Wanaka Wandering

Words & Photography by Angela Terrell

It’s immensely satisfying whiling away a week in Wanaka. Only an hour from Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island and sitting on the shores of tranquil Lake Wanaka, this town merges arresting topography with holiday charm; its dramatic backdrop, the mountains of Mt Aspiring National Park, the perfect playground for an array of activities that would keep even the most demanding outdoor enthusiast content. During winter, nearby Cardrona and Treble Cone are ideal skiing destinations, but in summer, whether tramping, cycling, paragliding, kayaking, jet-boating or clinging precariously to a via ferrata, it’s a paradise for adventurers, photographers or those who find simply sitting and enjoying the serenity gratification enough.

Any opportunity to leave the city behind and explore nature is welcome in my books, but it’s the mountains that elicit the most visceral response. I’m never sure if it’s their immensity or their harsh and unforgiving beauty that appeals to me most, but going heli-hiking with Eco Tours was a marvellous opportunity to lose myself in a mountain wonderland.  

Soaring along the braided river and over serrated ridge-lines we swung down sentinel-like outcrops to three lakes hidden within the folds of the alpine terrain and impossible to see until we were literally above them. This is real hiking with no marked trail, the tussock grass providing stability and necessary hand-holds as we traversed the steep mountainside. The views were magnificent though; razor sharp mountains as far as the eye could see, glaciers glistening under the scorching sun and lakes illuminated in rainbow hues; the emerald, aquamarine and turquoise rivalling any tropical oasis. 

If helicopters aren’t your thing, the walk to Rob Roy Glacier is equally breath-taking. Starting from the carpark in the flats of the river valley you ascend (sharply at times) through cool verdant forest to the Upper Lookout sitting in a glacier-carved basin, the enveloping schist mountains softened by carpets of dandelions, terraces of cascading waterfalls and glaciers clinging to the mountain like buttery icing. Sitting by the torrenting stream it was hard not to feel a mild sense of unease; the wind rushing down its course ferociously loud and obviously reflecting the amount of water coming off its melting core, and I wondered what would happen if a wall of ice clinging precipitously to the mountain above carved off. In landscape this erratic and magnificent a sense of powerlessness is inevitable, although once reassured that the glacier was still a kilometre away (perspective is definitely a challenge in this environment) and any falling ice would remain in the arms of craggy gorges above, it was possible to enjoy the all-encompassing vista with a little more ease!

Closer to home the Glendhu Track around Lake Wanaka is perfect for walking or cycling. Starting in town (after first organising a wonderful picnic from Big Fig – slow food served fast is their motto) what started as a relaxed ride became rock-hopping over knobby hillsides, the hairpin turns a reminder that any loss of concentration could result in falling into the water glistening like Christmas tinsel below. But around every corner was a panorama well worth assiduous pedalling.

As weather is ever-changing in New Zealand, options for days where hiking wouldn’t be enjoyable is always advisable, driving to Blue Pools on the Haast road a great choice. Setting off on an inclement morning the scenery played a constant game of cat and mouse with the weather, moody clouds sheathing the mountains so they appeared as ghostly suggestions then breaking to allow bursts of sunlight that saturated hues and added to the dramatic landscape. Passing bucolic sheep-filled paddocks encased by craggy hills then Lake Hawea, the road hugging the shoreline like a velvet ribbon, we reached the Pools where walking through ferny undergrowth laced with skeletal tree-trunks we stood under moss-laden limbs of rainforest trees (the perfect umbrella) and admired water so clear it was possible to see trout languishing in its aquamarine depths.

Of course there’s one activity that tops the lot and costs nothing, and that’s sitting by Wanaka’s lakeside as the sun slips below the mountain tops and the water changes chameleon-like from orange to pink then purple to eventually black as the day’s heat softens. Ducks share the shoreline with people frolicking in the shallows and picnickers chat as they enjoy delights such as fish and chips from Eric’s or pizza from Francesca’s food trucks. Not a mobile phone in sight, laughter floats across the ripples and the spectacle is better than any screensaver, its simple beauty ensuring an overwhelming sense of contentment. Whether whiling away a week or moseying a month, Wanaka is a delight for all.   

A Certain Alchemy

Candle-making with Earl of East

Words by Sarah Kelleher & Photographs by Richard Kelleher

In the crowded urban jungle that is London, the premises of Earl of East, aptly located in London Fields at Bonds of Hackney, stands out as an oasis of calm amidst the chaos of the capital. During the day, light floods in through the front windows and overhead skylights, bathing the pale wooden accents, trailing greenery and succulents and a coffee bar, where excellent brews are served on demand. I wasn’t here for the coffee however, but to experience one of Earl of East’s equally delicious candle-making workshops.

While Oscar the French Bulldog pottered happily around our feet, the other attendees and I settled in with prosecco and cake as co-founder Paul Firmin introduced the brand. Although the seeds were sown earlier by a love of variously, travel, creativity and a serious devotion to all things east end (the very name is a homage to Paul’s passion for Hackney), Earl of East really came into its own in 2015, when Paul and co-founder Niko Dafkos launched a range of hand-poured scented candles. With a strong adherence to the four pillars of their enterprise – curate, create, collaborate and community – Earl of East has gone from strength to strength, is stocked world-wide, and has partnered with other brands includingPeroni, Canon and Larsson and Jennings

A key part of their considerable success is their focus on integration rather than balance – after all, as Niko said, in a statement so true that I immediately wanted to embroider it on a cushion, balance is ‘not a thing’ in London. Earl of East was never intended as just a candle-making business, but a creative project that draws on several sources, and one that has the capacity to expand into multiple outlets. And Niko and Paul both combine their creativity with their day jobs, proving that artistic endeavour can flourish alongside a pragmatic approach to the realities of living and working in London.

As the workshop got underway, Niko took over, passing out scent sticks for us to guess at, and regaling us with a brief but fascinating history of perfume-making. The art as we know it began in the Middle-East before filtering through to Europe, particularly France. Interestingly, the idea of separate ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ scents was not developed until 1920, largely as a marketing strategy. It goes without saying that Earl of East develops scents that go beyond such rigid categorisations, and to my delight, participants in the workshop were able to pick from two scents for their personalised candle – Elementary, whose scent recalls autumn, and a return to the school year, and Smoke and Musk, which smells deliciously like sweet campfire smoke.    

 

Through their workshops, Earl of East have provided the perfect way for people to experience the addictive alchemy that is candle-making. Pouring, mixing and blending the scents and soy wax (prized for its ability to hold scents well, and burn at an even and long-lasting rate), while chatting with the other attendees was a relaxing and engaging way to spend an evening, and the venue at Bonds ably assists in slowing the hectic pace of London to a languorous crawl. This workshop was aimed at beginners, but they do offer more advanced workshops, and either way it’s a lovely feeling knowing that the candles you produce can be picked up from Bonds, or sent on to an address of your choice for you to enjoy – a little bit of Earl of East’s light to take away with you.

To learn more and book a workshop, click here.

Hôtels Barrière les Neiges

Those who believe skiing holidays benefit from a liberal sprinkling of the ultra luxe should sample the welcoming decadence of Courchevel’s Hôtels Barrière Les Neiges. Relatively new to the luxury scene – it only opened in late 2016 – this mountain-framed hotel’s design is a fusion of rustic charm and contemporary sophistication – playful and elegant all at once. The entrance feels almost like a gallery (made all the welcoming by a roaring fire and lashings of red highlights) while the spa is a secluded haven of calm, with a few playful details of course. When it comes to public spaces, Hôtels Barrière Les Neiges clearly has a fondness for the vibrant. 

That said, rooms are made to unwind in – picture cloud-like beds, ultra modern bathrooms, rich timber, covetable upholstery, faux cowhide (complete with flex of gold) and monochromatic photographs of the surrounding peaks in all their snow-capped glory. Art continues throughout the hotel with Koons-esque sculptures and silver screen icons watching on as you float through the corridors – presumably en route to Spa Diana Barrière to discover the meaning of bliss (and bid farewell to any post-skiing kinks).

 

While clearly a celebration of all things luxurious, the hotel is decidedly family-friendly – and feels all the more inviting as a result. There is a dedicated kid’s spaces, and a tempting pool and a projection room, while the hotel can arrange for private ski instructors (for adults and children alike) who can cater days on the slopes to all abilities. It’s rather remarkable just how much ground you cover when someone with an intimate understanding of the ski field leads you down the mountain – and does all they can to make your (well my) ski style a touch more graceful.

The surrounds are the definition of ‘winter wonderland’; mountains tumbling over themselves into the distance with Mont Blanc standing proud upon the horizon, a liberal shrinking of snow making the entire scene all the more perfect. But should it be the après-ski culture that lures you to this deliciously decadent corner of the world, make sure to stop by Cave des Creux, a charming restaurant situated on the slopes some 2,112 meters above sea level, with a terrance clearly created with winter sun seekers in mind. 

Back in Hôtels Barrière Les Neiges, the ski room is sure to delight piste lovers – helpful hands ensure you simply step out the door and onto the slopes (even buckling you into your boots), ski-in, ski-out at its best. Dining here is also a gastronomic treat. Should you crave something with an Argentinian twist visit Restaurant B Fire by Mauro Colagreco (a chef worthy of his stars), or sample Savoyard cuisine with a raclette in a custom-built chalet designed for the secluded enjoyment of aromatic cheese, or indulge in a  long lunch at Le Fouquet’s – part installation, part ode to all things fabulously French. Thank goodness for the brilliance and sheer expanse of Les Trois Vallées’ slopes, otherwise you’d never dare leave.

To book a room or learn more about the hotel’s rather tempting offerings, click here.

This is a longer version of a write up that will appear in our France magazine. To order a copy click here.

Those Swiss Yaks

Words by Dan Richards – you’ll find more of his writing in our soon-to-be-released France magazine.  

I’m in Switzerland.

In the morning, when the massive meringue of the mountains alpenglow pink, I sit with coffee by my window and read — today it was a Maigret (mysterious body in a canal). My cabin is a two-level brutalist pod, hanging on hawsers from a concrete canopy… named Fuhrimann.

Every hour, like clockwork, a little train trundles past — two green carriages appearing through a gap in the woods before sweeping in a wide slow arc over to the village L’Isle, then back. It’s very comforting. As much a part of the landscape as the farms and barns, the trees, the cows; it’s whistle as familiar the klang and clonk of their bells.

I’ve been to Switzerland twice before. The first time, I tried to climb Dent Blanche, a 4,357 metre peak in the Pennine Alps which looms sphinx-like over Evolène and Zermatt. My father came too. The trip was not a great success and we ended up benighted on the side of the thing with an unwanted but admittedly spectacular grandstand view of The Matterhorn.

The second visit was more successful, inasmuch as I got to the top of Dent Blanche, led by a Swiss Guide named Jean-Noël Bovier — although such was the quiet fury with which he dragooned my inept form aloft that I my greatest wish became, far above self-preservation, to make the man happy and, failing that, climb ahead and pull the thing up after me.

Now I’m back, third time lucky. I have a residency at Fondation Jan Michalski until December 20th and plan to use it to write. Admittedly, the library where I’m sitting is about 750 metres up Mont Tendre, a mountain which rises unseen somewhere behind me, but almost everything’s halfway up a mountain here… but the Jura are quite small and green in the general scheme. No, the view of the great whites across the lake is enough for me and the more lake and blue distance between us the better.

So you can imagine how my heart skipped when an email arrived yesterday from Walter, my editor at Faber who oversaw the climbing book.

But it was fine, he wasn’t demanding I shin up anything precipitous, which was a relief. Rather, he was writing to ask how I was, how the new book was going and, teasingly, whether I’d been back to see ‘those yaks.’ Ah yes, I thought, those yaks — a 2015 encounter in the high Valais which I remember very fondly but have until now never set down.

The yaks belonged to Rosula Blanc, if yaks can be said to belong to anyone. Enormous ancient beasts, their scale was the thing that first struck me when I saw their recumbent humps through a telescope, far and high across the valley from Yak shu lo ché / Yaks on the rocks, the farm in La Giette where she lives.

Only recently, Rosula has sent me photographs of a four day trek she made with several of her herd across the alps and I recognised a picture of an animal I met in 2015 — a steer named Naulekh, after a Nepalese peak. Shaggy white wedge face alert, black eyes, black nose with a grey-pinkish surround, slate horns swept back like a winged helmet. He lies on the puckered snow serene, rump to the camera, his back rises frosted and pale as a winter fell. Around him straw grasses poke through the snow. Behind him another yak, black with a pale muzzle, huddles up bunched with horns like chopper handlebars. The picture looks utterly cold but the pair seem happy enough; patient, beatific, almost biblical.

There’s something so sweet-natured in Naulekh’s face that he seemed holy. The scene took me back to childhood nativities and thoughts of shepherds, comets and mangers, church cribs, young children with tea-towel and hairband keffiyehs, ideas of warmth and gentleness. I was a shepherd once, in primary school; St. John’s Church, Keynsham. I vaguely recall competition for places. After the star turns: Mary & Joseph, the Kings, the inn keeper — and The Star itself now I think of it — the shepherds were best. I see us walking slowly down the main aisle past pews of proud parents, following the star — an Edward Ardizzone illustration, a Dylan Thomas short story; A Child’s Christmas in Keynsham.

We had one cassette in the car at that time, Under Milk Wood narrated by Richard Burton. A voice of rich coffee, warm dark and pause, never hurried but compelling; leading the way into that strange world — and later others: Zulu, War of the Worlds. But Under Milk Wood was my first encounter; I, in the backseat, invisible, listening, as my father drove — in my memory it’s always night; sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack… and I didn’t understand it all but I could always lose myself in the music of the words. There were cattle in the story, I remember. Christ-like cows. Hateful Farmer Watkins of Salt Lake Farm shouting at his cattle on the hill as he shoos them home for milking. A cow turns and kisses him:

SECOND VOICE

He bawls to the cow who barbed him with her tongue, and she moos gentle words as he raves and dances among his summerbreathed slaves walking delicately to the farm. The coming of the end of the Spring day is already reflected in the lakes of their great eyes. Bessie Bighead greets them by the names she gave them when they were maidens.’

BESSIE BIGHEAD

Peg, Meg, Buttercup, Moll, Fan from the Castle, Theodosia and Daisy.’

And Naulekh perhaps. ‘Five years old and my best,’ wrote Rosula, ‘the one with the most ambition to walk and a tough body, a strong character.’

Flash forward to this evening, early December, 28-something years after my turn as a nativity shepherd. I’m standing at my cabin window looking out into a Swiss dark full of processional stars — cars, little trains, the sky full of flickering planes for Geneva, two pinnacle beacons flashing red, flashing green— and the tinking clonk-song of cattle unseen, stood out in the night.

All these threads meet later this month when the Silvesterkläuse are abroad, uncanny wax and paper-masked New Year Mummers in ornate costumes and bells. They’ll sing sedate yodels known as Zäuerli whilst proceeding house to house celebrating Saint Sylvester whilst ringing Christmas out and the new year in — die Schöne (the beautiful) in traditional dresses, peacock-like headgear and spangles, and die Wüeschte (the ugly) mantled up in moss and pine clippings, hefting cow trychels big as propane bottles, clanking in their wake like evergreen yeti.

These rituals are then repeated 13 days later, a Janus déjà vu dating back to Gregory XIII’s introduction of his snazzy new calendar in the 16th century. The Swiss, quite reasonably taking umbrage with the papal postponement of New Year by almost a fortnight, began to celebrate it twice. So old Julian’s Silvesterkläuse falls on December 31st and Gregorian gets his terrifying turn in January.

It was on my second visit to Switzerland that I scrambled up the mountainside above Evolène with Rosula to meet the yaks. First we drove as high as we could up a series of steep hairpin tracks until we reached a farm building with a pitched red roof. Behind it steep green flanks rose to meet silver boulders, scree, cliffs and sky. Atop that somewhere was the crest of Pointe du Tsaté, but we weren’t going quite that far… although it felt like it as we climbed and my legs began to ache and lungs began to crackle. I’d mostly acclimatised to the altitude and heat in the few days I’d spent at Yak shu lo ché but I was not yet fully there — unlike the yaks for whom these steeps are a step down from the Himalayan plateaus. It was summer then and the days were blistering hot. The yak were specks near the sun, but grew as we climbed; first to the size of woolly washing machines, then cars and, finally, tractors. Massive animals watching us approach, very still, almost impassive, broadcasting potent mass; mammoth in almost every respect.

When we reached them, Anuun, an Australian Border-collie of tremendous enthusiasm, began to skirt around the outspread herd. At this, the statuesque yaks erupted up and chased her away. I stopped dead, frozen mid-step. Agog. The tableau had broken and exploded before me. What had been a pasture recalling Heidi was now a steep scarp of careering bulls.

Then it stopped. Just as fast as they’d exploded, they relaxed, sat back down.

As you were, they seemed to say. Just keep that dog over there.

Anuun sat down as well, over there, two hundred metres away. I’d frozen, he’d fled. I looked at Rosula who’d none neither. ‘They’re very protective of the calves’ she explained with a gesture to three yaks yonder — two tractors and a sit-on mower. ‘Tsarang, son of Chele and Udari was only born last week.’ 

I wonder how Tsarang is now, in December, in the snow. Two and a half years have passed since I saw him, new to the world and hobbledehoy, peering big-eyed from behind his mother. The heat was liquid that day, the air hardly stirring, the streams almost dry. I wondered how the yaks could stand it. They don’t really sweat, Rosula told me, and pant like dogs when they’re hot. They  regulate temperature by adjust their elevation; higher in the heat, lower in the cold.

They were high on the ramparts of Pointe du Tsaté that day — Yak Olympus.

That was June. How and where are those yaks tonight? Snug in the timber barn at Yak shu lo ché? Steaming, snuffling around, asleep. I hope so. I imagine them there, anyway. They’re family to Rosula, who talks of each as a distinct personality, reeling off a parent’s evening precis of each. Naulekh, for example, is ‘not the easiest one. He is really my yak, I know how to manage him and I adore him… but he is not always gentle and respectful with other people. He knows what he wants.’

There’s a short story that I love by Richard Brautigan called ‘I was trying to describe you to someone’ in which, having tried and failed to describe his love in terms of other people — ‘I couldn’t say ‘Well she looks just like Jane Fonda, except that she’s got red hair, and her mouth is different and of course, she’s not a movie star…’ I couldn’t say that because you don’t look like Jane Fonda at all.’

So he ends up describing her in terms of a movie about rural electrification, ‘a perfect 1930’s New Deal morality kind of movie to show kids’ which he saw when he was a child in Tacoma Washington — a movie about farmers living and working without electricity, until a new dam is built and electricity flows, appears to the farmer like a young Greek god, to take away forever the dark days of his life:

‘Suddenly, religiously, with the throwing of a switch, the farmer had electric lights to see by when he milked his cows in the early black winter mornings. The farmer’s family got to listen to the radio and have a toaster…’

‘That’s how you look to me,’ he ends.

It’s one of my favourite stories. I carry it with me. The way it slots together, crafted piece by piece, the lightbulb moment with the cattle at it’s heart. Electricity as a gift of love; as love itself.

One final piece.

One valley west of Pointe du Tsaté is Grande Dixence, the highest gravity dam in the world. A great stop: 15 million tonnes of concrete, 285 metres high, reservoir fed by rain and the meltwater from 35 surrounding glaciers.

In 1976, Dorothea and Ivor, my great-great-aunt and uncle visited Dixence. Ivor would have been eighty-three and Dorothea eighty-one, I can imagine them driving up zig- zags to the telepherique, returning together to the sites of some of their greatest adventures; birdlike in hats and coats, natty dressers.

They were great climbers in their youth. They put up routes on mountains all over the world but their ascents in the Pennine Alps are still celebrated. Their 1928 ascent of the Dent Blanche with Joseph and Antoine Georges, their great friends and Swiss guides, was the reason that I was drawn to climb it and my father before me in 1981 — the magnetism of the peak increased by the fact that it was our family who’d cracked the famous problem of it’s north arête… and it was after our benighting opposite the Matterhorn that I met Rosula’s partner, André Georges, great nephew of Joseph; and it was only through him I met the yaks.

Like the yaks, André is gigantic. I have a photograph of him stood with one of the animals which could captioned ‘man with yak.’ This is atypical. Were I to stand next to the same yak the caption would read ‘yak wholly obscuring man.’

And now, every December, I get a Christmas card with a yak pun and pictures of the beasts at play in the snow. Rosula rolling in the hay or perched precariously on the back of a yak named Thor or Hermes or some such immortal deus. Wishing you a bull-iant Christmas and a bovine New Year — the yaks brought into Christmas like they’re brought into the barn, included; if not domesticated then met halfway.

‘Animal husbandry partly involves orientating animals towards the human world, for instance by including them in human communication,’ wrote Karl Ove Knausgaard in a recent essay collection Autumn. ‘In all animal husbandry there is a zone that lies between humans and animals, where they meet.’

These boundaries blur at Christmas. Peace, good will to all men; get the yaks in and let them bounce on the sofa…

But what do the yaks get from Rosula, apart from winter bed and board? They are not completely domesticated and nor does Rosula want or expect that. In the summer the herd need to be self-sufficient on the mountainside but when Rosula pitches up they engage, orienting themselves towards her. The fact that Naulekh is not the easiest, needs careful management, has wildness within him, knows what he wants, is a given. That’s the relationship he has with Rosula. To the world he is a wool humvee or, more likely, an unknowable white dot up near the sun. But he and Rosula have a companionable understanding, and whilst he loves to be smoothed and brushed and fussed he is no pet — there are still flashes of Bos mutus, the elemental wild yak, in his heart.

So, freed of the old ways, yak as constant beast of burden, yaks for milk and meat, Rosula has opened up a path back to yak as long distance trekker — something not explored in Europe for millennia. This is a joy to both parties, the yaks love to boldly go. Particularly Naulekh whom Rosula refers to as her ‘best sports-yak’ — the one with the most ambition to walk.

Can a yak be said to be aspirational? Certainly says Rosula, they are a team, enthusiastically supporting each other — ‘yaks are intelligent and skilled on difficult ground. They carefully examine every obstacle and consider other possible routes before walking on.’ And indeed there is film of this which shows a bright eyed curious yak in a forest slow down, stop, look around at the stumps and mulch in her way then, thoughtfully licking her nose, proceed, leading her party on.

This is the gift. As the electricity was a way of talking about love, so that yaks, to me, represent a flash of pure joy, a way back into a childlike world of wonder. A miraculous meeting of worlds. I thought that the first time I saw them, so strange and beautiful.

As well as herd, the collective noun for yaks is cabinet — or wardrobe perhaps; wardrobe with all its mysterious Christmas connotations. Rosula leading the way through heavy lanolin-scented wool and fur into a land of snow.

She sent me another picture this morning: six yak on a snowy mountain pass, backs laden with tents and bags. They look alert, heads up, picking their way — greatly venturing, as great-great-aunt Dorothea used to say. Marvels in a marvellous world.

Rosula Blanc’s yak trekking in the Swiss Alps is a unique adventure — groups can head up and out for a near Himalayan hike with these most awesome and beautiful beasts in breathtaking scenery. Rosula herself describes it as like ‘being a nomad for a few days, living at the rhythm of the yaks, close to mountain nature and the elements surrounded by peaks of more than 4000m in altitude.’ Treks run for groups from April to June and September to October — there are no treks in July and August since it is too hot for the yaks.
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Contact Rosula and her team for more information — www.yakshuloche.ch / info@yakshuloche.ch
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*. *. *. *. *
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Dan Richards was born in Wales in 1982.
 
His first book, Holloway (faber, 2013) was co-authored with Robert Macfarlane & illustrated by Stanley Donwood. First published as a limited run of 277 letter pressed books in 2012, Holloway went on to become a Sunday Times bestseller when published in a general edition by Faber in 2013.
 
Dan’s second book, The Beechwood Airship Interviews, (HarperCollins, 2015) took a journey into the creative process, head-spaces and workplaces of some of Britain’s celebrated artists, craftsman and technicians including Bill Drummond, Judi Dench, Jenny Saville, Manic Street Preachers and Stewart Lee.
 
Climbing Days, an exploration of the writing and climbing lives of Dan’s great-great-aunt and uncle – Dorothy Pilley & I.A. Richards – was published by Faber in June 2016. Writing in the Observer, Katherine Norbury hailed Climbing Days as ‘[T]he most enormous fun… Richards has something of Jerome K Jerome about him. It’s a miracle he lived to tell this tale and Climbing Days is a wonderful achievement.’
 
Outpost, a book about far flung shelters and eyries, isolation and wilderness, will be published by Canongate in 2019.
 
Dan has written about travel, literature, art and music for publications including The Guardian, National Geographic, Harper’s Bazaar, Monocle Magazine, us (of course), Ernest Journal, The Quietus and Caught by the River.
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The British Journal of Photography: Creative Brief

Tom Bunning British Journal of Photography

Extract from The British Journal of Photography, December 2017

Journalist, photographer and lover of independent magazines, Liz Schaffer moved from Sydney to London in 2011, a city that “felt like the epicentre of all things creative”, she says. Combining her passions with an innate curiosity for travelling, she launched Lodestars Anthology in September 2014 with the England issue, subsequently dedicating each journal to the exploration of a single country, including Scotland, Italy, Sweden and Canada. Together with her team and ever-growing list of contributors worldwide, she has also recently released her first compendium book, titled Lodestars Anthology: Pathways.

What are the first steps you take when working on a new issue?
It’s a fluid process – our country of choice [for the issue] and the contributors we work with play a crucial role in shaping the publication. Sometimes we select a country when a photographer sends through work that we simply have to publish – a ‘love at first sight’ reaction. At other times it’s a friendly suggestion or an awareness that we are yet to cover a particular corner of the globe.

Do you select photographers based on their location?
I always strive to create content based on experience. So getting in touch with photographers and writers on the ground, those who know a destination like only a local can, is crucial. That said, over the years we’ve built up an amazing and invaluable network of contributors, so we also come up with pieces by attempting to match a photographer’s style with the perceived feel of a place, and then send them out to capture it. When doing this we want to give them as much time on the ground as possible; when shooting for travel you’re quite often at the mercy of the elements, making time and flexibility essential. A minimum of five days is ideal, but I’ll do all I can to make this longer.

Do you have any guiding principles about collaborating with people?
As obvious as it may sound, a good working relationship is crucial. I am in awe of the work we are sent – images that do seemingly impossible things with light, reveal the magic of the wild or capture a community’s verve and vibrancy. I do my best, whenever possible, to let my photographers know their creative worth. It’s also important to be friendly and open. Magazines, especially independent ones, tend to be incredibly personal endeavours. Budgets are tight, the hours are ridiculous and a work/life balance isn’t always there, so being able to get on and laugh with those you work with, getting genuinely excited when their name pops up in your inbox, more than justifies the difficult days.

How has the focus changed for independent magazines?
One of the trends I adore is the increased space and respect given to illustration and photography – it feels like a return to the sweep and scope afforded press photographers in the 1960s and 70s. There is less reliance on stock imagery and a growing appreciation for originality and tailored commissions, which goes hand in hand with the reimagining of the magazine as a moreish
physical object. People have begun to collect again. It’s understood that the magazines that sell are those that invest in their contributors and offer amazing content – a sense of escape and wonder that only exceptional images and writing can allow.

Are there any photographers you have particularly enjoyed working with?
I adore different photographers for different reasons but two people we have worked with on multiple issues, and asked to contribute to our new book, Lodestars Anthology: Pathways, are Tom Bunning and Renae Smith. Both have such unique styles – they clearly see the world quite differently. Tom can make any landscape magical and his ability to manipulate light and shadow is almost otherworldly. He also puts his subjects at ease like no one else and, as a result, what he captures is wonderfully authentic.

Renae has a much lighter look and there is a calmness to her work. Interestingly, I see their styles as direct opposites. But you need that with travel; an ability to capture the diversity of our world, and to do so in an original, honest way.

Extract from The British Journal of Photography, December 2017

 

Through the Larder

Källagården

For our new book with New Heroes & Pioneers (click here to find out more), Tom Bunning and Jen Harrison Bunning ventured to Skåne in Southern Sweden to meet the chefs and producers who are transforming the region into a gourmand’s dream. While their chapter in Lodestars Anthology: Pathways is a delight (please ignore our proud-parent bias), many of their wonderful images and words simply didn’t fit in the book – there are just never enough pages. So we thought we’d share some of their unpublished gems here below while we think of summer and Sweden’s foodie delights . . . 

. . . Hörte Brygga’s indoor kitchen is integrated into the dining spaces, the grilling shed with its up-cycled-rubbish-bin-smoker runs out to the terrace bar, which takes you on down to the sea, or back into the kitchen where the chefs and staff work amidst the guests, stopping every so often to change the record on the turntable. The menu is small and ever-changing, inspired by the best of whatever Martin can get from his producers, or pull from his generous store of pickled goods . . .

. . . Bookings can be made from March through to December for intimate suppers, tasting menu feasts and special evenings with guest chefs, but the rest of the time Hörte Brygga operates on an ‘open to all’ basis. By abandoning lunch reservations, encouraging people of all ages and from all walks of life to drop by for coffee, drinks, food, or a browse through the shelves of the farm shop in the newly-converted boat-house, Emma and Martin’s singular vision of a community-focused, produce-led, friendly place to eat has been more than just realised; it’s a triumph . . .

. . . Arriving at Villa Strandvägen is like stepping into a deliciously relaxed home from home. Designed in 1899 by acclaimed Danish-born architect Peter Boisen, this unassuming wood-panelled country home sits in a quiet corner of southern Sweden’s most southerly tip, amidst lush gardens and surrounding woodland . . .

With its seven cosy bedrooms, black and white photos from the owners’ personal collections lining the walls, and intimate drawing room-cum-kitchen-cum-dining room bedecked in New England-inspired florals and stripes, Villa Strandvägen delivers Swedish costal luxury with oodles of homely pleasure and a generous dash of romanticism . . .

. . . Nature-lover and hiking-enthusiast Helena is a modern farmer, conscious of her duty to handle the land and its offerings with a light touch, but also of her responsibility to keep her grandparents’ legacy alive. In addition to her core role as farmer and producer, she runs a bed and breakfast and local tours for visitors, sells meat and skins from her flock, and performs sheep-whispering on her apple-obsessed beasts . . .

. . . She is also savvy, for Källagården, together with some 90 other growers from relatively small farms in Skåne and its surrounding counties, is a member of the Äppelriket collective: an outfit that stores, sells and markets its members’ fruit as a single enterprise. By clubbing together, saving on storage space, packing costs, and labour, Äppelriket gives its members the power in numbers required to compete with bigger, more commercial farms on price and production, and the strength to protect themselves from grocers’ price wars. All in all, very simple, very effective, very fair, and very Swedish . . .

. . . The family-run Spirit of Hven distillery produces organic pot-distilled vodka, gin, rum, eau de vie and schnapps, much of it made from grain grown on the Island of Ven, but it is their single malt island whisky that they’re best-known for. Whisky enthusiasts can come here to stay in the 4* hotel, take a tour around the world-class distillery, or just to while away an evening in the Backafallsbyn bar with its some 500 different whiskies from the best distilleries around the world . . .

. . . Here at Spirit of Hven they’re practicing the art of precision spirit production. Mashing, fermenting, distilling, oak-cask ageing and bottling all takes place under one roof. The contents of bright copper stills bubble away in the distilling chamber, barrels are racked in neat rows in the adjoining cask room to age – some hooked-up to speakers for a dose of radio-wave maturation experimentation. Next door, bottle necks are hand-dipped in simmering wax to give them their distinctive seal, whilst upstairs in the laboratory, test-tubes spin and sampling machines blink continuously. This is the seriously scientific craft of spirit-making, and distillers from all over the world send samples to Hven’s laboratory to undergo their rigorous analysis process . . .

. . . Next stop, Malmö Saluhall: a bustling market hall that’s home to grocers, butchers, florists, fish-mongers, ice-cream parlours and food stalls in a formerly dilapidated 19th-century freight depot. At Papi’s open kitchen and bar we sampled spicy Fegatelli and damp cellar-hung mortadella procured from ham rock-star Massimo Spigaroli’s farm, soft strips of lardo and home-cured prosciutto, accompanied by hunks of chewy bread and a glass of very good red wine. Saluhall is busy but not overcrowded: it’s rather like our beloved Borough Market in miniature and without the hoards of tourists, and we could have stayed here all day, chatting wine and food with the guys over the bar and pottering around the stores. But next on the agenda was a not-to-be-missed date with the nation’s top pastry chef, so off we went to the old Rosengård district for our first ice-cream of the year with Joel Lindqvist . . . 

. . . We stepped off a busy main throughway into the serene Mat- & Chokladstudion world of grey-limed walls, birch shelves bearing assorted glass jars and beautiful books, with a vast oak tasting table at its centre. But this is no colourless land: this is Willy Wonka chocolatiering Skandi-style . . .

. . . There is no menu or wine list at Bloom in the Park. The menu is inspired by seasonal ingredients and changes each day according to what chef Titti Qvarnström can procure from her band of trusted producers, and from her own garden.

