July 4, 2014
Arching mounds of bramble, flowering spectacularly now, on the shingle beach landscape of Romney Marsh. Dipsacus too, form a different prickly statement – more upright but equally statuesque, around the lagoons of fresh and salt water. In July, echium erupts through the herb layer and Epilobium hirsutum shows off the small clear pink florescence on lanky stems in damp situations (at the water’s edge) but also seems at home in dry and inhospitable ground. Denge Marsh, a part of the whole, lies well sheltered behind the storm beaches of Dungeness Point and, houses man made and quite sculptural statements, sound mirrors, (click to find out more) not so visible from a distance . . .
A strange discovery on writing this post as 12 months ago to the day, I posted on Dungeness. No swimming on that day – weather looks a little hazy. But under clear skies on this visit, architectural forms stand out clearly. The coastguard look-out, covered in scaffolding, can be rented . . .
. . . and round the point a ‘bouillabaisse’ where gulls feed off the fish attracted by the outlet from Dungeness B – a motley collection of concrete forms without any architectural merit – totally brutal.
Winching cables make half hidden serpentine patterns by the east facing shoreline. Derelict boats and sheds are gently cast adrift over across the shingle . . .
. . . one vessel is anchored beside the black frame of Prospect Cottage. The seeded crambe makes a good composition . . .
. . . gorse is just green now and the cotton lavender a mass of yellow buttons.
Bye bye for this July 4th. Across the pond, a poem in celebration.
June 16, 2014
The Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve has over 267 hectares of ancient woodland, heathland and grassland together with 3 miles (5km) of cliffs and coastline. Set within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, most of the park has been designated a Special Area of Conservation, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is a designated Local Nature Reserve. All this sets the scene for the peaceful and also should go someway to explain the problem that is occuring and identified at the end of this post. I thought to walk from Fairlight Place, down Barley Lane where the verges are full now of a natural tapestry (the dog rose are especially glorious now – the oaks always) offering views through to the pasture only occasionally . . .
. . . which make them special.
Warm weather following months of rain mean wonderful growth on all plants. The interface of verge to stream to grasslands and meadows merge sublimely. Pieces of construction that are manmade are mainly of galvanised material . . .
. . . but sculptural elements that emanate from nature are there too.
Some organised by man and some where nature is in control.
Ivy exploring the oak, ash and sycamore make interesting organic compositions in Covehurst Woods and then the big view
opens across Lee Ness Ledge to Dungeness.
Turning up the track into Long Shaw and the meandering incline to Dripping Well, clumps of ferns are looking spectacular. The ancestors of these were dug up, potted up and taken by train to Covent Garden market in Victorian and Edwardian times. The sound is of gushing and falling water. and the visual is lush foliage, dappled shade, patches of sun and, on this occasion, a single fox with a light brown coat, just pausing unperturbed on the path to watch and gauge before disappearing elegantly into the
The westerly end of the Country Park at Ecclesbourne Glen is less peaceful recently. The owners of Rocklands (caravan park) have erected a ‘bunker’, removed trees (which may have caused a landslip and therefore the closure of paths) and increased the number of mobile homes directly interfacing the park landscape. This has been done illegally but the owners have applied for retrospective planning which they may well obtain. The ‘bunker’ has been constructed on the footprint of a single storey building and so obstructs the pleasing views that locals and visitors were able to enjoy. As the council are custodians of the Country Park, we feel aggrieved and have received little useful communication. A peaceful protest in the form of a Sunday picnic was organised and enjoyed by 200 folk who love the park and appreciate not only nature but also this particular and special coastal environment. No representatives, elected council or from the government joined us. The ‘bunker’ is shown below and then an image of festive picnic. And someone made a video of the proceedings and the story to date (thank you Bob + Peter). Click and listen - it’s worth it. Ah, little stone – how simple life should be.
