It is now just over a year since I began blogging regularly from Gilling East, North Yorkshire. All the blogs are available on this website if you want to read them again and compare 2020 to 2021. April 7th this year is a lot colder than the same date last year. No chance today of the first orange tip, recorded on this day in 2020. Blue tits were busy building their nest, no sign of that yet this year. Recent days have seen the most beautiful skies, cold, crystal clear Arctic air bringing snow showers over the valley, another stark contrast to this time last year when we were experiencing settled warm conditions.
I have not yet started to sort out a year’s worth of writing and sketching. I have painted hundreds of watercolours with 19 sketchbooks filled, including some very specific projects on skies, swifts, house martins and other subjects, but seen together this body of work represents a natural year around the village of Gilling East. I have always been something of a local patch naturalist but never more so than now. My art college dissertation was about my hero the Reverend Gilbert White who was perhaps the ultimate patch naturalist. His natural history of Selborne remains one of the greatest works of its kind; as I wandered I found myself thinking of him often. He would perfectly understand what so many have come to understand this last year about the advantages of being a local naturalist.
I can expand my horizons now as lockdown eases, but I find myself torn. Yes, I crave new horizons; sea, moors, estuaries and marshes, ancient woodland and wider skies, but the thought of driving to go for a walk now seems ridiculous! Through exceptional circumstances I have been forced to change the way I work. More than ever I simply go out and paint exactly what I want to paint with no thought as to whether it will be framed or sold in a gallery. This is how I will to continue to work, blogging on a regular basis as a major incentive to create and share new work. I have been both surprised and delighted by the response to the blog. Thank you so much for all the comments, shared sightings and enthusiasm over the past year. I may not match the continuous 125 day stretch achieved last year but I will be aiming to blog two or three times a week.
I have been sketching rooks again. They are busy commuting back and forth from the rookery to the fields. This displaying bird was largely ignored by all other rooks around it. What a stunning bird to look at in bright early morning sunshine. The iridescence of its feathers constantly changing.
The cold weather has rather checked the rush of spring that was happening in last week’s warmth. Blackthorn blossom is just starting to make an impact locally, it is easy to see the colder spots where much remains firmly in bud. I love the flower bud stage of blackthorn, like thousands of tiny stars shining against the dark inner branches. With frequent snow showers and such sharp frosts I cannot remember such a perfect example of a blackthorn winter.