Hempstead Wood, East Sussex 

Wood anemones, wild garlic and bluebells at their very best.

Picking my way around the woods of Sussex and having often visited the Woodland Trust Woods around Uckfield: Lake Wood and Views Wood, as well as Buxted Park I thought I’d try others from the handy Woodland Trust ‘Wood Finder’. This is how I found myself driving through ‘old’ Uckfield and out towards the east and Framfield along Sandy Lane. This was mid-April (12th April). I have been back several times since (13th, 28th & 29th April and early May: 1st and 2nd)  – alone, with our dog, with family and friends. There is often no one around; sometimes a solo dog walker. There are stick dens scattered about so clearly kids come here at weekends or holidays. It is a short walk from Uckfield and easily reached by road. 

Location of Hempstead Wood, west of Uckfield (cc OpenStreetMap 2022) 

Leaving Uckfield you soon find yourself on Sandy Lane which is in itself a delight, with steep banks covered in bluebells from mid-April to mid-May and mature trees overhanging the road. If you know someone who has mobility issues who would like to see the woods in spring this is one of several lanes around Sussex which do the job. 

Hempstead Wood is ‘ancient woodland of the low weald’ (Woodland Trust) and would once have formed part of an ancient wood that stretched right across Sussex to Kent. Indeed many place names are indicative of a ‘clearing in the woods’. 

There is parking off Sandy Lane for four cars at most: there is a sign asking that the farm gate is kept clear. 

Hempstead Wood is a private wood. Bikes are not permitted and access for them has been restricted by new fencing. There is a rough track packed with rumble and in places deeply incised by the rain that runs steeply down the east side of the wood; the entrance to the woods propper is via a smart stile on the right some 170 metres down the lane. Signs restate that this is a private wood and asks that people stick to the paths; there is also a sign banning bikes.

In spring there are a number of clear stages in the wood marked at first by  wood anemones followed by wild garlic before it flowers and then by bluebells and before the tree canopy encloses all.  

The wood anemones bloom early to create an ever denser speckled carpet of white and then the flowers disappear quite quickly as leaves appear on the trees. 

Bluebells follow at first forming a dense matting of leaves before the distinctive flowers emerge and stretch a foot or more above ground. 

Bluebell bulbs are easily damaged by trampling by footfall and dogs. This means that they can’t produce enough energy to flower and reproduce in subsequent years. There is a request to stick to the ‘path’ but with multiple paths around the wood these can be hard to define; sadly there are many additional paths being made through the bluebells which could in time cause fragmentation of the colonies.

In mid-April the wild garlic had not flowered.

A week later flower stems with tear-drop-like bulbs emerged, finally opening  into a chandelier of small white flowers at the beginning of May. 

The wild garlic here is extensive and covers the damp banks of a seasonal stream that runs through the wood. There are multiple similar beds of wild garlic in many of the woods I have visited, with leaves appearing as early as 11 February on the High Weald. 

Sadly, there has been some severe cropping with a scythe in patches. 

Whilst Woodland Trust woods permit foraging and guidelines are provided; namely, picking only a few young leaves from any one plant, here in a private wood this ought not to be going on. 

Finding wild garlic on sale in local markets is a worrying trend.

A circuit around Hempstead Wood might take 45 minutes; this can be extended by adding a short walk onto the meadow above the Uckfield rail line then back to Spring Lane. There’s an option here to cross the railway line and head into Buxted Deer Park beyond. 

As well as the wood anemones, bluebells, wild garlic and tree canopy there are a few early purple orchids, cuckoo flowers and primrose. On different trips we have seen a jay and woodpeckers. 

I’ve only seen this sign up in one place, Brede High Wood (early in the season when there were no bluebells to see at all). I rather think these are needed elsewhere otherwise, where they have the resources, owners will fence of the only ‘right of way’, which in some cases can be quite brutal with barbed wire fencing keeping walkes to a single, narrow and well-worn track. 

For all walks I use the App ‘All Trails’ and for plant and tree identification I use ‘PictureThis plant identifier’. 

I only discovered Hempstead Wood in April; most of the woods I visit, Woodland Trust and others around Uckfield, Blackboys, Tunbridge Wells and Hastings I have been visiting since December 2021, some since October. I have therefore had the chance to see them in late summer, autumn, through winter, early and now late spring. Other woods, heaths and parks visited include: Little Foxes Wood, Lake Wood, Views Wood, Moat Wood, Kiln Wood, William’s Wood, Beechwood Mill and Brede High Wood, as well as Buxted Park, Laughton Common Wood, Chailey Common and Markstakes Common. 

