nature Tag

It’s been a while since I’ve seen this heron, strutting the sidelines of swimmers. Sharp suspense, angle-poised to spear reed bank rodents whilst nearby neon woolly hats bob casually in winter breaststroke.

January battling resistance. Pigheaded commitment to pointlessness through drizzle, hammering downpours, ice sheets. Stabbing shock of cold, shaking teeth-chattering re-dress, feet in bucket. Exhilaration. Repeat.

There is a place, hidden away down an unremarkable track, marked only by a steady pilgrimage of women clutching waterproof bags. In one direction they wear a steely determination, the other a lightness of load. A heavy, clanging gate cuts through the quiet; behind it a place cut off from the industriousness of London except for the occasional overhead plane.

I came to Kenwood Ladies Pond this summer under duress of an attentive new friend who I suspect, knowing its restorative natural powers, saw an unspoken need that I had failed to identify in myself. My intention (apart from to satisfy her insistence) was to briefly sketch in the meadow before our swim, as part of a planned personal project to visually document various parts of the capital throughout the year.

Amongst the chattering crowds of women looking for a cool dip in the oppressive city heat, however, I found in that moment an unexpected respite. Something well beyond a companionable swim with a friend in dubiously murky waters. Something that required more attention than one afternoon’s quick sketching.

What began is this project: A year-long visual homage to the Pond, the women who swim there, and the wildlife whose habitat is momentarily shared; revisiting this one place many times a week, as the summer crowds dwindle and a bunch of hardy perennials endure declining temperatures. With only a sketchbook and pencil, photography strictly forbidden and no 4G spot to be found (and now increasingly the shaky hands of a post-swim chill), my studio work is growing around very basic sketches, visual memory, and a number of remarkably accommodating swimmers-come-models.