Winter in Somerset

Some may think that Somerset is closed or goes into hibernation in winter. This year, more than ever, due to the flooding, many will think of only the peaks of Exmoor rising above the floods, but it’s far from closed.

Ancient traditions and culture continues, the controversial hunting groups populate the hillsides and valleys with their coats and the faint sound of the horn is heard as the hounds leap around.

Work continues on the fields with the daily activities of supplying fodder for the farm animals, and particularly affected are the below sea-level areas where livestock has had to be rescued. Lights illuminate the sky for miles around and the 24/7 pumping continues to try and alleviate the continuing doom which has been an unwelcomed Christmas present for many.

Since the New Year, communities have been cut off and stranded as the waters continue to rise. This area of Somerset has not been its usual peaceful self, instead it has been turned into the UK’s largest pumping area with the Dutch pumps now installed. Wildlife has been woken early this year; rather than by the warmth it’s to the sound of generators and the rushing of water.

Winter in Somerset is all about preparing for the Summer;  it’s regenerating the soil, planting life which will only be seen later in the year. But also for many it’s a time of cleaning, renovation, building and organising for the tourists – but some will find it hard to make a go of it this year. For some, they won’t be home for a year once the waters recede. But for the most, the smoke still rises from the chimneys of ancient stone wall cottages, the work continues, the muddy boots are in the house, a glass of cider in the weather-beaten hand, apple crumbles for dinner.

These photos were taken in Winter of 2013/2014. Link to photos of Somerset Flooding see this link

Abergavenny Food Festival, 2013.

Every year, for one weekend, the town of the Welsh valleys goes back to its roots as an historic market town, with stalls lining its atmospheric streets and music and good scents filling the air. It’s the famous Abergaveny food festival and for an all day pass of around £10 you have the freedom to explore a vast array of food types from fish to veg to meat.

Here are a few photos to document this popular, culture-rich event. If you have an event you would like to be photographed for the website or for use in promotional leaflets please contact us at

As you ascend the main street, songs and gigs are taking place with the peaceful, jolly sound of a flute.

Local produce is a key part of the event with many farms and businesses represented from rural areas, including some real characters. To add some spice, cooking demonstrations take place in the old Market hall and even the odd celebrity is waiting to sign a book – if your not distracted on the way with the hugely photographic cakes and breads in the hall.


The castle is another area of the festival, which has a very idyllic location with views over the valleys and stalls surrounding the old castle keep. If you’re into documentary photography this is an ideal location to

capture the live atmosphere and vibrancy of a rural community filled with the hussle and bussle of a nationally famous festival. Dates for 2014 are:

20-21 September 2014


There will be a welsh cake or two to keep you going!

Click on Abergaveny food festival to go to the official website.


This is an extract from abergavenny events website about the food festival ‘Probably Abergavenny’s biggest event, the Abergavenny Food Festival attracts visitors from all over the country. A programme of culinary events are spread out across a number of venues in the town, with demonstrations from top chefs, specialist exhibitors and various entertainments. Described as the ‘Glastonbury of Food Festivals’ (Carole Cadwalladr, Observer Food Monthly), this festival just gets better and better. Expect to try out all kinds of food and drink samples from local and unique suppliers, and definitely expect to be taking plenty home with you!’

TRAVEL – Hyderabad – India

Culture clashes cannot be more extreme than an Indian-English marriage. It was a privilege to be present during the actual night (most of it) and the dress rehearsal and some of the traditions that take place before a marriage. There was an interesting compromise of traditions on both sides, making a fascinating selection of photos taken in Hyderabad, India and put the icing on the cake of yet another truly epic adventure to the great nation of India.

The love of firework and bangers were, as suspected, present in the proceedings and due to tradition and culture there was no ‘And now you can kiss the bride’.












The stadium setting must have been on the speakers and words were echoed through the speakers making it very hard to hear with strong accents included in that mix. The rich display of flowers, lights and lavish seats was something to behold.

Meanwhile as the outside ceremony continued, cameramen moved around cables snaked across the ground in all directions in a way that would have horrified UK’s health and safety officials! There was so much activity, people moving around and so on, during the actual marriage ceremony; it was so very different to the silence of the ‘special moment’ in most English marriages. As this went on the biggest bats I have ever seen were performing a fly past over the celebration. Dinner was served to the special guests and family at 1.30am after everyone else had feasted. We were even entertained with a slightly intoxicated policeman, who told me that he was a policeman and pointed to his badge, and said ‘I’mm apooliccemannn’.!

