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Nigel

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Croatia – Korcula

The weather decided to turn as we were on our way into Korcula. We were due to be there for the morning and then to sail in to Mljet in the afternoon before ending our holiday back in Dubrovnik. It was raining on and off and a breeze got up as well. Still, intrepid explorers that we are, we took a walk around Korcula and found it to be another of these Croatian towns with plenty to see, some good harbourside restaurants and cafes and lots of steps and alleyways.

Marco Polo lived here – I guess that is the island’s real claim to fame. There’s a museum here and his house is there as well, although I found that quite amusing because having done all that seafaring he’d hardly have been at home. Mrs Polo (if there was one) would constantly have been chucking his tea away because it was burnt.

Earlier in the day, the captain got us all together for a meeting – apparently the weather was too bad in Mljet (it’s only a small harbour) for us to land safely so we had to sail past it and headed directly to Dubrovnik. We really enjoyed this holiday and I have to say that the ship and crew were very very good.

 

Croatia – Hvar and Vis

Another day and more Islands (read churches and castles) to explore. Hvar Island was very pretty and again we ventured up hundreds of millions of steps up to a hilltop castle overlooking a pretty harbour. There ought to be a prettiest view from a hilltop competition in Croatia – there’s an awful lot to choose from. You can tell how steep the climb was because someone has kindly stuck a number of recliners half way up so you can have a rest. Then we got to Vis – Mammia Mia! cute little island, didn’t stay long, I think we were looking forward to Korcula the next day although we were a little sad that we were coming to the end of a lovely holiday.

Croatia – Trogir & Split

I wasn’t sure what to expect in Trogir as we were landing by tender – would it be as small as I thought, would there be much there apart from the obligatory churches, castles and touristy things. ON the other hand, we’d seen some great images of Split and were looking forward to it. As usual, things don’t work out as you expect and we found Trogir charming with more narrow streets to shield us from the sun, welcoming cafes, low flying aircraft coming into/taking off from Split airport, someone towing a capsized boat and a good walk around the harbour.

Split on the other hand was extremely windy, full of tourists (yes I know) – and lots of market stalls. Plus it was probably around 32C and not good to walk around in. I’m pleased we saw it and it might be better on another visit. Here’s a few images :-

Croatia – Sibenik

As we cruised in towards Sibenik there were a number of small rocky islands and outcrops and on one of them was a sign welcoming everyone to Sibenik. I thought this could be either touristy and nasty or a genuine welcome. After seeing the place and the people I came to the conclusion it was the latter. A lovely long harbour front with access to the old town halfway down. It had quaint narrow streets that we were now getting used to seeing, and, walking in the heat of the day one could see why they’d been built like that to shelter people from the sun. We had a good walk around after docking and returned for a quick glass of something before ouor one and only “official” excursion to the Krka Waterfalls. The whole area of the Krka National Park is vast, The falls we went to were the Skradinski Buk Falls which are the bottom end of the park – we walked for quite some time on well laid out decked routes with trout (forbidden to catch them) in almost every bit of water we saw. They weren’t bothered by our presence at all. There were 240 steps down and 240 back up again which tested the tendons but fortunately we managed it easily. I wondered how much time we could spend touring the whole of the park – a good month I guess. The view of the main falls is hampered by the scores of people bathing in the front of the falls but it is still a stunningly beautiful place. We really enjoyed Sibenik – a lot.

Montenegro – Kotor

The last time we were in Kotor we were almost fogbound on an Azamara cruise. This time the sun was shining and the church I took a picture of in the fog was in plain sight. Kotor is a lovely place and certainly justifies its world heritage site position.

We walked along a bit of the walls and got an excellent view of just how small our 200 passenger Belle de l’Adriatique was compared to the huge MSC cruise ship moored next to us. We were nearly tempted to walk up the 2000 steps to the church but thought better of it in the heat. Maybe next time.

 

 

Horn Mill Trout Farm

I’ve not done a lot of bird photography so I was reading a report about Horn Mill Trout Farm from Greg Coyne and thought I’d like to give it a try. I knew there’d be an early start but getting up at 3am for a 4am stroll down to the hide was rather alien to me – probably also some of the other guys with me – although it has to be said that they sounded as though they’d done a lot more bird photography than I have. Anyway, we set up in a well kitted out hide, comfy chairs, clean and well positioned almost at water level and waited for the action. Reports from Greg suggested that the first action could be as early as 5am because there are hungry mouths to feed in the Mr & Mrs Osprey nest. At 5.20 the osprey came to see us and sat in a tree nearby. It sat a while more then sat a while more and all of a sudden decided it was fishing time. It only came down the once whilst we were there despite all the praying and my technique needs some work so there’s only one image posted here.

