Yes, it's that time again! Although we celebrate Somerset every day, on Somerset Day (May 11th) we always take the opportunity to create a magical snapshot of the county, as seen through the eyes of some of Somerset's finest photographers. So, sit back and relax as we take you on a tour of a county like no other... visiting a selection of the iconic sights, drinking in some of those incredible views, meeting a couple of characters along the way and sharing 20 truly wonderful shots of the place we're proud to call home.
First up we head to Glastonbury, and a simply stunning capture of Glastonbury Tor taken by Vitaliy Bobrovic.
As Vitaliy says,
"The Tor is such a special Somerset landmark. I took this in early spring, the day was sunny and really windy and because of that I was only able to lift my drone 60-70 meters, but the sheep looked like bugs on the hillside and I liked it!"
We love it too, and someone else who has a very special connection with the Tor is Michelle Cowbourne. Michelle climbs to the top daily, and the views still take her breath away. Here's one of her favourite shots from the past year.
As Michelle remembers,
"I took this sunrise photograph from the top of Glastonbury Tor in the Autumn. The view looks out across the Somerset Levels and there's something very special about watching the mist rolling across the landscape below. It's so still and quiet and so very magical, watching the beauty of nature unfold before your eyes. It's so lovely seeing visitors to our area experiencing it for the first time".
It is genuinely something very special as Michelle says, and this next photograph combines two special ingredients we couldn't resist including - mist and snow! Check out this incredible aerial shot, by Mario Nogales. The snow definitely suits you, Glastonbury Tor!
Talking of snowy Somerset, check out Bath with a sprinkling of it! This stunner of a shot, capturing the city in all its snow-capped glory, was taken by Sam Gillespie...
... and as Sam says,
"That day I woke up to a beautiful blanket of snow, grabbed my drone and headed to a private patch of land where I sometimes go to do my commercial drone flying. We don’t get snow that often in Bath and it was gone by the evening, so I’m glad I went out and got some shots I'm really proud of. Bath looks wonderful all year round, but in the snow it looks spectacular".
Ain't that the truth Sam, and talking of spectacular, King Alfred's Tower is looking exactly that in this peach of a shot by Mike Knight.
The 49m high folly is believed to mark the site where King Alfred the Great rallied his troops in 878, it commemorates the accession of George III to the throne in 1760 and for Mike, it marked a welcome return to outdoor photography.
"This was my my first sunrise adventure post-lockdown and I couldn’t have asked for a better morning".
The tower certainly looks magical in the morning sunlight, and Mike takes us from sunrise to sunset with this photo of the iconic low lighthouse in Burnham-on-Sea. We share a fair few photos of this unique landmark on the Somerset cool Instagram and Twitter, and on Picture Somerset, and we absolutely love the moody beauty of this Somerset seascape.
As Mike tells me,
"I took this shot last summer, making a late dash to the beach after finishing work for the day. I'd forgotten to charge my camera batteries, so the drone rescued the evening as I was able to salvage something".
Well, it definitely did that... and from sunset at one stunning Somerset landmark to another now, as we head to Cheddar Gorge with Edward Allistone.
As Edward says,
"This angle of Cheddar is a bit of a classic, but with good reason and I've found it worth revisiting in all weather conditions. Quite often, while I'm composing up on the cliffs, inspiration hits and I go off to shoot other angles of the gorge. With dark storm clouds, this was an evening that could have gone either way. I was further down the gorge shooting rainbows forming in the sunset light, and I realised things were shaping up nicely. As I ran back through heavy rain to grab this shot, I was literally whooping - there is an Instagram story documenting it! You don't get to see light like that every day. This frame was taken after the rain had passed me, and shooting through that downpour led to the glowing effect of the image."
Ahhh, we absolutely love the thought of Ed 'whooping' his way through the Somerset rain, and isn't the light in the shot breathtaking?
As we're on the topic of stunning light, another natural icon in Somerset is the striking Willow Cathedral and this capture of it, by Roger Shattock, shows exactly why it's become so beloved.
As Roger remarks,
" Cathedrals normally conjure up feelings of opulence, wealth and grandeur but this little gem, just a short walk from Taunton town centre, is at Longrun Meadow - a riverside walk where you can find a little piece of peace and quiet. It's a cathedral even for people like myself, who have no special faith. As the world begins to restart, I'm sure we all recognise these little slices of Somerset that have helped us mentally cope during the last 12 months."
