View Full Version : Wales ? Devon ?

Ken Lee
28-Apr-2007, 15:58
UK LF'ers: My wife and I may have the chance to stay with family in Oxfordshire for a week or so this June.

On a previous trip, we visited the Cotswolds (http://www.kenleegallery.com/images/england2006/chip2.jpg) and Bath (http://www.kenleegallery.com/images/england2006/bath2.jpg), and are looking for other scenic and charming areas within a few hours drive from Oxford, for day trips or short overnight stays.

Since you are possessed with good fortune (to live in the UK) and good taste (Large Format), could you please recommend somewhere ?

28-Apr-2007, 16:07
Seen Avebury?? Around Wiltshire there are many megalithic sites. You need to get to Swindon then follow through Wroughton on the road to Devises.

As well as Avebury, within walking distance are the Kennet longbarrows and Silbury hill. Within driving distance is Stone Henge.

Wales and Devon are a bit of a drive from Oxford. If you're going to travel that far then you may as well book a room in a b&b down in Cornwall and enjoy the coast :)


Ted Harris
28-Apr-2007, 16:26
Ken, I'll chime in too as I used to live in both London and Oxford for a quarter of my time for some 6-8 years. My recommendations, of your two choices would be Wales, especially the wild coast that looks out on the Irish Sea but, as Ash says that is a bit of a drive. The area around Swansea is less so and also offers nice coastal scenery. Having said that, you can stay in Oxfordshire and find a plethora of great locations for shooting. If you've already done all the scenic ares in Oxfordshire then forget this but there is a lot of countryside there that I believe would appeal to your eye. If you are interested I can give you some fairly specific locations to check out. Can do the same for certain areas in Wales.

Avebury isn't bad either ... I have fond memories of shooting around that area too.

Ken Lee
28-Apr-2007, 16:26
I fixed the spelling. Thanks for the correction... and thanks for the info !

We were able to visit Stone Henge on our previous trip. The site, and the whole area around it, has something quite special.

I'm reluctant to bring the LF equipment, due to the blessings bestowed by "heightened security" around international travel. I may just bring my medium format folders and a little digital point-and-shoot. Being with family also makes it hard to do serious work. Maybe when I win the lottery, I will be able to make a dedicated photographic trip.

Don Hutton
28-Apr-2007, 17:33

Just order some film from Robert White - they will send it to wherever you are headed. I've never regretted having LF gear with me - only wished I had brought it along a few times...

Ted Harris
28-Apr-2007, 18:41
I'm with Don. The only time I leave the 4x5 gear at home is when I know there will be no time for me to make any images and even then I take a digital. I have a minimal kit down to the point where I can fit it all into an Orvis Kit bag that I can shove under any airplane seat. If I go real minimal with only two lenses I cang even get other things in the bag as well. I have never been hasseled because of LF gear.

29-Apr-2007, 02:05
The biggest worry is coming across youths in burberry, or tracksuits. If you avoid the Chavs then your working with LF in the UK will be fine :D

Oh! Hey! Why not buy a Razzle cam?? :D :D

Pete Watkins
29-Apr-2007, 02:20
Oxfordshire is the next county down from Warwickshire. That means Stratford, Warwick (the town, the castle is expensive but well worth it, and hand held photography was allowed when I last visited), Leamington Spa is nice in parts. Hatton Country Park, just outside Warwick, is great if you're into antiques, and if you're there don't miss the chance to snap the flight of locks on The Grand Union Canal there. On the Oxfordshire / Warwickshire border, near the village of Long Compton, lie The Rollright Stones. A small, stunning,intimate stone circle. Use mono as some little scumbag splashed yellow paint on some of the stones a few years ago and as the litchen that grows on the stones is scientifically important they don't sem to know what to do about the problem. This info might be out of date though.
Check County Council websites for more tourisim info and and, of course, the Welsh Tourist Board. The prob;lem with Wales is that the really spectacular bits are in The Snowdonia National Park which is in the north of the country and our motorway builders didn't go near the place. The town of Welshpool is not too far from the border and if you want a ride on one of "The Great Little Trains of Wales" the steam railway there is highly recommended. Sheet film over here is available from Robert White, Retro Photographic and Silverprint among others. Peak Imaging are excellent processors. They've all got websites.
Best wishes,

James Walker
29-Apr-2007, 10:26

If rugged coastline appeals, I would suggest the South Dorset coast, particularly the Isle of Purbeck, which forms the eastern end of the 'Jurassic Coast' World Heritage Site, which extends to Devon in the west. See http://www.jurassiccoast.com/ for more details. I grew up in this part of the world, and find myself increaslingly drawn back as the landscape is superb. Highlights there are Dancing Ledge, Kimmeridge & Durdle Door. An OK drive from Oxford - 2 hours in reasonable traffic? Closer than Devon, or Wales...

