Manchester’s winter haven

This was a return visit to Fletcher Moss Park, a beautiful spot in Didsbury, south Manchester. 

The last time I wandered around there with my camera was in late summer 2018, when it was a lush riot of colour. The park’s famous Poplar walkway was full and verdant.

In January the great trees were bare and mournful. The rock garden was showing signs of death and decay. But amongst this were the early green shoots of Spring, those signs of hope.

The colour cast of my two Fletcher Moss sets is very different. But Manchester folk still visit to walk their dogs, stretch their legs and enjoy this city haven – whatever the season.

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Middle East travel

Tensions in the Middle East have ratcheted up since the killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, while the unintentional shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet has done little to instill confidence in travellers to the region.

I’ve visited the Middle East several times over the last 15 years and discovered a compelling part of the world which has a lot to offer.

The futuristic desert cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are thrilling discoveries en route to chilled Indian Ocean beach holidays. Oman is more low-rise, restrained and authentic, but with a splash of luxury should you want it.

Further up the Gulf is the small state of Qatar, where I happily spent a week exploring capital city Doha and indulging in some dune bashing out in the desert. Jordan and Israel, meanwhile, have a wealth of historical treasures and the relaxing Dead Sea.

For sunshine seekers during the long UK winter, the Middle East presents opportunities for good weather and a seaside climate. But how do you decide if it’s safe to visit? Read more below the gallery

A taste of the Middle East. Click first image to view gallery

For UK travellers, the definitive place to go for advice about visiting the Middle East is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website. The information is detailed, comprehensive and updated constantly.

Iran, Iraq and war-ravaged Syria and Yemen currently carry a red warning against all travel. More popular destinations including the United Arab Emirates come with the advice that “the security situation could worsen with little warning”, while historically most visits are “trouble free”.

A whole host of other trusted travel sources, such as Fodor’s, are also providing information about the situation.

As part of my year of travel, I was very keen to visit Iran, famed for its cultural treasures, delicious cuisine and welcoming people. But I put this on ice before recent events, concerned about the government’s attitude towards LGBT issues.

I’ve also had my eye on a tour of Lebanon but am reconsidering, given the presence of Iranian-backed militias in the country.

Choosing never to travel to the Middle East again would be an oversight. The region has so much to offer and is richly photogenic.

But you don’t have to make any decisions alone – there is a lot of guidance available.

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Salford spectacle

The time after Christmas and before New Year is a strange void. One of my greatest desires is to escape the house and the excesses of the festive season with a nice brisk walk.

On this particular afternoon I crossed the canal into Salford, Manchester’s twin city. I wanted to visit a hydraulic platform depot, where a whole family of ‘cherrypickers’ sit tall, glancing up at the sky.

And then the sun began its downward journey. Before long, it was filled with a blazing splash of scarlet clouds and gave the machinery a breathtaking backdrop. The nearby Bridgewater Canal became a golden bath.

The sunset on Sunday 29 December was witnessed by many people in Manchester and beyond. It made a simple leg-stretching exercise worthwhile and very memorable indeed.

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2019 in 12 photographs

Another year is drawing to a close, and there’s just enough time to glance back at 2019.

The year until October was dominated by travel, experiencing new places and creating new memories. The latter segment of 2019 has been about reconnecting with my neighbourhood and city of Manchester.

These photographs – just one for each month – distill the essence of each location and take me right back to that place, whether it’s on top of a Namibian sand dune, experiencing a magic Icelandic snowfall in May, or right here in Manchester.

It’s time to herald 2020 and wish you all a very healthy and Happy New Year.

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