Monday, October 30, 2017

A Trip to Caerleon

A couple of weeks ago we travelled over the Severn bridge into Wales for a day. It's not far for us being only about 50 miles or so. Our destination, the town of Caerleon. Ancient Roman military fortress of Isca and later believed by some, to be the legendary court of King Arthur. Of course having a love of all things Arthurian, it was time to tick this place off my list.
The day was mild, the sun shone and the place had a quiet sense of peace about it. Just a few other people were walking around on a Saturday. Our footsteps fell where Roman Gladiators fought and in the October stillness, the gulls and rooks hid any whispers of ghosts on the grassy mounds.  
Like many places in the uk, the amphitheatre is believed to be a possible site of the legendary round table. Since the middle ages it has been known locally as 'King Arthurs Round Table'  In Geoffrey of Monmouth's writing from 1133 he tells of King Arthur holding court at the 'City of the Legions' (Caerleon)
Just fiction, or home of Camelot? I think the mystery is what makes the story more enticing and I just love visiting all the places that are connected with the legend. To read more about Roman times and King Arthur and Caerleon have a look at   
We had our lunch in the Hanbury Arms where Alfred Lord Tennyson lodged in 1856 whilst working on his long Arthurian poem Idylls of the King
It being so mild we sat outside beside the river Usk. It's swirling murky depths, sunlight on brown kept it's secrets hidden within it's currents of all that it has witnessed over time. Roman, Arthurian, Poet and another million stories of the Welsh riverbanks.
"The Usk murmurs at the window and I sit like King Arthur in Caerleon" 

'King Arthur made new knights to fill the gap
Left by the Holy Quest; and as he sat

In hall at old Caerleon, the high doors
Were softly sundered, and through these a youth,

Pelleas, and the sweet smell of the fields
 Past, and the sunshine came along with him' 
~extract from Pelleas and Ettare

After lunch we browsed around the beautiful space of Ffwrrwm. A magical place filled with the most magnificent carvings. Characters depicted from the Welsh Mabinogion
And shops with Celtic inspired gifts, like a tiny slice of Glastonbury.
'Arthur and Mordred in battle'
'Ceridwen and Taliesin'
And the biggest welsh love spoon I've ever seen!
After a tea and a welsh cake in the lovely cafe here, I returned home with a couple of souvenirs and three fallen acorns picked up from beneath the oak overlooking the ancient remains.
Tomorrow is the last day of October, the veil is thin and I shall plant these to remember and help give life to new, from old. 
Happy Halloween x

* King Arthur painting, by Charles Ernest Butler

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Walnut Ink

A few weeks back, I picked up some windfall walnuts and thought I would have a go at making myself some ink. The idea of making walnut ink has always appealed to me as the colour of the wood is beautiful.
Inside the walnuts hadn't developed and some were older than others, but I purposely picked the dark ones as I read somewhere that the older and more darker, the richer the ink? After chopping them up into pieces I put them into a bowl and covered them with water. 
Then left them for 24 hours to soak and release all of their gorgeous nutty colour. 
If you have ago at making this, remember to use an old bowl as the ink stains and will get into any tiny little crack or scratch. Also make sure you wear old clothes or an apron and rubber gloves, as it can stain hands for weeks. The smell was delicious, the fresh aroma you get when eating a fresh walnut. 
After soaking thoroughly, (infact I ended up leaving it an extra 24 hours as I was busy with something else) you transfer it to a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for  about 30 minutes

Once it has cooled, strain through a piece of muslin or similar type material into a jug. Squeeze as much out as possible. Depending on how much you have made add about 10 -20% alcohol, or some recipes say vinegar. (I used vodka) to prevent any mold forming. 
Then transfer it into any spare bottles or jars. Some empty Star Child incense jars that I had in the cupboard were perfect for the job. 
The next bit was testing it out. I was really pleased with the colour.   
The tones achieved through layering were quite impressive and I was able to manage to get quite dark contrasts with the ink as I had a good black sediment in the pot. October was 'Inktober' month and although I've been too busy to commit to take part everyday I've enjoyed having a play about with ink. 
It being walnut ink, I felt I had to draw trees.
And a walnut or two.