Tag Archives: Wells

Kingfisher

Marshscape Collage – the view from the studio window at high tide

Yesterday I saw a kingfisher. I was sitting outside the studio, looking at the ebbing tide with a cup of coffee. Taking a moment just to be.

Suddenly, driving fast and low above the surface of the draining water, a flash of iridescent blue. My eyes lock onto the speeding blur it as it passes directly in front of me and, as if they are joined to it by strings, they follow the wink of coloured light as it races fast and away to the right until out of sight. 

5 seconds of wonder and excitement. 

I strain to see it again. Hoping it will turn and come back. But the miraculous bird has gone, and I am left with a feeling that something special has happened.

How, I ask myself, can I capture that brief sense of movement, absorption and marvel in a piece of work?

Fish Traps

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My studio was formerly an old whelkshed – a place where fishermen would bring mussels and whelks to be to be washed and cooked. It is in an area which is still very much the working part of Wells-next-the-Sea and I am surrounded by buildings and paraphernalia that are used today by fishermen and the staff who keep the harbour running efficiently. In the unadopted lane that runs past the studio there are always stacks of both old and new lobster creels and traps, and old anchors and massive pieces of worn oak (the remains of wooden sailing ships) rest outside the boat park having been scooped out of mud by the dredger as it keeps the channel clear for boats. These are all an indication of both the town’s past and present activity.

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Although my work does carry latent indications of man’s intervention in the landscape as I echo man-made objects such as jetties, sluices, and the remains of old wooden structures that can be found all across the marsh, I realise that I don’t very often directly address the idea of man in the landscape as my bias is mostly towards the effect of natural processes. With this in mind I have looked just outside the studio for inspiration to the objects lying there that are the immediate evidence of human activity in this environment – lobster pots.

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The pots, or creels, used here on the North Norfolk coast for catching shellfish – mainly lobsters and crabs –  are D-shaped and covered with black netting (apparently black netting is more effective at catching shellfish than any other colour). There are usually 2 or 3 entrances, each with a conical inner net that leads to a hard ‘eye’ to allow the shellfish to crawl up and then drop into the ‘parlour’ or main body of the creel.

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So here is the first ‘fish trap’ that has been inspired by some of the features of the traps outside the studio: black net, a crawl space and an inner ‘eye.

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I’m not a weaver or a knotter but I am a knitter, so that was my chosen method. The material I am using is Habu Textiles, Shosenshi Linen Viscose Paper. It is a 4mm wide flat tape that is made from 100% linen and covered with a permanent viscose sizing. It is very crispy and crackles and crunches in my hands as I work with it. It is a posh sort of raffia and when knitted up I like that it looks a bit like Thongweed, a long thin type of seaweed.

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This is my first ‘fish trap’ and there is another on the needles now. I must say I am really enjoying the process of making these objects that relate so directly to the Norfolk landscape.

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The protective coast – 2

Last time I spoke about some of the research I have been doing around tidal surges and rising sea levels, and the ability of salt marshes to protect the coast by buffering wave actions from the force of the sea.

P1050764Ordnance Survey Norfolk Sheet 111 SE, 1907, 2nd edition.

This is a concern that is very real here in Wells. During the last tidal surge, in 2013, hard defences protected the west of the town – the floodgate was deployed and a glass flood wall held back the huge sea – however to the east of the flood defences the water built up flooding local businesses and houses along the quay. The solution for future surges could be to allow the eastern marsh, Slade Marsh, to flood. Lowering the height of the sea wall (or possibly removing it altogether) would relieve the pressure created by the ‘hard’ defences during exceptional tides by releasing the high water over the marsh and farm land and therefore protecting the buildings along the quay. This of course sounds counter-intuitive but this area used to be a place where the tide regularly flowed before the land was reclaimed for farming in around 1719.

P1050753Sample 1 – taken directly from map

My studio sits to the east end of the town and during the 2013 surge the water rose up flooding the building to about 1 metre (a former occupant has marked the level). This issue is of importance me.

P1050754Sample 2 – taken directly from map

So where to start with a project that addresses some of these concerns? Well I decided to start with a map of Wells and in particular the area to the east of the town. The map is an Edward Stanford Ordnance Map of Wells, dated 1907. It was very kindly given to me by a friend (thank you Helen Terry) and shows the creeks, the marsh and the town very clearly and in great detail.

P1050755Sample 3 – taken directly from map

When you don’t know what to do, or which direction to take, I think it is often best to start simply, and in this case I began by just copying parts of the map. I like that these first efforts depict the creeks as they were over 100 years ago as it gives me scope to research the changes that have actually occurred since then.

P1050757Sample 4 – Using shapes from my observation of the landscape and ‘colouring in’

The samples are 50 x 50 cm, sewing cotton on painted linen. The white on blue hints at blueprint maps. I have to say I really like these first three samples and learnt quite a lot stitching them, but they are much too literal…. too map-like.  So my next move was to come away from the obvious map shapes and to use shapes that come from my own observations of the landscape.

