Autumn is so much more than just leaf fall. Looking out across the Weald on my daily journey to work I see nature busy gathering in, letting go, softening, and refilling. Getting ready for winter. The colours are subtle but magnificent. There are valley mists and so much rain this year which has led to the most wonderful show of fungi I can remember.
Nevertheless it’s leaf-fall itself which has been at the forefront of my mind. Having saved the woodland parts of the mural until I finished painting the summer flowers, I’m now up against the ultimate deadline. I’ve been working long hours these last few weeks in order to paint tree branches from life before their leaves end up on the woodland floor. Painting each plant from a fresh sample is so much easier for me than using photos- all the information I could possibly need is right there in front of me in three dimensions. Without a sample I need to cross check different photos and illustrations to build up a full understanding. And if I don’t understand how something fits together I can’t really paint it.
The mural has an overall structure of different habitats.
From a low area of meadow in the middle, either end eventually reaches up to
the full height of the wall with trees and shrubs. On the right this is in the
form of coppice woodland with hazel, oak, hornbeam and honeysuckle- among
others. While painting this section I have learned the difference between
pedunculate oak (acorns with stalks, leaves without) and sessile oak (leaves
with stalks, acorns without) which has added to my understanding- one of the
aims of the mural. The ash has been painted with the telltale signs of ash
dieback, which is much in evidence in the High Weald. How this story plays out
remains to be seen- the structure of our landscape will change dramatically but
I am hopeful resistant individuals will become apparent and ensure a future for
this magnificent tree.
On the left there is a representation of hedgerow and
scrub, containing a glorious tangle of hawthorn, sloe, crab apple and wild
roses- what I like to call ‘nightingale heaven’.
As the nights draw in and the leaves finally let go I will be starting the final phase of the mural – populating it with the invertebrates, birds and (small) mammals that call it home.