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.

   
 

frost and ice…

 

Frozen pool with rope. Mari French 2014

Frozen pool with rope. Mari French 2014

Photographs from my walk around Harpley today. Sub zero temperatures overnight had left some interesting results. I particularly like the way natural and man made objects have been trapped in the iced-over puddles.

Umbellifer. Mari French 2014

Umbellifer. Mari French 2014

  

Umbellifer 2. Mari French 2014

Umbellifer 2. Mari French 2014

 

Frozen pool. Mari French 2014

Frozen pool. Mari French 2014

 

Frozen pool 2. Mari French 2014

Frozen pool 2. Mari French 2014


Frozen pool. Mari French 2014

Frozen pool. Mari French 2014

 

Trapped leaves in ice. Mari French 2014

Trapped leaves in ice. Mari French 2014


Melted frost catching the sun. Mari French 2014

Melted frost catching the sun. Mari French 2014

 

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.

Burnham_Overy_Staithe_December.JPG

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

 

Reed_beds_Burnham_Overy_marsh.JPG

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