How happy is the little Stone
That rambles in the Road alone,
And doesn’t care about Careers
And Exigencies never fears –
Whose Coat of elemental Brown
A passing Universe put on,
And independent as the Sun
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute Decree
In casual simplicity — Emily Dickinson
February 15, 2014
After yesterday’s big weather, slightly calmer this Saturday. Down at Rock- a- Nore (very delicious oyster, thank you, Sonny), the gulls are oblivious to the traffic problems of closed off car parks due to pot holes in the tarmac and the layers of pebbles washed over the interface of beach promenade as they sway overhead enjoying the rhythm of the bands of the westerlies – all elemental. Us humans just trudge around talking about it all.
Cones of strong sun landed on the fore shore within this episodic concerto . . .
. . the old pier stands its ground for one last storm before the renovations change its appearance and perhaps its use. How many storms has it witnessed? I find it more beautiful at each sighting and try to absorb the vision so that it’s not forgotten.
Back in St Leonards, the sky to the west grew thrillingly ominous making me rush in to listen to Martha Argerich (most marvellous and Argentinian to boot – the queen of pianists) playing Prokofiev. Oh, can I get to Aix and the Festival de Pacques to hear her live. No, sold out – stupid me as I saw the poster advertising it way back at the start of January. Imbécile. . . .
Now this big westerly’s
blown itself out,
let’s drive to the storm beach.
A few brave souls
will be there already,
eyeing the driftwood,
the heaps of frayed
blue polyprop rope,
cut loose, thrown back at us—
What a species—
still working the same
curved bay, all of us
hoping for the marvellous,
all hankering for a changed life. Kathleen Jamie The Beach
February 2, 2014
Not France but Eastbourne – mature holm oaks near the Towner Gallery – great gnarled trunks topped with stupendous heavy canopied foliage that reveals metallic undersides in the blustery weather. Plenty of these trees still line the streets in the old town and match in well with the vernacular pebble and flint of free standing walls and buildings. Up above town on Beachy Head, hawthorns just cling on but beautiful in their own tough, stringy habit. We were all doubled up struggling against the weather this afternoon . . .
. . and the clouds put on a vivid, visual and aural symphonic performance. All to be admired.
Even here on the chalky landscape, standing water slopped around our ankles.
Small, humble markers usually crosses are placed at significant points and a plaque with a telling verse from The Psalms erected by the Samaritans presumably (sorry for the quality of the shot). I thought about Plath immediately on arrival. Not from the obvious connection but I think that I see, read or absorb her work as environmental – related to the elements as against the emotions – so more meaningful in the big picture and less personal in the narrow view. It suits me like that I guess.
On the way back, the marshes around the Pevensey Levels, are a more than usual watery landscape . . . worse for others elsewhere, unfortunately for them.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow
Splits and passes, sister to
The brown arc
Of the neck I cannot catch,
Berries cast dark
Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
Hauls me through air—
Flakes from my heels.
Godiva, I unpeel—
Dead hands, dead stringencies.
And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.
The child’s cry
Melts in the wall.
Am the arrow,
The dew that flies
Suicidal, at one with the drive Sylvia Plath Ariel
December 7, 2013
This morning, the horizon shimmered with a low misty layer. The sea appeared to be exhaling in long slow sensuous breaths into the huge sky above. The contrast of this light show (orchestrated by the universe) to the raw, stubbly texture of the newly ‘cut’ hedges (massacred by man) was quite powerful. . . . .
. . . . although the colours of the landscape here in the Country Park, now are mostly earthy and restful, flashes of brilliance appear on the top of the gorse and from the berries of the stinking Gladwyn iris – poor plant to have to bear this detrimental tag . . .
. . . but holding its own against the encompassing mass of bracken fronds looking now like shredded brown paper bags. Attractive in appearance, the bracken masks its true nature - pernicious, invasive and opportunistic.
Scrub oaks and small sweet chestnut are more prominent visually on this sloping coastal terrain. A flock of birds showing as black specks add to the graphic quality of the composition. I feel a stranger in my surroundings. When I look to the horizon from this rather gentrified landscape, I want to know what is happening beyond and elsewhere in the world. I should feel lucky in comparison with those caught up in violent conflict as the poem intimates.
