Sunday, 2 August 2020

A KNIGHT'S CHURCH IN A SECRET VALLEY

A KNIGHT’S CHURCH IN A SECRET VALLEY

 

In a valley in the Chilterns, frighteningly close to the M40 are the village of Radnage and its exquisite church, St Mary the Virgin. 

 

And it was OPEN!

Radnage is tucked away and up from the village the church sits on a shallow slope. There is a bench by the south wall one can eat one’s sandwiches (which cousin Wendy had made the night before) and enjoy marvellous views over steep fields and woodlands.


A bench by the south wall was the perfect spot for lunch


 

Inside the church all is spick and span, loved, cared for and be enjoyed by passers by.

 

This church was built in the late C12 or early C13 by the Knights Templar. It has a central crossing tower, a late Norman and Early English confection. Throughout there are wall paintings to enjoy and some excellent modern stained glass that sits well in windows that have shed light on worshippers for a thousand years.


Inside a absolute delight and full of lovely things


 

The church has benefited in recent times from the darling of film and TV companies.

 

A gentle and welcoming church and no matter that we cannot worship until I think September, when Services may restart, we can certainly, in daylight hours, find rest here.

 

More about the church and its vibrant community is found here: http://www.radnage.net/st-mary-the-virgin-radnage/

 

FOOTNOTE: we entered the churchyard from the Nature Reserve a steep area of woodland that leads down into the secret valley.  This a story for another time…

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

ATLANTA - HOW VERY POST MODERN


Atlanta: Rush hour traffic builds 

Atlanta: Walking to the office 


Graves' iconic Portland Building 


LIVING IN A POST MODERN WORLD

 

On one of my weekly walks with Trevor the Architect, I asked him who were his architect heroes where, when he was at architects’ school.  He confessed a mild infatuation with Michael Graves an American architect and darling of the§ Post Modern movement over in the USA.   

 

Postmodern architecture was a push back on the Modernist austerity and lack of variety. The impact was wild with building embellished with all kinds of motifs and shapes and plans, Gothic, classical and Gotham City style excrescences.

 

After poking around a bit on this movement I began to realise why I was so fascinated by the buildings in Atlanta, when I visited for work in 2015 2016.

Tall towers topped with all kinds of fanciful knobbly bits and malls in all shades of pinks, browns and ochre.  

 

More research revealed that Graves designed two buildings in Atlanta during his career, with Ten Peachtree Place in the heart of Midtown representing a restrained postmodernism that provides a unique feature within the urban fabric around Midtown MARTA Station.

 

I dug out photographs that I took during those trips during those visits and go to work with pen and brush.

 

https://www.artsatl.org/revisiting-atlantas-architecture-michael-graves-ten-peachtree-place-michael-c-carlos-museum/




Saturday, 25 July 2020

RIDING THE CAROUSEL


Golly gosh it great to be back on the bus!


I had to meet some chums in Amersham, discovered the best bus service ever.

It whistled me from Beaconsfield to Amersham in no time at all and all the bus stops are so conveniently located. In flight service was great and the pilot polite and welcoming.

 

Repeating the experience next Friday.




Wednesday, 15 July 2020

HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER



July 2020

The locals call this part of the county, east of the Thames near Wallingford, the South Oxfordshire plain, lightly wooded and full of wide fields that drift up from the river. 


It is the area where two special churches are to be found.

 

 

ST MARY THE VIRGIN, IPSDEN, A TALE OF THREE CHURCHES

Tradition has it that the first church in Ipsden was a small chapel on Berins Hill, about 2 miles east of the present church, built by St Birinus when he came from Rome in AD 634 to convert the Saxon peoples of South Oxfordshire. 

 

The second Ipsden church was in a field south. It fell into disrepair in the 12th century and was eventually demolished. 

 

The materials from church two were hauled up the road to repair and enlarge the present church. It was much smaller and an upland chapel for the adjoining parish of North Stoke. However St Marys eventually became Ipsden Parish Church.

 

Sadly the church was closed. For now we could, even on a grey windy day, enjoy the church, its windows, tracery and flint work, surrounded by here and there by interesting brickwork. 


 

ST MARY THE VIRGIN, NORTH STOKE


Originally Saxon: William the Conqueror crossed the Thames at Wallingford with the help of a Saxon lord, Wigod; his daughter married a Norman Baron. Stability was brought to the area after the Danes had roamed the land for four hundred years

 

The place unique in as much as it is the only church whose churchyard has part of the Ridgeway running through it. 

