[singlepic id=527 w=320 h=240 float=left] Tuesday was the only day in this week of a mild October when the weather forecast was good, so I cleared the diary and drove southward under grey skies, negotiating some deep puddles. An hour later, there was intermittent sun as I parked at Burford Bridge, near Dorking. Here, beneath Box Hill, are the stepping stones over the River Mole, which are now 17 concrete steps at regular intervals across the stream that have gained some local notoriety. They form a gentle curve under the spreading chestnut trees, while light plays on the fast flowing water. I sat for a while, listening to the river and waiting for sunshine to create contrast as it sparkled through the green canopy and dazzle on the dark river.

The next stop was just over the road at Denbies Wine Estate which I’ve visited a couple of times since March. Grapes now hang in great bunches from the gradually redenning vines and the harvest is underway. The light changed constantly as clouds drifted across the sun, casting slow moving shadows across the broad swathes of vines, who’s linear planting emphasised to the natural contours. It is a very beautiful place, with Ranmore Common to the West and Box Hill to the East. It is also a vibrant business producing wines of great quality from several different grape varieties. I was hoping to get some images of people picking grapes, but the machines were doing it that morning.
[singlepic id=526 w=320 h=240 float=right] Having taken a few sets of images, I drove through Dorking and up to Coldharbour, on the south flank of Leith Hill where I chatted the publican of The Plough Inn over a hamburger. He said that his family had run the pub for 25 years, and he assured me that this was the best part of the Surrey Hills, and who was I to disagree, even if this isn’t strictly within the North Downs? (The North Downs, strictly speaking, are the chalk hills: Leith Hill is Greensand). They do B&B, which I recommend if you haven’t visited the area.

About 20 years ago I walked up Leith Hill with my family and we spotted lots of mushrooms, and during my walk today I was hoping to get an image of the red-and-white ‘fly agaric’ which grows here, along with some early Autumn forest colour. The woods were lovely, beginning to turn to Autumn colours, and dotted with stately Scots Pine trees with their bluish canopy against the greens and browns of the heaths. A particularly lovely moment was finding a pool where a pine was reflected in a pool with a perfect blue sky behind that was intensified by the water.
[singlepic id=530 w=320 h=240 float=left] Roaming back through the woods at the top of the ridge, I found a few mushrooms which, to my delight, included a couple of young ‘fly agarics’ (which are not Agarics at all, but Amanita: a much more dangerous genus) that I was able to photograph.

On my new Samsung mobile, I have installed Anquet Maps (www.anquet.co.uk), including all of the O.S. Land Ranger series for the UK, and because the device has GPS, it can track exactly where I was walking and trace it in a wiggly blue line one the map – brilliant, and revealing at times about the accuracy of one’s navigation.
[singlepic id=525 w=320 h=240 float=right] My next stop was Ranmore Common, the deeply wooded ridge on the west side of the Mole Valley. You get great views of Dorking from the ridge, then the north side is densely wooded and criss-crossed by muddy tracks. I found some ‘porcini’ or ‘hedgehog’ mushrooms that were quite delicious with dinner.

It is certainly much easier to get a good quality set of images when you are living in the subject area, as you can take photos any day, and select the best. As this year progresses, So far this year, I have collected a decent range of images, including some that are very pleasing, but am finding that I need to take more and more care in order to create images that stand out. It isn’t easy, and makes me admire photographic journalists more as they just go somewhere and have to secure the quality first time.
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