P1050756Sample 5 – Making marks with white paint and then stitching

Again, I feel they are sterile – there is nothing for the imagination to work with. So, I tried making my own marks with paint rather than just ‘colouring in’ and there is much here that I like, especially where in sample 5 the paint looks like a stain that is almost accidental.

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Sample 6 – Making marks with white paint and then stitching. 

I thought I might be ready to make a larger version – to make a ‘finished’ piece – but I put everything away for a week and now I look at them again I know I’m not ready to go bigger or finished. I like the fluid, wavering lines that suggest shifting boundaries. I like some of the painted marks. I like the distressed cloth background and the eyelets. But the imagined shapes in the later samples have no meaning for me.

P1050760Sample 7 – Making marks with white paint and then stitching. Couched wire.

My next move? Well I think to do more research. I need to walk the creek at low tide. Draw what I see and notice the effects of the water on the mud and the sand. And then I need to move inland and walk the sea wall and the fields behind – to look and to listen in order to really understand what is at stake here and to give meaning to the marks I paint and stitch.

This is a long term project and I have no idea how it will end. Maybe some of these ‘samples’ will turn out to be actual work (it often happens), but I intend to document each move here, so next up some drawing.

The protective coast

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About 6 months ago a friend popped an article through my letterbox and it has been percolating around in my mind ever since. From an issue of Horizons, the University of Cambridge’s research magazine, the piece focuses on the East of England and considers climate change and flooding. It questions whether manmade barriers are the best coastal defence and with predicted rises in sea level of up to 1.5m by 2100, in the future these hard defences would only have to be built bigger and higher and become more conspicuous.

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The East coast is a low lying ‘soft’ coast. The energy of tides and waves brings silt and clay that accumulates near the shore. As the water shallows, the particles are trapped by salt tolerant plants and salt marsh begins to form.  Salt marshes are a valuable environmental resource as they can absorb and bury carbon from the atmosphere and offer habitats to unique plants and animals

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Although salt marsh changes daily with each tide, and is particularly vulnerable to coastal erosion, tidal surges and flooding, the article, written by Sarah Collins, suggests that it could actually provide a more sustainable option to hard, concrete defences and act as a protective barrier, buffering wave actions, reducing their height and therefore their potential for damage. It has been shown that a narrow strip of salt marsh 40m wide reduces wave height by 20% and strip 80m wide can reduce waves to zero – the saltmarsh is able quite literally to swallow the waves.

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Here in Wells, low-lying reclaimed farmland is protected by man-made sea defences – high sea walls that were built to protect the land in the aftermath of the flooding of the 1953 tidal surge. These walls do protect the land, but they also create a barrier, stopping the shore from moving inland and squeezing the saltmarsh between the sea and our coastal defences.

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To act efficiently as natural flood defences the sea and salt marsh needs to be able to move landwise naturally and freely and with the projected rise in sea levels it is unlikely that the coastline will stay as it is at the moment.

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The issue of the changing coastline has occupied my mind for some time now and I have been considering how I could make a piece of work that considers these issues. The drawings here are some of my first ideas and explore ideas around the destructive tide, inundation and shifting boundaries. Next time I’ll show you my next steps in this project.

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

 

Whelkshed workshops 2020

Come and spend creative time with me at my studio and be inspired by the ever-changing coastal landscape of Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk.

I have put the dates for three new studio workshops into my diary for 2020

DATES OF COASTAL EXPLORATIONS WORKSHOP 2020

Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 June 2020

Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 June 2020

Wednesday 1 July and Thursday 2 July 2020

Student work Coastal Explorations Workshop 2019

About the Workshop

Be inspired by the ever-changing coastal landscape of Wells-next-the-Sea and take the time to observe, document and create in these beautiful surroundings.

Part of the Coastal Explorations workshop will be spent outside by the sea paying attention and recording observations with drawing, collecting objects and writing.

Back in the studio your collections will form a starting point for experiments with paper, cloth, stitch, mark-making, collage and printing to create a unique and personal record of your exploration of place.

Cost: £200

Includes basic materials and a simple lunch. Coffee and tea will be available all day with homemade cake.

There are 6 places available for each workshop.

To book please email me for availability on debbie@debbielyddon.co.uk

Booking is on a first come, first served basis.

About the Studio

Debbie’s studio is in Wells-next-the-Sea on the north Norfolk coast, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that offers stunning views, wonderful wildlife and beautiful beaches, tidal creeks and salt marshes.

The studio is a former fisherman’s whelk shed and has an enviable position overlooking the sea and the salt marshes and is a stunning place to be inspired and to work creatively.

The studio is a large, fully-equipped working space (approx. 10 x 5 m), with water, electricity and a wood-burning stove for chillier days. NB. There is no toilet, but a ‘nice’ Portaloo will be available just outside on workshop days.

The view through the window is wonderful and looks over the water and the marshes.

My Studio

 

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.

Light, texture, sound, movement

9am

Blue sky with a gossamer layer of misty cloud

Warm sunshine

Light movements in the air

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I’m sitting outside the studio in the sunshine. For the first time, in what seems to be weeks, the biting Easterly wind has blown itself out and it feels warm. The water is glassy with only the faintest sign of the slowly ebbing tide. The blue sky is reflected in the shallow water and combined with the sand/mud just visible below the surface, it is a dappled green/sludge/blue colour. Above me the sky is blue, but over on the horizon the colour washes away to be almost white. The pines on the East Hills are a hazy green and looking East, almost into the sun, the landscape becomes monochrome as the mud banks and marsh are silhouetted by the brightness behind.

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There is no noise coming from the working fisherman’s huts (at low tide there is less activity), but just on the pontoon to my right a couple of men are painting a boat and I can hear their companionable chatter. Most of the sounds I can hear are of birds, but looking out there is no movement – the birds are hunkering down on the marsh. Calling but not seen.

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I sit and look and wait. Immediately opposite 2 black-headed gulls start squabbling with a third gull who flies in, taunting them with food. They rise up and try to wrest it away before flying away down the channel still squawking. A tiny money spider falls onto my sketchbook and I trace its path down the page until it falls off. Two black cormorants fly fast and low over the marsh –  determined dark arrows that know where they are going.

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I hear an oystercatcher and look up, but scanning the muddy bank opposite I fail to see it. A few minutes later it appears and starts to preen itself at the waters edge – it’s reflection clear in the water. It restarts its monotonous peeping and others, feeding on the mud, take up its call. It’s a hectic conversation that sounds like a warning – keep away from my patch!

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I can also hear the contented chattering of Brent geese feeding on the marsh. Most of the visiting winter geese have left by now but there are still a few left that seem happy to over summer here. A small group of them lifts off with a burble and a flap of wing. They fly west to join the main flock, their white bottoms shining out in the sun. More geese rise up, chattering as they go, and split into groups as they hurry off to different feeding grounds.

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I get a watercolour pad and paint and start to draw. As always I start literally but after a time I loosen up and focus on two areas: the patch of mud just opposite and a flash of light that is an area of sand away on the marsh. As time goes on the light and the colours intensify. I use more dark and start to splash paint around, not trying to  represent what I see and hear exactly, but to use my imagination to capture light, texture, sound and movement.

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Moments of Being at Wells Maltings

IMG_0170Sluice Creek Cloth: Moon Rise

The exhibition has been up for a week now and it is such a thrill to be showing Moments of Being in the place that inspired it. Visitors can walk a few steps up from the reality of the marshes and the quay to the Handa Gallery at the Wells Maltings and see my work that is an evocation of the same place. I am delighted that people have understood the connections that I have been trying to make between the way we sense this coastal environment: its imagery, sounds and materials, and the processes of change that take place here on a daily basis. Many of the visitors know this coast as well as I do and have been able to relate the work to the environment.

I am sharing the exhibition with Caroline Fisher and her ceramics sit so well next to my cloth pieces. You can see some of the cobalt glazed bowls in one of the photos

Here are a few gallery shots.

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IMG_01753 Marshscape Collages

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The exhibition is on daily until 6 April from 11am – 4pm, free entry. I will be in the gallery every day except 21 March and 6 April.

 

Early morning

8.15 am

Cold: -3 degrees

Misty

The early morning news tells me that last night was the coldest night of the winter so far and that other parts of the country have been disrupted by snow. As yet we haven’t seen snow but looking out all is grey and white . A thick frost blankets the fields over towards Holkham and a light haar is hanging in the air.

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Down on the quay a grey mist hangs just above the marsh and the water is completely still. There isn’t a breath of wind but it is bitingly cold. Behind the granary there is a slight golden glow as the sun begins to appear above the town.

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I walk down the beach bank towards the sea. Coming in from the North East are skeins and skeins of geese and I can’t miss their woodwind chatter as they call to each other high up in the sky. The low sunlight catches the underside of their wings as they fly right overhead – a fluttering sparkle in the clear blue sky.

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In the water a cormorant dives and I follow its underwater path by the stream of small, meandering bubbles that rise to the surface. It stays down for so long that I almost look away and walk off, but suddenly it reappears, a black shadow reflected back by the water.

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Yet more geese fly over and their calls fill the air. The sun has now risen fully above the town and other bird sounds join in: gulls, oystercatchers and a curlew. It almost seems as if they have waited for the sun to begin their day.

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I walk back along the quay and the sun has begun to burn off the light mist and the contours of the marsh are highlighted by a golden yellow glow.

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It promises to be a beautiful day.