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See here for an introduction to the KYST project
KYST 11 Swaddled in umpteen layers of clothing, I hunkered down and looked up at the imposing ruins of Hammershus castle, just as the sun crept over the horizon behind me. Once again, the temperature was sub-zero, and my watercolours froze and crystalized within seconds on the paper. The wind was strong and bitterly cold but thankfully blew from the east, giving me at least the opportunity to find shelter on this, my last KYST on Bornholm’s west coast.
As I walked down Mølledal valley towards the coast some yellowhammer, greenfinch and a chaffinch sang rather weakly in the woods beside me. Hardly a dawn chorus, but nevertheless a sign of things to come. Last week’s slush had frozen back to ice, but a small stream accompanied me down to the rocky coast. Spring felt very far way. A jay mimicked a buzzard’s call expertly, and settled in a tree close by, before flapping off with a prehistoric screech. Reaching the rocky coast, and partly sheltered from the wind, I felt inspired with sympathy for a wind-sculpted hawthorn (see top).
I climbed around the rocks for a while, partly to keep warm, and then walked up the massive granite outcrop, upon which Hammershus castle sits. The historic seat of power on Bornholm, the castle has been deserted since the early 18th century, but it still retains an imposing physical presence. I walked around the ruins, happy to have the castle to myself, but the wind up here was finger-numbingly and eyeball-freezingly cold. I tried to travel back in time and imagine the scores, hundreds even, of people who must have worked and lived here, at any one time – over many hundreds of years. I tried to imagine them on a day like today, when all was frozen hard and the wind bit through everything. I lasted but a few minutes, before retreating back in the lee of the cliffs.
Looking out I could see how the sea was calmer in the shelter of the island. Every now and then huge gusts would be visible on the water, as if an invisible helicopter was landing. Further out, far from the shelter of the island, huge white crested waves attested to the power of the wind. I followed with my binoculars the red pilot boat, as it raced out from Hammerhavn harbor to help or guide tankers. My paints froze very quickly.
I walked on, past the castle, and found a fantastic sheltered spot where I could put up my M60 and enjoy some food and a fine sea view. The sun at last struggled to break through, only to disappear again, as wave after wave of snowstorms came passing through. There was an incredible energy in the day.
I walked back a little, and struggled to find shelter from the gusty wind. I clambered down a gully right down below the cliffs to find shelter, and here painted some rocks – about all I could manage as I battled with the cold.
Back at my sheltered spot – and partly because I was aware that it had been so long since I’d attempted any bird studies – I got my telescope out and followed a distant flock of common gulls bobbing on the surface.
Eventually I walked on, around the cliffs and down through a sheltered wood of cherry and birch, back to the shore and the arms of Hammerhavn harbor. There were few people about or signs of activity save the aforementioned Pilot boat. I walked around for a while looking for a sheltered spot to put up my brolly, but I struggled with the gusting wind and regular snowy squalls. I finally managed to peg it down but the snow kept coming in and at one point the wind lifted the whole thing up. I swore a lot.
Looking back towards the castle I decided to make a timed ‘slice’ painting, trying to record the day’s energy. A snowstorm came suddenly and the castle almost disappeared, the snowflakes freezing onto the paper, to be replaced by sun and a bright blue sky – before the next flurry. It was incredibly intense, trying to work with the weather and record and reflect my perception of it. This was exactly the sort of experience and painting I had hoped for when starting this project – it felt like a collaboration between me and the day.
I finished off, completely exhausted, by making a four-part study of the wonderful setting sun, with the paints sometimes crystallizing, sometimes turning into a sludgy mess – before the lonely trudge back to Hammershus and my waiting car.
Weather report = snow flurries throughout the day, cloudy with regular sunny periods. Temperature between minus 3 and minus 1 degrees. Wind between 10 and 18 m/s first from the east and later north-east. Visibility: very good, when not obscured by snow clouds. Hours of sunshine: maybe four hours, if squeezed altogether?
Lessons learned – peg the M60 down in one or two places before putting up in strong wind. The original Pot Noodle tastes much better than recent imposters.
Stops with the M60 = 2
Kilometers walked = 9.04 km
Day lasted = 11 hours, 44 minutes
Birds seen and heard = 28 species (3 new ones = mistle thrush, fieldfare and greenfinch = running total 50)
Other stuff = starting to get the handle of the freezing paint thing, and how to work with it. Winters from now on will be fun…
People talked to = 6 ( 1 + 5)
In my head = Det er så fuldt af sjov, ude i en skov..’ children’s song STILL in my head all day… Thinking of an old friend who passed away last week.