I live in a built-up part of St Albans, but 5 minutes from us is an ancient Belgic defense monument called Beech Bottom Dyke, a huge living tree cathedral which snakes its way between a row of suburban houses and a light industrial estate. The origins of the dyke are unknown, but it was probably built between the two Roman Invasions making it about 2000 years old. Presently the accessible part is about a mile long, 30 metres wide and 10 metres deep with sloped sides. So many trees grow down its steep banks and there is a path along the top of both banks and another mysterious one down in the ditch itself.
Until the pandemic hit the dyke was a creepy forgotten place. I ran there with my dog occasionally, but I was always a bit nervous. Many local people seemed unaware that it was even there and in summer the paths got overgrown. But as that first lockdown Spring hit, people started to go there to marvel at the rich covering of bluebells that lined its banks.
As summer wore on and more people searched out places to exercise and take their kids, the dyke became a local favourite, including with me. I went there daily and noticed how its paths became well-worn with all the runners and dog walkers tramping them and the trees became strewn with impromptu swings set up by kids deprived of official playgrounds. Once we were allowed to paint in public again, I headed down to the dyke to try to capture something of the majestic beauty of this strange earthworks we’d all grown to love so much during our confinement. I completed this plein-air oil painting in the autumn as the low wintery sunshine peered over the edge of the dyke into its wonderous world of trees.
Beech Bottom Dyke oil on ply, framed
Size: 44cm h x 34cm w
Price: £550 contact (please include the title of the work)