For the last fifteen years, ever since we moved into our barn which is in the middle of open fields and on the edge of a water meadow, I have daily walked the footpaths of the local landscape. These paths and bridleways along the riverbanks and field margins are usually marked by miles of native hedgerows, many dating from the 18th century enclosures but others much more ancient. As I walk my attention is always piqued by the tangle of living branches, and the life that teems within them. As the seasons come and go, I find it impossible not to be moved and creatively inspired by the beautiful annual rhythm, dance almost, of hedgerow buds, leaves, flowers, haws and hips and the flurry of birds, animals and insects that rely on them. There are many blog posts in the archives here celebrating the springtime explosion of blackthorn and hawthorn flowers in the local hedgerows, and also the frothy ribbons of cowparsley that fringe all the footpaths here. Every year there seems to be something else to notice and be inspired by, and every year I take photographs, make sketches, write words and poems and finally base new collections of jewellery on designs directly inspired by what I have discovered. The hawthorn collection and lichen and blackthorn cuffs and twiggy rings are all direct results of these observations and sense of finding beauty in the simplest of places.
Right now the hedgerows are in their somber, winter clothes, long gone are the flowers and leaves, and only a handful of haws and hips hold on against the wind and hungry birds. Sinuous miles of twiggy native species, lean hard against the cold winds together, bare and sparse and pared back to the hard, brown bone. There is something unflinching and stoic about their nakedness, something that seems to remind me that rest and resilience are an important counterpoint to growth and busy activity. In our hedgerows, trees grow out and up regularly but still unexpectedly, (once many elms did, but now mainly other natives have taken their place).
It is at twilight that they seem at their most majestic, the old lores of magicke and myth seem most believable as the low winter sun sets like low slung fire between their twisted branches.
In every season my local landscape holds so many wonders that stop me in my tracks. The winter can seem monochromatic and terse compared to the colourful, flowery ebullience of the warmer months, and this is an especially stark contrast in the hedgerows. Yet, so much beauty still lurks in the patterns and textures that remain, and there is a profound sense of mystery and resolute, weather-defying courage which is only amplified by the lack of colour and foliage. The earth is not just resting but is gathering its strength and power for the spring to follow. A breathing out, a gathering in. The prettiness may have seeped away with the autumn rains, but a different, more questioning gorgeousness remains.