Essex Field in July

By Sally Pudney on 19th July 2020

Last Monday evening I made my monthly visit to The Field. Catherine told me that the barn owl chicks had fledged and to watch out for them while I walked round. As I drove to the farm the sky clouded over so it didn’t turn out to be the lovely sunny summer evening that I’d planned! But I was on my way by then so I kept going.

I walked down beside the maize field – way taller than me now – and saw several rabbits playing on the grass. As I approached they vanished into the maize. And a moment later, only about ten paces ahead of me, a big fox came out of the hedge and also went into the maize . . . . !

It was the first time I’d visited since the oil seed was harvested, and the field looked huge and empty, with a lovely light over it. It was warm and still and very quiet.

The previous week I had made an extra visit while the harvesting was going on.

It was anything but quiet then, and incredibly dusty! When the harvester emptied the seed into the trailer it poured out in a black river, and went on and on and on . . . . How many millions of tiny seeds!?

I completed a small painting (30cm square) of the field after the harvester had made its first sweep around the outside.

I used a limited palette of Jackson’s acrylics for this little painting, using only their Primrose Yellow ( Nickel Titanate Yellow), Yellow Ochre, Cobalt Blue, Titanium White, Black ( their black is a mixture of Carbon Black and Mars Black), and a substitute for their Venetian Red, chemically the same, as theirs was out of stock. It was really interesting using this limited range, and having to think hard about how to mix the colours I needed without reaching for the tubes of paint which I usually use! The achievable mixes are all quite earthy and muted, but it was an overcast morning so that was quite appropriate.

So, back to my ‘proper’ visit last Monday evening . . . This is my ‘proper’ painting!

Essex Field: July (Evening)

The bare field was very pale with short dark stalks sticking up. The field margin had been partially mowed down the north western edge, so there was a wide grassy track. This painting shows the view part of the way down that side of the field, looking back up the slope towards the railway cutting trees. The uncut margin did have some wild carrot and lady’s bedstraw flowering, but this margin has never had much in the way of flowers. The field margin along the top of the field, by contrast, was still thick with common knapweed, much of it browning over now, lots of beautiful pale mauve field scabious, corn chamomile, ox-eye daisies, some bird’s foot trefoil still flowering, agrimony and lady’s bedstraw.

As I walked along the top of the field I had a good view of a kestrel flying towards me and sweeping round over the big oaks near the railway bridge. Then I heard the plaintive, high pitched mewing call of a buzzard. After a bit of scanning around I spotted it down by the river, and after a few moments it was joined by its mate. Both of them continued calling, and came to roost in a big dead tree at the bottom of the field. They took turns in making short flights around the river area, and returning to the tree, so I was able to watch them for some time.

Of the barn owls there was no sign at all!

I picked fruiting shrubs for my ‘snippings’ drawing this month: blackberry brambles still flowering but with partly forming blackberries, blackthorn with sloes still green, haws from a field rose also still green, and hips on the hawthorn just beginning to colour red.

Here they are in a ‘Raspberry Seedless’ Tiptree jam-jar.

I am intrigued to find out what happens in the field next. Will it be ploughed by the next time I visit? And what will be growing there next? 🙂

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