in June we remembered the orchids at Warham Camp, and made a date to visit while they were in flower

we had timed it perfectly

there were common spotteds

and pyramid orchids

covering the south and east sides of the huge rampart banks

built of chalk dug up from the layer of it that is just under the subsoil here in the middle of north Norfolk

so that this iron age fort has a very special fauna and flora, including chalk-loving and drought-loving plants .

it is surrounded by conservation grassland, the river Stiffkey (a chalk stream) was straightened in the eighteenth century and cuts against part of the ramparts, and even the arable fields have wide nectar headlands, so the insect life is healthy and varied, and so is the bird population.

a beautiful flower beetle on a scabious flower

we saw common blue and chalk hill blue butterflies (the caterpillars of this feed on horseshoe vetch).

this painted lady was in the churchyard as we passed through on our way

most of the flowers are quite small versions, due to the thin dry soil.

in the centre of the circle of banks and ditches thistles dominate. more details of the archaeology can be found here

linnets and whitethroat were singing in the hedges,

swifts, swallows and martins swooping over the nearby fields and the central dish of the fort.

there was quite a breeze so you may want to turn the sound off for this scan of one of the banks and its orchids

the impression I was left with of the birds and the landscape with its flowers resulted in two paintings. one of the swifts at Warham, and one of swallows hawking green barley after rain at Edgefield.

I made a start

remembering the chalk and the clouds, then left both alone for a week

last week I took the swallows hawking one, and did some quite radical things to it

but after a couple of hours it had settled into something more peaceful and less abstract.

so yesterday I took the Warham one and chucked lots of runny blue paint down it, ran some red and some burnt sienna around it,

worked back in with a big brush and gesso and some greens,

then I had to get thoseĀ  mounds of the ramparts back in, without losing the sense of the river and the sky


but I left quite a lot of the blue watery stuff,

put more opaque pale greys into the sky, with the diving swifts

and added the pyramid orchids, that strong pink, and just a couple of butterflies

there’s a lot of movement and colour. I think it has something of the day in it.