Picture of the week: 04/12/23

WHAT a difference a month makes. Our picture choice this week takes us back to the end of October, when Olivia turned one of her original artworks into a greetings card for our online shop.

PEACEFUL PORTRAIT: Dreaming Dog by Olivia Knight

The colourful portrait went on to become the face of her Etsy shop too.

At the time, we mentioned how she had been dreaming of adding a real dog to our Beyonder family for years, checking on rescue sites and Facebook groups on a daily basis but never quite finding the perfect four-legged friend.

In the meantime, drawing dogs would have to suffice, and another fun portrait of an Afghan hound was added to the collection.

But that was before we heard about Teddy, a not-so-small energetic bundle of fun in the shape of a gorgeous four-month-old black labrador, living only half-an-hour away.

NEW ARRIVAL: Teddy the labrador

The rest, as they say, is history: though despite all the years of research, the practical reality of becoming first-time labrador owners will doubtless pose plenty of challenges.

Yes, we know about the chewing, the love of fox poo, the desire to jump up, the leash-pulling, the need to lead an active life (but not too active before those bones and joints have fully developed).

But I’m sorry, I can’t stay here chatting: there’s important puppy business to attend to in the park….

Picture of the week: 27/11/23

WHAT could sum up the spirit of November better than Gel Murphy’s spectacular shot of changing leaf colours in Finch Lane, Amersham?

MORNING GLORY: autumnal colours in Amersham PICTURE: Gel Murphy

It’s a fantastic foretaste of the November highlights coming soon in our monthly calendar feature, as well as a reflection of the talents of those local photographers like Gel who are out and about in all weathers capturing the beauty of the Chilterns landscape.

This is the month of woodsmoke and fireworks, first frosts and misty mornings, as nature puts on its own glorious fireworks display before the trees get stripped bare for winter, and we can’t wait to sort out a selection of your atmospheric pictures summing up the month in all its technicolour glory…

Picture of the week: 20/11/23

WE DON’T normally like to blow our trumpets here at The Beyonder, but this week’s picture choice is the latest original artwork that my lovely wife Olivia has been able to turn into a greetings card for our online shop.

Fox in the Woods by Olivia Knight

It’s a suitably autumnal portrait of a rather gorgeous fox who looks as if he’s stepped out of a fairytale, and it’s the seventh piece of art Ollie has been able to transform into a smart greetings card with the help of Tom Allnutt at Amersham Business Services.

Badgers by Olivia Knight

Other portraits include a couple of inquisitive badgers, a duck, teddy bear and a pair of endearing dogs, much of the artwork notable for its vibrant colours and celebration of the natural world.

Dreaming Dog by Olivia Knight

The cards are also for sale on Ollie’s new Etsy shop, where she explains how she has only recently rediscovered her love of painting while struggling to recover from Long Covid.

Duck by Olivia Knight

“It has been such a tonic for me to be able to paint peacefully and prayerfully for just a few minutes each day,” she says. “I have found the process of working with colour to be very restorative and restful as well as uplifting.”

Toucan by Olivia Knight

She adds: “I haven’t been able to get out and about in the natural world as much as I would like recently, so escaping into nature via paintbrush and canvas has lifted my spirits.”

Her cards are also stocked in a small number of select local outlets, including Bella Luce in Watlington and The Good Earth Gallery in Chesham.

Picture of the week: 13/11/23

IT’S a joy to be relaunching our Picture of the Week feature after an extended break, and to kickstart the new series we have a delicate portrait of a saffrondrop bonnet mushroom taken by regular contributor Graham Parkinson.

MUSHROOM MAGIC: a saffrondrop bonnet PICTURE: Graham Parkinson

It’s one of a series of recent fungi photographs he’s posted on local nature and wildlife forums, some of which featured in our October calendar feature about the Chilterns.

Inspired with a love of wildlife as a child, Graham found that lockdown in 2020 proved the perfect opportunity for him to explore his longstanding interest in photography, and in the past three years his pictures have proved a big hit with nature lovers.

SPREADING SPORES: common puffballs PICTURE: Graham Parkinson

Birds and insects feature prominently, but his great pleasure has been embarking on seven- to 10-mile walks exploring new areas around his Marlow home and capturing what he can of the local flora and fauna.

Using his Ordnance Survey OS Maps app to plan new routes, his journeys have taken him from local favourites like Homefield Wood and Quarry Wood to Bisham, Burnham Beeches and beyond, from the banks of the Thames to the many walks between Ibstone and Christmas Common.

MINIATURE MARVELS: clustered bonnets PICTURE: Graham Parkinson

“It’s been extremely rewarding, capturing wildlife I’ve never seen before,” he says. For a long time he didn’t bother with fungi, lacking a good lens that would enable him to take “interesting” shots.

“I’ve now got a macro lens and From a photography point of view what has interested and challenged me is trying to create a lovely photo of them rather than just a record shot,” he says.

PURPLE HUE: an amethyst deceiver PICTURE: Graham Parkinson

“They’re fascinating organisms, really quite beautiful. It’s sort of like landscape photography in miniature.

“I was out again yesterday in beautiful woods and sunlight. It’s quite magical walking through the woods trying to first find fungi and then find ones where I can make a nice shot.

“An added bonus is that there’s always something else to see. Yesterday I watched two bats hunting all around me, in bright sunshine at 1pm.”

Picture of the week: 30/01/23

CAN a walk in the woods help you cope with chronic pain? Gel Murphy thinks so.

And our picture choice this week reflects the way that photography has transformed her life since she stepped back from her teaching career.

FIRST STEPS: walking can offer new perspectives PICTURE: Gel Murphy

As a busy deputy headteacher in London, her working life was dominated by meeting other people’s needs. But in August 2020 the long-term pain stemming from an old back injury forced her to give up her job and retire.

“I loved my job and in total worked 30 years in education,” she says. “Work had always been my crutch and others’ needs mattered before mine. I had no time to exercise; I had medical treatment to keep me at work.”

But chronic pain takes a heavy toll on your emotions and mental wellbeing, she admits. “Every day I suffer chronic pain, pain that is always there, lurking in the background,” she says.

COPING STRATEGY: a woodland ramble can lift the spirits PICTURE: Gel Murphy

And that’s when the great outdoors started to play a bigger role in her life.

“To take control and with the support of my wife, family, and friends, I began to manage my pain, through walking, healthy eating and learning about pain,” she recalls. “I still have pain every day, but I built a toolbox of coping strategies.

“One of these strategies to understand the connection between physical and mental pain is mindfulness and walking.

WELCOME ESCAPE: a footpath near Amersham PICTURE: Gel Murphy

Accompanied by her four-legged friend Obi-dog, and often in the company of fellow rambler and photographer Sue Craigs Erwin, Gel soon found herself spending hours in the woods around Amersham, taking pictures on her phone on the way.

“I walk every day,” she says. “I walk two to three miles in the beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside and take photographs on my iPhone. I don’t have a camera, my phone is my camera.

“I had never taken photographs before. Being in nature helps me forget about my pain and taking that time to stop has opened my eyes to the colours, light, beauty and changes all around.”

FABULOUS FUNGI: nature provides a welcome distraction PICTURE: Gel Murphy

Through a pain management program she was introduced to photographer Jo Bradford , who has written a number of books about smartphone photography.

“She is inspirational,” says Gel. “I was also fortunate to meet her and spend a magical morning taking photos on Dartmoor.

“I never realised the seasons had so much depth, or the magic of the light. Every day is a new picture.”

CLOSE CALL: a clip-on lens displays more detail PICTURE: Gel Murphy

Armed with a clip-on macro lens, she has also started to take close-ups of insects and plants, sharing them on a variety of local Facebook nature and wildlife groups, as well as becoming a regular contributor to The Beyonder’s calendar feature, chronicling the changing seasons in the Chilterns.

Spurred on by the members of an emotional wellbeing group which sprang up online during lockdown – organised by Christine Moran, a mental health specialist and founder of Positive Energy Being – she gained confidence in her photography and the belief that things could and would get better.

“I enjoy walking and being outside,” she says. ” We are blessed living in the Chilterns, an area of outstanding beauty. There are many amazing places to walk, I just had to start.

POLLEN COUNT: a busy bee caught on camera PICTURE: Gel Murphy

“I began walking, while listening to my sad music. It was how I felt: I was stuck in my head. Then with the support, I began listening to the sounds around me and taking time to look at the beauty around me.

“I began to see the beauty of nature, the change in the seasons and felt the warmth of the sun on my face. I took photos of what I saw, I shared them and they were applauded.

“Taking photos of nature has distracted me from my pain and led me to create my blog. I hope my photos make people smile.”

Picture of the Month: December 2022

THIS month’s picture choice is a stained-glass window in rural France which captures the essence of the Christmas spirit.

The tiny window is one of a series which can be found in the Church of Reconciliation at the Taizé Community, an extraordinary monastic fraternity which has become a place of pilgrimage for young people from all over the world.

While thousands of young people descend on Taizé at Easter and during the summer holidays, Christmas is traditionally much quieter – so much so that on our last visit in December 2019, we were virtually alone with the monks on the coldest of winter nights.

Flash forward three years and a gruelling pandemic and we’re finally able to return, once again on a frosty winter’s day…but this time classes and discussion groups have resumed and a few dozen young people are able to join the monks for the afternoon service.

It’s a very special place at any time of year, but at Christmas it’s a particular pleasure to rediscover the peace of this extraordinary community where, as Brother Roger put it “kindness of heart and simplicity would be at the centre of everything”.

It’s also a delight to revisit a luxurious hotel only a few miles away which provides a perfect touring base for this beautiful part of Burgundy.

Firmly ensconced by the roaring fire at the Chateau D’Igé, we can banish memories of those icy roads in northern France and relax over an excellent three-course meal.

The food is excellent, the service impeccable and our room extremely comfortable: a perfect overnight break for anyone tackling the gruelling 1,000-mile journey from the UK to the south of France.

Picture of the Month: November 2022

OUR November picture choice takes us back to Waddesdon Manor and a moving portrait by Lesley Tilson featured in our calendar feature for that month.

IN MEMORIAM: silhouettes at Waddesdon Manor PICTURE: Lesley Tilson

But while the silhouettes formed part of the Remembrance Day commemorations, staged each year to provide an opportunity to remember those who died in battle, the figures had a particular resonance in a year which saw the death of so many famous UK faces, most notably the Queen.

Hundreds of thousands turned out to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, with a 10-day mourning period during which around a quarter of a million people queued to file past the Queen’s coffin at Westminster Hall the previous month.

But the intense public mourning which marked the Queen’s death was only the most memorable outpouring of grief in a year which also saw the passing of hundreds of iconic figures from actors and musicians to politicians and pop stars.

From Robbie Coltrane, Olivia Newton-John and Angela Lansbury to Sidney Poitier, Meat Loaf, Pele and Shane Warne, the list extended to stars of the small screen like June Brown and Bill Treacher from EastEnders, Dennis Waterman, Bamber Gascoigne and Bernard Cribbins.

The political world lost Mikhail Gorbachev and Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe, while the year came to a close with the death of the former pope, Benedict XVI.

Picture of the Month: October 2022

OCTOBER is the month when the woods play host to a quirky magical kingdom, a colourful world of unfamiliar shapes and hues where every rotting tree stump suddenly seems to be coated in new life.

This is the time of the year for fungus forays and foraging, when the leaf litter is suddenly awash with mushrooms and toadstools, brackets and puffballs, mosses and lichens.

FUNGUS FORAY: woods are suddenly awash with mushrooms PICTURE: Gel Murphy

Our picture choice is one of a series of startling shots taken by photographer Gel Murphy and featured in our monthly calendar feature about the Chilterns.

Of course mankind has always been fascinated by the folklore surrounding fungi, by their healing powers and deadly dangers.

But in recent years books like Merlin Sheldrake’s fascinating Entangled Life have revealed a whole new world of mycological mystery, and what makes fungi essential to life on earth.

We’ve written before of our fascination with these amazing organisms, with their spine-tingling names and beautiful shapes and colours, and we’ve even set out on a quest to find out more about how to identify the most common types.

But with literally millions of species of fungi on the Earth – as many as 10 times the estimated number of plant species – there’s plenty more to discover!

Picture of the Month: September 2022

OUR picture choice for September shows a very ordinary bench on a very ordinary path: but for those who love a good mystery, there’s nothing “ordinary” about Cannock Chase.

A former royal forest now managed by Forestry England, this area of outstanding natural beauty is a good two-hour drive from the Chilterns.

But although a sunny September evening is a perfect time to see the Chase at its best, this picturesque part of Staffordshire is perhaps best known for its folklore, and mysterious sightings of black dogs, big cats, werewolves, UFOs and even a British Bigfoot.

It also gained notoriety in the late 1960s for the horrifying “Babes in the Ditch” murders, when the remains of three young girls were found on the Chase after going missing from areas along the A34 road to Birmingham. (A motor engineer from Walsall died in prison after being convicted of one of the murders in 1968.)

Periodically since then, local newspaper headlines have seized on a range of mysterious sightings, from demonic ghost dogs to UFOs and a mysterious “black-eyed child”.

One man who’s been investigating the area’s ghostly goings-on for more than a decade is paranormal investigator and author Lee Brickley, who clearly believes there’s plenty of evidence to support his claims that the 26-mile-square forest is the UK’s most active supernatural hotspot.

A string of his short books detail tales of the area’s ghosts, werewolves and UFOs, drawing visits from ghost clubs, paranormal researchers and others determined to establish whether big cats and ‘werewolf-type creature’ really prowl around the woods.

Declassified Government documents have revealed Ministry of Defence concerns about the area being a hot-spot for reported UFO activity, with accounts of silent balls of light circling Pye Green Tower, cigar-shaped tubes flying over Burntwood, and a 10ft light hovering over the Stafford Road.

More recently, Lee embarked on a new line of inquiry, to establish whether documentaries that had enthralled him as a child about Bigfoot sightings in America had ever been matched by similar tales from the British Isles.

Predictably, almost all reports of a “British Bigfoot” come from the Cannock Chase area, and his 2021 book pulled together accounts of some of the most credible local sightings.

Back at the Iron Age hill fort at Castle Ring, looking out over Rugeley, the sunlight is fading but the chill in the air has no particular feel of foreboding about it.

This is a popular place for walkers because of the spectacular views on a clear day, along with a real sense of history: almost 2000 years ago, members of the Cornovii tribe may have looked out from this fort at the sight of Roman soldiers advancing across the land.

It’s also identified by Lee Brickley as hotspot for mysterious sightings and paranormal activity, but on the evening of our visit, there’s no indication of anything amiss.

It’s quite a view, though. And the beauty of the forest makes it worth a detour, even there aren’t any cryptids, werewolves or flying saucers around to add a frisson of excitement to the ramble.

Picture of the month: August 2022

OUR August picture choice is an atmospheric shot of rusting locomotives and wagons taken outside Clearwell Caves in the Forest of Dean.

One of a series of shots chronicling our summer break in Gloucestershire, it harked back to the industrial heyday of the forest, when an intricate network of railways and tramways were used to harvest the heavy minerals that gave the area its wealth.

Stone, coal, iron ore and even gold were extracted from the earth in huge quantities but by the 20th century deeper mining was abandoned as reserves of ore and coal became uneconomic to work.

The picture was only one of more than two dozen focusing on different aspects of life in the forest, but we have a particular fascination with abandoned places and equipment it seems, especially if it has anything to do with railways.

Hence how a casual post in a Facebook forum for fans of “abandoned rails” generated more than 600 likes and 18 shares.

Twitter feeds focusing on urban exploring and abandoned places tend to have anything from 110,000 to 150,000 followers, and perhaps it’s not so surprising that we get a creepy thrill from finding out what happens when nature takes over derelict buildings and forgotten railway lines.

From lost civilisations like Easter Island or Macchu Picchu to cities looted, flooded or burned to the ground, our fascination with romantic ruins is nothing new: and from deserted asylums to abandoned funfairs, urban explorers have reinvigorated our interest in lost and forgotten places.

