Sunday, 21 September 2008

Box Hill Excursion

As the weather was so glorious we went walking on Box Hill yesterday. We used to go regularly every few months but realise we hadn't been since November 2006, so preoccupied with selling and buying houses and settling in. The main attraction for us is its accessability ( it's even quicker now by train from Brentford , changing at Clapham Junction). I first went there as a student, analysing the vegetation across transects of the path to assess the effect of trampling and then later to wear in new walking boots and practice for trekking holidays. The variety of terrain and habitat and the wealth of flowers and wildlife ( not to mention the National Trust tea stall at the top!) make it a great destination. My favourite location is this meadow, one of the best in the UK for butterflies, overlooking the main chalk ridge that people walk up. Most visitors congregate around the car park, the tea gardens and the viewpoint with its vista over the surrounding countryside so although this meadow is reached by only 20 minutes walk through the woods, very few of them make it there.
I had a very pleasant 40 minutes sketching here while Ian read and dozed. Not among the best watercolours I've ever done (particularly as I've just changed some of the colours in my paintbox) but there's something magical about sitting among the grasses, hearing the insects and feeling the sun beat down. Definately the pleasure of the process rather than the product.
I tried to capture the colours of the meadow - lime green at the base with a haze of golden brown at the top, silhouetted against the dark green box trees in the distance and dotted through with violet of scabious and gentians. I found a neat way of drawing grasses - tracing the shadows cast on my sketchbook! (the photo below is a mixture of shadows and pencil lines)
The railway station (Boxhill and Westhumble) is a treat in itself with the layers of peeling paint - such a variety of colours. There's a real sense of connection to the past, people have been visiting for centuries (Box Hill even played a critical role in Jane Austen's 'Emma'). The visitors having picnics yesterday probably aren't that different although most arrive by car rather than train now. It's not the countryside of spectacle and solitude but there's a nice atmosphere of shared enjoyment in admiring the view while tucking into home-made cakes. I collected some blackberries too.


margaret said...

Ah, the shadow-drawing trick! it's a whole new world...

Box Hill is one of the places I've always meant to visit - stayed in a room with a view of it, years ago, but we went for a different walk, not up the hill.

Aussie Jo said...

a magical place. I wonder if the suburb of Box Hill in Melbourne (Australia) is named after your Box Hill.