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).

KYST 25

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.

KYST 24

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

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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.

KYST 23

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.

KYST 22

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

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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.

KYST 21

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 Guardian.com 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.

KYST 20

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.

 

KYST 19 – from Stammershalle to Døndalen, 11.05.18

For at læse denne KYST 19 blog på Dansk, se her

See here for an introduction to the KYST project

 

KYST 19 As I arrived back at Stammershalle, I could still see distant flashes and rumblings in the leaden sky from the huge thunderstorm that had kept me awake a few hours previously. There was no wind and the dawn air was mild, but there were intermittent light showers and the dark sky threatened. There was a peculiar rose-orange glow where the rising sun was hidden by the thick cloud layer. The smell of the rain and the cool air felt rejuvenating and I was keen to get started. Instead of painting from the same place where I had finished the week before, I decided to break with tradition and concentrate on the sky.

Stammershalle is a huge gneiss promontory with commanding views of the eastern coastline of Bornholm between Sandvig and Gudhjem. No wonder then that the site is riddled with graves, standing stones and other archaeological artefacts all the way from Bornholm’s first Paleolithic settlers to the Iron Age. I wandered around and soaked up the atmosphere, to a constant twittering of linnets, whitethroats and yellowhammers. To the west I could see changes in the weather and I quickly set up a ‘slice painting’, recording the changes in the sky and light over a period of several hours (see top).

Looking north back towards Tejn, groups of eider ducks were hauling out in the sheltered bays between the rocks. With my telescope I admired the crisp graphic shapes of the dumpy eider drakes.

A little closer, a pair rested on the rocks, the drake preening vigorously while the duck looked on admiringly.

Eventually I packed my things and walked on through the drizzle. Heading south east I kept to the rocky shore away from the coastal path close to the road. Again, this part of the coast felt little-visited and I took it slowly, taking frequent rests and gazing at the rich and undisturbed habitat, the wild orchids and tadpole-filled rock pools. Eventually I came to a small pebbly beach where I set up my M60 and made some lunch. The weather was changing all the time and a fog rolled in, obscuring the Helligdom cliffs from view, to the south.

Completely and wonderfully alone I ambled in the sprawling woodland skirting the beach and watched a pair of sand lizards engaged in some strange courtship dance – the female’s jerking her arms in a curious way before darting suddenly off, only to be tracked down by the persistent male in his emerald finery. A group of resting eider drakes bobbed around in front of me oblivious to my presence.

The fog dissipated and the sun broke through the clouds for a few moments. I couldn’t stop myself painting more eiders, one of my favourite subjects.

I painted to the chack and rattle of the thrush nightingales that were just setting up their territories all the way around Bornholm’s coast. A more visible KYST companion are the white wagtails constantly flitting between the rocks on the shore

I was tired and had already been going for nearly eight hours – and yet the day was only half started. I couldn’t sleep and ambled onwards. The going was tough over the rocky and pebbly shore and I cursed all my equipment. I walked past the tiny harbour at Bådsted, a little-known jewel of a place, and through wild growth of nettles, to arrive at another rocky headline. Here a colony of common gulls screamed and yelped at my arrival.

With time, however, the gulls settled down and returned to their nests. I sat and drew portraits of one gull who sat not three metres from me, her button-like eye staring at me reproachfully.

Eventually I continued on to a large stony beach, hidden from the busy road by a thick and overgrown wood. Birdsong and the wonderful smell of cherry blossom and wild garlic emanated from the trees. I wandered along the woodland path and marveled at it all. The white anemone and cherry blossom had now peaked and had been replaced by the constellations of wild garlic flowers. The elm and wild cherry trees wore fresh new leaves, with the alder and ash not far behind. I partly felt the need to record this floral abundance for the KYST project, and felt almost guilty that I had concentrated so heavily on eiders. But I was tired and was content looking.

I walked on, over rocky capes and pebbly beaches, until I eventually made it to the mouth of the Døn stream. Here a valley cloaked in thick forest carries the stream in to the heart of Bornholm, so I made a detour and wandered around the woods, hoping I might spot a dipper. I didn’t and returned to the coast, where I painted a large tree in two sections. I was dead tired now and finished off just as the sun was setting behind some thin clouds, momentarily casting a golden light over the nearby Helligdom cliffs, next week’s destination.

KYST 19

Weather report = Overcast with scattered showers in the early morning and early afternoon. Foggy periods with the sun breaking periodically through. Temperature between 10 and 15 °C. Wind between 2 and 3 m/s from the northwest. Visibility: good to poor. Hours of sunshine: 2 hours .

