These are paintings of Dorset and Wiltshire landscapes and their river Stour through the seasons.
Icy morning walks in January and February with brambles in hoarfrost all around, boots on frozen ground. Scatters of crows rising and falling in the cold skies, sheep huddled, and little flocks of small birds from the even colder north. Suddenly all of Fontmell Down is new, overnight it is, as John Banville perfectly phrased it, ‘under an astonishment of fallen snow’.  Who will be first to tread here? Deer most likely, but this freeze might well draw out a daylight fox or badger. When the snow has disappeared, hawthorn and gorse will splash this scene with colours that the winds wave as if beckoning Spring.
‘Now the clouds are lighter, the branches are frosted green, And suddenly the season that had seemed so tentative before becomes immediate, . . . ’
The surprise of Spring. The river walk now full with colour, the hedgerows and river banks alive: daffodils shooting by the rushes, casting yellow, dancing light into the water. Here, over the clay, the river’s slow meander is shaded by oaks and willows and the shallows are islanded with yellow waterlilies. Then, swiftly flowing through the chalk, the run is clear and sparkling, carving through the white-petalled cress.
The ever-fluttering butterflies–Adonis Blues, Oxeye Daisies, Marsh Fritillaries, Silver Spotted Skippers, and many others–dance all Summer long among the flowers Fontmell Down. The landscape of high Win Green and Fontmell Down are now awash with colours.
Later, in Summer evening fields the large round hay bales help the sunsets to be golden heralds of the season’s turning. Autumn will soon be at hand.
The dead leaves fallen from tall trees are hurried into a last life of dance in the lanes. They swirl by five-bar gates and rest in barnside drifts, their saturated russets, ambers, golds yellows, ochres, browns a daylong sunset of the year, but all too soon start a decline to Winter’s wet blacks and greys. The cold is arriving, the days shortening; the cows will leave the pastures for the winter barns, in the early evening we will hear the tawny owls calling to each other once more.
1. John Banville, Kepler: a novel, Secker, 1981
2. John Koethe, ‘The Late Wisconsin Spring’, North Point North: New and Selected Poems, HarperCollins, 2002
19 March - 3 April 2015
Panter & Hall
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