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Archive for the ‘Great outdoors’ Category

After several attempts over the last few years, thwarted by bad weather, we finally managed to walk at Formby for a reasonable length of time. The sun came out in a break in the rain. Up the dunes and down onto the huge beach, covered in razor clam shells. Looped back through the dunes and into the pine trees looking out for the elusive red squirrels, which remained elusive. Back through the trees, clambered down a dune and back along the beach with the wind turbines in the distance. Quite lovely; we will be back.

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Over the last few days, we became aware that we have a fox family living at the back of the flats. We’ve seen one, sometimes two, over the last few years, often disappearing down the side of the house or walking around in the road. We’ve occasionally walked into the garden to find one running off quickly and sometimes we’ve seen them sitting on the roof of the summer house in the sunshine.

But over the weekend we’ve discovered the small family is living under the decking on the ground floor. We saw the parents next door sitting very still in the bluebells and had once seen two cubs, but we were not aware of where they were living until the security light went on one night and there they were, playing in the garden with mum, tumbling around on the flower beds. Unfortunately, my night camera is not great and so terrible shots of them. The next morning, one of foxes was sitting on the roof of one flat below us, looking out across the gardens. They seem very unbothered by the fact that dogs live on either side of them and there are a few curious cats around. My camera is on a full zoom at times so we are quite a distance and not making a noise. And yet often I feel they are looking straight at me!

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A year ago I wrote a post about the brightly coloured electrical boxes and that we’d seen in Portugal brightening up the streets and how we’d started to see some around Crouch End. Since then, bollard painting has become the Crouch End thing, alongside the Yellow Characters, and they’ve really expanded appearing on the Broadway and the surrounding roads. Lunchtime today we discovered they’d now appeared on the corner of our road. More of these please as they look great and add some colour to the neighbourhood. If you know who is painting them, please let me know

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Yellow foam sculptures of figures have been appearing around Crouch End for a few weeks now; doing a bit of desk research it seems they first appeared back in 2016. “Kit” and his fellow artist friends have been brightening the area up using pipe lagging to create the characters, several of whom are hanging off lamp posts. I love them. Whenever we go abroad we always comment on street art in other cities and the lack of it in London. We’d noticed the bollards and elecricity boxes getting a make over recently, something I wrote about after visting Portugal and loving what they’d down with them around the Algarve. I apprecated “Kit” and his friends bringing colour and humour to our lives.

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Earlier this year I posted blogs about the lack of statues to women in London and indeed across the UK. I wanted to write a postscript to this as 2 new memorials have been unveiled recently. The first one is outside of The Whittington Hospital, my local hospital. The granite statue of a women holding a baby commemorates the 40,000 Windrush and Commonwealth NHS nurses and midwives who came to the UK between 1948 and 1973 to help the NHS. Without their help it would have been very difficult for the NHS to have survived. You can read their story here. These nurses, unlike now, would most likely have been women and, in this case, black women.

The second is the unveiling of the Betty Campbell MBE statue finally unveiled in Cardiff in last week of September 2021 in time for Black History Month. The BBC ran a Hidden Heroines campaign with the public voting on who should be represented and they chose Betty, community activist and Wales’ first black head teacher. The statue was due to installed in 2020 the second statue of a woman in Cardiff with Boudicca installed in City Hall but was delayed due to Covid. You can read Betty’s story here on the BBC site: “Always near the top of the class, Betty told her head-teacher she too would like to teach but the response was: “Oh my dear, the problems would be insurmountable.” Those words devastated her – but they also made her even more resilient and focused.”

Great to see these two memorials to black women at the start of Black History Month

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On one of our circular lockdown routes, we popped into the entrance of Highgate Cemetery where Phylida Barlow’s installation Act is situated. It is one of Studio Voltaire’s offsite exhibits and whilst there we filled in a questionnaire on whether we supported more outdoor art, which we do. London would benefit from much more of it. Act is 5ft tall and looks like a grey stone wall with brightly covered poles in the middle as if it is part of a ceremonial ritual. However, when you walk around the back it is a flat stage supported by poles. It fitted well with the stone grandeur of Highgate Cemetery. It was taken down at the end of August and I hope we see something like it again in the future.

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This blog is a cheat as it does not fall into day trips from London but I loved the Totnes Safari and would love more people to enjoy it so posting anyway. In July, as we drove into Totnes, we saw leopards in a tree which looked wonderful and later, as we walked into town from our Bridgetown apartment, we saw a white horse in a hedge, birds and a giant squirrel on a garage roof. Curious about these creatures we did a bit of online research to discover that they were created by Malcolm Curley, an 82 year old artist and former mechanic.