29-Apr-2007, 10:34
Don't forget, recently England is very windy. It'll be windy as soon as you pick up your camera, I've learnt that's just "the way" here. If you bring lightweight LF, bring a sandbag too :D

Simon Benton
29-Apr-2007, 11:07

As you will be in the Oxford area visit some of the little villages on the River Thames. Marlow, Cookham, Pangbourne to name a few. Charming scenery and some great pubs. Two pubs that come to mind are the Beetle and Wedge and the Swan at Streatley. Both are I believe near Goring - I have not been to them for a number of years but they are delightful places. Probably expensive now but then everything seems to be expensive in England. Enjoy and have a decent pint of beer!

Baxter Bradford
29-Apr-2007, 11:19
Hi Ken

Sadly the Dorset Coast is really at its finest in the winter months. Inland there is more to shoot all year round, but this option doesn't offer a great deal more than you'll have on your doorstep. Oxfordshire itself has a great deal to photograph. Personally I have spent many rewarding dawns down on the Thames at Mapledurham, Whitchurch and Goring to the west of Reading and Henley to the East can be good. The Chiltern hills are also a good place to explore. Hambledon is lovely, the lock, the village and pub (called The Stag I think). Also close to the windmill used in 'Chitty Bang-bang' film. Five Horseshoes at nearby Maidensgrove is a great pub too.

Going further afield there is plenty, it all depends on how long you want to spend in the car versus the constraints of the people you are visiting.

Struan Gray
30-Apr-2007, 00:03
Wales, even South Wales, is a bit far for a one day trip, but if you are looking to overnight, S. Wales and the Brecon Beacons are a nice area, and the Pembrokeshire coast even better.

But I would lump them with Dorset: great, but too far unless you really want an English Road Trip.

Two areas that don't get on the tourist radar much but which are full of hidden gems are the Peak District and the Welsh Marches (the border region). Lots of little market towns, secluded valleys and woodlands, stately homes and old churches.

The UK Apuggers have just been to the Wye Valley en-masse. Look for the thread there for details and, soon I'm sure, sample pics.

And I agree that Oxfordshire itself bears investigation. Places like Dorchester are a good way to idle a slow day, with a long pub lunch at half time.

Mark Sampson
30-Apr-2007, 06:58
My experience in England (only a week, 10 years back) suggests that a) distances are much greater than they seem; and b) there are marvelous things all around if you only stop to notice them. OK, I wish I could go.

Graham Patterson
30-Apr-2007, 10:43
If an over-night stay is an option, then there is the Forest of Dean and the Wye valley. For that matter you could work your way up the Severn and cut back across country.

30-Apr-2007, 10:51
Forest of Dean is rubbish. SO boring. Maybe cos I went on an art trip. It's just a bunch of trees and trails. The only nice spot for a photo is up along a track overlooking some of the ground. But the whole area was covered in weeds when I went a year or two ago.

George Hart
30-Apr-2007, 11:00
Ken, you haven't had an overwhelming response from the UK LF fraternity, which may be because you have not given us many clues as to what you are really looking for. Some have suggested good "photogenic" locations close to, or further from Oxfordshire: but it depends on what you want. There is enough within this county to keep any LF enthusiast busy for weeks. Given that you have photographed Bath, what about Oxford itself? Although the colleges are security zones nowadays, the University Parks and other locations along the river give excellent opportunities. Stuan mentioned Dorchester, which of course has the pooh sticks bridge of AA Milne fame. There are not many hills near Oxford but close to Dorchester there are the Wittenham clumps, which if the light is right are just fine for pics. Of course, if you want to travel, you can consider places further afield such as the shores of Derwent Water…

Struan Gray
30-Apr-2007, 13:20
Forest of Dean is rubbish. SO boring. Maybe cos I went on an art trip. It's just a bunch of trees and trails. The only nice spot for a photo is up along a track overlooking some of the ground. But the whole area was covered in weeds when I went a year or two ago.

