Sunday, 25 January 2009

Aylestone Meadows, January

Pollarded Willows, Aylestone Meadows and Ulverscroft Brook, 11in approx Vivien Blackburn

A sketch of pollarded (viciously :>( ) willows in Aylestone Meadows - the area I've chosen to revisit throughout the year.

It was after 3pm and the late sunlight was golden and dramatic against the cool winter colours of the sky, reflections in the water and bleached reeds and grasses. I love these lights, so specific to a season, time or place.

This photo was taken nearby - the willows in the sketch are just a little further along the path. The wall is the beginning of the packhorse bridge, going off to the left across streams and wetland.

When I took this second photo I've shown, back in the Spring, they hadn't been cut back - they may have been getting dangerous? but it's such a shame to see these huge trees butchered like this. My children climbed them when they were young and it will be a few years before any children can climb these and the whole area suffers from their loss. (Though I have to admit I loved drawing them),

The bridge in the first photo is a railway bridge and in the second is a Victorian bridge over the canal, which links to the 15C packhorse bridge that crosses the flood plain to the right. They are taken at about 180deg to each other from only a few yards apart. You can see the modern pedestrian footbridge across the brook, that joins the canal, in the foreground of the second and in the distance in the first.

Marshy land was the most difficult and dangerous for travellers to cross in the past and this was a very important bridge on a route for the coal from the mines in the north of the county as well as local traffic. When the canal was built it destroyed part of the packhorse bridge.

The whole area is a tangle of streams, rivers, pools and canal with a variety of bridges from the 15C to th 20C and flood meadows.

The sketch was done with Neocolor II water soluble crayons and a bit of white gouache and black conte pencil. It's about 11 inches square-ish. ( I don't do 'accurate'!)

Link to sketches of the meadows, waterways and bridges from the air here

PS another version of the willows here on my blog


Katherine Tyrrell said...

You're going to have to do us a map! :)

I actually like pollarded willows but these do seem to have been butchered. I wonder what they'll be like come Spring?

Tina Mammoser said...

Really like this piece! Since my only knowledge of English willows is the whomping willow in Harry Potter this seems right in tone. ;) (I'm used to weeping willows in midwest USA)

vivien said...

rather strange I think with lowish bushy heads on incredibly thick trunks!

Yes pollarded willows can look faboulous and Van Gogh-ish - I loved drawing these - but the area suffers for the loss of the tall trees.

Apparently they are supposed to have grown from fence posts

- put in by the Victorian canal builders??

vivien said...


oh we have our weeping willows too

what about the willow in the Hobbit? the vicious one that attackd Bilbo Baggins :>D

thanks Tina

vivien said...

I've added a link to some aerial views I did of the site so that you can understand the layout :>)

Laureline said...

So glorious, Vivien! Great, great calligraphic form.

Jeanette said...

This is a lovely piece and really gives a sense of the willows and the surrounding bracken.

Willows are probably my favourite tree and I have about 25 on the property. I also remember them well from the Somerset Levels when I lived there. All those willows pollarded to make baskets.

Lindsay said...

The line work is wonderful. And of course that orange in there just glows.
I always wondered why a tree might be pollarded. Might it fall in the canal? Around here, no one really does this.

vivien said...

Laura, Jeanette and Lindsay - thanks :>)

They were pollarded because they grow fast and so the young branches were used for firewood and basket making - and hurdle fences and stuff as well. They were an ongoing crop. Craftspeople still do those things.

Willows do go rotten with age so maybe these were getting dangerous - certainly one branch was breaking away and nearly hanging in the water when I sketched there in the Spring.

Anonymous said...

Your pollarded trees look great - very lively. It would be lovely to wander round somewhere as pretty as that. But I hate seeing lovely trees treated like this. An over-zealous Council gardener pollarded some main street Pohutukawa (New Zealand's native "christmas tree") just before they flowered for Christmas one year and you should have heard the uproar LOL

Gesa said...

Great willows! Well: great sketch of poor willows. I am watching intently on everyone's repeat visit projects... The blog is ending up with such a thickness of descriptive and explorative material around the subject, it is fascinating!

vivien said...

it is isn't it Gesa :>) and I'm looking forward to the progress of all these projects and fascinatingly different insights

Cath that's typical of our local council - they planted beautiful roses near me, that flowered and flowered for a few years and then they 'pruned' them with a chain saw - no more roses :>( every one died.

muddy red shoes said...

gorgeous, colours mood, everything, bit rackhamesque too.