HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Wishing a Very Happy New Year to all my followers, and thank you so much for your support during the past year and more. I hope 2023 bring peace and good health to all of you wherever you are.

Ice patterns on an attic window.

The photo is of ice patterns on an attic window in my home, a few weeks ago. The icy weather didn’t last long. The image is nowhere near as interesting and spectacular as those I’ve seen on TV from America recently. Amazing images but harrowing stories. Keep safe, my friends. I hope the big freeze will soon be over. 🥂🎉

THE SHRINKING DEAD SEA

These photos are from a recent short trip to Israel, where I was visiting my son and his wife who live there. We did a lovely tour of the Dead Sea area, with visits to a number of archaeological sites and an opportunity to swim in the Dead Sea, followed by a couple of nights in Tiberias and some more hikes and historical sites in that region.

The last time I visited the Dead Sea was almost 20 years ago, and I was quite staggered to see how much this amazing inland salty lake had shrunk during that time. I did read some years ago that it was shrinking, but I had no idea how much, and I was also surprised to find there has been very limited effort to remedy the situation.

Not only has the water level dropped massively, exposing vast areas of sandy, salty soil, but huge sink holes have opened up on the newly exposed dry areas. Buildings and vehicles have toppled. I’m not sure how many (if any) people have been swallowed up. The land continues to be extremely unstable and as we watched from above we could see the sides of sink holes dropping away into goodness knows where. Years ago there was a number of resorts along the roadside near the water. I remember stopping at one for refreshments as we passed en route to Eilat. These have mostly gone. I think there may be one that drives its customers to the water, so great is the distance now from the accommodation. But I wonder how safe is it?

The unpredictable, unstable ground seems to not deter some people, as there were people camping next to some of these giant holes! Just look at that tent near the big hole below!

These shots are zooming across to Jordan at the other side of the Dead Sea, which is of course also affected by the dropping water level. I have read that it has dropped about 40 metres during the past 50 – 60 years.

So why is this happening? some like to blame climate change and natural evaporation. But it seems the main reason is the diversion of water from the Jordan River for farming purposes. This is happening mainly in Israel, Jordan, and Syria. Vast quantities of water are used for domestic and food production purposes. I think there has been some effort to replace the river water with desalinated water for domestic and farming uses, enabling more river water to enter the Dead Sea, but it’s not making enough of a difference.

Another contributing factor is the mining of minerals from the water, which is happening both in Israel and Jordan. Salt, magnesium, bromide… There is large scale evaporation of the water for the purpose of extracting these minerals.

There was a suggested plan to bring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea to off-set the shrinking water volume, but scientists pointed out that the sea water from the Red Sea has a different composition and is incompatible with the Dead Sea. So – the next solution was to bring desalinated water to the Dead Sea – the Red-Dead Project. As far as I know this has not yet happened. I just wonder why not bring more desalinated water to the farmers and restore the River Jordan. Of course this needs the cooperation of all the countries that use the River Jordan. Now wouldn’t that be wonderful!

Another issue with the River Jordan is the raw sewage. I understand big improvements have been made on all sides with this issue – Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians, to their credit. But to be honest it looked pretty murky to me – I guess it was probably just mud, due to some heavy rain in the north at this time of year. This photo was taken at a baptism site on the river.

Viewed from the ancient fortress of Masada. A beautiful view – but just think what a scene this once was from up here!

The air was very hazy compared with my last visit to this area. I had to make liberal use of contrast editing in order to see the detail in the distance. This may be just because of weather conditions of the day, but I wondered if changing climate had anything to do with it.

Looking across to the mountains of Jordan, an earlier water level appears along the rocks – I guess.

This is Ein Bokek, where I bathed in the Dead Sea. It felt good!

I wondered why the water level had not dropped here – it would seem impossible for some of the water to stay on higher ground – if you get my drift. But a little research told me that this is in fact one of the drying pools of a factory – Mif’ale Yam HaMelaẖ Alef.

I don’t know what they manufacture – that has not been so easy to find!

But the sandy beach is free to use, with life guards, changing rooms, toilets and cold showers for washing off the salty water.

