reed-fringed pools… spangled light…

Recent walk and sketching in early spring sunshine (and Baltic easterly!) at Burnham Overy Staithe, on the north Norfolk coast.

Reed-fringed pool, sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2017

Reed-fringed pool, sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2017


It was spring half-term so there were quite a few groups of people about and the usual dog walkers. Always happy when a dog bounces up to inspect what I’m doing 🙂 The sunlight through the reeds and spangled reflections in the pools was a joy to observe. Handily placed benches help too!

Reedbeds, Burnham Overy Staithe. © Mari French 2017

Reedbeds, Burnham Overy Staithe. © Mari French 2017

Burnham Overy Creek & breakwaters © Mari French 2017

Burnham Overy Creek & breakwaters © Mari French 2017

Abstracting the creek © Mari French 2017

Abstracting the creek © Mari French 2017

 
Tide retreating, Burnham Overy Staithe © Mari French 2017

Tide retreating, Burnham Overy Staithe © Mari French 2017

Returning to the car my attention was caught by large flocks of smaller birds lifting up into the air en-masse from the grazings, although the larger geese didn’t seem bothered. I stopped to use my monocular and spotted a Marsh Harrier swooping along the edge of the field and hedgerow, flushing the birds out. It swept swiftly up and along a few times then landed out of sight, possibly with a catch. I was hoping I might have caught it on my photos but it was too fast.

Birds flushed by harrier, Burnham Overy grazings © Mari French 2017

Birds flushed by harrier, Burnham Overy grazings © Mari French 2017

it’s a cold wind …

Brilliant sunlight but Baltic winds almost turned me back from sketching at Thornham today. But, wrapped in about four layers of warm clothing, including Russian-type hat, I persevered and managed a couple of sketchbook spreads. 

 

Old landings stage and channel markers. Sketchbook, Mari French 2016

Old landing stage and channel markers. Sketchbook, Mari French 2016

 
Plenty of skeins of geese overhead and landing in nearby fields, especially the small dark Brent geese which have such an odd but appealing call, a kind of ‘ruff ruff ruff’, like dogs. One of them left its sky borne flock and circling round, landed close by, pottering in the marsh grass for a while, completely heedless of me sat there sketching.  

 

Brent geese, Norfolk coast

Brent geese, Norfolk coast. Mari French 2016

 
 
Cold wind and sunlight, Ragged Marsh, Thornham. Mari French 2016

Cold wind and sunlight, Ragged Marsh, Thornham. Mari French 2016

 

Just love the way the small creeks and pools reflect the clear blue sky amidst the golden tobacco colours of the winter marsh grass, with the upright but skewed channel marker posts scattered in the distance. Will I ever tire of this?

  

Brent goose, Thornham Marsh. Mari French 2016

Brent goose, Thornham Marsh. Mari French 2016

   

mud larks …

 Mudflats, low tide, Overy creek. Sketchbook, Mari French 2015

Mudflats, low tide, Overy creek. Sketchbook, Mari French 2015

I don’t actually walk across the marshes themselves; unless you’re extremely familiar with them that could be pretty risky. But the raised grassy banks of the sea defences that traverse the Norfolk saltmarsh coast, provide convenient access and elevated views across the marshes, reedbeds and creeks and out to the dunes and beaches. 

They also provide excellent walking opportunities; topped with good paths, they stretch for miles, crisscrossing the marshes between the string of coastal villages and, in places, linking up with official walking routes, such as the Peddars Way and the Norfolk Coastal Path. In summer the sea defences are bordered with a profusion of wildflowers, framing endless views. Even on the wildest winter days, there are usually a few hardy dog walkers or bird watchers about. Nevertheless it is still possible to get a sense of isolation and wilderness.

 

Burnham Overy creek. Mari French 2015

Burnham Overy creek. Mari French 2015

 
Thornham and Holkham are my usual sketching areas, but I sometimes go a few miles further east to Burnham Overy Staithe, which, with its moored sailboats, breakwaters, extensive sandy flats and grazings, offers an alternative sketching location.

Last Wednesday, although cold and windy, was bright and sunny and not wanting to waste the rare winter sun, I threw my sketching gear in the car with a simple packed lunch, and headed up through Burnham Market, through the lovely village of Burnham Overy and out to the Staithe and creek.

 

Breakwaters, Overy creek. Sketchbook, Mari French 2015

Breakwaters, Overy creek. Sketchbook, Mari French 2015

  
The tide was low and retreating, the wind strong and cold, and the clear sky reflected back off the wet mudflats where the creek had emptied, turning them into a blue expanse, scribbled with the tracks of birds and sinuous rivulets of water.  
Reedbeds with geese coming in. Mari French 2015

Reedbeds with geese coming in. Mari French 2015

  

Large flocks of small dark Brent geese, with their distinctive mutterings, clustered on the winter grazings. Curlews called and the wind brushed the burnished silver reeds into undulating waves. Out on the retreating creeks, redshank and cormorant. In the distance, murmurations of starlings like shadowy twisting veils.