 

The Saxon church is little to be seen, a Norman took its place with its Early English chancel and an East window in the Decorated style. Like Ipsden, there are wall paintings to enjoy. If one could go inside. 

 

However there is much to enjoy outside, a C15 tiled porch and a nicely kept churchyard and a lychgate made out of timbers from the old bridge at Goring!

 

Add in a constant stream of walkers and there was quite a festive air that Saturday afternoon and both churches are earmarked for a return visit.



Ipsden located in the centre of this map 

Saturday, 11 July 2020

BEACH PARTY?

BEACH PARTY

Right now any picture of crowded beach draws chagrin from many quarters.

The current issue of Vanity Fair carried a detailed piece on the push me pull you nature of the current US Administration over Covid-19. The magazine’s report was centred on the to’ings and fro’ings in the March April period. 

 

This editorial is particular prescient, in early July in the USA over 40,000 cases a day are being recorded. We can only hope this reduces and improves.

 

VF article (opening spread shown here) carried a remarkable picture of a beach in Miami. Seeing it, I was compelled to use it as the basis for a painting. The photograph is a great composition and as much fun to paint as those folk were having on the beach.



 

Hopefully my piece is not read as artistic ambulance chasing. 

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

ROMANIA REDUX




Entering Cluj one sunny evening

Suceave, from just across from Aldi

 A VERY ROMANIAN ROMANCE

 

Over recent times I have be casting around files of photos as inspiration for paintings. In 2018 we had nine days travelling through Romania.

One of the high spots each day, when entering the town or city in which we’d spend the night, was seeing the apartment blocks towering above us. I hurried took photos and squealed with delight.

 

My passionate appreciation of architecture built during the regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu (1965–1989) probably puts me in a majority of one.  However I love the symmetry, curves and haphazard nature of these schemes heighted by when the sun hits them.

 

Ceauşescu had been to North Korea and China in 1971 and was impressed with the huge housing blocks that were constructed on ground levelled to make way for dormitory neighbourhoods. 

 

Rinse and repeat in Romania. Traditional urban areas were destroyed in a process christened Ceauşima (Ceauşescu’s system). 

 

The dictator’s bombast and swagger reached its zenith in the building of the 'Palace of the People' now post-revolution renamed the Palace of the Parliament which we visited, huge beyond belief.


Work Suspended 

Friday, 3 July 2020

HOORAY! Open for Business


 

In another one of my jaunts with Rosie, across the border into Berkshire, we alighted on Sonning on Thames. It was a super sunny day to mooch round St Andrews church.

 

Parking was a conundrum so I begged permission to park in the area next to the vicarage. The Revd. Jamie Taylor (I presumed) answered the vicarage door and said of course. 


“The church is open by the way he added”.


Open for business! YAY!

 

Joy of joys, for we had not been inside a church for twelve weeks so this was a much-missed treat.

 

St Andrews Sonning actually opened for business around 900 AD and became one of the twin Cathedrals of the Bishop of Salisbury. It was a good call; three of Sonning's medieval bishops achieved Sainthood.

 

Now inside the church is it full of lovely Victorian fancies. 


Hugh Pearson became vicar of Sonning in 1841. He found the church in a bit of a mess and set about to fix it up. With the drive and enthusiasm of Kevin McCloud in Grand Designs. The good reverend pulled in a good architect.

 

In 1852 Henry Woodyer led the church’s restoration. Woodyer, architect and pupil of William Butterfield (Butterfield ‘did’ All Saints Margaret Street in London which is simply fab. Woodyer was also a disciple of A. W. N. Pugin sometimes referred to as God’s Architect. 

 

Off came the roof and the height of the Nave was raised; any of the arches where repaired and then most of the windows where replaced. 


Woodyer's makeover - Victorian loveliness

 

Robert Palmer (MP) paid for the majority of the work. Mr Palmer liked a good rebuild having pulled down and rebuilt Holme Park round the corner.

 

I did miss the famous Rich Monument dedicated to Sir Thomas Rich who was buried in the vault below in 1667. The monument came in to a lot of flak when erected; The Ecclesiologist magazine described it as ‘the vilest paganism imaginable’ It appeared that sad putti and vast urns where not the writer’s thing. Monument has been removed to beneath the tower where it can be viewed through the curtained grill.