I hope you enjoyed my post about the Dead Sea in Israel. Thank you for viewing.

I have visited Israel a number of times, because of visiting my son there. If you would like to see more photos of different parts of Israel, taken over several years, please visit my website: https://www.helene-brennan.com/c18-israel

WATER, WIND, LIGHT AND ROCKS

Clogher Beach is always a big draw when the weather is stormy. Not very many years ago the stormy weather would see a just a few painters and photographers out to brave the weather and capture the drama, but now you will be guaranteed to see several people out – even in November when there used to be so few people around.

These photos above focussed straight ahead from the car park on Inis Tuaisceart, the Sleeping Giant – One of the Blasket Island Group. Some of you may remember I previously mentioned this Island is known as the Fear Marbh (Dead Man) locally.

But the real drama was happening to the left where the waves crashed onto the rocks, creating a wonderful steamy spray, gleaming in the sunlight from directly above.

Up on the top there appears a boxy shape. This was in fact a tour bus carrying several tourists – most, if not all were American. I only know this because I had been up there a few minutes earlier and exchanged greetings with some of the people who ventured out to enjoy and capture the views. It would appear that there are quite a lot of tourists around still. As many of them say – they don’t come to Ireland for the weather!

I would like to have taken a cliff walk from here, but there just wasn’t enough time between the very heavy squally showers. We seem to have had several weeks of windy and showery weather, giving little time to go for walks. I’m not complaining; we had some very good Autumn weather in September and October.

Please check out more rough sea images on my website on this link

Thanks for viewing my post – your visit is always appreciated.

ROCKS RULE

This is Wine Strand, in Ballyferriter, on the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, in the South West of Ireland.  I have shown many photos of this delightful little beach, which, (as I previously explained) is believed to have been named after the numbers of wine casks that washed up here when the Spanish Armada was shipwrecked off the west coast of Ireland in 1588.

It’s a perfect and picturesque little beach for a meditative saunter or to take a few photos. Below, you can see a large number of people enjoying the beach on a hot day last summer. To be quite honest, I never saw so many people there before. All our beaches have become so much more popular in recent times, first because of Covid and people working from home, taking breaks on the beach, or in many cases being out of work -also because of Covid. Then the unusually high summer temperatures sent many to the beaches to cool down. There has been a huge increase in sea swimming – all year around.

I was intending to post these photos months ago – I just didn’t get around to it. I often have photos stacking up waiting to post and then I don’t get to show them at all.

My focus in this post is mainly (as the title suggests) the rocks which are at the far end of this short sandy beach and I dug out a few older pics of the same rocks to add to the post.  They just seem to have some sort of presence. Sometimes I see rocks that deserve a special focus of attention, like these.

I’m not a geologist. I know nothing about rocks really, but I enjoy the images and the forms. I also like to ponder on the many generations of people who have come and gone over centuries, who have walked on these beaches and around these same rocks.

Modestly magnificent, is how I would describe these rocks. For sure you can find more amazing specimens; that’s why I use the word modest.

I am reminded of a very beautiful haunting old song in the Irish language: An raibh tú ar an gCarraig (Were you on the rock).  Here is a wonderful performance by one of Ireland’s most amazing musicians, Liam Ó Maonlaí, who also explains (a little clumsily) the meaning to the song. Although I have absolutely no religious beliefs now, as an Irish person I would of course feel great sympathy with the people of the time who, as the song explains, were not allowed to express their own deeply held religious faith. It adds another context to the significance of a rocky formation in the psyche of the Irish people.

Thanks so much for viewing.

Some more images from the vicinity of Wine Strand can be seen here on my website.

WATER AND LIGHT

Just a few images of water taken at a local beach in very calm weather. There were gentle ripples on the surface of the water and combined with the sunlight and a little seaweed, these lovely patterns were created.

A short post this time. Back soon. Thanks for visiting.

THE TOM CREAN SHIP

This fabulous new Tom Crean marine research ship was in Dingle Harbour for an official launch last Thursday 6th October and open to the public in the afternoon.