Malcolm creates them out of recycled materials and asks the lucky recipients to make a donation to charity so unfortunately you cannot buy one. He has made them for neighbours, schools, created a huge dragon for a farmer’s field that can only be seen from a train and a mermaid which sits in Brixham Harbour which I spotted as his when we visited. And so much more than I’ve listed with commissions outside of Totnes.

We went on our own Totnes Safari, as it is known locally, and found Malcolm in his garage in the road with the most sculptures on it. We had a chat about how he creates them using a polystyrene base with his wife creating the faces; we’d noticed the incredibly blue eyes on the leopards which are made out of plastic bottles. He was generous with his time and told us about the dragon and revamping the mermaid etc. and invited us to look at his garden as we left. The sculptures really added to our visit to Totnes. You can see more about Malcolm on his Facebook page. And on the Bridgetown Alive Facebook page which keeps a record of them all. If you venture down that way look out for them; pictures below of just some of them.

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Raveningham Sculpture Trail was new to us and we headed there, day after Orford Ness, after a dry but threatening sky for our Aldeburgh short walk to Thorpeness and back in the morning. It is a lovely place with a fantastic cafe where we had lunch with a few second hand shops around it. The annual trail with over 60 contemporary artworks, set within meadows and woods with the grounds of a farm, is on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk, near Beccles/Bungay/Diss, all worth a visit – we hired a boat for a day in Beccles earlier this summer which was lovely. There is also a pop-up gallery and shop to buy artworks and all the sculptures are for sale. We spoke to Sarah Cannell, the curator, at the end and she explained that the artists choose their spots and she works with them to keep it organic and unmanicured. We loved the setting. Earlier in the year they hold a Woodland Lumiere in the evenings.

I had some favourites: HugMe by Helen Breach; Nicola Gibson’s 3D scenes within lanterns hung in the trees, Lorraine Crowe and Dawny Christian’s sculpture of women coming together during the pandemic; Mike Challis’ NightWire tunnel of sounds; Nick Ball’s VHS SHED made out of old VHS tapes and Meryem Siemmond’s shirt and hat made out of slate, Threat to Existence 1, on a chair near the indoor galleries. We brought home one of Ian Vance’s clay sculptures for the garden and I was tempted by Sara Edwards’ Safe as Houses, fairytale scenes made out of painted stones. This is one that we will add to our annual sculpture trail visits. And where else would get a quote from David Bowie? And fields of sunflowers on the way home.

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In the previous post, I wrote about the trip to Orford Ness. On our visit the Afterness Artangel artworks were in place. These made the trip extra special and gave us access to areas that you don’t usually get to, making it a great place to go this summer. There are 5 works. You can pick up headphones to listen to Ilya Kaminsky’s I see a Silence, a poetry and prose with sounds from the landscape. This wasn’t for me as I wanted to listen to the landscape itself.

Black Beacon is a series of field recordings within the tower. You can look out of the narrow viewing apertures across the landscape and play different sounds such as an aeroplane overhead, wind rattling the plastic etc. Next door is The Shelter, Alice Channer’s brambles made of aluminium with sharp thorns pushed into the building with pieces coming out of the windows. Very stark but beautiful. The Armoury, the furthest away, is the old atomic bomb storage building. To get there you pass several derelict buildings and have great views back to Orford. Emma McNally’s sculpture looks like a mountain range. Up close it is covered in charts and diagrams on paper, installed in an eerie room.

Lab 1, a building for atomic bomb testing, is dramatic in itself. There was a National Trust guide by the door who spoke to us about the The Residents by Tatiana Trouve, which I could have done without, but he did give us details not in the booklet. To me, it looked like refugees had washed up on the beach and were living there; to the guide it looked like the aftermath of a catastrophe. It is very atmospheric with items scattered in the ruins, blankets, shoes, books, suitcases, a radio, and a nylon shopping bag, plus a coat hanging on a post, abandoned in the water. There is also a large rock in there and metal gates adorned with sea shells. But look closely and you realise that they are cast from bronze and carved in marble, even the sea shells and the large rock. The coat is extraordinary; a photo of the installation

The atmosphere of Orford Ness with its secret history and the abandoned buildings is worth the trip in itself and Orford itself is lovely. If you get a chance, visit before 31st October, and earlier in to get a chance of sunny weather, to see Artness.

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Returning from a 2 day trip to Suffolk, pulled over at the sight of fields of glorious sunflowers. Turned out to be Frogs Farm with a sunflower maze and a sunflower labyrinth. Off we went confident in our ability to navigate them- thought we’d never get out of the latter! It was lovely with sunshine, bees and smiley faces etched into the sunflowers.

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