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.

Friday 22 May 2015

May time on Mersea Island

You may remember that at the end of last year I blogged about our visit to Mersea Island in winter, today we returned ... it's our nearest seaside, an hour and a quarter drive away, and one of our favourite places for a relaxing day out on the coast.

Today we explored East Mersea, the smaller of the two villages on the island...

Our first stop was Mehalah's for lunch, a delightful relaxed restaurant specialising in local seafood. There were shelves of cook books and local history books to browse through while the chef prepared the food. 

The name may sound exotic but it's actually named after the eponymous heroine of a novel written by the local vicar Sabine Baring-Gould in 1880. I haven't yet read the whole story but it begins with a lovely description of the Mersea Island landscape - the whole novel is free online.

After our lunch, Cliff had crab salad and I had scallops and chorizo, we set off on a walk along the sea wall - an earth bank that prevents the North Sea from engulfing the island at high tide.

On the inland side of the bank, cows grazed on the lush meadows.

On the most easterly side the island are cliffs, we walked along the beach at this point as the cliff top path has been closed for safety reasons.

Can you see the wooden posts in the water? These are polders, brushwood fences which trap the silt which is suspended in the water and hopefully create mudflats which will slow down the waves and therefore protect the island from further erosion. It will be interesting to see how this landscape changes over the coming years.

As you can see, the cliffs are eroding pretty dramatically. The crumbly sandy silty clay layers contain fossils of animals which once roamed the area ... including hippos!

Past the cliffs and we were on a shingle bank with mud flats behind, another fragile environment... and home to adders.

We turned inland, through a caravan park (almost deserted, the lull before the Bank Holiday!) and walked along a leafy lane to East Mersea church, dedicated to St Edmund the martyred East Anglian king.

The palm tree in the churchyard is evidence of Mersea Islands mild climate.

Inside the church is surprisingly light and plain, but it's an ancient place - Roman building materials were reused in the walls. The first recorded rector was Martin De Bockinge in 1200 but the most renowned was Sabine Baring-Gould, if you hadn't heard of his novel Mehalah before today you will have undoubtedly heard of another of his works... the hymn 'Onward Christian Soldiers'. He also wrote a memoire in which he described his Mersea Island parishioners:
"Essex peasants are dull, shy, reserved and suspicious. I never managed to understand them, nor they to understand me." 

Also in the church were some rather nice needlepoint hassocks depicting local birds.

Before heading home we went to another favourite place, the Art Café in West Mersea, for tea and cake. And a couple of treats - a plant (I couldn't resist a bargain) and a pork pie from the butchers for our supper.

Whatever you have planned for the Bank Holiday weekend I hope you have fun


Sunday 3 May 2015

May Gardens Illustrated – and The Artful Hare

I've now completed three linocuts for Gardens Illustrated magazine . . . I work about two months ahead of the publication date. I showed a behind the scenes look at my working process last month, so I won't repeat that each month but I thought I'd show you my sketches and a few thoughts.

For his May article, Frank Ronan writes about leaving his English garden untended and the joys of May in England when every ditch, verge and hedgerow looks beautiful.

The heading 'Momentary Magic' alludes to Frank's mention of
"the 'little moment' that Shakespeare spoke of" . . . so, if like me, your knowledge of the bard's works isn't as in depth as Frank's; this refers to Sonnet 15. Before starting work on ideas for the illustration I copied it out in my sketch book.

I then spent a happy afternoon drawing detailed drawings of the wildflowers mentioned in the article.

I considered including a Dunnock (also known as a Hedge Sparrow) but he didn't make the final version  . . .

Yesterday Cliff and I went for a walk along undulating chalky/flinty paths on the West Suffolk/Cambridgeshire border. The verges were spangled with Stitchwort just as described in Frank's May article for Gardens Illustrated (there's a nice article about Frank in there too).

Early May really is a beautiful time to enjoy a walk in the English countryside, yesterday we walked through Bluebell woods and along field verges awash with Cowslips.
We were also lucky to see a number of hares, one was sitting washing its whiskers only a short way away form where we sat eating tangerines - and of course it was the day I wasn't carrying my camera! but we both had binoclars so we enjoyed quietly watching.

Which brings me onto this . . . The Artful Hare is a beautiful hardback book compiled by Alan Marshall, of images of hares by British printmakers

including me . . . 

Alan and Marion called in to my studio with some boxes of books which are available to UK customers only (sorry but postage costs don't allow for overseas shipping) via my online shop.

Wishing you all a happy May Bank Holiday weekend and if it rains the gardens and fields will look all the greener!