By CHRIS HILL
, Rural affairs correspondent
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
A series of paintings capturing the essence of life on a remote stretch of Norfolk’s wild coast has been published by a former Blakeney Point warden to mark the centenary of the reserve.
Wells-born artist James McCallum created the sketches, watercolours and journals during his four years spent living in the former lifeboat house and working at the National Trust nature reserve, which was founded in 1912.
His book – The Long, Wild Shore – explores the seasons on the north Norfolk coast, focusing on the sand and shingle spit of Blakeney Point and its famed colonies of seals and nesting birds.
Individual chapters explore the lives of common and grey seals, breeding birds such as arctic and sandwich terns, oystercatchers and ringed plovers, and the host of seasonal migrants which arrive every year.
More than 100 paintings and watercolour sketches have been reproduced in the book and will also be exhibited this month at another of the National Trust’s famed Norfolk landmarks, Blickling Hall.
Mr McCallum said: “It seemed like a really fitting and quite logical time to launch the book. I had all these paintings and all my written journals from the time I spent there and I had always intended to put them into print.
“I will never be detached from it (Blakeney). I know the staff really well and I frequently spend time up there. I miss living on the site. It is such a special thing, because you are completely immersed in the place. You see the birds arrive, you watch their displays and you get to know their behaviour until they rear their young and go back to Africa again.
“That close contact you have with them is very special. It can sometimes feel incredibly remote out there but that is part of its beauty as well. It is one of the last truly wild places left on the coast, probably because it is so inaccessible.”
Mr McCallum, 42, lives at Baconsthorpe near Holt and has been a professional artist since 1998 – but his passion for wildlife began much earlier.
He originally started working as a seasonal warden at Blakeney in the mid 1990s and returned in 1999 and 2003, visiting many times during the intervening years as well, enabling him to develop a thorough knowledge of the wildlife’s behaviour.
The Long, Wild Shore, which will be launched at Blickling on November 17, will be the artist’s seventh book of paintings and writings to be published, many of which are based around Norfolk. He has also worked in Siberia, Alaska and Lapland.
The exhibition at Blickling Hall runs from November 17 to December 2, from 11am to 4pm Wednesdays to Sundays. It will also be open during the estate’s Christmas weekends, December 8-9 and 15-16, from 11am to 5pm.