Field Work

Berries and Birthday Cheers: Exploring the Bennachie & The Coreen Hills

Last weekend we celebrated my sister’s birthday. Instead of hitting the crowded clubs, we ventured into the hills. How times have changed! Saturday morning found us on Bennachie, where I took the chance to gather info and samples of cowberries, scientifically known as Vaccinium vitis-idaea. Also recognised by various names, including lingonberries or partridgeberries, they add a burst of colour to the landscape, painting it with hues of crimson.

These perennial evergreen shrubs boast glossy, leathery leaves and delicate, bell-shaped flowers that transform into beautiful crimson berries. What sets them apart is their ability to thrive in diverse environments, from the forested foothills to the windswept heathery peaks of Bennachie. Beyond their appeal to foragers like us, these berries play a vital role in the ecosystem of Bennachie and the Coreen Hills. Serving as a crucial food source, they sustain a myriad of wildlife, from birds to small mammals, weaving an essential thread in the intricate web of life.

Inspired by the previous day’s discoveries, Sunday led us to the Correen Hills, a captivating expanse of rolling heather moorland that rises gracefully to the summit of Lord Arthur’s Seat at 518 meters. Lord Arthur’s Hill and the Coreen loop, much like Bennachie, epitomize the essence of the Scottish wilderness. The presence of cowberries, along with the discovery of blaeberries, cross-leaved heath, and a solitary cotton grass flower, echoed the biodiversity of Bennachie. After about 7 miles, we found the wooden hut nestled in the old quarry, a welcoming respite from our exploration. My sister produced a steaming flask of tomato soup accompanied by homemade cheese scones, the perfect lunch on a chilly day.

Exploring the wilderness and discovering the diversity of plant and animal species is always a special experience.

The breathtaking landscape, combined with the warmth of the wooden hut, delicious soup, and time with family, made for a truly unforgettable weekend. It was a reminder of how important it is to take a break from our busy lives and appreciate the beauty of nature. We left Bennachie and the Correen Hills feeling enriched and renewed and looking forward to our next outdoor adventure.

Back in my studio, armed with the knowledge and samples I had gathered, my focus shifted to my painting. Having previously worked on colour matching, this weekend’s task was to immerse myself in the essence of cowberries’ natural habitat. I wanted to capture their spirit authentically, not just as a plant but as a part of the thriving ecosystem of Bennachie and the Coreen Hills.

Through a series of measured drawings, I aimed to understand their form and how they gracefully occupy their space. Having scanned my drawings into Photoshop, I can planned the composition of my final painting. The digital medium allows me to refine my work, ensuring every detail is in its rightful place. Yet having tracings on my drawings, full-sized and tangible, allows me to gauge the scale and authenticity of my representation. So, I adopted a hybrid approach, blending the best of both worlds. While time-consuming, this process breathes life into the final piece, offering the essence of cowberries amidst the wild beauty of Bennachie.

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