KYST 28 – from Bølshavn to Listed, 12.07.18

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See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 28 We drove through Bornholm under a divided sky – to our left, and receding, a cloudless sky – to our right and oncoming, thick grey clouds. At the end of the pier arm at Bølshavn I made a slice painting, recording the dynamic skyscape. I was gracious for the humidity in the air and the energy from a brisk onshore wind, but soon I was cold and I was thankful had remembered my gloves (see top).

By the time I was finished, the day was already in full swing, with bathers jumping off the pier for their morning swim. I packed up and wandered on passing through one of Bornholm’s largest and richest coastal meadows. There was a profusion of colour with yellow and purple loosestrife, hemp agrimony, viper’s bugloss and chicory particularly abundant.

I walked on through an open area, grazed by sheep, under a light mist of rain. By the time I had set up my M60 for some food and a nap, the rain had increased in severity – the first on Bornholm for many, many weeks – and I woke to the evocative and comforting patter of rain drops on canvas. Under the shelter of the M60 I painted some juvenile common gulls. I thought back to the baby gulls I had seen just south of Gudhjem a few weeks ago.

Hidden amongst the mustard coloured lichen on the rocks rested two female red breasted mergansers.

I enjoyed the humidity in the air and its impact on my watercolours and paper.

When the rain had died back down to a dusty drizzle I packed up and continued along the path. Compared to last week’s arduous trek the going was easy and I soon arrived at ‘Hellig Kvinde’ (the Holy Lady), a collection of stone monoliths with eleven stones forming an oval ring. According to legend the tall stone was once a holy lady who was forced to petrify her children (the small stones) in order to protect them from danger. The monoliths now sit by the busy coastal road and I was eager to get back to the sea.

A photograph of Hellig Kvinde from 1869 from almost the same position reveals how much impact a few thousand grazing sheep can have on a landscape.

Billedet fra Svaneke Arkiv, se flere gamle billeder her

I trudged on, keeping to the coast instead of the coastal path, and soon came to a fence blocking my way. Armed with my new found knowledge relating to my rights on Denmark’s coast, I hopped over the fence and continued along the rocks and meadows, forcing my way through a wild and lush terrain flanked to my right by an impenetrable and unkempt wood with huge mature ash and alder trees. I pushed through and eventually rejoined the coastal path just before Høl, where I paused for a while. Here I looked north east and recorded the fact that I had crossed the border between the dark and angular gneiss bedrock into the softer and crumblier Svaneke granite.

In the distance I could see some gulls flying repeatedly around some tall trees, hanging in the wind. With my telescope I could see that they were in fact plucking cherries from the outermost branches – not something I had seen before.

By now time was running on and I passed through the charming Høl Havn and into Listed proper. Listed is another of those idyllic fishing villages strung along Bornholm’s coast, with a gentle and laid back demeanor. I sat on the gravelly beach and painted the extraordinarily rich wild flowers and grasses flanking the harbour.

At the harbour in Listed, a live Jazz band performed in the café, and a steady stream of tourists mulled around in the early evening gloom. I sat on one of the pier arms and finished off the day, exhausted but – as ever – thankful and invigorated by the day’s unfolding.


Weather report = A few minutes of sun to start with, then overcast with scattered showers throughout the day. Temperature between 15 °C and 18°C. Wind between 6 and 8 m/s from the east. Visibility: good. Hours of sunshine: 0.5 hours.

Lessons learned – I’ve lost the bag of pegs for the M-60. Boulders worked fine.

Stops with the M60 = 2

Kilometers walked = 6.93 km

Day lasted = 17 hours, 5 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 28 species (0 new ones = running total 98) difficult to hear birds with the surf…

Other stuff = According to the information panel (and various other sources) sailors and wayfarers would greet the Hellig Kvinde standing stones (the lady and her children) as they passed. For how long have they been doing that? When did they stop? How do we know people actually did? When did the story of the story start?

People talked to = 1

In my head – Croatia-England – how quickly ‘It’s Coming Home’ turned into ‘oh well, I might as well go home…’ The Hellig Kvinde story got me thinking – it actually encapsulates rather neatly the paradox of parenthood – our need to protect our children coupled with our desire to have them experience the world. Over protection = petrification… or what?

KYST 27 – from Haralds Havn to Bølshavn, 06.07.18

For at læse denne KYST 27 blog på Dansk, se her

See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 27 The rising sun was at first obscured behind a distant cloudbank low over the horizon, but in no time it had risen free and flooded the day with warming light. From my elevated vantage point on the side of a hill looking down to the coastal path and the sea beyond, I consumed the day and the ever-changing panorama spread out before me. There was no wind, and no sign or sound of humanity. The liquid twittering of skylarks filled the air, periodically broken by the mew of a buzzard or a pheasant’s sudden crow. A squadron of screaming swifts passed low over the field, and I felt submerged in a rare moment of harmony.

Eventually the moment passed and I packed my things and headed down to the coast. As before, the coastal path was divorced from the rocky coast and I continued for a while, until I came to a path down to the shore. I had arrived at Ypnasted, a tiny fishing hamlet with a few wonderful old houses spread along a stony beach, the wharf overgrown and long since bereft of fishing boats. I tried to walk back along the coast to see what I had missed, but the going was difficult. I paused by a ‘jættegryde’, where wave-thrown rocks had polished and worn the bedrock smooth over many millennia – its position high above today’s high water mark testament to the changing sea level of the Baltic sea since the last ice age.

