Stonehenge & the New Forest with Discover Dorset
This weekend past I went Lord of the Ringing it around Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire as I covered the second in a series of tours I have been commissioned to document for Bournemouth based company Discover Dorset, this time setting forth on their Stonehenge and New Forest outing (indeed Stonehenge is in Wiltshire and the New Forest is in Hampshire but the company has been spreading its wings over the years and now takes tour groups as far afield as London, Oxford, Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon as well as along the Jurassic Coast and out into Deepest Dorset).
These really are fantastic tours that I highly recommend, and that has nothing to do with the fact that the company is a client; I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both trips I’ve been on thus far and look forward to the remaining ones (indeed there was at least one repeat customer on this weekend’s Stonehenge and New Forest trip and apparently this is no uncommon phenomena).
Discover Dorset collect their tour customers from locations convenient to their needs all over the Bournemouth and Poole conurbation (not from this field, which is part of the Stonehenge and New Forest tour, but from hotels, language schools and other locations). With a bus full of passengers, first stop was Horton Tower, a folly built in the Dorset countryside during the early 1700's.
Discover Dorset tour guide Gerry not only has an abiding love of Dorset and a rich knowledge of the county's heritage but is also, apparently, a timelord.
Our second stop was at Knowlton Church deep in the Dorset countryside. The grass was springy and inviting so I thought I'd avail myself of a quick rest break. An important aspect of my brief was to include Discover Dorset's distinctively branded stripy tour bus in certain photographs. I think I just about managed to pull that off in this photograph, but the grass was oh so inviting! (If Discover Dorset's proprietor is reading this, don't fear! I got plenty of good shots of the bus throughout the day ;~)
Gerry brings his passengers in for a safe landing at Knowlton Church. To say the man is energetic would be an understatement :~) His fantastic sense of humour added greatly to an already excellently packaged tour.
Gerry challenges the passengers to a gunfight. Aside from the inherent enjoyability of the places visited on the outing one of the things I appreciated enormously was the social aspect that Discover Dorset engender in their tours. Having warmed up to a bit of sight seeing, on arrival at Knowlton Church Gerry had all the passengers introduce themselves to each other and speak a little of where they were from and what they were doing in the area. This extra touch really made for a more commonly shared experience as the day progressed and Gerry made sure to keep everyone talking, sharing and enjoying as they went along.
I'm certain I heard the strains of a harmonica drifting on the gentle Dorset breeze.
It just so happens that I'm booked to photograph the wedding of Gerry's son in June 2010. I suggested this might make for a good venue for the ceremony, but a church (complete with roof) has already been booked down in Devon for that date.
The grass was comfortable on the earthwork surrounds to the church as well.
I always find it useful to photograph things that can later serve as an aide memoire to where it was, exactly, that I've been to. Brings to mind the time I stayed a weekend in Brighton and photographed my car in its numbered space in a multi-storey car park, and photographed the floor number on a pillar, but forgot to photograph the façade of the car park itself. I must go back to Brighton again and take another look for it.
Gerry clocks me apparently taking an impromptu break on that oh so invitingly springy grass. Unimpressed by my protestations that I was seeking to photograph some wild flowers backed by the church, he takes his passengers off for a scout around the ruins.
Third stop of the day was the renowned Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Gerry explains to the passengers how he placed each of the stones into the ground solely with the iron eagle grip of his right hand.
Forget all you heard about the Babylonians; there's evidence here that the Druids formulated 3.14159265...etc. Think about it; it is a stone circle after all.
I wanted to find out which side of its face The Henge looked better from, for some beauty shots that didn't leave it feeling embarrassed.
It looks kind of gnarly from both sides though; perhaps one might better say well worn, rugged, deeply enigmatic?
And they're under starters orders...
Mmmm springy grass. It was an unseasonably hot day (well, as the current British 'summer' has been going). Yet again, oh so inviting. Exceptionally well manicured grass at that! I had visions of an army of Druids out at the crack of dawn each day wielding nail scissors. I must have been dreaming.
Ok, nailed the focus that time! Di? The stones were transported all the way from Wales. Legend has it that if you slice through one of them you'll be able to read 'A present from Prestatyn' running through it, or maybe that should be Prescelli.
He wasn't a member of the tour party, nor is he actually pointing his camera at The Henge, but his camera wielding posture is so perfect I felt compelled to record it for my own future reference.
Something that struck me about the stone circle was that, being surrounded by nothing but gently rolling rural Wiltshire landscape (if we forget for a moment the busy road bordering it) Stonehenge really enunciates the depth of the skies above. Might be a clue there as to an aspect of its heritage?
