Thursday, July 31, 2008

A true Brummie

Sir Robert Taylor, BHX

"Taylor's effervescence and larger-than-life personality made him an immensely popular and respected businessman and colleague. He was equally at ease on formal occasions and on the workshop floor, which he would visit regularly to familiarise himself with the issues that preoccupied the workforce."

Annie, get your (tranquilizer) gun

Unbelievable wire story about a black bear with its head stuck in a plastic jar being shot DEAD in the interests of public safety.

Plastic Bags, 10p each!

An interesting letter in today's Daily Telegraph (no link available) points out that most of us re-use supermarket plastic bags to keep the inside of our dustbins as clean as practicable. This form of recycling obviously doesn't count with the climate change minister (we actually have one!) yet the alternative of flushing out a smelly, dirty, greasy, germy, maggoty, dustbin with bleach is, presumably perfectly acceptable. Just where might that swilled out mess end up? Yes, somewhere in the local environment where it's going to do a lot of harm. The lack of common sense that prevails within the corridors of power can be quite amazing. Or is it the lust for those 10p surcharges that clouds the mind?

I am not particularly keen on plastic bags as I know they take a long time to disintegrate, but they actually take up very little space in our precious landfills. The research has been done and plastics of all kinds form a very small minority of land fill volume. It would be much more useful if the climate change minister worried about the amount of unnecessary packaging that also goes into our bins and then our landfills.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dougga, Tunisia

[Note: This travelogue has been re-formatted within the blog to facilitate better searches and commentaries. The original travelogue can still be found here]

Most tourists go to Tunisia for cheap sunshine. A few go for the archeology and scenery. They are the sensible ones!

For several years during the 1990s I was working part-time in Tunisia and one of the places I often visited was the Roman town of Dougga.

One of my jobs was to look after an oil exploration license in the Sahel, an area in the north of Tunisia that was once a rich province of Rome. The Roman town of Dougga contains the best preserved evidence and is a spectacular place to visit. Yet on average only about 30 people visit the place every day! Here's a virtual tour.

Dougga, Tunisia

The Amphitheatre is the first major area once you enter the ruins. It is a spectacular structure with a commanding view over the valley that now contains the main road between Tunisia and Algeria. There has being ongoing restoration here for many years so it is hard to tell exactly what is ruin and what has been restored. However, much of the restoration is very necessary or the entire ruin would crumble away.

The Amphitheater, Dougga

This is a close up of the central aisle up the semi-circular seating area. A large stage (proscenium) with pillars faces the audience who, if bored by the entertainment, would be able to look out far down the valley in front of them.

The Amphitheater, Dougga

The paved road into the main part of the town has grooves carved by chariots and carts. I had heard that the standard railway gauge (4 feet 8-1/2 inches) was supposed to have been derived from the width of a Roman chariot axle, so I was keen to measure the space between the well worn grooves.

The evidence is quite clear - the gap is a few inches less than 5 feet wide - but whether this proves the supposition to be correct is another matter!

Chariot Wheel Grooves, Dougga, Tunisia

The center of Dougga contains temples and public buildings. The Capitol is the most striking building today and it probably was in Roman times. The Forum lies along side the Capitol but only has pillars with no roof. The Capitol has received a lot of attention in recent years and there may be scaffolding in place should you visit Dougga.

The stone masonry is superb even after two thousand years of erosion and corrosion.

Dougga, Tunisia

As the most impressive feature on the site, the Capitol stands over everything and is visible from almost everywhere in the town.

The Capitol, Dougga, Tunisia

The detail on the front of the Capitol is superb. Unfortunately I had to take most of my photos in the middle of the day in bright sunlight. This is not the best light as it is too harsh.

The Capitol, Dougga, Tunisia

The Capitol can be seen here from one of the many vistas within the town itself. I have to believe that much of the building you see in this photo may have been reconstructed in recent years. I say this because every time I visited Dougga there were a few more walls and arches!