I studied the flowers in the coastal meadow
(from left) Blackberry/Brombær/Rubus fruticosus, Sorel sp./Klippe-skræppe/Rumex bryhnii, Sea aster/Strandasters/Tripoliumpannocium, Hairy willowherb/Lådden dueurt/Epilobium hirsutum, Purple Loosestrife/Kattehale/Lythrum salicaria

At Ypnasted the pebbled beach from the Littorina sea, when the sea level was higher than today, is particularly obvious. Here I sat and looked northwest, painting the profusion of wild flowers. In the reed bed to my right a solitary reed warbler chirruped and grinded his hypnotic song.

On the sand under my feet grew a tangle of flat pea

I pushed on, but once again the coastal path headed into a wood, far from the shore. Eventually I took a very small and unkempt path which led me to the rocky shore, a wonderful and wild area where I managed to eat and sleep. The gneiss bedrock was layered and flat in places, with some of the most flamboyant lichen I had seen.

I had woken to a fierce sun and a blustery wind, but feeling refreshed I decided to keep to the rocks instead of heading back to the path. The going was hard and I was forced to stop for a breather every 100 metres or so, but I was rewarded by some truly wild and remote coast. The ongoing drought had killed off all but the most hardy grasses and plants, and the dead grass crunched underfoot as I passed over dried out pools and empy streams. Pausing on some rocks before I reached Bølshavn, the day’s destination, I sketched some gulls basking in the sun. The blustery wind suddenly threw my water pot onto my painting. The tranquility of the morning had long since evaporated in the hot sun.

I painted the cormorants drying their wings on the rocks. I worked quickly and energetically, eager not to get caught in detail that often results from low humidity and sunlight (see top).

Just before Bølshavn I stopped on the pebbly beach for a much needed break and some food. I was exhausted and spent, though the day offered still three hours of sunlight. I wandered around Bølshavn aimlessly, another quaint and picturesque fishing hamlet long since taken over by tourists and summerhouses. I found it difficult to muster up enough energy for a final assault, and I floundered and fussed around. Eventually I positioned myself at the end of the harbour arm and witnessed the changing colours of the lichen covered rocks as they were lit up and then deserted by the setting sun behind me.


Weather report = Overcast to start with, then sun in the afternoon. Temperature between 17 °C and 22°C (though it was baking in the sun). Wind between 4 and 6 m/s from the west. Visibility: good. Hours of sunshine: 7.5 hours.

Lessons learned – tape your painting down if its windy…

Stops with the M60 = 0

Kilometers walked = 7.87 km

Day lasted = 17 hours, 13 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 40 species (1 new one, reed warbler = running total 98)

Other stuff = when I began the KYST project in the winter, people were few and far between, but would often pause for a brief chat on the coastal path. Now, there are more people about, but no one approaches me or talks to me. Either I have managed to create an air of hostility, or people are less interested in the hot weather (tourists?). Probably a bit of both…

People talked to = 0

In my head – The Patrick Melrose novels again, the books have really infested my head. England-Sweden. Cormier-Miocic.




KYST 26 – from Kelse å to Haralds Havn, 29.06.18

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See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 26 Two pebbles still remained from the tower of five I had placed on the beach to mark (incorrectly) the half-way point of the KYST project last week. It was warm and completely still, and again I was blessed with a truly spectacular sunrise.

Leaving the beach at Kelse å, I headed southeast, keeping to the rocky shore and passing through an area of rounded and weathered bedrock, where I stopped for breakfast.

Passing through some truly spectacular beachfront properties, some with their own private mooring berths, I clambered over the rocks and kept to the shore, eventually arriving at a large open area with towers of bedrock and large boulders scattered over the shore. Accompanied by the ceaseless singing of linnets and whitethroats I looked towards the rising sun.

While I was painting a breeze suddenly whipped up from nowhere. Within just twenty minutes a strong easterly wind had agitated the sea and completely changed the character and energy of the day. I sat further up and painted the first half of a time slice painting. Then, I had to race back to the car, and drive home for my son’s graduation party at our house for his class. I returned within an hour, disorientated and unsettled, and finished the painting – the light a little duller now as the sun shone through some cirrus clouds.

I walked on, along the coastal path looking down to the rocky shore. I sheltered behind some bushes and painted the impossible pink of a Japanese rugosa rose, an invasive ubiquitous alien species on Bornholm’s coast.

Continuing along the path I passed through some small wooded glades carpeted with yellowed and dying wild garlic – a catastrophic vision, as though the land had been flooded and scoured by a huge tidal wave. The path was high above the sea now and I tried to make some forays down to the coast but the going was difficult. Eventually I arrived at Randkløve – a vast open area with huge fissures and fractures in the gneiss bedrock. Incredibly, it was my first time here and I relished the sublime spectacle of the waves crashing into the angular rocks (see top). I sketched the gulls gliding on the on-shore wind

The visibility was fantastic, and the familiar silhouette of the islands of Christiansø and Frederiksø on the horizon less than 20 km distant, was particularly clear from my clifftop vantage point. With my telescope, incredibly, I could make out individual windows on the houses. I imagined the island’s 100 or so inhabitants going about their daily business, all of them encompassed within the arc of my telescope’s eye.