Further advice and information

Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland

Natural England – The Countryside Code (link to PDF) 

Forestry Commission – New Forest Fungi Code Q and As

Scottish Natural Heritage – Scottish Wild Mushroom Code

British Mycological Society

​​

Williams Wood, Warninglid

Photographs: CC BY SA 3.0 J F Vernon 2022

Last autumn I took my interest in trees (urban and woodland, ancient and young) a step further by joining The Woodland Trust and taking a close interest in (and supporting) the world of Lewes Urban Arboretum.  My journey across Sussex then began, picking out almost every Woodland Trust Wood in East Sussex with the intention of paying a visit to each during each season of the year: another few months and the task will have been completed. 

Venturing out across England I’ve visited a few other Woodland Trust woods while I was in the area; I’m unlikely to pay these a second visit. To minimise my journeys and to spread my interest I have also started to visit all the woods in a catchment of around 10-15 miles out from Lewes. This has me visiting The National Trust, Forestry Commission Woods, RSPB Nature Reserves and other private woods and parks. There are some large garden parks such as Sheffield Park (National Trust) and Wakehurst Place which I have not visited recently or included in this journey both because of the cost of admission and because most are planted with excotic and even invasive non-native species such as rhododendron. I will write about Chalk Downland and the likes of Landport Bottom and Malling Down Nature Reserve (Sussex Wildlife) elsewhere – they are not known for many or indeed any trees. 

I have visited William’s Wood, Warninglid at least once a month since October 2021 as I spend Saturday mornings down the road at The Triangle, Burgess Hill and enjoy the contrast from a humid swimming pool teaching swimmers in a busy swimming club to the woods where I only rarely come across a dog-walker, cyclist or the odd rider out on a hack. I have also returned several times with family or friends (and our dog). I last wrote up a visit at the end of March. I had Covid from the end of March that kept me at home for a few weeks right when I most wished to be capturing the winter/summer transition through spring which has distinct stages through the dotted white carpet of wood anemones through to bluebells, and other plants on the woodland floor and by the deeply incised running gills.

I read up on any Woodland Trust wood in advance and enjoy the detail that comes from each wood’s Management Plan. Much can change in a wood over four weeks, in this case,as I hoped, the bluebells were out in modest clumps by tree stumps, and in huge carpets under the still open canopy of the older deciduous trees.

This is the High Weald here, ‘ancient woodland’ (‘an area of land where there had been continual growth since 1600’). Inevitably the woods in the south of England are surrounded closely by farmland and parkland, though William’s Wood benefits from not abutting a major town or residential sprawl which greatly increases the footfall and other consequences politely described as ‘anti-social behaviour’, namely litter and sometimes malicious damage. The A22 is just distant enough not to be heard, though plains and assorted aircraft do leave and come in overhead to Gatwick Airport 12 1/2 miles to the north (20km).

Williams Wood is adjoining another extensive wood and abutting a seasonal shoot (pheasants and ducks) – making it noisy on my Saturday visits from October to February for pheasants and September and to the end of January for ducks. 

OS Explorer OL34 Crawley & Horsham © Ordnance Survey

There is really only parking for one car by the gate along the lane to Bellevue Care Home (formerly Stonewick Lodge) as additional cars can inconvenience residents of Stonewick Lodge on the other side of the lane trying to get into their home; a further two or maybe three cars can park on the grass kerb by the B211 (Warninglid Lane) 

A well marked track, claggy with mud after heavy rainfall and for a few weeks in winter therefore, with ‘Keep dogs on lead’ and ‘Private Woods’ signage either side takes you after some 450m to William’s Wood along the left hand fork – turning right takes you on the Sussex Ouse Way along a path that is mostly fenced in between a shoot and other private properties. The ‘keep dogs on lead’ thing is certainly to avoid scaring pheasants.

Having tried an old fashioned map and struggled with Google Maps providing much once off the road I now swear by AllTrails.  This is a record of my late April visit, stumbling around a route that might have taken 45 minutes in well over an hour: I was stopping to take photographs and listen to the wildlife. 

This also takes you onto the Sussex Ouse Valley Way, which were I to follow it the south east would take me to the English Channel, home in Lewes and then down to Newhaven and the coast. With motorways, urban sprawl, railways and all other kinds of human activity to negotiate, let alone the distance I may give this one a miss. Wellies are recommended after rain, in all but the driest weather sturdy footwear is recommended though trainers might do. 

The meadow as you enter William’s Wood was full of primroses.