Perhaps you should offer a guided tour of the Magic Roundabout? I am told that some American tourists have so loved the spot they have spend whole days driving round it :-)

30-Apr-2007, 13:36

So true!!

If you orbited every roundabout in swindon once, I'm sure you could kill off a day or two :D

Ken Lee
30-Apr-2007, 14:24
I have to admit that driving on the left side of the road, is dangerous enough. Add to that a landcape photographer's eye on the beauty of the English countryside (www.kenleegallery.com/images/england2006/stonehenge3.jpg), and you're in deeper trouble yet. With wife as navigator, and jet-lag, things can only get more perilous. Then comes the first encounter with a roundabout.

30-Apr-2007, 14:31
Look to your right, make sure there isn't a car coming, as soon as there's a gap in the traffic GO for it. Remember, clockwise, give way to your right.


Colin Robertson
30-Apr-2007, 15:57
Ken, forget roundabouts. They're a cinch. My wife is a yank (from Pennsylvania) and on our last trip to the States I drove. All well and good until my first 'four-way-stop'. Traffic in four directions, all stopping, with no right of way? Over here we call that Russian Roulette. It felt a bit like a Darwinian experiment in survival of the fittest. By the way, wait until you get a look at our film and gas prices!! Hah! Gas is about one pound sterling per litre (9 bucks a gallon?) and for film, go browse www.morco.uk.com or www.robertwhite.co.uk to see what you might pay for your favourite emulsion.
ps- Nice website, and have a good holiday.
pps- Yes I am a 'Brit', but a Scottish one!

30-Apr-2007, 16:01
Yank from pennsylvania... contradiction in terms???

1-May-2007, 07:56
Ken, you will not be far from Lacock Abbey. Home of William Henry Fox Talbot. Great opportunity to shoot interesting architecture there. It's not far from Bath actually.

tim atherton
2-May-2007, 07:56
My experience in England (only a week, 10 years back) suggests that a) distances are much greater than they seem; and b) there are marvelous things all around if you only stop to notice them. OK, I wish I could go.

as they say - in england, 100 miles is a long way - in america 100 years is a long time...

tim atherton
2-May-2007, 08:09
Devon isn't too far - but you would want to make it an overnight trip to be worthwhile. Head for Somerset into N Devon - both the coastline and inland along to Exeter. head down the M4/M5 and then cut across to Minehead and from there roam aroudn Exmoor - fantastic country. Find a B&B around South Molton or in one of the small moor villages

It beautiful country (and also fantastic coastline) and June would be a good time to visit. Some fine pubs too.

That said, most of these place would be a slight trek (but worth it imo...)

adrian tyler
3-May-2007, 04:20
i'm with ash on the ancient stone circle trip, photography loves those places...

beware traffic down devon way (just got back myself), or anywhwere in south east in fact, probably better to stay closer to base if you want to actually get ou of the car for a while...


Struan Gray
3-May-2007, 05:17
Oh hell, go here (http://www.thebarton-dartmoor.co.uk/). After the cream tea on arrival you won't care about traffic, taking photographs, or anything else at all until you have had a long quiet snooze in a shady corner of the garden.

Then you can hit the tors, the stone circles, the clapper bridges, the high moors, and the pubs.

Ken Lee
3-May-2007, 06:39
True indeed !!

Guy Aubertin
3-May-2007, 08:30
The best place at the moment is probably Salisbury Plain area - come off the M4 at Junction 14 and head towards Malborough and then onto Avebury - the rape seed is out and will be for the next month (you will miss the fantastic bluebell woods.) During June Linseed will also make its appearance. The Wiltshire tree clump, usually over the top of burial sites, are iconic.

I would steer well clear of Avebury at this time of year - at the moment its the Pagan festival of Beltine (spelling) and packed full of tourists. It is open 24hrs so if you want to go, a very very early morning would be best - there are not that many stones that make suitable images and even the ones that are are interspersed by concrete pillars that represent where stones would have stood. Looking at the angle of the sun, winter time with frost or mist would make a much better compositional aid. Stonehenge suffers the same - great to look at, nightmare to photograph (tourists, angry and very vigilant landowners.)

Running through the edge of Oxforshire and Berkshire is the Ridgeway (a long trail) which cuts through the chalk landscape. If this June is anything last year though the fields will be blasted by heat.