After a short sleep in the sun, it was time to push on. The path now was completely divorced from the coast, passing through a wild and unkempt wood. I walked past the remnants of a once glorious but now overgrown garden, and the whole area seemed somewhat melancholic and secretive. Eventually I managed to find a path down to the coast and yet another private mooring wharf. Here I made a sketch of the wild flowers in the sheltered coastal meadow (marsh woundwort and wild carrot).

Far from the main road and hidden from the coastal path with the waves crashing into the jagged rocks, the area retained a slightly eerie sense of otherness, but also of faded glory. I painted some cormorants huddled atop an impressive rock feature known as ‘white hat’, the sea and light breathtaking.

With my telescope, I had a better view of the cormorants.

I finished the day by walking away from the coast, up the gentle incline towards the main road. Glad for the distance and the sense of space, I looked back towards the sea over the ripened fields and the wooded coastal path, and I witnessed the kaleidoscopic colours of the setting sun. I had reached the true half way point of the KYST project.


Weather report = Sunny periods throughout the day. Temperature between 20°C in the early morning and down to 15°C in the evening. Wind from 2 and up to 9 m/s from the east. Visibility: fantastic. Hours of sunshine: 10 hours.

Lessons learned – don’t forget your lighter or matches, or you’ll be very, very hungry.

Stops with the M60 = 0

Kilometers walked = 9.46 km

Day lasted = 17 hours, 31 minutes (going down again…)

Birds seen and heard = 32 species (0 new ones = running total 97) definitely tailing off now…

Other stuff = what are the rules regarding private land in regards to the coastline in Denmark? How is it possible that so much of the coastline is open to all, and yet there are some areas fenced off?

People talked to = 1

Snakkede med = 1

In my head – My son’s graduation – enormous pride mixed with bewilderment and lack of understanding of the local customs regarding graduation. The World Cup. The incoming invasion of English family guests in the summer. I know I will be walking in Svaneke when they come. Each week I note how much closer I am to Svaneke when I look down the coast.


KYST 25 – from Kobbe Å to Kelse Å, 22.06.18

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See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 25 It was so early when I woke that the cat didn’t even bother begging for food. I had returned from London late the previous evening and was, yet again, exhausted and underslept. At the start point by the Kobbe stream I had an appointment with Stefan from the local TV station, who wanted to make a short piece on the project. It was windy and even a little chilly, but we were both treated to a spectacular sunrise.

I was barely able to string a sentence together, and sat under the M60 brolly, sheltered from the wind. I embarked on a slice painting, recording the brief shower, the retreating clouds and the emergence of fine weather. By the time I had finished, the day was warm and I was suffocating under far too many layers. Steffan had left and I wandered onwards along the rocky shore.

This was a section of the coast I had never seen before. The going was extremely rough with savage crags and outcrops of gneiss bedrock separated by narrow coastal meadows with tussocks of grass and sedge and the occasional stony beach. The coastal path, as it is, was up by the main road, and I decided to keep to the shore as much as possible. Exhausted with the effort of hauling all my gear I took a break for a while, where I painted the meadow.

Walking on, I came to Himmerigsport, a small rocky promontory filled with deep fissures, clefts and cracks, and dried up rock pools. The bedrock was streaked with pinkish veins of pegmatite, a crystalline igneous rock that was formed during the final stages of the magma’s crystalisation. As they are coarse-grained, they are eroded more quickly than the surrounding gneiss bedrock by the action of the waves and wind, forming many of the cracks and fissures. I painted one rock face, lit hard and high by the mid-day and midsummer sun.

In Canterbury just 24 hours previously, I had given a talk about Land Art workshops for people with long term conditions, and I felt inspired to make some pebble towers: always relaxing and rewarding.

I stumbled on, cursing all my gear, over the craggy coast and through meadows pot-holed with invisible gullies and holes. Truly, this part of the coast is little known and seen. Though just one hundred metres from the coastal road, I didn’t see a single soul all day and I felt pleasantly marooned from the rest of Bornholm, and indeed the world.

Somehow the day was running out and I was only half way. I walked onwards, stopping by a meadow with access from the main road, to record some of the floral diversity I had been keeping an eye out for during the day. There were so many other new flowers that I hadn’t seen the previous week.

from left – Garden Loosestrife/Almindelig Fredløs, Rosebay Willowherb/Gederams, Bindweed/Snerle, Hemp Agrimony/Hjortetrøst and (bottom) Yellow Toadflax/Torskemund

Eventually I arrived at my destination – a small semicircular bay with a narrow stony beach where the tiny Kelse steam empties into the sea. The rain from the day before, the first in months, had had little impact and the stream was nothing more than a trickle, disappearing into the pebbles before reaching the sea. This bay actually marks the site of a large vein of dolorite, a valley reaching all the way into the centre of Bornholm, where it is known as Ekkodalen. On this, the longest day of the year, it seemed fitting that I should arrive at midsommer on the arm of a huge valley pointing all the way to the centre of the island like a giant clock hand. I made a stone tower, and painted the light and sky changing as the day faded – a huge rainstorm emptying into the sea, before finer weather returned just as the sun set – nearly 18 hours after it had risen so spectacularly in the early morning (see top).