We then got a visit from 3 kingfishers who didn’t fish at all. They just sat admiring the size of the trout but methinks they were possibly too large for them. Either that or they were already full. Then we had a visit from a red kite which came down a few times. It had possibly seen a dead fish at the far end of the lake but couldn’t quite get down as safely as it would have liked so in the end it gave it a miss. This gave me the greatest pleasure as I’d not even seen one this close up before so a really good experience. The final visit was from a kestrel who decided to sit on a pole a long way away.

I felt really sorry for one lad sat next to me – his lens was exhibiting some intermittent focussing problems whilst the osprey came down so he never got a shot off. He changed lenses and got the rest of the birds though. Thanks to Greg for refreshments and advice – thoroughly recommended experience.

Croatia – Dubrovnik

We’ve had 3 attempts now at getting to Dubrovnik. The first was a couple of years ago aboard a ship that couldn’t get into port because of a bad storm, the second was a hotel we wanted to stay at that didn’t have a room at the time we wanted to go and this was the third. You can understand some trepidation considering the past failures. However, no such troubles need have concerned us. The flight went well, the transfer was smooth and efficient and we were on board the CroisiEurope ship – La Belle de L’Adriatique by early afternoon. A pretty ship with only 200 passenger capacity.Out of the 180 aboard, there were probably 8 Brits, 4 Kiwis, half a dozen Swiss and a couple of Spaniards, the balance being French. Our transfer from the airport was with 4 other Brits, so we managed to get a table together which we great.

We were overnight in Dubrovnik and had the following day to look around so we took a bus into the old town and went around the city walls and had lunch in a small cafe just inside the walls. This was followed by an attempt to get up the cable car to get some panoramic shots from the top. Owing to an impending storm, the cable car had been stopped but taxis were happily taking folk up to the top. When we got to the top it was drizzly, damp and windy and there was a lot of haze, which we weren’t expecting. We left two young Norwegians (who we’d travelled in the taxi with) to have lunch at the top and we got another taxi down with two other young folk from London. The weather was decidedly iffy by then so we were pleased to get back to the ship for wine o’clock.

Haworth

“Let’s go to Haworth – we’ve not been there before” – OK, I reply, we can see the little cobble streets, the Bronte Falls, Top Withens and Hardcastle Crags. So that’s the plan. We settled for a small hotel in the centre of Haworth called The Old Registry and manage to book the last room. A small room with a lovely view of the hills in the distance through a tilting skylight window.

A pleasant drive later we start to notice a lot of cars on the way into Haworth and crawling traffic. Something must be on this week-end we think. It was – we must have been the only people in Yorkshire not to realise that we’d booked on the Haworth ’40’s weekend, when all we wanted was a quiet time. Still, it gave Sue an idea of what the Woodhall Spa event was like that I try to get to. So we took some photos, (I managed one of my glamourous assistant dancing along to a lady singing ’40’s ditties), had a stroll and ate in a local restaurant. The following day we went up to Bronte Falls or more precisely Bronte Dribbles and then went on to Hardcastle Crags. The weather there was lovely and we had a strenuous walk around the place before walking back to eat at the hotel. Joe, our receptionist, bartender, waiter and purveyor of local knowledge was excellent – thanks Joe.

The next morning, we went to get some cash from the local hole in the wall only to find out that the ONLY hole in the wall in Haworth had run out of cash over the weekend. As most of the shops in Haworth were shut, having either made a shedload of cash over the weekend or being too tired, we decided to take a slow drive home. Nice place. Here’s some images :-

Butterfly World

Following on from our Birds of Prey experience, Pete and I had organised a trip to Butterfly World at Stockton-on-Tees. I’d not been in one before and had heard all about humidity but wasn’t prepared for it. I misted up, the camera misted up and so did the Fuji 80mm macro lens that I’d hired especially for the day. After about 20 minutes when we were acclimatised, we had a good search around. Search is probably the wrong word, it was wall to wall butterflies of every size and colour. We had both seen an extremely large pale blue butterfly but it eluded us for the whole of the trip, save for one point when it perched on a leaf with wings folded. Here are a few images of the day.

Thorpe Perrow Birds of Prey

My buddy Pete Stockton and I decided to take a Birds of Prey experience at Thorpe Perrow arboretum. It was the first one they’d done specifically for photographers. It was a 4 hour event with lunch provided but Ollie, who was handling the birds, overran the programme to give extra bird time for us all. Some of the displays in the morning were static/short flight, carried out in the aviary area. These were for a variety of species of owl. The next display was out in the woods and we then adjourned for lunch. A hawk walk followed lunch and then a number of different hawk/falcons, finishing off in a large field with a falcon catching bait on the fly. Flying in the open field was a lot better for photography because the aviary background is quite distracting.

We’d do it again – Thorpe Perrow were keen to have feedback on their initial photography day and I’m sure the next one will be even better. An enjoyable day with a good photographer buddy.