Friday 9 June 2023


Across three counties 

From high up on The Ridgeway, in West Berkshire, only 35 minutes from home is Uffington Castle. It is an Iron Age hillfort. 


Standing on its footprint on the landscape you can look out north-west across Berkshire, Gloucestershire into Worcestershire. A patchwork of fields, farms, factories and towns. This infinity view eventually pales into purple haze.


Of course this is just a place to put a castle. Next to it is The White Horse, across the grass, a chalk symbol of how important this area was. And still is. 


The castle borders The Ridgeway, an ancient road that is ideal for the movement of troops and trade. 


Looking down, just below us to the right is Dragon Hill a small apron of white chalk. It was on this ground that is rightly believed that St George fought his dragon. Who is to gain say St George’s joust?


For more on the myths and legends hereabouts follow the link. 

Many thanks to David Nash’s Royal Berkshire History  web site

 © Nash Ford Publishing 2003. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday 3 June 2023


Ginst Point, the end of the known world.

Name: Ginst Point, Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin) ; X/Y co-ords: 232825, 207811 ; Region: Wales ; Country: Wales ; Place type: Other Landform. Source: Ordinance Survey


A stretch of sand, grass and debris that is wide and broad and looks to the estuary of the River Taff and across to Llansteffan Castle and the never to missed holiday homes of Carmarthen Bay.  


Ginst Point the blunt end of a six mile beach.


High sun, a small breeze.


Rosie the dog,

Jacky the wonder dog,

Jacky collects sticks and will steal a sandal.

He will return it later.

Sian and Miss Megan,

And Barney, a merman*,


We walk, sit and get our feet wet,

Again we plonk ourselves down on a midday warm sand.

And on the walk back we found treasure, per usual.



Shrapnel Everywhere

A toilet chain thrown overboard from a passing ship? 





Ginst Point is accessible through Brill Gate (SN 28902 07980) when the Range is not operational. Public access is permitted if the automatic gate is open. Please DO NOT attempt to enter if the gate is closed. Anyone wishing to gain access to the residential tenant farms must contact the Main Gate using the intercom system situated at Brill Gate.






Saturday 27 May 2023


The mid-morning light streams in illuminating the gentle flecks of dust and remarkable wall paintings of St John the Baptist church Inglesham. We can see 
St Christopher as he was portrayed in the 1200’s and make out some of The Ten Commandments above the nave arch.


Box Pews, overseen by an equally grand pulpit, all faded and polished by time. Worship from wonderful Book of Common Prayer (1662) was given and received by all who sat in this wonderful church.


Sit, think, absorb the walls, roof and furniture of this special place now cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust and loved by many, judging from the visitor’s book by the door.


Miss not the Saxon stone Madonna and Child in the south wall.


All within striking distance of Lechlade and Faringdon.


Peaceful interior 

An excellent more measured story of this church by Churches Conservation Trust is here.

by John Piper who visited Inglesham in 1948

Friday 12 May 2023


A couple of miles south of us is the hamlet of Stoke Purton a few miles further is  Purton village. 


Seeking a new route for a Rosie walk we headed to Stoke Purton and walked along a No Through Road road. The OS map indicated something called a Salts Hole. We came upon it. There was a low gate in a thick hedge secured by a stout combination lock. About a hundred metres beyond stood a Victorian gothic hexagonal building with a stout door, elegant gabled roof.  Around this summerhouse-like building undergrowth, trees and bushes battled for supremacy.


This was Salts Hole, a Victorian spa, written about by Katharine M. Jordan in Seven Wiltshire Wells and their Folklore.


We saw the stone plaque over the door of what was the pump room.



For local people around here used saline water from the spring to cure many ills.


In 1850s its owner drained the area and fenced off the spring. People soon broke the railings anxious for the heating waters, for there was no Boots in Cricklade or Lloyds in Purton at that time.


In her text © Katharine M. Jordan (1998) she tells 

“It is curious, by the way, that the only structural part of the pump-house to have disappeared should be the doors. It is well-known in Wiltshire that they have no doors in Purton: so much so that, should you forget to close the door behind you, the cry goes up: ‘D’you come from Purton?’


I can testify to this having met two lovely local ladies in Purton village churchyard this morning; they corroborated the saying ‘D’you come from Purton?’. However curiously enough they had not heard of the Salts Hole a few miles away. 


Complete source for Jordan’s text:


I have ordered a copy of Folklore of Ancient Wiltshire, 1990

by Katharine M. Jordan and eagerly await more discoveries hereabouts.

