I don't know what you think, but to me, this little signpost in the forest has a magical look, as if a gnome or an elf is about to trip past on some mystical errand. I don't think it's because the orange-berried mountain ash trees shown here are thought to be magical trees (I wrote a post about mountain ash - rowan - once, here). I think it's because rural Surrey, the county where I took this photo a couple of days ago, can seem a little bit apart from modern life.
Admittedly, its current inhabitants are often pretty wealthy and have top jobs in banks, because the county has become prime commuterland now. But Surrey was the home of many of the artists who created gentle, magical picture books in the late 19th and early 20th century. Cycling through the narrow lanes on our own trips, does in some ways feel like going into a vintage illustrated book.
Arthur Rackham, for instance, lived in Surrey and was famous for his gnarly trees.
I sometimes expect to see Rackham with his sketchbook in the steep sided lanes, worn away over the centuries.to reveal the roots of the trees that shade them.
Cicely Mary Barker lived in Surrey. She created the exquisite Flower Fairy books - here is her Mountain Ash fairy. Later, her books were commercialized and franchised, so if you like this style of illustration, try to find the original pictures. They're so subtle; look at the colouring here.
...and Margaret Tarrant illustrated some of my favourite books. Again, she was keen on fairies.
Something about the colouring in my photo reminds me of her, though those people in my picture are not fairies (unless they are fairies in modern clothes)
I noticed a little display about Margaret Tarrant in the church at the Surrey village where she lived. She painted some of the church banners and there's a painting of one of the woodland scenes that inspired her.... and I suspect she might have decorated the church organ with flowers too.
I once interviewed the illustrator, Peter Cross, author of that quirky masterpiece, "Trouble for Trumpets" in his home in deepest Surrey. He told me that his illustrations were inspired by both the landscape around him and the illustrated books of his childhood.
The illustrated books that had most impact on me as a kid are Alfred Bestall's picture-strip illustrations for Rupert Bear. Bestall divided his time between Surrey and Wales.
The charm of these illustrations is cumulative, there were four per page
I remember noticing how the seasons were faithfully portrayed, and the small rolling fields and lovely deep woods which even then made me think of Surrey. Bestall died too long ago to have a website. But google his Rupert Bear pictures, or, better still, find an annual or two, and you'll see what I mean.
More "serious" artists lived in Surrey and one day I'll write about the recently renovated Watts Gallery, which deserves an entry to itself.
This photo, of course, was taken at bluebell time, in the Spring, but I like it. And here is T, unpacking our bikes from the car, so we can explore the evocative woods and countryside of this county ourselves.