In the small patch of land around her home in one of Malmo’s sleepy suburbs, Titti has created a kitchen garden of dreams. With basket and scissors in-hand, we trail Titti around the garden as she gathers hyssop, goosefoot, wild strawberries, rose petals, elderflower and more, stopping here and there to smell or taste from our harvest, chattering all the way. One last stop to poach a few sprigs of mockorange over a neighbour’s wall and then we are on our way back to the city for lunch in a 60s shopping centre (us) and prep (Titti) . . .

. . . We left Bloom to wander back to our hotel, stopping for a nightcap in the buzzing Möllevången district. The Bloom card with its QR code to look up the menu and wine list for the evening sat on the table between us, but our phones stayed in our pockets and the menu remained unknown. For us, the magic of this particular meal could not be confined to a list of ingredients or a description of plating. Our evening at Bloom would remain the icing atop a perfect day, flavoured by the people we’d met, scented by our afternoon in our chef’s garden: its tastes, smells and textures committed firmly to memory . . .

Extracted from the full article, commissioned for Lodestars Anthology: Pathways.

 

 

Delectable Destinations

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.”  George Bernard Shaw

We’re often asked why we travel, and the answer is simple … to eat! So we’re thrilled to be journeying south later this year with Carol Ketelson from Delectable Destinations, exploring the connection between flavour, culture and wanderlust. With this is mind, we sat down with Carol to discuss the joys of travel, business ownership and food. 

What inspired you to set up Delectable Destinations? 

18 years ago I worked for a company organising medical conferences. One of the first meetings I did took place in this beautiful little town called Ravello, on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I fell in love with absolutely everything. I returned again and again with family and friends and decided I must share this region with everyone! I was fortunate to meet the daughter of a famous cook in the town and she definitely was the driving force behind this idea. She saw my passion and convinced me to give it go. I did and never looked back. 2018 will be DD’s 10th anniversary.

Do you have a culinary background? 

No, I don’t. I love to cook and my mother and grandmother were amazing cooks. My grandfather was a master pastry chef and my brother is a great cook as well. I guess it’s the family genetics.

What do you love more about travel? 

I absolutely love the people I meet. Year after year, I have development priceless friendships with my guests and the people I work with. From the local vintner to the villa owner, the local chefs to the warm and welcoming drivers. This is what traveling is all about for me. I never would of met all these wonderful people if not for travel.

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How much can one learn about a country from its food? 

I could not imagine traveling and not sampling the food. Exposing yourself to history, traditions and culture, it all revolves around food. Visiting with locals and sitting around the table, hearing their stories, it unifies us, as humans. There’s so much to learn and at times it slows us down and reminds us to truly appreciate life.

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What can people expect on a Delectable Destinations tour? 

I always tell people, this is not a ‘cookie-cutter/bus tour’ but an experience where you explore a region through its culinary traditions, culture and history. I focus on a specific region with my local business partners and guests get a true taste of the area and an appreciation for slow travel. Each day is a discovery in local life, visiting with the local passionate producers, chefs, artisans, restauranteurs and knowledgeable guides and historians. One day might focus on a cooking class, the next on a wine tasting at a private vineyard, olive oil sampling or truffle hunt.

One of the main advantages of my company is the solid contact list. Because of it, incredible opportunities pop up for us – like making pizza with Franco Pepe (recognized in Italy as the world’s greatest pizzaiolo), or raking olives during the harvest before watching the first press. Of course, these spontaneous moments are usually the highlights of the trip.

The tour staples are lots of eating and unique, hands-on experiences. Aside from the food and drink, culture plays a significant role. We visit some of the more off-the-beaten-path locations, so my groups feel like they’ve had the opportunity to experience more than the average traveller.

Has the company changed much over the years? 

Yes, and all in a positive direction. It began with only one destination – the Amalfi Coast – and following that, many doors opened. I now offer Tuscany, Puglia, Sicily, Andalucia, Spain, Ireland, Burgundy, France, India and new ones to come. While Italy has my heart I truly have fallen in love with Spain and plan to discover more of this wonderful country.

Has there been a particularly memorable experience on one of your trips?  

There has been so many, I could probably write a book, but one of the most memorable ones was when I visited the Darjeeling region of India for the first time. We stayed on a tea plantation and when we arrived it was dark with a beautiful clear sky. I could make out flickering lights around me and realised they came from the small homes that the tea pickers lived in. Standing outside and looking around, you could not tell where the earth and sky met as the lights in the hills matched the stars above. It was like stepping into another universe. Flying out and seeing the top of Mount Everest was quite spectacular as well.

What advice do you have for someone looking to launch their own company? 

Research and solid contacts. If you do both right, you will be on your way. I could not offer what I do if I did not develop the wonderful relationships with my local business partners over the years. It takes time but is well worth it.

To learn more about Delectable Destinations you can check out their website here

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” J. R. R. Tolkien