he real thing is under your feet. We haven't been anywhere much over the past year's lockdown,
but who cares, because Kidlington has had brief glimpses of landscape experience that we might
otherwise travel hundreds of miles to enjoy. Crisp winds in early spring? Try Kidlington in March 2020.
Full moon and clear night skies? Forget romantic southern Spain; try Kidlington in April 2020.
For a blaze of yellow in May there is no need to go to the tulip fields of Holland, because the
Buttercup Fields of Kidlington in May 2020 gave us all that and more.
So this weird round of the months went by, and here, backwards for no good reason except
perhaps novelty and the editor's great idea, is the past year as noticed within half
a mile of the spire of St Mary's Church.
Last year — or perhaps the year before — the farmer put piles of compost just here, by the ditch
with the railway sleeper bridge into the meadow. Since then the heaps have been spread,
but the greening of the crop is richest where the compost seeped from its piles for months.
What looks like a line of little aeroplanes on the horizon is meant to be lengths of wind-blown hedge
at the back of the far field. Its regular pattern creates a foil for the lumpy foreground mud.
Never since the Ice Age, as far as I remember, have Kidlington's fields flooded and then
frozen hard and deep enough for people to skate. For a moment we might have been in Norway
or Sweden. Ice hockey players emerged, and curlers, and dancers on ice.
The 2021 floods were the longest and deepest we have seen in these fields since 2014. But
gradually the water soaked away and the paths were open again to walkers. These are the final
pools left in the furrow bottoms on Branson's Fields. Pattern in landscape may not be obvious
at first glance, but by standing still for a while and looking, patterns and relationships begin to emerge.
It really was cold. This is as far as I could get into the meadow opposite Hampton Poyle
after it had frozen solid. It should flood, it’s a flood plain, and almost every
year it is smothered in river silt which feeds its early summer coverings of dandelions,
whose yellow carpet magically turns white after a couple of weeks. Then the trumpet sounds,
and a heavenly meadowspread of buttercups appears.
There were storms ... looking here to St Mary's from the field behind The Moors.
The Kidlington landscape is one of the unsung treasures of Oxfordshire — how many
other groups of villages in the county can boast in such a tight area a line of five Grade
I and II* listed mediaeval churches — Shipston, Kidlington, Hampton Gay, Hampton Poyle, Islip.
A ring of low hills — Bletchingdon, Brill, Shotover, Headington, Cumnor, Boar's Hill,
Wytham and Woodstock — surround our flood plain.
A bloody midwinter sunset across Kidlington's fields. The low-lying landscape
presents wide rings of horizontals. The diagonal footpath, ploughed up twice a year
and remade by walkers, challenges the hedge-line. We may forget how green the fields
are even in the deepest days of winter.
Before sunrise, before colour comes into the day, the landscape seeps into the
eye in browns and duns. I tend not to take a sketchbook when I walk,
still less sit in the field with an easel. While I may take photographs as
reminders, my pictures are painted at home from memory and imagination.
The brush takes over almost immediately, and as I have discovered, it's all in the wrist.
This must be about 8 o'clock in the morning, the sun rising directly at my back.
As the sky brightens around it, so the morning moon begins to fade and it will
disappear from sight even before it sets. There's beauty in even the dullest landscape: a hedge-line, a path; that's it. A bit of sky perhaps.
For months after the modest floods of 2020 water settled into a wide boggy
patch at the edge of the large field north west of the church. Its amorphous
edges made it interestingly shapeless, and even now (April 2021) it is visible
in the variation of the crop.
Everything seemed dreamily 'normal' as lockdown seemed to ease in the summer of 2020,
but grey sky suggests there are storms to come.
The buttercup fields. Kidlington's grandest annual show.
This must have been well past midnight. The sky wasn't quite as blue
as this, but the paint in the paintbox was. Don't know why I was up that late. I've forgotten.
We didn't know what was coming, did we? We should remember.