Monday, 16 February 2015

Snowdrop Mania at Colesbourne Park

I made my first visit to the magnificent Colesbourne Park yesterday, quite unprepared for the scale of the park, and numbers of different varieties of snowdrops growing in huge drifts.
The snowdrop collection was started by Henry John Elwes 1864-1922, while traveling, he found some snowdrops in Turkey which he brought back to England in 1874, and named them Galanthus elwesii. He continued to collect snowdrops afterwards, and planted them in the grounds of Colesbourne Park where they remained undisturbed for 60 years, until his great grandson Henry Elwes and his wife Carolyn began to identify and divide them, and add to the collection.
There's a well labelled path through the grounds taking the visitor through woodland, beside the blue lake, to the churchyard and the walled garden where you'll find smaller clumps of snowdrops, identified by good sized, clear labels.
My friend, Sue and I, walked through the wooded bits near the car park where the snowdrops seemed to go on forever :

 We then homed in on particular varieties such as:
 G. 'James Backhouse' above, apparently originally came from the Backhouse nurseries in 1875, and which I bought at the shop.

 Above G.'S. Arnott' growing very vigorously, I bought that last year from North Cerney Gardens.

 Above G. 'Lady Beatrix', very distinctive flower shape.

 Above loved G. 'Lapwing', the outer petals stand out like hooped skirts.

 I loved the one above for its green striped petals, it's called G. 'South Hayes'.
The Cyclamen coum were also delightful whether in swathes, or planters:

Here are a couple more lovely planters:
and this one is empty, but still beautiful:
In addition to the walks, and the snowdrops, there were refreshments in the hall and a plant sale where I bought the following snowdrops:
 G. 'hippolyta, described as 'fully double', and highly scented
 Above G.'James Backhouse' very vigorous looking.
 And G. 'Nivalis Vindapice' chosen for the green tips to its petals.
In addition to the scent of the Galanthus, there was winter flowering honeysuckle and box, I didn't expect so much perfume in the air.
While wandering around the named varieties, we came across the Head Gardener, Chris Horsfall,
he was photographing clumps of snowdrops, but keen to chat about the job of managing the park.
There are 2 weekends left to visit the Galanthus, look up the details on their website:
If not already, you'll be a galanthophile by the time you leave.

The William Blake Exhibition at the Ashmolean

This exhibition runs until March 1st, so time is running out to see it.
I visited last Thursday, and was surprised by how many other people were there in the gloomy conditions of the exhibition where many artefacts and pictures had been gathered together.
I photographed a banner outside, as there were no photographs allowed inside the exhibition, and just as well really because there were so many people looking round an intimate space. I should have done my homework on William Blake before attempting the exhibition; it's superb, but I would have got more out of it if I'd looked at some of the images beforehand.
So what other temporary exhibitions are there at the Ashmolean?
Gods in Colour - Painted Sculpture in Antiquity runs until June 14th, and is well worth looking at  because it turns on its head our notions of good taste in sculpture; garden gnomes would not have looked out of place in those days. Here's Alexander in 320BC taken from a sarcophagus:
And the coloured reconstruction beside the uncoloured soldier:
Close up of the red sash and breast plate decoration

 Here's a copy of a boar from Rome, known since 1509 and probably made for a garden. After the crowds at the Blake exhibition, it was a joy to be one of the only two people walking round this exhibition, and we were able to have all questions answered by the person in attendance in the room.
Next I looked at Ed Paschke's exhibition, again no photographs,but you can look at the website by clicking on his name.
From there to Hiroshige's Japan - Fifty three stations of the Tokaido.
Hiroshige established his reputation in the early 1830s with this print series depicting scenes along the major highway linking cities of Edo and Kyoto. He used a newly available Western pigment known as Prussian Blue to depict water and sky, this brilliant blue was particularly effective when applied using a printing technique called bokashi, which allows subtle colour gradation.
We were fortunate enough to be there on the day when the Curator of Japanese Art, Dr Clare Pollard was giving a talk, finding the first talk at 2pm full, she kindly offered to repeat the talk at 3pm. It was a great experience to be shown round the exhibition by such a knowledgeable and enthusiastic curator. I have included two photographs, firstly 'Desolate Winter Scene at Hamamatsu' which amongst others depicts porters warming themselves by a fire:

And the 'Suruga Bank of the Oi River near Shimada' where people can be seen crossing according to their station in life, either wading through the water, being carried by a porter, or in a carriage.