The first beds of bluebells were a little further on, on banks and in spaces around the gill.

Further on, entering Bishop’s Wood (all part of the same woodland) I hoped to find the largest carpets of bluebells and was suitably pleased by what I found.

Along the way I saw a number of small, bright yellow butterflies (clouded yellow I think), a lesser-spotted woodpecker, black birds, coal tits, a falcon and a few ducks and pheasants that hadn’t been shot or netted during the shooting season.

As well as the sounds of birdlife and a trickling brook, spring smells noticeably different to winter with the scents of flowers and smell of energised greenery.  As I suffer from hayfever I don’t quite understand why I am in a wood rather than out at sea or up a mountain in spring – I take antihistamines. 

Most visits I record a one minute ‘sound scape’; though I am yet to upload any of these. I’d like to be able to identify more of the birds first.

Links:

Woodland Trust

Woodland Trust Management Plan 

Sussex Ouse Way

UK Butterflies 

The Storm of 16th October 1987 

Lake Wood, Rocks Road, Uckfield early Spring

I’ve returned to Lake Wood every month for the last six months of so. This has allowed me to see the area through the changing seasons and weather conditions; wet, dry, cool and cold. There has been no snow this year and little frost.

The plus side to this walk is the landscaped grounds around the lake with its older specimen trees (around 150 years old) and the gradual ‘re-wilding’ thanks to the work of The Woodland Trust. The down side is its popularity at weekends and during holidays, with likely litter and the noise from the busy Uckfield by-pass and Rock’s Road.

In previous posts I’ve referred to the Woodland Trust Management Plan; this is always a great place to start. You are spoilt for detail on what is to be found, the work done to date, then short and long term management plans. Few of us will live the 50 years to see these come to fruition. Who knows what climate change will have done to adjust this planning by then. This year spring has sprung at least a week early. The wood floor has been dense with wood anemone’s for a while.

I use AllTrails religiously, even when I have done the walk several times. This walk took us closer to the A22 and traffic.

The broader views across the lake have changed little over the last few months.

Closer up, in the shallows of the marshy ground, there are signs of Yellow Marsh Marigold and rushes.

The next visit will take me outside the Lake Wood managed area either across the open meadow towards Longwood Gill and Shemanreed Wood or across the A22 to Butcher’s Wood. Sadly, both are likely to suffer from noise pollution from the A22. We’ll see!

Williams Wood, Warninglid, West Sussex in early spring 2022

This 12 acre wood bequeathed to the Woodland Trust in 1993 has become a regular spot for me to visit. I usually go after swim teaching for Mid-Sussex Marlins SC at nearby Burgess Hill and have done so through late summer, autumn and winter most months since September. Today though I took the 15 mile trip from Lewes in order to enjoy the early spring abundance of new growth on the woodland floor before it changes radically; there are still no bluebells and no growth in the canopy. I know exactly how to park up along the lane to Bellevue Country House Nursing Home. Three cars can park on the edge of the lane at the top of the path, or if not, off the road closer to Warninglid Lane (B2115)

On my one hour walk, accompanied by our dog Evie, I found carpets of wild daffodils, cuckoo flowers, wood anemones, and garlic mustard.

According to the Wildlife Trust cuckoo flowers bloom from April; here in East Sussex they have appeared in mid-March. Wild daffodils, according to the Wildlife Trust are “An indicator of undisturbed habitat, including ancient woodlands and old meadows”.  High Weald being a mixture of woodland mixed farming and parkland.

There are no bluebells yet (22 March 2022). 

This is ‘gill woodland’. There are two deeply incised streams, hazel coppice, two species-rich meadows, and a larch stand. It is also a designated ‘Ancient Semi Natural Woodland’, and an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.

Later in the year, the Woodland Trust Management Plan tells me, the meadows have heath spotted orchids and twayblade orchids) as well as sedges and rushes.  The understory is made up of Hazel and bluebells.

There was invasive rhododendron and bracken which has been cleared since 1993. There is a dead wood habitat from the October 1987 storm and newly fallen wood from storms in early 2022. 

Trees that came down in February 2022

According to the Woodland Trust, “dead and decaying wood … provides a nutrient-rich habitat for fungi, a nursery for beetle larvae and a larder for insectivorous birds and other animals.” See The Woodland Trust on ‘Deadwood in Woodland’. 

You will also learn that Williams Wood will be managed “to increase the diversity of other native species such as holly, hawthorn, elder, goat willow, rowan and cherry”. 

Ferns and bryophytes (mosses) in the gills represent the ‘Atlantic period’ of  5,000 years ago. 

