Sunday 20 May 2018

Mersea Island - West Mersea


This is the home of yachts and seafood.
This is the home of yachts and seafood. This is a town no less, with houses, shops and an Arts Centre. Eventually after going down several tantalising sea view cul-de-sacs we found ourselves on Burma Road. Along the road a bit is the West Mersea Yacht Club, which I had not seen for nearly forty years, when I crewed for one its members most weekends.

Parking up we entered the West Mersea Oyster Bar. Without a reservation we were offered a set at the bar. Arguably these were the best seats in the house with a great view over the boat yards. Trevor ordered a seafood platter for two and for himself a side order of half a dozen oysters.  

Strewn all around old hulks and skeletal boats, happily dissolving into the mud.
Every bit of our meal was delicious and served to us by an engaging crew, a chirpy atmosphere of this place rounded out the occasion.

After lunch we were back walking the Burma Road, nosing around the yards and oyster sheds with camera and sketchbook. All the boat yards were busy readying yachts for the summer. And strewn all around old hulks and skeletal boats, happily dissolving into the mud, sand and shingle. 

Only Essex can serve up such rich confection of experiences and use its big skies to compress these into riches, including super seafood (Mersea Island’s 'famed natural produce').


The offbeat, kiss-me-quick atmosphere of the East Anglian and Kent seaside and coast fascinates architect and photographer Trevor Clapp and I.

These places portrayed in photographs and drawings we have taken/made at the time of each visit and the words I write soon after under the banner of Travels with my Architect. His implacable architectural eye has created some great photo’s, which will soon find a home on a dedicated website.

Some of the jaunts and drawings have been published and a book is available called Curious Coast

Sunday 13 May 2018

Face Painting

The other day I attended a good class to learn how to draw faces. 
This has always been a fear (drawing faces). 
So, confronting my demons, I joined a group at the National Portrait Gallery and got stuck in, learnt lots and will do it again.

Fellow students at the NPG

Organised by Sketch out: Drawing Workshops in London Museums  -

Major-General Charles George Gordon CB - Gordon of Khartoum, from a bronze bust 
Edith Sitwell re-cast of an aluminium bust from 1920

Saturday 12 May 2018

Mersea Island - East Mersea

A Thames Barge mooches up the estuary
Again we are out on the Essex Coast. Here I always sense we are at the very end of the known world. Essex a charming county and also, it is like a teenager’s bedroom, always untidy. It coast is no different.

Mersea is separated from the low flat land south of Colchester by a causeway that, with a good tide, confers upon it island status.

The day was dull with dumpy clouds; these oppressive grey skies only occasionally shared their showers of rain.

Mersea is a game of two halves; East and West.

East Mersea Miscellany
East Mersea is farmland, one pub and desultory barns. We spot two shipping containers are at rest on the edge of a field.

Typical Essex: A curious water tower
A footpath allows us to the waters edge. Trevor has the drone up and flying high us. The pictures it brings back shows this tidal marshland like a human lung, an intricate system of arteries and veins. A Thames Barge mooches up the estuary, past us and out towards the sea.  

Sheep graze, dog walkers exchange notes, skylarks sing and confetti of blackthorn bloom dusts every footpath back to the car.

Still east we discover a plantation of caravans and holiday homes. This is Coopers Beach Holiday Park. This plantation of homes boasts 
“Heated pools and children’s splash pool”.
And also offers the chance to get fit on the multi-sports court
“Enjoy scenic walks and estuary views,”pronounces the website
“Savour the island’s famed natural produce”.

Meanwhile Trevor and I appreciate a coffee in the cavernous restaurant and bar looking out on a less than scenic sea. We overhear the manager and his wife talk longingly about being be back in the 1980’s, no doubt encouraged by the songs (The Policeand UB40spiced with Frankie goes to Hollywood)on the sound system. 

St Edmunds Church East Mersea
Next to the holiday park is St Edmund’s Church. Inside this gem all is bright and clean, as if just washed by a high tide. This holy place scrubbed, polished and loved. A statue of St Edmond is to the right of the Lady Chapel and Our Lady is to the left, both stand sentinel-like.

Little is known about St Edmund. He was king of East Anglia from 855 until killed by the Vikings in 869. Thirty years after his death they acclaimed him. 

