Almost Back to the Blog…

After a fascinating Spring Term of exploring and developing
more and more ideas for the MA Course, I have a break for the Summer.

The most interesting aspect of the course so far has been
the good shaking-up my creative brain has had. Many many experiments are
beginning to open up possible new directions. More of all that soon.

But I am definitely back to walking and cycling and down by
the reservoir the young corn is growing fast. So are the swans who seem to
spend most of their time in the field, I am presuming they are snacking on the
new shoots.

Sometimes you can only see their heads. I made a few
sketchbook notes to get going again…
A tiny colour study..maybe something will come out of it..

Morning Glories and the White Goose.

It was the noise of them that woke me early… the sheer exuberant, cackling, honking, wing flapping  thrill of them.

The geese from the reservoir are circling the house, hundreds of them.  They are irresistible, uplifting and so on this peerless sparkling dawn I leave the house running, running down to the shore line to watch.

It is 6 o’clock the sun is just rising and the water is alive with birds. Squadrons of formation flying geese rise up and soar above my head. Banking to the right they are lit by the sun. Up, up up  they go, up to the stubble fields and back down to the water. Their wing beats are heavy on my eardrums. They are so low and so close.

How much I resent the leaden pull of gravity and how much I wish I was up there with them.  Flocks of screaming terns circle dive and glide, a lone black cormorant skims low and silent, its mirror image flying close and perfect in still glassy water.

There are flotillas of noisy ducks, solitary grebes who suddenly dive leaving nothing but small rippling circles and, in amongst all the noisy clamour, glide the beautiful swans, always regal and always aloof.

As I walk back the geese return again to the water, the air is thick with their grey plump bodies but in amongst them is one shining white shape.
One fat white goose .. I wonder if, like me, it saw these wild geese from its farmyard home and yearned to be up there too, winging its way to wild and reckless freedom.

Did it just occur to this bird that if it ran and ran, its comfortable lumbering body might be transformed into a thing of weightless soaring beauty, and it could be whisked up and away with that whirling gypsy crowd.
These beautiful magical early dawns are fleeting things, within the blink of an eye things change.

Turning for home I see the wind is rising, my shadow is shortening and the day becomes ordinary again.
But I kept thinking about the white goose and not ever wanting this lovely day to end or be forgotten I returned to the reservoir, but the geese were gone, replaced now by small fishing boats.
Disconsolate and unsettled I wandered the tracks and cycled miles on side roads and bridle paths, startling tiny muntjac deer, looking for bee activity and picking more plums before returning to the shore line.

Still no geese. I consoled myself by sketching  snoozing ducks and little terns squabbling on Tern Rock and finding a patch of sun kissed blackberries.

ducks grafham sept 1      terns grafham sept 1

Later at 5.30 I went out again, The wind was fresher still, the fishing boats replaced now by gay little white sailed yachts which were dashing about by the far shore.
At 6.00  flocks of terns came drifting in from the fields, and five Canada geese performed aerial acrobatics low over the choppy white topped water.  I sat on the grass wondering if the geese would return.

At 6.30 I came home.

At 7.15 I walked out to the yard and looked up to the stubble field and there, streaming in over the horizon, as dusk was falling, complete with their gleaming white companion came the geese. Happily I returned to the house.

But then at 8.00 I hear them again, honking, whirring and on the wing. We open the door to see them flying over the house. I run out again, I run through the tall crop and down to the water. A slender waxing sickle moon hangs in the sky and the geese are just dark shapes on the shining water.

My day is complete. Today I should have been in the car, driving, I should have been at the computer and I should have been doing a million other things.
But I decided they could all go hang!
Sometimes you need to look after your soul and when the days are dull and the demands of routine and duty are oppressive, the memory of the white goose and this sparkling day will keep alight that burning wild thing inside which is the essence of my being.

sun on the white goose

Morning sun on the white goose amongst its grey companions, Grafham Water Sept 1

A Few Bird Sketches, but am humbled by masters.

