Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Sunday 31 March 2013

Saturday 30 March 2013

Crepuscular spectacular

Yesterday I really felt that a corner had been turned, the wind was still chilly but on the branches leaf-buds are breaking and in the village churchyard the grass is full of newly germinated Sycamore seedlings . . . signs that nature is on the move.

Late in the afternoon the sun cast a warm glow across our garden, so we decided to go for a walk; we chose one of our favourite routes skirting a large wood, snow still lay in the shadow of the ditches.

It didn't take long before we spotted others enjoying the last rays of afternoon sunshine – a hare basks with his nose facing west towards the setting sun.

Hares are difficult to photograph at the best of times, but I managed to zoom in on this one – aren't its ears beautiful?!

And there goes another . . . racing along the skyline!

It was that time of evening when the deer come out of the woods to graze in the fields – a magnificent Fallow buck followed by three hinds.

In the fading light and against the brown fields they were difficult to see, let alone photograph. This group of female Fallow deer were on the other side of a tall hedge, I managed to find a gap through which to get a good view – they had spotted me!

You can clearly see the colour variation in the herd; the classic fawn and brown, and the very dark almost black 'melanic' variation.

The sky in the west was glowing brightly and we new we were in for a good sunset . . .

. . . gold . . .

 and then an extraordinary flare of colour – a Sun Pillar

Sun or Solar Pillars are the result of the Sun's rays being reflected and refracted by millions of ice crystals in the atmosphere.

You can read more about the hows and whys of Sun Pillars here.

A crepuscular spectacular! We couldn't have hope for more.



Thursday 28 March 2013

How to make an Easter Garden

I'll quickly mention the weather and then move on. Spring? well, it nearly happened for an afternoon at the end of February, but since then we've been plunged back into the grips of winter – the coldest March for 50 years. As the winds bringing the Arctic chill are nor-easterlies, that mean that here in East Anglia we're on the front line and although we haven't had as much snow fall, it is the bone numbing wind-chill that has prevented any progress in the vegetable and cut flower gardens.

It's unbelievable, but this weekend is Easter. And it was while I was longing to spend time enjoying spring flowers, that I remembered my favourite thing about Easter when I was very young . . . no, it wasn't the chocolate eggs or egg hunts or the Easter bunny . . . what I loved doing was helping my Gran constuct an Easter Garden in the village church.

Then I thought, why not make a mini version!
Here's how –

You will need: a tray, small rocks and some pebbles, some small low containers (jars and lids would do); sand or grit.

 Put the pebbles in the containers and fill them with water; arrange them and the rocks on your tray.

Collect some moss . . .

. . . and arrange it among the containers and rocks; make a path with the sand or grit, winding through the garden.

Now you need some twigs to make trees . . .

. . . find some with the leaves and blossom about to open and they will bloom for Easter.

Add some leaves, pushing the stalks among the pebbles in the containers, so they stay in place.

And now, add the flowers  – as I was doing this I remembered that the best thing about helping Gran make the Easter Garden, was visiting Aunt May's garden and being allowed to pick any of the beautiful Spring flowers that grew under the trees around her little wooden bungalow.

My Gran's Easter Garden was used to tell the Easter story and was complete with a rocky tomb and some lovely figures of the disciples, Mary Magdalene and Jesus, and (my favourite) a beautiful serene angel to sit inside the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning. But, it would look beautiful with little foil covered eggs hiding among the flowers and an Easter Bunny.
A little gardening fix, while we wait for Spring to arrive . . .

Happy Easter! 


Wednesday 20 March 2013

Cambridge . . . shhhh don't tell – there's a secret Ark

I didn't have any high hopes about today . . . the Tardis needed its annual service, which meant driving to 'car land' on the outer fringes of Cambridge and while the mechanics tinkered with its bits, I could use a complimentary pass to catch the bus into town . . . probably a whole day traipsing around in the cold and rain – quite frankly I wasn't in the mood.

But then, I remembered somewhere I'd been meaning to find for years . . . I had a plan!

After some errands in town and a brief uninspiring wander around the clothes department of John Lewis, I headed off to the Fitzwilliam Museum for 'elevenses' – a pot of tea and a Duke of Cambridge Tartlet (not a euphemism) –  I felt better already :-)

So then, let me take you down some lesser known lanes of Cambridge . . .

Retrace your steps from the Fitz, back towards town and on your left set back behind trees you'll find Little St Mary's Church. Go down the lane, stopping to look through the railings at the charmingly wild graveyard; and you'll find this building tucked away down a little side lane . . . it is, or rather it was, the Ark.

Between 1884 and 1984, this was the Museum of Archaeology and it contained a collection of hundreds of plaster casts of Ancient Greek and Roman statues; students of Classics and Art History could study life size replicas of all the great sculptures from antiquity . . . and I have very fond memories of spending hours sitting with my sketch book among the crowded dusty plaster figures.

The old Ark is now Peterhouse Library, so where did the largest intact collection of 19th century plaster casts of antique statuary get moved to?

Follow me, and I'll take you there . . .