The seasons are sharp and divide the look and feel of the landscape. It becomes very different worlds when the seasons change. Elements are exposed; then covered, hidden and secret. I think again and again of Ravel’s sentence: Music is the silence hidden between the notes.
Was it widthways or lengthways,
a quarrel with the equator?
Did the rawness of the inside sparkle?
Only this is true:
there was an arm on one side
and a hand on the other,
a thought on one side
and a hush on the other.
And a luminous tear
carried on the back of a beetle
went backwards and forwards
from one side to the other. Monica Alvi How the World Split in Two
November 23, 2013
The Great Dixter Christmas Fair is held this weekend. After a wander around the stalls set up in the house, a chance to wander around the garden for the last time this year – for most of us anyway. In the Barn Garden, the fig, now bare, stretched out to take as much of the winter sun as possible is a thing of great beauty . . .
. . I find the piles of compost and mulches and the stacks of felled timber equally beautiful in a functional sense.
The clipped buxus by the front of the house have a melodious form. Fergus has tackled a hebe in a similar manner; I’m not sure about this aesthetically or is the formal European treatment of a New Zealander that disconcerts me? Interesting though. Looking through the archive, I find a post from last November (written a couple of weeks earlier in the month) where a shot of the oast and the border in the Blue Garden is almost identical . . .
. . . Dixter is a strange mix of the vernacular and the strength of form and texture in the planting – some contemporary. Very close to the hovel (above) in the Exotic Garden is a great explosion of foliage and vertical, soft and furry buds on a tetrapanax. No sign of the new dogs today, but Titch was around craving attention and receiving much affection. . .
. . across the Cat Garden, behind the Long Border, seedheads are slowly turning to biscuit tones . . .
. . but the Long Border itself still has spots of colourful fruits and lingering flowerheads – delicate in composition. And opposite, the mulberry too shows delicacy in its form and texture.
As does this grouping in the corner of the Vegetable Garden looking across the Orchard . . .
. . . by the Horse Pond, great stands of gunnera slowly collapsing after their performance. Applause and much appreciation.
What’s green is going, taking
with it the last hiding-places
of the light, its spills
The trunk of the one wild cherry
ink black, like the swan’s neck,
its leaves sharp scarlet beaks.
The land’s flayed bare by its reckonings
with the century –
torn off a strip,
like the sod that Private Harry Farr
The moon pins its white square
of flannel over the heart.
Dawn drips its slate-light
across the field,
scratches another name
on its sum of wonders. Alison Fell November (6) Lightyear
(Harry Farr was a young Yorkshire soldier shot in Flanders for so-called desertion)
November 15, 2013
At low tide, looking across Nook Drain, the tussocky forms of Atriplex portulacoides (sea purslane) are revealed carpeting the marsh extents of the River Rother. A hidden landscape at high tide. Foragers will collect the seed for pesto or something more complicated . .
. . looking to the west across the wader pool, an area of John Gooder’s saltmarsh habitat, the teazels retain their presence. Humans can consume the seeds as a remedy for Lyme Disease but they are much needed by winged foragers as the temperatures drop. Looking again at these photos taken early afternoon, I realise how deceptive they are. In reality the river path through the wildlife reserve was thick with folks enjoying a stroll in the sun – and why not – but my interest lay to the landscape and the eclectic elements within and also in the distance. The large built mass of the power station at Dungeness is just hovering on the horizon in the image below . . .
. . closer at hand is one of a pair of WW2 blockhouses and, of course, the much photographed red roofed hut. How many coats of paint or bitumen has this received over the years? The end of the path is blocked now as construction work is being carried out to the long timber river wall but it’s possible to trudge and slither down the pebbles on one side and gain access to the beach . . .
. . . and discover the groynes in many shapes, formats and materials.
