searching for the right kind of mud

Went looking for mud today. With the recent high levels of precipitation not a difficult chore it might be thought. But there does appear to be such a thing as mud snobbery: too wet, too dry, too leafy, too sandy. Is it mud to be collected for some studio use? Or, is it mud to be photographed? For future reference, the two activities do not combine well … decide upon one or the other.

Perhaps the brief glimpse of good estuary mud at Cley yesterday had raised expectations.
An expanse of lovely smooth saltmarsh mud of a good consistency; definitely wet enough to be mud but not too wet that it is muddy water. It was most likely polluted with agricultural run-off, but otherwise looking very ‘clean’. But forget that mud. Today was the mud of field edges and footpaths. In places the leaf mould was not rotted down enough and water was running down the path in a stream, especially where the soil is most sandy or the mud has been worn away to something approaching bedrock.
But, at the far side of the afternoon’s loop, where two fields meet, a culvert keeps the stream below ground, a farm track crosses and a lot of water collects. Trying to photograph this corner, the mud becomes sky; on this bright, pre-Spring afternoon, the blue sky and white cumulus light up the rutted mud of the field corner almost enough to deny there is mud there.
Memories of the hill suggest that there will be more mud there. Move on with collecting a sample. But once again, the footpath mud is too leafy, too grassy or just too wet; too much like water lying on the surface. Eventually though, at the field edge where the ploughing finished a suitable looking mud presents itself for collection. For studio use in some way. But the tools of the trade are lacking, a trowel is too large or the collection pot is too small. A lesson learned for another time. That, and not to bring all sorts of other technical paraphernalia when wishing to collect mud—well, at least expect a tangle of straps and muddy gear.