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Norfolk Broads

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When your job involves spending ages on Photoshop, what better way to unwind than to spend ages on Photoshop?

I found this photato a long time ago and put it away for a future session; taken in 1903, we see two leisurely boaters enjoying a smoke while meandering through the Norfolk Broads. I liked the composition and how content they looked in each other’s company.

Since this was a break, I had no choice but to move quickly and, coming in at around an hour, it is exceptionally fast for me – especially dealing with two people. The swiftness is probably clear, but it could certainly have been worse. It’s been a long old time since those Time Tested challenges.

Thanks to Ronald Shields for the most charming photato; fingers crossed it won’t be too long until people are allowed to be this close once again, though, perhaps without the smoking!

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Rather sooner than I was expecting, we’re back to Ludham in the thirties and here’s that brighter, more postcard-appropriate view of
Beaumont’s Mill I touted last time. It’s even in colour, kinda – it was my old way of drawing something in tones and then colouring over the top with Photoshop’s blending modes doing their thing. I would call it magic, but that would suggest something impressive. I haven’t employed such a technique in a while, and when coming to the mill’s sails I remembered why: it’s bloody fiddly (as are the sails in general, I hasten to add. I don’t know why I keep putting myself through it). I much prefer the monochrome version.

What a pretty view this should be, though, with a charming craft strolling past the mill. By this point, trade would have well and truly given way to leisure and the Broads would have been one of the country’s premier getaway locations, surely driven by images so quaint as this. Needless to say, I would have enjoyed the voyage around the Broads back then as no doubt there would have been windmills twirling hypnotically all over the place. What can I say? Born in the wrong century.

broads-southludham-4 Well, hello there! It is I, for I am not actually dead. Well, some would probably disagree. And hey, what if this is the afterlife? Have to admit, that wasn’t how I was expecting this to start whilst I was putting this drawing together. It’s been a while since I’ve done this. Cut me some slack, jeez.

I might not be dead, but sadly, both of these Ludham windpumps are long deceased. A great shame that is, too, as we appear to have two magnificent examples of Norfolk drainage mills in close proximity – a classic tower mill, known locally as Beaumont’s Mill, and an open ‘skeleton’ mill – working together day to day together (together!) on the River Ant. Though I’m more enamoured with the tower mill, I think the skeleton mill is probably the bigger loss as I can only think of a single other on the Broads in any decent condition today, that being Boardman’s Mill, which, incidentally, stands just a couple of miles north on the same river.

My inspiration for this was, besides a sweet release from the ‘day job’, this postcard I happened across, showing Beaumont’s Mill presumably post-retirement and looking the worse for wear. I decided to substitute in a reference of the mill in better condition, and repositioned the neighbouring skeleton mill so that it could share the spotlight. The colour and shading is murkier than I wanted, but it’s a drawing, and pretty much the first drawing I’ve managed to complete this year, so that’s a victory in my book (pity it’s on my hard drive, in that case). Maybe I’ll try a brighter version someday.

I’m not sure if I’ve made this confession before, but it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I indulged in quite a bit of deltiology as a child, and yes, they were almost all of the windmill persuasion. Yes. I was that cool. I had a “walbum” full of the things, from home and abroad. I don’t know where they are now. But it’s nice to see postcards of these structures now long gone, which I actually knew very little about until recently. Demolished in the sixties, a boat mooring now occupies the site of Beaumont’s Mill and of the skeleton mill only the piers remain. Thank goodness for these postcards from the past.

howhill-01Well well, hasn’t it been a while since my last post here? Almost half a year, in fact. I’ve mostly been too busy to keep this place going, and, if you’re wondering what would cause such a frightful thing, I kindly direct you to the top of my sidebar. Exciting stuff.

Anyway, I’m on a little break from that and the weather had me finally back in the mood for drawing. Usually when weather is the driving force, it’s winter and freezing; today, it’s 33C just on the coast, and that’s forecast to rise over the next couple of days. I cannot wait. Naturally I chose a sunset – the sign that it’s now safe to head outside – playing behind the old faithful.

And here’s something a little different, which I’ve been meaning to try for some time: a more ‘printerly’ aesthetic with a smock mill, in this case Horning Ferry Mill before it was converted to residential property. It’s not perfect and Illustrator might have been the wiser choice for this one, but I’m too pleased with my productivity today to worry that much.

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It has been a while, so it was nice to find my way around Photoshop again.

So, how you doin’?

 

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It was one of those ‘how did I get here?‘ moments. When I should probably have been asleep, I found myself looking at photos of particularly small or rarely used train stations. Naturally.

