Mark Webber opens Aston Clinton Tennis Courts

Mark Webber at Aston Clinton Tennis Club
Mark Webber at Aston Clinton Tennis Club

I woke up this morning expecting great photography weather, but found grey skies and rain. My plans to go out and get some use out of the camera were not thwarted though. The Aston park Tennis Club were officially opening the upgraded facilities, made possible by the award from Sport England Inspired Facilities of an Olympics Legacy grant, as well as grants from Aston Clinton Parish Council and Aylesbury Vale Community Chest Fund. The upgraded facilities also include floodlighting to all three courts as well as the  provision of a new netball court which is proving very popular with up to 12 ‘Back to Netballers’ taking advantage of Netball England coach Geri every Monday evening from 6-7pm.

Why you ask would I want to take photo’s of a some local tennis courts, a sense of civic duty maybe? No the new facilities were officially be opened by Mark Webber the Red Bull Formula 1 racing driver.

I got down to the courts just in time for the official start at 11am, I made my way over to the club house with my camera gear, where I noticed that most people were out side the courts behind the fence. I realised that most likely my camera and telephoto lens had acted like a sort of “access all areas” pass I had walked straight past the officials ticking names of lists and got directly to where the action was. Luckily I noticed some good friends who are tennis club members and made out I was with them, and no one ever questioned my presence in the inner circle.

Mark Webber hist by tennis ball
Mark Webber hist by tennis ball

The main event (Mark Webber’s presence) was not due until 11:30, the clouds looked ominous and it was just starting to rain. Some warm up acts had been arranged to fill the time, first we had a dance by five of the younger members of the tennis club which went down well, then there were a couple of speeches, by officials from the club and village. First by Barbara Wilkinson the chair of the Tennis club, who spoke about the importance of volunteers, then by the chairman of the parish council Richard Maskell.

By the time Mark Webber turned up it really was raining which was a real shame given the great weather we have had this week, with the hottest day of the year on Wednesday at 21 degrees centigrade. The compère passed the microphone to Mark Webber who spoke about how when he was young there was a tennis club similar to the Aston Park one that was kept running only thanks to the local community, following that a young club member pedalled his plastic tractor and trailer around the net to present to him life long membership of the club and a fancy bottle of wine, or grog as Mark Webber described it. With the rain still chucking it down he joined three club members on the court for a knock about.

They had planed for Mark Webber to have a knock about with the kids but instead, due to the rain, he signed some autographs, and spoke to the kids under a gazebo then made a swift exit.

You can see a slideshow of my pictures here http://www.flickr.com/photos/treecreeper/sets/72157633349501765/show/

January catch up post

Spiller Millenium Mill viewed from ExCel London
Spiller Millenium Mill viewed from ExCel London

I have not posted for a few weeks so I thought I would do a catch up post. Last weekend I went on what seems to have become an annual trip to the Outdoor, Bike and Boat show at ExCel exhibition center in east London. I am interested in all three so it is really good value for money, three exhibitions at one venue all on one £20 ticket. You can save money by booking online early but although they advertise a £4 saving it turns out that there is a £2 booking fee.

It had snowed recently so I was not sure whether I could get there so I did not bother with the paltry £2 saving. As it happened the roads were clear once I got to the A41, and the roads were quiet I think the snow had scared everyone off. I got to the venue by 11am and parked up which cost me £20 for the day, quite steep if you are the only person attending.

Snow Wendover Woods in Black and White
Snow Wendover Woods in Black and White

The halls were quite quiet whilst I was there I think most people waited to see what the weather and road reports had to say before heading out. However by the end of the day it was very busy. The exhibition was not quite as good as last year where I enjoyed the cycle polo, which this year had been replaced with an evening criterium race. The highlights of the day were a talk by Charley Boorman about his new vehicular adventure, and the launch of the Madison cycle team, who were all going to use steel bikes!

This weekend started with a film, Django Unchained on Friday evening. Helen and I really do like to start the weekend with a film. I gave the film a 4/5 but Helen gave it 4/5 for the first two hours but only 1/5 for he last hour, which I have to admit was a bit violent. It was classic Tarantino, and one I enjoyed especially the first 2 hours.

On Saturday Helen was busy with her visiting sister, so I took the opportunity to head to the hills with my camera, it was probably the first opportunity to get pictures of the snow without it either snowing or there being a grey sky. I parked up at Dancersend, and headed up to the Ridgeway above Tring park, then across to the Cafe in the Woods in Wendover Woods. The sun shone the whole time and it was great to be back out in the fresh air after having spent the past two weeks cooped up either in the office or at home.

