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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Textures and the South Downs

South Downs Way with reflection from the sea.
South Downs Way with reflection from the sea. 5 January 2017

Now what on earth do ‘textures’ and the South Downs Way have in common? Nothing, other than that my next botanical art workshop has very few places available and we have been picking up some specimens for it on our long weekly hike today; this time along the South Downs Way.

Happy New Year. For some 2016 was a good year, but for some it was filled with sadness or difficulties. For most of us, it will have been a combination of both.

We are now at the beginning of 2017 with all the possibilities it has in store for us. The days have already started to be slightly longer and apparently we got an extra second on 31 December! Some days are beautifully sunny – like today, and as was one day last week when the Hawthorne branch picture was taken. But other days, like yesterday for us in the south of England, it was wet, grey and gloomy. But everything is already waking up.

I hope that you enjoyed your Christmas festivities or relaxation and that you are now raring to go with what is on offer in the way of botanical art workshops.

I have only a couple of vacancies left on the next workshop, ‘Textures’ with bark and moss as examples. But if we think laterally about textures we also have furry buds such as the Magnolia and furry leaves such as ‘Lambs ears’. There are useful techniques to be learnt both with watercolour or coloured pencil.

In addition to Magnolia buds and Lambs ears in the garden, we also have Garrya elliptica (the silk tassel bush) with its very attractive silvery catkins; which might be a nice challenge for someone.

Do get in touch as soon as you can to book your place. The workshop is Friday and Saturday 27 -28 January. As usual coffees, teas and lunch are included in the price.

The booking form can be found linked to this page:  Gaynor’s workshops

Hawthorne bench encrusted with lichen
Hawthorne bench encrusted with lichen
Furry Magnolia x solangeana bud
Furry Magnolia x solangeana bud