Soft textures working their way across the steel and natural stone as well as sculptural man made hummocks of concrete. On the ground there are watery imprints of the tide as it leaves the last surface – sand.
October 27, 2013
First glimpse of the harbour arm this morning down at The Stade and once passed the fishing boats the rainbow colours are left behind . . .
. . if I’d chosen B+W these images couldn’t be more graphic. Great turbulent sea.
Even the puddles have a marine quality – this one looks like a large turbot. Nipping into Sonny’s at Rock – a – Nore turbot wasn’t on offer but no matter as his display looked mouth watering as always.
Battling up the shallow incline of The Old Town High Street to see Drawings Inspired by Great Dixter Gardens which had some resonance with the bare bones of the stormy weather. Large charcoal compositions that ignore one of the attributes that Dixter is famous for – the variety of colour within the planting palette. So, a brave decision, but one that many are appreciative of.
Artist and gallery owner in deep conversation and an idea of the scale of ‘Echo’, the largest piece. Listen carefully and you might hear nightingales . . . .
. . I rather like these shots where other pieces are reflected to form layered compositions. I also rather like it when our garden clients come along and make a purchase. Very good choice, James.
It’s been a weekend devoted to gardens. And devoted to gardens with yew hedges that provide a still and calming presence. Yesterday was spent at Sissinghurst when we talked a lot about control. How to convey sense of place and mood when writing about gardens. How to describe the character of plants successfully. How to dig deeper and also how to edit. Today, there is no control and hence the choice of poem, but it was a close run thing with Robert Frost.
The sea awoke at midnight from its sleep,
And round the pebbly beaches far and wide
I heard the first wave of the rising tide
Rush onward with uninterrupted sweep;
A voice out of the silence of the deep,
A sound mysteriously multiplied
As of a cataract from the mountain’s side,
Or roar of winds upon a wooded steep.
So comes to us at times, from the unknown
And inaccessible solitudes of being,
The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul;
And inspirations, that we deem our own,
Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing
Of things beyond our reason or control. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow The Sound of the Sea
September 22, 2013
To the west of Aix-en-Provence, is a site that forms part of ‘Sur les Pas de Cézanne‘, if you are a tourist but is also a splendid place if you are a resident. I was very taken with this well built welcoming wall but someone else, quite small, charged off to see what happened beyond the far gate. The gate was quite lovely and well designed – everything was looking very promising until we hit the visitor’s centre . . .
. . . peering into the entrance through bars, we discovered that unfortunately we’d missed the only slot of the day for a guided tour. This happens at 9.45am but only on certain days. So I am grateful to Louisa Jones + photographer Clive Nichols for these scans below taken from Mediterranean Landscape Design – a wonderful book – of the scheme. Philippe Daliau (ALEP Agency) has created fine and sensitive interventions within the exposed stone providing a walk over differing surfaces with differing treatments – timber, metal -where views are encapsulated and framed by angled mass of the rock – some hewn and some natural.
Wandering through just part of the 7 hectare site that provided stone for the building of Aix (up to the end of 18C), we came across individual stone landscapes. In a certain way, it’s like a lost world but then in another, it’s seems well used. Rock climbing at a novice scale, mountain bikes carefully controlled, joggers, picque niques and large family get togethers and 4 legs all jostling together in a merry fashion.
Scrub oak, arbutus, pistacia lentiscus and pine form the major structural planting with some cistus, rosemary, euphorbia and rambling lonicera in the sunny patches . . .
. . framed views of Mont Sainte – Victoire and the barrage Zola taken while we lounged around on a rocky outcrop – an indulgent pastime for a Saturday morning and why not?
And moving on we find a built structure, not a cabanon that Cézanne might have used during his time drawing and painting here . . .
. . but a building that encouraged interaction and it had with a great view. Can’t take my eyes off the landscape.
The Irish lady can say, that to-day is every day. Caesar can say that
every day is to-day and they say that every day is as they say.