Wednesday 3 May 2023


Built by the Knights Templars - All Saints Down Ampney

Almost asleep, in spite of being so close to the A419 Cirencester to Swindon superhighway, is Down Ampney Village. It is best known as the birthplace of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. 


During WWII Down Ampney was home to the Royal Airforce 1944 until 1947. From here the 3rd Parachute Brigade were dropped in Normandy. And forces who flew from here were active in Arnhem and the Rhine Crossing. 

The same squadrons flew the wounded, tended by RAF nurses, home. The busy road, a straight line from the tarmac to where the wounded were taken became known as ‘hospital road’ by all stationed there. Now it is a lovely walk between to large fields of sheep and bears right to am RAF Memorial.


And close by is All Saints Church with its striking C14 spire. In this treasure ladened church, built by the Templers is a memorial window to the men and women of the Royal Air Force who took part in operations originating from RAF Down Ampney during WWII. A commemorative service is held each year.

More on RAF Down Ampney here

Friday 21 April 2023


It had momentarily stopped raining in West Wales. Sian and I were casting around for a jaunting destination. We decided on Garn Fawr where John Piper’s Cottage is still to be found. 


About 10 minutes west out of Fishguard, Garn Fawr nestles into a high outcrop of hard volcanic rock, an iron age hill fort, which perilously looks out to see. We walked down paths bordered by high stone walls. Bracken and thorn spills across these tracks, evidence of sheep. Boulder stone with lichen of whites, greens and blues.


On the landward side there is slightly less wind, only slightly. Across to the East stone walls, winding roads, fields quartered by hedgerows. And landscape punctured by farms and the hard white outline of the Harmony Chapel immediately below us. In the far distance are the Preseli Mountains.


Writer Richard Ingrams recalls his visit to see John and Myfanwy Piper:


I was lucky enough to pay a visit to Garn Fawr, driving with the Pipers from Cardiff on a clear cold day and reaching the cottage at noon. It is a tiny single-storey building made of stone whitewashed with a pinkish tinge and roofed with slurry, a mixture of slate and cement. There is only one real room which acts as sitting and dining-room and the right half is roofed over with a platform, reached by a step-ladder, on the Pipers sleep. A kitchen and bathroom have been added to the rear. There is no electricity and no telephone. As dusk fall, Piper busies himself trimming and lighting calor gas and tilly lamps.


From Piper’s Places: John Piper in England and Wales by Richard Ingrams & John Piper   Chatto and Windus   1983



The walk:

Friday 31 March 2023


Running until August 13 folks, the National Gallery’s After Impressionism: Inventing modern art. 

This is a thought-provoking journey showing the struggle between realism and abandonment of naturalism in painting and what Katie did next.

Headlined by Cezanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh this is chance to see ninety seven paintings many of which have been coaxed from private collections for our grateful gaze.


Paul Cezanne’s (1839 - 1906) still life paintings and his landscapes play ducks and drakes with volume and perspective. Van Gogh’s frantic brushwork, rhythmic patterning (?verb)  and the way he crops his work is an eye opener. Edgar Degas (1834–1917) was breaking the rules on composition and a painting’s edge with his dizzying studies.

Paul Cezanne 'Mont Sainte-Victoire'  1902‒6

Gauguin takes us East, and the show’s description of his work could not resist references to 'colonialism', his 'relationships' to those whom he painted and cohabited; a lest-we-forget piece of wokery if ever there was.


Lots of new names: Paul Sérusier (1864 - 1927) - his Le Talisman, Paysage au Bois d'Amour is early abstraction as is Lady of Fashion by Eduard Vuillard’s colour-field approach.


The concept of painter as commentator (which today seems to the only way a painter should be) is introduced in Jan Toorop’s 1858–1928 The Eve of the Strike. A palette and composition ladened with political undertones. 

The eve of the strike (Dark clouds) Jan Toorop

Surprises: A riot of colour by Edvard Munch in his 1915 painting Cabbage Field. A scream of colour no less (sorry). 


Representational Mondrian? Excuse me? Yes, there are two landscape studies next to his more familiar approach in Composition NXVI.


Thrills and mysteries to enjoy and think about, demanding two if not three visits. If three then you have amortised the cost of an NG annual membership. Get and go.

André Derain, ‘La Danse’

Wednesday 22 March 2023


Running until the end of May is a wonderful show of paintings, prints, watercolours and drawings by Giorgio Morandi. Treasures just five minutes’ walk from Highbury and Islington tube station.

