Cobham's Rough

Like Marek, Ruth, Angharad and Richard had been to the hill-fort before, but it was new to Oz. Marek wanted Oz to see it particularly because of a strange occurrence they he had experienced in the woods at Cobham’s Rough near Hawkinge in Kent. Marek had made several paintings in and around these woods and the surrounding fields but during one Spring and on a whim, he decided that rather than choose a specific view to paint he would allow the landscape to choose for him. After walking without objective for a while, with his folded up portable easel in hand and a small rucksack of painting materials on his back, simply enjoying the countryside, he noticed that a field which had been close cropped grass last week, was covered today in thin, tall mushrooms. He decided to take that as an omen and walked towards Cobham’s Rough wood, which presented a multitude of tall, thin saplings, as it had been coppiced a few years before. Walking from the flat green field to the close-packed trees seemed the appropriate course. As he passed through the threshold between field and wood, grass and trees, light and dark, a crow called twice. Outside there had been the sounds of birds chattering and leaves disturbed by the light breeze. Inside the wood it was eerily quiet. There was no sound beyond his own footfall and the leaves he disturbed underfoot. Thirty feet or so within the wood Marek felt as if he had stepped into treacle. It was if his feet were rooted to the spot. He realised at once that this was the vantage from which to paint. He set up his easel and materials and painted what he saw before him in a style reminiscent of mosaics. He used oil paint on paper to capture the essence of the view in front of him. There was nothing special about this scene – multi-coloured fallen leaves in the foreground fading to purple greys and greens in the distance, thin saplings waving up into the canopy above. Two larger boughs in grey crossed diagonally and two larger tree trunks, white because they remained illuminated by the sun, could be seen beyond the saplings. Amongst the foreground litter of leaves was one forked sapling outlined in black – devoid of leaves but with a presence or significance which wasn’t clear to Marek whilst he painted.


    A fly landed on the picture and refused to go away despite promptings from Marek’s paintbrush, so he painted a red spot on its back and the fly indignantly flew off. Marek decided that this was the signal that the painting was complete. The moment he put down his brushes, the wood which had been totally silent whilst he painted, was again full of sounds! The trees rustled their leaves in the breeze, crows made a fuss in the branches and insects buzzed around, preoccupied with their own interests. Marek could even hear wood ants going about their business in, on and around their elevated nest on the ground nearby. Before Marek started packing away, a man wheeled his bicycle through the trackless wood. Although the artist was in full view, the walking cyclist didn’t look his way, didn’t seem to see him at all. The man and bike walked a straight line past the artist, turned ninety degrees and walked off in the new direction. Then another man, this one accompanied by his dog came from the same direction, though passing Marek by on the other side while the dog bounded this way and that in front of him. He too made a ninety degree turn and walked into the distance. Neither appeared to see the artist and his easel though Marek was in plain sight. The imaginary outcome from the artist’s vantage point was that an unseen square had been delineated by the tracks of the walkers!