Railway enthusiasts have always enjoyed the allure of a deserted trackbed or forgotten viaduct, relishing the rediscovered history associated with such journeys back in time, along with the reinvention of a rail route as a footpath or cycleway.

Such small-scale examples of abandonment may reflect changing transport or technological habits rather than a cataclysmic event like an earthquake, volcanic eruption or nuclear blast. But all such landscapes hold a fascination for us, whether it is a village lost beneath a reservoir, a closed underground station or an abandoned hospital.

As a society we are grimly fascinated by death and decay, but we also find a rare beauty in historical ruins – and possibly our recent experience of the Covid-19 pandemic changing people’s lifestyles and behaviour overnight gave us a rare insight into the just how quickly a place can fall into disuse and disrepair.

Cities like Chernobyl and Detroit hold a particular fascination because of the scale of the devastation they have suffered but there’s been a boom in the popularity of abandoned places as unlikely tourist destinations, from deserted gold rush towns to closed schools, theatres and hospitals.

Whether it’s a town in the desert flooded with sand (Namibia), an underwater city (China), a town destroyed by a tornado (Montserrat) or a deserted factory in the Amazon, there are plenty of articles and videos about grim destinations and “dark tourism”.

Nor do you have to travel far to find a scary Victorian mansion in the woods or an abandoned Tube carriage stranded in the countryside, as local vlogger Henry Allum reveals on his Youtube channel.

From empty houses in the woods to wartime pill boxes, closed stations or moss-covered remnants of deserted crofts, closed churches or ruined abbeys, the sight of trees growing through concrete, deserted mine shafts reclaimed by nesting birds and ghost towns in the middle of the jungle remind us about the perseverance of nature – and while some such sites are creepy, scarily and downright disturbing, others have an eerie and moving beauty that’s impossible to ignore.

Picture of the month: July 2022

OUR July picture choice is a spectacular shot of a deer among poppies captured by regular Beyonder contributor Lesley Tilson.

COLOUR CONTRASTS: a deer among poppies PICTURE: Lesley Tilson

Lesley’s “lucky” shot was one of a series of photographs taken between February and June which featured in our Spring 2022 calendar roundup.

Normally a month-by-month pictorial round-up of the local landscape through the changing seasons, this year’s selections were delayed by events in Ukraine.

Picture of the month: June 2022

HOT on the heels of Oxfordshire’s Artweeks comes the chance to see hundreds more artists at work during June’s Bucks Art Weeks event.

Once more local artists, makers and designers across the county up throw their studios open to guests and get ready to discuss what inspires their work.

WOODCUT WITH WATERCOLOUR: Bee friendly garden by Helen Taylor

And the lockdowns of recent years have meant much of the work can be viewed all year round in galleries on the organisers’ website.

This month’s featured artist is Helen Taylor, primarily a printmaker working in woodcut and etching who likes to explore and amplify the natural world of trees, plants and flowers.

Showing the incredible variety of colour and shape, the sheer diversity of what can grow in our own back gardens and local places, Helen’s work is inspired by well known botanical and architectural ‘meeting’ places such as Kew  and Oxford Botanic Gardens, familiar to many, but also hidden places in her local area.

See the main Bucks Artweeks website for more details and galleries.

The Beyonder features short profiles of a score of artists who draw their inspiration from the Chilterns countryside. Find out more here.

Picture of the month: May 2022

OUR picture choice this month comes from the Oxfordshire workshop of Jayne Ford and marks the 40th anniversary year of the country’s oldest and biggest open studios event.

May is the month when visitors flock to see the work of hundreds of artists, makers and designers in studios, pop-up galleries, glorious gardens and ancient churches across the county.

LOCAL LANDMARK: Wittenham Clumps by Jayne Ford

Like many of the creatives showing their work this year, Jayne frequently finds herself inspired by local landscapes, although being born and raised in North Wales surrounded by hills and valleys and living close to the sea, these influences all permeate her work too.

“My studio is a log cabin based in my garden,” says Jayne. “It is a serene and peaceful place to work surrounded by trees and flowering plants.”

More of her work is featured on her instagram account, while the Oxfordshire Artweeks website features a glorious year-round online celebration of the work of local creatives.

Watch out for Christmas events too, with details normally announced in October. Plans are already underway for next year’s events, which take place from May 6-29 2023, starting in South Oxfordshire (May 6-14) before moving on to North & West Oxfordshire (May 13-21) and Oxford city (May 20-29).

See the main artweeks website for more details, showcases and access to a newsletter.

The Beyonder features short profiles of a score of artists who draw their inspiration from the Chilterns countryside. Find out more here.

Picture of the month: April 2022

OUR picture choice this month takes us back to the seaside, and a celebration of Britain’s glorious coastline.

PICTURESQUE: the beach and harbour at Cullen on the Moray Coast

It’s a theme we picked up at the start of the year, but in landlocked Buckinghamshire that yearning for sea air is a regular distraction, and we’ve been fortunate enough this year to enjoy a wonderful cross-section of the country’s coastal scenery.

And from the pictured harbour at Cullen in the north-east of Scotland to the wilds of north Norfolk and the fossils of Dorset’s famous Jurassic Coast, we’ve been on a mini-quest to find some of the most family friendly beaches in the county.

Picture of the Month: March 2022

ANOTHER month of bloodshed in Ukraine, and another month in which street artists around the world have coloured cities yellow and blue in their pleas for peace.

From Berlin to Warsaw, Rome to Buenos Aires, urban artists sent their own messages of solidarity to a country under siege with an array of heartbreaking images.

Like the Cardiff mural by Mydogsighs highlighted last month, many of the works gained a viral following on social media, from Seth Globepainter‘s Paris mural of a little girl crushing tanks under her feet to portraits ridiculing Putin or Berlin-based street artist Eme Freethinker‘s picture of two children — one Ukrainian and one Russian — embracing each other in a declaration of solidarity and peace.

Many were also used to raise funds, as well as sending messages of support to Ukrainians that their agony was shared by millions of ordinary people around the world.

Can street art speak louder than bombs? If anyone would appreciate the impromptu galleries, it’s the people of a country whose capital became a showcase of huge murals in the wake of the Euromaidan protests of 2013.

The current offerings may not be on quite such a grand scale as those covering many storeys of the Soviet-era apartment blocks in Kyiv, but the messages they send are just as attention-grabbing.

Ukraine’s suffering may be continuing, but like the blue and yellow flags fluttering outside so many homes around the world, the street art spells out to Ukrainians that their struggle has not been forgotten.

Picture of the Month: February 2022

IT WAS a month that started like any other, with the prospect of war in Europe unthinkable.

NO WORDS: the attention-grabbing Cardiff mural by Portsmouth street artist My Dog Sighs

Yet just weeks later, Russian tanks were rolling into cities across Ukraine and millions of families were on the move, fleeing the advance of Putin’s war machine.

And if any one image could sum up the unfolding tragedy, it was a striking work by Portsmouth street artist My Dog Sighs, aka Paul Stone.

It may have been hidden down a back alley in Cardiff, but the “No words” mural featuring the colours of the Ukraine flag and its capital Kyiv rapidly captured attention around the world when it appeared on his Twitter feed on March 1.

A fortnight later and fine art giclee prints of the mural went on sale for £100 each through 3030print, with all profits going to the Disasters Energency Committee Ukraine appeal.

The prolific artist from Portsmouth originally trained as a primary school teacher but turned to street art when he was 30 and has since had commissions (and sell-out exhibitions) around the world, from America to China.

Known for using a vast array of reclaimed materials, including oil drums, bottle caps and tin cans, Paul started out by making works of art at home and leaving them on the streets once a month as part of his home city’s Free Art Friday project.

Many immediately recognise his giant paintings of eyes, which feature pictures in the pupils. “I see eyes as windows into the soul,” he says. “I hide stories inside the eyes and leave it up to people to decide what they can see and what the stories represent – dreams, wishes, wants.”

His Cardiff mural is just one example of dozens of striking and heartbreaking street art images which have sprung up all over the world in response to the crisis.

Another Welsh offering comes from Jenks, an artist in Llanelli who acknowledged that while Ukrainians were unlikely ever to have heard of his hometown, he hoped his Pray for Ukraine piece would help them not to feel isolated, and “know people are on their side during this terrible time for them”.

SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: Pray for Ukraine by Jenks in Llanelli

Picture of the week: 31/01/22

SUE Graham’s love for live leapt off the canvas in the joyful colours of her oils and acrylics.

JOYFUL COLOURS: Sue in her Buckinghamshire garden

It was equally evident in the enthusiasm with which she welcomed visitors into her studio during Bucks Art Weeks events and only too obvious in the excitement with which she embraced her family’s ambitious rewilding project on the Scottish island of Gigha.

Typically, it also shone through in the upbeat optimism with which she faced up to her cancer treatment, playing down the pain, nausea and fear associated with the relentless hospital visits.

LOCAL LANDSCAPES: Sue in her home studio in Buckinghamshire

“This cancer thing and the shadow it inevitably casts makes me live quite intensely,” she said last August.

But a few short months later, her family wrote on her Facebook page: “It is with utmost sadness that we share the news that Sue Graham passed away on 16th January 2022. We know she was loved by so many of you and that this news may come as a shock.”

The shock was only too clear in the tributes which followed, to “a magical human and utterly beautiful person” whose art brought so much joy to so many.

MOVING TRIBUTES: Sue died in January 2022

Many of her paintings are inspired by the local landscape and a series of her oils which she started back in 2008 reflected her love of the dawn chorus and paved the way for the Gigha rewilding project, as we wrote in April 2020.

Sue was quick to spot the declining volume of local birdsong, long before the loss started to hit the national headlines.

CAUGHT ON CANVAS: Sue’s painting, And Birds Were Singing, To Calm Us Down

The missing songbirds were not only to feature in a vivid series of paintings, but reflected broader environmental worries increasingly affecting the lives of the artist and her research scientist husband Gabriel Waksman – a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.

Vibrant, positive and inspirational, it was typical that Sue felt driven to do something more for the planet – and thousands of young saplings on a remote Scottish island bear testimony to her determination and fortitude.

CALL OF THE WILD: Gabriel officially launched his tree-planting charity in 2019

“You think, ‘How much time have I got left?’ and of course it was always a project we should have started 20 years ago,” Sue admitted.

But she also insisted: “Planting trees is the best thing we can do for the future. I know it’s a drop in the ocean in terms of carbon capture, but I needed to sleep better at night.”

For more information about the charity, see All Things Small And Green, which has links to their Instagram and Facebook pages.

Picture of the week: 24/01/22

ONE OF the (very few) drawbacks of living in the Chilterns is our distance from the sea.

For those who love the sound of crashing waves and the smell of salt in the air, it can seem a long haul to the nearest beach (if you ignore Ruislip Lido, that is).

But if you find yourself dreaming about sandcastles and beach huts, it’s perhaps not quite as much of an expedition as you might think to dip your toes in the surf or hear the cries of the gulls.

Depending on your exact home location, an array of coastal resorts claim to be well within a two-hour drive, from Kent and Essex to Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset (where these pictures were taken).

Fancy a breath of sea air at Southend or Sheerness, Brighton or Bournemouth? Get your bucket and spade out.

“Humans are naturally drawn to the water,” Megan McCubbin tells us in Back To Nature, the new book she has co-written with stepdad Chris Packham. “Studies show that being near a water body – the ocean, rivers or lakes – has a positive impact on our minds, boosting creativity and lowering anxiety and stress.”

It’s this “Blue Mind” phenomenon which draws us to the seaside, but as Megan goes on to point out, we are our own worst enemies: the crowds descending in droves on popular resorts often leave tonnes of rubbish in their wake and local communities in despair.

Dorset litterpicker, beach cleaner and outdoors lover Anna Lois Taylor posted on Twitter at the height of the 2020 invasion: “So much litter. I’m done sacrificing my own time to clean up an area that’s repeatedly abused. We cleared it yesterday evening and returned today to find ourselves right back at the beginning. I cried all the way home.”

UNDER SIEGE: Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast PICTURE: Anna Lois Taylor

It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. At this time of year many beaches are in pristine condition, winter storms notwithstanding, and it takes little effort for all of us to try to follow the much-quoted travel mantra “take away only memories, leave only footprints”.

Now, more than ever, the concept of treading lightly on the landscape is crucial to our future existence. Yet our main roads are lined with litter and it often feels as if our countryside is under siege.

Nowhere is this more clearly displayed than at the seaside, where however remote the location the debris of modern living is washed in with the tide from around the world.

The bay in the north of Scotland where I played on holiday as a child looks as beautiful today as it did half a century ago, but keeping our beaches clean is a constant battle.

By all means let’s continue to enjoy the timeless allure of spending days at the seaside. But even better if no one can tell that we were there at all.

Picture of the week: 17/01/22

FEW names are quite as evocative of past centuries as the names given to each full moon of the year by different civilisations around the world.

Anne Rixon‘s stunning shot of this month’s Wolf Moon perfectly captures the timeless appeal of that striking vision when the moon shows its “face” to the earth.

WOLF MOON RISING: January’s full moon PICTURE: Anne Rixon

Wolf moons and snow moons, blood moons and strawberry moons, harvest moons and worm moons…long before calendars were invented, ancient societies kept track of the months and seasons by studying the moon.

For millennia, mankind has been fascinated by the night sky, all the more vividly lit up in centuries before light pollution from cities and the movements of aircraft and satellites.

The full moon happens about once every 27 days when the moon and the sun are on exactly opposite sides of Earth. The moon looks illuminated because we see the sun’s light reflected from it.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains variations in the names, comparing those of Native American tribes with names imported by colonial settlers.

The term ‘wolf moon’ is thought to have been coined by Native Americans because of how wolves would howl outside villages during the winter. Different tribes may have had other names for it around the world – spirit moon, goose moon or even bear-hunting moon, for example.

The space.com website explains the phases of the moon, and 2022 dates for catching the full moon in the northern hemisphere.

These days, such near-monthly events are popular with photographers hoping for clear skies so that they can stake out some of the country’s most iconic backdrops, like Stonehenge and Glastonbury Tor.

Next month’s full moon – the chilly-sounding February “snow moon” – is due to appear on February 16 around 5pm GMT.

Picture of the week: 10/01/22

HER Twitter feed has already featured in these pages, but this week’s image from shepherdess Alison O’Neill’s @woolismybread account is for anyone needing a little “collie therapy” at the start of 2022.

VIEW FROM THE HILL: the outlook from Shacklabank PICTURE: Alison O’Neill

No one would claim running a hill farm in the Yorkshire Dales is easy, but Alison insists the spectacular scenery of the Howgill Fells in Westmoreland makes up for many of the harsher challenges of farming life.

Certainly her 35,000 Twitter followers find solace in sharing her love of her flock and her snapshots of a lifestyle city dwellers can hardly contemplate.

TIME FOR TEA: taking a break with Shadow the sheepdog PICTURE: Alison O’Neill

“I am blessed with a rare freedom,” she writes. “I work quietly in the old way, woven to my landscape.”

What that means is trying to offer an antidote to fast fashion and intensive farming, whatever practical challenges small-scale hill farming might pose for a country girl “reared on fresh air and freedom”.

FIRESIDE GLOW: Shadow settles down for the night PICTURE: Alison O’Neill

Her love of nature shines through her posts from the farm that’s been her home for the past 20 years, with her straight talking and love of simple pleasures helping to inspire and delight her online audience.

Just as much of a media star is her loyal sheepdog Shadow, of course, whether spread out in front of a roaring fire, keeping a watchful eye on Alison’s beloved Rough fell, Swaledale and Herdwick sheep or modelling a home-made Hebridean sheep wool dog lead with stag horn whistle.

Alison’s website, shop and media and video links can be found here.

Picture of the week: 03/01/22

SOMETIMES it’s hard not to despair at the destruction we humans wreak on our beleaguered planet.

But if there’s one man able to provide us with a sense of hope at the start of a new year, it’s Sir David Attenborough.

VOICE OF CALM: Sir David Attenborough PICTURE: Sam Barker/BBC Studios

No one is better placed to understand the scale of the challenge. With over 60 years of wildlife documentary-making under his belt, he’s visited some of the most spectacular places on earth and encountered some of the world’s most remarkable animals.