Weather report = Cloudy to start off with, with a very small rain shower. Sunny periods for the rest of the day. Temperature between 11 °C in the early morning and evening and 18 °C in the afternoon. Wind between 11 and 7 m/s from the west (though I was sheltered most of the day). Visibility: fantastic. Hours of sunshine: 10 hours.

Lessons learned – I think I was too tired to learn anything. Oh yes = don’t lose the edge of the magic tape, you’ll never find it again.

Stops with the M60 = 4

Kilometers walked = 8.42 km

Day lasted = 17 hours, 43 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 37 species (2 new ones = curlew and green sandpiper  = running total 97)

Other stuff = waders on return – the mournful wail of a curlew flying overhead, together with green sandpiper flushed from a coastal meadow, in some ways heralded the onset of autumn and the change in the flow of the year.

People talked to = 1

In my head – The previous 24 hours had been hectic. My mind raced with the garbled intensity of my impressions from a lightning trip to Canterbury and England.

KYST 24 – from Tuleknald (Gudhjem) to Kobbe å, 15.06.18

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See here for an introduction to the KYST project

Mild and still, with a thick layer of cloud, the day started imperceptibly, with no indication of the rising sun other than an gradual lightening. I started the day where I had ended it the week before, looking south past the Randkløverne towards Melsted and beyond.

Just metres away, a pair of common gull chicks gradually became used to my presence and emerged from behind a rock, under the watchful eye of their parents. The mewing of aggressive common gulls was to be a sound that followed me throughout the day. Across the sea, dark clouds threatened showers, but apart from a light dusting, the rain never came.

Nearby I watched a pair of hooded crows feed their newly fledged and vociferous young. The bushes around were full with baby birds, great tits, blue tits and linnets. It was as if all the island’s birds had fledged on the same day. I was drawn back to the local wild flowers (from the left clockwise, Hawkbit, Sheep’s bit scabious, Tufted vetch, Common centaury and Honeysuckle).

Eventually I packed up and walked on towards Melsted, the next town after Gudhjem. I passed through a campsite where everyone was still asleep, and continued on to a rocky outcrop where I could see Melsted’s small harbour arm.

The sun, now emerged and hot, passed across a rocky tower. I painted it both before and after a short nap under the M60 umbrella.

I was woken by the cacophonous shrieking of a common gull that actually landed on the M60, just above my head (photo).

On the beach at Melsted, I was drawn again to the incredible diversity of flowers (Common Nipplewort, Foxglove and ? and ?).

Melsted is a pearl of village, charming and quiet, despite being so close to Gudhjem. I’ve lived on Bornholm for ten years but had never been there. I wandered around for a while soaking up the peaceful atmosphere, and visited some friends where I refilled my water bottles. I was jaded and irritable: despite the fine weather, the day was challenging and my creative eyes were flagging. On the harbour arm I painted the gulls resting on the rocks while a procession of locals bathers jumped off the pier into the sea.

Melsted is bordered to the south by an open area, grazed by sheep, known to the locals as ‘little Scotland’. Here the parched grass crunched underfoot and yellowhammers, linnets and whitethroats kept an unceasing chatter amongst the juniper bushes (see top). I jumped off the jagged rocks into the invigorating sea, my first time in this year. Afterwards I sat and painted the shadows on a rock. Underfoot, amongst the vegetation surrounding now dried-out pools, thousands of newly metamorphosed minute toads walked and hopped about.

Further on another large campsite bordered the coast. I was feeling a little unsocial and walked quickly through the delicious haze of bacon and sausage smoke. Just past the campsite, I was again stopped in my tracks by some amazing wild flowers, this time Greater Knapweed.

I walked on to the day’s destination, the mouth of the small Kobbe Stream and enjoyed the gradual unfolding of the sunset.


Weather report = Cloudy with dusting of rain in early morning, otherwise sunny with a  few clouds. Temperature between 17 °C and 23 °C , don to 12 in the evening. Wind between 2 and 4 m/s from the west. Visibility: fantastic. Hours of sunshine: 13.5 hours. The hot and dry weather continues.

Lessons learned – Flowers, flowers, flowers

Stops with the M60 = 1

Kilometers walked = 8.43 km

Day lasted = 17 hours, 36 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 37 species (0 new ones! = running total 95)

Other stuff = tired, just tired

People talked to = 1 + 4

In my head = … thoughts relating to the presentation and talk I’m giving at a conference in Canterbury on Thursday (to a soundtrack of ‘Starlight’ by Muse, the earworm to beat all earworms).

KYST 23 – from Hestestene to Tuleknald (Gudhjem), 11.06.18

For at læse denne KYST 23 blog på Dansk, se her…

See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 23 Two days later than originally planned, I set up my gear at the day’s start point, Hestestene, ready for the sunrise. A layer of cloud over the sea to the east obscured sun as it crept over the horizon, but otherwise the sky was blue and the day was already warm.

Suddenly – ’Pleased to meet you!’ – the four note song of the scarlet rosefinch, a real treat which immediately put me in a positive frame of mind. Over the next couple of hours as I explored the area, the rosefinch was my companion, flitting back and forth though never showing. Just down the path from the standing stones a twisted hawthorn framed the sunrise.

