April come she will

and so she has with all her early flowers and leaves, which are two weeks early by my estimation.

we are so lucky here in the countryside that self-isolation means (for me) a closer look at where I walk – now voluntarily restricted to not going in the car to close places, but to the two very beautiful 3 mile-ish loops I can do from the house. and lucky that it is spring, and dry  weather with a lot of sunshine. of course my experience of the pandemic is incredibly privileged by my sex, age, financial standing, retired status and all the other things that have me here in North Norfolk in a quiet village with super-helpful neighbours. In fact as everyone is around all day, every day, and doing my shopping for me, I don’t feel at all lonely, and I have more time to write and paint.

wood anemones, not in a wood but in a bank of primroses in the lane below Bullfer Grove, whereas I have not seen any of these flowers so diagnostic of ancient woodland in the actual wood. I have managed to establish a little patch of them in my garden, under the hazel which I coppice (I just sawed off some young poles to support the runner beans).

Bullfer is locally famous for its bluebells which are certainly very early this year, and it is full of birds

there is a less obvious path that takes you to the full glory of the bluebells.

a path which seems to have been maintained better this year, around various fallen trees and bramble patches

a little scan of one part of the wood this morning, in the chilly east wind.

Bimba patiently follows me around, hopping over the fallen trunks. on the lead of course.

I made this little video clip on the 11th, of the very loud thrush in the wood, with wren accompaniment, and the wild cherry blossom which is lovely here but doesn’t last long. I always trot out A E Housman’s poem –

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

with its memes of youth and beauty and loss

there is just one early purple every year. last year I saw so many of these in Fife, in Scotland – in the dunes fringing Tentsmuir beach, even in my daughter’s lawn, and in the wilderness near her house, Lumbo den.

Bullfer grove, with its dog mercury and wild garlic  is maintained by its owners, the National trust, in a way that produces great habitat for wildlife. the neighbouring landowner, Albanwise Ltd, has more commercial priorities and has recently cut all the mature oaks on its local estates, including a few on the fringes of Bullfer. they won’t regenerate on their own, as oaks do not grow from acorns dropped/hidden by jays and squirrels under the canopy, they don’t get enough light, and are further inhibited by oak mildew which affects seedlings and saplings much more than fully grown trees.

in contrast Bale wood is untouched, and browsed by deer to the extent that there is no underwood to speak of. recently I prowled through this part, which is actually overgrown wet meadow, looking for a little patch of primroses amongst the hazels.

the floor of the wood is so curiously bare and dry, all dead leaves and sticks. on the edge there are a lot of small ash trees that are badly affected by die off.

deer paths everywhere. the next section is full of elm and ash. the elms get to a certain size and then attract the beetle that allows the fungus that stops them being able to transport water up the trunk and so they die. then regenerate by cloning. so the wood is full of fallen elm that is all smaller trunks and branches. it is quite honestly a mess. but from it in recent years, hatch the most wonderful butterflies – the silverwashed fritilliary. the caterpillars live on the leaves of dog violet, having hibernated in rough bark crevices over the winter.

and now the oaks are pushing out their leaves and flowers

ash flowers have been evident for a couple of weeks, but birds/ squirrels? something has been ripping them off.

at home the garden is full of wild flowers – the cow parsley is just out, and the cowslips are still looking good

a couple of weeks ago I found this unfamiliar shiny black bee whizzing around a patch of cowslips. I looked it up – a carpenter bee, solitary, just out of hibernation.

pear blossom out early as usual, I wonder whether any will get pollenated, it’s a very young tree, and there was no fruit last year, after a lot of blossom. it is Moonglow, a fireblight resistant variety. I may have moved to Scotland before I get a chance to find out what its fruit tastes like. or on the other hand, I probably won’t have, considering the future eighteen months or so of COVID-19 disruption.

I found this painting “Pink Garden” by Elisabeth Cummings, an Australian painter (for me mostly it is Ozzie painters I find most inspiring at the moment) and so I sat in the garden and tried to draw an impression of its burgeoning blossom and leaves.

pen and ink and then acrylic

here’s the bee

another  sheet

and now I’m finding working on paper quite a nice change from canvas

this is on fabriano paper, the lovely tough creamy paper I bought in a ten metre roll for making folded books. it does need stretching on a board with gummed tape, which is trickier than you’d think.

having such large pieces of paper means I can work as large as some of my recent canvases. this is 74 x 82 cm. I had to stretch it after I’d painted it (pencil, charcoal and acrylic) as I hadn’t taken it very seriously until I’d finished it. expensive to frame of course, mount and glass as well as frame. and decent glass which gives you accurate colour, is really expensive. it would probably cost twice what I’d ask for the painting. but there is that freedom from the surface you are potentially messing up not costing £ 40.

and the brush slides around nicely on the smooth paper

however I did invest in three Italian-made nice box canvases with deep sides 70 x 70 cm before the virus got hold. (now you can’t get them, I suppose the factory has been badly affected and Jacksons have no stock)

so I have a trio of landscape abstracts finished

all three have ink and paper collaged under the acrylic, and some oil pastel and charcoal drawing  … the top one is from the field at the top of the road with the view of the sea at Blakeney and on a bright day the wind farm masts poke up from beyond the horizon.

the one in the middle is the pond in the wood, and this last one the huge prairie field that my friend Henry Carter sold to Albanwise, which has winter wheat making a shallow triangle if you are standing at the top of it from the road, and spring barley just coming through as a green veil,

here a veil of paint.


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