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16 April 2013

Westcott Farm: Walking & Talking with Trees.

Snowdrops had greeted us when we first visited Westcott Farm in February, but as we turned into the yard, a vibrant display of late daffodils bobbed their heads in the warm breeze.

This was to be the last organised 'artist walk' on the farm, however those artists involved are encouraged to return throughout the forthcoming months to paint, sculpt and sketch, inspired by the landscape encountered on these jaunts. The warmer months ahead will no doubt be more conducive when it comes to sitting still and fully absorbing the finer details, and apparently it was so cold during a previous walk that one of the artists' cameras failed to work.

We took a different route this time, entering under a natural curtain of ivy, a steep incline took us through an avenue of tall straight trees, past ancient hedgerows - branches and routes entwined   creating window frames onto the fields beyond. Busy chatting we blundered, realising we had to make our way across the shallow stream we headed towards it's banks, naively unaware of how boggy the mud was, let's just say a few of us got rather muddy! Once recovered from crossing the stream we scrabbled up the naturally terraced slopes; Lyn explained that the lower meadow was once where farmers would 'catch hay' and how the stream would have been actively managed to flood after the first hay harvest to encourage a subsequent crop to grow.  A little bit of ancient agricultural wisdom that future farmers will sadly be unaware of...

On our previous visit the cows had been housed in the large barns, but now they were grazing with their young calves in the final field that we needed to cross before returning to the main house. We stayed together, skirting the field edge, ensuring that we didn't walk between a mother and her young; not wanting to frighten or upset the protective parent. Back at the farm yard I had a quick look in the birthing shed where a young calf was snuggled in the straw and couldn't resist taking a photograph of the farmers scribbled blackboard birth chart.

It was then time to hose down our muddy boots and Lyn lent me a pair of clean trousers - I was far too muddy to step indoors where everyone was heading to enjoy homemade mushroom soup.

Whilst the main group had been exploring one side of the farm Gordon Field had ventured off in his own quiet way to meet with the trees on the horizon that can be seen from the kitchen window. Gordon's work has for a long time been imbued by his meetings with trees and as a result of being immersed in this natural environment for such a long time, a new dialogue has evolved between the artist and his subject. Encouraged by his wife Geraldine, Gordon attended a workshop on dowsing and has discovered an instinctive talent which he now harnesses within his practice. On hearing that Christopher was planning to work within the orchard for art week the two of them went to 'talk' with the apple trees. 

When I last wrote about the proposed SAW exhibition at Westcott Farm the line up of artists had not been confirmed but I can now inform you that those taking part are:

Once the daffodils die back Christopher will return to mow the orchard and the maze that he visualises will begin it's journey, Sue plans to sketch the crumbling walls inhabited by spiders  - which will then be translated into prints. Lyn is busy 'collecting the creatures' that inhabit her ancient hedgerows and the others, well like me, you shall just have to wait until September to see.

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