This part of Dougga includes some examples of Roman under floor heating. This was fairly crude in that fires were lit near the base of houses and the smoke and heat from the fire drawn through the basements. Such basements are accessible and they still show signs of black soot from the fires.

Also, do look out for slabs of nummulite limestone - a hard slab packed with fossils about an inch or so long. This is part of the Metlaoui Formation, the principal building stone in the area. A large quarry exists on the road leading up to Dougga - I am not sure if this was originally the Roman quarry used to build the town.

Dougga, Tunisia

The stone work here looks 20th Century to me! This is particularly true for the ceiling. You can see where the original ruin has been added on to.

Roman Arches and Roof, Dougga, Tunisia

Roman Carving, Dougga, Tunisia

Carvings and Mosaics remind the visitor of the high level of craftsmanship that existed two thousand years ago. Unfortunately most of the mosaics have been removed and are in the Bardo Museum in Tunis.

Roman Mosiac, Dougga, Tunisia

I believe this is a temple but I am not completely sure about which one. There were several temples at Dougga. This one has some of its structure still standing.

These photos were taken in spring and the wild flowers are at their best in March and April, particularly if there has been a decent winter's rain (not always the case in Tunisia these days). It is probable that, in Roman times, the area was a lot more fertile than it is today. Fields in the Sahel looks positively green in the spring; by July just about everything is brown.

The area behind the temple is a modern olive grove.

Dougga Ruins, Tunisia

This is the view to the southwest, showing the lower part of the town as well as the valley with the mountains of the Sahel to the south.

The buildings in the foreground are part of the main town. The lower part of town includes two features that are either ignored or stressed by the tour guides and tour books, depending on their position with regard to antiquities.

The building with the courtyard surrounded by small rooms is either known as the Trifolium or the brothel. In polite circles it is known as the Trifolium and the tour group moves on to the next site. Guides who explain its function as the red light district of the town will also demonstrate the hollow stone "door bell" at the entrance.

To the right of the brothel (and not in the photo) is the public latrine. This is an interesting horse shoe shaped communal toilet where Romans could discuss whatever it was Romans discussed in horse shoe shaped latrines! An efficient water system carried the waste in a culvert down the hill.

Dougga, Tunisia

If you engage the services of a local guide then I can guarantee that they will take you to this point in order for you to be able to take your own "postcard view" of Dougga!

The view of the Capitol is framed in an arch and two old olive trees located on the western edge of the city, the furthest distance from the entrance. It is worth the effort though the guides do expect an extra tip for showing it to you!

If you are in Tunisia, even if only to soak up some sunshine, do consider making a day trip to Dougga. Not only do you see a fine Roman ruin but the scenery on the way and while you are there will be worth the effort. There are a few notes below on what to do and expect if you do go to Dougga.

Dougga - the Capitol, Tunisia

Resources

There are lots of tourist guide books and sites on Tunisia and they are generally accurate and well written. Websites come and go so I suggest you Google Dougga and see what comes up!

Maps can be difficult to obtain but if you self drive the car rental company should be able to give you a basic road map. Getting in and out of Tunis can be difficult so if you are leary of driving, consider hiring a car with driver.

Driving in Tunisia is generally safe but the main road to Dougga is also the main road to Algeria and the long distance taxi drivers (Louage) and truck drivers often seem to have a death wish, overtaking on blind hills and corners.

There is a hotel in the modern town of Teboursouk, two miles away. This is called the Hotel Thugga (an alternative spelling!) and offers lunches for tour buses as well as overnight stays and dinner for those who wish to spend more time. I have stayed several weeks there while working in the Sahel and have two comments - the food is good but the menu very monotonous! If possible, ask the waiter if you can have an "off the menu" brik a l'oeuf. This is a local appetizer and is delicious. The restaurant also stocks a local red wine that was originally made by monks in a monastery just to the north of Teboursouk. I don't remember the name of the wine but, as far as Tunisian wine goes, this is one of the best (the monks obviously trained the present wine makers very well!)

