I’m really lucky to live in the beautiful county of Gloucestershire. We have a wonderful range of habitats: estuary, oak and beech woodlands, arable, wetlands and limestone grassland filled with the appropriate wildlife. My only sadness is that we don’t have coast – Gloucestershire-on-Sea would be perfect!
One of my favourite habitats is limestone grassland, of which there are several examples within a few miles of my studio. Most are commonland, managed by the National Trust but freely available for public use. And used they certainly are: jogging, hang-gliding, paragliding, model aeroplane or kite flying, family games, walking and picnics are just a few of the activities that take place.
I grew up adjacent to Rodborough Common, so most of my childhood was spent exploring the area and hunting for orchids, pasque flowers and other grassland species. A new discovery was always a cause for celebration. Occasionally I saw Northern Wheatears passing through or caught a glimpse of Redpolls chattering amongst a stand of pines, and most of my childhood butterfly watching took place on the Common.
The Grassland Mosaic image (above) was inspired by my walks on Rodborough Common. I didn’t want to paint a conventional landscape as there were so many different views that made up my experiences.
Though I now live further away, I still love the commons and go there for inspiration or to just recharge my batteries. Yesterday evening was my first visit for a while and it was heaven! Late afternoon sun bathed the area in a warm golden glow. Swallows and swifts zipped past, and the air was filled with skylark song. Green-winged Orchids were numerous and I counted over thirty Fly Orchids, far more than usual.
Best of all I discovered a skylark’s nest. Walking along the path, I accidentally flushed the parent bird from the nest. (Why do birds nest next to paths when there’s acres of undisturbed land to use?) A very quick peek revealed four brown speckled eggs. Tempting though it was to grab a photograph or sketch, I didn’t want to disturb the birds so I moved away. One of the parents returned straight away, so they weren’t too worried by my presence.
I’ll go back later this week to see how the skylark family is getting on. Now that I know where they are I can observe from a safe distance. Skylark chicks would be wonderful to see. Lets just hope they survive to fledge.