Lessons learned – if you see something that really catches your eye (a flower for instance) don’t think, ‘I’ll stop and find another one later’, ‘cos you won’t.

Stops with the M60 = 3

Kilometers walked = 9.81  km

Day lasted = 15 hours, 55 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 45 species (8 new ones = osprey, hobby, black throated divers, tree creeper, whitethroat, thrush nightingale, wood warbler, garden warbler = running total 89)

Other stuff = perfect weather conditions for the whole day really…. The smell of a seabird colony is such a special odor – unlike any other I know – and one that always fills me with excitement and reminds me of Scotland, Bass Rock and the Seabird Drawing Course

People talked to = 0

In my head = …driving over to the island to Stammershalle at 4.30 in the morning, I took the ‘bumpy road’ skirting the Rø forest. Just as I crested one of the small hills a car (another car – at 4.30!) shot over the hill in the opposite direction. We were both towards the middle of the road, and possibly a little over the speed limit, and we must have missed each other by a matter of inches. It was so close and so sudden that I was completely shook up, heart pounding, and for the rest of the day I was plagued by ‘what if’ thoughts. Just one metre to the left and it would have been game over. Crazy.

KYST 18 – from Tejn Harbour to Stammershalle, 04.05.18

For at læse denne KYST 18 blog på Dansk, se her…

See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 18 Once again I was greeted by a clear blue sky, a dead calm sea, and the miraculous sight of the blood orange sun breaking the horizon. I quickly set myself up back at the bench where I had watched the sunset only five days previously. I made an identical picture, split into three sections.

Soon after I arrived, the first groups of sailors started turning up for the ‘Trolling Master Bornholm 2018’, a five-day sports fishing race to land the largest salmon. The atmosphere of the harbor slowly became almost festival-like, as groups of people clad in matching suits unloaded their gear prepared their equipment and boats in the fresh morning light. A drone flew overhead filming and a voice on the Tannoy assembled the competitors.  Slowly the first group of boats chugged out of the harbour and positioned themselves in formation by the mouth of the harbour arm in a huge semi-cirlce. With the sounding of a klaxon there was a colossal roar of engines and the boats sped off in all directions. It was an impressive sight and it was fantastic to see the harbour heaving with activity, but I couldn’t help wondering how, in the space of a generation, a thriving fishing industry had been replaced by this.

I walked on, away from the town and along the rocky and uneven coast. Between the rocks and the gardens of the fantastic houses facing the sea, there was a coastal meadow, with sea rush, tussocks of grass and countless pools wriggling with tadpoles and newts. Every now and then I would cross a small stream. I looked around for grass snakes, but found none. A dead herring gull, beautifully lit, caught my attention (see top)

I clambered over and across rocks and gullies, capes and bays. A little further I came to Dybe Rende, a fault or crack in the bedrock, forming a narrow natural harbour.

Further along the coast, I could see with my telescope an odd couple resting together on the rocks. A shelduck and a barnacle goose, I remembered them from last week’s walk. Actually I’ve seen shelduck/barnacle goose pairings before in other places; there must be some sort of mutual attraction. Strange as they don’t resemble each other at all and are not even that closely related.

I walked on, over a larger stream and on to a deserted pebbly beach, where on a small sandy clearing I set up the M60, had some lunch and took a nap in the warm sun. On waking I walked around and explored the small unkempt woodland facing the beach. The coast between Tejn and Stammershalle is rarely visited and quite inaccessible with no coastal path, and it was all new to me. I made some studies of the leaves and flowers I found – I know next to nothing of botany and drawing is the best way I know of learning. There was succulent growth and bird song.

Eventually I packed up and trudged onwards, over the folded bedrock that hugged most of the coast. The coastal meadow was dominated by lumpy hillocks of grass and the going was no easier. With my binoculars I could see groups of eider ducks cavorting around, and further out the Trolling boats speeding back to Tejn Harbour. I looked back up towards Tejn, with Allinge visible in the distance.

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As I approached my journey’s destination a couple of friends dropped by with fortifying refreshments and we sat and chatted for a while on the rocks. I was glad for the company, but there was a chilly wind now and I braced myself for a final session on the day’s destination Stammershalle, a huge rocky outcrop jutting out into the sea. Despite the long day I was running out of time and I settled down and looked northwest at the setting sun. It had been a fantastic walk along an unspoiled and little-known part of Bornholm’s coast in wonderful weather, but there was a niggling feeling that I had not made the most of it. As I jogged all the way back to the car, I made copious mental notes of things to change for next time.

KYST 17

Weather report = Sunny for almost all of the day. Temperature between 6 and 12 °C. Wind between 2 and 5 m/s from the northwest. Visibility: good. Hours of sunshine: 13 hours .

