You can smell the acrid smell of wood smoke from two fields away. I had almost hoped they were burning today. I remember cycling round the lake one day and glancing up to see a plume of smoke on the horizon rising from the woods across the reservoir. On that dry May day it could have been a catastrophic fire but up in ancient Littless Wood they were burning charcoal.
Today, a grey and chilly morning, I took a cycle rather than a walk up to Littless Wood to the charcoal burning camp. They must have been there quite recently. The smell of burning was so strong.
I have long been keen to draw or paint something on the theme of charcoal burning. Many years ago I made a small sketch after watching the capping of a kiln, brilliant red flames flaring up around the black rim of the conical lid.
But today just some sketches of the deserted and eerily quiet camp. The kilns are curious things, uncompromisingly black and simple geometric shapes in stark contrast to the leafy tangle of the wood. A high wind rustled the tree tops but at ground level things were very still. A fox barked somewhere in the wood. It’s a distinctive and shivering sound.
The blackest thing in the scene was a pile of charcoal, deepest black black. It gleams like coal.
I get a bit frustrated with the rigidity and slowness of this pen sometimes. Next time I will take some ink to use with the brush or a dip pen. I didn’t have a decent dark colour with me today so mixed up a darkish grey from 3 colours.. but it doesn’t have the power of ink. Maybe tomorrow..
Meanwhile I spent quite a bit of today with two rescued bumble bees. One found perilously immobile on the main road outside when I came back this morning. He only needed a rest and a warm up. The other I think may not make it, which is sad but there are many tatty and forlorn aging bees around at the moment. Their natural life span can be as short as two weeks. However, I feel that giving a little bee a sip of sugar water and a safe haven for an hour or two is worth it… isn’t it?