What Roger says here is so true. We're incredibly lucky to have these little slices of heaven in Somerset - our own special places that make us feel hopeful and calm.
For many of us, the Quantock Hills are exactly that and this shot by Usama Sajid, literally shines a light on their beauty.
"I love coming to the Quantock Hills", says Usama. "When it's this early in the morning, the light, the colour temperatures and the fields feel like perfection. I've been to this exact spot a few times now over the years, and getting to the start point is almost as challenging as the photo itself! Although the spot is hard to reach, it's so rewarding spending time there - and when you see the end result too".
"They are my sanctuary. There is always something new to be seen whether it’s roaming wild stock, or the changing landscape throughout the seasons. This pony stood out as it wandered alone, chewing the cud, with its white colouring against the purple heather, completely unaware of my presence in the distance".
What a precious moment this must have been and such a beautiful memory, captured by Zoe.
Photographer, Liz Elmont, spends a lot of time on the hills too and she's recorded these beautiful views on camera:
“I took this photo on Cothelstone Hill. It was a beautiful day and the bluebells up there are just starting to come out. The Quantocks are my favourite place to be and I spend a lot of time there walking my dog and taking photos, some of which are now used to illustrate the new ten year maintenance plan for the AONB”.
Absolutely beautiful capture by Liz, showing off the breathtaking hill views and talking of bluebells, one of our favourite pastimes at the moment is bluebell spotting! There are some fantastic places to see these stunning swathes of dancing flowers, right across the county. Photographer and videographer, Jonathan Warner, loves the bluebells just as much as we do because as he says,
"Bluebells epitomise the turning of the seasons towards the warmer times of summer ahead. You really feel winter has now become a distant memory!"
Jonathan captured this display of Somerset bluebells, on film, in Wayford Woods recently, and took this gorgeous still from it. You can almost hear the birds singing too, can't you?
As Jonathan puts it,
"I had a busy day ahead, so set off around 6.30am to film the sun rising around the bluebells. We've visited Wayford every year for the last 20, ever since we moved to Somerset, and it never fails to deliver. It has a naturally laid out arrangement, no even planting, no rigid straight lines, but rather many pockets of floral and green visions, every corner you take. The bluebells are often found on the steep banks towards the end of the route around the woods. The sun melting the dew as it rose, allowed me to capture some calming natural moments on film before any visitors arrived. I love moments like that".
It sounds absolutely perfect, and from Chard-based photographer Jonathan, to Chard visitor, Debi Ann Moss, who captured a stunning moment at the reservoir there. Debi had been wanting to take a trip to Chard Reservoir for a while and it's easy to see why she's glad she did.
"A beautiful sunrise was waiting for me when I got there. A perfect time for reflection and to enjoy the view. I went with a friend, explored the whole area and will definitely go again soon, even if I did get chased by geese!"
Ahh, our animals and birds are often more friendly than that in Somerset - promise!
To prove the point, look at this beautiful sheep photo, taken by pet and sanctuary photographer, James Gibson. James supports local animal rescues here in Somerset by taking wonderful photos, for free, of the characters they've saved. This special shot was captured on a visit to Somerset and Dorset Animal Rescue recently.
As James tells us,
"We'd walked around the Rescue, got the lay of the land and spent some time with the sheep already. This photo was taken on our second walk around. This flock is so curious. As soon as one of the younger ones was brave enough to come and say "Hi", the rest of them did too. I spent time giving them rubs on top of the head, under the chin and behind the ears and eventually they started wandering away again... except this little guy, who had been stood watching us from afar the entire time".
Well, he is beautiful and I must admit, I do like to include a sheep in this annual Somerset Day blog, as you'll know if you've read the previous ones!
When it comes to other characters in Somerset's wildlife, we have some incredible nature reserves here and the birds never fail to make an impression.
Carl Bovis is an incredible bird photographer in the county. Every photo captures the spirit of the bird he's photographing, and this stunning shot of a sparrowhawk recently caught my eye, so I had to ask Carl more about it.
