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

winter marsh…

Creek, Thornham saltmarsh.

Creek, Thornham saltmarsh. © Mari French 2016

I read in an anthology this week, one author’s opinion that saltmarshes are one of the bleakest places in winter. Well, although they can be perceived like that in very poor weather, on a jewel of a day like the ones I experienced this week, they can be surprisingly beautiful.

This sketching trip was to one of my usual haunts, Thornham on the north Norfolk coast. It was too cold to sit about for long but I got a couple of rough watercolours done. Sat by the coal barn sketching the small boats on the creek against the sun, I was almost blinded.

Boats on the creek, Thornham. Sketchbook spread © Mari French 2016

Boats on the creek, Thornham. Sketchbook spread © Mari French 2016

Reedbeds are an important part of the ecology on this coast, as with many such places in Britain. Their soft pewter feathered seedheads ripple like an inland sea. The stems are pale burnished gold in the winter sun and I find them hypnotic. I keep coming back to them recently, both physically, mentally and in my work.

The other motif that keeps catching my eye, are the cradled pools and creeks of azure blue – reflecting the sky but much deeper in colour. They sit like brooches on the bronze brocade of the marsh. I feel the stirrings of an abstracted response to these with simple layered colour and texture.

Reedbeds, Thornham. Sketchbook spread © Mari French 2016

Reedbeds, Thornham. Sketchbook spread © Mari French 2016

 

Rope and seaweed, staithes, Thornham. © Mari French 2016

Rope and seaweed, staithes, Thornham. © Mari French 2016

 Reedbeds, looking towards Holme from Thornham. © Mari French 2016

Reedbeds, looking towards Holme from Thornham. © Mari French 2016

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