There is a small charge to enter Dougga and you will also be accosted by tour guides. Do consider using a guide as they know the site and will explain everything. If you have a guide book that includes a map this will help to orient yourself.

It can be very hot in the summer and there is little shade. So take personal sun protection with you and lots of bottled water. Be warned that Dougga can be surprisingly cold in Winter and early Spring.

Good sense from a politician!

This just in from David Cameron, holidaying in Cornwall. Children should be allowed to drink at home.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Paradigms of Fear

This interesting piece was published today by Professor Philip Stott about an eminent Japanese scientist who has brazenly come out against the politics of global warming. To quote Professor Kunihiko Takeda:

“Fear is a very efficient weapon: It produces the desired effect without much waste. Global warming has nothing to do with how much CO2 is produced or what we do here on Earth. For millions of years, solar activity has been controlling temperatures on Earth and even now, the sun controls how high the mercury goes. CO2 emissions make absolutely no difference one way or another. Soon it will cool down anyhow, once again, regardless of what we do. Every scientist knows this, but it doesn’t pay to say so. What makes a whole lot of economic and political sense is to blame global warming on humans and create laws that keep the status quo and prevent up-and-coming nations from developing. Global warming, as a political vehicle, keeps Europeans in the driver’s seat and developing nations walking barefoot.”

I've repeated the quote for two reasons. First, it needs to gain as wide an exposure as possible. Second, the reference to keeping Europeans in the driver's seat is aimed fair and square at the inter-nation carbon offsetting schemes that I've mentioned in previous posts. As one who works in Africa it is only too clear to me that the developing world doesn't care about global warming until its leaders are seduced into the cash-for-carbon deals. Once they jump on the bandwagon it's downhill from there on.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Colorado 4x4 - July 1996

[Note: This travelogue has been re-formatted within the blog to facilitate better searches and commentaries. The original travelogue can still be found here]

In July 1996 we took a week's vacation and drove from Houston to the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado. Having previously taken our 1992 Classic Range Rover to West Texas we decided that it would be interesting to see how high we could go and to experience driving on the many "Jeep Trails" that used to be the trails connecting silver mines to civilization. We kept moving while we were there and stayed in motels and guest houses in Lake City, Silverton, Ouray and Telluride. We drove over five mountain passes and even had time to take a day on the Durango & Silverton Railroad.

Imogene Pass, Colorado

In a Nutshell:
Date: July 1996

Weather: Generally sunny, warm and dry. One cloudburst while in Silverton.

Route: Houston to Lake City, stopping in Lubbock, then over to Silverton and on to Ouray. One night in Telluride followed by a drive over the mountains, stopping in Monte Vista, Colorado, then across Texas to Houston.

Recommended? If you like off road driving this is highly recommended. But make sure you have a good vehicle and a head for heights! Food and accommodation along the way were excellent as well as interesting!.


We set off from Houston and aimed toward Colorado, our first night being booked in a "silk stocking district" bed & breakfast in Lubbock, Texas. Along the way we visited downtown Fort Worth and had a late breakfast before visiting the trompe d'oile mural of the Chisholm Trail. Then a long bash up Highway 287 to Lubbock. This was probably the least interesting part of the journey but at least we could enjoy cooler drier air after the humidity of the Gulf Coast!

Chisholm Trail, Fort Worth

Our Bed & Breakfast in Lubbock proved to be everything we had hoped for though the air-conditioning was running a little warm (it may have been as old as the house!)

In the morning we were served a spicy Tex Mex breakfast that set us up for the long drive ahead to Lake City. More monotonous driving across the Texas Panhandle led to better looking scenery as we crossed into northeastern New Mexico. Soon we were in the mountains and stopped in the wild west town of Cinnamon for a break. A couple of years later we learned that much of the town was wiped out by a freak tornado.

Silk Stocking District, Amarillo

Our route took us over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains into Taos. We were not able to stop long but took a break at the Taos Gorge Bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge, about 12 miles west of Taos. By now the expanse of the West was beginning to impress. Fortunately we were eating up the miles along good straight roads.

