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Walking the Gower Coast. The Rules.

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Coloured Sands at Three Cliffs Bay

One result of developing PTSD over 5 years ago is that for a long time I had limited energy. I honestly cannot tell whether my energy levels have returned to “normal” levels yet, or ever will. I find that it takes me a couple of days to recover from social events (and no, it’s not a hang-over as I don’t drink alcohol) or from traveling/visiting family or another town. Maybe, everyone my age is like, I don’t know.

I used to have ambitions or even a sort of “bucket list” of things I wanted to get round to doing, some time. I don’t much care for the term “bucket list”. If you haven’t heard about the term “bucket list”, it is a list of all the goals you want to achieve, dreams you want to fulfill and life experiences you desire to experience before you die. Here was mine.

  1. Learn to surf
  2. Learn to Meditate
  3. Walk the coastline of Gower
  4. Run a marathon
  5. Walk the pilgrimage route to Santiago del Compostela
  6. Visit Japan

I did learn to surf and I was very keen for a while, but I was never terribly good at it. I also once went on a 10-day meditation course. There was no talking for 10 days. Strangely, that was the easy part. I was running 20-25 miles on a weekly basis when my life took a swift left turn and everything ground to a halt in 2012. I am still active but I don’t run very far at all these days. I know I won’t be able to run a marathon unless I gave up everything else and just trained, ate and slept. There would be no energy left over for painting and making a living, so that’s out of the window. I cant afford to travel, not at the moment so it’s going to have to be number 3.Walk the coastline of Gower.

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I have a curiosity about exploring the whole coastline of Gower. I know and love certain parts of it very well, such as Three Cliffs Bay. As a painter of the Gower peninsula there are parts that I have visited and painted many times. However, there are also parts I have not visited for years, and a few places I have never visited. I did plan and start to walk the Gower coast in 2016, but it all came to a halt as I tried to cope with the repercussions of being made redundant from my teaching post where I had worked since 1999.

So start again. Here are my rules

  1. Travel in a clockwise direction around the Gower coast
  2. Travel by public transport and by foot.
  3. Walk on sunny days.
  4. Erm, that’s it.

I will document the walk with photos, sketches, and paintings. However, I am nervous about this. The big challenge for me will be in terms of my energy levels. The whole coastline is something like 38 miles long and I know I will have to divide that up into many short walks that will be very tiring for me. I will probably need a week to recover in between walks. I am nervous that I won’t have the determination to finish this, or something will happen to put me off, such as in 2016 when I got part way through in 2016 and gave up. I hate not finishing things.

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Coast Watch Station, Rhosilli

It will also be challenging for me mentally. When I was younger, I did many brave things on my own. I traveled around the UK and spoke at Academic conferences, I even traveled to Texas very soon after I passed my driving test and drove a hire car. The PTSD has had the result of reducing my life and what I do, either because I get tired or because I am fearful. PTSD means that my brain goes into anxiety mode very easily. My head will worry about the coming back before I have even left the house.  I will convince myself that none of the buses will arrive and I will be stranded in the wilds of the Gower and have to sleep under a bush. Yes, it all sounds stupid when I type it, but that’s the sort of thing that keeps me awake at 3am in the morning.

So I will have to prepare well, take a load of bus timetables and set off early and challenge the fear. A few weeks ago I panicked and jumped into the sea, thinking I was about to get washed off some rocks. Bizarrely, the evidence has given me confidence. The boots and I survived. It was uncomfortable but the boots dried out on my radiator. So I will make a start this week, even if it takes months to complete the challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The ever changing landscape

I am very lucky to live close to the sea. I can never get over my excitement at seeing the sea, even when I live so close to it. I would say that all of the Welsh coast is pretty special. The coast along Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and the Llyn Peninsula are spectacular however, the Gower peninsula is the coast I visit most often as it’s the easiest to get to for to get to and its paintings of the Gower peninsula that work on most often.

swanseaGower has some incredible coastlines and fabulous beaches. I have always wanted to walk its length but never got my act together to do it. I made plans to do so in 2016 but being made redundant from my teaching job in that year, sort of threw everything out of kilter for me.

The best beaches always involve a bit of a hike but its always worth it. From an artist’s point of view its always different. Whether its high tide, low tide, summer, spring or a blustery winter’s day. What’s the main difference between the seasons? The light. Whether the sun is high or low in the sky, the angle of the rays, the quality of the light. Is it sharp or is it hazy?

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Floating Clouds over Three Cliffs

I have painted Three Cliffs Bay quite a few times. I am find it interesting to reflect on the different ways I have approached what is in some ways the same subject matter. In winter the sea is a grayed jade the wet sands are pinkish, the dry sand different shades of yellow. The colour of foliage is very muted; the grass on the clifftops is more yellow than green and the bracken is brown. The cliffs are warm grey in direct sunlight, a cooler grey in shadow.

