It’s now 10 years ago that Ric Horner moved into the late Dan Sherrin’s quirky cottage on The Saxon Shore Way in Whitstable, a long-distance footpath in England, which starts at Gravesend, Kent, and traces the coast of South-East England for 163 miles in total. He is one in a long line of artists , writers and novelists that made the town their home, for reasons such as the gorgeous light and stunning sunsets.
Over time Ric has recorded the dynamic changes in weather, atmosphere and cloud formations that one sees in this area, focusing predominantly on the views across the Swale Estuary towards the Isle of Sheppey.
Artist Dan Sherrin (1869 – 1940) could not be missed about the town, as he insisted on wearing the most outrageously chequer plus-fours and his love of beer was legendary. Dan was also a famous self-publicist of the most humorous kind, a practical joker who not only poked fun at those in authority – he even built his own airplane and created a spoof fire brigade!
One of his paintings still hangs in Buckingham Palace, as he was once commissioned by King George V. Furthermore. An elderly neighbour who lived nearby in Preston Parade Seasalter, has told Ric that he recalls seeing Winston Churchill plus entourage on the little foot bridge on Preston Parade, viewing the newly installed gun battery, which was right in front of the house in about 1943.
J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851) described the famous sunsets along the North Kent coast as some of the best in the world and just like Turner, Ric also explores the unique atmospheres found in this area. He says:
“My work has as much to do with the changing weather; encompassing all sorts of environmental conditions, which can range massively from attractive and peaceful to threatening and dangerous, as well as with the geographical location. Since moving into the late artist Dan Sherrin’s old cottage, I have set up my studio at the front of the house, which overlooks the sea. This has changed my working practice profoundly, as I now have a myriad of subject matter in front of me and I am less dependent on notes and colour sketches. I can now work directly on canvas from my subject and study in detail various sea states and “light events” which may have previously evaded me. It’s become possible to study storms in greater detail and track showers and their influence on the sea in some degree of comfort. Sadly, despite the house’s prominence and history, time and gravity has taken its toll, leaving it bereft of level floors, so when I first moved in, the horizon appeared to lean when looking out from my studio!”
‘The Street’ (see painting below), is a natural strip of shingle on an exposed clay bank on Tankerton beach, which runs out to sea and is revealed only at low tide for a distance of about half a mile. It is the last remnant of the Swale river valley that got lost to sea erosion over millennia and now provides a temporary, natural promenade. You can still visit it, or read about it at: http://The-Ley-Lines-and-Lost-Past-Of-North-Kent.
The name Whitstable (orig’ Witenstapel and variants) is itself a pointer- in several ways- to the feminine- a ‘staple’ is one of those essential things to sustain life: flour, milk, oats, barley, salt etc- a ‘white-staple’ then is ‘the milk that flows from the breast of the mother,’ and given that we’re right next door to the parish of Seasalter we can assume the ‘staple’ in question is salt. Salt is seen, occultly as belonging to or signifying the moon- it’s white and sparkly for one thing, and comes from the the sea, for another. The moon herself was imaged as a cosmic salt-crystal which, over the course of a month, forms like a very-large salt-crystal in the deep-waters of space; and waning away she is salt dissolving. The sea of course is a female element whose pulse- the tides- are controlled by the moon, whose number is 13 (there are 13 lunations, or moons a year)- this clearly relates to The Street because it is uncovered and covered every 13 hours.
Taken from The Landscape Zodiac of Britain part 1 Whitstable by Fen Lander.
Other toponomers have understood the place-name Whitstable to mean that ‘Witen-staple’ signified a place where the local witan- a council of wise-elders, would gather to discuss important local affairs. This is not ruled out in any way by the previous interpretations-the ancients liked to make a plait with their place-names, combining three distinct, yet related themes. This is because they believed in three interpenetrating worlds, what we would call heaven, earth and hell. The second part of the town name- “staple,” as well as the above meaning of essential vitales, is the origin of several other modern words- all related. A ‘staple’ is a nail- and the source of the word for a pointed ‘church-tower,’ a steeple- denoting the sacred nature of The Street, or road-of-the-spirits. This is interesting because it is iron-sulfate that was extracted from the minerals on the shore-line- the staple- or nail- just happens, coincidentally of course, to be full of iron! Iron is a little on the… er, magnetic side, if you know what I mean- and so this iron-nail can also be thought of- if you like- as a gi-normous compass needle which points, unerringly, to the north-magnetic-pole!
Taken from The Landscape Zodiac of Britain part 1 Whitstable by Fen Lander