I have been working on the hypnorum painting today.. this is the second time I have started it. (First time around I managed to drop some paint on the pristine white paper when I was about half way through.. sigh).

I am also trying to resume sketching everyday and at 4.00 the weather was still  beautiful so I took a sketchbook out, determined to try to sketch some birds. Birds are not really my thing but I was so very inspired by seeing all the wonderful paintings at Birdfair yesterday.

I have never been to this event before, never seen so many bird paintings, never been seduced by so many alluring travel companies and by so much gorgeous techie birdwatching equipment.

There were some favourite artists there and the wonderful work of Darren Woodhead

He works outside on large sheets of paper and is an inspiration with stunningly beautiful watercolours which are loose and expressive with superb brushwork. He is a master.

My response today, resisting the urge to tear up everything I have ever done, has been to take out the smallest sketchbook I have and try to draw the birds on the reservoir… well, all I can say is, it’s a start. The grebes have two babies which are learning to dive.. sometimes they all disappear together.. they call to each other constantly.

grebes 1

My favourite terns sitting on, what I now call, tern rock. 🙂

tern rock

And swans looking swan like and beautiful.

swans 1

Maybe more birds and bigger birds tomorrow.. maybe not.

Shoreline Things at Grafham: Spiders, Snakes, Swans and Shelly Fauna.

The  reservoir shoreline is being exposed a little more every day as the warm windy weather continues. Rocks are left high and dry and thistles are edging relentlessly into fish territory.

The crusty edge of the land is developing the flaky cracks and deep fissures of a high baked loaf. Big sandy rocks interspersed with pebbles and shingly sand are splitting and crumbling.

The graceful weeping willows barely brush the retreating surface of the water.

crust      DSC02855

On the land side the bleached white world of shoreline stones and pebbles is patrolled by many tiny black spiders .. what they eat I cannot imagine?

They are skittish and shy and scamper about their mountain ranges casting spidery little shadows and stopping to bask in the sun from time to time.

spider 2


There are occasional well disguised little jumping zebra spiders too.

zebra spider

They, of course, pay scant regard to their ancient landscape but some of the intermittent shingle beaches seem to be almost entirely made up of lumpy fossil gryphaea, bivalve shell relics of another unimaginable age.

I read that the shore line of Grafham water exposes Oxford Clay which is comprised of :

…mainly brownish-grey, fissile, organic-rich (bituminous) mudstones with shelly fauna dominated by crushed aragonitic ammonites and bivalves, including nuculoid and meleagrinella shell-beds”


shelly shingle

It was in one of these shell beds I found a fossilised twiggy thing of some kind. It is curiously beautiful. The pith inside whatever it was is clearly visible and there is a leaf scar of some sort.  I know nothing about fossils at all but I do find it incredible that I can hold something in my hand that may date back some 154 to 159.4 million Years.


A rock had split to expose this beautiful frondy pattern.. How long has it been hidden?

split rock

Off shore there are lots of these:

swan 1

Sometimes regal and graceful and sometimes not.


And one day last week we saw a distant swimming snake.

It’s a startling sight, seeing this curious creature, one minute gliding through the water, the next slithering along the ground. It makes you catch you breath.
It was just a pretty banded grass snake equally at home zigzaging silently through water, as coiling around the rocks and pebbles on the beach. It was quite difficult to see, with just its head above the water. Sometimes it swam completely submerged.




I was even more surprised to see it later that day but much further round the reservoir. Both of us were startled.  I was photographing a bee which was investigating an old tree stump by the water when the snake suddenly appeared, winding itself round the base of the roots.


grass snake

I wish I had been quicker and been able to take a better photograph. I have not see it since.  Shore lines are so fascinating and, yes, there are bees as well. Taking advantage of the sandy banks for a nest site, an Andrena of some kind disappears down a hole, stalked by a ubiquitous, opportunist and sinister Nomada bee.

andrena bee      nomada sm

And we are still lulled to sleep by the humming house, the Mason bees are still busy.