Last year, he told us in his hour-long film Extinction: The Facts: “Only now do I realise just how lucky I’ve been. Many of these wonders seem set to disappear forever.”

This year he’s back on our screens with another stunning series, The Green Planet, this time focusing on the life of plants.

LIFE OF PLANTS: Sir David hosts a new series for 2022 PICTURE: Paul Williams/BBC Studios

But rather than use one of the stunning images from his TV programmes, our picture choice this week reminds us of the extraordinary achievements of the man himself: now in his mid-90s but still a soothing and reassuring voice, despite the increasing starkness of his message.

It’s only too tempting to lash out in anger at the state of our planet. In our anthrocene epoch, there are no shortage of targets for our wrath, from the multinational companies ripping the rainforest apart to the flytippers leaving household debris scattered across our countryside.

GREEN PLANET: the beauty of nature PICTURE: BBC Studios

Sir David, who, like the Queen, has been on our planet for almost a century, has spent that lifetime telling us in his distinctive hushed tones about the beauty of the natural world and must know those frustrations better than most.

His latest series reflects on the importance of plants to every breath we take and every mouthful we eat, gently reminding us that we can’t afford to take nature for granted.

It’s Attenborough at his best: awe-struck, full of wonder and curiosity. A natural storyteller, he finds it easy to enthral an audience of all ages and he knows it’s that education and engagement that holds the key to our shared futures.

Shouting apocalyptic warnings might make us switch off in horror. Showing us at first hand the wonders of our planet might just make more of us want to protect it, before it’s too late.

Picture of the week: 27/12/21

OUR final picture choice of the year is an apocalyptic winter solstice sunset taken by one of our regular contributors.

ORANGE GLOW: the December sun sets over the Icknield Way PICTURE: Anne Rixon

The stunning shot was taken just off the Icknield Way by Anne Rixon, a keen walker and amateur photographer who loves wildlife and has posted on a number of local wildlife forums since taking up photography as a hobby.

“I walk a lot and take the camera with me trying to capture the beauty of the Chilterns as I go,” says Anne, who lives in Princes Risborough.

Along with Sue Craigs Erwin and Lesley Tilson, her pictures have also featured regular in our monthly calendar depicting the changing seasons across the Chilterns, A Chilterns Year.

Another keen photographer with an eye for detail is travel writer Mary Tebje, whose own blog sets out to share stories of the people and places that have shaped the Chilterns. More links to some of her most memorable rambles can be found on our Local Walks page.

Two enthusiastic local wildlife photographers whose work has brightened the pages of The Beyonder immensely are Graham Parkinson and Nick Bell.

Fascinated by the range of different birds visiting his garden in Marlow, Graham was eager to explore more of the local countryside, and lockdown proved the perfect opportunity to explore his longstanding interest in photography.

CHOCKS AWAY: a red kite launches into action PICTURE: Graham Parkinson

Nick Bell’s love of birds is matched by a fascination with insects and the challenges posed by their small size and frantic movements.

His photographs featured in a three-part series of articles last year and both photographers have provided a range of startling images which feature in the carousel of pictures appearing on the header pages of The Beyonder as visitors navigate their way around the site.

UNDER COVER: a ladybird potentially unaware of its prey PICTURE: Nick Bell

In a year which has seen more than 10,000 visitors checking out our pages, another popular “regular” was guest writer Lucy Parks recounting her adventures with Cypriot rescue dog Yella, who has been adjusting to a new life in the Chiltern Hills.

HOME FROM HOME: rescue dog Yella PICTURE: Lucy Parks

Thank you, as always, to all of our regular contributors (and guests!) who have helped to spread the word about the beauty of the great outdoors in what has been such a challenging year for so many. Our Picture of the Week feature has been running for more than a year now, and we hope to see many more of your amazing images in 2022.

Picture of the week: 20/12/21

WANDER around St Albans and the centuries just roll away.

One moment you’re gazing at the intricate mosaic floor of a large Roman town house – complete with sophisticated underfloor heating system – and the next you’re staring at the ornate carvings that adorn one of the country’s great cathedrals.

The Hypocaust in Verulamium Park is a marvel of Roman engineering that reminds us that this area just outside the modern city of St Albans was the third biggest town in Roman Britain after London and Colchester, with much of the ancient city unexcavated to this day.

Nearby lies Watling Street, a historic route used by ancient Britons and paved by the Romans, running in a line from the Kent coast at Dover, crossing the Thames in London and heading north towards Manchester and Wroxeter in the north west, then the fourth largest Roman settlement.

It was one route among the network of thousands of miles of road built when Britain was part of the Roman empire, that extraordinary period from AD43 to 410 when Roman influence stretched from Hadrian’s Wall to Morocco, Egypt and Syria.

And it was here in the third century that one local citizen gave shelter to a stranger fleeing from persecution: a Christian priest now known as Amphibalus. Inspired by how important faith was to the priest, Alban asked to be taught more about Christianity.

By the time the Roman authorities caught up with Amphibalus, Alban’s new-found faith would not allow him to surrender his friend. Instead, he exchanged clothes with the man to allow his escape. Threatened with the same punishment intended for the runaway, Alban refused to renounce his beliefs and was led up to the hillside above the town, where he was beheaded, and soon hailed as Britain’s first saint.

Alban’s grave on this hillside quickly became a place of pilgrimage and it is said King Offa of Mercia founded a monastery here in 793. After the Norman invasion a new church was commissioned built from bricks and tiles saved from the ruins of Roman Verulamium and completed in 1115.

The medieval Abbey was famous as a place of learning but it did not survive the Reformation, when Henry VIII ordered the destruction of the monasteries.

Centuries later, wealthy Victorian benefactors paid for the building to be repaired, so that by 1877 what had previously been a local parish church became a cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of St Albans.

Nowadays the soaring pillars and intricate carvings provide a visually overwhelming backdrop to the story of an ordinary man doing an extraordinary thing, and a fitting reminder that his shrine is the oldest known place of Christian pilgrimage in the country.

Picture of the week: 13/12/21

LAST week’s picture choice highlighted the discovery of a batch of old photographs from almost half a century ago recalled a glorious summer holiday exploring the railways of the Lake District.

The year was 1974 and for five railway-mad teenagers, the perfect destination for a first summer break away from home was a dream cottage just feet from the West Coast main line near Shap Summit.

From there, it was just a short drive to explore the spectacular scenery of the famous Settle & Carlisle route, or venture westwards to find out what was left of the long-closed Cockermouth, Keswick & Penrith Railway.

The Settle-Carlisle line is the 73-mile-long section of the old Midland Railway main line running through glorious scenery in the Yorkshire Dales and the North Pennines and boasting a number of notable tunnels and viaducts, making it one of the UK’s most popular routes for steam charter trains and specials.

Much loved by railway photographers for its glorious backdrops, the line links towns like Settle and Appleby-in-Westmorland with a number of rural communities along the route.

At the time of our visit, the line still boasted old-fasioned Midland “totem” signs, like those at Appleby West, where the Midland line crossed the old North Eastern Railway route to Kirkby Stephen, the Eden Valley line.

This was a time in the line’s history where services were not exactly flourishing, but thankfully the route survived closure attempts in the 1980s after a spirited campaign mounted by rail groups, enthusiasts, local authorities and residents.

Just as well. Passenger numbers have soared since then, with closed stations reopening and quarries being reconnected to the line, allowing passengers to continue to savour what has been consistently voted one of the world’s “ten greatest train journeys”.

Armed with old local Ordnance Survey maps, our mission was to track down the routes of the lost lines which once linked the surviving routes in a rainbow of colours on our pre-grouping atlas, the book which so helpfully shows the ownership of lines before the 1923 amalgamation into four major systems: the LNWR, LNER, Southern Railway and Great Western.

After a visit to Carnforth – then and now a place of pilgrimage for railway enthusiasts and the station where the film Brief Encounter was partly filmed in February 1945 – there was time to meander back past the closed Midland stations at Halton, Caton and Hornby before rejoining the line to Hellifield and head north to Settle.

This is a landscape of evocative place names and stunning scenery, from the 1.5mile-long Blea Moor Tunnel to the towering 104ft-high Ribblehead viaduct. But back in 1974 many of the station buildings were in poor condition or privately owned.

Onwards to Dent, Hawes Junction and the signal box at Ais Gill summit and into Kirkby Stephen, where the East station still had its overall roof, though the goods yard and shed had been removed. Thankfully this is another location to get a new lease of life, courtesy of the Stainmore Railway Company.

If the West Coast mainline had its thundering Class 86 and 87 electric-hauled expresses barrelling up and down the main line between Euston and Glasgow, the Settle line still boasted a rich collection of the diesels of the era, particularly the “Peak” class locomotives whose names echoed the contours of the British landscape.

Originally numbered D1-D10, D11-D137 and D138-D193, the Class 44, 45 and 46 diesels rolled off the production line at Derby and Crewe from 1959 and were withdrawn from the end of the 1970s right through the 1980s.

Class 45s replaced steam as the main traction on the Midland Main Line from 1962 and had a 20-year heyday there until they were relegated to secondary services following introduction of high-speed trains on the route.

Back in 1974 they were still in their element on the main line as we meandered north through Long Marton, New Biggin and Culgaith to Langwathby, Lazonbury & Kirkoswald and Armathwaite, some proudly bearing their new computerised numbers introduced the previous year, like 45009 at Hawes Junction, others still bearing the original numbers, like 21 at Horton-in-Ribblesdale or 24 and 31 at Appleby West. The D prefix was dropped in 1968 when the last steam engines were withdrawn.

There are other diesel interlopers we stumble across on our wanderings too, naturally. A couple of Class 25s crossing Blea Moor viaduct, with others at Ormside, Long Marton and Culgaith. And even the smell of steam to be recaptured at the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway near Ulverston.

There are Class 50s galore over at Oxenholme, Kendal, Ulverston, Dalton and Barrow, not to mention the odd Class 40 wandering around Newbiggin and Culgaith.

But if the pictures predictably provide a visual record of railway comings and goings around the Lakes in the mid-1970s, they also offer a vivid reminder of a remarkable week of youthful exploration and discovery.

Rediscovering the shots when the slides were finally burned onto CD in 2019 provided a chance to look back through the notebooks and discover exactly where we ended up on that memorable Shap holiday.

Scrupulous notes and diagrams record what buildings and tracks remained on some of the closed lines, faithfully following the route of the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith route from Workington to Penrith, and then working east again from Kirkby Stephen towards the now-infamous Barnard Castle.

The Cockermouth line closed west of Keswick in April 1966 and the Keswick to Penrith section followed in March 1972, which meant that there was still plenty of evidence to be found of platforms, old station buildings and signalboxes. Today, much of the latter section is maintained as a cycle and walking route.

As for the old North Eastern Railway line east from Tebay, the tracks had long been lifted at Gaisgill, Ravenstonedale, Barras and Bowes following closure in the 1960s.

Not as insightful and amusing as Adrian Mole’s teenage diaries, perhaps. But a wonderful glimpse back into a time of innocence and adventure set against the timeless scenery of the Lake District landscape.

Picture of the week: 06/12/21

IT’S funny how a photograph has the power to sweep the years away in an instant.

This chance discovery from almost half a century ago recalled a glorious summer holiday in the Lake District while studying for A levels.

As a party of railway-mad teenagers, our destination for that break in July 1974 was a dream cottage, literally feet from the West Coast main line near Shap Summit.

And as well as offering the chance to watch the electric-hauled express trains thundering past the door, it provided the perfect touring base to explore the glorious Settle & Carlisle line south towards Leeds, or the long-closed Cockermouth, Keswick & Penrith Railway west towards Workington.

But if the holiday was SO memorable, how come the pictures remained hidden for almost 50 years? The answer, in part, lies in changing technology.

For these pictures were taken as colour slides, which might have been perfect for showing on the school’s slide projector – but not owning one at home meant it was never really possible to see what the pictures actually showed.

With exams to prepare for – and the excitement of university beckoning – it wasn’t long before the small collection of a few dozen slides was consigned to a little box at the back of a cupboard, surviving a succession of house moves, but their contents never seeing the light of day.

Flash forward to 2019 and the chance to get the slides burned onto CD finally provided the opportunity to see those shots from almost 50 years ago.

Predictably, perhaps, most might be only of interest to railway enthusiasts, with many of them chronicling the stream of Class 86 and 87 electric locomotives barrelling up and down the main line between Euston and Glasgow.

It also showcases some spectacular Lake District scenery – this part of the route over bleak Shap Fell was hacked out by thousands of tough navvies using picks and shovels in an amazing piece of Victorian engineering from 1844 onwards.

But what of that cheeky smile in the signalbox mirror? Although in the year below the rest of us at school, Pete – or Charlie as he tends to be known these days – was a sufficiently dedicated railway enthusiast to be welcomed along for the week-long adventure.

Nice, then, to discover that Charlie never lost his love of railways – or his equally affectionate memories of that break in the Lake District all those years ago. As he said in 2019 when the pictures first came to light: “I often look out of the window when I’m heading north to see whether I can see that cottage. I spend my life playing with trains…… busman’s holiday really.”

And what of that glorious Settle & Carlisle line? More of that next week, perhaps.

Picture of the week: 29/11/21

THE power of great art lies in its ability to help us see the world through different eyes.

Cave Painting Removal, sprayed in 2008 © Banksy / Pest Control

So I somehow think Banksy might approve of this London graffiti being repurposed to permit a reflection on the start of Advent by art expert and seminarian Patrick van der Vorst.

The artwork in Leake Street Tunnel underneath Waterloo railway station, a designated graffiti area which celebrates urban art, was only visible for four months between May and August 2008 and depicts a council worker jet-cleaning a prehistoric cave painting.

As van der Vorst reflects: “In typical ironic fashion, Banksy is thus making a point that art is often destroyed by those who don’t understand it.”

The painting was soon covered with other graffiti works, given the ever-changing nature of art in the tunnel.

Says van der Vorst: “We as a viewer can see immediately that the cleaner shouldn’t be jet blasting the ancient cave paintings. We feel like shouting ‘stop’. It is almost as if the council worker is committing an act of vandalism by removing the cave painting. But then the graffiti work itself by Banksy can be seen as vandalism too. So we are torn as a viewer and share in the artist’s irony.”

The seminarian, whose website links daily Gospel readings with an array of thought-provoking works of art, accompanied by a short personal commentary, adds his own message to the graffiti too.

“Advent is a quiet, reflective, prayerful season,” he says. “Jesus recognises that we can become so absorbed by our daily activities that we lose sight of the daily need for prayer. During our daily chores of cleaning, working, talking, walking…we are asked to be alert to Our Good Lord’s presence everywhere.”

For van der Vorst, Advent is a time for looking back, in order to look forward. “Over the next weeks, the nights are getting longer, darkness sets in, but in our cities and streets, Christmas lights will be switched on. Candles will be lit,” he explains.

“Advent tells us that the world lay in darkness before the Light of the World was born. The Advent wreath will be lit, one candle a week. Light will gradually enter our churches and homes…”

A religious message, hidden in graffiti under a London railway station? Banksy is better known for political and social commentary than religious reflections, but maybe the irony would appeal.

Picture of the week: 22/11/21

THERE can’t be many London landmarks that have provided a backdrop for so much of the city’s history as the distinctive dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Gazing out over the Thames from its lofty perch on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London, it was completed in the wake of the Great Fire of London, designed in the English baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren and completed within his lifetime.

As a teenager, I remember visiting the famous Whispering Gallery more than half a century ago, when a favourite uncle was acting as tour guide to my French exchange counterpart, Pascal. Last week, I slipped back inside the building for the first time for a brief lunchtime eucharist staged beneath that awe-inspiring dome.

I’ve pounded the surrounding streets on countless occasions, leading journalism students down to the nearby Old Bailey or the crypt at St Bride’s (below). But I’ve never returned to see that glorious interior, perhaps deterred by the crowds of tourists scattered like pigeons over the steps of St Paul’s in the summer months.

It’s remarkable that the cathedral was completed in Wren’s lifetime – and 19th-century legend has it that he would often take the trip to London to pay unofficial visits to check on the progress of his “greatest work”.

