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Recent Publications...

rooks hill cover for website 3.3.18 

Rook's Hill - Ghost Tales from a Hidden World

by Rosemary Pavey

Ten stories of life and death to stir the imagination - intriguing, entertaining and beautifully written, Meet 'The Thing' in The Old Rectory, a lethal adversary at chess, a dying painter and two old bats who run a pets' cemetery...

Listen. Draw up a chair. The wind has a tale to tell and you might be surprised to hear what the wind knows.


166 pp Paperback  6"x9"


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  1. lark 


    Early mornings, as I have discovered to my cost, are one of the perks ‘life on the land’. Farmers of the old school begin their day at sunrise, summer and winter alike, and Michael, my own farming husband, has the additionally disconcerting habit of waking with a sentence fully formed on his lips. Often I am startled from slumber by his observations, delivered at full-volume:

     “We managed to clear that drain yesterday!” he will bellow cheerfully, without  warning, or launch forth about whatever is on his mind:  “Did you ever write to that woman about the footpath?”

    In days of old I would put a pillow over my head and feign unconsciousness, till he lurched out to scythe his thistles, or tend the pig, or put the world to rights with one of his campsite visitors. But these days I have adopted a new approach. I wake before him. I wake just as the first birds are finding their voices and – if you can’t beat them, join them! – set off on my own adventures.

     Half past five finds me booted and bonneted, slurping a mouthful of tea, before setting off with camera and sketchbook to explore another footpath on the Downs. It is just about light enough to tell whether the sky is cloudy or not. I detest weather forecasts. They are the great surprise spoilers of the age and the joy of my new regime lies precisely in not knowing where I am going, or whether I shall get a soaking along the way. Maps are also taboo. I may look up where I have been in retrospect, but this project is all about discovery – and making a new mental map of places I have known on paper all my life.

     I was born in Brighton. Each day, after school, came a long trudge home, along the Hollingbury Ridge, or a buffeting the length of Carden Hill and down Coldean Lane, with the beeches of Stanmer’s Great Wood groaning under winter gales, rain stinging in one’s face, or a bloody sun dipping down into the sea while great flocks of starlings winged coastwards from the hills. Out there, where the road turned off to Ditchling, was what we called ‘the country’ -  our weekend sanctuary – and the then unspoilt villages of the Weald. Little did I imagine that I would one day be lucky enough to live at the end of that road and bury myself amongst those fields and hedges. Ditchling is a place to die for. Everybody says it and I have a passionate, protective love for the landscape here. But something, nevertheless, is missing. It is not till I scale the Beacon and recover the wide skies I knew when I was young that I feel wholly alive

     There are hill people and valley people. And I essentially I belong with the hill folk, a term which, by the way, includes the Neolithic ancestors who made the first tracks at Hollingbury, and the buzzards which hunt along the slopes. Each day I add a little more to my mental map and bring back mementos – photographs, scraps of moss and lichen – twigs, feathers – remembering how Constable would collect samples of soil and vegetation to record the colours he had seen.

     Gradually the idea has evolved of putting these experiences down in a visual form, charting the elements which came together uniquely at that time to form a sense of place. And now I have the bit well and truly between the teeth. My house is filling up with lumps of chalk, dried leaves... an owl’s wing, found in a field... I begin to see how the hills fit together - how the micro-climate of each coombe and ridge dictates a different calendar, so the violets which have finished on one hill flank still bloom on another. And the very anthills have their own ecology. Moss on the shady side – wild thyme on the sunny. How small can one go?

     My exhibition date approaches and the work, proliferating like a fractal edge, gets slower and slower. So – with two paintings in two months – it seems hardly possible to speak of an exhibition. And yet this project goes on yielding surprises and I cannot stop.

     My early mornings have given me a new raison d’etre. And I can vouch for the fact that there are larks in abundance, though they seem to sing only when the sun shines. I hope to share some of the sense of delight I have found in their company and invite you to come back to the studio and see what happens throughout the rest of the year...

    artists desk

  2. For the past week we have been woken early by a male tawny owl in the great lime tree behind our house. He is signing off for the day after a night’s hunting and his final and surprisingly loud “Hu-hu-woo-woo-wooo!” uttered just as the robins and blackbirds are finding their voices, serves as an unearthly but rather pleasing alarm for sleepy humans! A female makes a distant reply from somewhere down by the Big Pond. Are they courting? Checking out the local tree-holes and abandoned squirrel’s dreys as possible nest-sites? There are some desirable-looking crow’s nests going begging in the beech wood - very little refurbishment required. But I read that farmland tawny owls have a territory of up to 65 hectares so perhaps the lime tree is just a temporary stopover. A pair of buzzards have been hunting regularly over Spatham Field. Any voles and rabbits round here need to keep their ears well-pricked!