The week before I had observed a hawk moth (broad bordered bee hawk moth) feeding on some sticky catchfly flowers, and was hoping for a repeat performance – but the flora had changed markedly in the intervening days and some harebell and cranesbill were flowering in their stead, amongst patches of dead ochre grass resulting from Bornholm’s deepening drought.

Eventually I walked on towards the historic town of Gudhjem, through a coastal path bordered by a thick and unkempt wood on one side and cliffs with bracken and wild flowers on the other. The elder bushes were now flowering, and once again I thought about how quickly the Bornholm flora evolved and transformed week by week. Walking around the cape, I could see the smokeries and red roofs of Nørresand in the distance (see top). A little further on, I came across the idyllic scene of some locals, gathered at the base of the rocks for their morning swim and enjoying a coffee together in the sunshine. I continued on to the beach at Nørresand, and set up my M60 on the raised platform where not long ago fisherman used to sort their nets. Here I ate, rested and slept. A wood pigeon settled in small ash tree just metres from me and started to delicately eat the tips of the youngest leaves.

All along the raised beach area, the yellow mist of Turkish Rocket mixed with the incredible blue-violet of Viper’s Bugloss.

Down by the rocky shore I wandered around looking for tadpoles and newts. The fierce sun and lack of rain meant that many pools were in the process of drying out, while others were turning toxic and green with algae. In one, a soup of thousands of wriggling black tadpoles gathered at the edges of the pool, struggling and desperate for oxygen, while their deceased companions floated on the surface. It was a grim portent of an ecological Armageddon, and in sharp contrast to the idyllic and tranquil scene unfolding around me on the beach. A little further on, I found a mummified smooth newt that had obviously taken a wrong turn when leaving the pool and been literally fried and dried by the sun.

I walked up to ‘Bokul’ the ancient hill overlooking the town. Here many of Bornholm and Denmark’s most well-known artists have painted the red roofs of Gudhjem (‘God’s Home’) and the high blue horizon. The Danish flag fluttered proudly in the breeze.

Down on the coast at Nørresand again, I stopped for a wonderful lunch in the small café by the shore. People milled around and enjoyed the sun. After chatting for a while with a friend I walked around Nørresand harbour and its strange bent harbour-arm. A group of locals sat and sang together in the sun. There was an incredible peaceful and almost utopian atmosphere, and I quickly forgot about the suffocating tadpoles in their ever-shrinking hellish confinement.

Eventually I carried on, past Nørresand and on to Gudhjem proper. Filled with tourists in the summer season, the town was still relatively quiet and relaxed. I sat in the harbour for hours, a little dazed and exhausted, and drank in the tranquil atmosphere. Swifts swooped overhead and the local ferry seemed to merge into the town itself.

After another fantastic café stop (what luxury!) I ambled on, out of Gudhjem and into the rocky cape of Randkløve Odde, the gneiss bedrock cracked and riven with deep fissures and crevices.  Looking back towards the masts and chimneys of Gudhjem the sky was already turning orange.

Incredibly, considering the length of the day, I was running out of time and I walked quickly through the harsh landscape towards my destination. Linnets and whitethroats flitted around, but still no nightingales. I perched on the edge of a cliff and looked south towards the distant town of Svaneke.  The combination of my fatigue and the quickly setting sun lent a welcome looseness and vitality to my brush strokes. It had been a truly fantastic day, and I walked back to the car buzzing with exhaustion to the screams of the courting swifts.


Weather report = Mostly sunny all day clouding over in the late afternoon. Temperature between 17 °C in the early morning and evening and 25 °C in the afternoon. Wind between 3 and 5 m/s from the east. Visibility: fantastic. Hours of sunshine: 13.5 hours. The hot and dry weather continues.

Lessons learned – learning about flowers the whole time, love it…

Stops with the M60 = 2

Kilometers walked = 12.32 km

Day lasted = 17 hours, 28 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 41 species (1 new one = scarlet rosefinch  = running total 95)

Other stuff = despite only sleeping three hours the night before, I had loads of energy through the whole day. The weather could not have been more comfortable (tho’ maybe not so good for watercolour painting).

People talked to = 15 (single and pairs)

In my head = … Exhibition opening at Gudhjem museum. The Patrick Melrose novels. Teenagers. UFC 225. Muse ’Starlight’


KYST 22 – from Stevelen to Hestestene, 01.06.18

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See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 22 I arrived in good time; underslept but looking forward to the day.  There was little wind, and the low mist that I had driven through on my way across the island had all but disappeared by the time I parked the car and walked down the path to the water’s edge. In utter solitude I witnessed the sun break through the horizon and sail into the cloudless sky.

Very soon I realized I had forgotten quite a lot of kit, most importantly my tape (for masking off ‘timeslice’ pictures) and my bedroll. I immediately descended into a bad mood, annoyed that my busyness and lack of sleep had impacted the KYST project. I wandered around and looked at the tinder-dry vegetation clinging to the side of the cliff. One strange plant, with one tiny flower remaining, had the most incredible red leaves.