On a grey November day, the building is still full of visitors from all over the world, but it’s relatively peaceful under the dome, where semi-circles of chairs are laid out for the brief service, which on my visit recalls the memory of Edmund the Martyr, king of East Anglia back in the 9th century.

That throwback across the centuries seems all the more appropriate here, where people have been worshipping for more than a millennium: the original church on this site dates from AD 604.

Hundreds of years of history are recalled on the St Paul’s website, from the funerals of Admiral Nelson and Winston Churchill to the use of the Cathedral’s steps in the set for the iconic Feed the Birds song from the 1964 Disney film version of Mary Poppins.

All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares
Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares

Maybe down in the crypt Wren is smiling too. He was laid to rest in 1723 and the inscription in Latin on his memorial reads: “Here in its foundations lies the architect of this church and city, Christopher Wren, who lived beyond ninety years, not for his own profit but for the public good. Reader, if you seek his monument – look around you.”

Picture of the week: 15/11/21

THIS week’s spotlight falls on Lesley Tilson, another regular contributor to our series highlighting the Chilterns landscape through the changing seasons.

THINKING SPACE: the sun’s rays captured at Chesham PICTURE: Lesley Tilson

Working on the frontline for the NHS as a midwife and nurse during the pandemic, photography became her passion, providing a welcome escape from the stresses and strains of working life.

“Pacing the Chiltern hills with my furry friends offered me opportunities for reflection and peace,” she says. “The countryside provides so much natural beauty and thinking space and supported me with my coping strategies at such a difficult time.”

PRICKLY CUSTOMER: thistles in the frost PICTURE: Lesley Tilson

It wasn’t long before she discovered how to take a ‘not bad’ mobile photograph using her iPhone, and winning a competition which attracted more than 200 entries was a welcome confidence boost too.

Her shot of a stag drinking scooped the mobile category prize in the contest, organised by the Chesham Wildlife facebook group.

Since then her photos have been regularly selected for the local newspaper, with family and friends saying how much they enjoy seeing them.

PEACEFUL PORTRAIT: a deer captured at Grangelands PICTURE: Lesley Tilson

“I love landscape and wildlife, in particular the wonderful deer,” says Lesley. “I regularly visit nature reserves and National Trust properties in the Chilterns, many advertised in The Beyonder.   

“Some of my favourite walking spots are in Great Missenden, Coombe Hill and Grangelands. More local walks are down Shardeloes and the River Misbourne. “

EARLY START: dawn over the Misbourne PICTURE: Lesley Tilson

When a close work colleague was diagnosed with breast cancer at the start of the pandemic, she found therapy and recovery in painting Lesley’s photos.

NATURAL THERAPY: open country near Latimer PICTURE: Lesley Tilson

“I was very humbled when she told me my photography offered her healing opportunities through painting,” says Lesley. “She is now in remission.  We have since completed a 2022 charity calendar and we are raising money for Breast Cancer Now and Thames Valley Air Ambulance. We’ve sold 60 so far, so I’m really delighted.”

MISTY MORNING: a woodland ramble at Coombe Hill PICTURE: Lesley Tilson

So what plans does she have for the future?

“I was recently gifted a Nikon Z7 and very much look forward to learning how to use it properly, taking my passion to another level,” she says.

“The pandemic does have some positive outcomes and with retirement planned for 2022, I am planning to explore our beautiful countryside in much more detail.”

Lesley’s charity calendar is available to buy via PayPal and costs £9.95 + £1.50 postage and packaging.

CHILTERNS SUNSET: a striking shot of a stag PICTURE: Lesley Tilson

Picture of the week: 08/11/21

THIS week’s spotlight falls on the pictures taken by Sue Craigs Erwin, a regular contributor during the past year to our series highlighting the Chilterns landscape through the changing seasons.

NOSE FOR MISCHIEF: Ted is “beautiful but very inquisitive” PICTURE: Sue Craigs Erwin

Most of Sue’s pictures are taking on her walks between Amersham and Little Chalfont with her mischievous rambling companion Ted, an inquisitive four-year-old spaniel.

“After losing my husband four years ago when I was 58 I decided I needed some company,” says Sue. “My husband was a keen amateur photographer and we spent most weekends travelling the countryside and taking pictures.

EYE FOR DETAIL: a spider’s web PICTURE: Sue Craigs Erwin

“Having Ted has given me back the opportunity to get out and get walking again.”

Using a Fujifilm FinePix HS10 camera, or sometimes just her phone, Sue’s pictures have appeared frequently on local wildlife forums, attracting plenty of praise and attention, though she is modest about her photography skills.

OVER THE RAINBOW: a colourful display outside Amersham PICTURE: Sue Craigs Erwin

“I have been told many times that I have an artistic eye, but to me it’s just sharing the beauty of nature as I see it,” she says.

Over the past year, that shared beauty has delighted Beyonder visitors and Amersham locals alike, from her spring bluebells and May poppies and buttercups to her harvest scenes and September sunsets.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: September sunlight PICTURE: Sue Craigs Erwin

“As I’ve always been a bit of a free spirit my favourite places to walk are the woods,” she says. “I love the changing colours and the sounds of the wildlife and Ted loves digging about in the autumn leaves.”

Husband Ed would undoubtedly approve. “I’m sure he’s looking down smiling,” she says. “We were together for 37 years and always had animals. Ed was a lover of the great outdoors. We spent many holidays in a remote cottage in Snowdonia photographing the landscape. It was our favourite place.”

Picture of the week: 01/11/21

THE final portrait in our short series of pictures taken beside the Thames comes from the blog of Mary Tebje, whose posts have chronicled some four years of rambling around the Chilterns.

What began as a year-long project celebrating life in the Chilterns – that extraordinary space between London and Oxford that has such a rich heritage and such a variety of landscapes to explore! – turned into a much longer and more meaningful venture.

TIMELESS THAMES: the view of the river from Danesfield House PICTURE: Mary Tebje

A Year in the Chilterns started life as a quiet celebration of people and places with quirky and unusual stories to tell, but soon turned into a labour of love, a journey of exploration and self-discovery charting the changing seasons and extraordinary beauty of local landscapes.

Says Mary: “I thoroughly enjoy tramping around the Chilterns, looking, listening, loitering even and meeting lovely people.”

Nothing gives her more pleasure, she maintains, than “capturing the beauty in the mundane, the small things that the locals have stopped noticing”.

RIVER OF ADVENTURE: Cliveden Reach PICTURE: Mary Tebje

As a tourism marketing professional she also began to realise that her pride in living and working in the area could translate into a way of helping to sustainably support the local businesses and destinations featured in her pages.

The pandemic only served to emphasise the importance of the Chilterns landscape and the businesses it supports, and Mary’s posts have continued throughout, providing a kaleidoscope of beautifully illustrated rambles stretching from Bedfordshire to Berkshire.

LOCAL LANDSCAPES: several of Mary’s rambles can be found on our Local Walks page

From haunted houses to tales of scandal and intrigue, her stories help to bring people and places to life, regularly echoing many of the aims and enthusiasms that we share at The Beyonder.

Whether visiting a historic manor house or ancient hill fort, her journeys have been accompanied by stunning pictures and even video diaries, social media feeds on Instagram and Twitter and even a range of Chilterns gifts.

TALES OF THE RIVERBANK: exploring Marlow PICTURE: Mary Tebje

“I am part of lovely community celebrating. collaborating and sharing what we know and love about where we live,” says Mary.

And so say all of us. Check out Mary’s latest posts on her blog here.

Picture of the week: 25/10/21

ONCE again, this week’s picture choice focuses on that extraordinary stretch of the river bordering the famous Cliveden Estate.

Back in 1939, the river-loving Astors owned a varied collection of river craft here, ranging from skiffs and canoes to punts and even an electric canoe. 

In 1908 the river had been brought to life in Kenneth Grahame’s well-loved children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows. 

A regular visitor to Cliveden, it is believed Grahame was inspired to write the book by spending time on Cliveden Reach – as well as providing a place of sanctuary and escape from the harsher realities of life.

Grahame’s experiences living at Cookham Dean were not always happy ones, but his legacy has encouraged hundreds of families to mess about in boats like Ratty and Mole once did.

And today, just as they did in past centuries, visitors are as keen as ever to take to the water during the summer months, when Boating at Cliveden offers daily skippered cruises and self-hire vessels between April and the end of October.

Picture of the week: 18/10/21

OUR belated post this week pays tribute to Cliveden Reach and a famous stretch of the Thames that has featured from time to time in these pages.

Renowned as one of the prettiest spots on the Thames, this is a glorious section of the river that runs alongside the famous Cliveden Estate, nowadays owned by the National Trust.

Set high above the Thames with far-reaching views, Cliveden’s impressive gardens and majestic woodlands capture the grandeur of a bygone age, and past articles have focused on the outlook enjoyed by the late Duke of Sutherland from his lofty perch among the trees at Cliveden and the peaceful war cemetery to be found in the grounds.

While visitors to the estate can wander in the footsteps of dukes, earls and royalty, in the summer months guests can venture out onto the water and view the estate in the way that so many past generations have seen it.

Boating on the Thames was a late Victorian and Edwardian craze in most social classes. And sitting on one of the prettiest stretches of the river, Cliveden Reach had the heaviest traffic of any up-river lock: on one single day in 1894, a record 129 launches and nearly 1,000 smaller craft passed through it.

Today that view of Cliveden House is every bit as spectacular. But more about that next week in the second of our series focused on this extraordinary stretch of the Thames.

Picture of the week: 11/10/21

OUR picture this week takes us back to West Wales in the company of exiled Beaconsfield artist Tim Baynes, who moved to the town of Laugharne on the south coast of Carmarthenshire in May.

Tim explains how bus journeys on the busy A4066 out of town onto the A40 from Carmarthen to Fishguard had given him only fleeting glimpses of some extraordinary views.

The Road to St Clears I by Tim Baynes

That prompted him to get the bus to drop him off outside Laugharne, a mile or so up the road at Cross Inn.

“Most of the 2.6 miles has no footpath by the side of the road. I wore some hi-vis and fearlessly faced the oncoming traffic, art bag with board and paper and crayons in one hand. The other hand was free to give a thumbs-up approbation to each car as it passed,” says Tim.

“The countryside is wonderful. The ribbon of the Afon Taf is only seldom out of view, reflecting as it did yesterday the grey skies above. Further still and above the river is a ridgeline of hills which were shrouded in mist.

The Road to St Clears II by Tim Baynes

“Pylons march across this calm landscape. Close by, their offspring, the telegraph poles, take their wares to the farms and houses hereabouts.

“Breaks in the hedgerows, entrances to fields, provide wonderful views out across the landscape and the opportunity to use the top of a five-bar gate as an easel on which to rest my board.

“In these same hedgerows are the first signs of autumn. Plenty of blackberries, purple scabious, a few yellow dandelions, tangles of old man’s beard, the skeletons of sheep’s parsley, the seed heads of vergeside grasses and other colourful berries all are on parade.

The Road to St Clears III by Tim Baynes

“I make several drawings and, having forgotten my pen, my mark making was bold and colourful. I cross the Taf, the bridge is quite narrow for a pedestrian and a car. Drivers avert their eyes.

“Into St Clears and outside St Mary Magdelene I enjoy a good drink of water and soon the bus home pulls up for me.

“Once home I add some detail to my work. It is a great way to recall the excitement of what I have seen and the realisation that wonderful scenery can only be enjoyed on foot.”

Picture of the week: 04/10/21

IF ONLY trees could talk, what stories they could tell.

And nowhere is that truer that at Burnham Beeches, a national nature reserve and site of special scientific interest where one can feel pretty insignificant surrounded by trees which have been towering over visitors for hundreds of years.

Wandering through these woods, it’s hard not to be swamped by images of the past, especially given that the landscape is dotted with ancient monuments like Hartley Court, a medieval moated farmhouse built in an age before the Black Death ravaged the land.

A long-term Beyonder haunt, this is a place which has provided a welcome refuge for families throughout the more recent pandemic – so much so that additional parking restrictions have been in place for most of the past year to prevent damage to the sensitive habitat.

This is the home of wood ants, owls, hornets, moorhens and an array of other woodland creatures, not to mention grazing cattle and ponies; a place where fungi flourish and a huge array of mushrooms and toadstools can be discovered.

And at this time of year, of course, it’s also the perfect place to take pictures of the annual autumn fireworks display as the greens of summer start changing to a stunning area of browns, reds and golds – which explains why it’s our picture choice of the week.

There’s even a rare chance to pick up a few tips from one an expert photographer whose portfolio of shots taken in these woods is simply stunning. Although Paul Mitchell moved away to the Dorset/Hampshire border about 18 months ago and has swapped Burnham Beeches for local woodlands nearer his home, he returns to his old stamping ground to share some of his secrets on a three-hour wander in November.

We can’t compete with Paul’s startling landscapes, but those same tree-lined paths provide a constant and ever-changing source of delight to ramblers, dog walkers and amateur photographers alike.

Beach that became a Londoners’ playground

AHOY there, pirates! This week’s choice is not about the quality of the picture itself, but all about the place Ruislip Lido, to be precise and the childhood memories associated with it.

For a more fastidious modern parent stepping over the bird poo or wrinkling their nose at the prospect of toxic algae in the water, the sandy beach at the edge of this 60-acre lake might not immediately look like the perfect place for a picnic, but for generations of Londoners the Lido provided the most memorable of playgrounds.

Those childhood days are firmly etched in the minds of locals sharing their recollections on the official Lido website.

Built as a reservoir in 1811 to feed the Grand Union canal and provide water for Paddington, it became a “lido” in the 1930s, offering boating, swimming and fishing.

Almost a century later crowds still flock to that beach on the summer to enjoy a woodland walk or picnic, visit the playground or have a ride on the miniature railway.

But while locals had used it in the 1920s for skating in the winter and swimming in the summer, it was only in 1936 that it was officially opened as the Lido, complete with art-deco style main building and a concrete swimming area flanked by piers in a horseshoe shape.

With a cafeteria and changing rooms in the main building, the lido boasted rowing and paddle boats as well as the children’s playground, beach and miniature railway. It even became known as a base for water skiing, with the world championships being televised from there.

In its heyday during the 50s and 60s, the place attracted visitors from across West London and the setting was even immortalised in the 1961 film The Young Ones, the first of a string of musicals which would shoot Cliff Richard to stardom.

Musician Vince Cox even used his Youtube channel to show “then and now” shots from the film (as well as carrying out a similar exercise for the 1968 musical fantasy film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).

Fond memories date back to the earliest days of the lido, with one local recalling: “My first memory of visiting the Lido was in the big freeze of 1947 when I, as a nine-year-old, walked across the reservoir with my father to the beach area, where shortly my father was to be responsible for importing hundreds of tons of sand.”

For youngsters escaping the war-torn city of the 1950s, this was truly a place of adventure, as another visitor explains: “You have to understand how poor the country was in the aftermath of the war. Rationing was still in force, TV was a rarity and very few people owned cars so having an amenity like the Lido close by was a wonderful treat, especially for us children.”

From donkey rides to picnic sandwiches, waiting for the 158 bus at Ruislip Manor Station or sneaking through the woods in the hope of bypassing the turnstiles, locals vividly recall the highs and lows of lido life during those halycon days.

From first fishing or birdwatching expeditions to rinsing off lake water under freezing cold water taps on the beach or falling through the ice in winter, from watching American servicemen playing their portable radios at the lakeside to Saturday night dances before the war, this was a place which played a formative role in many young people’s lives.

“It was an incredibly fantastic place to grow up in,” one woman recalls. “My brother and other friends in the road would all take to our bikes and cycle through the woods, damming up little streams, climbing trees, haring around like kids do. Going to the Lido was a regular thing, either on foot or our bikes.”

Not that all memories were happy ones, of course. The cleanliness of the water – or lack of it – had always worried some parents, and the polio scare of the mid-1950s deterred all but the most hardy from swimming for a while.

By the 1970s the lido was in serious decline. There were stories of drowning accidents and youngsters shared terrifying tales of encountering “Naked Norman” running naked through the woods. Traders deserted the lake and the beach became litter-strewn.