At around 3am in the morning we returned
home, I was able to stay in the bride’s house, which provided an interesting point of view of the traditional proceedings. The following day was spent taking some guests to the famous fort Golconda and exploring the famous, busy city.We returned to a slightly colder and much damper England, along with its peaceful driving conditions. 


TRAVEL – Coimbatore – India

It was good to catch up with the orphaned children again; last time I was here was a year ago.

They were all very proud of their new, nearly finished, orphanage and were keen to help in any way they could, moving sand, brick and also singing to help the builders along.

They all seem to be doing well, some have left to either go back to a parent (some are semi orphans) and others have moved out to their own rented house after getting a job.

As always, happiness and joy fills the air and makes you realise what really matters and what you really need to make you happy. Here are a few photos of the children, staging and posing as usual.

As I write, in 2014, they are now in the new orphanage and life will be slightly more comfortable with running water, working toilets and beds!

Images below
Left –   Last time I was at the orphanage I produced a card with Prakash here he proudly holds a copy. Cards are available on the main site under shop.
2nd image down –   One of three brothers Cuberdy helps transport some cement he is the middle man, both his mother and father have died.
3rd image down –   Two of the youngest girls at the orphanage, with major bed-head! At around 7am, Cogle on the right and Diva on the left.
4th image down-   Vodiville, walks back with some of the other children from school, with his TIN TIN bag! Every day is an adventure, he suffers from heart problems, he also cannot write due to his thumbs not being connected with the rest of his hand apart from a thin bit of flesh.
5th image down-   Vodiville, its morning shower time!
6th image down-   A parting gift, some photos for the walls of the new orphanage, kindly sponsored by donations.
7th image down and below-   These last scenes are taken down town in the heart of the city, the BAZZAR

TRAVEL – Jaipur – India

We arrived in the thick of night, the train was a slow stopping train and, as we left Agraover an hour and thirty min’s late, we arrived into Jaipur very late. We were again asked when we alighted at Jaipur if we needed a taxi, but fortunately our friendly driver was waiting for us. We piled into the old Ambassador, one of India’s famous legends of a car. With the bang of the doors we were off, and with the throaty sound of the engine warming up, we flew down the dark lanes of Jaipur.

The hotel was a real Indian gem, perfectly themed, fit for the Royal Raj. Its claim to fame is, it’s going to be used for the filming of the next ‘Best exotic marigold hotel’. The following morning we took a auto for the day exploring the Pink City which was a little bit of an anti-climax.  However, the Palace with its lavish doorways and decorative building style was well worth a visit; the image used on Lonely Planet guides front cover is taken here at Jaipur’s city palace.



The city struggles to cope with the large volumes of traffic trying to squeeze through its ancient archways and streets. On the way to the tombs our auto nearly took the head off of a camel as we raced in front of the camel and its rider. The area is well known for its camel fairs. Fortification lines the surrounding hills;

I would imagine it’s similar to the Great Wall of China – just not the same length. When we arrived at the tombs we were the only ones there, making it very strange from the busy street of the city below. It’s a beautiful complex of tomb memorials but is obviously off the beaten track for most tourists.


The climb up though the pass through the mountains and gateway to Amber is most impressive; the view of Amber Fort is something to behold with the lake below.  There is a second fort above the main fort with the small tower nestling in the valley, surrounded on every side with an extensive wall. After the steep hill climb the palace is full of amazing photographic opportunities from its impressive arches, gateways and rooms, which fill this heavily defended and luxurious palace. A secret passage way leads to the second fort.  This is a mile or so uphill, and if you’re on your feet all day and in the Indian sun, this maybe just a little too much!

t you get an auto for the day this is the point they may wish to take you to buy gifts, it may be interesting but they will push for a sale. Be a hard barterer, they may say it’s their only sale but it’s not! The right price is around 75% less than what they first quote you; the more of a tourist you look the higher the price!

We returned back for a great meal at the hotel’s sister hotel. I cannot rate it more highly and it is a definite must to stay there if you are in Jaipur.






TRAVEL – Agra – India

From the minute you alight from the train to the moment you leave Agra there are many waiting to greet you and they all say the same thing: ‘I have got a good price and remember it’s especially for you’.