Even so, by the time we had passed through Antonito and Monte Vista and headed into the San Juan Mountains, we were getting weary and it was with some relief that we finally reached Lake City.

Taos Gorge Bridge, Rio Grande

Lake San Cristobel

Driving down into Lake City we caught sight of Lake San Cristobel, a natural lake dammed by the Slumgullion Earthflow, a glacier of mud several kilometers long. The rather ugly earthflow has created a magnificent scene when looking south from the lookout. The earthflow is very much alive and pine trees are growing on it at all sorts of angles, few of them vertical! Google Earth provides an excellent rendering of the earthflow and natural dam which is shown below. This is probably one of the finest examples of an active earthflow.


Google Earth rendering of Lake San Cristobel and the Slumgullion Earthflow.
The view is looking due north and Lake City is located in the valley below the natural dam.


Lake City is populated by a lot of Texans who have found Colorado to offer a different way of life. In some ways the contrasts with Telluride, which has been populated by Californians, are quite significant. We found Lake City to be a friendly place where time is not too important and nothing is too much trouble. It is also an excellent center for exploring the eastern side of the San Juans. So we had booked two nights in a motel that had just changed ownership - and was going through some painful transitions!

In the morning we headed into town, bought pastries at a bakery and headed for the mountains. Here we are, at Carson, an abandoned mining settlement on the tree line.

Breakfast at Carson

The drive up to Carson is quite challenging but it is possible to go further up the valley to the saddle and then turn left and drive onto the top of the world. A short walk from the Range Rover and we had conquered our first Colorado summit! Then it started to snow! How exciting.

The photo below shows the view back toward Carson from near the head of the valley.

Jeep Trails

Uncompahgre Peak

Lake City is surrounded by some magnificent mountains.

Above: Uncompahgre is the highest peak in the San Juans and was photographed in the early morning from the Slumgullion lookout.

Below: Red Mountain provides evidence of the mineralization that brought all the miners to the area to try to make their fortunes.

Red Mountain

The Alpine Loop begins and ends in Lake City - that is, if you happen to be staying in Lake City. The route consists of two high passes over the mountains to either Silverton or Ouray, though you don't actually have to go that far. The simplest day excursion from Lake City would be to go over the Cinammon Pass and return via the Engineer Pass. Or vica versa. We chose to go to Cinnamon first.

The photo below is of the eastern approach to the pass. The scenery is wonderful and there are numerous places to stop, as we did, to brew up some tea and eat those special pastries bought in downtown Lake City!

Eastern Approach to Cinnamon Pass

On Cinammon Pass in July!

The summit of the Cinnamon Pass is over 12,000 feet but the mountains around are higher still. A lot of remnant snow allowed us to pretend it was colder than it really was! Plenty of abandoned mine workings testify to the industrial heritage. We also saw marmots playing around the ruined structures.

Cinammon Pass Ruin

If you take the short cut back to Lake City, without visiting either Ouray or Silverton, you still get to see an example of an abandoned mining community with some fine ruins of wooden houses that may be 100 years or more old. The photo below shows one such building that has survived numerous harsh winters - a true testament to the endeavors of those who came here before four wheel drive vehicles had been invented!

Old Mine Community

The mines themselves are often visible with a wealth of abandoned and derelict structures that make for excellent photographic subjects. They can be quite dangerous places to visit, however, so do be careful when exploring. Those mine shafts may still be open.

Mine Workings

We returned to Lake City via Engineer Pass. This is the more impressive of the two with challenging hairpins on the western side and a very exposed summit area that is a few hundred feet higher than Cinammon Pass. You know you are high up on Engineer Pass. And as April demonstrates in the photo at right, there was a strong wind blowing at the time we were there.

