Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Random thoughts while traveling to Alaska - #1 who was Vancouver?

Cliff and I have recently returned from a 3 week holiday which started by flying to Vancouver and continued by cruise boat along the 'Inside Passage' between Vancover Island and the mainland and meandering through narrow channels along the South-East Alaskan coast and across the Gulf of Alaska to Prince William sound and the port of Whitier; before we explored a small part of 'the great land' by car.

It was while gazing out at the ever-changing coastal scenery, that my mind wandered to thinking "who was Vancouver?". I had a vague memory that he was from King's Lynn in Norfolk . . . and Vancouver city and Vancouver Island are named after him.

George Vancouver was born on 22 June 1757, the 6th and youngest child of the deputy collector of customs at the port of King's Lynn in Norfolk.

In 1771 aged 13 he joined the Royal Navy as a trainee midshipman. Within a year he was serving aboard HMS Resolution on Captain Cook's 2nd great voyage around the world. This was the start of George Vancouver's adventures, in 1776 he joined the crew on Captain Cook's 3rd voyage arriving home safely in 1780 after Cook's tragic death in Hawaii. 

George Vancouver then served as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, spending the next 5 years on warships keeping the peace in disputes with the Spanish fleet around the West Indies and then along the American North Pacific coast.

So in 1791 he was well qualified to take command of a voyage of exploration, The Vancouver Expedition consisted of two ships and the mission was to survey the coastlines of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and China. Then on to the West coast of North America - what is now Oregon - and north following the inside passage East of Vancouver Island, all along the coast to Alaska.

The coast of British Columbia and Alaska is scattered with places named after East Anglian villages that George Vancouver would have known as a child, and the names of his close friends and relatives.

The maps and charts that he made were so accurate that they are still in use today.

In September 1795 George Vancouver returned to England, he was 38 years old and had probably travelled further than any any other living person. He chose Petersham in South London for his retirement because he liked the view from Richmond Hill, but unfortunately there were people determined to make his life back home a misery . . . commanding an expedition lasting years, thousands of miles from home must have required determination and strong management skills, it seems George Vancouver upset one or two people with friends and relatives in high places. One was Thomas Pitt, a relative of the Prime Minister, who Vancouver had disciplined and sent back home in disgrace; Thomas Pitt hounded his former Commander, stalking him in the street and once actually attacking him in public. 

'The Caneing in Conduit Street' (1796) by James Gillray
A caricature of Thomas Pitt's streetcorner assault on George Vancouver.

Tired and ill from a life sailing the oceans and now from verbal and physical attacks by his well connected enemies, George Vancouver died on 10 May 1798 aged 40. He is buried in St Peter's churchyard, Petersham, nr Richmond on Thames, London.

What an amazing life George Vancouver led, sailing uncharted oceans and stepping onto unknown shores, not knowing what would be around the next headland. And having the skill and knowledge to survey and record every island and bay along thousands of miles of coastline. 

The modern ship we were on, steered its course using all sorts of navigating aids, satellites and GPS . . .  way beyond the dreams of George Vancouver; but I suspect the misty bays and islands, the pods of orcas, the sea otters and sea lions swimming alongside and the eagles in the trees along the beaches look much the same today as they did when he sailed to Alaska.


Monday, 7 July 2014

Le Tour de France en Essex

It's hard to believe but today Le tour de France came to a lane not far from where we live; when the greatest cycle race in the world is on your own doorstep, surely it's worth wandering along to see?!

There were lots of road closures, so getting to a good vantage point needed planning and a walk long shady lanes . . .

Through cool woods . . .

Alongside fields of ripening wheat, into the open sunny landscape of North Essex . . .

.  .  . to the edge of a tiny village called Little Chesterford.

A good number of people where waiting at the roundabout. The atmosphere was jolly and expectant.

Everyone cheered any vehicle that passed by – sponsors' vans, the French gendarmes and the press. Local police got loud applause especially if they waved!

I think the sun made us all a little sleepy, enthusiasm had definitely peaked a little early. 

Then, at just before 1pm and heralded by 6 helicopters and an escort of bright yellow police motorbikes, the peloton was upon us!

A steady stream of colourful lycra . . .

Then it was gone.

C'st tout!

Au revoir Le Tour! 

Did Le Tour come to a road near you? Did you go to watch?


Friday, 13 June 2014

Visible mending

Two years ago I went for a walk wearing an almost new pair of trousers, I skidded on some gravel while crossing a dry ford and landed with a bump. Then I picked myself up and examined the damage - grazed palms, a grazed and bleeding knee AND a gaping hole in my trousers!
I've been meaning to mend them but kept putting them aside, until today when I sat down in a shady place in the garden and mended the hole.

Inspired by Japanese Sashiko 

Circular patterns in little running stitches

Stitches that firmly hold the tears to a patch underneath

Visible Mending.

And while I stitched I listened to a concert of birdsong . . . I've put a little film with sound over on Instagram


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A feast of flowers! The Autumn-sown flower border in June

The weather is glorious – 'Flaming June!'

"Your poppies are looking good this morning" said Cliff, when he returned from letting out the hens early this morning. And when I looked out of the window I could see the Autumn-sown flower border vibrant with colour . . .

I am experimenting with ideas and techniques for filling the garden with colourful flowers AND have free-ranging hens. "Is she mad?" I hear someone say – don't answer that – I will show you how I created a feast of flowers.

Last September the Supervisor and the Under-gardeners helped me to mark out a new border and to dig up the lawn.

I then sowed Hardy Annual flower seeds, mine were from Higgledy Garden plus some poppy seeds collected from my Mum's garden. I covered the seed beds with wire mesh 'tunnel cloches' to prevent Mr Cheep and his hens from scratching them all up . . . this is the most vulnerable time for the seedlings and hens love to follow and copy anything I do in the garden – where I dig, they dig!

The seeds soon germinated and became healthy looking but tiny plants. This is how they remained all winter, the wire mesh would have also protected them from snow . . . but we had no snow last winter.

As the temperature began to rise and days lengthened, the little plants grew quickly and pushed against the wire mesh, so I carefully removed it and made twiggy woven structures around the patches of young plants. I included little wire mesh fences to prevent the hens from walking through the growing plants, by now they seemed bored by my project so didn't interfere. At this stage it looks a bit of a mess – but not for long  . . .

After the Spring Equinox growth really takes off! the twiggy/wire-mesh structures disappeared under a mash of swaying plants and I waited expectantly for the buds to open.

I love the mix of shapes and colours, like Liberty Tana Lawn that's come to life.

 100 Flowers #084  Opium Poppy - Papaver somniferum

Once grown abundantly in Fen villages for medication against symptons of the ague, the latin name means 'sleep-bringing poppy' and it is the source of many narcotics; but it is legal to grow it in the UK as long as you don't start making drugs from it. This is the poppy so familiar in Art Nouveau designs, the frilly foliage is grey-blue and the buds are elegantly hooked over until a day or two before the flower opens, when they stand up straight. 

100 Flowers #085  Corncockle - Agrostemma githago

Corncockle was once a common wildflower in wheatfields and the seeds got mixed into the harvested grain . . . which was a bit of a problem as all parts of Corncockle are poisonous! So eradicating this toxic weed from crops was necessary, consequently the Corncockle is now very rare in the wild.

It is a very pretty flower, deep pink with spiky green sepals like a green star; just don't eat it!

100 Flowers #086  Cornflower 'Black Ball' - Centaurea cyanus

This is a cultivar - taller and with larger flowers than it's wild blue cousin. I grew this last year as a Spring sown annual, but the Autumn-sown plants are so much bigger and more robust. For those of you who like to sprinkle petals on your food – this one is safe, Cornflower petals make very pretty sprinkles. I think that the deep dark burgundy flowers are fantastic cut flowers that seem to blend well any other colour and it looks particularly wondrous mingled with Ammi.

100 Flowers #087  Common Bishop's Weed - Ammi majus

Ammi is the 'posh Cow Parsley' that is so fashionable with garden designers and florists wanting a 'natural country-look'. It is ethereal and wafty, insects love it and it is the perfect mixer for your flowery cocktail. This is another flower I wouldn't recommend eating - I know some people nibble Cow Parsley but there are so many similar plants that are highly toxic (Hemlock for instance) or a bit dodgy like Ammi, so be safe and no nibbling.

The wonderful thing about Hardy Annuals is that most of them make good cut-flowers, the more you pick the more they flower – win win win! You can pick buckets of flowers! Have fun filling vases with flowers, give some to your friends – flowers make people smile.

Top tip: grab your diary and make a note to sow some seeds in September. It's easy – throw seeds onto dirt and wait. Pop over to Ben's lovely seed shop at Higgledy Garden, he has all the seeds and information you need. (There are lots of other seed suppliers but they aren't as entertaining to follow on Twitter.)


PS: you can now also follow my garden and studio on Instagram including a video of the poppies.