The very persistent old man, once we finally bartered him down from his initial high price, bundled us into his car; the luggage bumping around on the roof which, despite the size of the speed bump and the violent breaking, never seems to fall off.  Once we left the car park, or it may have been the moment he turned the ignition key, the sales pitch started. Over the whole 30min journey there would be a never ending stream of things he could offer at a special price just for us. Then he would start all over again and the sites would be listed once more and a better deal would be offered. Finally we arrived at our destination and enjoyed the peace and quiet of …. Nothing; no bartering, no sales, no traffic. Later, even walking to the restaurant 15min down the road, the rickshaw man peddling beside us all the way; his price getting cheaper by the footstep!

Agra is often swamped in smog and it was when we were there, the taste in your mouth every time you take a breath. At sunrise, on the other side of the river, it loomed out of the mystical fog or smog around it. Dimly the white was shining though, breathtaking, magical as the birds moved around only to be disturbed by the persistent gardener asking for money. Later, to see it in its full splendour in full light, we entered through the South gate, which is the least busy.

Then through the main gate you can see the tomb looming through the gateway. It like an ever brightening jewel the closes you get, majestic, pure, shining white, a wonder!  It’s certainly worth 750 rupees although if you think you can get away with it, say your Indian: it’s only 20 rupees then!  There was no queue the day we were where there but there isn’t much inside compared to the stunning exterior. The actual tombs in there are replicas of the actual tombs below but they are placed over the exact spot. The Taj was never designed to be for the King’s final resting place just, for his dearly loved wife, but it was his son who decided to place him there. His tomb is the only thing not completely symmetrical as it was all built around her tomb. From the South there are many shops and many of the ancestors of those who build the Taj Mahal  still live and work here producing marble products and gifts. You have to be a hard barterer to get a good price here and if you go into one shop you are asked why you won’t go in every other shop down that lane.

The lavish Agra Fort is not far up river. Only 20% of the fort is open but that is large enough. It has many optical illusions, a room with precious stones and a rosewater fountain. There is also a secret passageway.

‘You see baby Taj?’ the next auto rickshaw driver says after he guesses you haven’t been there yet. Actually we were after a late lunch and we agree on the guides suggestion of a certain non-veg restaurant. ‘You want veg or non-veg?’ he asks half way; ‘non-veg’ we say; he says ‘this one is veg only’; we agree veg is fine then only to arrive at a non-veg restaurant. Agra is one of the places to ignore local knowledge or advice as it will probably mislead you!

That evening we arrive at the train station for our onward journey west to Punjab, Jaipur. Four orphaned children, aged between 3 and 6, who live on the station came and asked for money. An Indian man explains this is their home, it is all they know, and they are happy here.  Our train arrived over 1 ½ hours late and it turned out to be the slow, bumpy, stopping train. Luckily our cheerful, larger-than-life driver was waiting at the other end and we sat back in the old Ambassador as it pulled away from the station with a deep rumble from its engine.




TRAVEL – Delhi – India.

We arrived in the capital at 7am on The Golden Temple Mail from Amritsar. The metro was very efficient and safety-concious with security checks before boarding the train. First visit in the city was to Qutro Minar the old 11th century site situated to the south of the city and full of old doorways and buildings.


The Gate of India built by the British to honour those who lost their lives in World War Two has impressive flower arrangements in front of it.



Parades occur regularly along here and for some reason many Indians try and sell you a toy that whizzes into the air seemingly with the belief that you will never have seen such a thing before and that it would be a most prized addition to the tourists home. Nearby are the Parliament buildings.


If it’s hussle and bussle that you want there is nowhere in the world quite like Chandi Chowk Bazzar.

As you ascend the staircase from the metro all sorts of smells, noise and voices meet you. Then you’re in it. Just walk out. If you wait you won’t get anywhere but you just have to watch and wonder, as everything moves in all directions, how does anyone get to their destination?

If there wasn’t enough already going on in this over crowded pot, drums and flags fill one of the roads as a BGP political march walks through, postering everything and handing out flyers. We found a spot to wait and watch and just behind us one man was taking a rest with his feet visible from the darkened room. Next to us is a small shop with a smiling gentleman and sitting below the counter is an old chap selling fruit discussing the flyer. In the wake of the march, life gradually returns to a normality of chaos – a cart stacked high, with a 5 year old boy sat on the top, passes by into the middle of a muddle of other cart’s, trucks, rickshaws, autos, pedestrians and sellers.

This is one of the oldest bazars in the world. It was established in the 16th century and has grown from strength to strength and busier and busier ever since. We then went onto Chandi Chowk itself for a meal.