Summit of Engineer Pass

We left Lake City and retraced our way back over Engineer Pass to Ouray, also known as Colorado's "Little Switzerland". The road down to Ouray follows an old mining trail (it may also have had railroad tracks but we are not sure) carved into the valley side. This view was taken as rain began to fall. Shortly after we met a Jeep coming up the trail. Two people were in the Jeep - a male driver, teeth flashing with a broad grin, and a hysterical female passenger, screaming her lungs out as she looked down into the canyon below! Hours later we were chatting to some other "off-roaders" and they asked us if we had heard the "screamer"? Oh yes, we said and explained where. Well, they said, she was still screaming an hour later!

Trail Down to Ouray

After staying the night in a wonderful guest house in Ouray which included Salmon on a Cedar Plank in their restaurant, we drove to Silverton down the aptly named Silver Dollar Highway (named because the road was built with silver mine tailings that might easily be worth a million doillars!) We stayed the night in a splendid Victorian mining town hotel (complete with an excellent mineral collection!)

Our next venture was to get up early in the morning and take a bus to Durango in order to return on the world famous Durango & Silverton Railroad. This is featured in a separate travelogue.

Hotel in Silverton

Once back in Silverton we headed north along the Million Dollar Highway and took a turn off to the left (west), taking the Ophir Pass that would eventually lead us to our last evening in Colorado, at Telluride.

The Ophir Pass is not particularly difficult but we were disappointed that clouds were coming down over the mountains as we drove up into them. By the time we had crossed the pass and had motored north toward Telluride, we wondered if the weather was changing altogether. But a side trip to Alta Lake, high up in the mountains, afforded us some fine views of cloud topped serrated ridges.

Alta Lake, near Telluride

Telluride is in a beautiful setting. But perhaps because it is a ski resort it has lost something along the way. Our evening meal was spoiled by an attitude we had not previously seen in Colorado - greed!

Telluride Morning

But the next morning we forgot about the previous evening as we looked around us! Magical scenery in every direction!
This is a telephoto shot of one of many waterfalls in the area.

We checked out of our expensive but excellent guest house and headed for the Imogene Pass and, ultimately, Houston.

Telluride Waterfall

The climb up from Telluride starts easiy enough and hugs the valley side. Now and then the trail crosses a side stream and sometimes views like this are visible, a sign of things to come. The trail is not too difficult on the western side as it is a gradual climb up to an alp where one of the largest silver mines existed during the boom years. The remains of this mine are everywhere, suggesting that it was indeed an impressive place in its prime.

Waterfall near Telluride

This is a view of the mine area and on the Flickr photo we have highlighted a note to show the location of the summit of the Imogene Pass. We stopped here for half an hour and explored the ruins. But knowing we had a full day's drive ahead of us, we needed to press on up the pass.

Imogene Pass Abandoned Silver Mine

I guess this is what it was all about! Parked at 13,112 feet above sea level, the Range Rover had indeed lived up to its reputation. The mountains in the background form the Sneffel Range, some of which are over 14,000 feet high.

Imogene Pass, Colorado

We parked and walked a short way up to the nearest peak and scanned the 360 degree panorama. Only 14'ers, as they are called, stood higher. And we could identify quite a few of them. Then, we looked above us and saw people skydiving out of a plane above Telluride! Quite an ending to our high altitude week!

Top of Imogene Pass, Colorado

Imogene Pass is one of the last roads to be opened every summer and had only been open about a week before we went over.

Imogene Pass, Colorado

The descent is steeper on the Ouray side and care must be taken in several places. But the scenery is fantastic!

Imogene Pass, Colorado

Our journey home followed the road south to Durango, and on good roads to an overnight stop in a quaint hotel in Monte Vista. Early next morning we set off back to Houston - a long drive home. But a great vacation, one we would recommend to anyone who likes mountains, scenery, the off-road experience and something just a bit out of the ordinary. Ten years later we wish we were back there!

Links and FAQs - The following links are recommended for those planning to visit the San Juan Mountains.

USGS Topo Maps

Lake City Area

Alpine Loop

Durango & Siverton Railroad

Telluride Area

No mention of lodging as ten years is a long time. However, do e-mail us if you have any questions and we will try to help!