Juniper haircap CC BY SA 3.0 J F Vernon 2022

Juniper haircap covers living trunks and decaying wooJuniper haircap covers living trunks and decaying woods – it is an evergreen and perennial species of moss.

The Williams Wood Woodland Trust Management Plan can be downloaded from The Woodland Trust website > 

moss. 

Another Dictator tries to take over Europe

Thirty years ago

Thirty years ago I was sitting with my frail 96 year old grandfather in his home in Newcastle. I had brought over a portable TV/VHS video and we watched ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’. This is WWI. As a 19 year old he had enlisted with the Durham LIght Infantry, and had then been transferred to the Machine Gun Corps … because he was ‘tall, fit and mechanically minded’. He served and survived the Great War (just) through the battle of the Somme and Third Ypres 1917 and training as an RAF fighter pilot (his 19 year old younger brother died as a RAF bomber pilot). He enjoyed and related to ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, he had nothing against the ‘Bosch’, we were ‘just doing our job’. Lined up on either side of a trench.  

This was 1992.

Britain was about to wage war in Iraq. Once again the DLI were in action and a young private next to a tank in the desert in this BBC North East report described his living conditions and rations for the benefit of the cameras. 

‘That’s nothing compared to Passcendaele’ my grandfather declared, relating the youth on TV to his own experience 75 years before. 

We then chatted at length, again, about the First World War, much of which I recorded and have since given to the Imperial War Museum archive.  I transcribed these talks and then returned to quiz my grandfather, and he even took a pen to make corrections to what I had typed out.

Another three decades on and his words echo in my thoughts. The Putain invasion of Ukraine is antediluvian … It is barbaric. Yet such thoughts and words were expressed at the outbreak of the FIrst World War and the Second World War.

Decades of taking an interest in what starts as a violent, military conflagration (WWI MA Degree, seeing WWII bridged only by an extended Armistice from the previous war) that can become a world war tells me that Putin is another Hitler, or Mussolini. Were he a Franco he might keep his interest in the confine of ‘his’ country, which he clearly feels he owns like a 19th century Tsar. 

A Cotswold Garden

Barton on the Heath, 16 February 2022

Two years ago I started to grab one minute ‘soundscapes’ inspired by the quiet during Covid lockdowns – without road or air-traffic the natural world had a chance to sing.

I’m yet to analyse a single one of these. This morning I was so enamoured of the bird song (as I let our dog out into the garden) that I recorded several one minute clips. What was I listening to: robin, blue-tit, lark?

Flowers Wood, Ilmington  

On a short break to Barton on the Heath, with time to take a longer, exploratory walk, and a dog to take out anyway I do an unproductive search for Woodland Trust woods; they are small and few in number. That said, Batsford Arboretum is up the road, there are many National Trust woods and properties and where there is any wood of any size, even if designated ‘private’ there is usually a footpath through it. 

Like a twitcher ticking off birds I want to tick-off the Woodland Trust Woods regardless so I head north to the nearest, towards Shipston and Ilmington. Flowers Wood is small enough to be someone’s large garden; just 1.55 acres of former pasture left by a Mr Dennis Lowndes Flower, CBE – 25 years ago.

Flowers Wood, Ilmington

Now planted, if nothing else it allows me to see what various trees at 25 years old look like. See above. Thigh width. I use ‘All Trails’ to register/monitor this walk – the shortest I have ever done. What use is an acre of wood to the Woodland Trust? Even 10 acres is small and 100 acres is just starting to be meaningful. Surely we need 1000 acres of land being moved to woodland at a time to make any difference in the long term at all? Flowers Wood is just an indulgence or a tax break.

Flowers Wood, Ilmington

As is often the case with these small plots, according to the Woodlands Trust Management Plan, ‘local people were instrumental in fundraising to purchase the land’ yet I also read that ‘the land, on which Flowers Wood has been planted, was given to the Trust by the Dennis Flower in August 1994.‘ There is a yew and a couple of Scots Pine in the north-east corner which suggest the former paddock or meadow was just an extension of the neighbouring garden.  I wonder about Dennis: something about him would be interesting. Google Dennis Flower CBE of Ilmington Manor to learn more. Afterall, this wood and these trees are in his name.

Ilmington Manor

I learned from the Woodlands Trust management plan that the site was included as one of 200 planted by the Trust to celebrate the Millennium under their Woods on Your Doorstep initiative.

The Flowers Wood site is not on Waze so I reverted to Google Maps which may have the location though to my eye the plot looks more triangular than a rectangle. 