    Our first lamb was born a week ago in a howling gale to a Welsh Badger-Face dam, and with true mountain hardiness is up and skipping, impervious to the weather. The great engine of spring is rolling inexorably now: Snowdrops, battered by the rain are looking tired already ; elder and hazel are putting forth leaves; the ground is red with fallen alder catkins. All manner of weeds - the good gardener's bane and salad-hunter's delight - are sprouting in profusion. Young chickweed, cleavers, wild garlic, dandelion and shepherd's purse lay claim to our garden at this time of year - all brilliant additions to a herb omelette, or mixed leaf salad, with nutty, bitter and astringent tones indicative of the powerful nutritional agents they contain. This is what my husband's farming father aptly named 'Doctor Green' and could be trusted to transform winter's weakened indoor cattle into robust roisterers in a matter of days from their being turned out to graze. Our  ancestors were firm believers in the efficacy of a 'spring purge' to drive sluggishness out of the system. Cresses, dandelions,  and other bitter 'tonics', not to mention the ubiquitous nettle, offered free medicine to all who could reach a hedgerow. Today, when 'power salads' in supermarkets cost a couple of pounds a go, perhaps it is worth nurturing some weeds for the table.

    New greetings cards depicting some of the creatures from Stoneywish are in progress and will soon be available at the Visitor Centre in Spatham Lane or at the Studio, Turner Dumbrell’s Workshops, Ditchling. Not the owl, however. I shall have to get up earlier to catch him.

    Meanwhile, work continues on a new book of short stories for the summer. The studio. looking resplendant after a  recent spate of decorating, rebukes me with blank walls and I find myself, having neglected artist's brushes for so long, feeling like Burne-Jones in the cartoon,  overwhelmed by unpainted masterpieces. A situation in need of remedy. I suspect more greens, in every sense, are required!

  3.  aconites

    Here we are in January. The dreaded accounts have been filed. Christmas is all  but forgotten and I have run out of excuses for not getting back to work. All the same it is tempting to linger in this un-time, rather than launch into the whirligig madness of 'business as usual'. The farm is quiet. One month left before we open once more to the public. The sheep have not yet begun to lamb. The bindweed has not yet taken stranglehold of the garden. And we are blessed with  blue skies and starry nights. Just now everything seems possible, full of promise. The mind settles, trusting that words and images will start to come...

    I determine, as every year I determine to keep better account of what is happening and this seems a good place to start. A glimpse of Stoneywish and whatever else catches the eye. The five degrees of frost which have bitten these last few nights seem to have made little difference to a general stampede towards spring inspired by lengthening days. Snowdrop shoots grow visibly day by day. The winter aconites are already in bloom, spreading sunshine along the stream by the Black Swan pond. And today a valiant mole has raised three stupendous heaps in the middle of the lawn. When I think how I struggled with my iron trowel to plant some bulbs in the frozen earth yesterday, I am astonished at what he can do with his naked hands! So greetings to all who are likewise getting on with 2017. Now that the geese have mastered the art of walking on ice, they seem to be thriving in this weather. They are even making preliminary amorous overtures. One large white gander, which arrived a couple of years ago and has never quite fitted in, has decided that he belongs with the Canada geese now returned to the Top Pond where they bred last year. When they wander off to steal barley from the sheep in the neighbouring field, he trots along too, then watches bemused as they take to the skies. Poor Gobbet (so named because of his greed for lumps of bread) will never clear the ground with his great belly and plods back to join the main flock till his friends return.

    Vita Sackville-West used the term ‘through leaves’ to denote any particularly satisfying simple experience. Scuffing through leaves in autumn was the origin of the phrase, of course, but ‘through leaves’ came to refer to a whole range of un-looked for pleasures. She lists writing with a perfect pen, or cutting the pages of a new book among her examples. And I would like to add one more. It is the sound of ice fracturing beneath the feet of a tentative goose - impossible to describe – a sweet, silver sound, all but forgotten from last winter and then suddenly present again. And at this threshold of the year it is delightful to know there are hundreds more ‘through leaves’ moments to come. One could say that making time for them is the key to a contented life, so I pray for time or the presence of mind to feel time.

    And the feel of a perfect pen...