I wandered along the beach a little, and came to one of the many small streams that emptied into the bay. In the cool shade of the forest I listened out for singing birds and painted unsuccesfully the fresh foliage lit by the rising sun. I was tired and walked back up to the car for some much needed breakfast and strong coffee. Rejuvenated a little, I walked back along the path through the shaded forest clinging to the side of the cliffs for a while, before I came back out on to a small beach. I looked for wild flowers, marveling at how many different sorts there were. I decided to make a painting recording all the flowers of the day. Yet another mink slinked silently between the rocks.

After an uncomfortable 20 minutes or so trying to sleep on the gravelly beach, I packed up again. Instead of walking on the rocky shore in the now considerable heat, I took the shaded path in the wood. Soon I came to the mouth of Bobbe Stream, roughly situated in the middle of the bay and half way between my start point and the day’s destination. Here I unpacked and settled, and tried to connect to the day and my physical environment. In front groups of eiders and their ducklings milled around, the males now long departed. On a cluster of rocks in front of me, one female rested surrounded by mountains of ducklings, who struggled to maintain balance and position on the slippery rocks (see top). This one duck was in charge of more than 70 ducklings.

A friend arrived suddenly with juice and cake, but it took me a while to shake myself loose from the intensity of my solitary headspace. I took a detour into the wooded slopes of the Bobbe river valley, nearly all the way up to the main road. The wood felt heavy and oppressive – there was little birdsong and most of the wild garlic had mostly died back. The heat and the buzz of insects contributed to the summery atmosphere.

Back on the coast, the molting neck feathers on a male shelduck contributed to the sense of endless seasonal change and rotation.

My friend returned again unexpectedly, this time with tape and accompanied by one of the small children I had taught during a recent art project. She explained how, more than fifty years earlier, the beach was covered in sand and was one of Bornholm’s most popular bathing beaches.  As I watched them forage amongst the rocks and pebbles, looking for dead birds for the child to take home, I marveled at how things can change in such a short time.

After they had left again I sat still and watched the birds return to the beach. A hooded crow strutted purposefully amongst the rocks, looking for morsels, sometimes disappearing between the boulders. A hawfinch, not what I was expecting to see, sat by the edge of the wood on the pebbles and seemed stunned by the view of the ocean. A gull paddled in the water and repeatedly picked off tiny specks (of what?) off the surface of the water. A white wagtail bathed vigorously in the fresh water of the stream. A young cormorant dried its wings in the sun, then twisted its neck and looked up, drawing my attention to a red kite being harried by a hooded crow, far overhead.

Eventually I packed up and walked on, trying to keep to the rocky shore instead of the path in the woods. Soon I came to Heksesten (the Witch’s Rock) one of Bornholm’s largest erratic boulders. The shore here was filled with small pools and ponds, wriggling with tadpoles.

I walked along the shore as far as I could, over rocks and bluffs and eventually to a strange isolated beach where iron-age graves have been found. I walked further along the rocks, until I was forced to climb into the forest cladding the cliffs. With all my gear and with no path through the thick and overgrown wood, it was hard going and I arrived at the cliff top coastal path exhausted and covered in sweat. I walked on further until I arrived at ‘Hestestene’ (the horse stones) a group of four ancient standing stones with a commanding view over the bay and onward on to the Hammer peninsula and the day’s destination.

Here I recorded the sun as it swept over the stones and dropped into the sea, lingering and flattening for a while, before it was finally extinguished by the water like a glowing ember. I had been lucky enough to see both the sunrise and the sunset over the water, in one long and eventful day, and I was absolutely exhausted, hallucinating almost. I hauled my things back up to the main road where I hoped to be able to hitch a ride back to my car. There was no traffic and I ran all the way back, accompanied by a roding woodcock on its nocturnal territorial flight.


Weather report = Mostly sunny all day with a few cloudy periods in the afternoon. Temperature between 15 °C in the early morning and evening and 24 °C in the afternoon. Wind between 3 and 7 m/s from the northeast. Visibility: fantastic. Hours of sunshine: 16 hours. The hot and dry weather continues. Six weeks without rain now and 379 hours of sun in May.

Lessons learned – I can will a slow worm to existence. Walking along the path I thought to myself …‘well, I haven’t seen a slow worm yet for the whole KYST trip, I wonder if I’ll see one…’ Thirty seconds later, a slow worm appeared on the path…

Stops with the M60 = 2

Kilometers walked = 8.53 km

Day lasted = 17 hours, 24 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 39 species (2 new ones = red kite ands swift  = running total 95)

Other stuff = these long days are really taking their toll. I’m spending over thirty hours a week on the KYST project at the moment, as well as all the other exhibitions, teaching and so on, and I am beginning to feel the strain. Whilst pushing oneself often increases creativity and makes interesting things happen, there comes a point where it all turns to mud.

People talked to = 4 (2 + 2)

In my head = … I’ve never been happy with the whole concept of four seasons. Rather it seems to me as a series of waves – and endless cycle of expansion and contraction. Whilst in early June some flowers are still yet to bloom, some male ducks have already begun to molt, their work done, and soon waders will be returning back south, their spring and summer already finished. Two seasons makes more sense to me – one of exhalation (growing, breeding, flowering) and one of inhalation (seeding, rest, decay).

