Both the Nash brothers, Paul and John, whose work interests me, painted Wittenham Clumps. It wasn’t that far from where I was staying in Ashampstead. It was also more or less on my way to Ivinghoe Beacon (which Paul also painted in his 1930 work, Wood on the Downs). So last week, on the morning of the Summer Solstice, I stopped there and climbed them.
Round Hill is the one on the left, and Castle Hill the one on the right. It was quite a climb up Castle Hill, but worth it for the view.
The two Clumps are quite different in formation. Round Hill is – well, round. But Castle Hill appears to sit on a flat topped platform. This is Castle Hill viewed from a convenient bench on the top of Round Hill.
And this is the view the other way around.
There were lots of dog walkers around, and also a herd of reddish brown cattle, which I think – from my listening to The Archers! – may have been Herefords.
I did some drawing from both Clumps – here I am on Castle Hill.
It was a beautiful morning, and a lovely walk, and a great way to start the Summer Solstice.
And that really is all I have to say about my walking and working week away.
Friday again – hope you’ve had a good week, and are surviving the heat! 🙂
Yes, well, I didn’t walk all the time. Generally it was from about 9.30am to about 1.00pm. And then I went to find some lunch and do something else. And on two days I did something completely different. So here is a quick round up of the different things.
And everywhere I went, there was the River Thames!
The only other place I went to was Wittenham Clumps. I’ll save that for tomorrow! 🙂
This part of my walk took place on the Summer Solstice. The summit of the year, the highest point of the light. So I did a bit of ‘high point-ing’, too!
Ivinghoe Beacon is the very end of the Ridgeway, and although it was quite a long drive from where I was staying I was determined that I should do the very end, just as I had done the very beginning at Overton Hill in 2016.
There used to be a hill fort here, although there is little evidence of it now. It is one of the oldest in Britain, built in the late Bronze Age.
The climb up is very steep with multiple tracks to the top. This is the view looking back down the path the way I’d come.
And the climb was well worth it. There is a trig point and a cairn-type structure with a map of the whole Ridgeway on the top and the view in all directions is amazing.
And this was the view from the trig point –
which I then sat on for a breather!
It was very windy – definitely a bad hair day!
A group of men started flying really big model planes as I was leaving. You can just see them in the photo above.
So those were my four Ridgway walks. I think I have enough material for six of seven paintings, some of which I hope to have finished in time for our Artspace exhibition in Woodbridge in October.
I did some other things while I was away, as well as walk. A round up of some of them coming up tomorrow! 🙂
All my Ridgeway walks have been on open chalk down-land, with far reaching views. Not this one!
I parked the car in a very convenient little car park next to Nuffield church. Nuffield is a small village on the other side of the ‘Goring Gap’ from where I was staying. It was also the only walk where I set off in the ‘wrong’ direction. In other words, walking westwards, the opposite way to the Trail Guide.
The trail starts going down a field edge heading south, and then takes a right angle bend west. That is the point I was at in the photo above.
No chalk tracks. No wide views. Lots of trees. And Grim’s Ditch running alongside. This is a deep, wide depression which was probably constructed sometime in the Iron Age, although quite why is not really known. It runs for 5 miles from the bank of the Thames to the foot of the Chilterns. As can be seen on the sign in the photo, the Ridgeway runs beside it for 3.4 miles. Twice the path crossed from one side of the ditch to the other.
Grim’s Ditch can be seen clearly on the left of the photo above. The trees are mostly beech and ash, with some elder and hawthorn as an understory. Red campions and buttercups flowered in the brighter places, and the sunshine splashed down through the trees in streaks and patches on the path. The path meandered up and down slopes, and the tree roots spread out across the path in the thin chalky soil. In places it was hard to walk for stepping over them. In another stretch the path ran through a depression with beech trees on both sides, and I was walking through deep leaf litter, built up over years, with the reddish tinge from the fallen beech leaves.