As one Twitter user recalled: “Was talking about open-air swimming with my 87-year-old father this week. ‘We took you to Ruislip Lido once,’ he mused. ‘It was Hell.’

But although the main building was damaged by fire and knocked down in 1994, the lido got a new lease of life in the 1990s and more investment since then. There may still be no swimming or boating, but there’s still a sandy beach, railway, play areas and pleasant views and walks through the surrounding woods.

On the lake, overwintering birds include wigeon, common pochard and gadwall ducks, with a dozen other species from geese and swans to moorhens, grebes and egrets.

Meanwhile Ruislip Woods National Nature Reserve is ‘ancient semi natural woodland’ and some parts are a remnant of the Wildwood that once completely covered England after the last ice age, about 8,000 years ago.

There’s no admission charge to Ruislip Lido but there is a charge to ride on the railway and to park your car, which can be tricky at busy times. Although access is available 24/7, certain facilities like the cafe, railway and toilets are normally only open during official opening hours, from 9am to 4-9pm depending on the time of year. The Water’s Edge pub operates normal pub hours.

Picture of the week: 20/09/21

RAILWAY enthusiasts may have a particular affection for Andrew Keenleyside’s gloriously colourful paintings of the countryside in and around Harpenden.

For one of his favourite sources of inspiration is the “Nickey Line” – a long disused line which once linked the towns of Hemel Hempstead and Harpenden, but much of which has been redeveloped as a cycle and walking path.

One of a series of portraits of the Nickey Line, by Andrew Keenleyside

The Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead branch railway ran for almost nine miles between the West Coast main line from London to Birmingham and the Midland main line from London to Leicester.

With a nickname shrouded in obscurity – there are numerous theories about its origins – passenger demand was never high and further declined in the years between the wars.

By the end of 1946 the only regular passengers on the Harpenden train were a handful of schoolchildren and when passenger services were “temporarily” suspended because of national coal shortages, the service was never reinstated.

A wintry scene on the Nickey Line, by Andrew Keenleyside

Although the last passengers travelled on the line in June 1947, the route remains popular with cyclists and walkers, as reflected in Andrew’s paintings, which use vivid colour and expressive impasto textures to try to capture the essence of the changing seasons.

“I admire Pissarro and Sisley in terms of their compositional themes, along with Henri Mattise and the Fauves with the vivid and exciting use of colour in their palette,” says Andrew, whose work has been exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and is also represented in private collections in the USA, the Far East, South Africa and Europe.

Freight services continued to run over part of the route until 1979, but while some of the line has disappeared under houses and roads, sections of the route remain recognisable, including some bridges and sections of embankment which feature in Andrew’s pictures.

Back in August 2020, it was one of his paintings which was used to kick-start our Picture of the Week series. He is a regular exhibitor at the annual Herts Visual Arts open studios event, which this year again includes a wide range of virtual galleries and demonstrations.

Events run from until October 10, with more than 60 venues opening their doors to visitors. The full programme can be found on the Herts Visual Arts website.

Picture of the week: 13/09/21

HERTS Open Studios returns this week, the event which prompted the launch of our weekly Picture series just over a year ago.

And to celebrate the anniversary, today’s picture choice seems particularly appropriate as it features a self-taught oil painter who only rediscovered the love of painting during lockdown.

Blue Birch Waters by Leon Barnes was inspired by the work of TV art legend Bob Ross

The work itself is a homage to Bob Ross, the soft-spoken American art legend whose Joy of Painting TV series still enthrals millions today on Youtube.

And Stevenage artist Leon Barnes has even produced a video tutorial demonstrating the trademark wet-on-wet technique of the man whose “happy little trees” proved an inspiration to so many.

As a DJ and karaoke host for the past 16 years, Leon found his business swept away overnight by the lockdown restrictions.

Feeling lost and depressed, and lacking funds for a family birthday present, he stumbled across a stored loft gift from 2009 of an oil painting set and some old canvases, and embarked on a new artistic journey.

“Thanks to Bob Ross and The Joy of Painting, I found a new purpose, a hidden talent and lifeline,” says Leon.

Sunset Lake, an original oil on canvas landscape by Leon Barnes

This month, Leon is one of dozens of artists featured in this year’s Herts Open Studios event, which brings artists, artisans and art-lovers together for three weeks of inspiration and discovery in communities across Hertfordshire.

Events run from September 18 to October 10, with more than 60 venues opening their doors to visitors and a variety of local area art trails offering a range of free events from working studios and demonstrations to group exhibitions.

Running for more than 30 years, it is the largest county-wide art event with every venue free to enter and offering visitors a unique opportunity to meet artists and to enjoy and discuss their work.

Sunset Stream, an original oil on canvas landscape by Leon Barnes

Artists also offer online demonstrations and tours, allowing virtual visits to take place 24 hours a day.

“With many new artists joining our event alongside long-standing participants, there is just so much to explore,” said Herts Visual Arts chair, Sally Taylor. The full programme can be found on the Herts Visual Arts website.

Picture of the week: 06/09/21

OUR picture of the week this week takes us back to the fair, and the lost skill of fairground art.

As we revealed last October, although the coronavirus lockdown hit travelling funfairs hard, Joby Carter of Carters Steam Fair wasn’t prepared to sit back and do nothing over the long summer months when shows had to be cancelled.

Instead he launched a series of online courses passing on his traditional signwriting techniques to people from over the world from his paint shop outside Maidenhead.

Flash forward 12 months and once again people can enjoy at first hand the wonderful old rides, vintage heavy lorries and magnificent living wagons with their cut-glass windows, lace curtains and gleaming wood interiors.

With the show’s famous 1890s gallopers and other rides once again open to the public at a series of local venues until mid-October, visitors can see for themselves what the fuss is all about – and why this unique “steam fair” has earned such a warm place in the hearts of local communities for the past four decades.

Details of Joby’s online signwriting courses can be found here.

Picture of the week: 30/08/21

OUR picture spotlight this week is not an individual artist or photographer, but a very special and unusual place.

Stoke Common is a remarkable patch of ancient heathland that comes to life in the summer and autumn when the heather and gorse are in full bloom.

There may be times of the year on a drizzly day when this landscape can seem a little bleak, but when the butterflies are dancing and the blackberry blossom is blooming, it’s a very different story.

Yes, there may be a rumble of distant traffic from the motorway if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, or the roar of boy racers testing out the surrounding back roads, but for many this 200-acre oasis is a reminder of what much of Buckinghamshire might have looked like in centuries past.

Owned and run by the City of London Corporation, with the help of volunteers and supporters like the Friends of Stoke Common, the common is a perfect retreat for walkers and runners trying to get away from it all.

Since many of the plant and insect species recorded here are rare, visitors need to stay on the signposted paths, which means youngsters wanting to explore and build dens are better advised to head for nearby Black Park or Burnham Beeches.

But for those who enjoy the chance to escape the crowds, there are few better places to “get back to nature” among the spiders and stonechats, cinnabar moths and butterflies.

After last month’s explosion of ragwort, now it’s time for the common to start looking more like a Scottish heath than somewhere a stone’s throw from Slough, as reflected in our Beyonder blog entry last summer.

It’s also the perfect place for dramatic sunsets and fascinating cloud formations, as we reflected in another summer postcard a year ago.

There’s even the faint chance of spotting an elusive adder, though a lot more likely that a dusk rustle in the gorse is actually one of the score of burnished brown Sussex cattle that do their bit to protect the heathland by grazing the common, and look very smooth, velvety and healthy on their prickly diet.

Created by a combination of poor, acidic soils and careful land management, the heathland is designated as an important Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Its beauty may not always be immediately obvious to the casual visitor, but catch the sunlight on the heather at this time of year, or the cloud formations at dusk against a spectacular sky, and you could be in a far distant land.

Picture of the week: 23/08/21

AFTER two weeks “on vacation” in Dorset enjoying the striking wildlife paintings of Sam Cannon, it’s almost time to return to the Chilterns.

However there’s still time for a final quick visit to an extraordinary oasis of tranquillity which we featured in our Further Afield section last month.

Here, you can enjoy a picnic with friends in glorious countryside and take in an extraordinary exhibition of modern sculpture at the same time.

The 26 acres that provide the setting for Sculpture by the Lakes have allowed sculptor Simon Gudgeon and wife Monique to create an environment for enthusiasts that blends nature’s beauty with inspiring works of art, free from the space constraints of a traditional gallery.

Carefully landscaped the aim of enhancing the aesthetic qualities of each sculpture, the park features paths which meander round the lakes, each turn revealing a different vista and new work of art, many by Simon and some by guest exhibitors.

The park at Pallington opened in 2011 and is home to some of Simon’s monumental finished pieces, as well as housing studio workshops. He sculpts primarily in bronze, and occasionally in marble, granite, glass or stainless steel.

For more information about the park and the range of sculptures to be found there, see our full feature here and Simon’s website for details about entry, upcoming exhibitions and other news.

Picture of the week: 16/08/21

OUR picture choice this week provides a postscript to our recent article about Dorset artist Sam Cannon and her extraordinary wildlife paintings.

Last week we wrote about Sam’s art, and how her decision to include lettering in some of her paintings had prompted an explosion of interest in her work, which nowadays attracts a substantial and enthusiastic following on Facebook and Instagram.

Shepherd’s Hut by Sam Cannon

Howver the artist, based near Lyme Regis in Dorset, still talks of herself as “just being a mum who also paints in between all the other things life throws at me”.

Despite her modesty, it’s clear that her paintings provide a source of solace and inspiration to many, not least her remarkable Shepherd’s Hut, a moonlit woodland scene which incorporates a quote from the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov.

The words are those of Sonya in Chekhov’s 1898 play Uncle Vanya: “We shall find peace. We shall hear angels. We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.”

The words are beautifully juxtaposed against a peaceful woodland backdrop, the cool blues and greys of the moonlit shadows offset by the warmth emanating from the shepherd’s hut and the brown-and-white forms of two late-night visitors.

Like most of Sam’s paintings, the work combines her love of wildlife with an understanding of tyopgraphy honed during her years of study at Reading University.

When Sam referred to our original article in a post to her 43,000 followers on Facebook, along with her reflections about her week and current difficulties in selling original work, it prompted an outpouring of affection and support from her fans.

Reflections by Sam Cannon

Despite the satisfaction of working as a full-time artist, setbacks range from a summer slump in the market for original pieces to export problems when dealing with customers in North America.

Sam stopped shipping to North America earlier in the year because of the hit-or-miss nature of dealings with customs and the US postal system.

She wrote: “Every time an item is severely delayed or lost, it all falls back on me. I lose customers and money. I’d rather offer no service than a hit-or-miss one.”

She has had similar doubts about spending 30 to 40 hours working on a painting just to see it sit in a folder, instead deciding to concentrate on smaller tasks. “I’ve been painting wooden hearts,” she posted. “And whilst things remain so quiet for me, I’ll be continuing to focus on small things like wooden hearts, slates and pebbles in the hope that my paintings will once again start to find homes.”

Her fans have been quick to offer their support, with hundreds of likes, shares and comments responding to her original post, many of which Sam has responded to in person. Among the words of encouragement are those who appreciate her honesty in talking about such matters on her site.

“Your words are beautiful and calming . . . just like your painting,” wrote one. And, with reference to Reflections, another wrote: “It’s a beautiful painting Sam, one which will help many people reflect on the last year or so.”

Sam Cannon’s painting can be found on her website and instagram feed. As well as original works, she also sells limited edition giclée prints, greeting cards and calendars.

Picture of the week: 09/08/21

ANIMALS feature hugely in the life of Dorset artist Sam Cannon, so it’s not surprising they should become the central focus of her art.

Her daily routine starts with a trip round the field clearing up horse poo and checking on her beautiful piebald cob, now 28 and needing feeding every four hours to keep his weight on.

“I do this with my mum and generally by the time we’ve finished we’ve put the world to rights, got out our frustrations with the males in the family and fully woken up,” Sam told readers in one of the short newsletters she started producing last year.

But it’s not only horses that Sam cares about. Badgers and foxes feature prominently in her paintings, along with birds, bumblebees and mice – well, all kinds of wildlife, really.

Fox and badger by Sam Cannon

Living in the Marshwood Vale, close to Lyme Regis in Dorset, Sam is self-deprecating about her work, despite its popularity.

“I’ve always thought of myself as just being a mum who also paints in between all the other things life throws at me,” she says.

She had always loved drawing, encouraged by her grandad, but after A levels enrolled on a course at Reading University in typography and graphic communication.

“It’s an amazing course, the only university course like it in the country,” she explains. Four years on and she knew all about typographic design, the history of printing and typography, and had been on trips to Rome, Florence, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany – but drawing wasn’t a part of the course.

Having worked in a variety of office jobs, including the family business, she spent a couple of years trying to be an artist back in the 90s, specialising in horse-racing pictures, but struggled to make a living, and returned to office work.

But in 2010 when Sam and her parents moved to Dorset she decided to to give art another go. After a couple of years of painting various subjects without success, she decided to incorporate some lettering into her work.

The trees began to whisper by Sam Cannon

“And as it turns out, it’s the lettering that turned things around for me,” she recalls. “It was only when I started combining lettering with paintings that things started to change. And my pictures with words are nearly always my most popular ones.”

Not that everyone likes this style – and in her posts on Instagram and Facebook, Sam has spoken of the hurt that a chance remark or email can cause.  

“I know that some people hate that I combine them – lots have told me so and it is disheartening. But I can’t please everyone,” she says.  

Deep Peace by Sam Cannon

“I love painting and I really enjoy painting letters. Planning them out, changing shapes. I spent four years studying letterforms: I’m grateful I get to use them in this way.”

And it’s since then that things have got busier and busier for Sam.  At last she is a full-time artist, living near the sea close to Lyme Regis, painting and drawing pictures and turning them into greetings cards, prints and calendars to sell online or through shops and galleries throughout the UK.  

Her son is soon off to university and she’s looking forward to learning about how best she can continue to transform the eight acres where they live.

Colmers Hill –The owl and the badgers by Sam Cannon

“We’ve been gradually learning about this amazing place where we are located. We’ve stopped taking hay from the field and year on year, seen the orchids flourish,” she says. “The wild flowers are growing back thicker year on year (yarrow, bird’s-foot trefoil, fleabane, honeysuckle, vetch, meadowsweet etc).

“The butterflies and solitary bees are increasing in numbers. We are only cutting the hedges every three years and then sparingly (and in places where the horses eat them, not at all). We’ve introduced red mason bees and seen terrific harvests of fruit on our trees. And apples are left on the ground in abundance for the birds to feed on over winter.

Balance by Sam Cannon

“Bird numbers have really increased too. More blackbirds and thrushes. More of the birds that love the thick hedgerows and dive down into our wild flower meadow to eat the grasshoppers and beetles that are thriving there. Eight acres isn’t a lot but we’ve seen real change. And it inspires my work every day.”

Sam’s time is spent juggling various priorities: running the business, painting new work, nurturing the beautiful place where she lives, and of course, caring for Dylan. “Though not necessarily in that order,” she says.

Part of the steep learning curve has been learning when to say “no” to commissions, exhibitions or other commitments which are simply too much to handle without taking on staff or becoming a much bigger business.

“It doesn’t get any easier to say but if people are kind and understanding, they get it,” she says.

Her subject matter has developed too. “When I first started these lettering pictures it was all about the local Dorset locations. But now, more and more, it’s about nature. I love animals and I’ve tried really hard to get better at watercolour painting and learn new things all the time.”

It would come as no surprise to those who know her that spotting a young seagull entangled in netting above a Bridport shop would end in an avian rescue mission that involved long days of two-hourly feeds, bandages and pecked arms and legs.

But a few weeks later the juvenile was ready to be socialised with other rescued gulls before being released.

Says Sam: “On our way back from taking him to the very kind chap who does this work, we then found a dog lost on the roads too. The whole trip (including reuniting the elderly dog with its owner) took just over five and a half hours. This is why I struggle to get things done!”

Fox Family by Sam Cannon

Sam Cannon’s painting can be found on her website and instagram feed. As well as original works, she also sells limited edition giclée prints, greeting cards and calendars.