Down the road in Barton on the Heath we were planting trees by the side of the road in the name of our children and grandchildren – there is a ‘Zoë Tree’ I pass on foot and driving towards Todmarton which will be 22 years or so old. 

Zoë’s Tree, Barton on the Heath

The pleasure of the site is in part the drive through north Cotswold country lanes to find it.

Hedgerow cut along the southern edge of Flowers Wood

There are older trees in the hedgerow than in the wood and the houses, predominantly warm Cotswold sandstone and several hundred years old (or built to look this way). 

“A disused railway line embankment forms the western boundary,” I read. This embankment has been integrated into a garden and a deep cut through it allows the stream to run through.  

My curiosity takes me to where this line came from and went to and how better off we would be with the line reinstated.

Flowers Wood, Ilmington

The line of mature trees fringing the stream is the wood’s greatest delight and exactly the kind of thing I would have explored as a boy. I would visit here with children old enough to plod about and clamber over the fallen trees and not worry overly about the odd nettle sting. 

As the management plan describes the southern and eastern boundaries are essentially hawthorn hedges – intermittently cut back the old wood  left in situ.

Flowers Wood

The management plan fails to pick up the 200 year old oaks that line the adjoining lane, each forming an aggressive silhouette, like a giant hand reaching out of the earth.

Flowers Wood

The main species planted was oak, with ash and cherry and alder near the stream on the northern side. The 500m (or 400m) circular walk was scattered with oak leaves in mid-February when I visited. The pleasure will be to return every five years or so and perhaps see the trees reach 50 years knowing that those not cut out and allowed to mature could see 200 years or more. What children’s book did I read in my youth where a boy in mediaeval times buried a longsword in the roots of a young oak only to collect it centuries later? 

For woods, gardens and ‘Nature’ nearby there is Hidcote and Batsford Arboretum.

Getting round the 500m walk in 5 minutes I retrace my steps twice in different directions. On the third outing I delve around the ground hoping to find wild garlic but only find sorrel, nettles and dock leaves.

I traipse through Ilmington before heading into Shipston for a trip reminiscing on the time I lived nearby 22 years ago. Little has changed; the toy shop is now full of nicknacks, the co-op is the same, the parking as trisky. I end up by the mill. I wander over to Sheldon’s Wine Merchants out of curiosity.

Sheldons Wine Merchants

Dropping into the iconic wine merchants for no better reason than remembering coming here in the early 1980s with my father (taking me to Oxford off the M6 to the A34 long before the M40 was created). I have returned on and off myself in the 1990s.

I am spotted ‘is your face familiar from Long Compton’ I am asked to find I am talking to someone who had served in the village shop 20+ years ago and remembers our family and children.  

We play catch up with those who have died, children who have grown up and where we all may be. 

Rottingdean’s Great War

This morning I received a delightful surprise as glimpses of sun broke through the heavy winter grey and old Rottingdean revealed itself around its war memorial and pond. I parked next to the war memorial with its Roll of Honour to both wars, with Rudyard Kipling’s home of five years behind off the green – somewhere he abandoned as it became a popular destination for tourists seeking him out. 

A short walk took me onto the South Downs behind Saltdean – a walk that could be greatly extended when doubling back you see to the sea, the iconic old windmill on the hill and in contrast the vastness of the massive Rampion Offshore Wind Farm on the Channel horizon.

The return through the edges of the town showed off the many bedroomed ‘executive homes’ of the last century with their Jags and Range-Rovers, as well as the apparently older properties along Tudor Close by the church and cemetery which turn out to be cottages created out of the 1920s Tudor Cottages Hotel.  The Manor House dates back to the 15th century, the Black Horse pub to the 16th century whilst The Elms where Kipling lived is 18th century and the Grange and North End House (where Burn Jones lived and worked) are 19th century. 

Much occurred in the late 19th century with Burn Jones and Rudyard Kipling residents and the boarding prep-school St.Aubyns which saw many of its students graduate to the likes of Eton.

My First World War interest saw me visit the exterior of the school (closed for five years and being developed into apartments and houses). Its abandoned and trashed interior can be seen online courtesy of an old boy who broke in a few years ago to take a look. The journalist, author and Scots Guards subaltern Wilfred Ewart was here 1900-1905 as was his friend George Wyndham. 

My First World War interest also took me into the churchyard of the quirky St Margaret’s of Antioch with its nativity display still out in late January. 

