After so much pleasure and fulfillment, a day of discovering my own company. I haven’t been out on the motorbike for almost a month and so today, despite heavy clouds and strong winds, I packed, trundled the bike from the back of my house, and went out. After passing through Clifton, Bristol to drop off a broken amp and buy a small watercolour kit and paper, I went against the current of the Avon, under the suspension bridge and left the city by the south road towards Weston-super-Mare. I followed my nose. The bike was smooth and I felt like a child again, swooping and flicking the front round pot-holes and puddles. I eventually ended up in the Mendips, south of Priddy, above Wells, on a hillside above Lower Milton. There was just room enough to park the motorbike by a stile that lead downwards. I locked the bike up and mounted the stile. Ahead of me, the hill dropped down, bordered by a line of hawthorns along the ridge, and a tunnel of hazels interspersed with tall ashes below. My eyes lifted to the horizon to see the distant Glastonbury Tor gazing back at me.
I walked down, a little awkwardly in motorcycle boots and headed for the trees at the bottom. I could see a stream flashing out from beneath the low canopy, so climbed over a fence alongside and sat against the base of one of a pair of massive ashes that stood alongside the water. This is what I saw:
I lit my smoke and opened my new watercolour kit. It is a Windsor & Newton Sketcher’s Pocket box. Inside, there was an excellent and detailed folded instruction leaflet that I read whilst I smoked, the sound of the stream and nearby sheep increasing my sense that I had found the right place.
The instructions suggested that I begin by sketching an outline. This, I did:
I dipped the seed head of a flowering grass beside me into the stream at my side to wet the paper.
I then applied my first set of washes, left to right, as instructed:
I added in the next few stages of darker washes:
While that deep blot of green mid-left dried, I went for a stroll.
The stream delved down into a cleft that led downhill amongst yet more hazels and ash. I had to dip and clamber through several thickets until a clear path appeared that followed the stream, only deer-prints suggesting any other visitors here. It is an enchanted place, verdant with self-seeded plants at the feet of their mother trees, ripe with the mushroom-like fragrance of ancient boughs decomposing in the cold, moist air. I found a lurid chicken-of-the-wood mushroom to take home and cook:
A black cat appeared from nowhere, slipped across my field of view and disappeared. For a moment, I thought I saw a deer in my periphery and my senses sharpened. They then heightened and my whole spine tingled in caution as the image resolved to this:
A decaying chair. A sinister throne with its ghastly sitter momentarily absent. I leapt across the stream to take some other shots:
The feeling that I got seemed to suggest that now was a good time to leave. I headed directly up the bank
I walked back towards the shadow of the trees, past a rope swing, and added the finishing touches to my first ever concerted attempt at a watercolour. I used the stream to rinse out the palette,
then added what I could to finish the painting: