The Owl, The Moon & The Checkpoint
There was to be no moon, no rain and no decent images. It would have been so much better had the moon been in view as we might actually have seen more than distant silhouettes and a faint burst of torch lights signalling the arrival of the first walkers. This was it, the scene was set for the Sue Ryder Wheatfields Starlight Hike 2013 at Temple Newsham, Leeds. By the way, we did see stars.
Temple Newsam is one of the most admired historic houses in the north of England. Famous as the birthplace of Lord Darnley, infamous husband of Mary Queen of Scots, Temple Newsam is a truly stunning stately home and is set within 1500 acres of beautiful parkland landscaped by the famous designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the 18th century. We had arrived a couple of hours previous in the chill of the late September air at the central area of Temple Newsham. Floodlights were set up on the main grassed land in front of the house along with a small stage and a few other tents. Elaine and I had volunteered to be marshalls for the event along with a handful of other kind souls giving up their Saturday evening in the name of charity.
As the masses started arriving for the 10km walk the volunteers were taken by Land Rover to the various check points on the course. The route was a figure of eight taking in the full expanse of the grounds. Elaine and I were positioned at Marshal Point 1, 8 & 13. Before you start thinking that we did really well to spread ourselves over such a large area the route took a figure of eight which meant that the walkers passed us on three occasions.
Elaine and I were issued with a two-way radio and dropped off at our marshalling point; MP 1. Was this the best? was it the nearest the toilet? did it offer the best vantage point? In a nutshell, none of the above. As the vehicle drove away Elaine and I just laughed out loud. What in the name of all that’s holy was this all about. It was quite dark. In fact, that’s probably an understatement. I said to Elaine, don’t worry your eyes will get used to it once they have adjusted. Nope……
I began to unpack my camera to test the theory of photography in THE DARK. Just for the sake of posterity I decided to take a photograph using my phone of the fantastic view that bestowed Elaine and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Oh this was going to be so much fun. I am unsure whether you will have seen the spin-off from Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights called Max & Paddy’s Road to Nowhere. If you havent there is a scene in this comedy where the two main characters decide to camp in the woods as thier motor home has gone in to a garage to be fixed overnight. They spend all night by a fire, hungry and practically lost. Next morning in the hours of daylight they find they have been sleeping only yards from a twenty-four hour garage and a hotel. This felt so similar I can tell you. What is quite funny though is the fact that I checked on Google Earth just now and our checkpoint was only 0.72 miles from the M1 yet no traffic could b heard. Then again, how much traffic would there be on the M1 at midnight on a Saturday?
Seconds later we heard a very distinctive noise. “Control to MP1” ah I thought! There is civilisation still out there. They were just checking we had arrived at our post for the next four hours. Yes, you read it right… we were going to be stuck in a forest that resembled a scene from Harry Potter & Chamber of Secrets for four hours… AT NIGHT !
Within seconds of our first radio contact silence once again fell upon us. That was until an Owl decided that despite the presence of Mark and Elaine Winterbourne it would continue the hunt for supper. You could hear the rustle of leaves on the forest floor, the sound of twigs breaking in the canopy above. What in the name of all that’s holy was that? I looked over to where I thought Elaine was stood. So Harry Potter.
Oh this was going to be so much fun. Time passed and before long we heard on the radio that the masses had started their ten kilometre walk. Elaine and I were trying to mentally estimate how long it would take the slowest walkers to complete the full course. It was very hard to even estimate as walkers were of all abilities…..
Flickering lights could be seen through the trees in the distance, it looked like we had our first walkers and the time was already 22:20. I went to grab my camera out of my bag and aimed to shoot my first images. It was then I realised the problem that presented itself before me. The lack of light for photos was ok if you had a flash gun, but the infra-red beam that the flash sends out to enable the camera to focus was really struggling. I couldn’t even compose the shot in the first place let alone take it. It was like catching flies in the dark with chop sticks. It was totally impossible. I tried illuminating the subject with my torch just so the camera had something to grab hold of but it wasnt having any of it. It was to be a very dry night for my camera, not quite.
The walkers came and went and so did the night, by 01:00 when all the walkers had passed we found ourselves heading back towards the start line and the comfort of food and a warm drink. A big shout out to all the fantastic volunteers at Sue Ryder for a fantastic fundraising evening and to all the walkers who were awesome. Also, a huge thank you to the guy upstairs who controls the weather …. it stayed dry. Which is more than I can say for my camera gear that got soaked with condensation after being stood in the cold night air until 01:00 am.
We finally hit the hay at 02:30 this morning…….. zzzzzzzzzzzzzz