Snowy view from Dancersend
Snowy view from Dancersend

Saturday evening was a real treat we went to a talk at the local church in Aston Clinton, St Michael and all Angels, for a talk by one of the curates Carole Peters. Carole had in a previous life been an investigative journalist starting off in newspapers then progressing into television. She told us about her adventures in Africa investigating war lords, and in Haiti too. It was very interesting. Everyone bought finger food and there were drinks for sale. I was quite unusual to be drinking beer and wine in a Church, without the vicar handing it to you in a silver chalice with a dry wafer.

On Sunday we went to see another film, Hero Dark Thirty, about the hunt for Osama Bin laden. It was a well made film which confused me at first. I give it 4/5. That was the end of an action packed weekend.

Aston Clinton vintage car

Scimitar GTC
Scimitar GTC

After a trip to Heathrow to drop some people off as a favour, I got home and Helen and I decided to go the annual Aston Clinton vintage car rally, which despite having been on very year, I had only been to once and Helen had never been to. We went by car because we happened to be out and about in it, but soo decided that next time we should go by bike as the queues to get into the car park were very slow and we ended up queuing for quite some time.

Once in to the ground we had a look round the usual stalls that you get at an out door event i.e. leather good, fruit, fishing gear, double glazing etc, as well as quite a large auto jumble section. Helen then had the idea to give Rory a call to see if he was about. Turns out he was about and we soon hooked up. Rory had his GTC Scimitar on show but despite some careful cleaning he did not win any prizes. We spend some time walking round the cars on display and taking some photos of them.

American car
American car

Rory invited us round his mums for a BBQ which we went to later and it was great to catch up with everyone round ranch C.

Ice Mushrooms

Ice Mushroom
Ice Mushroom

Very cold this morning but Helen managed to drag me outside by 10am, for what turned out to be a brisk, short sharp walk round Dancersend. We parked up where Dancersend lane flattens out next to some houses and marked past the manor then licked up the footpath that heads across the corn field towards to the hills on the horizon.

It was absolutely freezing and even after 20 minutes walking in thermals we were still cold. Once we hit the hills we turned right towards the old victorian pump house that feed the hidden reservoir. Along the foot path we saw those ice extrusions I have mentioned in the past. I think they might be caused by the really wet ground pushing the water up by capilliary action with then freezes when it hits the cold. Some we saw were several centimetres long, Helen called them Ice Mushrooms and I think that is a good name for them.

At the pump house we crossed the road to enter Dancersend nature reserve, we came across a couple each with a child in rucksack on their back, and a very boisterous large puppy, looked a bit like and Irish Wolfhound it was bounding around all over the place. We headed clockwise round the reserve up the hill and then through the woods to the bottom of the reserve. There was a lot a shooting going on around the valley it it a really shame as the blasts really spoil the tranquillity of the place.

Victorian pump house
Victorian pump house

We headed out of the reserve and joined the road at the pond on the bend below the manor. So we were soon up the road and back to the car it had been a short walk but we were glad that we made the effort. Not much bird life other than Tits, Goldfinch and a couple of Jays. We decided we would have a go at a recipe I found on the internet for Cannellini Beans in tomato sauce, that meant a trip to Tesco for some beans and a visit to the cinema to watch Black Swan with Natalie Portman.

I have since found out the ice extrusions are probably ice needles as per the Wikipedia article

Lovely bunch of coconuts

Mark Webber cap
Mark Webber cap

I have been accused of letting my blog become boring, i quote “too many film reviews and not enough walks”. To try to put things back on track here is a post that you might find interesting.
Today was the annual Horticultural Society Fete in Aston Clinton, it is one of the bigger events on the calendar.
We turned up at 2:30pm and paid the £1 pound entrance fee, which entitled us to a program and I believe the chance to win a prize in a draw. The usual charity stalls were present, surprisingly for a land locked county, and about a far away from the sea you can get in England there was a stall for the Aylesbury branch of the RNLI! We worked our way round buying up all the raffle ticks on offer, and I bought some Victoria Plum jam, for the winter stores. Then it started to rain.

Bunch of coconuts
Bunch of coconuts

We popped into the produce exhibition in the old school building and checked out the the displays of long runner beans and themed flower displays. Some people go to a lot of effort for the show.
Back at the stalls we came to the main raffle desk and I noticed that Mark Webber (Formula 1 driver) had donated a prize for the raffle, a basketball cap with his logo on it which he had personally signed, how generous I thought.
Then it was off round the kids and craft exhibits where such delights and a garden on a plate or painted stones are pitted against each other for cash prizes. The garden on a plate would win the Eric Sharp cup.
On to the skill based stands where you could win prizes for putting and throwing balls at coconuts. I scored 225 on the putting golf balls though slots in a plank, which put me 2nd equal with “Mark” and the chance of winning a prize if the person who came first and “Mark” was not around to collect the prize at the end of the after noon.
Then on to the coconut shy I reluctantly agreed to have a go, 5 balls for £1, and managed to knock 2 nuts off of their holders. Not sure what I am going to do with them, as they are high in saturated fats I avoid them. Perhaps the birds will like them?