The horse is one of the oldest animals known to man and just a few thousand years ago, wild ponies roamed across vast parts of the English landscape. Although there are no truly wild horses in England, there are small herds of roaming ponies that live in wild conditions in various protected areas, such as the New Forrest, Dartmoor and Exmoor.
How Are Horse helping with rewilding? Put simply, as the ponies graze, they help balance the ecostystem keeping heathland and wetlands free from to much plant growth, thus maintaining a healthy balance for these areas to thrive.
With the rewilding of Britain’s protected areas becomming more popular, wild horses are being reintroduced to where they once belonged, playing a part of the ecosystem.You might be surprised to learn that Yorkshire has a few locations where these horses have been reintroduced and if you are lucky you will see them.
Blacktoft Sands is a nature reserve in the East Riding of Yorkshire, is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which leases the site from Associated British Ports. The site is on the southern bank of the Ouse, opposite the village of Blacktoft, and is a wetland. The nearest post code to find Blacktoft Sands is DN14 8HR
Skipwith Common National Nature Reserve is one of the last remaining areas of northern lowland heath in England. The area covers 270 hectares of open heath, ponds, mire, fen and woodland.
The area of Skipwith has a long history dating back to the Bronze Age and during the second world war there was an airfield for bomber training (RAF Riccall)
RAF Riccall was decommissioned just after the war, but was used for storage by the RAF until 1960. Some of the base’s infrastructure can still be seen, such as the overgrown runways, together with aired shelters and other structures.
You can see evidance of the former RAF base at (Bomber Loops) which is marked on an information board in the car park. Bomber Loops makes an interesting circular loop walk.
From the information I have found, the Skipwith Ponies were introduced roughly ten years ago. Howerver, due to the terrain of Skipwith Common, you may not see the Skipwith Ponies, even if you visit a few times, it’s really just down to luck. When they do appear, they are often in little groups spread out over a wide area.
Skipwith Common is a beautiful location for a walk and has a wealth of photographic opportunities. The Common is roughly two miles north of Selby.
Iceland has become one of the world’s most popular destinations, especially for photographers. Undoubtedly, the Northern Lights are one of the main reasons people visit Iceland, hoping to see the incredible and magical Aurora Borealis. Fran and I were lucky to see them for one night during our two-week tour, so we were very fortunate.
Iceland has a multitude of things to do and see, but the time of the year can determine what is and is not possible. Fran & I visited in the winter during Christmas and New Year, so because of the weather we did not get to see and experience everything we had planned to do. The Solheimasandur Plane Wreck and the Northern Lights made up for what we missed out on and I did not leave disappointed.
The weather is one aspect that is very difficult to plan for, but with hindsight I would not go in December or January, unless you just want to visit the main attractions.
As we like to get off the beaten path, we hired a 4×4 and driving was still challenging, mainly due to the wind and ice. Another challenge is places close down; perhaps this is because of the Christmas break? If you plan on visiting Iceland in December or January, plan well.
The Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
In 1973 a United States Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black beach at Sólheimasandur, in the South Coast of Iceland. Fortunately, everyone in that plane survived. Later it turned out that the pilot had switched over to the wrong fuel tank. The remains are still on the sand close to the sea.
When Fran & I went in search of the DC plane, you could still drive from the main road to the location of the plane, so we did not hike in, but I can still remember the anticipation as we were looking for it and from the route we took, it seemed to just magically appear.
The scenery of the white abandoned DC plane on the black sand is surreal and a photographer’s paradise, you really won’t be disappointed.
As they now forbid all vehicles to drive to the location of the plane wreck, you will have to hike in and out. The walk from the main road to the plane I would estimate at roughly an one hour, so the round trip would probably take about two hours, so take something to drink.
There are no signs on the main road to point out where the plane is (unless there are now?) and the plane cannot be seen from the road.
Since our visit, there is a newly made car park on the side of the road that provides an identifiable clue and provides a safe place to park. The GPS coordinates are (63 27.546-19 21.887)
A Few Travel Tips
They design the roads in Iceland to allow it to blow the snow off of them; So pulling off the road in the winter is not a good idea for many reasons.
If you travel in the winter to off the beaten track places, make sure you have plenty of fuel, food, and warm clothing.
You can get live updates of where the snowploughs have been and the roads they are clearing, but conditions can change quickly.
If you are held up by the weather and need to take an alternative route, you may find that accommodation is not available when you arrive in a small town or village.
In relation to winter conditions, you might think about the snow? When conditions are not so good, the wind chill and ice are the most challenging and problematic things to deal with and will have a real impact on the distance you can travel and the time it will take.
Like most things in life, it’s all about common sense.
On the southern slope of the Magura Codlea sits a small Transylvanian village called Holbav. Although Holbav is only about 25km away from Brasov City, it feels like you have stepped back in time.
Holbav is a world away in relation to Brasov which is what makes it so appealing to me. Not much seems to have changed in Holbav over the last 100 years, there is still no electricity, no running water and none of the other comforts taken for granted in the modern Europe most of us live in.
I think Holbav represents what Romania must have been like a long time ago, and this was what I wanted to photograph.
I had read about a photographer named Vlad who lives in Brasov and discovered that I could hire him as a guide, to be honest I was not sure what to expect, but after looking at his photographs I was hooked.
As Fran & I did not have a car in Brasov getting to Holbav would have been difficult and as I cannot speak Romanian, it would have been impossible. I did not understand where to go, so we took a punt and hired Vlad as a guide.
Vlad met us in Brasov’s main square and as we walked to his car, we talked about rural Romania and photography, it became clear that Vlad was passionate about the places and people he photographs and this only made the journey more enjoyable and valuable as he told me about his Romania.
We passed what was Holbav and then continued onto a dirt track road where we passed local people with horses and carts until we came to a small tree lined valley where Vlad parked the car.
We walked up a steep dirt path in to the woods and walked for about 40 minutes until I could see a clearing ahead, Vlad then said “see that shack on the ridge, that’s where we are meeting Anna and her husband”.
As we approached the ridge, a dog barked and I could see a figure waving in the distance. The scenery was amazing even though it was overcast I kept thinking this is such an incredible place. When we arrived at what was a small holding Anna & Peter came to meet us, Anna then lead us along a steep ridge where there was a cow grazing and Vlad translated, “Anna his bringing in the cow for the night” As Anna walked with the cow, I took images as we followed her back to the small holding where there were goats, chickens, cats and the dog, together with a calf, it was a photographic paradise for me.
After taking more photographs they invited in us to Annas home, where she offered us fresh milk, cheese and other food. Vlad translated my questions and thoughts and although I could not speak a word of Romanian and Anna not a word of English, I felt like I knew Anna and had a connection. I heard some hilarious stories and some sad facts about how their way of life is dying out as young people leave rural Romania for life’s modern trappings.
The one thing that struck me, was how happy they both seemed, undoubtedly their life is hard and their material possessions limited, but they had something that was special and to me priceless.
I don’t remember how long we stayed, but after sampling home made Cherry brandy (Holbav Moonshine) it was time to head back to the car. As we left and walked back along the ridge admiring the vistas, I realised how lucky I was to have had such a great experience and to have met two very remarkable people and invited in to their lives and home. I also realised how lucky I was to have Fran and share such a magical experience.
We live in fast changing times and as Anna stated their way of life is dying, so it will disappear one day and I am pleased I have witnessed it before it vanishes.
What made Holbav and the people so special? Find out for yourself, it is the only way.