  4. three highland cows auto


    My latest trawl of the local charity shops yielded a small volume on El Greco (20p from a bargain box) and I have spent my free time since then reading up on the great man. Born on Crete in 1541, and trained as an orthodox icon painter, Doménicos Theotokópoulos, left his island home, seeking wider artistic horizons first in Italy, then Spain, where he spent the rest of his life. This much is generally known. He did well for himself, and though he did not find favour with Philip II, he secured important commissions and maintained a comfortable lifestyle in Toledo – the city immortalised in his paintings. Later generations dismissed his incandescent figures and perspective distortions as the work of a madman. And it was not until Picasso and the ‘moderns’ rediscovered him in the 20th century that he was recognised as a genius who defied all definition.

    In 1926, a fellow-Cretan, Nikos Kazansakis, author of ‘Zorba the Greek’, travelled from Piraeus to Toledo to pay homage to his spiritual grandfather. Enraptured by the works he saw, he described El Greco’s vision as a ‘terrifying holy intoxication’. He felt that his body would dissolve under the influence those colours - the paint: ‘blue, green, lie-de-vin’, gleaming with metallic intensity. In the epilogue of his autobiographical novel ‘Report to Greco’, Kazantasakis returns to Toledo and in a long dream-sequence, questions his mentor face to face. How is it that his paintings burn up so? That the figures evaporate into air – leading the spirit to celestial heights. For El Greco, the world is pure spirit. And all forms, being composed of elemental fire, aspire naturally – defying lumpen gravity... There is a frisson here, an echo of the Spanish Inquisitors who were also returning flesh to flame during El Greco’s lifetime, but more. A commitment to spiritual integrity which seems much needed in our time.

    I have been painting cows - fat, solid Highlands, with their splayed hooves firmly rooted in Sussex mud. I have had my mind distracted by a thousand petty everyday concerns. How miraculous to release these things from the physical weight which ties them down and watch them fly over the rooftops, like dream figures in some painting by Chagall. Kazantzakis says that El Greco was in love with all things Jewish – his life-companion, Jeronima – his house in the Jewish Quarter – perhaps the music he heard while he was at table? The Jews were driven from Toledo in 1492, fifty years before he was born. Only a handful of ‘conversos’ lingered on in Spain, but the voice of the Sephardim lives on in the haunting music which they took with them into exile in North Africa and Turkey and Russia. Did Chagall hear it in the songs his Jewish community sang 400 years later, and translate the sounds back into colour? A wilderness vision is one sure pathway out of human bondage. And Chagall adds humour too... which is another.

    But flying cows in Ditchling? Who knows? Stranger things have happened...

  5. rook

    If there is one thing that Sussex excels in during January, it is surely mud. Old Sussex dialect has almost 20 words to describe mud in all its manifestations: sticky mud, slimy mud, sloppy mud, black mud... We seem to have them all on the farm and my treck to feed the geese in the morning takes me through such a series swamps, I shall soon resemble one of those proverbial countrywomen whose long legs were said to derive from pulling their feet out of the mire. That said, there is something profoundly satisfying about sploshing through January. The clutter of Christmas is past; the tax return has finally been filed and just before the world launches into its next stampede, there are a few days for quiet reflection. One can take stock, imagine new paths, believe, however briefly, that this year will bring fresh insights and rewards... In a good year, a timely dose of 'flu extends these days into a couple of weeks and one can imagine all possibilities from a sick-bed! Ideas begin to ferment, yet it is not until the pencil actually hits paper that anything can come of them.

    A rook, which I saw strutting and parading on a cliff-top last year in the Isle of White, has taken up residence in the studio, charcoal feathers ruffled by an invisible breeze. And suddenly I feel I have taken flight myself. I have made the paper dirty. Hurrah! And this year I might be brave enough to do as rooks do and trust life and limb to the wind...




Studio News

dumbrells studio 13

Visit the studio


Unit 13,Turner-Dumbrell Workshops, Ditchling.

Open most Saturday mornings 10.30-1.00 and whenever I am working there. ( mornings and afternoons Tues-Fri)

Please feel free to come and browse without obligation.


Up With The Lark

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Recognise this place?

Inspired by the Sussex Downs, Rosemary's show tracks the changing seasons in Nature with new works added as the year unfolds.

Opening times vary. If you are passing please call in at any time, or contact me to say when you would like to come and I will make sure I am there to open up.Safest bets are Tues-Sat. mornings 10.30-1.00. afternoons 2.30-4.00.

Paintings, prints, photography, chalk carvings and more...

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