The fourth stop of the day brought us to the grandiose Salisbury Cathedral. It appears that one of the wings has been handed over to Christo Javacheff.
My three and a half year old daughter is bad at taking direction also.
I've been hankering after a less physically stressful means to transport my camera kit around for some time now and I think at last I've found the perfect solution.
I felt there was too much sky around the cathedral but not enough pigeon.
I've added a tilt-shift lens to my present list, for Christmas 2015
Motivational slogans make me want to scream. I think I'll adopt this one as my business mission statement though.
The cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral make for a marvellous spot to unwind, reflect and absorb in peace, even surrounded by throngs of visitors. Really.
Salisbury Market runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Whilst not quite Martin Parr, I'm endeared to this image by the array of directions within which people are scrutinising things.
I told this lady that if she booked me to photograph all of her daughter's weddings, I'd market Long Crichel Bakery's organic bread products to the world, via my Web site. She smiled down upon me compassionately. I must say the bread sported marvellous crusts and smelled delicious. Here's a Web address for them: www.longcrichelbakery.co.uk
I'm not sure I'd want to pop 'round for a cup of tea of a late evening! ;~)
I think he's about to offer me a cup of tea. Friendly and helpful chaps as it happens. They described to me how the street we were on was once dominated by butchers' shops and fishmongers, but much like other UK shopping streets these have now given way to chain stores and franchise shops. Salisbury remains a beautiful small city though with a great deal of charm and many fascinating façades above the shop line, and of course the occasional remaining traditional vendor still providing specialist service of quality wares.
As I was walking down a lane lined by enigmatic old buildings, on my way back to the tour bus, my ear was captivated by the unmistakable sound of a rapidly firing camera. I stuck my head around a corner just in time to walk into the line of fire of another rapid burst of shots. I returned fire immediately. It certainly is a city worthy of wielding a camera in.
Gerry with a handful of tour customers. As a wedding photographer it always intrigues me how some people instinctively lean in to the centre during posed group shots, whereas others remain vertical in posture. Sometimes when encountering this phenomena I ask everyone to lean in as it does tend to make things look a great deal cosier. Maybe it's a case though of the ladies screen right having always experienced photographers asking them to lean in as their lenses weren't wide enough in field of view to accommodate a full group (or said photographers were wary of stepping backwards into traffic - I did keep in mind that I was stood in a bus lane here - or over the edge of a precipice) and the ladies screen left were more accustomed to compositional competence in their photographers. Or maybe it's just Gerry's natural magnetism.
Not per se an aspect of the tour but I thought I might find the contact details handy in future, the road was a tad too busy to walk across safely at this point, and I didn't have time to take written notes as we were set to head on to our next destination. I thought I'd best leave it here so I don't overlook it once the main folder of tour photographs is securely backed up. Don't mind me :~) Moving along...
I think this was our fifth stop of the day. Much as expected, having covered Discover Dorset's Jurassic Coast tour previously, this outing provides very good value for money indeed with a good range of varied stops at significant locations, and sufficient time at each to soak in the ambience of the locale deeply. So indeed stop number five, to mingle with the wild ponies in the New Forest in Hampshire. An awwww inspiring moment.
Gerry was born just outside Kuala Lumpur Railway Station in Malaysia; in a building directly neighbouring the station I hasten to add, not on the concourse. It's a place I highly recommend a visit to for its splendid colonial architecture; Kuala Lumpur Railway Station that is, not Gerry's birth address, though a visit to the latter might also be recommended as it could imbue you with a similar mystical ability to commune with the animals.
Wild barbecues also roam the New Forest.
Gerry leads his passengers on stop number seven to visit the oldest Oak tree in the New Forest (not a miscount by the way; stop number six was to visit a herd of wild deer).
Time for some tour group photographs. It's the lean again :~)
Next line up please. These ones are accustomed to compositionally competent photographers.
And the groom's men please. Oh, hang on, this isn't a wedding I'm photographing is it? Do I detect a slight lean there?!
On to the eighth and final stop of the day in the New Forest village of Burley. Some local cowboy is asking for a parking ticket.
My thanks to Gerry for being a fantastic guide, to Discover Dorset for organising such a superb tour, and to the company’s customers for being such a friendly bunch of passengers to mingle with on the day.
A fuller set of images should be available on Discover Dorset’s Web site in due course to join their existing Jurassic Coast Virtual Tour.
Contact Bournemouth wedding photographer Phillip Allen : firstname.lastname@example.org : 07870 696248