What equipment should you take on Jeep trails?

Well, a Jeep or substantial 4x4 is a good start! It is also important that you take the usual tools with you to help not only yourself but others get out of trouble. Tow rope and shovel are the most useful items. Winches may be useful but so often above the tree line there is nothing to attach the other end of the cable! Take spare blankets, food and water just in case as it can get cold and lonely up there at night! Maps and a GPS unit help to orientate the way. The USGS topo maps (see above) are very very good!

What about camping?

Camping is certainly an option but we are not sure about the rules when up in the mountains. Check with the locals!

What do you recommend for a first timer to Southwest Colorado off-roading?

If you get to Lake City in an "ordinary" vehicle you can rent a Jeep for the day. In this case take the Alpine Loop. You will probably be hooked, though!

Aperture vs Lightroom

Professional and semi-professional digital photographers who own Macs have a difficult choice to make when buying a "one package fits nearly everything" application.

I was an early Adobe Lightroom beta tester at a time when Aperture was already on sale in its first buggy offering. The bad press surrounding Aperture 1.0 was certainly a contributing factor for me to press on with the Lightroom beta and I ultimately purchased the commercial offering and have been using it for over a year, upgrading along the way.

I like Lightroom though I have to say that its interface can be clunky. For example, the workflow is set up rather like a darkroom such that images must pass from one work surface or module to the next. A lot of my images need to be straightened and cropped. To do this I have to go from the first module to the second and back again. Not all that convenient when I would prefer not to switch modules at all!

Lightroom has limited export capabilities, its web gallery feature having a "do it our way or not at all" feeling about it (and it's Flash based as well). Lightroom is, however, fast enough on my rather old and therefore slow PowerBook. I keep reading how Aperture is slow even on a super-fast machine, and no-one likes to know that their machine is no longer cutting edge, so I've ignored the temptation. Up 'til now.

The reason for downloading the Aperture 30 day Trial version was simple. Aperture 2.1 gets a five mice rating. Five mice ratings are hard to come by, so I looked into why this should be so, particularly given the bad press that the original version has received, and it would appear that the latest version is indeed a winner.

A recent conversation with a London professional also made me think. He was, he said, waiting to see which of the two was going to come out on top. I had to admit that at the time I assumed that Lightroom would win because of its dual platform design. Not necessarily, said the pro, but he was still using older software such as Photoshop and Bridge until a firm decision could be made.

The proof of the pudding is always in the eating, so I downloaded Aperture Trial and imported about four gigabytes of raw images. At first I thought the performance of Aperture was dreadfully slow, but some of this appeared to be due to my not following instructions (and Aperture's pdf manual is an excellent read, so no excuses there). My biggest criticism came when I tried to straighten an image and got nothing like the result I expected. A little practice, however, and it does seem to work just as well as Lightroom's, or for that matter, iPhoto's rotation.

The good news is that the image processing is all done within the main module. There is no switching to be done, at least until you come to the place where Aperture really scores - and that is output.

I quickly found myself designing a 20 page photo album and the result, printed to pdf, is a 58MB document that is really impressive. It could be professionally printed and bound into a hard or soft covered book simply by ftp-ing the file to Apple (or someone who Apple uses, I'm not sure how this works exactly).

The decision to move from Lightroom to Aperture must be made on cost and the fact that it would appear that I cannot import the Lightroom library directly into Aperture. What I would have to do, I think, is copy all the master files, those that came straight from the camera, and then an exported file from Lightroom with all the modifications. Hmm, that will take a while.

Of course, I could run the two packages in tandem, or, given Aperture's better output options, use Lightroom as the digital darkroom and Aperture for publishing.

The other thought is that sooner or later I am going to upgrade the old PowerBook to an Intel MacPro which would mean the speed issues would become less of a problem. Not that I am all that convinced that Lightroom is faster.

The jury is still out on this, but I'll tell you if and when I reach a verdict.