In this way we have a place to stay and he was not met because
he was settled to stay. When I said settled I meant settled to stay.
When I said settled to stay I meant settled to stay Saturday. In this
way a mouth is a mouth. In this way if in as a mouth if in as a
mouth where, if in as a mouth where and there. Believe they have
water too. Believe they have that water too and blue when you see
blue, is all blue precious too, is all that that is precious too is all
that and they meant to absolve you. In this way Cézanne nearly did
nearly in this way. Cézanne nearly did nearly did and nearly did.
And was I surprised. Was I very surprised. Was I surprised. I was
surprised and in that patient, are you patient when you find bees.
Bees in a garden make a specialty of honey and so does honey. Honey
and prayer. Honey and there. There where the grass can grow nearly
four times yearly. G Stein Cézanne
August 31, 2013
Small jetties stretch into Bahia Redondo of Lago Argentina laying west of the centre of El Calafate. The town is small in relation to the size of the lago – and nowhere near as interesting but then it doesn’t purport to be anything but a base for visitors exploring the glaciers. I’ve looked at these images many times and resisted using them in a post mainly as I have a feeling that pics are done and dusted when added to the narrative . . . don’t want to let these go . . .
. . . Laguna Nimez and Laguna Secondaria gently embrace the marshland and the dune landscape of the nature reserve in an organic formation and, in quiet contrast, to the urban grid of the paths, roads and the geometric building mass of the town. We came across this young lad smothered in a patch of anthemis covering land destined for development . . . .
. . . and then immersed ourselves in the wetland area - with these larger inhabitants.
Typical vegetation of Berberis heterophyllus and ‘neneo’ Mulinum spinosum. The small furry foliage of Senecio patagonicus forms the ground cover. El Calafate was named after the berberis (calafate) bush - the landmark plant where the stage coach stopped.
Calafate puro or jam is totally delicious and makes a good ingredient for ice cream. Song birds and small rodents feed on the berries too. So bog standard berberis that we use freely in supermarket planting schemes has, after all, a more personal quality. Good.
Without resorting to lists – Snipe, Chilean flamingoes and black necked swans pad about and dip their beaks and necks into this watery ecosystem and the rush bird is also active within the reeds. Finches, sparrows, wrens and mockingbirds find protection amongst the calafate bushes. It is a list of course.
Rather out of focus but fitting in with the colour background is a long tailed meadowlark. A pair of young buzzards scan the ground for promising food. Other things fly here . . .
. . and early snow cover sits on the peaks in the Bernardo O’Higgins National Park to the north.
Hummingbirds and blackbirds and two great poets. Poems to read and absorb in tough times.
And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so
One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
and Lays in it and settles down to nest.
Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,
Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.
And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time
From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth
Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in love’s deep river,
‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,
A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.
Seamus Heaney St Kevin and the blackbird
is a water-spark,
an incandescent drip
the hummingbird is
in the air,
a body of pollen,
or hot coal,
I ask you:
What is your substance?
Perhaps during the blind age
of the Deluge,
when the rose
in an anthracite fist,
and metals matriculated
each one in
a secret gallery
from a wounded reptile
some fragment rolled,
a golden atom,
the last cosmic scale,
a drop of terrestrial fire
suspending your splendor,
on a nut,
fit into a diminutive blossom;
you are an arrow,
honey’s vibrato, pollen’s ray;
you are so stouthearted–
with his black plumage
does not daunt you:
a light within the light,
air within the air.
Wrapped in your wings,
you penetrate the sheath
of a quivering flower,
that her nuptial honey
may take off your head!
From scarlet to dusty gold,
to yellow flames,
to the rare
to the orange and black velvet
of our girdle gilded by sunflowers,
to the sketch
little supreme being,
you are a miracle,
from torrid California
to Patagonia’s whistling,
You are a sun-seed,
a petal of silenced nations,
of buried blood,
of an ancient heart,
submerged. Pablo Neruda Ode to the Humminbird