Monday, 27 July 2015

'Deeply Dippy' & Meeting the Devon Sketchbook

After spending a lovely week in Devon, I thought I would share with you some of our revisits and discoveries and how I documented them in a small concertina sketchbook that I made especially for the trip.

You may wonder why this blogpost is called 'Deeply Dippy' (copying the name of the song by Right Said Fred !)  Well, it kept coming into my mind when we had several opportunities to see one of my favourite birds - the Dipper.

I had previously seen Dippers in Snowdonia, but it had always been my wish to see them in Devon, slightly closer to home and their characteristic dipping movement.  I knew that they were often seen on the River Dart, which flows from Dartmoor down to Dartmouth and Kingswear, on the south coast of Devon.

We were lucky that the Dart flowed through the land belonging to the cottage of where we were staying, Apple Loft Cottage adjacent to Kilbury Manor near Buckfastleigh.  On our first evening my wish was granted and we saw 2 Dippers as well as several Kingfishers that flew at speed past us.

The 'golden' waters of the River Dart
Looking southwards along the river.  In the evening the Kingfishers would come from this direction and I presume return to their roost sites further up stream.
 The South Devon Steam Railway was nearby and one evening we watched several Dippers use a log below the bridge to perch on and occasionally go into the water looking for food.  We also noticed a couple of them fly in and perch on the brick work at strange angles, very much like a Nuthatch.  Perhaps they were on the look out as they came into roost before they went to the overhanging roots on the opposite bank of the river.

My only image of a Dipper.  Unfortunately the light was going.
This particular evening we saw 6 birds.  2 of them seemed to be flying to another territory whilst the other 4 were a family group that looked to be 2 adults and 2 juveniles.  We sat there for near on and hour as they fed at the waters edge and went in and out of their tree roots roost.

When we got back to the cottage I did a 'memory' sketch, as I had stupidly forgot to take my sketching kit down to the river.
The 'Dipper' page from the sketchbook (I used a reference photo) to complete the sketch.  The small sketch above the bird is of the perch that they used under the railway bridge.
Another favourite place that we visited was Wistmans Wood.  A small upland Oak woodland where the trees are hundreds of years old and grow stunted and twisting between the granite rocks on the valley side.

Left: Wistmans Wood can be seen on the right of the valley in the distance of this image.

Once inside the woodland there is something very special about it.  Some people call it 'spooky' but I definitely don't consider it this.  There is something about it though, and when there are no other visitors around you certainly feel at one with nature and landscape history.

Sunlight through the trees.  The branches are 'dripping' with lichens, ferns and mosses. 

The rocks are also covered with numerous mosses and on this visit some of them were home to English stonecrop, a delicate whitish pink flower with succulent type leaves.

Sketching in Wistmans Wood
Left: The Dartmoor bog page and right: The Wistmans Wood page in the sketchbook.

One trip we were really looking forward to was going out on a rigid inflatable (RIB) from Dartmouth and out to sea to the Mew Stone, a rocky outcrop where a variety of seabirds roost and Grey seals can often be seen hauling themselves up on to it as the tide changes.

It was very tricky to take any photos as we were perched on the inflated side of the boat hanging onto a rope to ensure that we didn't fall in !  We motored gently out of the harbour and noticed several Barrel jellyfish, but once in the open sea we moved at speed, which I must admit was very exhilarating !
As we reached the Mew Stone you could see the zones on the rocks of where different lichens grew and therefore produced these bands of colours in some areas.  The rocks almost glowed in the sun as the golden lichens shone out.  Seabirds were perched in several places and the rocks were bleached by bird guano.
A Cormorant perched on an area of the Mew Stone.
Just before we started to head back to Dartmouth husband spotted a Grey seal.  It was near the base rocks and then we noticed it playing with a bouy which it actually seemed to detatch from its rope.  It was great fun to watch as the boat bobbed up and down and I think it is good not to have photos of everything you see, memories are so important.

The Mew Stone sketchbook page.  As we docked at the quayside there was a small jellyfish in the waters known as a Compass jellyfish, so that made its way into the sketchbook too.
A bit more about the sketchbook
It was created using scraps of mountboard covered in coloured paper.
The internal pages were made from a sheet of Fabriano Artistico HP 140lb watercolour paper, folded into the chosen size.  This was great to use as it took a good amount of paint without buckling.
The end pages were then glued onto the covered board using an acid free glue.
A ribbon was attached to the back cover so that it could be held together when not in use.

There's not too much time to sit back and reminisce as next week I am teaching a Natural History Illustration Course at the Kingcombe Centre in Dorset. I'll be blogging daily from the course and you can catch the blog posts on my other blog Art & the Hedgerow.
Just a polite reminder that all images on this blog are protected by Copyright and are the property of myself Sarah Morrish at Natures Details. No images may be reproduced or copied in any form, unless permission is sought from myself.


  1. I feel I have had a mini-holiday just reading your post and enjoying the beautiful photos and sketches. What a great idea to devote an entire sketchbook to one trip. You visited some some magical places--thanks for sharing!


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