I am sorry to say that pure wide landscape in this area at that time of year is very difficult - I should know, I live in Reading - it can be a real challenge.

As for Wales I think the other posters have given a good indication - the Gower and Rhossili bay are great. The latter for sunset especially - however you have to time it just right so that the falling tide coincides with when the sun is going down. Its a huge sandy beach so popular with tourists and unless you hit the tide ride, massive use of the Photoshop Foot Print removal tool ;-)

Forget Dorset - as someone stated, its a winter time location only. Don't even think about going in the Summer - wrong sun positioning.

Devon is peculiar - Exmoor is great, if you know where to go. Along the coast there are many pretty bays but it is very chocolate boxy - perhaps that's ok? Westward Ho is a great beach for morning shots.

If I was you and if you have the time, I would travel North East to Northumberland / Whitby - the sun is in the right place for some truly spectacular sunsets at Saltwick and Robin Hoods Bay. Yes it is a long way, but every summer that's where I head.


3-May-2007, 09:01
looking for other scenic and charming areas within a few hours drive from Oxford, for day trips or short overnight stays.

I spend a couple of weeks a year on the Isle of Wight. In June it is beautiful. It is about 100 miles from Oxford. You get there via the Red Funnel car ferry from Southampton to Cowes (takes about an hour). If you prefer to take the train, you can take the high speed ferry (about 20 minutes) and rent a car on the island. The rental agencies are in Newport, but will meet you in Cowes.

It is an overnight trip, not a day trip. Beautiful scenery, lots of working farms, the ocean, great pubs, highly variable geography and architecture, and of course the local attractions - Queen Victoria's summer home, the castle where Charles I was held before he was beheaded, Tennyson's estate (now a very nice hotel with sprawling grounds), etc. For a photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron's home may be worth a visit, although the display is modest. Wight is not the place to go if you are looking for sophistication. It is very rural.

For info, see http://www.iwight.com/

tim atherton
3-May-2007, 09:08
If I was you and if you have the time, I would travel North East to Northumberland / Whitby - the sun is in the right place for some truly spectacular sunsets at Saltwick and Robin Hoods Bay. Yes it is a long way, but every summer that's where I head.


absolutely! While N Devon was where I last lived before moving to Canada and I really enjoyed living there, before that I lived in Durham for a number of years. And although my folks still live on a lovely bit of the Sussex Coast, I would still head up to the N.E. given the chance.

It's more than a bit of a drive in British motorway and highway traffic... but Northumberland can't be beat.

The coastline, the hills, the coastal and inland villages and towns, the ruined and the still inhabited castles. The Celtic history - fantastic.

Pete Watkins
3-May-2007, 13:38
Oh my God, the isle of Wight is fantastic but DON'T even consider taking a vehicle accross the ferry for a day or two. Both the ferry companies are prime examples of Rip Off Britan, it cost me £98-00 (98 U.K. pounds, about $196) for a return trip with a Ford Transit van last October. I can only assume that the costs went up again this year. North Yorkshire and Northumberland are, in my opinion, the best of England. They're a heck of a long way fron Oxfordshire though.
Best wishes,

Baxter Bradford
3-May-2007, 13:45
The Island is wonderful. There are Ferry special offers on the Wightlink site which make visiting it less prohibitive.

However there is the small issue of the IoW festival with Rolling Stones, Fratellis etc in June. This has sold out and will be seriously busy on the Ferries - avoid!

3-May-2007, 14:41
Wait a second ;)

The Red Funnel high speed ferry costs about £15 or so return. This works if you rent a car on the island.Car rental is reasonable and service is very pleasant, at least at the company that I use.

I don't know the dates for the Isle of Wight festival. I haven't been to it, and it is an irregular event. Depending on one's interests, I suppose that it is something that one either does or does not want to attend.

I have taken the high speed ferry countless times and I have never had a problem getting on, including during Cowes Race Weeks when there are lord know how many thousands of people in Cowes for one of the world's most important regattas. Red Funnel runs two high speed ferries that go back and forth constantly for a 20 minute journey. The ferry service is in fact very efficient.

I have not used the car ferry. My best recollection is that it is not cheap, but car ferries never are. For actual fares, see www.redfunnel.co.uk.

I don't have any sense of how much pressure the festival will put on the car ferry. I strongly suspect that most people will go to Southampton by train, or by car and then park in the area, and take one of the passenger ferries, not all of which run from Southhapton. This does not take into account vehicles connected with the festival that will need to go across.

