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.

Hiking amongst UK native plants in the snow!

What a lovely day today was, although bitter cold and snowing! But I wanted to make the most of it as it was probably one of my last really relaxing days – if strenuous, for a couple of weeks.

The sun didn’t shine, the sky was heavy, a cold damp breeze was blowing and the sky started releasing its load in the form of snow as soon as we started walking. The weather forecast had said ‘cloudy’, but dry! Luckily we chose not to do any of our hikes up on the South Downs Way. Where we were the snow didn’t settle, but the South Downs were obliterated.

The phrase ‘There is no such think as bad weather, just bad clothes’ has been attributed to many people including Alfred Wainwright. But Norwegians are actually brought up with this phrase as small children – with their skis of course! Robin and I were well and truly appropriately dressed from our wool long-johns and base layers, to the additional wool layers on top. ‘Snug as a bug in a rug’ is also a good phrase, but our layers allowed us good movement.

Dressed to kill - the cold!
Dressed to kill – the cold!

We started out at Elsted Marsh and did a 12 km circular walk taking in the Iping and Stedham Commons. What a super walk!

We saw drifts of Snowdrops – Galanthus. Do you realise that they are a native species? This is important to know if you are a botanical artist and over the next couple of weeks you will read about other plants available at the moment that are native to the UK.

Watch this space!

Back to the Iping and Stedham Commons; they are well managed and they try to keep on top of the amount of Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) that grows there so that it doesn’t take over from the heathers (Erica) and the Gorse (Ulex europaeus). All of these plants are native to the UK. We also saw two Dartford Warblers.

Galanthus
Galanthus