Exercise – It’s a walk in the park

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Steering our way towards the local country park on a blue sky January morning gave us the first opportunity in ages for using the camera. Even a fair selection of birds came out to play.

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Here’s hoping the weather stays this clear for a few days. Happy new year to all our readers.

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Behind the Camera 23

Bruton plus

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Finding photographic features in the back of beyond in rural Somerset is something Michael and I seem to do on a regular basis, this time we decided to visit the scenic site of Bruton; just over ten miles east of Yeovil. It has been proposed that this is the smallest town in England something hard to reckon seeing how much new build is happening. We started by climbing a small hill to a dovecote that overlooks most of Bruton’s central area, from here the resulting pictures show how it actually is. But first a closer look at the top of the tower.

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The comparative chunkiness of the stonework in the tower belies the true size of the buzzard watching over us.

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 Taking up a large percentage of the town is an independant 350 pupil school whose main buildings are nearly 600 years old, St Mary’s church shown in the next picture is of even greater age, building began almost a thousand years ago.

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As usual for our jaunts into the countryside we seem to just take any road that looks as if there could be something round the corner, this time it was another church; St Peter’ Redlynch.

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Seen below us on the same road a scene saying autumn is coming.

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Driving on for a few miles we decide to head home to escape the start of rain and its gloomy grey skies, but turning another corner we suddenly strike gold.

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The last picture shows off one of the grandest of folly’s that is just visible at the top of the hill.

Queen Victoria 10 – The Faroes to Southampton

Friday 28th July proved to be a busy day, not only was it the last chance to don the gladrags for a formal evening’s entertainment I also had the opportunity to go on a behind the scenes tour of the ship. The logistics of catering for nearly two thousand passengers and a thousand crew, with a company policy to be as environmentally friendly as possible, really is mindblowing; more of that in the next post.

One day out from Torshavn we had to see our first full sunset since the cruise began, no more chance of any midnight viewings, this one was at 9.3op.m.

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The strange mix of colours over the sequence of pictures is as it happened, refraction does very odd things when twisting the light.

I’ve not included much about the entertainment on board but most was centred in the theatre and the queens ballroom. On the last evening there was something different when a gathering of passengers was led through a singsong of old musichall favourites in a very relaxed, and as can be seen, easygoing way in the Grand Lobby.

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The following morning gave us many different things to look at, oil rigs, wind farms, ships and sea birds. The heat haze dominated the scene but we were still able to get sight of the closer objects.

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The above sailing ship, The Tenacious, belongs to an organisation called J.S.T. (Jubilee Sailing Trust) which began in the 1970s to clebrate the Queen’s silver jubilee. The JST has two ships that were commisioned especially to carry a forty-strong crew most of which have varying degrees of disability; nobody was considered as a passenger. More information can be found about this commendable charity at http://www.jst.org.uk

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In the staits of Dover the haze and the sun’s position gave us a better view of the white cliffs of France so just for change here they are. The sunset was not as spectacular this evening but, as can be seen below, early the next morning we had a view to get up for.

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Yes it’s Portsmouth, nearly there with only an hour to go before we dock and prepare for the land journey home.

Queen Victoria 9 – Torshavn

The final port on our two-week jaunt around a bit of the north Atlantic enabled us to see surprisingly photogenic, almost ‘chocolate box’ landscapes even though for most of the day it was low clouds, misty and damp on the high ground. For the second time this week we had docked fairly early and timing required us to start an excursion at 9a.m. The first part of the tour was intended to be scenic taking us around fjords and lakes on mainly high placed roads. The following few pictures indicate the possibilities of seeing incredible landscapes but the mist did conceal the best of the views.

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Late morning we stopped at a village called Gjagv, pronounced Jack, for a light repast which included  a local dish known as pancakes, pictured below they did look and did taste yummy. The later photograph shows they were appreciated.

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Time was allowed for us tourists to take in the views offered by the bubbling stream and the surrounding Faroese architecture set in a misty, mountain backed terrain. The vivid green flora and the richly coloured houses all came together to give us a very pleasureable hour of sightseeing.

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The shoreline too held more than interesting views, Jane can be seen investigating the corpse of a stripped to the bone fish, a good sized meal no doubt for one of the many terns and gulls observed here.

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Back on the coach it only took a short time for us to see a few more waterfalls and the view acroos the city before we finished the four and a half hour tour.

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The mist had still not cleared by sailing time which, unfortunately meant we never did get a proper look at the high ground surrounding Torshavn, but for that the day would have been perfect.

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Still taking pictures and getting lucky when the schooner passed a sea worn cave. Time now for the two full days and three nights journey back to Southampton; nobody has seen or heard the fat lady yet.

