Ness Botanic Gardens, Cheshire; view over the Dee Estuary
I haven’t been out a lot since I moved here. There’s been so much to do around the house, and so many deliveries I’ve had to stay in for (one of the perils of not going out to work is that you become the default delivery-receiving person). To be honest, I’m usually feeling uninspired at this time of the year and I have to force myself not to huddle inside in the warmth, idly surfing the web and generally managing to put off a lot of things that need to be done.
The problem for me is always that flat, grey light that we get so much of in winter; it has a way of turning me into a flat, grey person who has no interest at all in picking up a camera. But……the other day we got some sun! There are some botanic gardens just a mile or two from the house and I seized the moment and took myself off there – if nothing else, to indulge in some tea and cake from the excellent little cafe. As always, of course, once I got going with the camera I found things to photograph and even got quite excited about some of it.
It’s still winter, really, even if bulbs are starting to bloom and blossom is beginning to appear. I can see these gardens will be glorious when spring gets going in earnest, but they’re still a little stark right now. I concentrated on looking for small abstractions that might make for an interesting shot.
At the far end of the gardens, where few people go, I found a very small lake – or perhaps a very large pond – with a boat in it and a bench to sit on. It was a warm day for February and it was blissful to be able to sit in the sunshine and enjoy the peace, with the birds singing and the breeze rustling the leaves. A sudden movement caught my eye, and I saw a toad hop across the decking and pause on the edge, before diving into the water. I was just quick enough to catch him and actually managed to get him in focus, too – if you’ve been reading along with me so far, you’ll know that doesn’t often happen.
The gardens are owned and run by Liverpool University, and one of their projects is to investigate the effects of global warming. They have a huge area with 42 small ponds in it; each pond is kept at a very slightly different temperature and the health and growth of insects, algae, pond plants, and fish are all monitored.
They also rescue and rehabilitate battery chickens. The first time we came here – on our house-hunting visit in January – some of the chickens were a heart-breaking sight. They were skinny, ugly, bald in places, and one had some very nasty sore areas. I was thrilled to see how they look now – fat, glossy-feathered and happy. I’ve always thought I’d love to rescue some of these birds and give them a good life for what remains of it. Maybe one day. I wasn’t having a lot of luck getting any decent shots; you think chickens move around quite slowly, but you’d be surprised, and they don’t synchronise well compositionally. I did manage to catch this fellow – see how shiny his feathers are.