Past the boatyard and down Laundress Lane to Silver Street and over the bridge . . .

Cross 'The Backs' and carry on straight down Sidgwick Avenue, lined with stately London Plane trees; and you will get to the Sidgwick Site – an eclectic mix of modern buildings which house the HQs of various faculties of the University of Cambridge.

I found a suitably academic looking information board and worked out that the Classicists HQ is in SO50, which just happened to be the building I was standing next to. I found my way to the door via some very low-key signage, but don't let that put you off – go through the glass doors and up the stairs and . . .

OH! good gracious me! you'll find yourself in the most amazing gallery filled to the gunnels with every classical statue you ever saw in an Art History text book . . . and many more!

And what's more, there are comfy armchairs that you can sit in . . . it's as if I'd stumbled upon Professor Mary Beard's personal sitting room! Do you think she's trying to keep it a secret so she has it all to herself?

 Well, for an hour or so today, I had it all to myself :-) it was pleasantly warm (not hot like in John Lewis) and beautifully light; it was quiet and peaceful – I sat among the statues. Someone (maybe Mary?) had thoughtfully typed out some classical verse in either Ancient Greek or Latin (helpfully translated into English for people like me who didn't do Classics) neatly laminated the pages and blu-tacked them next to the relevant statues . . . so very 'Cambridge'.

This little chap caught my eye . . . I think he's Mary's pet owl ;-)

When you're feeling calm and refreshed enough to return to the real world out side the Ark, it's only a short walk through the Sidgwick Site and out onto West Road; turn right and you'll see the iconic Cambridge view of King's College across the meadows along the River Cam.

I took my usual route into town, along Garret Hostel Lane (probably the first time I've ever seen it completely deserted!) and then down Senate House Passage – stepping in the footsteps of probably every person who has ever studied at Cambridge University over the past 800 years.

I was really uplifted by finding the new Ark . . . don't tell anyone, it's our secret . . . and Mary's ;-)


Sunday 17 March 2013

Phoebe's special day

Six year's ago today we bought four young hens.

We named them Ruby, Sylvie, Dawn and Phoebe.

Phoebe was the first to lay an egg; but she was the bottom of the pecking order.

Then the Spice Girls arrived . . . three young hens with outragious hair-dos, Phoebe pecked them!!!

Sadly Dawn, Ruby and Sylvie have died and are under the primroses in the orchard; I worried for Phoebe, how would she cope with being the oldest member of the flock?

So, last autumn when I decided to get three new pullets, I got Coucou Marans just like Phoebe . . . because I really believe that "birds of a feather stick together" and Phoebe would like to have the company of hens that looked like her (and her dear best friend Sylvie).

And . . . it worked! Phoebe has a new bounce in her step :-) she has young hens to aim a peck at and give a stare to that says "age before beauty!" . . . Phoebe is now a Dowager Duchess of Grantham among hens!

Over six years Phoebe has probably layed more than 1200 eggs, she layed this one yesterday. As always she took her time . . . about 2 hours! An hour to get comfy, then another to cuddle the egg and go all dreamy.

Today, we had a little celebration in the garden for Phoebe; I made a 'cake' (cooked rice, porridge, bread, seeds and yogurt, flavoured with Poultry Spice)

 I made sure Phoebe took the first slice . . . she grabbed it and ran!

She took it far enough away so that she could eat it in peace and none of the others would get it!

 And then Phoebe carefully wiped her beak on the grass :-)

It was quite a party!

We hope that we share many more days with Phoebe in our garden, she is the most amiable of hens and we love her lots!


Thursday 14 March 2013

And now we are six

Last year when Purple Podded Peas was five years old, I did a live blogging event – I can't think of anything to out-shine that but I thought the 6th anniversary of starting this blog should be marked somehow . . . maybe Cheep and the under-gardeners could help?

Filmed at PPPs HQ on 14th March 2013
Directed and filmed by Celia
Starring Cheep
with co-stars: Phoebe, Saffron, Ginger, Nutmeg, Holly, Ivy and Bryony

Whether you are a new visitor or
someone who's been popping in for years,
thank you for visiting PPPs
and here's to the year ahead . . .



Monday 11 March 2013

Light Night

In the previous post I promised to tell you about the Sudbury Light Night, an event to celebrate the artistic inspiration of the Stour Valley . . .

After two glorious Spring days earlier last week, the weather deteriorated and the forecast for Friday evening was dire . . . wind and heavy rain! Cliff and I went along prepared with waterproofs and umbrellas, luckily the heaviest rain held off for the time we were there but not surprisingly crowds were sparse, which was a shame because there were some intriguing things to see.

We met up with fellow Suffolk blogger, Su, inside St Peter's church; where there was a good selection of paintings and other artwork exhibited. After a few teething problems – and competing with the Market Hill street lighting! – the video projection on the tower got underway (well done to installation artist Jacky Hutson). It was pretty exciting to see some of my images so huge!

