We asked visitors to Sculpture in the Valley to let us know their favourite artwork and this year it went to James Barrett-Nobbs for his wonderful Butterfly.
Here are the other winners in their categories.
PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD FIRST PLACE – £250
PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD SECOND PLACE – £175
CINDY LEE WRIGHT
For TREE OF LIFE
PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD THIRD PLACE – £125
For A SIEGE OF HERONS
CURATOR’S AWARD – £250
For PHASE ONE
CURATOR’S AWARD – HIGHLY COMMENDED
For BEST INTENTIONS
CURATOR’S AWARD – HIGHLY COMMENDED
May Day brings rain – at last. After an April frostier and drier than many, spring seems to be on hold. The swallows have arrived and the whitethroats sing their scratchy song from the still leafless hedges. But we are waiting for house martins and finally the swifts. Hoping for some sign of the seasons changing I visit Redgrave Fen, the source of the Waveney. A cuckoo has arrived and suddenly summer seems possible. The north-easterly has dropped a little, allowing birds to battle through from Africa. Across the fen grasshopper warblers churr their long cricket like song and Cetti’s warblers startle from bramble bushes. When the wind direction changes to south, our summer migrants will arrive.
So instead of looking for birds, on this morning’s walk, I kept a tally of the flowers lining the field edges and lanes: primrose, stitchwort, red dead nettle, white dead nettle, ground ivy, red campion, cow parsley, celandine, violet, dandelion, chickweed, coltsfoot, speedwell, forget-me-not, buttercup, herb Robert, cleavers. The field edges and ditches are full of cowslips. Their Latin name, Primula veris, means ‘first rose of the spring’ and they were traditionally used to make May Day garlands and wine. Our family call them paigles. Their sweet apricot scent is welcome.
Not bad for an ‘ordinary’ piece of countryside. Most of the plants are several metres from the field edge, separated by a track or a hedge. Some years ago I was judging a farm conservation competition in Somerset. On one farm the family, keen to improve wildlife, had made particular efforts to provide habitat for farmland birds. Walking along the hedge and track beside one of their arable fields, I asked why a short stretch was full of wild flowers. We were mystified by this sudden display of colour and diversity. We realised that on the other side of the grass track, a bank of earth had prevented any drifting from fertiliser and herbicide applications. Occasionally, out of curiosity, I measure the distance the spinner has sent out fertiliser pellets and it can be over three metres. That just encourages rapid growth of grasses and the high nutrient levels suppress the variety of wild flowers we might hope to see.
Somehow wild flowers have slipped from our countryside. They once covered our road verges, track sides, hay meadows and river banks. They have disappeared, lost to development and the plough, grassland and greens strimmed to within an inch by those who are tidy minded. There remain a few reserves managed for flowers and insects which depend on them. Wild flowers with names once part of our vocabulary, part of every medicine chest and larder.
You can search through a long list of plants on the Suffolk Wildlife Trust website:
The names might encourage some lines of poetry and the photos, or out in the field, subjects for artwork.
Perhaps May is mostly associated with the hawthorn frothing into flower.
Associated with maypoles and the green
man symbol it is a tree of great symbolism. The blossom should not be brought into the home which would lead to illness and death. Perhaps that comes from the rather pungent smell caused by the chemical trimethylamine found in the blossom, a chemical also found in the decaying bodies of animals!
It is time to get reacquainted with the smaller things in life and to enjoy the burst of green energy that May should bring. There is much to enjoy with our summer migrants arriving, plants growing as you watch them, frog spawn hatching and a feeling that perhaps summer is nearly here. And remember to leave a few unmown corners to yield treasures that have been hiding, just waiting for the right moment.
I watch snow fall
so small it is no
more than dust
and when it touches
is barely felt
on blades of grass
it melts and disappears
The beginning of February marks the ‘turning of the light’, the point in the calendar when warmth begins to return to the earth. The land is still sleeping, seeds of new life buried under a barren landscape. We are at the half way point between winter solstice and spring equinox, a date celebrated in the Celtic calendar as Imbolc and in the Christian calendar as Candlemas. It is a day when we celebrate new life waiting to return.
I take advantage of a still frosty day and walk up to the wood. A mauve smoke of blackthorn curves along the ditch and the treelines are bones against the sky. I have been thinking about sound and our experience of it. In winter, wildlife sounds carry through the cold air. The woodland acts as an amplifier, seeming to bounce and echo noise within. Bird calls are crisp and bright, matching the weather. Sound recordist, Geoff Sample, in a talk to Waveney & Blyth Arts, told us that after the winter solstice the increasing light triggers bird song and that the great tit is often the first bird to sing.
The garden may be bleak, the grass crossed by frost blackened paths, the earth puddled down and lifeless, last year’s plants lying like brown shadows across the borders, but there are beacons of hope. By the front door yellow globes of aconites shine with snowdrops, Candlemas Bells.
small points of white light
shine beneath the hornbeam
like stars at night-time
In these dark days we might look to the skies for hope. Pin pricks of light shine in the night-time sky. The stars hold stories that go back to the earliest days of man. The Seven Sisters, the cluster of stars known as The Pleiades, feature in prehistoric cave paintings. Without the glare of human lights, which can be seen from space illuminating the globe, the night sky must have offered a deeply mystical and fascinating spectacle. Even now, if we can find a horizon away from artificial light we gaze in awe at the worlds spinning light years away from us.
How much we can see is calculated every year by the Countryside Charity, CPRE, whose star count maps record the stars seen within the constellation of Orion. Between 6 and 14 February 2021 look south into the night sky, find the Orion constellation with its four corners and ‘belt’ of three bright stars, then count the number of stars you can see within the rectangle formed by the four corner stars.
More info and sign up here
The stars offer our creative minds an opportunity for poetry, song, photography and artwork. And that feeling of awe when we gaze at the night sky can help with our happiness and well-being.