four seasons in one day…

Thornham saltmarsh, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Thornham saltmarsh, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Rain, sun, stormy, bright… apart from snow, I experienced the full gamut of weather conditions yesterday at Thornham on the North Norfolk coast. It makes for interesting photography but renders sketching out in the open a bit tricky. Plus, it was really cold and windy.

Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Rain over Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

As I arrived at Thornham bonfire smoke was drifting in over the marsh with the sun illuminating marsh pools and reedbeds. I started walking along the sea defences from Thornham towards the dunes at Holme, having been stuck at a desk with various urgent tasks all week I was desparate to get out.

At one point I was sat on a bench in beautiful warm sunshine with a great elevated view overlooking the bird reserve lake and reedbeds. Then the rainclouds came over and drops started falling on my sketchbook. It looked fantastically dramatic though!

Viewpoint with handy bench! Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018Viewpoint with handy bench! Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Viewpoint with handy bench! Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Skeins of geese were noisily flying over as the weather front was quickly blown eastwards and the sun came out again. I took the opportunity to walk over the dunes to the shore for a quick glimpse of the sea (always a tonic in the winter), then headed back the way I came, anticipating the next squadron of rainclouds that I could see on the horizon.

Holme dunes , Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Holme dunes , Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Thornham creek, North Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Thornham creek, North Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

The old coal barn at Thornham was lit up in the sun against the brooding sky, with boats and wooden staithes poking up along the creek next to it. It’s a captivating subject although my sketch of it was pretty rushed and a bit blobby!

IMG_4462

Old coal barn, Thornham, North Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Old coal barn, Thornham, North Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Old coal barn, Thornham, North Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Early autumn sketching at Thornham reedbeds…

Another recent walking and sketching day at Thornham on the Norfolk coast. This time I concentrated on the entrancing light, colour and movement in the reedbeds as they subtly change with the approaching autumn.

Looking over the reedbeds towards Holme church from the raised banks around Ragged Marsh is one of my favourite views. The wind rustling through the silvered stems and purple-grey feathery heads is very calming. I used mainly watercolours with just one abstract using the brush pens that I mentioned in the last post.

I also did a watercolour sketch of the otherworldly ‘stumps’ looking out over the creek and marsh.

I remembered my camera this time and even caught a starling murmuration as well as the odd rusted artefact!

Reedbeds and reflections…

River Wensum at Sculthorpe Nature Reserve © Mari French 2017

River Wensum at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve © Mari French 2017


Delighted to discover a new reedbeds landscape this week, this time at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, just outside Fakenham. It’s only 8 miles from my home but although I was aware of it, I haven’t visited before (a mistake), as I normally head for the north Norfolk coast and the saltmarshes and reedbeds there. 

Sunday was a blustery and changeable early spring day, with scudding clouds and more bright sunshine as the day unfolded. The reserve is larger than I thought with extensive winding boardwalks providing comfortable and easy exploration. Lots of benches too. I had my camera with me but no sketchbook, which I’m going to put right on my next visit (soon). 

Untitled. Mixed-media on paper © Mari French 2017

Untitled. Mixed-media on paper © Mari French 2017

Birches embracing, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017

Birches embracing © Mari French 2017

Mere and reedbeds, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017

Mere and reedbeds, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017

Reflections and bridge, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017

Reflections and bridge, Sculthorpe Moor © Mari French 2017


I loved the variety of habitat – white birch trunks standing out against the furze of woodland, the meandering river Wensum, its banks lined with pollarded willow, catkins already out, reedbeds and open meres (with great views from several hides). Lots of birdsong, which you’d expect in spring in a place popular with birdwatchers. Speaking of which, the peace and quiet was more noticeable and welcome given that any visitors encountered were talking fairly quietly being there mainly for the birds and wildlife.

Untitled. Mixed-media on paper © Mari French 2017

Untitled. Mixed-media on paper © Mari French 2017


Movement of wind in the reeds and bulrushes, sparkling sun on the water, movement of branches, reflections, fenceposts punctuating the reedbeds … these obviously all fed into my subconscious because a few days later in the studio, after some experimental markmaking, I produced these mixed media on paper pieces, which I’m rather excited by! (And yes, I did see some interesting birds).