Day out: Leeds Christmas Market

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Leeds Christmas Market, November 2016 (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I love Christmas and, once Bonfire Night is out of the way, I quite like to go to Christmas Markets.

I don’t care how big or how small they are, I just like to go and mingle, look at the pretty lights and interesting stalls, and occasionally sample the wares.

Sometimes we even buy something. And this time, apart from a hot dog, some chocolate marshmallow on sticks and some mulled wine, we also bought hats. And a gingerbread heart.

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Leeds Christmas Market, November 2016 (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Last Saturday we went to Leeds for their Christmas Market. We got there for about 4:30pm, so it was just dark enough to take pictures of the lights.

And there were lights everywhere – on the lampposts, around the stalls, even for sale on the stalls.

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Leeds Christmas Market, November 2016 (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Several stalls were selling Christmas decorations. Some of these were baubles and tree ornaments, some were tea- and night-lights, and some were just traditional wooden toys and ornaments.

The Nutcracker is my favourite ballet, so it was nice to see some wooden nutcrackers there too. But we didn’t buy any.

It was already very busy, and we knew we were headed in the right direction as we fought through the crowds coming back from the market. (We’d taken the train in and parked the car at Barnsley Station.)

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Leeds Christmas Market, November 2016 (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

When we first arrived, it was still empty enough to relax, stroll around, take pictures. But by the time we’d had something to eat and done a couple of circuits – it wasn’t one of the biggest Christmas Markets – it was starting to get too crowded for stupid even.

One of the reasons for the trip was so that the poet could try out the new lens for his camera. He’s not snapped lights at night before, really. Or not since he’s been learning to be a “proppa snappa”. So these were his first.

He’s getting quite good at the bokeh, though – even if he does say so himself! This is where the foreground – or any part of the subject – is in focus but the background blurs. For those who want the scientific explanation, I think you can find it here.

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Leeds Christmas Market, November 2016 (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

The hot dog he bought was a bit big for just one of us, although I’m sure he would have managed it all had I wanted a whole one too.

But he put ketchup all over it, and then mustard on his (big) half. It was very nice, and just spicy enough.

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Leeds Christmas Market, November 2016 (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

Aside from the chocolate marshmallow on a stick (each), we also bought some fudge, some vanilla fudge for my dad (for being a big brave soldier and going to the hospital last week), and some clotted cream fudge with jelly babies for me (so that Dad didn’t have to share his).

We took the gingerbread heart home to have with a cup of tea later in the week.

Before we left he had one last practice with his camera, taking moving shots of the carousel and the other roundabouts. There isn’t room for all of the pictures here, though, so I saved a static of the carousel for the bottom.

We had such a good time, and the weather was very kind, so we’re thinking about going to another Christmas Market later in (what’s left of) the year. There’s one at York this weekend and there’s one at Sheffield at the end of the month. They’re all probably the same market, but it’s nice to see them in a different place, and Leeds, York and Sheffield are all close enough that the dog isn’t left on his own for too long at home.

And now he has a brand new camera as well (courtesy of his recently late father), he’ll want to be trying that out soon too. Plus, he has another new lens coming on Monday, so that will be another excursion.

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Leeds Christmas Market, November 2016 (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Camping: Corfe Castle Day 4 – RSPB Arne & The “Blue Pool”, July/August 2016

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RSPB Arne (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Our relatively brand new tent sprang a leak quite early on in our holiday, around one of the airbeams. This leak was closely followed by another and another and another.

Some of Tuesday was spent finding a camping shop and we were able to buy a temporary repair kit to seal the tent.

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RSPB Arne (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

By Wednesday, the weather was warm and dry again, but still windy, and we needed a nice relaxing day to recover from the preceding trauma.

So we went to visit RSPB Arne near Swanage. We’re members of the RSPB and it’s another reserve that allows dogs.

Because it was a nice day, the poet was also able to have another play with his camera, playing with bokeh and bracketing again.

The picture of the pink blindweed to the right is an example of bokeh.

Surprisingly, we didn’t actually see much birdlife. But there is a diversity of landscape – woodland, heathland and, of course, coastland.

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Rufus & Diane, RSPB Arne (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

There was a small information centre in the car park where recent sightings could be written on a whiteboard. (I think the poet added 2 sightings to the board, a chiffchaff and a curlew …)

They also have binoculars to borrow and, if found to be useful, for sale. We’re already members of the RSPB and we already have several pairs of binoculars!

Also very close by is a very nice café. It’s new and clean and with unisex toilets.

I walked in to see if there was any tap water available for the dog’s bottle, and they had a specially prepared bottle in the fridge for such occasions.

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RSPB Arne (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We were so impressed with the whole place that we decided to stay for lunch and let them have some more revenue.

I had a jacket potato – I’d been yearning for one for a few days – and the poet had another ploughman’s lunch. And we had cake for pudding. Mine was a lemon syrup Victoria sandwich-type cake, the poet’s was … chocolate, I think. And it was very yummy.

After RSPB Arne we headed back towards the campsite via Wareham, and on the outskirts we made a minor detour to see the so-called “Blue Pool” …

Well … When I visited the Blue Pool nearly 30 years ago I remember feeling somewhat … underwhelmed.

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Little Egret & (I think) Common Gull – I *love* the look on the seagull’s face! RSPB Arne (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

It was quite a basic beauty spot in those days and I don’t remember paying an admission.

I remember standing on the shore and wondering why they called it blue. It was more a murky green.

That day the weather can’t have been so great.

This time, I was quite shocked to see that it would cost us £6 each (TWELVE POUNDS!) to get in, although the car park is, I think, still free. I hoped they’d done something to justify such a high admission fee, and they had – of a fashion.

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Ian, Diane & Rufus, The “Blue Pool” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

There’s a nice tea room there now that I don’t remember from before (but that doesn’t mean anything, I just might not have been able to afford it). There’s also a little souvenir shop and a museum, and the site is now home to the Wareham Bears … whoever they are.

BUT … the water is still a murky green … until the sun catches it just right. And you need to be above the water level to see the full benefit, although some of the paths are closed for safety, due to erosion.

So I’m afraid I still remain rather unimpressed, especially when we paid an extortionate amount to get in.

However … if you intend to spend the entire day there, then I think it’s more worth it. And, of course, dogs are welcome again if kept on leads (there were some there not on leads …). Take a picnic, go on one of the walks, visit the museum and the Wareham Bears (!), have a coffee in the tea rooms (just to be awkward). But I don’t think we’ll be going back again.

Saying that, the poet did have chance to practise his bracketing again, and as it was less windy by now, I think this one was quite successful.

What do you think?

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The “Blue Pool” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Camping: Corfe Castle Day 2 – Old Harry Rocks, July/August 2016

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Old Harry Rocks (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Day 2 of our holiday was Monday, and the day dawned bright and sunny again. My feet were still a bit sore from the sandals and the shingle the day before, so we decided to go somewhere where I knew there was a well-defined path. (There’s a well-defined path at Durdle Door, but I knew there was a nicer one at Studland.)

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Flora at the Old Harry Rocks (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

And so off we pootled to Studland Bay to see Old Harry and his wife – the Old Harry Rocks.

The car park is free to National Trust members and a sign says there are free poo bags and bowls of water for dogs along the trail – we found the poo bags, which was fortunate as throughout the holiday we did keep leaving ours at the tent, but there were no bowls of water.

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At the Old Harry Rocks (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

When I mentioned the bowls of water (or lack of them) to the NT reps there, they knew nothing about them. If you do the full walk and have a dog, or even if you don’t, it’s a good idea to carry water anyway, as you can walk for miles and not see a soul.

It took us about 20 minutes to walk the easy path and we lingered for quite some time while the poet practised some arty photography – bracketing, HD, bokeh, etc, etc.

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Tree at the Old Harry Rocks (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

But it had clouded over and started to spit with rain and we hadn’t brought our raincoats with us, and there is no shelter.

We did take shelter beneath a tree on the walk back and we thought the growth on the side looked like an old man’s face with either a big beard or a big chin.

Can you see him?

The rain dropped off and we made it back to the car relatively dry. Then we drove back to the campsite by way of an orientation drive, and we had a Dorset Cream Tea in Lulworth Cove – you can’t go to Dorset and not have a cream tea … or Cornwall, or Devon …

The picture below is a result of “bracketing”. This is where the poet used his tripod and auto-took 3 pictures that were almost exactly the same, one was under-exposed, one was normal and one was over-exposed. Later, in processing, all three pictures are merged together.

Unfortunately it was a little breezy, as you can see in the bottom right-hand corner with the blurred flowers. But we both really like the effect, and I think it looks like an oil painting.

What do you think?

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Old Harry Rocks (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)