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Between Two Rivers

Observations of harmonious architectural forms and early autumn colours in nature on a brief September visit to Gloucestershire between the Severn Estuary and the Wye Valley.

In September I set out southwards on a short trip away from the nooks and crannies of the Upper Calder Valley to a land of wide open spaces and big skies. To the long looping meanders of the Wye and the vast estuarine tides of the Severn in Gloucestershire.

You can love your home landscape whilst still recognising its limitations. My creative imagination needed a change from the tight becks of the South Pennines I'd been staring at for months. Physical expanses can create the mental space for reflection and new ways of looking at the world which feeds into my artwork.

Silvery greys and leafy greens. Below Symonds Yat Rock the river Wye flows majestic*.

From Awre village where I stayed**, you can easily access and walk along the raised banks of the river towards Newnham on Severn. There is much seasonal beauty to be seen in the hedgerows and fields; This year was notable for the extraordinary abundance of blackberries. Outbound we descended on the fruit like a flock of starving birds and on the way home picked another load for tea.

Refreshment for passing travellers, Autumn brambles laden with sweet blackberries.

The tonal range of charcoal helps to convey the atmospheric landscape of the Severn estuary.

I liked photographing this intriguing collaged hut beside the Severn standing all alone and abandoned-looking. So many artists seem to be drawn to the idea of the romantic solitary building and I count myself among them. There was a slight feeling of unreality about the scene, as though from a fable and the bibbly-bobbly sky added to it.

Rusting corrugated iron and weathered planks form this picturesque riverside shack.

Charcoal is a surprisingly versatile medium, great for contrasts and complex skies.

It wasn't all about 'Nature' though and during our stay we visited some noted architectural sites including Gloucester cathedral and docks plus the poetic ruins of Tintern Abbey on the Wye. Reviewing photos from the trip I was struck by the frequency of soft red and blue hues in many of the images and the re occurrence of arching forms. Looking for themes can be a fun way to collate images and I enjoyed putting together this small selection.

  1. Gentle, subtle shades of Medieval floor tiles in the ruins of Tintern Abbey.

  2. Extraordinarily intricate fan vaulting in the cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral.

  3. The main ceiling at Gloucester Cathedral - a poem of stone, glass, gravity and light.

  4. An industrial patchwork carefully pieced and functional, at Gloucester Docks.

  5. Archetypal ruined tracery at Tintern Abbey punching out blue and white confetti.

  6. Wyeside umbels and roof tiles wearing the same tints of rose and terracotta.

A charcoal sketch of the Severn estuary near Lydney.

There's a muscularity about big rivers, the heaving currents, churning channels and roaring sandbanks speak of the inexorable force of moving water; its capacity to shift air and create weather; its power to wreak havoc. Thrilling and frightening at the same time.

A rippled sky is echoed in the sculpted river mud near Newnham on Severn. A deceptive appearance of calm belies the speed of the flow and loud slapping of waves.

* I can't mention the river Wye without referring to the shocking but sadly not surprising fact that large parts of this glorious river are severely polluted and practically devoid of life, owing to sewerage and overseas-owned giant chicken farms creating toxic run-off. To find out more and how you can help you can follow this link to Herefordshire Wildlife Trusts website campaign.

** We were tent camping at an extremely well-run and attractive site in Awre village: ( I would recommend it to anyone outdoorsy seeking comfortable peace and quiet. As an added bonus there are lovely apple trees edging the site and their delectable bottled juice can be bought from the very hard-working site owners.

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