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Culture

Letter from Abersychan

29 Oct 2022 5 minute read
“Mustard yellow and burnt umber”

Tom Maloney

As I look over at the fading light of Autumn along the woodland horizon, the canopy of the Lasgarn is a stream of gently flickering, golden shades of mustard yellow and burnt umber.

My thoughts and feelings about the woods have become important to me now in a way that I could not imagine when I first moved to Abersychan some thirty years ago.

The woodland has become a good friend to me, it generously provides food for the soul whatever the weather, especially in recent times when our scope for travel has been so sorely limited.

There is big history here. Beneath the trees, hidden paths reveal old, disused limestone workings, that date back to the heady days of the Industrial Revolution.

Following these winding ways will bring you to the tramroad at the heart of the woods where there are still stone sets that held the iron rails, on which horses pulled their heavily loaded trams of stone to feed the hungry ironworks nearby.

Woodland clock

On some days I can imagine ghostly sounds of the past embedded in the scourings, the heavy clank of metal on stone and the sound of raised voices at work. In reality the sounds are different now.

In season, woodpeckers hammer out their staccato rhythmic beats, bumblebees hum as they gather nectar and pollen, mountain streams gurgle as they cascade and all the while the song of the wind, sometimes a whisper and sometimes like the sound of a jet, creates such different, dramatic moods.

I have become one with the seasons. Most surprisingly of all, the ticking of the woodland clock reveals an art gallery of gardens, magically conjuring images reminiscent of the work of my favourite artists.

Winter garden (photo by Tom Maloney)

‘The Winter Garden’- January 2022

There are artists, there are the great masters and then there is Paul Cezanne. The ‘Winter Garden’ is a small tribute to his genius and is a place that I often stop, especially in the late afternoon.

The play of light on the limestone and on the trees as they create so many windows to Mynydd Varteg in the distance has the sculptural feel of Cezanne’s paintings of Mont Sainte-Victoire that was so inspirational to the Cubist works of Picasso. He was drawn time and time again to painting this view at Les Lauves, Aix-en-Provence.

Often his paintings are framed by trees in the foreground and have a deceptive simplicity in the way they have been conceived.

There is a deceptive simplicity about this woodland view as well, but here Nature is the artist, reclaiming the scars of past industrialisation, making the landscape beautiful once more.

Spring garden (photo by Tom Maloney)

‘The Spring Garden’ – May 2022

In the Spring, golden cups of Lesser Celandine are a joy, but it is the arrival of Wild Garlic and the pastel bluebell blooms that transports my imagination to the pointillist paintings of Georges Seurat.

In this photograph, the trees are once again the structure, but it is the colour, so many little ‘dabs’ of green, blue and white that fuse in the eye that brings the magic to the composition.

I am taken to ‘Sunday Afternoon On The island Of La Grande Jatte’ and to my last year as a teenager when I made a pilgrimage to see this magnificent painting on display at The Chicago Institute.

It was a moment that I treasured and one that I continue to treasure in moments like these at the Lasgarn. I think of the people in their Sunday best Parisian clothes, the brightly coloured umbrellas and of the enjoyment of place.

Summer garden (photo by Tom Maloney)

‘The Summer Garden’ – August 2022

You have to get to know a place well to understand its beauty, not everything is revealed at once.

This is my Summer Garden, my garden of Henri Matisse and it was only by chance that I stumbled upon the sinuous, curving lines of this group of trees. My mind’s eye recalls seeing his masterpiece ‘La Dance’.

There is such movement in this painting and there is movement in the way the trunks bend and sway in perfect harmony with each other.

In this garden there is also the harmony of the woodland eco system, where the dance of new life and decay exist side by side.

Autumn garden (photo by Tom Maloney)

‘The Autumn Garden’ – October 2022

This is Autumn along the path of the Lasgarn Tramroad, but I am transported to the period of the Impressionists and to the paintings of Alfred Sisley.

In truth, Sisley is a master of texture, colour, form and light. There is sensitivity in his touch, especially in his depiction of trees.

‘Moret-sur-Loing’, part of The Davies Sisters Collection at The National Museum of Wales perfectly shows his skill to capture a moment in seasonal time.

In the Autumnal light I am reminded that Nature’s artistry is to be admired and revered.


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Mike Smith
Mike Smith
1 month ago

Very impressed with the photos and your write-ups. I look forward to seeing more.

Tom Maloney
Tom Maloney
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

Many thanks Mike for the kind reply. It has been a pleasure to write a Letter from Abersychan about the Lasgarn Woodland. It’s a special place with so much to admire and enjoy.

Sue Colwill
Sue Colwill
1 month ago

Lovely imagery of nature’s seasons evoked in Tom’s writing and photographs. A condensed but pleasing journey through the year in such a beautiful place for nature.
Comparisons between the beauty of nature’s artistic hand and that of mankind’s highlight the great influence that the first has had over the second but also, sadly, perhaps the greater value that is placed by much of mankind on the second over the first.
Nature is the inspiration that directs many a fine artist’s brush.

Tom Maloney
Tom Maloney
1 month ago
Reply to  Sue Colwill

Thank you for the thought provoking reply Sue. Great artists have a great gift for seeing the things that are important. Closeness to Nature is the key to our future.

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