Sunday, 17 August 2008

On Wapley Hill

Wapley Hill is in the very north west corner of Herefordshire to the south of Presteigne. It is largely covered by conifer plantations and a large Hillfort covers the hill summit. As with many of the hills in the area the views are spectacular - if you can see them, that is, over the tops of the conifers. I spent a day walking there recently and this blog records my observations as I sat for forty minutes, just looking and watching.

I am sitting on top of the main rampart on the north east side of the hill looking out towards Presteigne, Stonewall Hill, Coles Hill and north towards Knighton. It is a fresh August midday with the sky full of grey clouds and a strong coolish breeze moves the trees. I sit on some soft grass sheltered by a wall of bracken. I overlook a series of huge ancient ramparts that were cleared last winter, or thereabouts, of invasive birch trees and undergrowth to create a more open outlook between me and the conifers that down on the almost impossibly steep hillside here.

It is quiet up here. Just the wind in the trees, the odd chirping of birds in the forest and the distant hum of traffic and farm work. The clouds are great grey, heavy, flat and dark bottomed masses moving slowly above me.

I am surrounded by a rich vegetation of bracken beginning to brown at the edges, birch and oak regrowth, grasses, ferns, Ragwort, seeding Foxgloves, Rosebay Willowherb, Wood Sage, Elder and much more. Everything is thriving in this wet summer. Occasionally a bumble bee hums past and several ants and other walking insects pass over my sketchpad or my clothes. A small bright yellow spider moves over a blade of grass and an invisible thread of silk next just next to me.

The hills remind me of my father, of the paintings he did and of the many walks we did in this area when I was young.

In the distance I hear some children enjoying the freedom of being up the hill and out in the open.

There is so much growing around me and I observe the huge variety in shade of green spread out before me. From the bright green, almost yellow, small herb (not sure what) to the dark green of the bracken and ferns. Then there are the yellow splashes of the Ragworts and the pinks of the Rosebay Willowherb, Foxgloves and Red Campion. There is a beautiful assortment of delicate grasses waving gently in the breeze. From my viewpoint over the ramparts below me I notice how all the plants are arranged: individually in isolation, clumps and in groups. There are numerous areas of colour and shape where each plant species has its own area or block of existence. There are patterns of randomness and order, all are natural. This just seemed like a place where it was so easy to see how different species of plants colonise an area of land - how they might disperse their seeds or reproduce vegetatively. And yet it was almost like looking at blocks of colour on a painting, with different brushstrokes and paint splatters here and there.

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