Now I know what the Seven Sisters are!

We have just got back from long, tiring hike, with a lot of steep hills. We started near Cuckmere Haven, went up through the Friston Forest and then down to the Birling Gap, going along the cliff path in the Seven Sisters Park back to Cuckmere.

I generally write about something pertaining to botanical art and this is no different. But if one is able to get around – and I recognise that not everyone can do so, getting out into nature to look at the subjects it provides for us is exciting. Unfortunately not everyone does have the ability to get around and hopefully my blog can bring some of what I experience to those people.

I have spoken a lot about native flora of late and of course that is because I am involved in the ABBA team that is putting the UK on the International Botanical Art map in May 2018.

I, like many other botanical artists have always painted or drawn the plants that do something for me, no matter where those plants have originated. The topic of the Worldwide exhibition is ‘Native plants’, therefore I have looked long and hard at the pictures I have painted before and those I want to paint in the future. There are so many plants that are considered native and often they are right outside our back doors. But they can also be quite stunning.

Click on this link to see a picture of Bee Orchids at the bottom of the page, painted by Claire Ward. I had to ask her if they really were native plants – and yes they are. http://www.abba2018.wordpress.com

Back to the Seven Sisters and Friston woods where we saw this lovely forest of Beech trees.

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Apart from swathes of Snowdrops at the beginning of the walk, we also found clumps of Primroses –
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and some stiles! Not good for us old people. Bear in mind Robin is just older than me (although he hides it well), but it is me that struggles so much with these contraptions. I can walk for miles over rough terrain, up and down. But climbing a stile gets me. I think those stiles will get me before walking a long distance does. I am so glad when I see a gate that can be opened, and would happily hang over an edge to get round a post rather than over the stile that might be inbetween. Not to mention some of the stiles that are so rotten, that they are dangerous. None were today.

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We had tea and cake, outside at the Birling Gap. I only mention that to show the difference in the weather over one week. Last week it was bitter cold, but today was quite pleasant if one kept walking.

The Seven Sisters is a series of chalk cliffs that rival Beachy Head (the White cliffs of Dover). Part of the South Downs Way runs along the cliff top, which goes up and down seven times. In fact, I thought I counted eight, but by the time I got to Cuckmere Haven, I was past caring. Along this stretch there was a lot of flowering gorse. Pictures do show a little of the beauty up there.
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Gradually I am building up to something!

So what can that be?

Of late I and several others have been very busy with a project that has kept us from painting as much as we would like to. But it hasn’t prevented us completely from spending some time with pencils or brushes in our hands. You will find out about it soon enough, when we have done enough preparation work to tell you all about it.

Another thing that the project doesn’t prevent us from doing is looking.

Many people think  that because it is winter, cold and bitter outside, that plants aren’t growing, or that they are hidden away. They can’t imagine that there are some beautiful flowers out, even at this time. But, if they use their eyes, they will see so many lovely things in the gardens and the hedgerows. Some blooming, some dying or dead, but have taken on a beauty all their own. Bare branches are an absolute treat with so many colours and textures now visible.

A lot of plants that are poking through the soil at the moment are not native to this country, such as Tulips. Many plants seem to belong here because they are commonplace in all our gardens, but many were imported at one time or another and therefore are not indigenous.

As I live in the UK, of course I am focusing more on plants that are common here. Other countries further south, but not so positively affected by the Gulf Stream, may well have their gardens still buried in snow and don’t see the beauty that is lurking under this warm blanket. However there is still beauty in evergreen trees, or in deciduous trees with their growing tips and buds change from day to day.

At the weekend, we were on a hike and I mentioned the snowdrops. But we also saw a lot of Gorse that was flowering. The plant is of course dangerously spikey, but the flowers are a striking yellow and seem to withstand all sorts of temperature thrown at it. Gorse (Ulex)is a native species in the UK.

Look, see and enjoy!

Gorse (Ulex), a native species to the UK.
Gorse (Ulex), a native species to the UK.