 

There is a imaginative portrayal of the Church’s history (from which I have immoderately borrowed) here http://sonningparish.org.uk/parish-history/

Sunday, 28 June 2020

THE SECRET BERKSHIRE TRIANGLE


St James Ruscombe, an impressive tower

St Lawrence  Waltham St Lawrence

There is an almost triangle of fields, woodlands and polite roads bounded by the A4, M4 and A404 in East Berkshire, just west of Maidenhead.

I first discovered this area on a frosty December day last year. Last week sought it out once more, for a churching jaunt.  

I was accompanied by puppy, sketchbook and my newly acquired Pevsner  - The Buildings of England: Berkshire.

First call was paid to St. Lawrence church in the village of Waltham St Lawrence. 

You enter under a huge yew tree. The place was full of peace and perhaps the promise of rain.Of course the church was closed and so a thorough inspection outside revealed much flint and stone although Norman origins can be enjoyed. Inside is mostly Victorian we gather. I made a drawing of what I thought must be the vestry window.

Leaving the church to your left is the Bell Inn with C14 timber framing and a farm house to your right. There is much Elizabethan and Jacobean brickwork adorning the houses throughout the village.

A couple of miles west, towards Twyford and we are in Ruscombe and the delightful St. James Church. 

St James'  has an impressive brick tower, C17. 

Inside, so Pevsner's inventory suggests, there are many marvels we can enjoy some other time: These include some restored paintings, C13 and restored in the late C19.

Both St. James and St.Lawrence are set in peaceful church yards where gravestones proudly welcome you to sit and ponder.


An almost triangle?

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Camden Cambridge Society and Cookham Dean

Having a few hours to go churching in the Cookham area I started at Cookham Dean.


St John the Baptist was built in the 1840s at the behest of the vicar of Cookham (down the hill and on the Thames) who saw the situation in Cookham Dean as where “ignorance and immorality had prevailed for some time past”.

 

Doors opened to welcome the souls of Cookham Dean in 1843 into their church, which a contemporary account described as 

‘A most satisfactory design; very simple, and yet not mean or starved; of unpretending but solemn character’.


St John the Baptist very imple yet not mean or starved

 

Although closed now the church enjoys a good situation and pleasant atmosphere. From the churchyard there are magnificent views East across the Thames valley to Cliveden.

 

Ten minutes away is the church of St James the Less in Stubbings, in the parish of Burchetts Green.  This is where my Aunt and Uncle worshipped for many years and are buried in the graveyard behind the church; a lovely situation, deeply carpeted in ox eye daisies at the time of my visit.

 

Similar in style to Cookham Dean’s church I discovered afterwards they were both built by the same architect; Richard Cromwell Carpenter (1812-1855). Carpenter it turns out was a favourite amongst the Cambridge Camden Society founded in 1839 by undergraduate students at Cambridge to promote ‘the study of Gothic Architecture, and of Ecclesiastical Antiques.’ So Carpenter and his chums were part of the gargantuan Gothic Revival.  



 

These two churches are lovely examples of how this movement could build in the Gothic style to create what is simple and decorative. As the guide to St James the Less describes 

‘the honest straightforward, soundly constructed, simple building, which was in the genuine medieval tradition’

 

Excellent resources for these churches with my thanks

Cookham Dean https://www.cookhamdeanchurch.org.uk/history.htm

Stubbings https://www.burchettsgreenparish.org/stubbings.html





Sunday, 14 June 2020

GOING TO CHAPEL



In looking at these wonderful buildings I try to determine what is special about each. And also looking at each chapel what is the overall  overall feeling it gives.  

Abergwelli near Carmarthen
To my mind each fall into three styles, Plain and Simple, Piss-elegant and Neo-Classical wannabe’s

None of these terms are intended as pejorative.





What I have tried to do with these three pieces is start with broad areas of colour or colour wash, one has collage employed to create the entire work. 

I am seeking to  move away from the 'draw lines and colour in' approach and think more about the shape and form of these wonderful buildings. 

Each chapel is as particular as the people in who’s land they sit. 


I find it hard to drive past a chapel in Wales without taking a photography of it loveliness!









Newcastle Emlyn






My hero the artist John Piper Welsh chapels would be a constant subject for Piper, with his attentiveness towards them developing throughout his frequent visits to Wales. Of chapels Piper noted in 1974

“I do regard myself as a bit of a pioneer in pointing out these chapels are not the hideous things they used to be thought… They are uneducated, passionate, argumentative and contradictory, architecturally illiterate – which are their virtues”.