KYST 21 – from Helligdomsklipperne to Stevelen, 26.05.18

For at læse denne KYST 21 blog på Dansk, se her

See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 21 For once I was actually in good time – unpacked and ready and armed with a strong coffee, waiting for the sun to break the horizon. Perched high on a rocky outcrop I had a fantastic view of the ocean and the surrounding cliffs and crags. I had heard that a pair of peregrines was nesting somewhere in the area, and I was hoping that I might be lucky enough to get a view of the birds, or even the nest if I could find it. As I gazed out over the sea, I saw the blood-orange light of the sun rise out of the sea, just to the left of the islands of Christiansø, 18km to the north east. At that very moment – at that very moment! – I heard the familiar yikkering call of the peregrine, as if welcoming the new day. Minutes later a huge female peregrine flew out from the cliffs below and sailed back and forth right in front of me, all the time energetically calling. It was a magical and unforgettable moment and I quickly got to work…

For at least ten minutes she powered back and forth, wing tips beating through the still air. A massive and muscular bird, she was silhouetted against the rising sun. I struggled to depict the unusual shape and the sense of weight and power of the bird. It seems almost sacrilegious to say it, but at times, peregrines – especially the much larger females – can seem musclebound, overweight even, and at times she reminded me of a huge and bulky wood pigeon. Every now and then, however, she would turn and stoop, instantly transforming into a jet-powered streamlined and menacing projectile.

When the show was over, and once I had calmed down, I continued working on a painting of the ‘Lyseklippen’ rocks, the same view that I had finished up with last week. There was a cooling onshore wind and the water was agitated, but otherwise the conditions were perfect and I looked forward to the unfolding of the day.

After a quick breakfast in an open-sided barn back at the car-park, where I enjoyed watching swallows building their nests at very close quarters, I continued along the cliff-top path towards my destination. After a short while the path came down and skirted the shore and I walked out on to a stony and secluded beach. Looking south I could see the town of Gudhjem in the distance (see top). I tried to find the peregrine nest, but it was well hidden. Eider ducks with their young were strung out along the shore. Female eider ducks often join forces and raise their young in a communal crèche and I saw one rather harassed looking female in the surf surrounded by no less than 36 fluffy ducklings.

One group of females resting on the shore seemed to be enjoying the better side of the bargain.

I walked on. Unable to continue along the shore because of rocky outcrops, I continued back up along the coastal clifftop path. In the shade of the trees hugging the cliff top there was a constant gurgle and bubble of garden warblers and blackcaps, but little else. There were many lime and sycamore trees, along with the usual ash, wild cherry and rowan. To my right there was farmland, and the clifftop walk felt divorced from the coast down below. I was glad when the path descended again, down to another stony beach. Here I wandered around and had some lunch, and tried to take a small nap. On waking I made some studies of some of the wild flowers (dragon’s teeth and birds-foot trefoil, apparently)  growing amongst the rock pools and grass tussocks flanking the rocky shore.

Another group of three eider ducks were almost invisible on the jagged rocks.

Leaving the beach, but unable to progress further along the shore, I walked back on to the path and round the rocky promonotory called Stevelen, passing through the charming little café where I enjoyed a fantastic coffee with wonderful views of the ocean. It felt luxurious and perhaps a little decadent, and I wandered onwards past Stevelen and down to the shore where the huge sweep of the Salene Bay opened up before me, with the red roofs of Gudhjem clearly visible in the early evening light. I made a timed slice painting, recording the changing light and colours, as the sun set behind me.

When not occupied with the slice painting, I painted the incredibly complex and intricate face of Stevelen. I was struck by how it somewhat mirrored the Jons Kapel rock face I had painted all those weeks ago, during KYST 07.

During a break between ‘stripes’ I had jogged back to the day’s start point and collected my car. A genius move I was very glad for, as I wearily climbed back up to the cliff top path with all my gear and into my waiting car. It had been a fantastic day under a warm sun and as I drove back to my home I could still recall the yikkering peregrine falcon I had witnessed over seventeen hours earlier.


Weather report = Mostly sunny all day with a few cloudy periods in the mid-afternoon. Temperature between 11 °C in the early morning and evening and 19 °C in the afternoon (though it felt cooler with an onshore wind). Wind between 4 and 6 m/s from the west and north west. Visibility: fantastic. Hours of sunshine: 16 hours . Officially the hottest and sunniest May since records began, Bornholm is a tinderbox and drought beckons…

Lessons learned – good idea to run back and collect the car before the sunset, so I was ready to leave after the day finished.

Stops with the M60 = 1

Kilometers walked = 16.04 km (KYST record)

Day lasted = 17 hours, 13 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 38 species (2 new ones = peregrine falcon, dunnock  = running total 93)

Other stuff = when watching the nesting swallows in the barn by the car park, I was struck by how confiding they were. I thought about how much joy these swallows are going to give all the other people and tourists that are going to sit there, like me, and watch them over the next couple of months.

People talked to = 1

In my head = … I couldn’t forget the article I read on about the biomass of life on Earth. Whilst at first I felt reassured that humans only make up 0,01% of the world’s total biomass, I was horrified to read that, out of the total biomass of animals, humans and livestock (domestic animals) make up 96%, with the remaining 4% – FOUR percent!  – wild animals. In another words, in the space of 10,000 years or so (an instant), wild animals have gone from 99,9% to 4%. I can’t get it out of my head.

