“ I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor.” Steven Spielberg.

From Inktober To Moor Otter – More Species Required!

As many of you have probably guessed, I am in the middle of work on my Moor Otters project. If you haven’t heard, this is an art project involving professional artists, graphic designers and keen, talented amateurs. All get involved, decorating a sculpture of an Otter and her Cub. Four Art Trails are installed on various locations on the moor, and this year eighty of these sculptures will be placed on them, for members of the public to find. At the end of the Project, they will all be auctioned off.

On a whim (well, actually on the suggestion from a friend) I entered my piece from last years Inktober competition, ‘Everything is Connected’ – A detailed, A2 ink illustration. Take a look if you haven’t seen it.

What became obvious fairly soon after starting is that the surface area of the Otter is greater than A2! This left me with an issue – I was short of some content to get the job done. No matter, it was a good excuse to draft in a couple of companions and head out on a favourite trail of mine, Heathfield’s Great Plantation near Bovey Tracey, to look for some more fungi to feature on the otter.

We gathered in the car park at noon on a cold yet beautiful winters day. Giant clouds rolling past Haytor, brooding surprisingly close to the woods. Everybody was ready for a battle with the mud, it doesn’t seem to have stopped raining for 3 months.

An hour into the walk I had already dived into the undergrowth & discovered a flourish of Trametes versicolor – Turkeytail – it brought to mind a favourite quote of mine.

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing” Camille Pissarro

My comadres Dan & Matt were bimbling around amongst the trees making Star Wars references and laughing a lot! According to Matt I had already performed magic, transforming leaves into his dinner (actually a bag of Cantharellus tubaeformis – Yellow Legs). Their expert camouflage among the leaf litter makes them pretty hard to spot but once you find one, there’s always more nearby. We stopped for lunch on a log deep in the woods by a Ball clay coloured stream, and tucked in to a deliciously filling vegan takeaway Soul Bowl (from Nourish in Teignmouth) whilst perched on a log, listening to the birdsong all around us.

Onwards after lunch, and the condition of the trail deteriorated further, with waterlogged logging roads offering up puddles deep enough to flood boots. The only way forward was to climb into hedges and make our way round.

Further exploration offered up Glistening Inkcaps that photographed beautifully, the sun peeking out after a torrential downpour just in time to light the findings.

At the very end of the walk, not 20m from the carpark, I found a load of Auricularia auricula-judae – Wood Ear, living up to the name, with their jellied fruiting bodies wobbling around like an ear off a goblin! The lads by this point were dreaming of a pint or a cake, so that was that, 3hrs spent well in the foothills of Dartmoor. You will be able to see the end results on my otter when she gets to her final spot up on the moor.

By Jo Brown  bernoid.com