Picture of the week: 02/08/21

LAST week’s picture choice provoked such a reaction that it was inevitable that we’d want to find out a little more about artist Jo Grundy.

And where better to start than by featuring another of her most popular prints, A Place By The Sea.

A Place By The Sea by Jo Grundy

Her mention of last week’s article on her Facebook page prompted more than 600 likes and 60 shares, but it was the warmth and range of the responses that was most inspiring.

Our selected image, Moonlit Bay, obviously resonated with dozens of her customers, many of whom spoke of receiving it as a present or of having it on their bedroom wall.

“Wonderful evocative work. I could lose myself in it,” wrote one. “I love it. I could look at it for hours,” said another.

Poignantly, another added: “This is in my bedroom wall to urge me on to my future home by the sea.”

By Dusky Lake by Jo Grundy

Jo’s prints span all four seasons and reflect landscapes from the Chilterns to the Scottish Highlands, but what is it exactly that makes the vibrant paintings so popular?

“A lot of people remark about the sense of calm they feel when looking at my paintings,” says Jo. “I think they have developed quite a therapeutic appeal. People say that they can walk right into them and imagine themselves there, listening to the birds singing or the waves crashing against the shore.

“They also seem to provoke a sense of nostalgia too, bringing back memories of paths walked and views seen. This therapeutic value has been further enhanced during the last couple of years with all the stress around the pandemic.”

Blossom Meadow by Jo Grundy

Jo was born and brought up on a farm in West Berkshire, which she believes gave her a love of nature and the English landscape. She worked in graphics for 14 years but began creating home-made greetings cards after taking time out to have her two children.

“As this brought in only a small income, I started to work on developing my painting style,” she says.

Nowadays she uses mainly acrylics, in particular a brand of decorative paint which boasts a vivid and distinctive palette. Her Etsy shop has become her main source of income, alongside custom orders, original sales, and licensing.

So how has her family reacted to the increasing demand for her art? “As my business has grown my family are my Number One fans, especially my sister who is collecting my canvas prints with a view that if she covers her walls with them then there is no need to re-decorate,” says Jo.

Harvest Song by Jo Grundy

“My mother-in-law and her friends delight in spotting my licensed products in the shops such as my cards and calendars. Unfortunately, both my parents died some years ago now so never saw my success as an artist, but I am sure they would have been very proud.

“I think my husband has been pleasantly surprised by my success as he was quite sceptical at first.”

Lockdown had an enormously positive affect on her business – perhaps because of the therapeutic appeal of her pictures. It has also meant more time spent processing and packing orders, although she does try to paint as regularly as she can.

“I also have family commitments which must be juggled around my business,” she says. “I really love working for myself as the flexibility means I can still be there for my family. I paint at my easel in my conservatory which provides amazing light but for a few weeks in the year becomes too hot to paint in as the paint dries before I even get it on the canvas. I then decamp to my kitchen table to paint on slate panels.”

Garden Beside The Sea by Jo Grundy

Life’s ambitions? “I have never really painted au plein air and this is something I wouldn’t mind trying as I would have to work quickly and observe more,” she says.

Many of her striking originals are on sale as prints in her Etsy shop, while others have been licensed for greetings cards, prints and more recently cross-stitch kits and objects ranging from aprons to lampshades.

“I never initially thought about licensing but it is a direction that found me and it’s lovely to see my work as cards and other products,” she says.

Jo’s portfolio, including original paintings and a range of prints and other products can be found on her website.

Picture of the week: 26/07/21

SOME art works are guaranteed to make you smile.

Jo Grundy’s stylised, whimsical paintings have just such an effect – as those buying her works are quick to testify.

MOONLIT BAY: a print on paper of the sea at night from an original acrylic by Jo Grundy

Jo says that being born and brought up on a farm in West Berkshire gave her a love of nature and the English landscape which she tries to capture in her vibrant, colourful paintings.

“I have always been creative and it was inevitable that I would choose a career based around art so I trained as a graphic designer which was an easier option to earn a living from, at that time, than a fine artist,” she says.

DOWN SUMMER LANE: a print from an original acrylic by Jo Grundy

Working in graphics for the next 14 years clearly influenced her use of colour and composition and after taking time out to have her two children, she initially began creating home-made greetings cards.

“As this brought in only a small income, I started to work on developing my painting style,” she says. “To begin with all my paintings were in mixed media and I used everything from paint and paper to stitching and beads to create highly textured and ornate pieces.”

WINTER AT KINGFISHER COTTAGE: a print from an acrylic original by Jo Grundy

Nowadays she uses mainly acrylics, in particular a brand of decorative paint which boasts a vivid and distinctive palette designed for use on a variety of surfaces including wood and glass as well as paper and canvas.

“My main inspiration comes from the ever-changing seasons of the English landscape, with my favourite season being winter as I love to see the structure and detail of trees and hedgerows,” she explains. “My winter scenes are very popular with many selling before they are even finished.”

SNOWY LANDSCAPE: a print on paper from an original acrylic painting by Jo Grundy

Many of her striking originals are on sale as prints in her Etsy shop, and buyers have been enthusiastic in their praise.

“Beautiful, and hanging in my home office where I can see the “countryside” every day. LOVE it!” said one. “It is truly beautiful, and brings me so much joy,” said another.

WESTBURY HORSES: a print on paper from an original acrylic painting by Jo Grundy

Says Jo: “I have been selling my work, mainly online for over seven years and have many of my images licensed for greetings cards, prints and more recently cross-stitch kits.

“I never initially thought about licensing but it is a direction that found me and it’s lovely to see my work as cards and other products.”

Jo’s portfolio, including original paintings and a range of prints and other products can be found on her website. And the picture choice proved so popular, Jo’s work was featured for a second week.

Picture of the week: 19/07/21

EVERY picture tells a story – and for art expert Patrick van der Vorst, the best paintings can speak volumes.

STAR SEEDER: graffiti art by Morfai in Kaunas, Lithuania

As a senior director at Sotheby’s in London, the Belgian-born auctioneer and dealer had become an industry expert with a huge accumulated knowledge about the world of art, antiques and collectibles.

He even featured as a winner on the TV programme Dragons’ Den when his antiques-valuing website Value My Stuff was backed by both Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis.

EARLY MARTYRS: St Peter and St Paul as depicted by Cavarozzi © Galerie G Sarti, Paris

But the entrepreneur’s life took a new twist in 2019 when he enrolled as a seminarian with the Diocese of Westminster, studying at the Pontifical Beda College in Rome to become a priest.

And it’s now a couple of years since he launched a new website linking daily Gospel readings with poignant and reflective works of art, accompanied by a short personal commentary.

“FOLLOW ME”: The Calling of Saint Matthew by Panini (1752) © Museo Poldi Pezzoli

From Old Masters to street artists like Morfai, whose work is our picture choice this week, the website features an extraordinary range of artworks spanning the centuries, allowing visitors to consider the daily reading from a new perspective.

The French impressionist painting Picking Peas by Camille Pissarro, for example, was looted by the Nazis during World War Two when France was under German occupation, and was only returned to its rightful Jewish owners in 2017.

RICH HARVEST: La Ceuillette des Pois, painted by Camille Pissarro in 1887 © Sotheby’s Paris

It sold at auction for €3.3 million in March this year, and Patrick uses it to reflect on the spiritual harvest referred to in Matthew Ch 9, when “the harvest is rich but the labourers are few”.

Likewise his choice of Star Seeder, a piece of graffiti art which went viral after it appeared on a wall in Lithuania’s second-largest city, ties in with Luke’s explanation of how, with the crowds gathering around him, Jesus recounts the parable of the sower spreading his seed on different types of land, to see much of it trampled on, eaten by birds, withered or choked. Only the seed falling into rich soil grows to produce a successful crop.

Patrick explains: “At first there was simply the bronze statue created by Bernardas Bučas (1903–1979) in Kaunas, the art deco capital of Lithuania. The sculpture embodies the interwar period where the peasant is sowing grains, working for his country.

HIDDEN MESSAGE: Morfai‘s street art only makes sense at night

“Fast forward to 2008. Street artist Morfai sprayed the wall behind the sculpture with stars. The composition works only at night, as then with the light which is shining upon the monument, a shadow of the sculpture is cast onto the wall, which then corresponds with the stars being sown by the shadow silhouette of the sower… The grains have become stars…”

During the day, the street artwork makes no sense – and likewise with parables it may be that they make little sense at first sight, Patrick suggests. “It is only at certain times, or when our own personal circumstances change, or a certain light is shining upon a certain aspect of our lives that the parables make sense,” he writes.

Ironically, the original artwork was overpainted and it was only eight years later that Morfai was invited to restore it, this time incorporated black granite stars onto the wall behind the statue.

Patrick’s website offers a daily news letter by email with the Gospel reading of the day, alongside an appropriate work of art and short reflection.

Picture of the week: 12/07/21

THE insects in today’s picture choice are so vivid and lifelike that it’s hard to believe they were painted more than 350 years ago.

But the painting on copper panel actually dates from 1657 and is the work of Jan van Kessel the Elder, a versatile Flemish artist known for his meticulous studes of insects and flowers (along with marine and river landscapes).

METICULOUS DETAIL: van Kessel’s extraordinary painting from 1657

Born in Antwerp in 1626, van Kessel belonged to a dynasty of famous painters and a couple of his works are in the National Gallery.

But despite the vivid realism of the colours in his sprig of redcurrants lying alongside an elephant hawk moth, ladybird, millipede and other insects, to modern eyes the study may feel uncomfortably lifeless.

But of course that stems from our ability to capture the natural world in all its splendour without trapping, killing and impaling them in cabinets of curiosities, as early natural history enthusiasts were prone to do.

NATURAL WONDER: the spectacular peacock butterfly PICTURE: Graham Parkinson

Ironically van Kessel – a keen observer praised in his day for his precision and attention to detail – was perhaps more radical in his artistic approach than we might initially appreciate as 21st-century observers of his work.

“Cabinets of wonder”, as they were also known, were early forerunners of museums – private collections of notable objects which emerged during the 16th century and helped to establish the socioeconomic status of their curators.

Filled with all kinds of disparate objects, from preserved animals, horns, tusks and skeletons to minerals, sculptures or clockwork automata, such collections often helped to promote scientific advancement when their contents were publicised and discussed, and the desire to collect and categorise the natural world inspired artists to achieve the same in painted form.

POLLEN COUNT: an industrious bee PICTURE: Graham Parkinson

By the Victorian era, the pursuit of collecting was held in high esteem and formal parlours functioned as private museums with which to impress and amaze guests, the age of scientific exploration and discovery fuelling the popularity of taxidermy as an all-consuming obsession.

But for van Kessel way back in the 17th century, a collection of studies of flowers and insects engraved and published in 1592 in Frankfurt was to influence his work, and his studies differ from the dispassionate approach of predecessors who arranged flora and fauna in rows, as if they were specimens in a collector’s cabinet.

UNDER COVER: a ladybird potentially unaware of its prey PICTURE: Nick Bell

Van Kessel created a more dynamic arrangement of insects, where his message of nature as a mirror of God’s power would not have been lost on contemporary audiences.

As art expert and seminarian Patrick van der Vorst wrote in a recent reflection on the work: “The juxtaposition of Van Kessel’s animated painted insects with the redcurrants and two moths delights the viewer. There is a certain cheerfulness that emanates from these paintings.”

WILD ENCOUNTERS: nature comes alive in words and pictures @DrawnIntoNature

Perhaps that means van Kessel’s painting from 1657 has more in common with the vibrant portraits in modern nature journals than the grim drawers favoured by Victorian collectors, who kept their insects and butterflies so neatly and systematically arranged and ordered.

Picture of the week: 05/07/21

ARTISTS and makers across Buckinghamshire throw open their doors in June to showcase their work.

But even when the event is over, online galleries give visitors the chance to explore the work of dozens of creative souls from all over the Chilterns throughout the year.

MINDFUL MOMENTS: Sharon Bailey draws inspiration from the Chilterns landscape

The Bucks Arts Weeks project – which follows similar events across Oxfordshire in May – allows the public a unique opportunity to hear artists, sculptors, printmakers, photographers and jewellery makers talk about their work and see them in action.

The open studios scheme has been running in Buckinghamshire since 1985 and all the events are free to the public – including exhibitions, pop-up displays and dozens of working studios.

From calligraphy to ceramics and sculpture to digital art, the skills on display include printmaking, jewellery, drawing and painting, metalwork and photography.

For wildlife and nature lovers, highlights include many works inspired by or reflecting the natural world, including animal portraits and sculptures, and paintings rooted in the local Chilterns landscape.

Many of the local artists, from Anna Dillon and Jane Duff to Sue Graham and Christine Bass, have featured in The Beyonder’s Picture of the Week series and can be accessed through out Local Landscapes page.

ANIMAL MAGIC: Highland Moo visits Pitstone Windmill by Katie Nathan

Geographically the open studios and exhibitions stretch from Milton Keynes and Buckingham in the north to Aylesbury, Chesham, High Wycombe, Chorleywood, Henley and Maidenhead, on the southern edge of the county.

Some towns like Princes Risborough, Amersham and Chesham organise their own trail maps during the live event and exhibitors are grouped geographically to make it possible to visit a number at a time.

And while many artists draw inspiration from the Chilterns countryside, subject matter ranges from portraits to seascapes and abstract works.

LIGHT AND DARK: oils provide a favourite medium for Joe Little

During the fortnight of displays and demonstrations, visitors can buy or commission work – or even try their hand at some of the skills or sign up for classes. Prices range from postcards and small gifts costing a few pounds to major pieces of original artwork or sculpture costing hundreds.

Any artist or maker interested in taking part next year should contact the organisers on admin@bucksartweeks.org.uk.

Picture of the week: 28/06/21

ARTISTS and makers across Buckinghamshire throw open their doors in June to showcase their work.

But even when the event is over, online galleries give visitors the chance to explore the work of dozens of creative souls from all over the Chilterns throughout the year.

MINDFUL MOMENTS: Sharon Bailey draws inspiration from the Chilterns landscape

The Bucks Arts Weeks project – which follows similar events across Oxfordshire in May – allows the public a unique opportunity to hear artists, sculptors, printmakers, photographers and jewellery makers talk about their work and see them in action.

The open studios scheme has been running in Buckinghamshire since 1985 and all the events are free to the public – including exhibitions, pop-up displays and dozens of working studios.

From calligraphy to ceramics and sculpture to digital art, the skills on display include printmaking, jewellery, drawing and painting, metalwork and photography.

For wildlife and nature lovers, highlights include many works inspired by or reflecting the natural world, including animal portraits and sculptures, and paintings rooted in the local Chilterns landscape.

Many of the local artists, from Anna Dillon and Jane Duff to Sue Graham and Christine Bass, have featured in The Beyonder’s Picture of the Week series and can be accessed through out Local Landscapes page.

ANIMAL MAGIC: Highland Moo visits Pitstone Windmill by Katie Nathan

Geographically the open studios and exhibitions stretch from Milton Keynes and Buckingham in the north to Aylesbury, Chesham, High Wycombe, Chorleywood, Henley and Maidenhead, on the southern edge of the county.

Some towns like Princes Risborough, Amersham and Chesham organise their own trail maps during the live event and exhibitors are grouped geographically to make it possible to visit a number at a time.

And while many artists draw inspiration from the Chilterns countryside, subject matter ranges from portraits to seascapes and abstract works.

LIGHT AND DARK: oils provide a favourite medium for Joe Little

During the fortnight of displays and demonstrations, visitors can buy or commission work – or even try their hand at some of the skills or sign up for classes. Prices range from postcards and small gifts costing a few pounds to major pieces of original artwork or sculpture costing hundreds.

Any artist or maker interested in taking part next year should contact the organisers on admin@bucksartweeks.org.uk.

Picture of the week: 21/06/21

ARTISTS and makers across Buckinghamshire throw open their doors in June to showcase their work.

But even when the event is over, online galleries give visitors the chance to explore the work of dozens of creative souls from all over the Chilterns throughout the year.

