset dawn, and let us wander. Elizabeth famously doesn’t do mornings, and had said the night before that she may not surface in time. As she staggered into the lounge where we were gathered, she received a round of applause.

Here are some of those early morning images:Portland Bill 9.08 001 copyPortland Bill 9.08 004tif copyPortland Bill 9.08 006 copyPortland Bill 9.08 013 copyPortland Bill 9.08 002 copy

Light through rocks, Portland Bill 9.08038.jpeg copyPortland Bill graffiti 9.08 002 copyRusty chain, Portland Bill 9.08 copyPeering down through the rocks, many of which bore chiselled graffiti, produced interesting abstracts, and various artefacts such as rusty chains were enhanced by the early morning sun.

We also learned about the nature of light, the best for landscapes being early or late in the day. At midday the overhead brightness is too strong. We returned in the evening, when we took more pictures:Portland Bill (couple) 9.08 copy

A couple sat among the rocks, as the clouds gathered against the setting sun.Portland Bill 9.08 017 copyPortland Bill 9.08 021 copyPortland Bill 9.08 039 copy

Durdle Door

The rock formation that is known as Durdle Door stretched out to sea.

This afternoon I decided to tackle BT. Again. This time in relation to the TV account. Since we moved home in April we have not watched much television. We have begun to do so a little, and have been having problems accessing BT iPlayer. Today a message came up on our screen informing us that there was a problem with the BT TV account, and giving a telephone number to ring. I called them. I was told that we should have activated the account when we moved. I said we had arranged for this when our account was transferred from our previous address. The adviser kept repeating that we had paid neither for activation nor the monthly charge since we left Minstead. I reiterated that our bills state, by a blue tick against the item, that they include TV from BT. Eventually I twigged what was going on. The BT representative was reading page 3, where the bill is broken down. I was looking at the total on page 1, which says ‘This bill is for:’ and lists Telephone, Broadband, and TV, all of which are ticked. No-one told us we should reactivate the TV separately when we arranged for the transfer between homes, nor that we were not being charged for the service. As I said, I didn’t examine the bills that intricately, given that the total was always more or less the same and listed the services opposite the total. Eventually the woman to whom I was speaking got the message and undertook to pass on my observations. I said I would do the same in the automated survey of customer satisfaction that would follow the call. I hope she had more luck than me because when answering the survey questions I was thanked for my participation and bade goodbye before I had finished. This was interesting in the light of the survey’s introduction statement that ‘we do listen to what you say’.

If I had any confidence in any other conglomerate offering a better service I would change our service provider immediately.

Frances's deerDanni came for a visit this afternoon and helped me produce one composite photograph and a couple of large individual prints for Frances of her muntjac deer. This involved investing in the Pages application for the iMac. Whilst this facility was being downloaded Danni's volewe wandered around the garden and disturbed a vole that was hiding behind the Heligan Path sign. Danni photographed it with her mobile phone.

Our niece left us briefly to dine with Andy and his mother and brother at The Royal Oak. Jackie and I enjoyed chilli con carne (recipe) and wild rice. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank Kingfisher. Then Danni and Andy returned to continue the conversations.

Neptune

On this dull, wet, day we decided we might as well go somewhere that was already damp, so Jackie drove us to Highcliffe for her to do the charity shop round and for me to walk. On the approach to Emery Down, my greying Easy Rider, long locks flying, pedalled vigorously towards us, passing on the other side of the road.

Leaving the car in Wortley Road car park we went our different ways along the High Street. I turned right at the end and walked to the cliff, down to and along the beach to my right, and eventually back along the footpath along the top.

IOW in mist

Ever seeking a different view of the Isle of Wight and The Needles, as I peered from above across the choppy seas I found they had been moved. If not by Mike who I was to meet later, perhaps they were just obscured by the mist.Waves approaching shingleWatching the waves

Spray on revetement

'Sculpture' on rocksA few scattered walkers were out contemplating the waves, and one lone dog walker occasionally came into view. Dog walker on groyneCrunching along the shingle watching and listening to the breakers crashing against what I was to learn were the groynes and the revetments, I occasionally ambled the length of  these structures jutting out to sea, standing where Sam and Malachi had done on 13th January last year, and peering across the Channel. Planted in a pile of the stones was what I took to be imaginative piece of modern sculpture that may have been a contender for the Turner prize.

Waves and shingleAs I progressed along the beach the sound of sliding pebbles receded like the advancing waves slipping back into the sea. They competed unsuccessfully with the chug chug and rattle of a heavy digger in the distance. As I approached, it dumped a huge boulder that I imagine must have come from area of disturbed sand left between similar rocks strung out in a row.

By the time I reached the machine it had been silenced and its operator, standing by the grabbing end wrenched at the clawed structure attached to the crane. The very friendly man was Mike, who was Neptune, the company contracted to maintain the Dorset coast at this point. His firm’s patch extended from Hengistbury Head to Chewton Bunny. More than happy to stop what he was doing and engage in a most informative conversation, Mike was about to ‘do some digging’ for which he needed a different grabber. Mike changing grabberMike in cab removing grabberMike's changed grabberSeeing him operate the heavy machinery and his wrench gave me some idea as  to what he owed the grip of his handshake.

It was Mike who told me the terms for the rocks that jut out to sea, the groynes; and the piles along the shingle, the revetments. Groynes offer protection from the seas, and revetments keep the embankments in place. It is Mike’s task to redesign and maintain these defences. In describing this constant activity he called himself a dung beetle, which I thought a lovely image. This hardy individual, ever since playing here as a boy, has learned the nature of the tides, the winds, and the currents and how each effects the coastline.Neptune working It Cliff drainageseems to me a tragedy that the current political and economic climates have already reduced, and are likely to jeopardise the rest of, his operation.

On previous visits I have been puzzled by lines of smaller rocks stretching down from the cliff top at regular intervals. These stones cover membranes much, I imagine, like those used to suppress weeds in a garden. Having been put in place by Neptune, they are draining the cliffs. My informant considers this a major difference between Highcliffe and Barton on Sea where there is no drainage and the cliffs are constantly in danger of subsidence.

Our evening sustenance was provided by sausage casserole (recipe), carrots, rich green broccoli, and mashed potato containing chopped chives. Creme caramel was to follow. I finished the Cahors and Jackie drank another glass of the Nobilo.