Now he rests in Bury St Edmonds, fifty miles further up the coast, having swelled the coffers of that part of Suffolk since the 1200’s. The veneration of saints, and pilgrimages to the places where a saint’s relics were interred was widespread. A church in possession of the relics of a popular saint enjoyed source of income as the faithful made donations in the hope that they might receive spiritual aid.

Friday 11 May 2018

Waterloo Bridge from the 63 Bus

Great discovery: coming out of Sea Containers Building south banks of the River Thames and walking up up onto Blackfriars Bridge I saw in the distance the no. 63 Bus!

Today it took me straight into Farringdon and lunch with a good chum and arguably the best boss ever.

Details on the 63 route here -

Waiting for the 63 and seeing it someway off I whipped out the iPhone and did a quick drawing, looking west the the bridge upstream - Waterloo.

Waterloo Bridge from the bus stop on Blackfriars Bridge

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Laugharne Love

Laugharne Castle
Next day was again warm sun and we took Rosie for a good walk along the base of the castle and then headed up the main street and out to St Martin’s church yard. There is a good walk through the lanes to a footpath that takes you on a wide loop alongside the Taf estuary and back through tall woods and down to the Boathouse where Dylan Thomas lived. 

Outside the Cross House Inn
A pint in The Cross House Inn and we were ready for a jaunt. We drove west along the coast to Amroth.  Amroth, the name is Welsh, and probably means ‘On (the brook called) Rhath’. You can see a constant flow of water gushing out across the stones at the eastern end of the beach.

Two riders raced their horses along the beach, silhouetted in the lowering sun.
We had a good walk along this broad beach.
The tea for two and coffee for one in the New Inn was a perfect ending.

Fellow diners at The Portreeve
That evening we enjoyed another culinary discovery, The Portreeve’s Tafarn, in Laugharne. The food was super, most of it local. There was a distractingly varied song choice on their music system, including Canned Heat.

It was splendid couple of days in a part of Wales that keeps revealing warm-hearted surprises and fascinating places.

Monday 7 May 2018

Lovin’ Laugharne

Laugharne on the estuary of the River Taf
Laugharne is a town located on the south coast of Carmarthenshire, Wales, reclining on the estuary of the River Tâf. The population at the 2011 census was 1,222.

Two days of perfect weather in mid March, we escaped down to Laugharne to get away from the builders and their dust cloud. 

And as soon as we had registered at the Browns Hotel, our usual rooms, we were off to Pendine beach. 

The excellent Castle View Fish Bar

Pendine Sands 

The official Carmarthenshire guide describes Pendine as '7 miles of glorious sandy beach'.

What is doesn't say is that due to MoD restrictions much of this beach is off limits between 7am and 4pm most days.

Hey Ho, there is still enough room for everyone and the men from the Ministry.  Mid afternoon and the sun was still high turning the whole beach into a giant looking glass. Every part of the village and beachfront was reflected in the Sands. 
Pendine Sands

Across the square from Laugharne Castle is the excellent Castle View Fish Bar and Restaurant. We all enjoyed crispy delicious cod with some nicely cooked chips, all served up with a smile and a Chardonnay. 

Continued in my next post

Saturday 5 May 2018

Terrific Tulips

Varieties  Silk Road  Parrot and Queen of Night
Tulips have been lovely this year and enjoying a renaissance in Sian’s garden (illustrated) and the broad fields in Norfolk.

And the Mail on Line reports (so is must be true) 
‘Britain’s last remaining tulip bulb fields are making a comeback this year with farmers planting seventy per cent more flowers to cope with the sudden demand. Farmers will also select the best flowers for the annual Spalding Tulip Parade, which uses 300,000 tulip heads to decorate its floats.

A machine then finishes the job, guillotining the remaining heads from their stalks.

The heads are left in rows in the field to rot, while the leaves and stalks are left to decompose and the bulbs finally removed from the soil in June.’

Thursday 3 May 2018

Paperwhites and Pussy Willow

Paperwhites and Pussy Willow: It has been a wonderful springtime for both. 

Paperwhites Narcissus papyraceus (from papyrus and aceus; meaning paper-like. It is a perennial bulb native to the Mediterranean.  We had some flowering in the garden in November - the bulbs begin to grow as soon as they are planted, with flowers appearing in 3–4 weeks.

Pussy willow is a name given to many of the smaller species of the genus Salix(willows and sallows) when their furry catkins are young in early spring.
Eastern European peoples parade pussy willows on Palm Sunday. 
The branches will often be preserved throughout the year in the family's icon corner.