I almost missed this, in fact I missed the launch with all the VIPs but I would like to have got a capture of Tom Crean’s granddaughter Aileen smashing a bottle of Tom Crean Beer (local brew) on the ship, but I did see it on the TV news later.  I also found a tweet – see below.  I did manage to get there on time to go on board and look around the ship.

Some of you may be wondering who the hell is Tom Crean?  I have mentioned him in an earlier post this year. He was a truly remarkable man from the village of Annascaul on this peninsula, who went on three different expeditions to the Antarctic, travelling with Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton.  He was noted for his amazing powers of strength, integrity and endurance, and he was awarded medals for his services involving saving the lives of his companions. Kerry people are very proud of him and they are of course delighted that this important scientific research ship has been named after him.

You can be sure this was a really popular event. There was a large queue of people waiting to get on the ship and viewing continued for about four hours. A woman who was next to me in the queue told me several times that she was “so excited”!

The purpose of the ship is mainly to enable marine scientists to study the effects of climate change on marine life and undertake general oceanographic research such as fish stocks, seabed mapping and much more… See the Irish Marine Institute website.

On board, there was a mind boggling array of screens, buttons, knobs, switches, levers – like something from sci-fi – all very impressive.

The ship’s mess and galley. A large photo of Tom Crean himself graces the wall of the mess.

Just look at all those people exploring the ship. Such a complex and impressive structure! Norwegian designed and Spanish built. Cost: 25 million euro.

I took a walk around the harbour and marina, to get some different shots of the ship while it’s here.

That’s all, thanks so much for visiting.

BLESSINGTON LAKES

Actually, it’s only one lake though it spreads out in a few directions. Also known as the Poulaphouca Reservoir, because it is actually a large reservoir, contained by the Poulaphouca Dam, which was built in the late 1930s with the Hydroelectric Power Station. The land was flooded in 1940 and the village of Ballinahown was submerged along with several homesteads and farmland. I have also read that a number of villages were submerged. Either way, it seems that a lot of people had to uproot themselves so that the demand for electricity could be met.

The River Liffey feeds the lake and also flows from it, and eventually runs into the sea from Dublin city. The river causes very strong and dangerous currents in the water so swimming is prohibited. However there are many other watersports here.

This is in west County Wicklow, next to the Wicklow Mountains, on the east side of Ireland. It’s a beautiful scenic area.

It’s very close to my mother’s neck of the woods, she grew up in Hollywood, a few miles away. I was in fact visiting cousins, many of whom still live in Hollywood. (By the way, there is some evidence that this was the original Hollywood, and the Hollywood in California got its name from an emigrant from here, but there may be different opinions.)

The lake is surrounded by woodland and it’s possible to walk in and out of the woods from the shores of the lake

Old tree roots and stumps survive the flooding of the area. The water level seemed low and in spite of recent rain it probably hadn’t returned to normal since the long drought last summer. You can even see parts of old stone walls poking out of the water.

These old tree stumps and bits of driftwood are lovely pieces of nature’s art.

Some of these old tree stumps at first glance look like they’re floating on air, then you see the legs underneath and you can almost imagine them running about.

Someone had left a book on this tree stump – a strange thing to do. Even stranger when I tried to read it!

I love these gnarled roots. I converted some of them to black and white images.

Some didn’t have much colour in them anyway.

A family of swans came across the lake to us, expecting some food. We didn’t have any.

An old fallen tree was covered in fungi, mosses and ivy. It was really a lovely thing.

Mushrooms were a bit of a theme for me that weekend. My cousin treated me to a feed of parasol mushrooms, picked from a field nearby. Quite delicious! My first time to eat these – I can thoroughly recommend them.

My companion on this walk was my cousin’s wife, from Thailand. She was very excited about seeing these bulrushes. She told me that she used to see them in western magazines when she lived in Thailand and it was a treat for her to see them here.

There is so much more to see around this reservoir, but I didn’t have time to do so on this occasion. Hopefully I’ll get more opportunities.