The rickshaw man said it was too far to walk to our desired eating place, even though it was just round the corner. He also said it would be closed until later; when we still insisted on going it was…open!

The Red Fort was walking distance away with more sellers of postcards of India’s scenes at: ‘very good price sir’. Most will barter themselves down if you’re not interested – the starting price was 600 rupees; we left him when he got to 80 ruppes.

Agra is only 2½ hours by train from Delhi. So long as you book the trains in advance they are by far the best way to travel being very cheap, comfortable and the stations central. There were many tourists on this train to go and see one of the wonders of the world and India’s most famous building – the Taj Mahal.

TRAVEL – Amritsar – India

A few selected images from a recent trip to India the first State is Punjab.

We arrived into Amritsar military airport; first on the list was the Pakistan border.

Every evening at around 5pm (this was about the only thing that was early during our trip!) the gates between the two countries close, to the sound of either uproar or cheering from a few thousand spectators. Most guidebooks relate it more to comic entertainment than anything else.


You won’t escape without being harassed by everyone selling the same souvenir DVD, postcards and a plastic looking toy which I think is a souvenir to put on the mantelpiece when you get home…

Rather than violent actions, the slightly more peaceful approach of chanting and cheering or booing can be observed.

One of the most stunning sights to see is the Golden Temple of Amritsar.

I think at night it has a certain magical influence as you turn the corner and see an expensive jewel of India reflected in the lake that surrounds it – and you don’t have to barter: it’s free! If you don’t mind the smell of stinking feet, and you don’t mind people seeing you toes it’s a truly magnificent sight.

I The sikhs actually drink the water you wash your feet in! A free meal is also offered to anyone, which is probably one of India’s biggest eat-outs.


Just down the road is the site of the famous Amritsar massacre which most will say was one of the main turning points toward India’s independence. Here, hundreds of Indians were killed by the British.

RIGHT: This is the alley thousands of Indians tried to escape the shooting.

The side streets are full of hustle and bustle as anywhere in India, with regular hold ups. They are full of colour and a maze so we just had to keep a good track of where we had gone.


Our trip was made easier but using a very fantastic, reliable firm Le Passage To India, they were able to get us great rates and we helpful all the way I cannot rate them more highly please click here for their website

The gallery below shows a range of photos from the side streets to the night Indian wedding viewed from our hotel window at night. Please click on the photos to make them larger.






Dawlish – Storms

Dawlish has been one of the top news stories over the last couple of days, here as some photos taken  on Saturday of the repair work going on, network rail working shift work in-between the tides and rough sea. Many houses are still evacuated along the stretch where the seawall is no longer. To protect these houses old containers were placed in front of the exposed section and filled with ballast and stone to try and keep the power of the storms and waves from further erosion.

Just round the corner beach huts are left battered, broken and smashed, as if a mini devastating tsunami has washed over them.

Below is a gallery of photos taken on Saturday, one was taken before the storm as a train passes the famous section of railway line.

The Somerset Levels… a month and still water.

The BBC announced today using one of our photos that ‘Tourist and business leaders in Somerset have said the county is “open for business’. Meanwhile Prince Charles has been visiting those affected by the floods.



Below as updated 03.02.2014







Environment Agency has said ‘Up to 40 properties and 65 square kilometres of land have unfortunately flooded. However, flood defences have protected over 200 square kilometres of land and 3,500 properties, including in the towns of Langport, Martock, Ilchester and Ham.’ The Telegraph blog also had some facts.

Langport over the weekend with the River Parrett brown, fast flowing and close to the top of the bank.

The BBC said ‘Villages such as Muchelney have been cut off for almost a month and about 11,500 hectares (28,420 acres) of the Levels are flooded by about 65 million cubic metres of water.’

Above Left: Rainbow offers hope to may still surrounded by Water

Above Right: Water near Langport.

Below from last update on Jan 23rd 2014

With some communities still stranded except by boat and roads still closed causing long diversions, after a month live on the Somerset Levels is still far from normal as the next band of heavy rain is due tomorrow.



Left: Water runs down a field near East Lyng, Somerset.

Below: The view across to Burrow Mump surrounded by water.



For some stunning photography documented in black and white click link below for more shots of the still flooded Somerset Levels by Matilda Temperley. One of her images below

Today (24.01.2014) the Somerset Levels hit the news again, below the pontoon is being built in Muchelney for use with the rescue boat. From BBC Somerset