On 27th December 2004, a dozen or so photographers from ePHOTOzine braved cold weather and spent the day at the British Wildlife Centre (BWC) 10 miles south of the M25 in Surrey. It was quite a good day, so in the middle of November 2005, Terry Longley started a thread that basically said, ‘Let’s do it again’!
As the days and weeks passed, the thread kept jumping to the top of the ‘Recent Activity’ page as more and more people added their names to an increasing list. The most surprising part about it was the distance that folk were planning to travel!
A week before Christmas, the weather forecast started to look decidedly dodgy, with predictions of snow and freezing winds and the Met men continued to issue warnings of doom on the day. Over Christmas the thread threw up some questions about the situation, which were dismissed with the optimism born of belonging to ePHOTOzine! One intrepid traveller even set off on Boxing Day so that the, now definite, forecasts of snow wouldn’t catch them out!
One of the highlights of the thread had been continuous threats by a certain Moderator of the site to extract revenge on members that had questioned him over the previous weeks, but more of that later!
So, the morning of the 27th December 2005 dawned with nobody knowing how well the meet would turn out or, for that matter, how many members would turn up. The appointed hour of 10.30am in the cafeteria of the BWC arrived to find.........
The best part of 30 members were already in residence when the organiser turned up, on time having managed to bypass the Little Chef (which had contained a dozen or so at 9.45), and stragglers continued to arrive for another hour or more. The cafeteria did a roaring trade for the next hour as folk caught up with each other, introduced new faces and told tales of their journeys. A few went out to have a look around the place before the majority braved the cold outside at around 11am. Few stayed outside for long as the temperature was in minus figures and everybody made frequent trips back inside to warm up!
A round-up at noon for the photo-call produced some 33 faces, shown here, not to mention a good number of laughs and the odd squeal from the back row, although a few who were already there somehow escaped the ordeal. Sharon (Aunt Sally) procured a notebook from the gift shop and compiled a list of those in attendance that, on final (repeated) examination, contained the marks of 45 people.
As a reward, the sun came out for a short while during the afternoon and although it did nothing for the temperature, it did provide enough light for a few shots without enormous ISO readings! Throughout the day, in various parts of the establishment, small huddles of people could be seen attempting to hide from the cutting wind, dashing to railings occasionally for the odd snapshot of foxes, otters, distant deer and even the elusive water vole who put in a (very) brief appearance, delighting one member who had not seen it in numerous visits over two years! The keepers conducted their informative talks, but to a somewhat less attentive crowd that they would have had if it had been warmer but throughout the day, the main chatter was the chatter of teeth that could also be heard for a few minutes after anyone had re-entered the Cafe!
One person that deserves a special mention at this point is the one known affectionately as ‘The Bag Lady’, a certain Mrs Surry. She claims to be a non-member of ePHOTOzine, although I’m certain she has been granted honourary membership many moons ago, and totally computer illiterate. She continues to turn up at these meetings, always accompanied by a certain ‘scurrylous’ member, and proceeds to stay in the same place all day long acting as guard dog to thousands of pounds worth of equipment that would otherwise have to be carried around all day. The words of her daughter, “It’s quite safe, she doesn’t know how to use eBay” may be made in jest, but it is one of the things that make these days out so much fun, being able to relax and enjoy the day without worry.
As the day drew on the light left us once more, along with a number of the furthest travelled. Goodbyes were exchanged only once invitations were decline to repair to the local hostelry for an evening meal. The die-hards then travelled the short distance to the local pub, where the Landlord proceeded to berate us for not having told him this herd was coming! On the promise of forewarning on the next occasion, he arranged a table to seat the 15 people that had come through his door shivering and the single member of his kitchen staff that was on duty promptly went into overdrive. The time waiting for the meal did not drag however, as the chat and banter from the day was continued in somewhat warmer conditions.
So, the day went well. Everyone who was expected turned up and had fun. The weather behaved as well as could have been expected (there was an attempt at a snow flurry at 11.30 and the sun came out around 3, albeit briefly) and everyone got home safely with a picture or two to show for their efforts. The only problem is that, having had their brains numbed by the cold, there are already rumours that the whole thing is going to happen again next year!
“The Bag Lady” Cheryl’s mum does a stalwart job looking after kit at these meets. We all wish her a Happy New Year.
Nick Armitt (Hobbs) made the fatal mistake of lying prostrate to get a better angle on the foxes..........
...as moments later Ade, the Avenger at hand, spotted him and proceeded to inflict his revenge!
A group of ePHOTOzine photographers press up against the Foxes fence watched over my Mike (Greyheron53) and Terry (TerryL).
Smaller groups were found by the Otter pond, mainly due to the cutting wind in that area!
Despite the weather, most of the animals put on a fine performance including a brief appearance by this Water Vole. One member, who has spent many hours by their pond, and has even been known to do his washing in it, was delighted by this!
For a number of members, the day was rounded off with a meal in the local hostelry, The Red Barn, where the hosts managed to seat us all despite a lack of forewarning!