KYST 20 – from Døndalen to Helligdomsklipperne, 18.05.18

For at læse denne KYST 20 blog på Dansk, se her…

See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 20 The noisy frogs in the pond next to our house had robbed me of the sleep I desperately needed, and I arrived back at Døndalen groggy and a little irritable. The spectacular sunrise and cacophony of bird song emanating from the forest, however, quickly improved my mood and I soon settled back into the reflective and contemplative frame of mind that the day demanded. I started off by revisiting the tree that I had painted at the end of KYST 20. I had hoped that there would be more of a difference in the leaves but the tree (an ash?) was either dead or a late developer.

Between the first and second ‘slice’ of the tree painting I wandered into the forest at Døndalen and walked all the way up to the waterfall, Denmark’s second largest. The weeks of dry weather meant that the falls themselves were somewhat unspectacular, but the atmosphere in the forest so early in the morning was intoxicating, with the soundscape dominated by blackcap, wren, chaffinch, song thrush and wood warbler.

I wandered back to the coast and observed a pair of goosander resting on the shore. Incredible birds, goosander are strange reptilian fish-eating ducks with serrated bills, beautifully marked and often quite flighty, so I was glad for the opportunity to sketch them as they slumbered, stretched  and preened (see above). For the first time this year I saw a raft of eiders with young, 26 newly hatched fluffballs, with three females and a male. A pair of bossy shelduck waddled up on to the shore and the more polite goosander yielded immediately. Even the eiders moved off grudgingly and the drake shelduck settled down for a quick nap on the pebbles.

The area around the mouth of the stream was a meadow filled with various wild flowers and I wandered around to see how many different sorts I could find. I regretted my lack of botanical knowledge, but also enjoyed drawing something new and unknown. I thought of the escaped parrot I had seen in the forest last week, and how exciting and different it had been to try to record something when you don’t know how it is supposed to look.

The weather was glorious – unbroken sunshine and little wind, neither too hot nor too cold. For the first time I had ditched my big and heavy chair and I felt almost nimble as I clambered over the rocky shore towards Helligdomsklipperne (the Cliffs of the Sanctuary/the Holy Cliffs). The forest skirting the shoreline was thick and almost impenetrable, but I noted the many goosander nesting boxes in the trees, put there by local bird-lovers.

By lunchtime I had reached the first of the tall and impressive rocky outcrops that form Helligdomsklipperne and one of Denmark’s most famous natural tourist attractions. In times past, there were a chapel and a holy spring, and pilgrims would visit from near and far. More recently, the area was a favourite motif for Denmark’s Golden Age artists. Today, tourists come to visit the new Art Museum perched on the cliffs, and wander amongst the caves and grottos and perch on the viewpoints and take selfies. I had arranged a rendezvous point with a local TV station (Øens TV), who had come to interview me about the KYST project and we sat on the cliffs and enjoyed some chocolate croissants and coffee in the sunshine. I sat on Libertsklippen, named after an artist, and sketched the strange rocky formations.

Eventually I walked back on to the coastal path, where I searched for a good vantage point to make a timed ‘slice painting’ of the shadows moving over the face of the cliffs. I found a fantastic spot jutting out over the cliffs with a fine view of Helligdomsklippen. Over the next seven or eight hours I returned periodically to update the passage of the sun and the shifting colours.

A little further along, I found another vantage point and started another slice painting of Lyseklippen (‘Torch cliff’). When I wasn’t shuttling back and forth between these two pints, I walked down to the vertiginous steps to the Sorte Gryde (The Black Pot), a deep cavern in the face of the cliffs. The Sorte Gryde and other caves in the region were formed by wave action eroding the diabase magma that had filled cracks in the gneiss bedrock, and testify to the fact that Bornholm’s coastline was higher than that it is today.

As the day reached its end, I paused to watch the sun set just behind the headland to the north-west. I had not managed to sleep and was absolutely shattered. I packed my things and walked back to the main road and back to my waiting car at Døndalen.


Weather report = Mostly sunny all day with a few cloudy periods in the late afternoon. Temperature between 9 °C in the early morning and evening and 17 °C in the afternoon. Wind between 1 and 3 m/s from all directions. Visibility: fantastic. Hours of sunshine: 13 hours .

Lessons learned – it was good to be free from carrying my chair, but my back was messed up when I got home form not being supported for over 16 hours. I need to find a lighter chair. Next time, I NEED to take a longer break.

Stops with the M60 = 0

Kilometers walked = 9.7  km

Day lasted = 16 hours, 17 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 39 species (2 new ones = hawfinch, redstart  = running total 91)

Other stuff = Strange lack of birds around the cliffs. Not a single nightingale heard.

People talked to = 2

In my head = …Luck and our awareness of it. How often have I looked up at JUST the right time and had the good fortune to see a rare bird passing by? But how many times have birds passed me by without me knowing? When I have been in the wrong place at the wrong time? This got me thinking about the link between good luck (=bird watching) and car accidents (=bad luck). How with birds you are aware of your good luck, but not the ones you missed. Where with bad luck, you are only aware of the times you ‘crashed’, not all the innumerable ‘close shaves’ (…at the time, gazing out over the sea, it all made sense and seemed quite profound…). Teenagers, Trust. Forgiveness. Parenting. Being involved.