I have been busy all week with the interpretation for the Conwy Castle windows, so yesterday I took a break and we went over to Skomer to enjoy the bluebells at their best. We had the afternoon on the island before Den’s guided boat trip in the evening, so we got to see all the old favourites and reconnect with the place.
The short eared owls were flying in North Valley, the guillemots and razorbills were doing their thing on the cliff edges and the puffins were starting to bring sand eels in to feed the first chicks. At the latest count there are something like 11,400 puffins nesting on the island! So, it is a busy place, but if you time it right you can get around without bumping into too many people, and the bluebells, which are very late this year, are in full bloom and creating spectacular carpets all over the island.
The weather was fantastic and the evening boat trip was wonderful, we saw a few porpoise, gannets, puffins and other auks. The views of the island were breathtaking and the reflected colours in the water were amazing.
The trip was capped off by being surrounded by a raft of shearwaters as they swooped and glided over the water at sunset.
This morning I went on a (Welsh language) guided walk across the Preseli’s to remember those who protected this landscape from being requisitioned by the M.O.D. during the Second World War. The guide was Geraint Harries, a local National Park Warden who explained about the wildlife of the place and Hefin Wyn, a local author and historian who has written extensively about the history of the area and was able to tell us more about the history of the landscape.
Unfortunately I couldn’t do the whole walk, but cut back through Rosebush with Sarah Harman so that we could discuss our on-going project research into the human shaping of the landscape around the quarry. I am looking forward to spending more time in the studio in June finishing some pieces that are in progress on this, and Sarah is well underway with writing a suite of songs. It is good to catch up and fill each other in on our progress. This is part of a research and development project I am undertaking with the support of The Arts Council of Wales.
My time on Skokholm Island was fantastic! I walked those 242 acres for a week and really began to absorb the feel of the island. Swimming with seals and puffins in South Haven was a highlight, as was lying beneath the stars at the lighthouse watching Storm Petrels returning to their nests. There were lots of wonderful moments, seeing Burnet Moths mating, coming across 50 stranded Compass Jellyfish that had lost their way in North Haven, painting a Garden Tiger Moth….
It is always easier to work when I am alone and away from the distractions of home life. The islands give me the space to contemplate and decide where I want to go next with my work. There is a lot to think about just now – glass and paint and so many themes bubbling up…
All in all it has been a time of collecting for me, collecting material (sand, earth, seaweed, bones) and inspiration, and collecting my thoughts.
This has a parallel in the scientific work that goes on on the islands, the monitoring, mapping and collecting of data and material and the documenting of conditions and movements and migrations, these things have been faithfully recorded here since 1927 when Ronald Lockley, naturalist, farmer and writer extraordinaire, took on the lease of the island. The scientific approach mirrors what I am doing in my sketchbooks and experiments with glass, the application and attention to detail of these scientists is inspirational in itself!!
All in all it was an inspirational week and has given me much food for thought (and a studio full of detritus!). I will definitely come back next year and hope to work on a piece of work for the island, possibly a window for Lockley’s restored cottage.
Finally made it to Skokholm Island early this morning. It is years since I was here and I am in seventh heaven! The red of the sandstone is amazing, I am collecting some to use in my glass work and paintings. So far I have set up my studio and orientated myself, spending a while with the seals in South Haven to chill out and adjust to being here.
The accommodation is newly renovated by volunteers last autumn and is absolutely lovely. The chemical toilets have been replaced by compost ones and the rooms have sinks (although water has to be brought up daily from the well!). Everything is spick and span.
I will update this blog with photos when I get home because this BlackBerry is pretty useless for pics.
My Skomer Bluebells painting course is under way and today we spent the day on the island sketching and making notes to bring back to the studio tomorrow.
I have been coming to Skomer for 18 years, I even lived there for a while when Den was Assistant Warden, but it was the first time I had been to the island this year and Skomer was resplendent in its cloak of bluebells and campion. The island has been so influential on my work and holds a special place in my heart. The colours, atmosphere and wildlife of the place are amazing. I am staying on the island next week to paint and am really excited about it.. Next year I really want to run a residential course on the island – anyone interested?
The season is two weeks ahead of normal schedule due to the warm weather in April and there was a lot of Puffin activity all around the island.
Congratulations to Kenny Gainforth, the boatman,who has just won the individual European Federation of Sea Anglers Trophy in competition in Ireland. Although somehow he didn`t have any mackerel to spare today! Well done Kenny!