In Search of Fox Hill

18 October 2017 // Art //Walking

Clare Wadd goes in pursuit of a south London scene, 146 years after it was captured by the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro.

Camille Pissarro, ‘Fox Hill, Upper Norwood’, 1870. Oil on canvas, 35.3 x 45.7 cm. (Image via The National Gallery.)

In the National Gallery one grey Saturday afternoon, I find myself drawn to quite a small, unassuming painting. A winter’s scene. I’ve not been aware of it before and I don’t know who it’s by or where it’s of. I look more closely. It’s a steep hill, with snow on the road, and which kinks to the left, houses on both sides, a large tree on the right, and three figures in the foreground, small and barely noticeable at first glance. Almost half of the picture is sky, pale blue and cloudy, mixing with the smoke from one of the chimneys. Camille Pissarro. ‘Fox Hill, Upper Norwood’. Which seems odd, because why would Pissarro be painting the south London suburbs? I buy the postcard, stick it on the fridge, and glance at it now and then. (more…)

Infinity Cove

17 October 2017 // Landscape

At the edge of England the land ends suddenly in high chalk cliffs. From the beach at Cuckmere Haven, they stand like frozen air, silent above the waves that are gradually undermining them. Here the landscape seems timeless, reduced to its basic elements: rock, water, air and sunlight. But the cliffs have a remarkable history and an uncertain future. They continue to inspire painters and composers, photographers and filmmakers, poets and nature writers. In his book Frozen Air, one of our two Books of the Month for October, Andrew Ray explores the Seven Sisters to consider the meaning of this extraordinary landscape.

I have said that white buildings can denote power, but they also have more uplifting associations. When I think of sleek white modern designs I picture them against an azure sea or a cloudless sky: catamarans and cruise liners, Concorde and Cape Canaveral. In Sussex, white is the colour of the Art Deco terminal building at Shoreham airport, opened in 1936, and the low white curve of Saltdean Lido, built further along the coast in 1937-38. Entering these we leave behind the heavy confusion of daily life and experience clean, light spaces that connect us to the elements of air and water. The cliffs have this quality too. (more…)

Where the Wild Winds Are

16 October 2017 // Walking

An extract from Nick Hunt’s Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe’s Winds from the Pennines to Provence, introduced by the author:

Where the Wild Winds Are tells the story of walking the invisible pathways of four of Europe’s local winds – the Helm, the Bora, the Foehn and the Mistral – to discover the effects they have on landscapes, people and cultures.

The book begins in the Northern Pennines, where I went in search of the Helm – Britain’s only named wind – which howls from the top of Cross Fell with enough force to destroy stone buildings in the Eden Valley below. The wind is announced by a long white cloud named the Helm Bar, which hangs above the top of the fells in an otherwise empty sky…

I was looking at the sky as I stepped out the next morning. Cloud was smeared haphazardly across the lower atmosphere, as if abstractly painted on the air, in no particular pattern that I could see. There was nothing resembling the Bar, and certainly no distant roar. But the wind was nipping from the east, and its taste was cold. (more…)

Herons: a poem by Marc Woodward

15 October 2017 // Poetry

Grey as the watery dawn,
wet with the guts of frogs,
the blood of moorhen chicks,

Ardea Cineriae:
ghosts upon the foreshore,
patient for fish and history.

Separate and sentinel,
misplaced milestones, attendants
to the helicoidal flow

which undermines the river bank
(the sliding snake that slowly
eats the water-meadow). (more…)

Cubby’s Tarn

14 October 2017 // Photography

A gallery of photographs by Joseph Wright, from the forthcoming book and exhibition Cubby’s Tarn.

In Joseph’s own words: ‘John Cubby entered my family’s lives the year I was born, 1963, whilst he was working as a stockman on the farm my parents were working and living on at the time. Subsequently, visits to Grizedale to spend time with John after he had become a Wildlife Ranger would leave a lasting impression on me. Experiences that would find their way deep into my conscious being and influence my love of the woodlands and countryside, helping shape the person I am today. As such it was inevitable that I would choose Grizedale to return to when searching for a location to create a body of work that explores ‘our’ relatonship with the woodlands. In the process I created a body of work that explored the ‘spirit of place’ I encountered on first visiting the tarn – my own personal eulogy to the life of John Cubby’. (more…)