 Morandi (1890-1964) is best known for his mournful treatment of modest household objects, to which he returned again and again. Like a chess player he studied every configuration of bottles, jars, pots and glass. He loved his backgrounds which were so much part of a restrained palette, earth colours, greys, milky blues and whites.

NATURA MORTA Oil on canvas

14⅞ by 17¾ in. (37.8 by 45.1 cm)

Painted in 1951.

 In real life these pictures are so much lighter than the reproductions we enjoy online. And you can see how his palette becomes in and of itself lighter comparing paintings from 1927 to 1948.


Special for me where the watercolours and pencil drawings, the former float and are almost like abstracted apparitions. The pencil studies are akin to Morandi working things out, exploring, one of the essential qualities of drawing.

Morandi Drawings : Great explorations


Overall, a triumph for focus and economy of means.


Do go. Runs until 28 May 2023


Painting 2023 Sotheby's Thank you 

Drawing  © 2000–2023 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Thank you

Sunday 26 February 2023


Lanes and Stiles to explore

We have landed in Cricklade, Wiltshire.  

A delightful place full of equally delightful people. The place is a beguiling mix of Saxon walls, innumerable footpaths and small estates of homes. A neighbour pops round with tulips the day after we move in!  

Another with a bottle of wine.

There are great things waiting to be discovered, within the small housing estates and the attendant buildings and gardens, tracks that run past barns, farms and desultory chicken coops.

Vortex-like plants and hedges


Sprinkled around: small estates of homes

Each day I take Rosie for a walk and come back loaded with ideas and with R’s permission linger longer to make a sketch. Dreamt about hedgerows last night.


St Sampson’s Church Tower, a triumph of Late Perpendicular, can be seen for miles around.


The lanes that are vortex-like with winter branches and beside each a stream ditch or river.  

I had the studio set up two days after moving in and have even started to carve out time with charcoal and acrylic. There is much to celebrate in drawing and painting and ‘camera as sketchbook’. And approach adopted by the painter George Shaw. 


George Shaw talks about “being a bit of a prowler” constantly touring the landscape, neglected woodlands, these wildernesses, with his camera. He admits to taking hundreds of photographs and using these and his imagination to create works that are very real very lonely and works that monumentalise every day.

Written February 2022

For more on Shaw

Sunday 19 February 2023


The Victorians were an industrious bunch when it came to church building and church make-overs. The architects of the period get mixed reviews. Arguably if they had not happened along many churches might be rubble now.


Two 'new build' churches close to Laugharne are delightful and well worth a visit. 


St David, Meidrim. 

A guardsman-like line of yews usher you forward to a church that is impossibly long. Or you can gain access to the church yard via a red brick church hall which the Buildings of Wales* characterised as ‘non-descript’. 


Inside, the Chancel was the work of  Ewan Christian. He is known for designing the National Portrait Gallery. A busy boy he carried out about 1,300 restorations and additions to churches throughout England and Wales.


Under escort the guardsmen yews will take you to a long and lovely church  

The Nave of St David was down to F R Kempson. Frederick Roberston Kempson (1838 – 1923)  was a Herefordshire lad who aside from Meidrim is known Herefordshire secular building designs including Hereford Library in the Venetian Gothic style.


St Martin & St Enfael, Merthyr.

This delicacy sits in a narrow valley with a river, the Cowin, running behind the church yard. It is gained via a single track with a farm at the end, Church Farm. 

Tip-toe to the door.. this is a delicate charm of a church.


The work of one man: R. K. Penson.  He was a Welsh architect and artist. Penson was county surveyor for Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire. Just up the road he designed Llandovery Town Hall


The day I attended 9:45am Holy Communication at St Martin  there were seven in the congregation and a a real welcome. We concluded the service with a hearty rendition of 51. Lo, he comes with clouds descending, a Wesleyan classic.


THANK YOU WIKIPEDIA… To whom the writer does donate.

Monday 6 February 2023

THE NATIONAL DISH - a poster child


The oft' seen poster of sea fish species

The other day we were on the beach below the quayside at seaside town New Quay in Cardiganshire, about 20 miles south of Aberystwyth. 

It was blustery although the sun shone, and it was nearing lunchtime. 

Regaining the town we  entered the wonderful Captain’s Rendezvous Fish and Chip Restaurant and enjoyed a wonderful meal. The management even provide proper fish knives.

On the wall was the oft' seen poster of sea fish species. 

Any fish and chip emporium worth its salt (sorry) has one on display. 

On Etsy and eBay they sell for a fortune. 