I had seen red kites above the church yard as I parked the car, and kept seeing them above the neighbouring fields. I could hear their thin wavering call even when I couldn’t see them. This was actually the last walk that I did. The previous day I walked up Ivinghoe Beacon at the very end of the Ridgeway. But to make it make sense I have written these posts in geographical order, not the order that I did them. SO this was my last Ridgeway walk of 2018, and I had pretty much decided that I wouldn’t be returning again to do any of the remaining stretches. As I turned round and began to retrace my steps, I thought what little magical thing could happen to finish off my Ridgeway walks. And I decided it would be quite magical to find a red kite’s feather. I had only a short distance left to go. The path was along the edge of a field. I rounded a tree. And there it was. A beautiful red kite’s feather, 14 inches long, with the white flight feather edge, and the reddish brown bars. It was in perfect condition and was lying on top of the undergrowth as if just dropped. It certainly hadn’t been there when I walked past earlier that morning. What a lovely find – and a magical end to my Ridgeway walks.
Tomorrow I’ll post about Ivinghoe Beacon which I climbed on the previous day which was the Summer Solstice . . . 🙂
My second walk started from the highest point on this section of the Ridgeway – Sparsholt Firs. There is a convenient little car park on the side of the road at this point, and I was soon walking along the grassy track.
The Ridgeway is immensely wide at this point – at least 60 feet I would estimate. At some points there are two distinct tracks running beside each other with tall grasses growing between – one grassy track and one bare chalk track.
On the northern side the land dropped away spectacularly to form the Devil’s Punchbowl, and an area called Crowhole Bottom, which can be seen on the right in the photo below – this is looking back westward towards Sparsholt Firs.
It was rough walking on the chalk, which was very flinty and lumpy at this point, and after a sunny start it became overcast and very humid. The track swoops up and down following the folds in the land.
I crossed over the two lanes which lead down to Letcombe Bassett, and then sat down on the bank for a break – a cereal bar and some water.
All the way along I had been noticing – and photographing – the range of wild flowers growing on the chalky banks. Sometimes growing out of bare chalk! No soil at all. I’ll do a ‘flower post’ later in the week when I’ve had time to look them all up.
It was so overcast by the time I reached this point that I turned round and walked back.
Tomorrow – walking near Nuffield: completely different! 🙂
If you’ve been following along with my art story for long, you may remember that I walked some sections of The Ridgeway in Wiltshire back in 2016. This year I got to go again!
I stayed in Ashampstead, which is on the West Berkshire/Oxfordshire border. It was a good base for the four walks I had planned.
This post is about my first walk, which was to Wayland’s Smithy and White Horse Hill. It was a rather overcast day, as I drove up to the National Trust car-park and set off, going westwards back down The Ridgeway, towards Wayland’s Smithy. This is actually a huge Neolithic chambered long barrow, created nearly 5000 years ago.
The name is a corruption of the name of the god Volund. Legend has it that he made the shoes for the Uffington White Horse . . . .
Next it was a walk back the way I’d come, towards White Horse Hill, and Uffington Castle.
On the way I stepped inside one of the beech hangers beside the track. The light and atmosphere inside were extraordinary.
Approaching White Horse Hill the track was bitten down deep into the chalk.
Here I am, sitting on the base of the trig point on the top of White Horse Hill, looking rather hot after the climb – and clearly thinking ‘Uh-oh, it’s starting to rain . . . ‘
But luckily it was only a brief shower.
For whom was the Uffington White Horse made? There is nowhere on the ground where it is possible to really see it all. From the top of the hill bits are visible . . .
And from the single track road below the hill, which leads to Dragon Hill, a bit more is visible.
But it’s hard to make out the whole form. Viewers in the sky . . . .? It is thought to have been created in the Bronze Age and is 330 feet long!
The manger is a very impressive rounded valley in the side of the hill. The grass was incredibly green, and Red Kites could be seen flying below the road level.
Having walked to Dragon hill, I retraced my steps back down the slopes, amongst the sheep, and the people flying kites, to the car park.