I spotted a dozen or so CWGC graves, mostly the class Portland stone, some private memorials. These include:

Fireman H Bateman, died 20 May 1917 on the SS Tycho. Mercantile Marine. Steamer sunk by a U Boat off Beachy Head. Body recovered and buried here. (Initial detail from the headstone and the Roll of Honour compiled by Chris Comber). 
267153 Pte William H Chatfield, Royal Sussex Regimentand  458331 Labour Corps died 14 February 1919 ‘of sickness’ (age 20) Son of Mr and Mrs Herbert Chatfield of 9, The High Street, Rottingdean. (Initial detail from the headstone and the Roll of Honour compiled by Chris Comber). 
2nd Lieut. David Dennys Fowler, RFC 
Born 20 June 1897, Seawall, Glenelg, South Australia 
Son of James Fowler of Dyxcroft, Rottingdean and and Mary Harriet (née Morgan), both were born in south Australia. 

In 1898 David’s six year old brother died. At some point in the next year or so the family moved to England.

1901 Albert Gate, Knightsbridge with his parents. His father was a ‘merchant grocer’ (employer) from south Australia. In 1909 a younger brother James was born (the family was by then living in Surrey). 

At the 1911 Census, Dennys, age 13, as he is known, was at school, Wavetree House, Furze Hill, Hove, Brighton, the census sheet showing 20 boys ages 12 to 13, of whom two were born in India, and Dennys in Australia. He then went to Harrow, was part of the OTC, leaving in December 1914. Although war had broken out to he took up at place at Trinity College, Cambridge. He had only just matriculated when his mother died on 14 November 1915 in Wimbledon. On 13 January 1916 he applied to become a flying officer. He gained his Aero Certificate in a Maurice Farman Biplane 29 May 1916 at Military School, Catterick Bridge.

Second Lieutenant David Dennys Fowler reported from England and posted to No. 1 Squadron, A.F.C. (Australian Flying Corps), at Heliopolis on 4th September, 1916.

Fowler was wounded on 5 October when his BE2c was hit by anti-aircraft fire while on reconnaissance with 2Lt J Hutchins as his observer, who escaped unhurt, but Fowler was sent to hospital in Tigne, Malta on 5 October 1916 with gsw to left foot. In December 1916 he was invalided back to England  and attached to No. 78 Squadron, R.F.C.

Text supplied by Chas Schaedel and the South Australian Aviation Museum History Group
On the night of 17 March 1917 he was flying a B.E.2s Serial number 7181 on a Zeppelin patrol after an air raid. He was turning too near to the ground, causing the left wing tip to touch and the plane crashed about one and a half miles from Telscombe Cliffs Aerodrome and was killed.
https://ww1austburialsuk.weebly.com/rottingdean.html

He was buried in St.Margaret’s of Antioch Church, Rottingdean on 20 March 1917. 

Grave inscription: In His Twentieth Year With Every Promise Of Happiness Before Him He Gave His Life To His Country



Sources: Australian Birth Index; UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919; British World War I Medal Records. Died in Salonika; England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995; Great Britain, Royal Aero Club Aviators’ Certificates, 1910-1950; 1901 England Census; The Street of Brighton and Hove; Virtual War Memorial, Australia.
 
Image to add
67450 Pte Reginald W King, The Labour Corps formerly formerly G/3064 with Royal Sussex Regiment died at home 3 November 1918 (age 32) Son of Henry and Lottie King of 29, Quebec Street, Brighton. Husband of Mrs Daisy King of 2, Rifle Butt Road, Rottingdean.
Lieut. William Oliver Redman-King (special list) Born in Brighton. Died of pneumonia at home 28 February 1919. Son of Dr. J. B. and Mrs Annie Louise Redman–King of Weetwood Hall, Leeds, Yorkshire. (Initial detail from the headstone and the Roll of Honour compiled by Chris Comber). 
Image to add
Serg.Maj. J H Rose, RFC, died 28 January 1916
Image to add
Maj. Cuthbert R Rowden RAF/Worcestershire Regiment 78th Sqdn. Formerly with the 5th Worcesters. Died at home 20 April 1918 (age 21) Son of Arthur Roger and Blanche Mary Rowden of Eastnor, Ledbury, Herefordshire. Husband of Mrs Frances Rowden of ‘Halcyon’, Redhill, Surrey. (Initial detail from the headstone and the Roll of Honour compiled by Chris Comber).
Fire Engineer J Short, Mercantile Marine S S Tycho died 20 May 1917. When the steamer was sunk by a U-boat off Beachy Head.  Body recovered and buried here. (Initial detail from the headstone and the Roll of Honour compiled by Chris Comber).
A ninth unnamed WWI Mercantile Marine is also remembered here.
Commonwealth War Graves in St.Margaret’s of Antioch Churchyard, Rottingdean

I’ll return to Rottingdean to seek out the graves I failed to spot this time round. I will also slowly complete short profiles for each man who served and died. My starting place will be the Roll of honour for the Rottingdean War Memorial produced by Chris Comber in 2004. Where I can find a photograph of the person being remembered and a Pension Card and further family and service details I will feature these in a commemorative post to the ‘Remember on this Day’ pages of The Western Front Association. 

