Two decades of writing and painting lie behind Antonia Dundas’ delightful new record of the changing scenery of the South Downs.
The South Downs — A Painted Year is Antonia’s account in words and images of the natural world around her.
Her diary records the progress of 12 months over her beloved South Downs.
The text, coupled with her watercolours, chronicles the passing of the four seasons.
Antonia, who went to school in Arundel, Petworth and Eastbourne, has lived on the edge of the downs for more than 60 years. She and her husband, David Green, have a small farm at Sutton.
Riding and rambling along the many paths and tracks, she has developed an intimate knowledge of the area and its wildlife – knowledge now distilled into the book, a look at January to December at the beginning of the 21st century in a uniquely-beautiful landscape.
“I decided that I would combine my interest and concern for the local wildlife and my love of the area with my ability to draw and paint, together with my other passions for riding and walking, and produce a book illustrated with my own pictures,” Antonia said.
“I have seen many changes in these years. When I was a child, the downs were almost deserted, apart from the people who worked on them. I used to know the local farmers and had many friends among the shepherds, pig-men, tractor-drivers and gamekeepers and would stop to chat to them as I rode by.
“I would rarely meet other walkers or riders and for many years have escaped from the humdrum of modern life by taking my horse or dogs up the hill and through the woods and on the rolling downlands.”
She admits that, in previous years, she has taken much of the wildlife for granted: “But in putting this book together, I have learnt to appreciate the many hundreds of different animals, flowers, butterflies, birds, insects, fungi, trees and even reptiles that one could come across.
“I would not pretend to be an expert and my knowledge is basic, but I have tried to cover everyday sights for the walker to look out for – along with the odd rarity.”
The back of a horse provides a good vantage point, she added.
“I often stop, look and listen, and I gather leaves and branches from the hedgerows to paint when I get home. As an artist, I think I have learnt to look at things differently.”
The South Downs – A Painted Year is published by Amberley Press at £18.99.