Category Archives: walking

Where’ere you walk

Hello! I hope you are well.

Today I am going to take you for a walk. We’re lucky here to have lovely places to walk to from the front door and as it was warm and sunny on Saturday we decided to do a long, full circuit that skirts Holkham Park, down to the beach, through the pines and along the beach bank back home.

A  few minutes from the house is the path that leads to the East Gate of Holkham park. I love these old twisted holm oaks, quercus ilex, that hold their arms up and over the path. There are a lot of holm oaks scattered all over the estate – apparently they come from the acorns that were used to pack cases of artefacts from the 1st Earl’s trips to Italy in the 18th century.

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Just through the East gate there are more trees, beech, ash and silver birch. The sun shines down through the new lime, green leaves – bright, fresh and full of spring. Another sign of spring is the cuckoo that seems to follow us along the path with its loud, intermittent call.

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A beckoning pastoral scene, but we head off down a path to the right towards the main gate.

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Through the gate is the long sweep of the road right down to the beach. You can just see the pinewoods at the very end, and beyond that is the beach. Estate worker houses line the top end of the road, and beyond the main coast road, that crosses the path about half way down,

P1050522and past the cow parsley …..

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…. is Lady Anne’s Drive. Looking back up the drive from the beach end you can see the beach carpark that is usually full of cars but at the moment it is completely empty.

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So, along the duck boards that skirt the pines ….

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to Holkham gap and the beach, where the tide is out.

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Today we decide not to walk on the beach as there is a stiffish breeze coming from the east that would blow straight onto us, so instead we head into the pines.

The pinewoods run for three miles from Wells to Scolt Head and there are three kinds of pines that grow in the woods, Corsican (grey trunk, small cones), Scots (orange upper trunk) and Maritime (large cones in tree-top clusters). They were planted over 150 years ago to stabilise the sand and to form a barrier to stop the sand blowing onto the crops growing on the reclaimed land behind.

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Apparently there are little owls in the woods and every time I walk through I look up into the trees in the hope that I might see one – but I never have.

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The end of the beach huts appear …

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… and before long we’re on the beach bank that runs for 1 mile from Wells to the beach.

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Back to the quay and home for a cup of tea and a piece of cake …. we’ve deserved it!

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I think the words to this aria from Handel’s opera Semele are very apt.

Where’er you walk
Cool gales shall fan the glade
Trees where you sit
Shall crowd into a shade

Where’er you tread
The blushing flowers shall rise
And all things flourish
Where’er you turn your eyes

 

Fragment 8

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Baleshare.

Scudding clouds and sunny intervals.

Brisk wind.

 

A long, pooled shore,

scintillating in the sun.

Sea roar obliterates all other sounds.

 

On the strandline

the translucent remains of by-the-wind-sailors,

Velella Velella.

 

I wonder how far they have floated across the sea?

 

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Fragment 4

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West beach.

Drizzling rain has given way to dry, but dull cloud.

 

An ebbing tide has left lines of kelp along the top of the beach.

 

In the receding water more of the rubbery fronds

are pitched and flung by the waves.

Some escape to form another curving contour on the sand.

 

Folded and curled on themselves they scribe

their own story of time and process.

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Fragment 3

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Fragment 3

The start.

White sand like wet putty.

Clear, green-blue water.

 

Whistling calls.

Turnstones, ringed plover, sanderling

run along the edge of the water.

 

Fading light.

Sand and water dull and merge to a grey/blue.

 

In tidal lines, shell fragments.

If I look hard I can find tiny cowries, limpets and periwinkles.

 

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Fragments 1 and 2

I have been on holiday to Scotland and have just spent one week on the island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. Berneray is tucked away on the very edge of Britain and is about as far away as you can get and still be in the UK. It is a small island that is attached to a very slightly bigger island, North Uist, by a causeway and it is the ideal place to satisfy my need for remoteness and stillness. It is a place to walk and to experience the natural environment in a slow and contemplative manner. Berneray and North Uist are small islands, surrounded by sea and white shell beaches and about half of North Uist covered with water.

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I took some art materials with me and a few little bags to put collected objects into. I had hoped to draw outside everyday as a record of what I had seen, heard and experienced, but it was windy ….. very windy. Paper, paint, pens and pencils became unwieldy in the high winds which were the tail end of a hurricane and so I had to give up that idea. Instead I collected objects from the walk each day and then when I got back to our cottage I spent a bit of time reflecting on the walk. What stuck in my mind? Was it a happening, or an experience, a process, or even just a colour?