Going to the source, the National Federation of Fish Friers, I was able to purchase one direct. 

It came with a lovely exchange of email with the lady that runs the Training and Qualifications co-ordination. I expect it to arrive very soon and that is not too long before my next cod  and chips.


New Quay's quay. Above and to the right is the Captain's Rendezvous


‘Both Lancashire and London stake a claim to being the first to invent this famous meal – chips were a cheap, staple food of the industrial north whilst fried fish was introduced in London’s East End. In 1839 Charles Dickens referred to a “fried fish warehouse” in his novel, ‘Oliver Twist’.  Source: Historic UK  - the History and Heritage Accommodation Guide.

Saturday 21 January 2023


Pliny the Elder tells of  Zeuxis (Greek painter, 5BC) who was keen to paint an ideal image of the human form.  To get to his idea of an ‘ideal’ subject Zeuxis convened a sort of Life Model X-Factor. Whereby he appraised the young women of Agrigentum, a city on the south coast of Sicily.  Naked they stood before Zeuxis. In the end he selected five whose features he would combine in order to paint an ideal image. This is one of the earliest mentions of life or figure drawing. By C13th the practice was established.

Figure drawing is arguably the most difficult subject an artist encounters. My endeavours,  I first  went to classes in 1986, in this are a testament to this. I resumed sessions, locally, last week. And feel the better for it.

 Life drawing is very much part of the curriculum in art schools. Some staff at some schools, infatuated with present-day ‘conceptual’ art, try all sorts of gimmicks to avoid students following established approaches to life drawing; for example the person drawing  places a piece of chalk between her or his big and second toe, and then with eyes shut (no peeking) they draw the model posed in front of the class.


However it is an absorbing exercise, using charcoal, ink or paint one develops an eye for shape and the interplay of light. The equivalent I always thing of a pianist practising scales.

Thursday 12 January 2023


January is the month where joy, delight and happiness is thin on the ground. Here are recent incidents creating reasons to be cheerful.



Over the New Year’s we were fortunate to stay with dear friends Mike and Kate. 

Catching up, comparing notes, sharing news and our hopes and uncertainties for the year ahead Mike said:

“Well we are people who can get joy from any life”

I rushed back to our room and wrote his thought down in my book. I have been reflecting about this idea ever since.


Harry Baker, an author and poet has been talking to us this week on Prayer for the Day, BBC Radio 4’s daily prayer and reflection. Each 2 minute programme brings huge happiness at the start of the day.  He signed off his January 9 broadcast with 

“Creator god, thank you for adventure. Thank you that this world is so full of wonder that a lifetime spent exploring it wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface”.

>> Link to that broadcast


I discovered joy in another quarter this week – Photographer Alan Burles in his Guardian article A lighter side of life – picture essay published on Monday 26 December.


“The first time I saw a photograph by Elliott Erwitt I fell madly in love with him. “I wasn’t only drawn to Erwitt, I quickly discovered many other amazing reportage photographers too and I now realise that one of the things that I was drawn to was that their work didn’t condemn the world, it celebrated it. 

Link to that article >>


I wrote to Alan saying how much I enjoyed his article and the accompanying photographs.

He replied saying 

“I see you are an artist I can see that your art also celebrates the world” 




The copyrights of The Guardian newspaper, BBC and photographer Alan Burles are acknowledged and also that of dear friend Mike Colling.

Monday 2 January 2023


At the end of a nine mile track off the A9 (Perth - Inverness road) is Bruar Lodge on the Atholl estate. Surrounded by high hills and bracing stretches of moorland this landscape that changes with the light, time of day and the weather. Siân and I were the guests of dear friends Kate and Mike. Arriving in good time on the 29th we had temerity to bring our car along the track. Mistake.

As I write, some five days later we are stranded here, swaddled in high luxury and wonderful company. It is toasty warm inside the lodge, and you step outside into a country that just has to be captured on paper, even when 5 – 8 degrees below.  


The energy, shape, sweep and patterns of the country is captivating and so is the compulsion to draw is easy to gratify.  


My field kit is simple: coat, scarf, cap, boots, over trousers:    ...Plus stick sketch book and graphite stick and pen and I am off. Across the snow. Almost everywhere the sound of running water from the river or streams that pop up from nowhere. Little wind and with the sun sometimes it is quite warm.


Certainly being outside here is the best place to make drawings and the ambient temperature ensure every mark is quickly pressed into submission.  

What brilliant fun.


When will we be out of the Glen? 

Who knows.