Lessons learned – With my present palette I am unable to produce or mix a really good purple. Need to find one and add it for next time.

Stops with the M60 = 2

Kilometers walked = 10.3  km

Day lasted = 15 hours, 15 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 40 species (2 new ones = oystercatcher and raven = running total 81)

Other stuff = need to shake it up a bit. The coast and weather has been broadly similar for three weeks in a row.

People talked to = 2

In my head = glad to be feeling more healthy again…but still feeling so run down

 

KYST 17 – from Store Sandkås to Tejn Harbour, 29.04.18

For at læse denne KYST 17 blog på Dansk, se her…

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See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 17 Two days later than planned, thanks to a nasty and never ending cold, I finally made it back to Store Sandkås in time for the sunrise. It was mild and still but overcast.

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Before carrying on along the coast, I made a short detour to the mouth of Store Dal, one of Bornholm’s many nearby ‘sprækkedale’ (a narrow and deep valley formed by a fault line in the granite bedrock). Here I sat in the hidden wood and enjoyed a carpet of white anemones and a rather muted dawn chorus.

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I returned to the coast and my parked car where I had my breakfast and a flask of coffee waiting for me. There were no people around, and only a few birds. The day seemed different to my other walks, it really felt like a Sunday. The clouds had by now vanished and the monotonous lilting trill of the willow warblers and distant cawing from a rookery made me drowsy. I packed up my things and walked along the sandy beach for a while. To my right the hotels and summer houses of Sandkås. Eventually I stopped by a fine and well situated Alder tree. I painted the tree from the trunk upwards, as it grows, my paintbrush following the twisted branches and ending with the first shoots budding on some of the outermost twigs.

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I walked on and found a spot on the beach where I set up the M60 brolly and tried to sleep. I was still unwell and exhausted. I couldn’t sleep and was drawn in by the strong sunlight on the granite outcrops.

dav

I slept a little, woke and walked over to the water’s edge.  A huge mink emerged between some boulders not three metres from me. Instead of rushing off in fear, he slowly slinked off unconcernedly, with me cursing under my breath my lack of paper and pencils. A little later I spotted a stunning sand lizard basking in the sun. This time I was prepared and inched slowly closer until I was near enough to really study him.

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I continued along the shore. The granite here was veined and coloured differently. There were pools and meadows with flowers and green growth between the granite shore and the coastal path. The day was hot and tranquil. I found an exposed spot where the wind was more invigorating and watched a group of swans milling about by the shore. It was a peaceful enough scene but one cob was feeling aggressive and territorial and spent the whole time posturing and blustering.

I carried on and tried to paint the reflections in a rock pool, but the hot sun dried the paints too quickly.

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As I continued towards Tejn Harbour I could see ships and boats of all sizes entering the harbor. The shore became less sandy and more rocky, crossed with small streams and swampy marshes. In one of these I hid between stands of sea rush and drew some ridiculously yellow marsh marigolds.

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I finally made it to the harbor, cursing my heavy pack, the unwieldy M60 brolly, and the awkward camp chair. Tejn harbor is large and industrial and was busy with groups of sport fisherman returning back with huge rod-caught salmon. Together with the locals, clusters of hale and hearty Germans, Norwegians and Swedes set up barbeques and drank beer in the late afternoon sun. I was a little jealous and must have cut a somewhat forlorn figure, traipsing past with all my gear. By now my resolve was fading fast as I walked all the way to the harbor arm. Instead of looking at the harbor, the fisherman, or the fine town of Tejn, I turned my back on it all and watched the shadows move and the colours transform on a group of boulders on the pier arm in the fading light of the day.

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KYST 17

Weather report = Sunny for almost all of the day. Temperature between 10 and 14 °C. Wind between 1 and 4 m/s from the northwest. Visibility: moderate. Hours of sunshine: 13 hours 30 minutes.

Lessons learned – it is definitely worth putting up the M60 and painting in the shade rather than painting in direct sunlight.

Stops with the M60 = 2

Kilometers walked = 8.98  km

Day lasted = 14 hours, 59 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 43 species (3 new ones = barnacle goose, house martin, gadwall = running total 79)

Other stuff = an amazing aerial show by four white wagtails zipping, diving and plunging after each other. Insanely fast and maneuverable, almost beyond comprehension.

People talked to = 2

In my head = Incredible changes in the 9 days since my last trip – this really is the most dynamic time of the year. Funny how the coast is probably NOT the best place to be at the moment. Endless internal moanings about how shit I felt. Realization that I have been so lucky with three sunny days on the trot. Fear that I am owed some rain and wind. Hope that I will be healthy on Friday.

2018-04-30