 

Even on brighter days when the sea has more violet the colours of the cliff tops is more yellow ochre than orange.

Coloured Sands at Three Cliffs
Coloured Sands at Three Cliffs Bay

Three Cliffs Bay at High Tide

Three Cliffs Bay at High TideWhat surprised me when I compare these winter paintings with some that I had done in the summer is that the wet and dry sand is the same ruby/pink/yellow tones, although it seems obvious that it would be now I think about it. What is different, is the sky and the colour of the grass and bracken on the cliffs. The sky is a lighter turquoise and the sea is has more jade and turquoise. The clouds reflections in the surf is still violet. The grass is wonderfully verdant, a sharp green.

 

This is the oldest painting and it was done in high summer when the grass is a deeper green.

Pobbles and Three Cliffs

Of course, looking through these paintings, I immediately wish I had done some autumn paintings when the bracken is a rusty red. I have painted Rhossili Bay in autumn but not Three Cliff. I can’t think why not. Of course, last autumn I was focusing on my “Hollowed Community Project” and painting houses. I hope that I will be able to come back and paint Three Cliffs again this autumn.

 

 

 

 

 

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Gower Walks (wet feet are optional)

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Fall Bay

The sun is out. So I am out too with my camera. Looking for inspiration for some Gower landscape paintings. We drove down to Rhossili at low tide to look at the rocks. My husband is from Northern Ireland and he was feeling homesick for some monumental rocks like those at Giants’ Causeway. Now, Gower doesn’t have pillars of amazing basalt rock but we do have some pretty grand tors.

The walk from the National Trust car park at Rhossili was certainly bracing. The wind was super cold and strong enough to make me nervous about approaching the cliff edge to take photos. People have fallen to their deaths here. The sheep are all pretty blase about it, though.

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Blase Sheep in the wind

Behind the bay rises Rhossili Down to a height of 600 feet. It is the remains of an old beach level much eroded later on by the ice sheets of the last but one ice age. The bench of land below, with the Old Rectory in its middle, was caused by earth slumping down from above during a cold phase. Although, it seems like a wild and out of the way place, people have been here for a very, very long time. A Neolithic hand axe – the oldest human artefact found in Wales – was found here and is now on display in The National Museum in Cardiff.

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Worm’s Head

We walked into the wind and past Worms’ Head with its exposed causeway and found a flock of sheep eating turnips scattered amongst the straw-stubbled ground. We walked along cliff tops, and looked over a long dry stone wall inland to the medieval strip farming that still continues in the fields there. This is one of only a few Medieval “Vile” Field systems left in Britain.

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Sheep on a Medieval Strip Field

The path then splits. You can continue along to top of the cliffs to Mewslade or take a path to the right which dips down to the top of Fall Bay. There is a small collection of wooden boats way above the beach, some are attached to metal rings embedded into the rock. Its a lot easier to make your way down to the beach through this path than it is via a gap in the cliffs at the east end of the beach.

The high parts of Gower are made of the oldest rocks. The downs that loom over Rhossili  and Cefn Bryn are made from Old Red Sandstone.The rest of Gower is made from Carboniferous Limestone. The coastline cuts across a bed of folded of Limestone at an angle of 45 degrees towards the sea, to expose curious diagonal layers of rock.

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Layers of Rock at Fall Bay

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View Towards Mewslade Bay

So here my afternoon takes a slightly wetter turn. I had climbed onto rocks that lay between Fall Bay and Mewslade Bay further along the coast. The sea was crashing around me. I felt quite safe. The rocks were not slippy. I thought the tide was still going out.

Then my husband shouted at me “The Tide’s Coming in” and I looked at my watch. It was exactly 3 o’clock. Low Tide. For some reason, I then decided that the crashing waves were coming a lot closer. I hesitated, the patch of beach I had jumped from onto the rock was submerged in incoming water. I waited. The water just got deeper.

Then, my stupid PTSD head kicked in. It goes for the worst scenario. What if it never retreated? What if was going to get washed away? I was going to get washed away! I was certain. So, I panicked and jumped into the water. It came up to my calves. It was really cold. The bottom half of my jeans were very wet and my walking boots full of water. I sloshed through the sea water and onto dry land. Emergency over, I tried to cover my sense of foolishness by blaming my husband for “frightening me”.

I didn’t drown or even catch cold for having to walk back to the car with wet boots and drive home again. I had a hot bath as soon as I got home but there’s always part of me that believes that you have to suffer (or at least go to great lengths) in the process of creating your art so I find mild exhaustion and hardship rather satisfying. As if deep down I think it will somehow make the paintings better!