Update:

I was close to ordering Aperture when I thought about having Lightroom files on a separate hard drive - could I do the same with Aperture. The answer is "yes". And a sort of "no". You can reference any number of projects on different hard drives, which may be a plus for Aperture over Lightroom. But the library of all the modifications appears to have to be resident on your system drive. Of course this library will be a fraction of the size of the master files but I am not sure I altogether like the idea of separation! Continuing the thought process!

Weston Pier burned down today

I have it on good authority from Flickr that the Grand Pier at Weston-super-Mare burned down this morning. I am sure it is all over the media in the UK but I have no access for further corroboration at the moment.

The Grand Pier, Weston-Super-Mare

This was taken two years ago from our friend Kay's apartment. A Flickr group has been started in memoriam.

Heathrow Expansion

A new report (how many of these do we really need?) states that a third runway at Heathrow is "the obvious solution". Why so?

A large swath of West London will disappear to make room for the expansion, the existing airport is hardly a paragon of efficiency, the operator BAA fails to impress at every turn,

But:

Heathrow is well-positioned to capture a lot of traffic from the west side of London where more people live (I include more than just the Home Counties in this calculation), it is adjacent to two motorways, there is a rail link and eventually T5 will be considered an asset.

So, there you have it. Well, actually, you don't, because the overriding factor for expanding Heathrow is undoubtedly the ability for BAA to open an even larger shopping experience for its harassed, oppressed and vilified travelers.

UK airports are shopping malls with runways.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Branscombe, East Devon

[Note: This travelogue has been re-formatted within the blog to facilitate better searches and commentaries. The original travelogue can still be found here]

The rocks at Branscombe form the backdrop to a fine stretch of coastline. The main feature, visible for miles in both directions along the coast is the Nothe, a pinnacle of Cretaceous Chalk. The cliffs here are quite unstable having only been in existence since the end of the Ice Age. So there is a large area of undercliff which has resulted from slumping and rock falls.

Branscombe 1
Nikon F5 + 20mm f 2.8 Nikkor, Fuji Astia


The top of the Nothe consists of bedded Cretaceous Chalk with abundant layers of chert (flint) nodules along the original bedding planes. The siliceous chert is much harder than the chalk limestone and individual nodules weather out, subsequently falling onto the beach below.

Branscombe 2
Nikon F5 + 300mm f 4 Nikkor, Fuji Astia


The raven gives scale to this view which shows that the Chalk is not always evenly bedded but shows some significant discordance near the top.

Branscombe 3
Nikon F5 + 300mm f 4 Nikkor, Fuji Astia


Although calm on the day these photos were taken the coast suffers some very strong gales in the winter and the many nodules of chert are eroded and rounded by continuous pounding of the waves on these storm ridges. The nodules end up being either pebbles or cobbles and are highly resistant. They are also very unconfortable to walk on with bare feet!

Branscombe 5
Nikon F5 + 20mm f 2.8 Nikkor, Fuji Astia


Not all the stones are from the Chalk for pebbles were also eroded further west from the Budleigh Salterton Pebble Bed, a Triassic unit that consists of large pebbles of much older rocks derived from a pre-existing landmass to the west of the area. These pebbles have been transported east by longshore currents and are now mixed with the chert pebbles sourced locally.

Branscombe 6
Nikon F5 + 300mm f 4 Nikkor, Fuji Astia


The undercliffs support a varied flora including wild orchids.

Branscombe 8
Nikon F5 + 60mm f 2.8 Micro Nikkor, Fuji Astia


Many of the plants are in flower in May and June.

Branscombe 9
Nikon F5 + 60mm f 2.8 Micro Nikkor, Fuji Astia


Including Wild Roses,

Branscombe 10
Nikon F5 + 60mm f 2.8 Micro Nikkor, Fuji Astia


Honeysuckle,

Branscombe 11
Nikon F5 + 60mm f 2.8 Micro Nikkor, Fuji Astia


and wild Iris,

Branscombe 12
Nikon F5 + 60mm f 2.8 Micro Nikkor, Fuji Astia