MINDFUL MOMENTS: Sharon Bailey draws inspiration from the Chilterns landscape

The Bucks Arts Weeks project – which follows similar events across Oxfordshire in May – allows the public a unique opportunity to hear artists, sculptors, printmakers, photographers and jewellery makers talk about their work and see them in action.

The open studios scheme has been running in Buckinghamshire since 1985 and all the events are free to the public – including exhibitions, pop-up displays and dozens of working studios.

From calligraphy to ceramics and sculpture to digital art, the skills on display include printmaking, jewellery, drawing and painting, metalwork and photography.

For wildlife and nature lovers, highlights include many works inspired by or reflecting the natural world, including animal portraits and sculptures, and paintings rooted in the local Chilterns landscape.

Many of the local artists, from Anna Dillon and Jane Duff to Sue Graham and Christine Bass, have featured in The Beyonder’s Picture of the Week series and can be accessed through out Local Landscapes page.

ANIMAL MAGIC: Highland Moo visits Pitstone Windmill by Katie Nathan

Geographically the open studios and exhibitions stretch from Milton Keynes and Buckingham in the north to Aylesbury, Chesham, High Wycombe, Chorleywood, Henley and Maidenhead, on the southern edge of the county.

Some towns like Princes Risborough, Amersham and Chesham organise their own trail maps during the live event and exhibitors are grouped geographically to make it possible to visit a number at a time.

And while many artists draw inspiration from the Chilterns countryside, subject matter ranges from portraits to seascapes and abstract works.

LIGHT AND DARK: oils provide a favourite medium for Joe Little

During the fortnight of displays and demonstrations, visitors can buy or commission work – or even try their hand at some of the skills or sign up for classes. Prices range from postcards and small gifts costing a few pounds to major pieces of original artwork or sculpture costing hundreds.

Any artist or maker interested in taking part next year should contact the organisers on admin@bucksartweeks.org.uk.

Picture of the week: 14/06/21

ONE OF the great delights of art is its capacity to transport us to different landscapes.

And while so many of the images featured on this site capture the familiar surroundings of the Chilterns, today’s choice takes us to the south of France and the extraordinarily beautiful French hilltop village of Saint-Paul de Vence.

Hidden down a backstreet here is an unassuming chapel which was once the home of a brotherhood of pious laymen who did good works to earn forgiveness for their sins. 

Today it houses some remarkable works created by the Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon, who was commissioned by the town’s mayor to renovate the building.

It was to be the artist’s final commission before his death in 2005 at the age of 71, and it turned into a sanctuary of light and serenity encapsulating the work of the Pénitents Blancs while at the same time immortalising Folon’s love for the village.

Known for his illustrations and posters for Unesco and Amnesty International as well as large-scale sculptures in Brussels and Lisbon, Folon’s vision was completed posthumously by a select group of artisans and master glassmakers.

One wall is dominated by an immense mosaic of the village (above), while other murals and stained-glass windows evoke the theme of giving, in keeping with the vocation of the Penitents.

The first traces of the brotherhood in Saint-Paul date from 1581 and they existed in the village until the 1920s. Their charity work with the underprivileged included caring for the sick, handing out clothing and food, and giving grain to farmers in trouble. They would also offer food and shelter to lost travellers and penniless pilgrims. Similar religious congregations of penitents are known by the different colours of their habits – white, black, blue, grey, red, violet and green.

Formally opened in 2008, the chapel is a light-filled joyous place, from the stunning baptismal font (below) to the pastel walls and striking sculptures – but these works also hark back to earlier themes about the preservation of the environment, which is why his work seemed so well suited to being featured in the pages of The Beyonder.

It’s almost 30 years since Folon brought together a series of engravings and posters in an exhibition called Notre Terre which ran in several small towns in France, followed by a collaboration in Italy addressing the same subject – and leaving a legacy of large posters covering the walls of Italian cities for several years afterwards.

Today, the artworks in the Folon Chapel provide a welcome oasis of peace in the heart of the village, which became such a focus for artistic endeavour almost exactly a century ago.

Artists first started frequenting Saint-Paul at the beginning of the 1920s. The trail blazers – Paul Signac, Raoul Dufy and Chaïm Soutine – set up their easels attracted by the colours and rich, intense light, and were soon followed by visitors like Matisse and Picasso.

The artists enjoyed the company of Paul Roux – a painter, art collector and the owner of the famous Colombe d’Or restaurant, whose walls are still adorned with their paintings today.

By the 1950s and 1960s, the village had become a melting pot of talent, with poets, artists and writers rubbing shoulders with the movie stars drawn to the French Riviera by the Victorine film studios in Nice and the Cannes Film Festival.

Find out more about the Folon Chapel on the village website.

Picture of the week: 07/06/21


STUNNING. That’s the word which springs to mind when you first glance through Paul Mitchell’s amazing portfolio of pictures chronicling the different seasons in one of Britain’s most famous woodlands.

It’s a magical world which is constantly changing through the year, as Paul demonstrates in his startling shots of Burnham Beeches – that tiny remnant of the ancient woodlands which once covered so much of the country.


Paul’s ‘album’ contains dozens of uncaptioned photographs of the woods throughout the year – draped in snow, dappled by sunlight, looking mystical and enchanting, sometimes intriguing and welcoming, sometimes otherworldly and even scary.

He explains: “The portfolio is my response to this world of wonder and features images made in the icy grip of winter, the vibrancy of springtime, the green canopy of summer, through to the richness of autumn.”

Burnham Beeches was bought by the City of London Corporation in the latter part of the 19th century to safeguard the area from property developers and to protect its future for generations to come.

As Paul explains, the landscape of the Site of Special Scientific Interest was created by human management going back many centuries and has provided grazing land for livestock and fuel via the pollarding of beech and oak trees which has not only helped to prolong the lives of the trees, but help to give them their characteristic gnarled appearance.


Born in East Yorkshire, Paul studied graphic design at art college and soon after began his design career in London. He now lives in East Dorset as a professional landscape photographer and specialist book designer.

A respected photographic judge and lecturer, he has staged numerous exhibitions and has had articles and images published in many photographic magazines. His website can be found here.

Picture of the week: 31/05/21

bob ross 1
HAPPY LITTLE TREES: American TV art legend Bob Ross inspires a new generation of artists

THERE could hardly be a painter whose geographical sources of inspiration are further removed from the gentle landscapes of the Chilterns than the soft-spoken American cult art legend Bob Ross.

But budding artists don’t need to focus on the mountains and log cabins in Ross’s pictures to pick up some handy technical tips from the inspiring host of the US TV program The Joy of Painting, which aired from 1983 to 1994 and still enthrals millions today on Youtube, as well as being screened on the BBC.

There are plenty of “happy little trees” in Black Park, after all, and dozens of Ross’s video tutorials to choose from for anyone tempted to crack out the titanium white and give his trademark wet-on-wet technique a shot.

Perhaps part of Ross’s timeless appeal is the fact he was himself a convert to art after attending a painting class in Anchorage during his 20 years in the US Air Force and honed his own techniques at the feet of another TV artist, the German painter Bill Alexander.

Ross’s enduring popularity stems in part from his distinctive laid-back style, quaint catchphrases and eternal upbeat positivity, and in part from the sheer speed and ease of his quick-painting technique. If you’re ever tempted by the idea of painting but never got round to giving it a try, check out Ross’s official Youtube channel, which has around four million subscribers, or the current BBC4 season of repeats.

Picture of the week: 24/05/21

THOSE who love an early morning walk in Slough’s Langley Park or Black Park may already be familiar with the work of landscape photographer Kevin Day.

PERFECT SYMMETRY: Love Swans by Kevin Day

The Slough-based photographer has contributed a number of pictures to a gallery linked to the Friends of Langley Park website – and the story of one major photography project is told in an old profile article in Amateur Photographer.

NEW DAWN: the gnarled tree in Langley Park by Kevin Day

“I often get up at five or six in the morning and go to the park, which is a ten-minute walk away,” says Kevin in the article. “It’s the light that interests me, and the way it affects the landscape. It’s constantly changing, at different times of the day, different times of year.”

His studies of a gnarled tree in Langley Park showed how you can return to the same subject again and again and get a different picture every time. But Kevin goes on to explain how the tree was also a symbol of his photographic renaissance.

Today, his personal work continues to complement his professional output and a selection of his nature pictures reflect this. “It’s more of a little hidden gallery occasionally people stumble across!” he says.

For those who share Kevin’s love of those two local parks, it’s a real treat – with dozens of pictures to choose from – and the option to purchase copies too.

Picture of the week: 17/05/21

OUR picture choice this week doesn’t focus on an individual artist or photographer, but a place – Temple Gardens in Langley Park, in fact, where May sees the rhododendrons back in full glorious bloom.

This is the month when visitors are guaranteed a spectacular fireworks display of colour, and it’s these pathways which provided the image that has graced the home page of The Beyonder for the past three years.


In mid- to late May it’s a startling spectacle, and you arrive early enough in the morning or on a weekday, you may have those winding paths pretty much to yourself, apart from the odd jogger or dog walker.

It’s one of many local walks featured in the drop-down menu on our What’s On pages, and the park itself is one of more than 50 destinations for family days out in our at-a-glance guide, as well as being the subject of a longer article in the Our Visits section.

Picture of the week: 10/05/21

OXFORDSHIRE remains in the spotlight for our picture choice this week as the UK’s biggest open studios event continues across the county until May 23.

Ultramarine Flock by Alice Walker

Ultramarine Flock is one of more than two dozen recent works featuring in this year’s Oxfordshire Artweeks festival programme by Eynsham artist Alice Walker.

“This past year my inspiration has been found very close at home in the hedgerows and woods, fields and skies of Eynsham,” says Alice. “Daily dog walks have provided me with the opportunity to watch the seasons unfurl and glow.”

Alongside oils, monotypes, collage and pencil work she has been experimenting with applying watercolour with a calligraphy nib.

Silver Ghosts by Alice Walker

“It has proved an ideal technique for capturing the dancing light and canopy of leaves,” adds Alice, who studied at Edinburgh College of Art and has been teaching all kinds of art to adults and children for almost 20 years.

She says: “Many themes inspire me both from the human and natural world; plants and architecture, landscapes and rooftops. I see patterns everywhere and light and colour in their infinite combinations are an endless source of inspiration and challenge.”

Having lived and exhibited in Oxfordshire for more than two decades, Alice says she likes to approach the same subject in multiple ways, playing with different combinations of colour and composition.

“Like most artists I make art about the things I love,” she says. “As I find peace and healing when out in nature I try to create art on that theme in ways that will uplift and inspire.”

The 2021 Oxfordshire Artweeks festival runs until May 23, featuring dozens of covid-secure venues and hundreds of virtual exhibitions and studios on more than 20 themed art trails.

Picture of the week: 03/05/21

A PASSION for plants has driven the art career of Julia Loken, a watercolour artist based in Eynsham outside Oxford.

Without any formal training, Julia worked for 20 years as a freelance botanical illustrator, preparing pen and ink drawings for botanical textbooks. Then, in 1980, she began to paint seriously, when her love of plants naturally led her to choose them as her favourite subjects.

Woodland Path by Julia Loken

Living with her husband in a 220-year-old cottage with beautiful flower and vegetable gardens, she also enjoys painting a variety of country landscapes, both at home and abroad.

This weekend she is one of hundreds of local artists featured in the annual May festival organised by Oxfordshire Artweeks, where artists across Oxfordshire throw open their doors to the public.

Many of those exhibiting have had their work featured in past Beyonder features, including Katie Cannon, Jane Duff, Maureen Gillespie and Sue Side.

Julia’s exhibition of around 40 watercolour paintings is spread across four well-ventilated adjoining rooms in her house.

Bismarck Palm by Julia Loken

A fellow of the Society of Botanical Artists, Julia participates regularly in their annual exhibitions in London and, having lived in Eynsham for over 50 years, has hosted Artweeks exhibitions since 1985.

“I am very fortunate in having a large garden, where I can indulge my passion for plant collecting, and cultivate many of the plants that I wish to paint,” she says. “I also enjoy painting local landscapes.”

First Snow, Eynsham, by Julia Loken

For more than 35 years Julia has volunteered to spend one morning each week teaching plant drawing to young children at her local village school. She has also tried to instil in them a sense of wonder at the beauty of the natural world in our increasingly technological age.

“I am endlessly fascinated by the beauty and diversity of plant forms,” she says. Her exhibition runs from 11am-6pm on May 7 until May 9.

Picture of the week: 26/04/21

OXFORDSHIRE comes to life in intricate detail through the paintings of Jill Smith, our latest featured artist.

Born in London but living and painting in Oxfordshire, her “traditional” style makes her landscape paintings instantly recognisable – often the epitome of English life so often popularised through jigsaws and biscuit tins.

Childrey Pond by Jill Smith

But if her portrait of Childrey Pond in the Vale of Oxford looks as quintessentially English as you could get – and a flashback in time to a past century – all is perhaps not quite as it seems.

Although the Downland village close to Wantage has been known for its pond for centuries, by 2005 all was not well, with the village website describing it as a “smelly, muddy puddle with green weed and slime, which even the ducks shunned”.

A major restoration project was needed to restore the pond – and Jill’s portrait certainly portrays the village in all its glory and in the sort of fine detail for which she is perhaps best known.

Iffley Lock by Jill Smith

As an industrial chemist who later moved into IT, she says: “I think my ordered scientific background bleeds through in that my landscapes, flower studies and pet portraits are mostly realistic in style and quite detailed but from time to time I rebel from the traditional to let rip, splash paint about, see what happens and take it from there.”

Only too happy to try new techniques, Jill works in a variety of media from acrylics and oils to watercolours and linocuts and is largely self-taught – supported by attending various evening classes, painting workshops and the membership of local art societies.

Round the Bend at Buscot by Jill Smith

“When painting I aim to capture those fleeting light effects on the landscape or colour combinations that transform a scene and make it special,” she says. Frequently inspired by local landscapes, Jill is one of hundreds of local artists featured in the forthcoming May festival organised by Oxfordshire Artweeks.

Traditionally May is the month when hundreds of artists across Oxfordshire open their doors to the public and many of those exhibiting have had their work featured in past Beyonder features, including Katie Cannon, Jane Duff, Maureen Gillespie and Sue Side.

This year her collection captures landscapes encountered out walking during lockdown, plus scenes from further afield, with a particular focus on her oil and acrylic paintings.

There is the added bonus of a ‘two-for-one’ visit with fellow artist Patsy Jones exhibiting her paintings and prints at the same COVID-secure sheltered outside venue in Patsy’s garden in Wantage.

“I’m lucky to be able to work in a spare bedroom that started out being organised but over time the flotsam and jetsam has spread to cover everywhere except the small desk where I sit to paint unless I’m working at an easel,” says Jill. “I’d love to invite you to view my ‘open studio’ but you’d hardly be able to sidle through the door.”

See the Oxfordshire Artweeks site for details of the venue, days and other artists. Jill’s work is featured on her website and instagram feed. The Wantage venue is open on May 14-16 and 21-23.

Picture of the week: 19/04/21

OUR picture choice this week takes us back to Oxfordshire and the striking work of artist and printmaker Jane Peart.

Jane is one of dozens of local artists whose work features in an online spring show organised by Oxfordshire Artweeks, a sneak preview of work available to buy during the forthcoming May festival.

Mist on the river, Waterperry by Jane Peart

Born in London, Jane graduated from the Ealing School of Art and worked in a design studio before moving to Oxford in 1978.

An avid printmaker, her work ranges from colourful acrylics to stunning etchings of birds and animals.

She has been exhibited all over the country and is a member of the Oxford Printmaker’s Cooperative and Oxford Art Society.

She says: “After many years of devoting my time to pencil and pen and ink drawings, I took up etching, which I love, although it is a very challenging and demanding medium. I now devote most of my creative energies to printmaking.”

Evening Light, Tuscany by Jane Peart

However her online exhibition this year shows off some of the paintings she has completed during lockdown.

“I have found it difficult this last year to produce any new etchings but I’ve enjoyed doing some different work,” she says. “Some of the paintings are from walks I’ve been on during lockdown. It’s opened my eyes to the beautiful scenery walking through the woods or by the river.”