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I have cold wet feet, can you tell?
Thurba Head
Thurba Head
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Spring Coloured Woods – a Gower woodland

 

Delighted to say I have just SOLD “Spring Coloured Woods” via Artfinder.

Now off to live with “The Bridge to Parkmill” in Lancashire – will we see an Ilston Cwm triptych adorning a wall of a home in Lancashire?

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“This is the last of the summer wine of a substantial series of oil paintings of a woodland area in Gower Pensinsula between Ilston and Parkmill, which the locals call Cannisland Woods.
It is amazingly beautiful at any time of the year but the light is rarely better than in Winter when it is glassy clear and this helps create a riot of colours and hues in this most dank time, in the mulched leave-layered ground, in the trickling everchanging brook of the Killy Willy, in the distant haze behind the barren trees and in the wonderfully green-mossy trees and shiney, slippery brown barks of the twisted trees by the Killy Willy.
This is another “refractionist” (expressionist) style painting which is similar to Sapling Wood and Rainbow Wood in it’s sweeping streaks of colour but much more grand in it’s ambition and luxuriant in i’ts detail.
This will probably be the last of this series of paintings for some time so enjoy.”

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Sprung Coloured Wood – a Gower painting

Painting of Welsh woods

Delighted to say I have just SOLD this oil painting “Spring Coloured Wood” one day after uploading onto my various online galleries! The artlover will be buying this lovely painting via my “Part Payment” scheme.

If you would like to spread the costs of paying for one of my paintings too please click on this link to find out more details of how to pay for my paintings over a period of months via part payment – the first payment secures the painting for you!

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Large limited edition mounted prints are available here 

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Farm under the Velvet Mountain – a Brecon Beacons Painting

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Farm under Velvet Mountain (SOLD)

This is an oil painting of the Table Mountain in Mid Wales. I painted this because I loved the colours of blues, turquoise and purple which blend pleasingly with the blue-greens and terracottas of the trees and land.

Nature unearths such lovely rich colours and casts them wide in lovely complementary chromatic patchworks.
I would say this painting is inspired like so many of my mid-Wales landscapes by one of my favourite painters, Robert Bevan, whose landscapes have influenced how I paint this type of hilly upland landscape as opposed to the landscape I paint of Gower Peninsula which is usually in my own unique refractionist style which in itself influenced by expressionism.

I love the idea that colour expresses emotion, transports and alleviates the self and a creates an emotional response to a place depicted in a painting. Ideally I like to transport the viewer to the place so that the viewer somehow feels they are there or have been there in some sense. That is somehow familiar to them. In this painting I hoped to transport one to soft lazy warmnesss of summer in the fields of Mid Wales. The velvety feel of the Table Mountain helps heighten this feeling of softness. The warm summer breeze can often give this sense of snoozy softness and I hope some of this is conveyed in this painting with the manicure trees like hairdryed Bouffants and the dusty dryness of the terracotta.

 

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Down by Killy Willy

Down By Killy Willy

“Down by Killy Willy” – A return to the scene of much of my recent inspirations for painting landscapes.
I just love how the light is caught and moulded around the tree trunks by the bright silver sunlight, bleaching out the barren, branched trees.
I love how the warm jacket of greeny moss blends and is balanced by the muddy browns under the water surface, visible through the dark shards of tree shadow falling on the still water.
It is so pleasingly rustic and complementary in it’s colours as sometimes nature only can be.
The name Killy Willy refers to name given ;locally for this brook or pill, by the local people around Ilston in the Gower Peninsuala, near Swansea, in South West Wales.

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Down by Killy Willy (SOLD)
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No Longer Still

Delighted to say I have just SOLD “The Still Killy Willy” via Artfinder !
https://www.artfinder.com/product/still-killy-willy/

“This is another oil painting of the stream in Ilston Cwm, in Gower. The stream painted here is sometimes known as the Killy Willy, which runs to sea as Pennard Pill, at Three Cliffs Bay.”

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Windswept Inspiration

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Every weekend my husband and I explore and almost mine the beauty of Gower peninsula with its amazing variety of beaches, woods, hills and valleys for inspiration for my next paintings. Increasingly I have used this peninsula to keep my artistic juices flowing. It is almost as if we are harvesting the beauty of Gower in some way and using it to create art before sharing this bounty with art lovers throughout the world.

Different paintings of Gower adorn walls in the homes of art lovers on various continents. Our weekend walks are not just for our aesthetic enrichment but for others too it would seem. What a joy to share the beauty of this stunning peninsula designated Britain’s first Area of Outstanding Beauty.