Queen Victoria 8 – Klaksvik

The visit to this first port of call in The Faroe Islands was only found out about at the last minute; we were scheduled to stay two days in Reykjavik and then straight on to Torshavn. This second change to our itinerary involved leaving Iceland at lunchtime on the second scheduled day and reaching Klaksvik after a full day at sea. The stopover was only for the evening and we were then due to wake up in Torshavn the following morning. As an added bonus the new port had a very significant link to QV in that the captain was born and raised in an adjoining village to Klaksvik and this also was the first time a Cunard ship had come to the Faroes. The town put on special events for the visit including a hog roast, dancing and various singing groups in different venues; a dancing group and a folk singing duo also appeared on board as an addition to the day’s entertainment.

The approach to the Faroes was through a narrow fjord with many twists and turns; the manouvring to dock was  a quite time consuming challenge, but the crew and pilot got us there safely.

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It’s no wonder the culture in these parts concerns a fear of trolls when you see above the faces embedded in the cliffs; the rows of teeth look particularly menacing. There is a story told to us as we passed by about the rock pillars seen below; apparently Iceland sent over two wizards to drag the Faroe Islands so as to join onto their home. They ran out of time and were turned to stone, maybe someone should have sent for Doctor Dolittle and a pink snail?

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It can be seen that these rocks were not lava based and no smell of sulpher either, if I was an Icelander maybe this could be a prefered home of choice? As is visible here the approach to the port was particularly overwhelming with the high peaks all around us.

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Seeing the Viking ship one wonders whether we should join in the local sport here of going raping and pillaging as did their ancesters?

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‘C birds’

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This is the Island’s dancers with the local girl made good who joined in the dancing and singing, a very entertaining interlude. Then out on deck to see the half past eleven sun; this was the nearest to the midnight version we could get.

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We were told QV sailed at about 4a.m. to travel twenty miles and get to the port of Torshavn, we didn’t stay up for that journey.

Queen Victoria 7 – Reykjavik

Back to the closed sandwiches again as we approach a soggy Reykjavik, Isafjordur was kind but today Iceland will be cruel due to our ‘Ring of Fire’ excursion planning to take in a tour of the high ground outside of the capital city. The coach due to start out before 9 a.m. with no change in the weather seeming to be happening in our favour.

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The coach left right on time and took a direct route out of the city introducing us to a very rugged and rocky vista which was, as can be seen, mostly enshrouded in a clingy, water filled mist.

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The steaming fumaroles are seen in every direction, meaning no matter which way the wind blows you will get a whiff of sulphur. The pipes carry steam to all built up areas where the heat is used for all buildings and under walkways and roads; avoiding accidents a plenty.

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Seven swans a flying, one ring of fire? And great big crack in the landscape known as a rift, which had been created by an earthquake.  Us tourists even walked along the gap between the ever moving techtonic plates; does that make me sound knowledgeable?

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The next picture shows where those  with money have their summer homes, hello, it’s nearly July, summer houses??

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The sign above warns of the dangers to be found where geothermal activity takes place, not only keep to the path but be aware of the out door cooking pots making use of the free heat. Those with fumaroles on their land are seen to do most cooking this way, we are to eat rolls and cakes produced thus for our lunch today. Looks really tasty in these pots, do you agree?

A more economically friendly thing to do with the steam is to make electricity, we visited a geothermal site where most of the islands power needs were being produced very cheaply. Come on EDF, dig deeper.

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Back in the city mid-afternoon we took in some of the local sights which included a large number of statues and towered buildings. It’s not the wide angle camera making this squarish box look odd, it’s built that way.

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We think we have seen this one with waders on.

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The QV stayed in port overnight and, as we can see the next days journey started in bright sunshine; we want our money back from the ring of wet tour.

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To finish we passed the Elday Rock about fifteen miles south west of Iceland which has an area of over seven acres on its top and an unbelievable population of 16000 pairs of northern gannets, look close at the picture and see if you can find them all.

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Must be off now we have a Faroe way to go.

Queen Victoria 6 – Isafjordur

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What a difference a day makes? Our second Sunday of this cruise, clear skies, only a gentle breeze and soaring temperatures about to peak at 14 degrees C. No place to park alongside so it was down to getting on shore and back using the lifeboats as tenders; about a hundred passengers at a time. Not that there was so much to see in the town, some were doing excursions and others, like us, hunted souvenirs and admired the colourful landscape.

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The local sculpture showed what a delicate hand can produce when carving look alike waders. The large four chimneyed building behind is the old hospital which has now changed its use to being a library; a scenario that possibly suggests reading keeps you healthy and hospitals are not needed?

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The fully flowering daffodils really did take us by surprise as there had been none seen further north in Akreyri.

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The amount of traffic seen was quite minmal and the two highly polished classic vehicles being admired here had pride of place in the high street. Only a few shops were open, two souvenir shops, a bakers and a few clothes outlets selling hand made woolen sweaters for at least a £100 each; we noted not many were being sold but most of the locals were wearing them.

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QV looked as if it was time to take the brochure photograph so we duly obliged; then we got tenderised returning back on board for our roast beef and all the trimmings.

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When we sailed back out to clear waters the darkening wall approaching at speed made us wonder if the other side of the cloud may not be reached till the day after tomorrow?

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Will we survive this impending deluge, will we come through to clear skies ever again, was Queen Victoria amused?