I often wonder how my photos show on other people’s screens. I find that when I view my posts on my phone the photos look too dark – much darker than on my computer screen. I would be interested to know how others see them. Please feel free to comment.

Thanks so much for viewing my post. I do hope you have enjoyed it. You might like to see my previous post from County Wicklow Autumn Light Wicklow

DUNHAM MASSEY PARK

This is Dunham Massey Park, in Cheshire, England.

It’s about a month since I was there, with only a mobile phone camera – just snapping to be honest, as I continued my way around in conversation.

The park at Dunham Massey probably dates back to 1362 or even earlier. It has an interesting history. I wouldn’t want to go into many details here, but would suggest that those who might be interested could look up the following links:

A brief History of Dunham Massey

Dunham Massey, East India trading and Africa

There were two stories that grabbed my attention:

One family member, Harry Grey (1812 – 90) who had been packed off to South Africa (then Cape Colony) because of his drinking and gambling, and who became a farm labourer, unexpectedly inherited Dunham Massey and with it the Stamford Peerage. He did not return to England himself, and when he died his son John Grey, of mixed race came to England to claim his inheritance. His mother was the black daughter of a freed slave. Unfortunately, racism appears to have raised it’s ugly head and another cousin, William Grey, appeared from Canada and took the inheritance instead, becoming the 9th Earl of Stamford. In fairness to William, it is said that he kept in touch with and supported Harry’s children.

The other story is about the visit of the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, to Dunham Massey. He was exiled in England 1936-41 after expressing his concerns about the threat of fascism and because of the conflict between Mussolini’s Italy and Ethiopia. Roger Grey, now the 10th Earl of Stamford, who was sympathetic to the cause of Ethiopia invited Haile Selassie to Dunham Massey in 1938, where he stayed for four days. They became life-long friends, and Roger flew the Ethiopian flag on the rooftop of the house on Haile’s birthday each year until his death by assassination in 1975.

Roger never married and he left Dunham Massey to the National Trust in 1976.

If I may slightly digress, I am reminded (via the Mussolini connection) of the story of Violet Gibson, an Anglo-Irish woman, who shot Mussolini, but only managed to graze his nose. She was considered mentally ill and locked up in a mental institution for the rest of her days. In her last years, it was said that the staff did not know about the reason for her incarceration and thought her claims to have shot Mussolini were just evidence of her psychosis.

As with all these large estates, there is a massive stately home.

The park has large numbers of old trees and tree management is an important part of the park maintenance.

This old tree trunk is at least 300 years old, but some sources say 500 years.

There are also beautiful gardens, of course.

Very tall loosestrife – much taller than the variety growing here.

This was a beautiful canopy – or pergola should I call it? I think it was entirely made of wood – most likely willow.

This is the old flour mill which has been fully restored in recent times.

We went through the park and walked down a road at the other end. You can see a doe and her fawn in the photo above.

The Bridgewater Canal.

A road passes under the canal. I was amused to see the face worked into the cement on the bridge.

The Bollin River.

Hmmm – would be a bit nervous about living that close to a river!!

There were some lovely old English houses along this road.

Here we are at the end of this walk – The Swan with Two Nicks, a lovely pub for a bit of refreshment. I downed a lovely pint of draft dry cider. I’m a Guinness person in the evening, but it’s hard to beat a draft dry cider on a summer’s afternoon, and it’s not easy to find this at home in rural Kerry in Ireland.

So then it was time to retrace our steps and return to the car.

I hope you have enjoyed this little walk, thanks so much for coming along. Have a great week!

FLETCHER MOSS PARK, MANCHESTER

A few weeks ago I took a trip to Manchester, (England), where I caught up with some old friends and family, and celebrated my brother’s 80th birthday. I lived in Manchester for several years, and some of my family still live there.

I stayed with a friend near this lovely park, so of course we took a walk. I have walked here countless times in the distant past.

I was immediately struck by the huge increase of growth, particularly of the trees, since my last visit there. When photographing trees I like to capture definite shapes and architectural forms, perhaps using the sunlight to emphasise these forms, but frankly I was having difficulty finding some images that satisfied me.