We then headed off towards the water meadows behind the Quay Theatre (luckily Su knew the way) further along, the route was lined with lanterns – really pretty – unlike the path which had become a quagmire of slippery mud!

We were just too late to see the painting tableau performance on the river bank opposite the Quay Theatre, so I can't tell you more about that . . . the crowd that were gathered seemed to have enjoyed it.

Onwards, through muddier mud, we walked to the water meadow along the River Stour; the trees illuminated with coloured light looked beautiful.

Lining the edge of the river bank (useful, so we knew when to stop walking!) were coloured lanterns . . . this must have taken ages to set up, but was very very effective.

Su and I couldn't resist poking around inside one of the lanterns to see how they were made – and we found they are amazingly simple to make: a white plastic bag with some holes cut in it, some soil in the bottom to weigh it down, and one of those led party table lights. Please do try this in your garden!

Our favourite thing was the flying swan lantern, attached to a small boat and with human-opperated flapping wings, it 'flew' low over the water of the River Stour . . . beautiful!

Well done to Managing a Masterpiece for conceiving a lovely event. I've put an album of photos on my Facebook Page here, and there is also a video of the projected images on the church tower and the swan.

Afterwards Su joined us for a hearty supper at The Black Lion in Long Melford, tucking our muddy shoes well under the table, we looked as clean and tidy as any of the other diners ;-)


Tuesday 5 March 2013

The source of inspiration

The southern boundary of the county of Suffolk follows the Stour Valley, from its western edge bordering South Cambridgeshire all the way to the coast and the North Sea. The landscape along the Stour Valley has been the source of inspiration of many artists through the centuries; probably the most famous are Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable who gives his name to "Constable Country" a stretch of the Stour Valley that runs through Dedham Vale.

'Dedham Vale, view to Langham church from the fields just east of Vale Farm, East Bergholt' by John Constable

The Stour Valley's unique landscape and heritage is very special, but it is also in an area of expanding population and infrastructure. Managing what happens to the landscape in the 21st century is crucial for it to survive as an inspiration for future generations . . .  Managing a Masterpiece is a 3 year project which brings together organisations throughout the area to "to conserve, celebrate and improve understanding of the Stour Valley".

There are many projects underway and planned for the future (I can recommend looking at the wonderful panoramic views from the church towers along the valley) and another event will happen this Friday (8th March 2013) in Sudbury, a small market town right on the River Stour and the birth place of Thomas Gainsborough; LIGHT NIGHT will celebrate the Stour Valley as inspiration for artists and writers through the centuries, in a series of light and video installation from the Market Square all the way down to the Quay Theatre on the banks of the River Stour . . . and I'm very excited because some of my linocuts and woodcuts will be included projected light installation on St Peter's Church tower. I'll try to take a video of it and show you next week.

Meanwhile, this has made me think about the landscape around my studio which is in the valley of the Stour Brook, a major tributory of the River Stour itself; I wondered where the source of the river is . . . there's an interesting web site about the Stour here . . . and I found that the main source of the Stour and the source of the Stour Brook are very close to each other on Wratting Common in South East Cambridgeshire. The Stour runs North before curving round to flow East and the Stour Brook flows from almost the same place, but South-West; the two channels join just before the village of Clare and then continue to Sudbury and on through Dedham Vale to the sea.

This afternoon I walked from my studio to Wratting Common, following the Stour Brook; on the way back I recorded the course of the stream in photographs, all the way back to where it passes our vegetable garden and flows past the end of The Wild Wood on its way to the North Sea . . .

The music is “Corelli - Concerto Grosso, Op6 no4”
(by Advent Chamber Orchestra) form here

If you couldn't view the video, you can also find it here.


Monday 4 March 2013

A few days away

It was our wedding anniversary last week, so we thought we'd go somewhere for a few days . . . we caught the train and four hours later we were

here . . .

. . . in Ghent, in Belgium. This is the view as we approached the city centre walking along the cobbled streets from the hotel; the three vast medieval towers rising high above the stepped gabled town houses.

The weather was cold, temperatures barely reached 3C for the whole time we were there; nor did we see the sun, clouds wrapped Flanders in a grey cloak – the colour palette was muted and subtle with accents of red tiles or green railings – like stepping into a winter scene painted by Avercamp or Bruegel.

At night the illuminated buildings looked like the points and picots of Belgium lace against the black sky and reflected in the water.

Despite the cold we walked all around the city and found lots of places to visit and things to see.

10 things to do in Ghent when it's flipping freezing!

Go to a classical concert in the breathtaking medieval hospital hall at De Bijloke.

See the Van Eyk brothers' "Lam Gots" (the Ghent Altar Piece or Mystic Lamb) in St Bavo's Cathedral

and also being cleaned in the restoration laboratory in the Museum of Fine Arts

Look at lots of cool stuff in the Design Museum

Learn stuff about all sort of stuff at MIAT

Laugh at the films of bands and drum majorettes in The House of Alijn

Have dinner at the Pakhuis

and a vegetarian gourmet banquet at Avalon

Stumble upon a lovely place for lunch

Buy a jar of mustard and a red nose.