Life Drawing at Charleston with Silvia MacCrae Brown.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Since mid 2016 I’ve tried to join the life drawing classes run by Silvia McCrae-Brown at Charleston.

I’ve kept all my efforts and have a photographic record of most. I’ve just taken a look over these by way of comparison – I’m glad to see a significant transition from the awkwardness and impossibility of these early drawings. 

Silvia Macrae Brown runs the life drawing class at Charleston on the first Tuesday of each month. I go along when I can, Covid permitting. I’ve taken the day off from work in the past to go along. It is just one day. 

It matters to have someone with a plan, especially if it is designed to stretch us. This isn’t one of those classes where anatomical exactness created over a single pose over many hours is wanted, rather we have multiple poses, movement, drawing with our non-dominant hand, or with our eyes closed.

Today was different. There is an exhibition of Duncan Grant’s work ‘Duncan Grant: 1920‘ showing at the moment. 

So the plan was to work the way artists at Charleston worked 100 years ago – a life model was a rare treat so what doodles and sketches they made were reimagined into later works, painted onto tiles, cupboards and wall panels.

Now it was my turn. I’ve always embraced instructions whether from a coach or teacher – however awkward I may feel the challenge of the new can create insight. Today was such a day.

An idea that had been fermenting in the first idea for something to contemplate in the afternoon was brought forward. The model would hold a pose and rotate 45% every minute – that of put her on a rotating plinth. I prefer the short pose. I find 30 seconds is enough. The race is to ‘grab’ the essence of the pose for future reference. Silvia is a sculptor who often references her own approach to seeking to find the essence of a pose.

I use a Lamy fountain pen and black ink. I used to swear by an artist’s felt-tip but have come to prefer ink on paper for its smudge-ability and inconsistency; I enjoy the fight. Just as I enjoy keeping one step ahead of the blunt pencil by having at least 20 sharpened (with a Stanley Knife, never a pencil sharpener). I only use soft pencils for drawing long poses when I’m in the mood for that kind of exacting task. I prefer to be quick and intuitive rather than slow and studied. 

I keep all drawings. 

This is a dictate handed down by my later mother who did her MA in Fine Art at Durham University in the 1950s. Quentin Bell was one of her tutors – he was a lecturer there at the time.

I will just show a few here to illustrate the progress. I know that plenty of my efforts fail, so will just do another, and another, and another until it starts to look and feel right. This is what is meant about getting your hand in … like a gymnast or dancer practising moves before a session.

After another go like this and taking note of the instruction to be capturing the essence of the pose I went for something smaller.

From these the idea was to take a pose and work it up as a single art piece, as bathroom tiles, wall paper or some such as the Charleston artists did (not the reproduction tea towels and place mats you might buy in the shop).

From here, whether or not the model was posing (which felt impolite and potentially a waste of a rare resource) we were invited to take a pose and work it up as a pattern, shape or draft for an artwork. I had a few goes with a single, double and various other repetitions and combinations.

And a single pose with colour – something I’ve rarely ventured into using!

This was a breakthrough moment for me. I’ve only ever thought of a life class to be a period of work that delivers its only outputs at that moment, on the day. That any reworking of something would be a lesser thing – akin to copying from a photograph. How wrong I am. Of course artists are forever gathering up ideas on pads of paper or working with models and items in the studio to work up into a distinct and separate work. 

For lack of ink and seeing a set of blue sheets of paper to use up I went for white charcoal and produced a series of five multiple sketches on single sheets, followed by a few single images.

I was beginning to feel confident with what I was able to express with a few simple lines. The skill is to let the hand/arm draw what the eyes are seeing and the brain is feeling. Experience, practice and growing knowledge of where the bones and muscles are helps. 

We were then invited to return to a favourite pose and work on this. The model kindly took a number of poses as requested including the ‘crossed arms above the head’ which I favoured.

We ended the session with a seated pose. Enjoying using the white charcoal pencil I had only grey or green darker papers to choose from. 

Second pose of Francesa – I hadn’t judged where the leg was going!