It turns out, Carl was driving down country lanes to RSPB Ham Wall when he saw the male sparrowhawk fly low across the road ahead of him and land on a distant hedge. Then, as Carl tells it,
"I pulled over and grabbed my camera, which I always have next to me, for moments such as this! From the drivers seat I took a couple of photos, but then I noticed a beautiful flowering cherry tree even further in the distance. I edged my car forward so that the sparrowhawk had the blossom directly behind it, adding a bit of colour to the picture. Within seconds, the sparrowhawk sped off across the fields, but not before I took the photo I wanted. I continued on my way to Ham Wall with a smile on my face".
Well, the nature here in Somerset is amazing and there's often magical moments, like the one Carl experienced, around corners. It takes something special to capture them on camera quite like that, though!
When it comes to our feathered friends in the county, it's impossible to ignore the hundreds of thousands of starlings who head here every year and take our breath away with their group take offs, flights and of course, their murmurations.
Photographer, Mark Pickthall, has been carefully and creatively documenting their visits for several years now and this past year has been no different, despite the pandemic. One of the reasons this photo of Mark's caught my eye, is that I can't stop wondering what it would be like to live in the house shown directly underneath this incredible group of birds!
Anyway, as Mark says,
"This particular shot was taken at Westhay, as the birds gather to feed, communicate and agree on which reed bed to roost for the night. At this point, they are moving around every 2 to 3 days as the food supply with this number gets depleted quickly. I started to get a sense of what they were up to and did my best not to disturb the routine. It's a privilege to photograph the starlings in Somerset".
Well, Mark certainly knows the undiscovered places to spot the starlings, and another photographer who hunts out quiet local spots which always shine through in her pictures, is Rachel Price. Just look at this idyllic capture.
As Rachel tells us,
"I discovered this special place over the last year. It’s a bit off the beaten track and it’s one of those places I now can’t walk past without stopping to take a photo! I thought it would be nice to capture it now, in spring, with the wild garlic".
And that's another one of the wonderful things about Somerset - the secrets to discover.
A more well-known haunt is Kilve beach, a place that's famous for fossils and the expansive rocky seascape, as you can see in Sean Doherty's shot.
As Sean tells us, this particular shot was taken on a long post-lockdown walk, starting from Lilstock, and turning into a six miler along the cliff-lined rocky beach.
"With no way back up until you get to Kilve, there was lots of opportunity to take loads of photos, with the amazing light and receding tide making the rocks shine in the sun. The amazing rock formations inspire you to think about how many years each layer of rock represents and how we're just a small part of that. Interestingly, the same parts of this beach were used by singer, Bryan Adams, in the music video for 'Everything I do, I do it for you'!”
Rock formations and a soft rock superstar eh? Now that's what we call a day out! ;) And whether it's rocky or not, expansive beauty is certainly a feature of the county. Check out this beautiful capture by James Markham, showing a different side to Somerset - and as I'm a little bit tree-obsessed, it certainly appeals to me.
For James, the forest at Gare Hill on a freezing, frosty Winter morning is the perfect place to be and as he says,
"We're so lucky to have so many wonderful areas of woodland in Somerset. This is close to my home and on this particular morning, I wanted to get a different perspective so I sent the drone up to snap a few images. I love this composition at the break of day, with the solitary van providing a perfect focal point".
Woodland is something Somerset definitely knows how to do well and when we share woodland photos throughout the year on Somerset cool, I constantly find myself mesmerised by their beauty. This final shot is no exception and genuinely lights up even the dullest day. To me, it sums up the beauty of the natural world.
It was taken by Nigel Irvine and as he tells us,
"The first fogs after summer signal the onset of autumn, and this one arrived one September morning. I was walking my dog in my local woods and I always carry a camera with me. The rays of light started filtering through the trees as the sun began to burn through and as I arrived at my favourite bend, the whole hollow came alive with sweeping, searching sunbeams. It was mesmerising and I must’ve stayed there for about 40 minutes, taking dozens of shots, but sometimes just standing and enjoying the silent light show. A morning to remember".
Well, whether you live here in the beautiful county of Somerset, or are just visiting, there are always so many special memories to be made, whatever the season. We hope you’ve enjoyed this little snapshot of some genuinely beautiful ones.
Happy Somerset Day.