Blog 29 : RHS adventures in 2021

The perfect place

I had a wonderful summer this year with time to concentrate on my RHS paintings. I took myself away to a lodge in Trefeglwys, Wales. The lodge was in a quiet, remote location and it gave me time to focus on my work. The lodge is surrounded by fields, woodland, hills, sheep (I miss the bleating!) and cows.

The wildlife

Wild hares leapt around the fields at night. A pond faced the deck of the lodge and many dragonflies and damselflies frequented it. For the first time, I saw a dragonfly emerge from its nymph. The process took almost 2 days and was fascinating to watch even though I found the nymph a little scary at first! Overhead many Red Kites flew, I’ve never seen them this close up. They are magnificent birds, although a little noisy on occasions as they were nesting!

Nature reserve visits

As well as visiting my usual Trewalkin meadow, on the journey, each time I travelled to the lodge, I also visited two other local meadows, Llanmerewig and Pen Y Waun. The latter was such a tiny meadow but full of wildflowers. One weekend my cousin and hubby came to stay and we went to Hafren forest. An amazing place, the atmosphere there is very dear to my heart. It was teaming with unripe bilberries too.

Below are photos of Llanmerewig meadow. It was a very hot balmy day and it was buzzing with bees, hoverflies and I even spotted a nursery spider web. These grassland habitats fill my heart with joy especially so as they are very rare. Let’s hope in the future we will see more of these grasslands appearing and that there will be protection for what we have left – only 2% only since the 1930s!

I visited Pen Y Waun meadow in June. The tiniest nature reserve I’ve ever encountered! However, this tiny meadow was boasting some wildflower species. I went in the hope of finding evidence of Devil’s bit scabious growing there. This plant doesn’t flower until late summer but I would recognise the basal leaves if they were present. Unfortunately, nothing was to be seen. Below are photos of Pen Y Waun. You can literally see all of it in the first photo!

The main meadow for my research, Trewalkin

Trewalkin meadow is en-route to the lodge in Trefeglwys, snuggled down a narrow country lane. A small, damp, flower-rich meadow at the foot of the Black Mountains between Llangorse and Talgarth. I stopped on the way on all my journeys to see how the meadow was progressing. I have visited this meadow many times since I started my plant research. It is home to all but one of the species I am painting. I was delighted to find a lot of them still flowering along with wild orchids when I visited in July.

The process

I took with me all the paintings I have already started in order to do some more work on them. Setting up my workspace at the lodge was simple, there was a huge dining table! The light wasn’t as good as I expected but I had pre-empted this and taken my lamps with me. I moved the table as close to the windows as I could. My car was overflowing as I needed to take reference books, research work and all my equipment too. I didn’t enjoy the packing and unpacking but the place was perfect and idyllic. I also had to take some plant stems from my garden at home for reference.

The painting

I started by working on my Ragged Robin and Greater Birds Foot Trefoil dissection details using my plant specimens as reference. Here are some photos of the work I completed whilst away. The hours flew by…

On my next trip to the lodge, I took a Water Avens plant with me and again checked Trewalkin meadow on the way. Trewalkin was very water-logged in May and the Water Avens plants growing there were very short in comparison to my home-grown Water Avens. I have found it was important to find all my chosen species growing in the wild as they grow more naturally than in a garden. Habitats in the wild are quite different. Because the field was so water-logged, this year the plants had been stunted a little. They were much smaller than last year.

On my final visit to the lodge, I collected Great Burnet specimens (with permission) from Trewalkin to study this plants botany and make preliminary sketches. In August Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) fills this field and looks like hundreds of red lollipops. It’s a sight to see in real life. Hoverflies were enjoying the nectar too!

I had come to the end of my visits to Trefeglwys where I had done a great deal of work. I was pleased with my progress. On returning home I was distracted by other things I needed to catch up on and pressing work for the SBA. It took a little while before I could settle into my studies again. I have just completed a Devil’s bit scabious composition which you may have seen on Facebook. This has taken over three weeks to get the composition and drawing just right. Next, I will be making my composition for Great Burnet. This will be the last one of the six paintings prepared, then all I have to do is complete the paintings!

I have learned a great deal along the way about wildflowers and botany. Thanks must go to a well know botanist who has helped me learn and get my drawings right along the way. I am very grateful to her. I so enjoyed learning about botany that I designed a course for my local students in September. I called it ‘Flower Studies and a little Botany’. They learned so much and made a page of botanical studies on a chosen plant. They were all very excited by what they had learned and are now looking at plants in a new way!

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed this blog and I will be back with another one soon.

Take care and happy painting!

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