A single pose for 35 minutes I did four sketches in each trying to do little more than get the entire figure on the page without making it too small. I then added the colour based on the model sitting under a bright orange/red heater in the barn where we are working.

One of the four charcoal sketches with pastels of Francesca. I usually get to the fixative before the smudges appear!
Francesca. Drawing 4 of 4. Starting smaller I got the whole figure in. I ought to have done some basic measuring first rather than wading in – but heh. I like spontaneous. And as here, where there is an error I am more likely to cross it out than rub it out.

Lake Wood, Uckfield 23rd November 2021

Lake Wood, November 2021

Parking is limited to three or four cars on a stretch of badly broken curb or in a near-by lay-by but at this year especially it is worth the effort. There are no visitor plans or ‘site interpretation’ at the entrances which I rather feel is a mistake – education mattes, and helps. Not everyone will care to download maps or information in advance or once they have arrived picnic in hand, dog on a lead, children in tow. 

All Trails, Lake Wood – less than 2km

I’m no fan of the noise of traffic coming at you from two sides of this 20 acre triangular ‘ancient woodland’ plot that makes up Lake Wood. I keep thinking I ought to get earphones and listen to music; this is the sad reality of a number of these Woodland Trust woods here in Sussex where most seem to be on the edge of a main road or on the edge of urban development. 

The site was given to the Woodland Trust by the Streatfield family to whom there is a dedication. From the Management Plan I learn that ‘landscaping occured in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

A pond was enlarged, features carved in the sandstone outcrops and exotic specimen trees planet as a part of the ‘Gardens and Pleasure Grounds of Rocks House’. This would make the oldest trees, both conifers and broadleaves, some 140 years or so old. Armed with a tape measure this is what I found with a ‘veteran’ sweet chestnut, beech and giant redwood, in turn with girths of approximately 300cm to 500cm. It is likely that theee were all planted around the same time in the 1880s.

Sweet Chestnut. Trunk girth 360cm. Age approximately 144 years.
Redwood, 515cm girth. Likely to be the same age as the other specimens planted around 140 years ago.
Beech at Lake Wood, Girth 395cm. Possibly over 150 years old.

To protect woodland and put it into caring hands who will manage it for generations to come I can think of no better policy; it is that or risk seeing it being developed – in this case with a series of executive homes each with its own access to the lake, or a mass of Bellways Boxes, the lake drained or fenced in, or the wood simply abandoned to motorbikes and picnic litter.

The lake is the creation of Capability Brown and the rides around the lake, including a tunnel through the rocks, were designed for carriages. Excotic trees were planted, many of which survived. Steps, tunnels and a boathouse were cut into the rocks at the time too. 

The 1987 storm took down some 100 oak trees and led to the quick spread of rhododendron and the associated effects it has on taking all light from the ground. An early task of the Woodland Trust, working with volunteers, was to remove the rhododendron.

Reading the Lake Wood Management Plan indicates the thought given by the Woodland Trust to getting the wood into a state where it can largely grow into its natural self, encouraging the variety of structures, ages and types of tree and undergrowth currently present with invasive species removed while retaining the ancient specimen trees. My sense of all this is at times more of a living museum, or a safari park for trees, than a truly natural wood – nature would quickly cover and block the so-called rides and paths kept clear by footfall alone could not exist without the steps and bridges so thoughtfully added. Here the need to accommodate, if not encourage visitors, is clear. 

Nature in its truest form is more apparent where there are dead or fallen trees – though the mass flattening of hundreds of trees in the October 1987 hurricane is not apparent. I rather believe that with rhododendron invasion the site would otherwise be a mass of 40 year old densely tangled waxy leaved evergreen rhododendrons. Despite their threat as an invasive plant the cherry laurel planted along the dam as a hedgerow remains – it is about as appealing as a neighbour eager to shut out prying eyes from a private garden and looks out of place, or is just another boundary like a wall, road, by-pass or fence. 

The rock outcrops are favoured as a feature and so are to be kept free to some degree of birch and holly which would otherwise hide their form. 

There is next to no litter – unlike the bag of cans, bottles, crisp and sandwich wrappers I collected in September. I took away one plastic bag that had been used to pick up dog faeces and left in a hedge. I was wearing gloves: I already had a small bag from my own dog so didn’t feel unduly put out. However, there are no bins on site or near the entrances which is a pity – some people clearly leave litter at one entrance as if expecting a bin rather than taking it home with them.

I’ll be back mid-winter. I’m sure it will look different again once all the leaves have gone, with frost or a snowfall.

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