 Dr Pollard had fabulous skirt depicting various scenes including Mount Fuji which was of course very apt:
After the talk, I went down to the shop to buy the book on this exhibition, it had sold out in the hour I'd been at the talk, so have ordered it online, and in the meantime been lent a book by Steve, who came on the trip, it's about Hokusi, a forerunner of Hiroshige, published in 1970. The book is very sniffy about Hiroshige, so I'm really looking forward to learning more about the Hiroshige v Hokusi spat.
From there, I had a quick look at a few favourites in the permanent collection. There are lots, but here's a few:
 Above an ornamental panel designed by William De Morgan (1839-1917)
And below, a model for a relief cast in silver which was mounted in a cabinet door by Sir James Frampton (1860-1928)
And I come back to this time and again:
 It's entitled 'Mary Magdalene it was made in 1926
The Hiroshige exhibition is the first in a series, I'll look out for the next one.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Vu:Du Opening Night a Great Success

I was going to add the photos I took at the opening night of Celebrating the Town Gardens in paint to the previous blog post, but think it needs a new post.
It was a fabulous evening, lots of people turned up and really enjoyed the art, meeting the artists, the venue, the ambience and the complimentary drink.
The event was organised and driven by Caroline Day , with lots of enthusiasm from the other participating artists who have spent lots of time in the Town Gardens, including Susan Carr , Terry Humphries  Jane Milner-Barry, Nadine Gould and Tim Carroll.
Here are the photos taken on the night, firstly general views of crowds of people:

And a couple of paintings of the rose garden:
 Above Jane Milner-Barry's painting, 'The Rose Garden in Winter' and below 'Melting Snow in the Rose Garden' by Susan Carr
 And a general view of a wall:

And below 'Summer by the Bandstand' by Caroline Day
 And below a print of Tim Carroll's 'Sunday Afternoon by the Bandstand'.

Do go and have a coffee and look at the exhibition at Vu:Du in Victoria Road near the Swindon Advertiser offices where Shay Barry will give you a warm welcome.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Walking from Laugharne to Pendine along the Beach

Situated beside an estuary, it's not immediately easy to see how to go for a circular walk for the day. However having looked at 2 OS maps before leaving, it seemed possible to walk from Laugharne along the wall, and out to the beach and onto Pendine sands and to the village of Pendine.
Another glorious day, with sand stretching in front and behind:
There were many shells washed up:
 The odd jellyfish
And quite a few plastic sculptures:
It was sheltered by the sand dunes and difficult not to fantasise that it was mid summer, the sun was so strong and it felt warm. It was when we stopped for lunch that I realised I'd left the maps behind, so having arrived at Pendine, we had to try and make our way back to Laugharne along National Cycle Route 4.
Keeping the sea on our right, we couldn't really go wrong, although I hadn't heard of a village called Red Roses, the only option on the signpost at one point, but had to believe it was on the way back, which it was, thank goodness. The first lambs I'd seen this year were happily gambolling about:
 There were also lots of wind turbines up on the hillsides:
And on the third day in Laugharne, I looked again at the Boathouse and took another photograph of the amazingly situated house:
If you haven't been to Laugharne, give it a go, although apparently the sun doesn't always shine quite like it did last weekend.

A Couple of Nights at Brown's Hotel in Laugharne- an ambition realised

It's quite true what Dylan Thomas said about Laugharne: 'and there is nowhere like it anywhere at all';  having visited three times for the day, I was keen to stay for a longer time. Over the years, I've read several biographies of Dylan Thomas and some of his poetry, and loved the Richard Burton reading of Under Milk Wood, and wanted to imbibe more of the atmosphere of Laugharne.
Brown's Hotel is reputedly where Thomas drank, so I was thrilled to be staying there for what turned out to be the most sparklingly bright and sunny three days for months. You can see the bright blue sky in many of the photos:
and on down the road to the The Town Hall, Laugharne is apparently one of the oldest self governing townships in Britain, the Corporation is presided over by the Portreeve wearing his chain of golden cockle shells.
 And from there I noticed a silversmith advertising that the shop was open, and within half an hour of arriving in Laugharne, I'd bought a fab bangle from Quicksilver Jewellery, from a silversmith whose son has recently moved to Swindon and loves it because he could afford to buy a house, enjoys being able to cycle locally, and has a job near where he lives. It's well worth a visit if you like hand designed silver jewellery:
From there it's a short walk to the estuary with the imposing castle, there's been a castle on the site since 1116.
 I took lots of photographs of it, and think it's worth including them

From there we walked to the converted garage where Thomas wrote, and which has been left as if he's nipped out for a smoke, although of course he wouldn't have gone out to smoke in those days.
Just beyond the garage is the Boat House where he lived with Caitlin and their children from 1949-53
There's a great walk around the headland and coming back through Laugharne churchyard where Dylan and Caitlin are buried, she was interred after her death in 1994, 41 years after he'd been buried there:
Our first visit coincided with Caitlin's burial, we saw the coffin being lowered into the ground.
We walked out along the wall constructed into the estuary to reclaim land at Laugharne and create the marshes on the first day, and saw an amazing sunset as we climbed St John's Hill back to Laugharne
And back to Brown's Hotel.
Since posting this, Susan Carr has allowed me to use this fabulous painting she did of the boat house when she stayed in Laugharne.

She has captured the atmosphere so well.