Extract from
CHURCH CRAWLING: JOHN PIPER, PHOTOGRAPHY AND WALES
A paper presented at the MONC Word and Image conference at National Library of Wales - September 2017
© Paul Cabuts 2017

Thank you Paul

Bridgend









Wednesday, 10 June 2020

TWO TIMES SQUARE

Huge Billboards
Life in Times Square

 

























With all that is going on I was in two minds about posting this.


I made a few changes to the text and because two of PJ Lehrer’s most exciting photographs, all colour, angles, darks and neon; taken in Times Square, Well I immediately wanted to make drawings.

 

Brightly lit by huge billboards and advertisements, Times Square stretches between West 42 and 47th Streets. It is sometimes referred to the cross roads of the World. It is one of the busiest places; one hundred and thirty-one million people a year visit Times Square for is it is also the heart of the Broadway Theatre District.

 

Formerly known as Longacre Square, Times Square was renamed in 1904 after The New York Times moved its headquarters to the then newly erected Times Building. Nearly sixty years later the newspaper described the area as ‘the 'worst' in town’ for then and up until the 1990’s its go-go bars, sex shops, peep shows and adult theatres, became an infamous symbol of the city's decline.

 

Several city majors orchestrated campaigns to clean up the area notably in the mid-1990s, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani led an effort to clean up the area Detractors have countered that the changes have homogenized or "Disneyfied" the character of Times Square

 

Certainly the media circus is in town: ABC's Times Square Studios, where Good Morning America is made every day, competing Hershey's and M&M's stores are across the street from each other; and multiple multiplex theatres. You can enjoy a meal Ruby Foo's Chinese Restaurant; or the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, or there is always Planet Hollywood.

 




Saturday, 6 June 2020

CROWELL AND UP TO CHINNOR HILL

Off all the chocolates in the box Crowell Church in Buckinghamshire  is a sweet treat. Not withstanding that it is currently closed for Covid 19. Just off the B4009 motorway.

Lovely and set in a meadow of wild flowers

I met cousin Wendy, a distant cousin at this time, (Sorry)
nyway these trouble times with restrictions easing somewhat we met in the lovely churchyard of St Mary the Virgin. 

Then up a lane, running west – east, and we were up on the Ridgeway! 

Larks were high, the sun was slightly higher and those one the Ridgeway Path greeted and acknowledged one another as we passed by. 

A mile or so in the direction of Ivinghoe Beacon, we were high over Chinnor and its new housing developments and across to the west, marvellous views to Thame, Long Crendon and into Oxfordshire.

We turned sharp right and popped into Chinnor Hill Nature Reserve a patchwork of woodland chalk scrub. Here lives variety of flowers in spring and summer, orchids the scarce Chiltern gentian and pretty harebells lined our path.

Hawthorn, juniper scrub, yew, and whitebeam was alive the birdsong we saw red kites quartering the Reserve. A grand place to enjoy one’s sandwich before the walk back to Crowell.

Another treat, after the walk, was discovering https://astonrowant.wordpress.com/crowell-church/
A lovely website devoted to nearby Aston Rowant and the Spring Line Villages.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

A HYTHE OLD TIME

Fishing Huts ring fence and appear to defiantly hold their ground

With lockdown virtual travel being all the rage I have been revisiting some of the material Trevor and I have created in www.curiouscoast.co.uk

Of late our time in on the Kent Coast, between Romney Marsh and Hythe, resulted in some great photography and drawings, which I now revisit and ponder.

The end of that jaunt was Hythe, which once an important Cinque Port Hythe and bustling harbour until the sea decided to take it away and silt up the harbour. Hythe was the home of the Mackeson Brewery until it closed in 1968. The first Mackeson Stout was brewed in 1909.

West Parade is the road parallel to the sea front and at its eastern end becomes Fisherman’s beach. Home to still a few fishing boats and the excellent fishmonger Griggs.

A bit further and the fisherman huts and paraphernalia are strewn across the beach.
Their lines and ropes, buckets and what have you providing local colour against the shingle.

The huts ring fence and appear to defiantly hold back the development of houses and flats behind.

The property company proclaims  
Contemporary Beach-front Apartments, Houses & Villas - Life On The Water’s Edge  
…Luxury two-bedroom ground floor apartment, the creation of Kentish Project Ltd having been designed by award winning architect Guy Hollaway. Set on the jaw dropping site at Fisherman's Beach this is a rare opportunity to live within a stone's throw away from the beach…. literally!”
Help To Buy Available - Help To Buy Price: £239,995

However fishing is very much alive and has move along the beach, Reports Fishing News 
“Beach fishermen of Hastings (the largest land-based fleet in the UK) keep very active. The Stade, where they fish from, is popular with tourists, and their annual food festival gives them an opportunity to promote themselves.”