Mostly, this discussion reminds me that in some IOW pubs, one can see a very cool panoramic photograph made during the first or second IOW festival :)

3-May-2007, 16:22
An addendum...

Some people, myself among them, like the English Channel or, as the French call it, La Manche.

The Isle of Wight is just part of that experience. There are alternatives.

If one takes a couple of days, the Channel Islands - Jersey, Guernsey, etc. - are equally accessible. St. Malo, not overrun that time of year, is a hop skip and a jump away. The overnight ferry crossing to St. Malo is positively romantic.

All of these places can be accessed by ferry or by air. If you book in advance, the cost is really quite reasonable.

A final word about the Red Funnel ferry and its quality of service. Many, many residents of Wight work on the mainland. They commute as far north as London. They use the high speed passenger ferry, not the car ferry, and the service reflects the fact that the ferry is a vital link for a lot of people. It is quite efficient and reliable.

What I know is that every time I get to Southampton and board the Red Jet for Cowes, as the boat leaves the dock I feel this huge weight off my shoulders. For me, there is just something about leaving the busy world behind. People who live on the island and commute every day to the mainland don't do it because they have to, they do it because it is a relaxing place to live. Which is why there is the phenomenon, on the weekends, of the Down-from-Londoners - people from the city, well-heeled of course, for whom Wight is a reasonably close oasis of sanity.

One last comment. The south coast from Southampton to Cornwall is itself well worth one's time.

Pete Watkins
3-May-2007, 23:09
r.e. Thanks for the advice about Red Funnels £15-00 fare (are you a shareholder?). So how do I get the 11x14, the 5x4, filmholders, lenses, tripods, luggage, my disabled wife a greyhound and a lurcher on a train from the Midlands, probably crossing London on the tube, then down to Portsmouth or Southampton, accross on the ferry and onto a bus (that lot won't fit into a cab) to the car hire place. If Wight is a reasonably close oasis of sanity why are there more mental health hospital places per head of the population than anywhere else in the U.K. Make the place practical for tourisim, build a bridge. As for France, I ain't got a passport, the channel Islands, I don't like their history.
Best wishes,

3-May-2007, 23:44

Because I was responding by BlackBerry, I didn't see that you are from Lymington. How modest of you. I step back and demure. If Mr. Lee goes anywhere near this area, you are the guy that he needs to talk to :)


The only part of what you are saying on which I feel qualified to respond is that if you rent a car on the island, the car rental agency will meet you, with the car, at the West Cowes Red Jet terminal. No need for a cab or bus. There is plenty of room on the passenger ferry for the gear that you are talking about. Indeed, it is common for people to bring on board very large duffle bags full of sailing gear. I do understand, reading your post, that you may have additional requirements. Based on my personal experience, I think that Red Funnel will do everything that it can to assist. As for the car ferry, I just had a look at the web site, and it looks like the return price, for a car and up to four people for an overnight stay, in June, is 35 pounds.

Struan Gray
4-May-2007, 02:30
You used to be able to eat a picnic going back and forth on the Portsmouth-Gosport ferry. Sadly no more: they kick you off and make you buy another ticket.

Personally, if I were going to S. Hampshire I wouldn't bother with the Isle of Wight. There is more than enough around Portsmouth to interest the culturally aware tourist (the cathedral, Palmerston's follies, Portsdown hill, Porchester Castle, the dockyards, Victory, Warrior and the Mary Rose) and shopping and cheap thrills at Gun Wharf and Southsea for when your brain is full. And then there's Winchester, Romsey, Chichester and all the other dinky-doo towns reasonably close by.

What's more, the nature on the island is pretty puny compared to the New Forest or any half mile of coastline from Swanage to Lyme Regis. Yes, the coloured sand is pretty, and Faringford and The Needles quite nice, but there are better, less crowded places if that's the sort of thing you want.

Worst of all, the yachties are everywhere :-)

Pete Watkins
4-May-2007, 07:24
r.e. I tried putting the lurcher in a large duffel bag with all the camera gear as you advised and the sod bit me. Off for a rabies jab now.

4-May-2007, 13:35

The trick is to put the lurcher in his own duffle bag :)

Pete Watkins
4-May-2007, 16:46
r.e. Thats brilliant, I demand a truce.