Vast landscape, tiny worlds at the Stiperstones

I've been working in my new part time role with Enable Employment Services for a few months now and it's transformed my life. As an Expert by Experience (my life of dealing with depression, anxiety and 'everything else'), I contribute my pennyworth to meetings and other areas. For the first time since moving here, twelve years ago when it all went so terribly, awfully wrong, I feel I have a place and purpose in Shropshire and lovely work colleagues. I'm less isolated and it's having a positive effect on my art and mental health, neither of which have been right for all the time I've lived here.

A couple of days ago I was able to take part in a volunteering/team building day with Shropshire Wild Teams and we all headed over to the Stiperstones Nature Reserve for a tree clearing session. Enjoy this short video, taken from the cab of the minibus and accept my apologies for the wobbles and bad light; a proper video camera is still sadly a pipe dream, but you get the general sweep of the area.

The narrow roads leading up to the Stones are long and winding, gradually rising until you are many miles above sea level. There are scatterings of houses along the way - most too small to be called a village - and it is a wide, windswept landscape with views across to the Long Mynd and beyond. It was a cool, overcast day and the rain held off, though huge grey clouds marched along the skyline. 

I had a bit of bother scrambling up the scrubby gorse covered slope, as my legs are quite arthritic now. But several of my younger colleagues kindly gave me a helping hand and eventually I borrowed a stout stick, which was so handy that I had become quite attached to it by the end and was sad to return it. While everyone else began chopping down the invasive young conifers that are choking up the natural habitat, I wandered slowly up the hill, marvelling at the rich flora underfoot. I had anticipated having to sit the activity out and had brought along some art materials. The surrounding landscape was majestic, however I couldn’t have done it justice. So I focussed on the wonders at my feet; the tiny worlds of lichen and mosses which were sprouting on dead wood and old stumps. 



So easily overlooked and yet on closer inspection, so exquisite in their form and colour, resembling an underwater coral reef, with scuttering beetles and bugs for 'fish'. 

I spent some time searching for the elusive perfect patch, eventually settling down on my blanket for a happy hour of drawing. 
I had a big sketch pad with me, and rather than fiddle about with a fussy, intricate study, I swept my pastels across the page, enlarging the diminutive stalks to giant size. Chunky little Unison pastels (a  gift from long ago) created the swoop and sway of the dancing stalks.

I was completely lost in my work, adding bright accents of colour, darker areas of negative space and later, thinner, more fragile suggestions of outlines with pastel pencils, another kind gift from a friend and a nice reminder of them as I worked. 

I did have a ‘moment’,  thinking about how Andy loved this area, in his brief time here. I had brought his Swiss Army knife with me, which I used to trim a pencil and I huddled into the waxed jacket I was wearing, which used to be his. 



I was so lost in my work that I completely missed the sandwich break and didn’t eat my packed lunch until I eventually got home and then promptly fell asleep after a marvellous day out.



Saffa Barkhordar said...

Love your beautiful drawing Gretal 🌿 what a beautiful place to visit and landscape/ details to draw, xxx

Granny Sue said...

What a treat to spend time in such a wild place. It is just beautiful there, Gretel. I am glad you are enjoying the job. Sounds like it has made a world of difference for you.

Mary, Windy Meadows Farm said...

I loved this! The video of the winding roads, the beauty of the scenery around you, and your artwork- wonderful! What a great way to spend time - inspiring.

Lin said...

Beyond the beauty of the day....I am so HAPPY that you are out and about and enjoying your time with others! Yea!! I'm glad you found this new opportunity. :)

Puddock said...

So glad to see you back, Gretel x