february brings snowdrops

and it’s remarkable how many unremarkable little spots under hedges out in lanes, or in isolated woods, there are where they turn up. later this month I’ll be picking up ( buying them) one hundred “doubles” to plant in my front “lawn”, in the green, from Cambo Gardens on Fife’s east coast, where their woods are white with them. in all these places of course, someone will have planted a few in the first place. or at Cambo probably rather a lot. Cambo are locally famous for their snowdrops, and every February they take orders.

I found these gigantic ones – are they even real snowdrops?- in the naturalised wilderness above Lade Braes in St Andrews this morning.

on Sunday in Markinch

matched by these stunning white butterburs – about six weeks earlier than the common pink ones I expect to see along the Eden…

our walk took us from Markinch to Star and Star Moss, a walk we did in late 2020. East Lomond hill always in view, and on Sunday it had a light coating of snow, with the path up its back visible as a brown curving line.

I managed a few quick drawings, always having to gallop-walk to catch up.

the hill mesmerised

 

always visible, though Star is quite high, with views of the Firth

then Star Moss, a sight of special scientific interest, a raised bog, I think the only one in Fife, also captivates.

I am sure it shouldn’t have so many trees – there are several drainage ditches, which must  damage its ecology.

at this time of year the vegetation has died back, and all the ferns hardly visible. early summer or late spring, when everything is green and the place full of birds, would be a good time to walk through here.

we got caught by some wintry  weather – pretty here in the shelter of Markinch woods but out across the fields it was driving diagonally.

the snow didn’t stop us being awfully British and stopping for our flask of tea, and slices of tea bread at the standing stones here, which have been domesticated (they are just under the lee of a housing scheme) with a noticeboard and a picnic table.

the walk takes us through Balbirnie Park up to the end of the town’s high ridge; sadly Storm Arwen has left its trail of damage.

the name Markinch derives from the Scottish Gaelic Mark Innis. Mark is the Gaelic for horse, specifically a steed or charger, and innis is the Gaelic for a meadow or an island, here probably meaning a piece of land rising out of or above a body of water or a bog.

closer to home (though Markinch is only 12 miles from Cupar) I found another kissing gate in Cairngreen wood, hidden by undergrowth.

that makes eight. invading a poem about the land and housing schemes – sharing mind and body images with the wood and the field or fields scraped off and scarred to build this house and its fellows – written in one of three free online workshops run by the Poetry School to encourage writing for the Ginko eco-poetry prize. I did send it in. they were good workshops, so I sent in all three poems. no expectation of anything, but every little bit helps.

I have started a whole lot of new paintings, the big one/dipytch

already has the eighth gate scrawled on it.

despite the mildness and dryness of the winter so far, the weather imposes itself on the landscape –

the several winter storms we have had

knocking trees over or knocking the tops of them down and causing others to fall in Cairngreen.

blowing stuff like this larger-than-football-sized puffball out of the hedge where it was hidden, flapping the plastic coverings on the over-wintering carrot field like crazy, shredding the plastic roof of the temporary horse shelter at Tarvit farm. the birds don’t seem too bothered, the larks were flying up from the stubble – maybe twenty or so just along where I walked, so on a massive field that must be a lot of larks. I’ve started to hear them singing now, also at dawn, a thrush sings on the wooded edge of the scheme – and woodpeckers have started drumming.

looking over Rumgally from near the eighth gate

and from the top of Garlie bank and Tarvit Mains you can see snow on Ben this and Ben that hills in the Angus Glens

patterns of plough and grass

the chocolate brown of newly ploughed land and the navy and the blue of cloud and sky

just under these heroic stone farm buildings (normal here – these Fife farms are very solidly built, and show how fantastically rich the land is and has been, generating wealth in this part of Scotland for generations)

luckily there are pockets of wilderness where it’s too steep or too rocky for agriculture

but these woods are all plantation

or have been quarried and then left to sycamore and birch

never mind that they are planted, the trees are a comfort, and cover for wildlife

and quite spooky too with all the lichen …

one puzzle – there is hardly any hazel here compared to Norfolk. lovely to see the one here with its catkins out.

back in the studio, this diptych was not doing anything for me so I messed about with it

bolder marks – well I really could have stopped there, but of course I didn’t –

I like the green marks on it

green was where the other one went

more and more green and yellow

a frog pond of acid greens

it’s hidden away now, waiting for some objectivity

best way to treat troublesome paintings

the eighth gate is undergoing more additions

but I’ve ordered some larger quantities of paint, hoping that will help

meanwhile doing something radical and shocking means I can’t hang onto those nice bits of painting that worked in the first pass, but need to be covered up to get where I want the painting to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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