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!

seed heads and mussel shells …

Beach at Holme Dunes, November. Mari French 2015

Beach at Holme Dunes, November.

After days of wet, miserable weather, one morning this week was unexpectedly bright and sunny, so shelving my plans for a day in the studio, I threw my sketching bag and warm coat etc in the car and once again drove up to my favourite escape place, to Thornham saltmarshes on the North Norfolk coast, 12 miles from my home.

It was windy and cold, but wrapped up warm I relished the brilliant blue sky and the tobacco and purple colours of the salt marsh. Apart from gathering inspiration I wanted a good walk, so decided I’d follow the sea defences a bit further previously, around Holme Dunes Nature Reserve to the west, through the pinewoods and out onto the beach.

Saltmarsh, Thornham, November. Mari French 2015

Saltmarsh, Thornham, November. Mari French 2015


Thornham creek and marsh, sketchbook. Mari French 2015

Thornham creek and marsh, sketchbook. Mari French 2015

 

Reedbeds, Holme Dunes. Mari French 2015

Reedbeds, Holme Dunes. Mari French 2015

The path along the top of the sea defences is great for walkers and bird watchers, offering a panoramic view of the marshes and creeks with their birdlife, out to the sea beyond. It passes large swathes of reedbeds on the way, which this time of year are silvery and blurred with seedheads catching the sunlight and the wind. The only sounds were of the wind in the reeds, curlews on the marsh and Brent geese with their guttural barking, grazing out on the fields.

Reedbeds, Thornham, November. Mari French 2015

Reedbeds, Thornham, November. Mari French 2015


Reedbeds at Thornham, sketchbook. Mari French 2015

Reedbeds at Thornham, sketchbook. Mari French 2015

 

Boardwalk, Holme Dunes. Mari French 2015

Boardwalk, Holme Dunes. Mari French 2015

The latter part of the walk is on boardwalks looping over the sand dunes and towards the pinewoods around the reserve (these boards sometimes appear as scraps of corrugated card embedded in my mixed-media landscapes). It was mid-afternoon by now and I followed the sandy path through the firs and out onto the vast stretch of beach.

Holme Beach, footprints. Mari French 2015

Holme Beach, footprints. Mari French 2015

 

Holme Beach, groynes.

Holme Beach, groynes. Mari French 2015

The sun was bright but low giving long shadows and the wet strand reflecting the sky with the colours of a mussel shell. Soon dark bruised clouds were piling up on the horizon and it wasn’t long before they began to cover the sun, bringing a sense of dusk early to the day. I walked out onto a sand bank (the tide was still retreating otherwise this would be a seriously stupid thing to do), to get a closer look at the remains of a line of groynes battered by the waves. I’m always attracted to any graphic elements that appear like this in an otherwise low flat landscape, they give many possibilities for mark-making in my abstracts. I grabbed a few shots, then as the sky darkened, headed smartish back across the sand bank and beach towards the woods and the path back to the car.

Near dusk, Holme Dunes, Norfolk. Mari French 2015

Near dusk, Holme Dunes, Norfolk. Mari French 2015

 

a wide open space …

 

Sketchbook. Burnham Overy salt marsh, December.

Sketchbook. Burnham Overy salt marsh, December. Mari French 2014 

Recently on an overcast winter day I visited the small Norfolk coastal village of Burnham Overy Staithe and for the first time explored the salt marshes there along the path to the beach. I went back soon after on a cold but bright December day to do some sketching and photography. 

Such an exhilarating place, with the calls of the migrating geese, waders on the mud flats and sun in the reeds. I liked the sinuous shapes the left-behind creek water made in the tidal mud, with the delicate running patterns of prints from small sea birds; the way the wet mud reflects the blue sky with the brown water trickling through it.

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Burnham Overy marsh, low tide.

Burnham Overy marsh, low tide. Mari French 2014

My usual stomping and sketching ground is a few miles west at Thornham’s salt marsh area but the Burnham Overy marshes are different, with, depending on the tide, large areas of sand, tidal mud, saltwater lagoon, freshwater drainage channels fringed with silvery reed beds, grass pastureland grazed by flocks of overwintering pink foot and Brent geese. 

This wonderful variety can be easily enjoyed (and sketched, there are several nicely positioned benches too) from the 1 1/2 mile path along the sea defences to the sand dunes and beach. 

Sketchbook. Burnham Overy marsh, December.

Sketchbook. Burnham Overy marsh, December. Mari French 201 


Woven bank supports, Burnham Overy marsh.

Woven bank supports, Burnham Overy marsh. Mari French 2014 

Like much of the Norfolk Coast there is a wide open limitless feel to the landscape and sky here, which inspires me. The light on a clear day is amazing. 

Even in bad weather it’s endlessly interesting; I’ve always been intrigued by the decaying evidence of man’s work in the landscape and here the woven willow/hazel bank supports and stone breakwaters supply punctuation marks to the scene. This is clearly going to become an important area of source material for my work on salt marshes.

Woven bank supports, Burnham Overy marsh. Mari French 2014

Woven bank supports, Burnham Overy marsh. Mari French 2014

 

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Reed beds, grazing geese, Burnham Overy marsh. Mari French 2014

 

Tidal mud, Burnham Overy marsh. Mari French 2014

Tidal mud, Burnham Overy marsh. Mari French 2014

Burnham Overy marsh, high tide.

Burnham Overy marsh, high tide. Mari French 2014