With a swift spot of twitching this evening, I found my way to the cormorant. Expert waterfowl with a preference for coastal areas, you’ll find plenty perched about the Broads, using high branches as a lookout or settled atop the sails of windmills to dry their wings before the sun. Brograve Mill in particular almost looks wrong without its watchful residents.
My second drawing was referenced from a daylight shot, but I dialled it up somewhat and went for almost silhouette with saturated colour; trouble was, this led to further dallying and switching hues around. I couldn’t decide which to show, so here’s both of them – at least they are apparently enamoured with one another…
I’m sure there will always be room for more birdwatching, broadland or otherwise. Watch this space.
The idea that I’m playing with windmills on a regular basis probably won’t surprise any friend of this blog.
This week it was reported that £4million is being pumped into the Water, Mills and Marshes project. Among other pursuits afforded by the grant, twelve derelict mills are set to be cleaned up, restored with the assistance of mind-bending 3D laser technology and, most importantly, preserved for the future.
So, in response to such happy news, here’s an assortment of old mill and pump studies, 2D and 3D, given a splash of colour and some Photoshop filters. They might not have found a place in my postings over the last couple of months, but they certainly come together here, in celebration of these beautiful structures.
I’m not sure quite how far the grant money will stretch, but perhaps, in years to come, there will be a few more sights like this about the Broads. Here’s hoping!
Back to the thirties and Secrets of Nature, and through our time-warp binoculars we’ve spotted another broadland birdie: the bittern, described in the documentary as a ‘queer’ and ‘invisible’ character of fawn and brown stripes. Poor luv! Doubtless, such camouflage and the spear-like bill probably serve her well as she tends to her young.
Here’s the iconic boom of the male’s mating call, a frequent noise throughout the spring and summer, especially at dawn and dusk. One of my earliest memories of the Broads is being at Hickling Broad and hearing that curious sound – this seems even more special now, learning of how rare they are.
This was fun enough, but I’d like to try and focus more on that patterned plumage. I’ve something else in mind for the bittern, perhaps other birds too if I’m able to materialise the image. We’ll have to see!
As is often the way on YouTube, link from video to video and you will come across something of interest. This time, a 1930s series of documentary films collectively titled Secrets of Nature. Happier still, East Anglia was given generous coverage and so I couldn’t resist using the film as reference for some sketches, most of all the rather lovely shot of a man punting toward a working drainage mill. I could very well be wrong, but I’m wondering if it’s a working Brograve Mill as it looks about the same geography, same size and even appears to have the trademark lean. This, incidentally, was said to have been caused by the Devil himself – apparently preferring the Norfolk Broads untouched, legend says he tried to blow the mill over several times.
On top of that, it’s also claimed that Sir Berney Brograve, who commissioned the structure in 1771, was actually chased by the Devil into the mill one night: “The devil pounded his hooves on the door trying to get in, but Sir Berney stayed put, too afraid to come out. When he woke the next morning the door was covered in hoof prints.”
Spooky. Such stories even led to it earning the colloquial name of Devil’s Mill.
Of course the objective of this particular film, The Raiders of the Fens, was not to speak of the mills, but the birds nesting in nearby sanctuary, so I felt compelled to move in that direction. The above is rather a sketchy attempt at capturing both the beauty and devotion of a young mum; the Montagu’s Harrier hen muddling through and guarding her eggs. Hmm. Well, there’s always next time I suppose – and indeed there surely is more to come from this fascinating series.
In bouts of boredom or procrastination I often find myself in Photoshop, just doodling and playing with the brush tool – perhaps hoping something will stick, perhaps not. It certainly doesn’t often result in anything worth sharing. Last night, I began fiddling with the brush configurations and casually switched on ‘Wet Edges’, an option I’ve rarely used, if at all. That’s one of the things I love about Photoshop; I’ve been using it for almost a decade, and still there are new, undiscovered corners.
Something about the translucency of the strokes and the mixing therein led to attempting a sky, which in turn led to the above. Perhaps it’s the calm after our earlier storm? It was nice to break away from reference images, and there does seem to be a different texture and feel about it. Hmm. I’m sure I’ll give this another go someday, devoting a little more time.
In honour of this inspirational tool, I have named the setting Wet Edge. It sounds very Norfolk. I imagine it’s not far from Cockshoot Broad.
…Aaah! I’ve mentioned my desperation for an impressive thunderstorm a couple of times recently.
Well, yesterday certainly delivered; for most of the afternoon and into the evening we were bombarded with not only heavy rain (or rather angelpiss – hat tip to Gregory!) but frequent flashes of lightning and rumbles of godlike fury. I’ve always been told that a measure for distance on the delay between flash and rumble is one second = one mile. If that’s so, then this was very close, and didn’t seem in any hurry to move along.
Such excitement brought out these very quick stormy sketches. Being out on the Broads probably isn’t ideal in an electrical storm – I can say that with some experience – but, from a safe vantage point, the landscape certainly allows a spectacular show. Seeing them light up the dark in an almighty display of power, it’s no wonder our ancestors thought the man upstairs was livid.
I think that’s my fix for now. I wonder if we’ll get anymore this summer? Just as long as they keep those electric tentacles off the windmills, eh…
Situated somewhere between Great Yarmouth and Reedham, Berney Arms is about as splendidly isolated as it gets. If you’re not approaching by boat, the only vehicular alternative is getting off at the dedicated train station. The stop was erected in 1844 – the landowner, one Thomas Berney, agreed to the railway’s construction only on the condition that a station was placed on the way.
It at least affords greater access to the drainage mill. Berney Arms High Mill stands beside the River Yare, now bereft of almost all the dwellings that stood in the vicinity and dominating the skyline by itself.
But I suspect that, for many, even the glorious windmill couldn’t overshadow the other pillar of this unique area: the eighteenth century public house, the Berney Arms itself. The establishment lasted long after the aforementioned community disappeared; sold on its quirkiness alone, business was consistently strong – indeed, pints were still being pulled until October 2015, when closure came with the departure of its landlord. At some point since it has suffered at the hands of vandals and arsonists. A shameful desecration and a sad end of an era. Hopefully, it will one day reopen its doors.
The area is reachable on foot – if you’re prepared to make the five mile treck from Great Yarmouth across the marshes – along the Wherryman’s Way footpath. I suppose it was a handy option for walking off that pub lunch. Enchanted as I am with the place, it’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. One day, when the weather is just right!