At the turn of the year, I generally write a blog post, reflecting on the year that has passed and heralding the new year ahead. In a break with tradition, I thought instead I would produce a photo diary to mark 2020: a year like no other.
It was difficult to choose just one photo from each month, but here they are, each with a few sentences to enliven them. I hope you enjoy this pictorial calendar! I wish everyone a healthy and happy 2021 and thank you all for continuing to enrich my life, in whatever role you occupy.
A rainbow over Knightshayes illuminated one of our many walks there. We are lucky to have this place almost on our doorstep, although we haven’t been able to visit as much this year, for obvious reasons. Little did we know that when we saw this rainbow, all would be different in a matter of weeks.
Living in the Mourning Light was published this year, and an image similar to this forms part of the front cover. This is a view on the road out of Bampton, where I drive on my way to work in the mornings. When the mist sits in the valley below, I often feel compelled to stop and take some photos.
This sums up living in the mourning light perfectly, a clear light which manages to include the veil of sadness represented by the mist.
But it is a positive light, even in this rather monochrome view, as the sun is there too.
There are few places better than a harbour on a bright sunny day, and this is one of our favourite places to visit. Minehead may not be top of the list compared with the open North Devon beaches, but it has its beauty nonetheless and I always feel as though I have been on holiday after a day trip to the Somerset coast.
I have always enjoyed watching birds in the garden, but never envisaged that a handsome male pheasant would become a regular visitor. His plumage is iridescent in the sunshine and he does a good job of hoovering up the seeds that fall from the feeders.
This month saw us taking numerous walks from our front door as we were not permitted to do much else! The swathes of wild garlic, photographed here a scant ten minutes away from home, scented the air with a pungent fragrance. I have Riverford Organics to thank for some recipes – delicious pesto from the young leaves and cheese and garlic scones. After the flowers die back, they are replaced by small round seed heads. These were picked, brined and pickled to create wonderful, tiny garlic flavoured capers, a superb addition to fish and salad dishes. I have only just finished the jar.
All these flowers grow naturally in the fields and hedgerows around us. This is my go-to type of photography, when I can focus (literally) on these small, natural marvels and take solace from the beauty of their form and colour.
This is such a special photo because it reflects one of the few times some of the family were all able to get together freely this year. Stella, Pete, Charlie and Grace live about an hour away from this place, and so do we, in the opposite direction. Thus it is a good halfway meeting point. It is South West Lakes’ Roadford Lake, just off the A30. We didn’t know that a wildflower meadow had been planted and arrived in glorious sunshine to see these lovely blooms.
This is another favourite awayday viewpoint of ours; and it looks particularly beautiful on a hot August day. The location is North Hill looking down overlooking the coast at Bossington and Porlock, Somerset. The fragrance of the heather hung heavy in the warm air that day and we felt blessed to be enjoying such heavenly surroundings.
This month, I fulfilled my ambition to get out of bed early enough to see the sun rise on Exmoor. This image also encapsulates the promise of the mourning light. The gate is indicative of a way forward, and the rosy dawn holds promise for the day. I remember my thoughts that day as I reflected on the restrictions of the pandemic, and felt heartened by the fact that however dark the night, the dawn still brings the light, day after day after day. The stillness and peace of the morning were uplifting in the extreme.
Witnessing a roundup of the Exmoor ponies was another ambition this year, and Shaun and I were lucky enough to be able to photograph the Anchor herd. The owners of the herd permitted the photographers to place themselves in some especially good locations and it was a thrilling experience to watch these wonderful, stocky, sturdy ponies gallop past us. It is a tribute to the care and attention by such breeders as these that the bloodline of the species, unique to Exmoor, is able to continue. We felt privileged to be part of the day and can’t wait to do it again next year.
November can be a drab month, but the autumn colours of the trees at Tarr steps seemed especially vibrant this year. We had a wonderful morning’s walk in the golden light and felt thankful for the natural beauty and history of this place, which reflects Exmoor’s hills and valleys so well.
Since we moved to Devon I have dabbled in some artistic efforts. The restrictions of Covid meant that my art classes stopped, but I was signposted to Belinda Reynell, a local artist offering art tuition online with Zoom classes and downloadable tutorials. The classes are great fun, and most paintings are done using palette knives and scrapers, rather than brushes. This loose form of artistic expression is surprisingly liberating, and I am quite fond of these snowy trees. I hope you like them, too!
The year in summary
From countryside to coast, we have been able to enjoy outings all year round. I am especially pleased to share this image showing Shadow standing comfortably in the (rather soggy) woodland, as he had surgery on the tendons of his paw in April and is no longer troubled by the corn that made him lame. So now, he can enjoy longer walks with us.
Happy 2021 Everyone, from Beautiful Bampton!