The Watercress Fields of Ewelme

It’s taking a while, but spring is making a reluctant start at last. My young friend and I took a little trip to West Green House last Saturday afternoon. Known as the Garden for all Seasons we found it a little bare for this season, but lovely all the same. 

There were a few crocuses peeping through the earth however

These gardens are also known as the Opera Gardens and throughout the year musical events are held there. For example next weekend The Guildhall School of Music will be performing Bernstein, Rogers and Gershwin accompanied by an afternoon tea. And hopefully the tulips will bring a bit of Technicolor into the surroundings. I imagine the concerts are held just behind this circular opening into one of the gardens.  

And as you gaze into the sky while savouring the music you may be sitting in a bower as we did and have a view like this.

On the way back to the lovely little rustic shop at West Green House we stopped to look at this stone carving, whom I imagine was a faithful retainer, or more likely, the gardener. 

When we got back to the car my young friend realised she’d lost her black leather gloves somewhere in the gardens. We retraced our steps for a while but couldn’t find them. So we asked the lady at the desk to remember who we were if anyone handed them in. Sure enough a few days later a kind person did just that and they were posted back to us.

Next day we joined a small group of people at Ewelme for a guided walk around the famous watercress beds, which wind their way through this loveliest of Oxfordshire villages. The Watercress Beds Centre is the hub of the Ewelme local Nature Reserve which covers about 6.5 acres, and we were lucky enough to have two of the most knowledgeable Chiltern Society members to take us around. The most important feature of the site is the Ewelme Brook, which flows into the Kings Pool in the centre of the village, where the main springs rise. (We were told the story about the time King Henry VIII threw one of his wives into the brook – but I’m not sureI believed it!)
The Ewelme Brook flows through the Nature Reserve for about half a mile and continues on to the river Thames at Benson. Here are a couple of views of the watercress beds looking in either direction.

As we walked round the reserve the guides pointed out various features, including this little hedgehog hut they made. (Which we were told attracted over 15 hedgehogs during the season.)

After a short break where we munched biscuits and drank coffee at the Centre, we walked further downstream towards Benson and joined up with the stream once again

Two important industries used to be based on the Ewelme Brook – milling corn, then later commercial scale watercress growing. It was also famous for trout fishing. Such an interesting afternoon. I recommend it to anyone. There are guided walks there every first Sunday of the month. 
On Tuesday we drove to London to enter two pictures in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. (As my young friend waited outside the Academy while I took the pictures down into the bowels of the building, ex Prime Minister Sir John Major nearly bumped into her car as he dashed across to Saville Row - no doubt to pick up his morning suit for Lady Thatcher's funeral.) I don’t expect the pictures to be accepted, but you never know. However if they are rejected, they will go on to the ‘Not the Royal Academy’ exhibition at the Llewellyn Gallery at Westminster. One is a large life-size pencil drawing of Rolf Harris, the other is a miniature of the Royal Flueologist.

My working week has been extremely busy, and I’ve been putting in about 9 hours a day on another river scene with the red-coated Royal Swanmarker featured prominentally. But here is the drawing I finished the other week.

The other day I came across this Huntley and Palmers biscuit tin. It was one I designed as an apprentice lithographic artist way back in the fifties. I remember as I painted each biscuit, which were carefully arranged on the plate on my desk in front of me, Vic Granger, one of the artists, would eat the biscuit I’d just painted. By the time I got to paint the last one, it was the only one left on the plate!

I’ve just seen my young friend off to Korea. She ‘s attending a weeklong Conference there and will be chairing one of the sessions. In view of the current political situation I’m just glad it’s not being held in North Korea. Bon Voyage  myf and have a good flight.