An audio trail app for Shoreham has been launched in time for summer – with an artist who lived 200 years ago as the tour guide.
The Samuel Palmer Trail has been written by artist Victoria Threlfall, based on the walking tours she has led in the area over the last few years across the landscapes he painted and the places he lived.
She’s devised it to feel like Samuel is taking you on the trail himself, guiding you round the village pointing out places he lived, loved and worked, with trips down memory lane peppered throughout the trail as he ‘remembers’ events and people, telling anecdotes and recalling conversations and incidents.
It’s the first trail to be released within the new Darent Valley Trail app and has been created jointly by Victoria and the Darent Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme. It features a circular route of 12 points with accompanying images of Palmer’s artwork and portraits to help with the storytelling.
It can be enjoyed as a walking tour, or at home as a history podcast or interesting biography piece.
Shoreham producer Sarah Newman has also helped bring it to life, having joined Victoria on one of her walks, inspired to make Palmer’s links to the area better known.
The inspiration – bringing Samuel ‘back to life’
The app content uncovers his inspirations, such as the visionary artist William Blake, and explores how this idyllic valley helped him create unusual and highly creative painting styles which have influenced generations of British artists, including Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland.
Inspiration for the script came from Victoria’s research on Palmer, plus letters to ‘The Ancients’ – his circle of art friends and the country’s first artistic group which predated all others.
Victoria has blended language from the letters and written it in a contemporary style, having tried to imagine how he might talk as an older man, and how he may have looked back over is life.
And she didn’t have to look far for an actor to voice Samuel – he is brought to life by her actor husband, Robert Bathurst. The TV and theatre actor, well known for his character David Marsden in Cold Feet was, she says, the only one for the role – and it’s the first time they have worked together.
She said: “I needed someone to voice Samuel and with Robert here, I could hardly hold a casting!
“He was delighted to do it for me and we had many laughs as he came up with different voices, from really old to really odd, but the one he has created for Samuel is perfect.
“I have dragged Robert out on many walks around Shoreham over the years, so when he was performing each section, he knew in his mind’s eye, the landscape Samuel was talking about.
“I’m really pleased with the app and even more so that it can be listened to as a podcast or radio play if you just want to learn about the artist and his work from a historical point of view, or you can’t get out into the landscape. The trail, stories and images allow you to access the trail from home, so it really can be enjoyed by everybody.”
Victoria’s interest in Samuel Palmer began as a student at Camberwell School of Art in the 1980s. Describing his works as ‘dreamy’, ‘poetic’ and ‘mystic’, she has learnt much about him over the years from letters and monographs that survived.
Starting at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, in Shoreham, you can follow the audio and map on a 12-stop circular walk of either the full 5.3m (8km) trail or the 1.7m (2.8km) shortcut.
Creating a real connection between the area and the artist, highlights of the trail include views of lavender fields, verdant wildflower meadows and sweeping valley vistas.
Visit the ancient oaks Palmer drew in such intense detail and sit to contemplate some of the scenes so dear to him.
Hear how this rural landscape echoed his rich imagination, offering up the wheat fields, farm workers, decaying barns, church steeples, tranquil river scenes and the bright harvest moonscapes which inhabit his work.
The app provides a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors and learn about the area’s rich cultural and artistic heritage.
The trail is perfect for reconnecting with landscape and nature.
Listeners can learn:
- How Samuel loved the area, spending the happiest days of his life there (1826 – 1834).
- How he painted what people say now is his most exciting and original works. (It wasn’t said at the time),
- By the time he was 14, he had exhibited at the Royal Academy and the British Institution.
- How painter John Linnell took him under his wing (Palmer later married Linnell’s daughter Anny).
- His first meeting with William Blake in 1824.
- How he described Shoreham and the Darent Valley as the Valley of Vision.
- The strange contents of his pockets, including an egg yolk used to mix with paint.
- The plaque on his former home having the wrong year of death – 3 years having been added.
- His son trying to protect his reputation by burning works on a bonfire that he felt embarrassing or eccentric, but also writing a biography and exhibiting his father’s surviving works.
Art enthusiasts, those interested in art history, families, history fans countryside lovers are all invited to journey back in time with Samuel to enjoy a biographical history lesson outdoors, finding out about the life and times of Samuel Palmer and Shoreham.
Reviews so far:
“I love how the combination of walking, listening and looking at Palmer’s artwork completely embeds his amazing art in the landscape.”
“A really immersive experience, learning so much about Samuel Palmer’s life and why he painted in the unique way that he did – a lovely introduction to the Darent Valley too.”
‘It feels a special privilege to be led around Shoreham with Samuel Palmer – to be in the actual spot where he sat and painted, and to be shown his very personal view of the valley at the same time as listening to him describe his life and experience. “
Available to download for free from Google Play Store or Apple App Store, the trail can be accessed on a smartphone or tablet and includes both the audio guide and self-guided leaflet.
The trail takes around 2.5 – 3 hours to complete, allowing for stops but can be reduced to 45-60 mins by taking a shortcut at point 6.
The leaflet gives all information about access, stiles, hill climbs and difficulty.
Refreshments and facilities:
Available in Shoreham and at Lullingstone Country Park. Railway station: Shoreham (Thameslink services from London Blackfriars or Sevenoaks every 30 mins).
Very limited in the village.
Wheelchair accessibility is limited to the village section of the walk. Hill climbs are fairly strenuous.
For more information: