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PHOTOS: Winners Of Annual South Downs Photo Comp Revealed

Duckling amongst the crowsfoot at Steyning by David Jeffery WILDLIFE WINNER

A captivating image of autumn meeting winter, an adorably cute duckling and a misty iconic landscape are among the winners of the South Downs National Park’s Annual Photo Competition.

“Snow on Wolstonbury”, by Matt Goddard (below), took the top spot in the popular photography contest, which attracted a record 522 entries this year.

With a competition theme of “New Perspective”, judges agreed the contrast between the seasons resulted in a spellbinding shot that captured the beauty of a wintry woodland.

The competition judges were award-winning photographers Rachael Talibart, Finn Hopson, and Carlotta Luke, Outdoor Photography Deputy Editor Claire Blow, as well as Vanessa Rowlands, Chair of the National Park Authority.

Carlotta said: “It’s a new perspective having the snow on the autumn leaves and the complete contrast. The shape of the path is drawing me into the photo and I just want to be there in that snowy South Downs landscape. The orange leaves are just beautiful on the white snow.”

Rachael added: “It’s beautiful, simple, subtle and it invites me to explore.”

The shot was taken at Wolstonbury in West Sussex. Picking up a prize of £250, Matt, of Hurstpierpoint, said:

“My love of exploring the South Downs started during childhood and hasn't stopped since. Sussex is blessed to have the National Park's rich history, varied landscape, and stunning views. Capturing and sharing its beauty has played a big part in my career and enjoyment of landscape photography.

“I am truly honoured to be awarded for my Wolstonbury Hill woodland photo. A snowy landscape is always magical and the last of autumn's golden leaves came as a pleasant surprise. There's a timeless feel to Wolstonbury, as with all my favourite views of the South Downs.”

“Kingston Ridge”, taken by James Ratchford (below), was runner-up, showing the criss-crossing hills near Lewes and a flock of gulls flying overhead.  

Claire said: “I love the graphic quality of this image and it really shows off the South Downs National Park – it couldn’t be anywhere else.”

Vanessa said: “It’s such a calming image and shows how landscape can be experienced at that huge scale. It’s so good for our mental health and wellbeing.”

Finn added: “The soft light hitting the hills is wonderful. This is such a well-thought-out photograph. It’s incredible that this kind of landscape is on the urban fringe and is surrounded by the Brighton conurbation.”

James, from Lewes, who wins £100, said: “The South Downs bring me joy year-round and this image expresses much of what I love about them. 

“The fog that hugs the hills on windless mornings, the criss-crossing gentle slopes, the singing skylarks and views to the sea.   To be recognised and awarded second among such talented photographers fills me and my photographic journey with encouragement to get out even more.”

The third-place prize was awarded to “Wiggle Wandering”, by Ian Brierley (below), who captured a gorgeous springtime shot of Wildhams Wood, near Chichester. 

Vanessa said: “This is the epitome of a beautiful spring day in the South Downs National Park. A lot of people don’t realise that a quarter of the National Park is covered by woodland.”

Ian, from Lindfield, West Sussex, who wins £50, said: “My image ‘wiggle’ was taken last May on a beautiful spring morning surrounded by a carpet of wild garlic and bluebells. The whole scene had an almost fairytale feel about it and, as I followed the path through the flowers ,when I looked back the way I'd come, I noticed how the path meandered in lovely subtle curves.”

Winning the competition’s wildlife category was “Duckling amongst the crowsfoot”, by David Jeffery, who captured the incredible shot at Steyning Upper Pond, which is currently being restored by the community to encourage wildlife.

Finn said: “It’s a different kind of South Downs landscape but there are a lot of ponds in the National Park and they’re so important for nature. It’s a very cute image.”

Carlotta added: “This photograph is utterly adorable and I love the composition. The duckling is looking right at the camera!”

David, of Portslade, who wins £75, said: “It's always a welcome surprise winning a competition and it makes all the graft worth it. I was practically laying in the pond to get this shot of a particularly curious duckling from eye level. I love how the crowsfoot surrounds the duckling front to back in the image.

“The South Downs National Park never ceases to amaze me with its variety of wildlife on offer, from the big to the small.”

The standard of the wildlife category was so strong this year that a runner-up and third prize were awarded by the judges. An extraordinary shot of a fly on a leaf with a droplet of water that reveals a shimmering reflection of bluebells, called “Bluebells for All” (below), won second prize.

Captured at Wyck, near Alton in Hampshire, the photographer was Sarah Womersley, who lives in Binsted and wins £50. Winning the hearts of the judges was a dreamy photograph taken at Petworth of two badgers, called “Evening Embrace” (below). Richard Murray, of Waterlooville, wins a £25 prize for third place.

Scores of people took shots of the National Park on their mobile phones and Claire Cross, from Newhaven, in East Sussex, captured a beauty. Her photograph, called “Huddled Together” (below) and taken at Exceat, shows a group of Sussex breed cattle, which have been introduced as conservation grazers to help restore precious wildlife-rich chalk grassland.

Vanessa said: “I love the colours and the image has that nice velvety warmness to it.”

Claire, who wins £75, said: “Winning the mobile category came as a lovely surprise!

“This photo was taken back in the summer on one of my many walks with family. The South Downs National Park is such a beautiful and thought-provoking place to be. I feel privileged to be able to see and enjoy its natural wonders.”

Several images were highly commended by the judges. They were: “Buddy Blues”, by Mike Blacknell, showing two chalkhill blue butterflies sharing their roost; “Marbled White”, by Lloyd Lane, showing a marbled white butterfly in a field on a breezy day; “Golden Beech”, by Michael Steven Harris, capturing a flock of birds at Chanctonbury Ring; “Islands in the sand”, by Lee Rouse, showing low tide and the Seven Sisters cliffs from Cuckmere Haven; and “Thunderstorm spooks horses grazing on the Downs”, by Ian Currie and taken near Devil’s Dyke.

Storm spooks horses - taken near Devil's Dyke - by Ian Currie HIGHLY COMMENDED

Marbled white butterfly in field at Malling Down near Lewes by Lloyd Lane HIGHLY COMMENDED

Islands in the sand Cuckmere Haven looking towards Seven Sisters by Lee Rouse HIGHLY COMMENDED

Golden Beech - flock of birds at Chanctonbury Ring by Michael Harris HIGHLY COMMENDED

Buddy Blues - Chalkhill blue butterflies at St Catherine's Hill near Winchester by Mike Blacknell HIGHLY COMMENDED

All the winning and commended images, as well as other shortlisted images, will now be put forward to the People’s Choice. People will be able to vote online from Monday, 15 January for their favourite photograph and the winning photographer will receive £75. The online poll closes at midnight on 31 January.

Visit www.southdowns.gov.uk to cast your vote.

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