'Master of The Winds’
Kestrels symbolise devotion, monogamy, and stability.
Our planet has almost 8 billion people on it and all of us are individual. We can’t be reminded enough of how much beauty there is all around us. However, as I am sure you will agree, we are always rushing around to the extent that our brains need to rewind to a child’s perspective, to really be mindful of our surroundings and restore enchantment.
My art is not just about what I see, but about what other people see in it. I want my work to speak not to just one, but to many people. I want to transport you into my photos. Many memories will be fossilized in your mind on your life’s journey and I want my photos to remind us of those precious jewels.
Askham Bog was bought by the famous sweet manufacturers Francis Terry and Arnold Rowntree in 1946 and given to a trust to try to protect it, from the encroaching city.
Only months ago, it took David Attenborough, a hero and English Naturalist, who has dedicated his life to shaping our lives, to step in and fight to preserve this ancient Peat Bog. The clock was ticking down and fortunately victory came for the natural world. The loss does not bear thinking about.
On this Summer’s day, I enjoyed a piece of that history-making and was able to enjoy seeing an astonishing sight – a Kestrel, not noted here before.
The Pandemic, which has been absolutely awful, has also brought with it positives and has shown us that, sometimes, nature can fight back. I had watched my Father die at home and throughout that dreadful period, he had an urge to watch the birds through his home window and wanted to hear their beautiful songs. I was now feeling cooped up and had my own urge to get out there, get some space, hear birdsong in my own ears, and really feel some air on my face; but at the same time knew that I had to be cautious to avoid the new danger of Covid that I was, and everyone of us was, living with.
I had a desire to be free. Free from listening to constant reports of Covid on my iPod and TV every day. I wanted to leave the stifling, ‘prison cell’, four walls of my home, after Lockdown, and go somewhere away from large crowds, the chaos of everyday life in this noisy, ancient, walled, Roman city, the pollution and the stifling heat. It was time to move and be at one with Mother nature.
I needed peace, harmony and freedom. Influenced greatly by beauty and sensations, I want to inspire people with my creativity. I love detail. My mission is to tell multiple stories and connect you; but hopefully you will see that my photography says the words you cannot find to inspire people to change.
I had been helping nature in my own small yard, and wanted to see how it was doing right now, out there, in the ‘outer world’ as it has now become known. My first obstacle with all these cases of positive Covid was to be able to get myself out of my door, into my Hybrid car and drive to my desired location, without being stopped by Police, or getting a flat, or anything else going wrong, and I was nervous about venturing out after all this time of being ‘trapped’ inside.
It felt like such an achievement when I arrived at my destination. Seeing the dust rise from the dry chalky stones of the parking area, and hearing the crunching noise of the gravel under my tyres evoked emotions inside me. This was reality. Times had been tough. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, my shoulders loosening, when I parked up. These were feelings I had not had for many months. What normally would never have phased me, before Covid, was now a big deal. I am sure this applies to a lot of you too? It’s a big step venturing ‘out there’ isn’t it?
This experience really was the same as feeling water between my toes on a beach. I had journeyed into a transformation of mind and was about to come together with the forces of nature, in peace and harmony, reaching my desired destination, despite major obstacles, and I had succeeded in not seeing a living soul for miles around. FREEDOM! I FELT SO ALIVE AGAIN!
I know that you will enjoy this journey with me. I held beautiful, fond, memories of this peaceful, tranquil, place, prior to the Pandemic. Leaving my car, in the warmth of the day, with the heat rising in waves off the car hood, I entered the bog, which offers an abundance of flowers in the summer months. I could immediately smell the scent of the wildflowers. Further in, I saw delicate orchids and striking yellow flag Iris. I could hear the buzzing of the bees and multiple bird songs, including the Willow Tit. The elusive Great Spotted Woodpecker could be heard in the distance, drilling into a tree trunk in the woods.
In front of me are a myriad of delicate butterflies dancing around, fairy-like, on this delightful summer’s day, which gave me real hope for the future, as butterflies are said to represent new beginnings.
I could see Emperor Dragonflies everywhere with their colorful bodies and long, delicate wings, together with Four Spotted Chasers darting backwards and forward.
