Well I had a good time at the festival meeting up with old friends who I haven’t seen in about three years due to the Covid Pandemic. I work every Glastonbury as a member of the Recycling Team and receive free vegetarian food, a rather nice camping field and our own massive marquee serving local beers, ciders and evening entertainment, we also get the festival ticket for free too! All in all we spend just over a week here and when we first arrive there is no public on site so it’s great to see open fields and no crowds.
It became alive when the festival opened and I managed to make the most of the late nights and also discovered new places I haven’t seen before. Strummerville, named after Jo Strummer of The Clash who used to make camp here, with it’s sofas, camp fire and reggae music. The Bimble Inn in the early hours was fantastic with it’s weird eclectic bands, real ale and Lord of the Rings vibe. Arcadia with it’s laser display and Spider were impressive along with Shangri-La and it’s twilight alternativeness!

On returning home from the festival a few of us quickly came down with the dreaded Covid and am now suffering from the usual fever, headaches, lack of taste and smell. This lack of taste and smell has now changed, so everything now tasting like rancid coconut and burnt electrical cable.
I haven’t placed brush to canvas for a long time due to family matters and now Covid but I hope to regain the fire soon! Al


Another Biddie Black this time of Greencliff near Abbotsham in North Devon, painted on thick cartridge paper 700 x 260mm. and above is a video of removing the tape along with some of my guitar music to keep it company.
It is at Greencliff where I obtain my black pigment after walking down the winding coast path, past the old lime kiln and scrambling over the pebble ridge. On this particular day it was quite warm so I spent a lot of time here sketching and taking photos. I was asked by someone on the beach, was I digging for Bideford Black as they had read about it? I confirmed their suspicion and showed them where it was collected along with my black hands as evidence. I love this part of the coastline as it’s very secluded and quite a suntrap, ideal for evening BBQs. Someone before me had dug out some pigment and left the cliff in quite a state with a gaping hole this I made good with more mud and pebbles. You know what they say, ‘Love the beach leave no trace!’ and that includes litter.


A spur of the moment decision to drive up the coast to Lee Bay and hunt for more sea glass with my wife. She’s making jewellery at the moment so we’re making the most of the great weather. Not too much of a haul today as the tide was in but still there was glass to be found.
This was followed by a visit to the Grampus Inn for wine, beer and sandwiches. This pub makes it’s own gin and beer and I must say the ale was superb! Al


A trip out to Abbotsham to visit Greencliff and restock up on some Bideford Black pigment. What a marvellous day it turned out to be as the weather was forecast to be rather grey. It was an easy walk down to the Lime Kiln and then down onto the pebbly beach. There were a few picnicking couples enjoying the solitude and breath taking views along the North Devon Coast. I found the black seam and removed some of the dark claylike material, someone had been there before and left a hole in the cliff, this I made good with some rocks and clay to prevent any more erosion or collapse. After washing my hands I walked up and down the beach sketching and taking some pictures for further paintings, I then sat and admired the view in the Spring sunshine!

In search of the elusive Bideford Black Pigment otherwise known as Biddiblack.  Running alongside seams of anthracite across North Devon is a black clay-like material that was mined for 200 years in Bideford for its uses as a strong black pigment. The unique ‘Mineral Black’, or ‘Biddiblack’ as it was known, was commercially produced for applications in the boat building industry, for colouring rubber products, for camouflage on tanks in WWII and was even bought by Max Factor for the production of mascara. The mines were closed in 1968 when the production of cheaper oil-based blacks and the depletion of the seam made the operation financially unviable, but many locals still remember the ‘Paint Mines’ and have tales to tell of using the paint or going into the now defunct mine shafts.  Today it’s revered by artists who love it’s inky black non reflective properties.  It first has to be dried, ground and then mixed with a medium such as PVA or Gum Arabic.  Looking forward to making my own now and seeing what images I can produce.  

Most of the information above was from a very informative website called The story of Bideford Black.

Below is the view looking back towards Abbotsham Cliffs and Westward Ho. In the far distance you can just make out Saunton Sands Hotel on the horizon.


Westward Ho! 24 x 30″ acrylic on canvas. A painting of this North Devon beach, sunset at low tide. Often during strong tides old timbers from ship wrecks and pebbles become exposed, now and again land mines laid down during WW2 appear too. This painting isn’t quite what I imagined it would look like when finished, I lost heart with it during the second sitting but decided to see it through for a learning experience. So this is it you win some you lose some! Al


A great day in Lynmouth and not too busy, the tourists must be at the beach! We spent a few enjoyable hours again looking for sea glass and found some great finds, even a few rare blue pieces. We then met up with friends who live in nearby Lynton and imbibed in some coffees overlooking the beach; a couple of surfers were enjoying a clean left hander. Then followed some beer and wine at the Rising Sun Pub on Mars Hill. As with yesterday the sea mist swept in cooled the air and stole the light, a planned visit to the Watersmeet Tearooms for a cream tea with whortleberry jam was abandoned, it’s a hard life!


An enjoyable four hours searching for sea glass amongst the rocks and crevices of Lee Bay and Sandy Cove. A little sun was to be had at time but sadly the Grampus was closed until later in the day. We had a little fun leaving Lee along the very narrow farm roads, having to reverse when oncoming cars approached. Finally the sea mist, which is quite common at this time of year, bought a chill to the air so it was time to return home.


Another day with my wife Donna hunting for more sea glass. A cold but wonderful day walking in the spring sunshine on secret beaches looking amongst the tideline stones for jewels. A lot of the rock formations here are somewhat reminiscent of the paintings by Roger Dean. Finally this was finished off with a cream tea and latte at Watermouth Harbour at a café called Storm In A Teacup.


A few beaches visited today with my wife. Broadsands, Hele Bay & Ilfracombe and you can tell the tourist season is almost upon us. At Broadsands a gang of Sports Direct clothed lads were there with disposable BBQs, packs of beer & larger. When they were finished they walked away leaving this beautiful beach like a toilet! The trouble was they weren’t the only people to do so! The adjoining campsites should be held responsible for the clean up!