26 Sep- Northam Burrows
Driving along alone, tide coming in, I open my window and catch cows’ sweet scent.
I arrive at the tip of the Burrows, and sit quietly, looking out across the estuary to Appledore.
An elderly woman drives up and parks right next to me, her car radio playing quite loudly. I would like her to go away, but she doesn’t. Eventually a man drives up, and both he and the woman open the backs of their cars, allowing two large dogs (dogs are ubiquitous in this area) to jump out, and they all move off together.
I get out of the car, breathe fresh sea air, look around before setting out myself. Close by there are “doggie bins” for the disposal of dog excrement. The bins are overflowing and there is much litter of filled and torn plastic bags piled around them. I refrain from cursing the situation, for I have finally learned this only makes me feel bad. (But I just thought I would mention it!)
The tide is coming in fast. I explore the saltmarsh closely, watching the fast-running tide creeping along its network of crevices and hollows… listening to the gradually increasing hypnotising watersound.
27 Sep – Fremington Quay – a woodland path alongside the river (known as the Pill).
What is it about footpaths through the woods that irresistibly draw one to follow and see what is at the other end? Even if it leads only to a 5-barred gate or a main road. The dreaming is well worth the journey, I say.
This is not so much woodland, but more a narrow strip of trees running between the Pill on one side, and human habitation on the other.
Sheltered, screened and protected by trees from weather and humans, I am aware of falling leaves,
winds of late September
I think of ideas for
sculptural work, brilliant of course – but
not here. It is too public.The wind grows
through the trees I see water running
small boats rising and falling.
This landscape, like most of the planet, has all been used before by humans. Ruins – narrow sunken pathways, broken walls and rusty old ironwork – are all entangled with the wild greenery that surrounds me. Being still fairly new to the area, I am intrigued by what might have gone on here in recent history, before it all got overgrown and buried. I will find out.
I glimpse houses alongside. Always part of my mind is aware of their proximity, even though the trees and undergrowth give a sense of peace and seclusion. I feel constricted.
Never very far from other humans, I hear loud women’s voices carrying quite a way through the trees. Dog walkers apparently… The women are busy with important gossip, but I block their path as they approach, so they are obliged to stop and say ‘hello’ to me.
28 Sep – Watersmeet, near Lynmouth
Watersmeet is owned by the National Trust. It is a fabulous area of waterfalls, rocks and woodland on the edge of Exmoor, where two rivers meet and rush in torrents through deep dramatic valleys. Nine of us came together here for one of our Essential Nature walks. Basically Essential Nature is a group of creative people inspired by nature, and who enjoy exploring the local landscape together. It all started with an Art Walks project I ran a few years ago.
As landscape lovers, we first of all made for the Tea Room, where I had a cream tea (a big freshly-made scone with copious quantities of whipped double Devon cream and strawberry jam, together with a large mug of tea) even though it was only 10.30 in the morning.
It is difficult to find words to describe the grandeur and sublime beauty of the Watersmeet gorge, and the power of the water racing through towering tree-covered hills. It was intriguing for me to compare this landscape with other areas that I have come to know well, a little further down the coast. There were similarities, but here, everything was bigger, faster, more dramatic. The trees seemed twice the size, and twice as densely covering the hills all around.
I felt small, held within the power of nature, and at the same time – after my more usual experience of the constrictions further along the coast – I could physically feel my skin begin to relax a little, and my whole being seemed to expand.
You can see more of our lovely walk in my next post, Walk at Watersmeet, where I have put a few of participants’ images and words, made on the spot.
29 Sep – Torridge Estuary between Appledore and Northam
I explored my usual haunts along the waters edge, before taking the pathway leading back to town. I met a woman with a collie dog. He wanted me to throw his stick, which caused me to drop my bunch of pencils all over the ground. The woman and I talked for some time… about the way the path curved into the distance, and about the trees and how attractive their shadows looked in the sunlight.
It felt slightly weird, though in a nice way, because I don’t normally have this sort of conversation. The woman told me about a big barn owl with huge saucer eyes, who frequents this particular area, and how mysterious and silent and amazing it was as it glided between the trees.
Now, back home, I open my sketch book and the beautiful scent of three wild rose petals wafts into my nostrils, sending me straight back to an era of childhood bliss I had completely forgotten (if it ever existed). The petals are deepest pink and heart-shaped. Their scent is pure and intoxicating. I have also picked a few nettle leaves for my tea – also a yellow ivy leaf and a bunch of ginger pine needles off the ground for… I don’t know what! Perhaps for inspiration or to remind me of the colour and vitality of this place, this walk, these vitally important moments.