|Eric Ravilious, Village Street (1936)|
I'm looking forward to visiting Saffron Walden on 13 July for my 'Ravilious in Essex' talk. I was there for the opening of the show a couple of months ago and took the opportunity to do a little detective work around Castle Hedingham and Great Bardfield.
One can get a bit obsessed with finding the locations of paintings, but I love exploring an area with an artist as a sort of invisible companion. I find I look at everything that much more closely and remember what I've seen, heard, smelt and otherwise noticed that much more clearly. In September 2008 I spent a crazy day racing around London looking for shops, pubs, etc that Rav depicted in 'High Street' and that journey is etched into my memory along with incidents that happened along the way.
|Falcon Square, Castle Hedingham, today|
Similarly, I can close my eyes and picture the walk up from Glynde station to Bedingham Hill, scene of so many of the pictures in 'Ravilious in Pictures: Sussex and the Downs'. As the popularity of Radio 4's literary walks show 'Ramblings' demonstrates, there's something tremendously appealing about walking with a cultural goal, or with a writer or artist as a ghostly guide. So often I seem to walk without noticing my surroundings - mind elsewhere, daydreaming or worrying. On a Rav walk I'm focused, alert, looking for clues.
|The Hovis Mill|
|Hull's Mill, 1935|
On my rambles I found places that had scarcely changed in the seventy-plus years since Ravilious lived and worked in Essex. Other scenes had disappeared under housing developments or become overgrown, and it was interesting to see just how change had occurred and to compare Rav's vision with reality. I'll be showing some of the pictures I took at the Fry talk - and at future events.
The highlight of the Castle Hedingham walk was reaching Hull's Mill - which you can get to via a circular walk from Sible Hedingham that runs along the river and then back up over the hill and through a glorious old wood. The old Hovis Mill has been a private house for years, but it still looks much the same as it did in 1935. What really struck me, though, was the noise. You can't tell this from Rav's painting, but the stream in the foreground goes over a weir just after it crosses the road and the sound of falling water is almost deafening.
|Hull's Mill today|