Imagine instead of all this beauty, a huge housing development - bricks, concrete, wood, tarmac, pollution, noise, too many cars. An ugly concrete mass. A habitat full of bad smells, rubbish, sewage and pollution. A place devoid of beauty without bird song, butterflies, dragonflies, Wild Horses, and the distinct aroma of wet peat, a bewitching, earthy perfume of ancient moss, an addictive, wonderful, smell. Can you imagine that?!
Hallelujah! A pleasant, tranquil oasis, great to get away from everyday life, had been saved, due to the persistence of nature lovers and one very famous person. It is a remarkable sanctuary and historic survivor of ancient fenland and lake left by a retreating glacier 15,000 years ago, and now it is a remarkable modern day survivor also.
Dating back to Roman times, Askham Bog was used by local communities as a source of peat for fuel, resulting in a mosaic of habitats and a legacy of ditches.
My pace quickened and my long legs carried me down the boardwalk and into the peat bog. I could feel the hot rays of the sun on my skin and I could smell the heavy scent of the droppings of the elusive, wild Dartmoor Horses.
I could see the magnificent royal ferns everywhere, with their feathery leaves, coiled like springs, a predecessor to when dinosaurs walked the earth. I see the rare gingerbread sedge of which there are many here, and spectacular displays of water violets. This place is a fabulous mosaic of fen, woodland and meadow.
I reach out to gently feel a heavily veined, Marsh Violet, with its kidney-shaped leaves and pale lilac flowers, hanging from tall stalks, sprouting from the centre of the plant. I have to pinch myself to make sure I am not in a celestial place.
I spy a Roe Deer with delicate curves in his face and his graceful neck. He is daintily pulling at green leaves. He looks at me with his huge liquid brown eyes, a lovely shape to his ears. Then with an arc of energy, he is off.
You will know of the imminent dangers, continuing your adventure off-track. Beware! Please don’t let me sink into that thick boggy marshland I was thinking! I ventured off, wearing my trusty boots, thinking about the year I had read that a Dartmoor Pony was found sinking in this peat bog! I certainly did not want this to happen to me, when no-one was around to save me!
World War 1 diaries show that in 1915 Askham Bog was used as a training ground for soldiers for exercises and trench digging.
At one stage I heard rustling and some creatures coming closer towards me, from behind a copse of trees and bushes and I had no idea what was coming towards me, my heart was pounding, and I could feel it jumping out of my chest. There was nowhere to escape to. Then, the animals retreated, maybe from smelling my scent, and I did not see what they were. I continued my journey further into the bog and entered a canopy of green dappled woods.
Eventually, I came to a clearing, and by now I was so thirsty, with all the hard, uneven ground walking, and the heat. I went to take a drink from my water bottle, and as I tilted my head, the sight had me squinting into the sun. Above me was this spectacular and beautiful bird of prey, a gorgeous Kestrel, rapidly flapping its wings, the ultimate hovering hunter, cleverly hanging low in the sky, over the grassland in search of prey, and it hadn’t seen me as I had been hidden from view, until now. Kestrels are not listed as a species which is seen here so I was very surprised by this sighting.
This was a sight to behold, and I held my breath in awe.
Filled with pure joy, I thrust my bottle into my baggy pocket, trying not to make any sudden movement, and urgently lifted my camera, which was hanging round my neck, to take a photo of this fantastic bird of prey, with its wonderful plumage, hovering above me, in the dead calm of this summer’s day, with not the faintest breath of wind. I knew this magnificent creature had seen me, but he didn’t immediately fly off, which was unusual. He was small but fierce. The sky was a blanket of clouds, save for this one interesting feathery patch.
When you are still, the earth speaks to you, and I felt that this beating pulse wanted to be seen in all its glory, illuminated against the sky. I know that a Kestrel calibrates its next move and this Kestrel seemed to be ‘speaking to me’, waiting for me to capture him and freeze him in time.
A Kestrel has keen eyesight and he was watching my every move.
Click. I had captured him and frozen him in time. He seemed to sense this and in an instant he had disappeared.
Think about it. This photo may never have happened! Only months ago, this ethereal place may have been concreted over forever. I hope you have enjoyed my story of how I made this photo.
The Kestrel is a true master of the wind and we are gifted with such beautiful creatures.
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Dec 6, 2021