Mossy Woodland in February
Today Noelle Griffiths and I began our 2020 seasonal paintings in the mixed woodland at Ceunant Llennyrch below Trawsfyfnydd Lake in Snowdonia.
For the past several years, each season, we get together to paint and draw in the landscapes near Noelle's home in the mountains of Snowdonia, and my home on the coast of Llyn.
Noelle is a painter and maker of Artists' Books, and we have over the past ten years or more collaborated to make limited edition handmade books, as well as our Season Paintings.
Currently we are making an edition of five unique folios of 32 microscope and in situ paintings of 8 common mosses and liverworts of this woodland, two in each season with 8 relief prints, 8 paintings of sounds, and digital text. Details on Noelles website www.noellegriffiths-art.co.uk
As often seems to happen in this particular woodland, it rained during the day and we had to try to prevent all the paint being washed off our boards. I use gouache and its very vulnerable to the elements!
We are taking it in turns to prime and colour the mountcard prior to going into the landscape. This lovely turquoise is Noelle's choice and the colours of bracken and moss fizzed in my eyes after looking at the blueness; I could have been swimming in deep green water, light filtering down from a grey surface far above, netted with fine twigs.
We have looked at some of these mosses through the microscope as part of the Moss Garden project but the huge variety are fuddling. The foreground coniferous emerald mounds are Polytrichum commune, whose very long stems hoist it above boggy ground. One of the few I think I recognise, it is very widespread ---and spectacular.
The birch trees in this hollow seem to have their feet in rising springs, and all about them are hummocks, tummocks and bouldery heaps smothered by moss.
In drier areas of the woodland there are fine Sessile Oaks, Ash, and substantial Hazels. Also planted Larch, Conifers, Southern Beech, and Beech, many of which the owners, the Woodland Trust, are carefully extracting. It will be interesting to see if there are Redstarts and Wood Warblers here later in the spring.
The Trust have allowed in a few sheep, and this grazing regime contrasts with an area of woodland beyond with no sheep : brambles bound across the woodland floor, and crowding saplings of birch, oak, holly.
Many birds heard not seen:-
Nuthatches calling, sharp sounds like those lip-smacking sort of exclamations teenagers make, or the sounds of marbles tapping on glass; the single unvarying 'kik' 'kik' of Great-Spotted Woodpecker, unseen in the tops of the oaks on the slope; mixed flocks of Long-tailed, Coal and Great Tits working the fine twiggery; a Treecreeper inching up a mossy trunk.
Back down in the main Dwyryd valley, passing the outgushing of water from the Hydroelectric Station, could be heard rising the clear, wild song of the Storm Cock, such an apt name for the Missel Thrush.