These two photos below were taken on a previous visit in 2003, just with a small compact camera, in winter time. The colours were more bland but you can see the difference in the size and shapes of the trees and shrubs. To me they seemed more photogenic then.

This park was donated to the city of Manchester in 1915 by a man called Fletcher Moss, a philanthropist and Alderman of the region.

This was a particularly hot dry summer, and temperatures hit an an unprecedented 40 degrees C. Thankfully , it was a lot cooler when I visited.

Perhaps it was a result of the hot dry summer, but I was very disappointed to see this weeping giant sequoia looking rather brown, perhaps dead, together with another almost dead looking tree nearby.

Here below is another 2003 image showing the sequoia looking very healthy.

Many of the trees, lovely as they are, have grown into each other, crowding each other out.

I found this old painting I did of the Fletcher Moss gardens, a very long time ago, at least 25 years, maybe more!

We walked on out of the botanical gardens through the more wild area of the park. Clearly not as colourful as it might have been in a more moist summer, but these Himalayan balsam (policeman’s helmets) were thriving. They would. They are a non-native, very invasive species.

This plant has seed pods that when ripe, can explode or shoot seeds up to 7 m from the plant.

This bee suddenly crawled out of the flower just as I was taking this photo.

At the far end of the park there is this lovely avenue of poplars.

This eventually led out of the park to this river, which is of course, the river Mersey. The same Mersey that flows into the sea at Liverpool.

I read, years ago, that there once was a vast area of farmland around the Mersey valley region. I think this must have been some centuries ago, I’m not sure, before the area became completely built up. It was common practice back in the day to allow the river to flood the farmland every winter, spreading rich silt over the soil and fertilising it for the next season’s crops. At some point in time the river banks were raised with banks of soil, and eventually walkways were created, providing a great amenity for the local people, along with acres of wildlife and bird sanctuaries. A pity though, that the old farming methods have disappeared.

Back in the park, I admired these lovely carved seats.

There are also tennis courts, rugby and football pitches, a café, and ice cream kiosk in the park.

Another point of interest is that this park is the birthplace of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Emily Williamson, who started the RSPB, lived at the house called the Croft, which is in the park area.

Thanks for viewing. See you back again soon!

MORE FROM THE GARDEN

Vetch, such lovely shades of blue and mauve, grows wild all over the place, including my garden.

It was just the way the light caught the fluffy stuff on these thistle seed heads that attracted me.

I continue to take photos of bees, to keep a record of all the types that come into my garden.

This orange tailed black bumblebee has been around a lot recently, and particularly likes this heather blossom.

He is so difficult to capture, he just keeps moving swiftly – and just look at his wings go! Notice his very large pollen sacks on his legs.

Green and brown shield bugs appear on these marigold seed heads

Speckled wood butterflies are frequent visitors recently. The peacock butterfly likes to give me tantalising glimpses. I have many good images of these from earlier efforts, but I always like to get a new one. These ones here tell the story of my stalking and staring through the bushes. I actually like the images here, not because they are perfect (which they are not), but because they give the feeling of the challenge and the chase.

Another photo of the same dragon fly shown in my last post. I see them dipping and diving and soaring above me, but rare to capture an image. More soon perhaps!

I wonder how many people will recognise this garden flower? Answer at the end.

I followed the “No Mow May” advice, for environmental reasons mainly, allowing lots of natural wildflowers to flourish. It was no hardship at first, until it turned into unmanageable June! My rockeries were overrun with daisies. It looked great, I thought, until I had to weed them out.

At a certain time of a summer’s evening, as the sun drops low, a streak of golden sunlight strides across my garden. I can see it from the living room and I often run out to take a photo or two.

There is very little colour planning in my garden. It’s a case of whatever will grow here. Anything to fill the spaces! It’s never a carefully manicured, weeded, colour co-ordinated space. But it’s much loved all the same.

The white flowers above, if you didn’t recognise them, are potato flowers. They were looking very healthy when I took those photo, but unfortunately they got the dreaded blight, so there was a much reduced crop from them

Thank you for your much appreciated visit. See you again soon!