Berney Arms Station was a swift return to familiarity. It’s one of the least used in the country, which perhaps isn’t surprising given its location, out in the open somewhere between Yarmouth and Norwich, very much in the realm of wildlife. Its erection is all down to Thomas Berney, who owned the land when the track was being planned; he was quite happy for them to proceed, but insisted that a station be included.

I remember the days when my sisters would take me to Norwich for the day, we’d usually go by train until, at some point, we converted to the bus. I would always ask if it was going to go the Berney Arms way; it took a little longer than the usual route through Acle and Brundall, but was most definitely the more open and scenic journey. Coasting across the Broads with close-up views of Berney Arms High MillCantley Sugar Factory and Reedham was fun, and still has a certain romance about it. I highly recommend getting off at Cantley and visiting The Cock Tavern.

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I can’t remember a single passenger ever boarding or alighting at Berney Arms. My understanding is that it’s most popular on Sundays, as it’s veritably spoilt that day with the service of no less than four trains. Currently, with the pub a victim of arson and the High Mill seemingly closed more often than not, it’s perhaps not as attractive a trip as it once was, but the station will remain a curiosity, I’ve no doubt.

And, rather further from home, I got to sketching this little station shelter below: Campbell’s Platform in the Welsh country of Gwynedd, erected in 1965. Its main purpose back then was to serve Plas Dduallt, a fifteenth century manor house, connecting to the main Tan-y-Bwlch station. I took a few liberties with the reference in a bid to make it seasonably cosy, with varying degrees of success. Lots of fun, though – what a great little station!

These quiet, often secluded little stops are far more appealing to me than the crowded chaos of a large one, no matter how immaculate or warm they are. They’re like having your own little stop – as, indeed, these two were to begin with! Maybe I will look at some more of these; there was a nice feeling of being on the right track whilst making them.

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It’s not often the windmills are upstaged in the Norfolk skies, but a murmuration of starlings should do it (yes, it’s a murmuration, not a menstruation; Chrome, please take note). A bewitching spectacle that can involve anywhere from a few dozen to a few million birds, it is primarily a defence mechanism against predators. It seems it has a similar effect on them as it does us – the hypnotic sight of countless starlings twisting and turning in unison makes a catch virtually impossible.

This was really just a bid to shake up the nine hundredth or so Norfolk and/or windmill landscape (not that I apologise for that). I tried to capture this phenomenon a year or two ago, but never posted it as I wrote it off as, well, dreadful. Looking at it now, though, I kinda like the landscape, so I’m showing it for that at least – and, if the starlings have taught me anything, there’s strength in numbers.

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broads-horseyrain3East Anglia is often said to be one of the driest regions of the UK. This is normally something I’d dispute, but I don’t think I can remember a dry spell quite as long as we’ve had lately – it must be eight weeks or so since our last drop of rain! With this, I thought I’d try and rescue two unspectacular landscape drawings, stitching in some angry skies and throwing the scene into a much-needed rainstorm. Sorry, sun fans.

Above, we have the approach to Horsey Windpump on a more traditional summer’s day. This was a last minute thing, as the way my fiddling with Photoshop was going, it looked more like spits and spots on a windscreen. It’s a new spin on the concept for me, anyway – and I’ve always rather enjoyed the way raindrops transform the passing landscape. From experience, I can say that Horsey Mere is not the most desirable place to be caught in the rain, even less should lightning decide to tag along. Stay in the car!

broads-caisterrain3The remains of Caister Castle, standing just to the east of the town, still looking out over the trees. Built for Sir John Fastolf, a soldier and knight who fought in the Hundred Years War and Battle of Agincourt, its construction began in 1433, making it one of the earliest and best-preserved ruins of a brick-built residence in England.

Fastolf would die at the castle in 1459, aged seventy-nine, and was buried ten miles away at St Benet’s Abbey. With no children, ownership of the castle was contested, but eventually it went to John Paston, a close confidante and advisor. Challenging the inheritance, the Duke of Norfolk would end up attacking the castle with up to three thousand men, ultimately succeeding in taking the site, however, it would once again find its way back to the Paston family on his death, with several others claiming it into the sixteenth century. The castle gradually fell into disrepair, and with a new manor built nearby in 1600 it was all but neglected, except the tower, which saw continued used as accommodation. Easily the proudest and most intact feature of the building today – I believe you can still access and climb it – the tower is not only testament to the craft of those that erected it but a marvellous landmark, a beacon of inspiration against the vast Norfolk skies. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, there’s also a motor museum on the grounds.

Temperatures are set to climb further still next week. Fingers crossed for a nice downpour to cool off – maybe a flash or two of lightning, too? 😉