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Meet my new friend, the BiC Biro

Draw with a biro? Me? I should think so (not)!

... 
Meet my new friend, the Bic Medium Black.

When Linnette my tutor suggested we draw with a biro the other week I was horrified. 


The ballpoint is my least favourite writing instrument. 
I gave it a go the other evening when trying to work out a composition.




In these days of new habits I confess to a complete turnaround.

Its cheap, 

does not need sharpening, 
always works, 
and you can leave the cap off 
and it never goes blunt! 



Thank you Linnette!!

Thursday, 28 May 2020

THE LABURNUM TREE




More tree talk.
Many gardens at this time feature the ‘golden rain’ of the laburnum tree, which around here has only just ended it shower of colour.
It is actually a native of area that stretches from France to the Balkans. The tree’s wood has been a favourite with cabinetmakers and those creating musical instruments: recorders and the bagpipes. 

As I made this drawing of the laburnum tree in our garden it was alive with the huge sound of bees busy about their business.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

COOKHAM - AXES AND APPLES

Cock Marsh again available for lovely walks

Redding's Orchard

Cookham is a celebrated village on the River Thames. It is notable as the home of the artist Stanley Spencer. 

Three miles north of Maidenhead, on the county boundary with Buckinghamshire on the Thames north bank.

 The highest part of Cookham is Cookham Dean, and a separate village and is served by two pubs, Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Jolly Farmer. 

It is lovely spot at this time of year. 

Some years ago friends of ours, with local neighbours banded together and bought Redding’s Orchard that sits in the centre of the village. The group all now tend to forty different varieties of apple trees!

Dropping down to the Thames there are several prehistoric burial mounds on Cock Marsh, which were excavated in the 19th century. The largest stone axe ever found in Britain was one of 10,000 that have been dug up in nearby Furze Platt. 

The National Trust now manages Cock Marsh and with the easing of restrictions we can now begin again enjoy the lovely open countryside here, who’s chalk grasslands are home a huge community of plant species. 

Do consider if for a lovely, details are here  jaunt 

Monday, 25 May 2020

THE FIRST AVENUE

Left: Two construction workers at work on the Upper East Side

The six miles of goodness on the East side of Manhattan, which takes us from Houston Street all the way up to 126th Street in East Harlem. First Avenue is lovingly maintained by the NYCDOT

Its Upper East Side sections are becoming well known to me as they are so often featured in the work of photographer PJ Lehrer, and so the 1st av. features in my recent New York pieces.

The ‘heck lets’ build this’ decision was taken in 1811. Today it passes through a mixture of neighbourhoods, including the East Village, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. Onwards and upwards, where it becomes quite wide in the 23rdStreet area and past the UN building. Keep going north and you’re in Spanish Harlem around 1st and 96th.

Yes, one road out of many in Manhattan, full of rich history, it snakes through cultures and communities, major medical centres and the seat of world government. 

And I discovered a couple of blocks away from where Professor Lehrer lives, on First and 77th was filmed the opening scene of Ghostbusters II.

‘Who you gonna call?’…

Friday, 22 May 2020

FLAT AS THE BACK OF YOUR HAND



Certainly one of my favourite buildings, anywhere, Sian bought me a print of it when we were in New York one summer, years back.  My New York  correspondent Prof. P J Lehrer has taken several good shots of this iconic piece, one of which inspired this drawing!

The Flatiron Building, originally the Fuller Building, is a triangular 22-story 285-foot tall steel-framed lovely. You can find it at 175 Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron District neighbourhood. It was created by Daniel Burnham and Frederick Dunkelberg and when completed in 1902 it was one of the tallest buildings in the city. 

The history of this triangular marvel is long and varied, features in films and TV (Murder she wrote) home to art shows (Edward Hopper) and its distinctive ‘cow catcher’* lower floor was used as a US Navy recruiting station in WW1.

There is a wealth of pictures and facts about the place here 10 Ten Secrets

*Not part of Burnham or Dinkelberg's design, but was added at the insistence of owner and developer Harry Black, in order to exploit the use of the building's lot and produce some retail income.


Flatiron Building  -  Typical Floor Plan