The Avenue at Ankerwycke

Ankerwycke is the estate of a ruined priory and a later house on the north bank of the Thames, directly across the water from Runnymede. The difference in character between the two sides of the river fascinate me; Runnymede is bright and bleak, harsh and abundant, old and new but above all a practical place that belongs to everyday life, Ankerwycke with its ruins, ditches, swamps and ancient yew is a darker, more spiritual place.

This is the first painting I made there. It shows an avenue of birch trees looking towards the hidden yew. There was something in the texture of the bark, especially the way it formed gothic arches around the knots where branches had been pruned, that reminded me of a recent trip to Durham Cathedral – the yew (which to this day is the location of many rituals and source of many beliefs) became equivalent to the altar, is hidden behind a rood screen of bushes and the trees take on the role of the columns and the stained glass windows. I also liked the tension between the perspective drawing you in and the gate in the foreground acting as a barrier.