Saturday, 27 August 2011


Each year we take Charlie, my schizophrenic brother-in-law, to the Summer houseparty of our Christian Union - the Armed Forces Christian Union.  This year it was at Westonbirt School, once the seat of the Holford family, who have built three great houses on the site, the last one being a magnificent Victorian pile of 81 bedrooms.  Robert Holford and his son Roger were responsible for the plant collecting and establishment of our National Arboretum at Westonbirt.  That is now a separate entity but even the school grounds are paradise for tree lovers, with many rare species from around the world.

I was drawn to the Italianate Garden, with its arches and pavilions and as usual worked 'plein air' on small panels.  I also did some less successful gouache sketches.  It seems to me that gouache requires a particularly disciplined technique to avoid allowing lower layers to disturb those put on later.  With acrylics you never have that problem.  I did 11 sketches in the 5 whole days we had at Westonbirt: 8 oils and 3 gouaches.  Here is a selection.

I found these pavilions irresistible.  I tried this one on the first morning and then followed it with a sketch one of one of the arches that look out on the fields from the Italianate Garden.

I had a go at various aspects of the house but was drawn back to the garden and those pavilions:

The views were equally good looking into the garden:

The only gouache I felt was 'getting there' was this one but I did not bother to take it very far:

I also tried an interior but from rather an awkward spot and all the humans kept moving!

On the last evening, with 30 minutes to go before our 'final night bash' (men in suits, ladies looking like fashionistas, children scrubbed well) I managed to knock off this tiny sketch of the sundial outside the dining room.  Thank goodness for all those Change Parades at Sandhurst in the 60's - I ran to the billet and was shaved, shampooed and back just in time for the first jug of Pimms to arrive.

What a great week.  We did everything from tennis tournaments to swimming galas, 'pub' quizzes, tree walks, card-making, murder mystery plays, fancy dress meals, concerts, and all sorts - and the pub is only a 20 minute walk across the fields.  We got back exhausted only to find that our very large and very full freezer had decided to go to the freezer Happy Hunting Ground and as a farewell gesture had spread its, by now liquid, contents all over our utility room floor.  I never realised how far blackcurrant juice could spread if given two or three days to mix with all the other unfreezing liquids.  That completed a truly British holiday experience!


  1. Tim it sounds like you had a great time and looks like you had a very productive time. What a beautiful place and your paintings seem to truly do justice to it.

  2. Waw great work Tim! You're on fire! I love the first one, and the close up of the arch (the 4th one) and also the interior scene which has lots of atmosphere. Well done!