Each day I recorded my memory visually on a small piece of folded watercolour paper and then wrote, as simply as I could, some words to describe the experience. I put the collected objects in the bag alongside the folded book and filled seven little bag altogether. One bag was from my experiences on Lindisfarne  (visited on the way up to Scotland) and the other six bags were for one day spent on Berneray. Each bag holds one remarkable memory taken from a whole days worth of memories – one fragment of a day’s experiences.

I will post one ‘bag’ a day for the next week and today’s two fragments come from Lindisfarne.

Fragment 1

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And now the causeway,

emerging from fast receding waters.

Puddled.

Flashed with light.

I stop and scan with awe

this place that minutes before was inaccessible.

Slick mud.

Still caressed by an ebbing tide.

 

A curlew rises. Calling.

Upwards and away from this mutable place.

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Fragment 2

Along the beach,

eyes down on slippery, tide-bared stones.

 

I pick up a lace of seaweed

and a piece of sea worn slate.

 

An eerie windcall rises from across the flats.

Looking up to qualify

I see dark movement in the distance.

Seals hauled out on dry sand.

 

A plaintive, drawn-out chorus

that describes this liminal space.

 

Blue is ….

I was at the beach on Saturday. These were my thoughts:

 

Warm

A south westerly breeze

brings

a slight chill to the air.

 

Sunny

Blue sky

Blue sea

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Thin wispy clouds

cirrus

blow in fragile strands

diagonally across the sky.

 

Fall streaks that foretell

a change in the weather.

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Far away

towards the horizon

the blue sky lightens.

 

Below

deep water

deep blue.

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Blue is

scattered light.

Short waves

at the end of the rainbow

that disperse

into the air

and into the water.

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You can’t touch

this blue

because it isn’t really there.

 

This will be a concertina book – watercolour on one side and words on the other. It will be bound with blue cloth. I’ll show it to you when it’s finished.

Making connections

I have a small plinth that has been sitting in a corner of my studio for nearly a year now. It has on it a collection of objects which I have been changing around and adding to regularly over the year. It started with a collection of objects that I gathered on a trip to Iceland, and at the time I felt sure that a piece of work would come from it but although I love the collection, a separate piece has simply not happened.

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I realise now that of course the collection is the work. An array of objects that document my way of interacting with, responding to, and documenting my experience of the natural environment: walking, gathering, keeping, noticing, drawing, making. The plinth is a like sketchbook of objects: a gathering that consists of words, drawings, materials and things. I have found myself adding to and taking away from it over the year in a continuous process of relating one thing to another and I now recognise that the work is not only about linking one object to another but is also concerned with connecting new landscapes to familiar ones.

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Handmade sketchbook dipped in bitumen with ink and graphite drawings of the Norfolk coast, a small linen bag coated with bitumen and paint to keep the sketchbook in.

I have written before that I believe an encounter with a new environment cannot, in this age of browsing the internet, be completely fresh, but that it is affected by expectations and presumptions. A new place, in this case Iceland, is touched by similarities and associations to known places (the Norfolk coast) in a never-ending, and possibly unconscious, triangulation of place, experience and memory.

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Top: Wood from a Norfolk beach painted with bitumen, rope from a Norfolk beach, knotted and painted with bitumen. Bottom: String from an Icelandic beach dipped in bitumen and coiled, string from an Icelandic beach made into a knot and dipped in bitumen, a linen and bitumen bag to hold them.

I’m trying not to analyse too deeply what I choose to keep, but amongst things relating to both the Icelandic and the North Norfolk coasts I have: collected objects, both in their original form and altered; drawings, in a handmade sketchbook and on scraps of paper; made objects that have been painted with bitumen.

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View from my studio, silverpoint drawing on gesso.

The unifying factor for all of these objects has evolved and is now their blackness or whiteness: either the scoured purity of bird keel bones, soft eider down and oily sheep’s wool or the dark, stickiness of bitumen that preserves all objects from the effects of the weather and the damp, salty air.

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Keel bones of birds found on both Icelandic and North Norfolk beaches.

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From the left: Eider down, white sheep’s wool, black sheep’s wool collected in Iceland, held in waxed linen containers with found threads.

What are the influences? Perhaps Icelandic black beaches of volcanic stones or dark bituminous preservative? Maybe beaches of white Norfolk flint or chalk cliffs that give themselves up to be made into fine gesso to draw onto? I think all are there in my memory, connecting backwards and forwards and backwards again to tell a story of places, experiences and materials.

This work isn’t finished and I expect it to keep evolving and to get larger as I continue to have new ideas and to make new things.