Her pictures stray much further afield too, from the Pyrenees to Tuscany and even China. A flipbook accessible online contains more than 50 examples of her work.

Evening Light, Tuscany by Jane Peart

“For as long as I can remember I have always loved drawing,” she says. “My etchings have always been about trying to evoke the feel and atmosphere of the place that inspires me. When drawing animals and birds I strive to capture their character, endeavouring to show the texture of their fur, feathers and other aspects which make them unique.

“In recent times I have taken up painting in acrylics. One good thing about the lockdown has been the opportunity to work in another medium and discover new exciting things to do and I really love it!”

Many of the other artists exhibitiing at this year’s festival have had their work featured in past Beyonder features, including Katie Cannon, Jane Duff, Maureen Gillespie and Sue Side, with local landscapes proving perennially popular subjects.

Traditionally May is the month that artists across Oxfordshire open their doors to the public.

The Spring Show is a seasonal collection celebrating the natural world as it awakens, awash with vivid greens, blues and golden yellows, hares and songbirds, blooms and blossom. It offers a sneak preview of what’s on offer through May, when more than 650 artists show off their creative talents.

Despite lockdown restrictions, this year there will still be dozens of secure pop-up galleries and studio exhibitions to visit across the county, with another 500 available online.

Picture of the week: 12/04/21

OUR picture choice this week takes us to Abingdon in Oxfordshire and the work of artist Dougie Simpson, which features as part of the UK’s oldest and biggest open studio event next month.

An online spring show organised by Oxfordshire Artweeks offers a sneak preview of work by more than 200 local artists which will be available to buy during the organisation’s forthcoming May festival.

Thames Street, Abingdon by Dougie Simpson

Dougie, who comes originally from Scotland, was relocated to work in Wallingford in 2005, retiring 10 years later.

During a year-long period of rest and recuperation in Venice, he started attending drawing classes and art workshops held at the Bottega del Tinteretto.

“I’m very keen on attending art courses and workshops both here and in Europe,” he says. “Since I started exhibiting four years ago, my work and range of subject matter has developed and increased in popularity.

“Several of my pictures have be found in the USA. Understandably I use the opportunities when I travel to paint outside. So you will find a selection of landscapes and cityscapes amongst my paintings.”

Abingdon Bridge by Dougie Simpson

Dougie will be exhibiting with alongside a quartet of other artists known as the Abbey Group in St Nicolas’ Church in the centre of Abingdon, showing a selection of watercolours and pen-and-wash paintings.

The Abbey Group exhibition runs from May 17-22 from 10am-5pm.

Many of the other artists exhibitiing at this year’s festival have had their work featured in past Beyonder features, including Katie Cannon, Jane Duff, Maureen Gillespie and Sue Side, with local landscapes proving perennially popular subjects.

Traditionally May is the month that artists across Oxfordshire open their doors to the public.

The Spring Show is a seasonal collection celebrating the natural world as it awakens, awash with vivid greens, blues and golden yellows, hares and songbirds, blooms and blossom. It offers a sneak preview of what’s on offer through May, when more than 650 artists show off their creative talents.

Despite lockdown restrictions, this year there will still be dozens of secure pop-up galleries and studio exhibitions to visit across the county, with another 500 available online.

Picture of the week: 05/04/21

THIS week’s picture choice takes us north to Milton Keynes and a quite extraordinary rewilding success story we first featured back in 2018.

Gazing out over a bare field in 1990 it would have been hard to believe that a humble couple of acres of cow pasture could become a veritable wildlife haven.

But Roy and Marie Battell’s transformation of the two acres has been inspiring. Today there are hundreds of trees – plus four ponds and meadows attracting a huge cross-section of wildlife.

Over the years the couple’s website depicting life in the nature reserve has developed something an international reputation.

The woods provide a home for all types of birds, insects and mammals with various trail cameras monitoring the movements of visitors ranging from sparrowhawks and kestrels to foxes, badgers and deer.

Dozens of loyal followers sign up for Roy’s weekly newsletter, which chronicles the changing landscape through the seasons, and his carefully chronicled pictures have appeared in a many wildlife textbooks.

His latest weekly selection is a fairly representative snapshot of life with the “Moorhens”, capturing everything from rooks and magpies gathering nesting materials to hungry squirrels, strutting pheasants and hunting owls.

It’s the quality of Roy’s photographs, coupled with his painstaking attention to detail in chronicling and recording the animals’ movements, which has attracted the interest of enthusiasts and academics around the world.

He sends these out every week to around 100 subscribers, while the archives provide an invaluable day-by-day record of the the extraordinary transformation they have achieved on their doorstep. To sign up for the weekly email, visit their website.

Picture of the week: 29/03/21

“I CAN barely remember a time when I didn’t paint, or wasn’t thinking about painting,” says Sue Graham.

Last week the Chilterns artist took us to the west coast of Scotland as she reflected on the challenges of a year like no other, and the need to put a remarkable family rewilding adventure on hold because of the pandemic and ongoing hospital treatment for cancer.

But this week’s picture choice takes us to the other end of the country and a hamlet on the edge of Dartmoor called Water.

BABBLING BROOK: Water, Dartmoor, oil on canvas board by Sue Graham

“Some of my favourite paths wind through it, crunching along stream beds, splashing through rivulets,” says Sue. “And everywhere there’s the music of water, gurgling, burbling, dripping. Such a life-affirming place.

“Parts of the trail are not quite stream, not quite path: my walking boots make a resonant crunching splash. There’s a half-derelict cottage on the edge of the path. It has the best location.”

Closer to home, another location with a story to tell is Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire.

“This painting marked a bit of a stylistic turning point for me in that it was my first mixed-media piece: I used spray paint, paint diffuser (that’s like a right-angled straw with a hole that you blow into), acrylic ink and acrylic paint,” says Sue.

SOUNDS OF SUMMER: Henley on Thames, Swifts by Sue Graham

Known for her colourful, expressive and atmospheric paintings in acrylics and oils, Sue frequently finds inspiration in natural landscapes and soundscapes.

“There is nothing (other than blackbird song, maybe) that brings me into a state of summery bliss than the screaming sounds of swifts. It’s the sound of childhood summers, of long evenings, of softness in the air, of possibilities as yet undreamed of.

“In this painting I tried to evoke that sense of ethereal joy: to honour the beauty of the bridge at Henley, without being over-literal in its depiction – photographs can do that better. I wanted to convey the the flow of the Thames and capture the sweetness of an early morning in summer, with the human world not yet making its presence felt, just the flow of water below with swifts wheeling overhead.”

Picture of the week: 22/03/21

IT’S BEEN an extraordinary year in which countless people’s hopes and dreams have been frustrated, shattered or put on hold.

No one knows that better than Chilterns artist Sue Graham, whose family rewilding adventure featured on these pages last spring, when she explained how a series of paintings inspired by her love of the dawn chorus prompted her family to buy a croft and start planting hundreds of trees on a remote Scottish island.

FOND MEMORIES: Argyll Dreaming by Sue Graham, acrylic on poster board

Her painting Argyll Dreaming is our picture choice this week, taking us on a particularly poignant virtual journey back to the beautiful lochside roads that lead from Glasgow to Tayinloan, from where you can catch the 20-minute ferry to the Isle of Gigha in the Inner Hebrides.

It’s the first of two instalments looking at Sue’s most recent work and follows an article in September last year focused on her landscapes from the other end of the country, in Cornwall.

Says Sue: “The painting came to me during Lockdown 2, when (like everybody else) I was longing to get away somewhere. I missed the lochs and the empty spaces of Scotland’s wild west coast. 

“When our family planted a native woodland at the croft back in November 2019, we had no idea what challenges lay ahead; for us, for everyone.”

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: the first wave of planting, back in 2019

Back in those innocent days the worst of their worries was the possibility of voles damaging the tiny saplings – and competition from grass.

Sue recalls: “We planned a schedule of regular island visits to remove grass, check the vole guards, erect perch poles for birds of prey and keep an eye on our nascent Atlantic rainforest. And then two unexpected things happened: serious health challenges for me and a global pandemic.”

Covid restrictions and cancer treatment through the spring and summer of 2020 made it impossible to travel, although a friend on the island – the local ferryman – reported that the trees were ‘growing well’ – but so was the grass.

“Once the first lockdown eased our two sons, Tom and JP, travelled from Glasgow to Gigha and made a valiant start on the great grass cut-back, sowing grass-parasitic yellow rattle in the hope that this will help keep the grass under control in future years,” Sue explains.

OPEN OUTLOOK: the spectacular Gigha coastline

“When Gabriel and I finally got to Gigha in early October 2020 – almost one full year since planting the woodland – the grass was thigh-high in places, with some feisty trees waist-high, and some less rugged species struggling to breathe in vole guards full of grass.”

Despite days of back-breaking work to clear the saplings of grass, the project has been a resounding success, with the young trees enjoying a 95% survival rate to date.

Having added a small orchard and ‘edible hedge’ to the croft, with a view to encouraging pollinators, the family also made two new native tree additions.

Says Sue: “Gabriel and JP joined the Woodland Trust back in 2016 and were sent a native tree each: an oak and a rowan, all of 25cm tall when they came in the post. Now 7ft tall and repeatedly outgrowing their pots, it was high time for them to move north.

TREES IN TRANSIT: an oak and rowan head north

“So while they were dormant we packed them up, just about fitting them in the car (though the rowan was stroking our cheeks as we drove).

Rowans have a long tradition in European folklore – especially for warding off witches. An islander suggested we plant one so it seemed the perfect fit to situate this lovely young tree near the mill leat at the entrance to the croft. No witch infestation here!”

WARDING OFF WITCHES: the rowan in its new position at the croft

Gigha was set to be a bold new chapter in the family story – but of course that was before the coronavirus crisis and personal health setbacks forced Sue to remain in Buckinghamshire for another year.

Working from the top of their home in Long Crendon near Thame, she has missed exhibiting during the pandemic and her ongoing cancer treatment has posed its own challenges.

But those happy thoughts of the west coast of Scotland have provided one source of inspiration and comfort.

HOME FROM HOME: using compression stockings from surgery to secure the oak

“We’ll get back to Gigha to check on everything as soon as we can,” she says. “We can’t wait to see the trees in leaf and see how much they grow this year.

“Whatever considerable difficulties have come our way recently there is an overwhelming positive sense that we are leaving something potentially beautiful behind for the future in this extraordinary place, a good feeling that we’re trying to give something back to the earth.”

Next week: Sue “escapes” to Dartmoor and Henley-on-Thames

Picture of the week: 15/03/21

OUR picture choice this week takes us to West Oxfordshire and the work of Eynsham artist Eric White.

Morning Frost is one of a number of striking images depicting landscapes within a mile or so of Eric’s home in the small historic village some six miles north-west of Oxford.

Morning Frost by Eric White

Like many of his recent pictures, it was created with an initial foundation in acrylic inks and subsequently built up with layers of soft pastel, reflecting a love affair with pastels dating back decades.

Eric recalls: “Having initially worked in watercolour and oils, my focus changed when I was given an expensive boxed set of 72 pastels. Initially daunted by such a gift I took my first tentative steps into the medium and was immediately hooked.

“That was some thirty years ago and since then the majority of my output has been in pastel in one form or another, from pure pastel to pastels worked over watercolour or acrylics and pastel screen prints.”

By The Evenlode by Eric White

Although entirely self-taught, painting and drawing was to become his lifelong interest and passion, endless experimentation and decades of practice helping him to evolve a flexible and personal style.

His galleries range from Cotswolds villages and Oxford townscapes to local landscapes and paintings taken much further afield, from France and Italy to Iceland, Morocco and America.

The locations may vary but his chief goals remain the same, he explains: “to capture the moment and to endow the image with a sense of place and atmosphere”.

Woodpile by Eric White

“Although I work from sketches and photos the challenge is always holding that sense of place and of the moment to capture the essence of the scene. I go out in all weathers – sometimes holding a pencil in the cold can be the biggest challenge of them all.”

Commissions have resulted in paintings of houses and gardens, from the humble to the grand, cricket club grounds and sporting scenes, along with more abstract work for business premises, and he even tackled a portrait as part of the NHS Portrait for Heroes project during the first lockdown.

Travel opportunities may have been limited this year – some coastal views from north Devon before movement restrictions were in place – but that hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm for the great outdoors.

“There’s beauty to be found everywhere in your local area if you look for it and I always try to make the most of the changing seasons,” he says. “Out walking during the various lockdowns my wife and I have spotted woodpeckers feeding their young, boxing hares and countless varieties of bird including our local abundance of yellowhammers. You can always count on the song of the skylarks to lift your spirits.”

Eric’s work can be found on his website and Instagram account.

Picture of the week: 08/03/21

IT’S not every day you come face to face with a weasel.

But that’s certainly one of the most memorable wildlife encounters enjoyed by Nick Bell, the Maidenhead photographer whose pictures have been in the spotlight on this page for the past couple of weeks.

CAUGHT ON CAMERA: a weasel pauses long enough to be pictured PICTURE: Nick Bell

Stoats and weasels aren’t that unusual in the British countryside, but you don’t get to see them very often other than a quick flash as they streak for cover.

Nick recalls: “I was walking along a path in Ockwells Park, early on a crisp, beautiful March day, when the weasel ran across the path right in front of me.

“It jumped up onto the bottom rail of the fence and, when it came to a break in the undergrowth, stopped and looked at me, no doubt wondering if it could make it past me with no undergrowth to hide it, just long enough for me to get its photo.

“I wasn’t sure if it was a stoat or a weasel, so I did some research. I discovered that a stoat is the size of a cucumber and a weasel the size of a sausage. Stoats also have longer tails than weasels.”

HIDE AND SEEK: a grey squirrel appears to be in playful mood PICTURE: Nick Bell

Some animals are more obliging when it comes to posing for the camera, like the inquisitive grey squirrel which looks as if it’s playing a game of hide and seek.

Mustelids like stoats, weasels, badgers and otters all pose more of a challenge because they generally tend to be active at night, which makes them elusive.

Foxes and deer are timid too, but a little easier to stumble across if you are light on your feet and approach quite cautiously.

FUN AND GAMES: young foxes at play PICTURE: Nick Bell

“I get to see occasional foxes during my walks,” says Nick. “The day that I saw two was unusual, though. They were a couple of young foxes. I watched them play fighting for fifteen or twenty minutes. It was a complete delight. They were at the far end of a field, so I couldn’t get the best photos of them, but it was still a great experience.”

WATCHFUL EYE: a fox appears to be staring straight at the camera PICTURE: Nick Bell

Our previous selections have focused on Nick’s pictures of insects and birds, taken in a variety of locations near his home patch in Maidenhead. He was born in Cookham and moved back to the area after taking early retirement at the age of 61.

But mammals pose their own challenges – and rewards.

SPRING SETTING: a roe deer in the woods among the bluebells PICTURE: Nick Bell

Says Nick: “There are some spots in and around Ockwells Park where I know you are likely to see deer. The great thing about photographing them is that they usually stand absolutely still, no doubt thinking that that will prevent you from seeing them.

“My favourite time to photograph them is when the bluebells are out in the woods. Sometimes, they decide to run for it, and leap in the air as they run, which is great for photos.

ON THE RUN: a deer scampers for cover PICTURE: Nick Bell

“One of my most disappointing ‘near misses’ in a photo was when I spotted a very young roe deer kid standing in front of its mother in the woods. I had time for one photo only before they were gone. The photo was, sadly, not in focus. Oh well; you win some and you lose some.”

BALL OF FLUFF: a gosling among the daisies PICTURE: Nick Bell

From cute goslings to fast-moving dragonflies, Nick’s broad range of subjects have provided a lot of pleasure on local wildlife forums.

“I have heard it said many times during the coronavirus pandemic that many of us are using nature for relaxation during lockdowns. That is certainly true of me,” says Nick.

“Wildlife photography has undoubtedly helped with my mental health during these difficult times. Being outside with nature helps to ground me and to relieve stress. I usually get home with a great sense of well-being.”

NATURAL CURE: an early morning walk provides great stress relief PICTURE: Nick Bell