Tomorrow I’ll write about the walk from Sparsholt Firs, and the Devil’s Punchbowl! 🙂
The Festival: We have – at last! – just about finished all the ‘aftermath’ jobs from this year’s All Saints Arts Festival. Yesterday, Graham and I went down to Maldon to meet up with Stephen, the Vicar of All Saint’s. We sat out in his lovely peaceful garden behind the Vicarage, and talked over what was good, what we can improve, and new ideas for next year. Everyone at that end seems very happy with how it all went, and we certainly are! Next year does still need to be confirmed by the PCC but it seems pretty certain that we will be going ahead. In fact I have already approached our five ‘top sellers’ to ask if they will show again with us in 2019. They’ve all said yes! Great start . . . .
Exhibitions: My next show, starting in July, is the Haylett’s Gallery, in Maldon. I have the frames ordered for the eight paintings which will be going over there. Sally Patrick’s choice of title is Essex creeks and estuaries – (I think I’ve got that right!) – so amongst my paintings will be –
After the Haylett’s show, it’s Open Studios next, in September. I’ve just sent off my application form, and I’ve opted for 8th/9th September, and the 15th/16th September. On the two Saturdays I’ll be open from 2 – 6pm. and on the Sundays it will be 11am – 6pm. I decided against opening on Saturday mornings as they are always really quiet, while the afternoons and Sunday mornings are busy. I’ve also picked earlier weekends this year. I need a breathing space in order to get ready for my ArtSpace exhibition in Woodbridge, starting 4th October, and the Geedon gallery’s Autumn show which starts 2 days later on Saturday, 6th! The Geedon are having two of my Fingringhoe landscapes, and two dinghies. The dinghies have yet to be painted . . . .!
We had a little walk by the river at Heybridge basin yesterday after our meeting, to see if we could spot some paintable ones. The tide was right out. But we did find –
-which is a possibility.
Lastly, I’ve been planning . . . .
Hope your week is going well! 🙂
As promised yesterday, here is my other new bluebell painting, also of Hillhouse Wood. This shows the very striking boundary between the wood, thick with bluebells, and the field, which is why I’ve put it into my Landlines series.
The bluebells look rather blue-er in this photo compared with the more violet shade in the painting, but this seems to be the best my camera can manage!
Well, it was fine today, so I did go to Stratford St Mary! Gradually working my way up the River Stour, with my Four Seasons on the Stour project.
The river runs along the side of the main street for a short distance in this sprawling village, before veering off to the north-west, while the main area of Stratford St Mary veers of to the north and north-east. There are two channels, one – the main river –
– going up to the weir, and the other diverting through the newly restored lock gates, and continuing down stream, re-joining the main channel by the Maison Tolbooth.
There were lots of wild flowers, dog roses, campions – both pink and white – elderflowers, bramble flowers, and yellow water lilies.
There were countless darting electric blue dragon flies, and some larger ones, with much bigger almost black wings!
I walked some of the footpaths up and down the channels on both sides and over the little foot bridges, and then sat on the steps of the ‘portage’ area (where canoes can be carried across to avoid both the weir and the lock) and drew this lovely view.
A perfect early summer river scene. 🙂
I finished this painting before we ran the Festival, actually. But the monitor on my desktop computer packed in, which meant I couldn’t use the photo programme, WHICH MEANT . . . . that I although I could photograph the painting I couldn’t download the photo off my camera. Technology . . . . sigh! But now I’m up and running with a new monitor – so here is the new painting.
Called ‘The Path through the Wood’, it is a painting of Hillhouse Wood at West Bergholt – the Essex Wood of my 2016 painting project. It will be going to the Haylett’s gallery in July for the summer exhibition.
I’ve also been able to access a few more photos of the Festival. Here they are.
Meanwhile, back in my studio, I’ve finished another bluebell wood painting, which I will get photographed for tomorrow. And if it’s fine tomorrow I may get to Stratford St Mary for the next visit in my Four Seasons on the Stour project. I hoped to go at the end of May. But the end of May got a bit busy . . . .
Hope June has got off to a good start for you! 🙂