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Wittenham Clumps


120 x 100 cm gouache, watercolour and Indian ink on deep edge canvas, sealed with soft wax


As a child, my grandfather used to take me up The Clumps, so they hold a special place in my heart. I know Wittenham Clumps holds a fascination for many people. They are a unique feature just outside Wallingford and the settlement dates back to the Iron Age.

The two clumps are Round Hill (to the left when facing the hills from the car park) and Castle Hill (to the right). The name comes from the clumps of beech trees which crown both hills – apparently they are the oldest known planted hilltop beeches in England, dating back over 300 years.

After I had painted this, I discovered other names for Wittenham Clumps – the Berkshire Bubs, reflecting the fact that the Wittenham Clumps once fell within the county of Berkshire and also Mother Dunch’s Buttocks! This made me giggle, but it comes from the Dunch family who owned Little Wittenham Manor in the 17th century. They are also known as the Sinodun Hills.

I painted this ancient place, in a technique I thought befitted it. It is called ink resist and results in an image which looks like a wood cut print. First I prepared the canvas with watercolour ground and then painted using gouache, leaving areas bare where I wanted the lines to be black. I then covered the entire surface with black Indian ink, before drying. Next I washed the entire painting to remove much of the gouache and ink, leaving the final image. It is an exacting process, but results in a spontaneous and very special image which I think captures the atmosphere of this unique landscape. After a little adjustment, I finished it with soft wax, before buffing it to a satin sheen.