Upcott Folly Sunset.

Not many more of these warm evenings left this year as the cool Autumn air begins top sweep up the River Taw. Wonderful to be sat under a large oak tree watching the slowly unfolding sunset, even the foxes were out dodging between the grazing sheep. This is the ancient folly overlooking Upcott Vale near Pilton, Barnstaple, North Devon.

The happiest view in Britain.

I spent an enjoyable afternoon walking from Hele Bay to Broadsands Beach along a magnificent stretch of the South West Coast Path. This is probably the last of the warm Summer days to be had before the Autumn chill hits the coast. I had a chat with a lady and she mentioned that the above view was voted the happiest view in Britain. Sadly this used to be a quiet, secret beach, now it is annoyingly buzzed with swarms of noisy jet skis and coastal sea safaris. Surely this must have an impact of the wildlife here, it certainly has an impact on people who want a peaceful experience!

Stompie Garden Bermondsey.

We were visiting London for the weekend to see our daughter Amelia in her first West End Performance so I decided to finally visit this Soviet built T34 tank at Mandela Way in Bermondsey. It was early Sunday morning my wife was asleep and I decided to get out early, hire a Boris Bike, and head out across the city to visit this tank.
A pleasurable cycle across Blackfriars’s Bridge and down to Elephant & Castle. After a few near death experiences I arrived finally at Stompie Garden. There was a garden with a few beer cans strewn around and I spent an hour taking pictures of this relic still smelling of diesel. According to Wiki,
‘This tank is a former Czech army tank that is said to have taken part in the suppression of the Prague Spring uprising in 1968. Following the “Velvet Revolution” and the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, it was decommissioned and sold, and was used as a prop in the making of the 1995 film Richard III in London. On completion of the film, it was bought in 1995 by Russell Gray, a local scrap dealer, for £7,000 as a present for his son. He had previously failed to secure planning permission from Southwark Council to a vacant plot of land that he owned; and so, in an act of humorous protest, he placed the tank on the site, with its gun turret turned towards the council offices. He had previously allegedly obtained permission for the installation of a “tank” there, assumed by council officials to mean a septic tank. The tank is nicknamed after the South African anti-apartheid activist James “Stompie” Seipei.’

Above left is a pink Russian T34 in a park in Elblag Poland. It commemorates the battle between the Red and German Armies in 1945. Each year school children paint this tank in an act of peace.

Whilst I was there a few locals passed and smiled and a Russian came by with the same intent and we both laughed about the situation we thought the tank was smaller than we had realised. Finally I mounted my trusty Boris Steed and cycled back through the coffee shops and narrow lanes of Bermondsey, back to the river, across London Bridge and via St Pauls made it back to Blackfriars. I must say next time I’m here I’m going to hire a bike and explore the bars and shops deep into the South Bank area.

Watermouth Cove to Broadsands.

An enjoyable visit to Watermouth Cove today. We parked in the harbour then had tea and cake at the Storm in a Teacup Cafe. The we walked out to the point and back along the coastpath. From the path you can see over to Broadsands Beach, down to Combe Martin and see Little and Great Hangman Cliffs in the distance. There were many paddle boards and kayaks out on the water and the cliffs were strewn with campers. You can tell foreign travel is off the cards this year. I find this a very picturesque stretch of the North Devon Coast so will go back to sketch and take more pictures in view of a large painting. Below is a link regarding the Hangman Cliffs which are the highest sea cliffs in England.


River Yeo to the Taw. Now in the bin!

This acrylic painting is of the River Yeo at Rolle’s Quay in Barnstaple, acrylic on panel 770 x 400mm. I’ve attempted to capture that storm ridden summer sky and the murky tidal water. At the end of this painting I made a hideous schoolboy error when varnishing the painting. When I had a final look I noticed that the titanium white on the roof hadn’t quite dried and had bled right into the whole painting!!! All the blacks were now grey and muddy, reluctantly I reworked the contrast of the painting and subsequently saved it from either the bin or a repriming with gesso. What a mistake a to make!
Well update from the previous paragraph. After revarnishing the painting I was again unhappy with the overall uniform darkness of the painting. After a few adjustments I lifted the panel off the easel, and in anger deeply scored it with a Stanley knife and snapped it in half. This is now in the bin where it should have been in the first place. When you purchase paintings from artist just remember sometimes we spend hours of wrestling with paintings only to fail at the final post, it is these that you never really see. Al

Paint stained nails
That I can never seem to clean
Grips a can and a match
If you know what I mean
To ignite that wasted effort
Nothings been so hard
Now to burn a lifetime’s failings
In the seclusion of my back yard

Linhay on the marsh revisited.

What to do on a Sunday with a spare canvas and some hangover enthusiasm.  Go out and paint one of my favourite scenes on the Braunton Marsh.  Acrylic on 16 x 20″ canvas.
   This is what the Explore Braunton website says.  No two linhays are the same, although most are of square or rectangular shape.  Some have become dilapidated but around 30 still stand today. The one which attracts the most attention is the round linhay, a grade II listed building on the edge of the inner marsh road, which has been thatched and provides endless photographic or even painting opportunities.
I visit this site many times throughout the year and each time it’s slightly different. Sometimes the water in the drain is crystal clear full of sticklebacks and at others fully of weed and cowslip plants. Local swans often glide past along with large dragon and neon blue damsel flies. In the winter it’s always quite bleak here hence the wind blown trees, all in all I prefer the spring/summer seasons.
Below are two pictures I’ve photoshopped from a quick cycle around the marsh today.

Cycling into the storm.

Moving swiftly on a painting entitled ‘Cycling into the storm’ 600 x 600mm acrylic on panel. This painting is of the many beach huts that line the Tarka Trail at Instow. I was cycling on the Trail near the Cricket Club when a massive summer storm swept up the River Torridge towards me, quickly I took an image on my phone and this was the result. I remember the cyclist speeding by trying to get to shelter before the rain came. On the left you can see the secure boundary fence of the Instow Arm Camp and just out of frame to the right the old railway crossroad that leads down the Instow Beach.

Evening Primrose at Crow.

I attended an interesting walk and talk arranged by the Braunton Countryside Centre about the Second World War and the Burrows. I sketched a quick picture of the waterside as I’ve never seen so many Evening Primrose plants in flower. Quite an unusual light this morning quite humid, it reminded me of that Monsoon type light. I was amazed at the amount of Evening Primrose in bloom, the flowers looked even brighter against the dark sky.
This morning there was an enjoyable walk arranged by the Braunton Countryside Center it was about the Burrows and it’s World War Two usage for the D Day Landings. Many Americans were trained here for beach assault the person who lead the walk and talk was by Richard Bass a WW2 Historian from the Assault Training Centre Friends. If you can get onto one of these walks it’s well worth the effort. Al


Braunton Countryside Centre are on both Facebook and the net!