I believe a relationship exists between thinking and walking, more so when your path takes you along less trodden routes. By nature I’m a solitary walker. My mind working better when my legs are moving and void of conversation. A recent holiday along the Solway coast, unearthed memories from younger legs revisiting an old route by way of an evening walk from Kippford to Rockcliffe. My companions on the journey were brooding clouds, short-lived showers and recycled sunlight from the embers of the day. Good fellows I would say.
Years of working from home, building a business that would ultimately rob me of time, and before I knew it nourishment for the mind, saw me isolated from people and places for long blocks of time. This isn’t healthy for the body or mind. Isolation and solitude can cause writers and artists to be more likely to suffer with bipolar disorder.
I exchanged greetings with a young couple sporting two fine looking spaniels. My own black dog (not to be confused with mans’ best friend) was fortunately absent from exercise on this particular day. Under a black sky trimmed with grey and more rain on the way, I watched the young couple pass and disappear from view, I wished a wish to bring back the time that passed me by too.
People do suffer for their art, and clearly some art stems from suffering. Does this make painting and writing the most dangerous professions in the world? It’s no secret that creativity and mental illness are connected – the death of Robin Williams was, perhaps, a sad testament to that fact.
As I descended into the warm overcast evening of Rockcliffe, I sat on a bench and stared out to sea. This painting a memory to thoughts of making up lost time.
Busy lives strive to abandon the spirit from places we carry with us. The day-time window beckons the soul, while the fingers tap and the pen push, the mind is wondering lonely fells giving birth to infant streams. The hunger for solitude searches for intimate landscapes becoming intimate places within our hearts. While alone we miss the company of others, in the landscape a journey out becomes a journey in. Office days become wasted years as the trappings of modern life fade the memory of an old footpath walked long ago by a younger man.
I’m delighted to say, one of my paintings has found its way into the NeST art gallery in Barnard Castle. The exhibition is part of the Moor House Natural Nature Reserve 60th anniversary. A group of group of writers and artists were invited to experience the atmosphere on a walk around Moor House in May 2012. Judith Marshall described the day on her lovely blog. We all had a taste of real North Pennine weather resulting in four inspired pieces of work for the Natural England exhibition (as above). The following was taken from Judith’s blog…
From left to right, June Redfearn completed a watercolour of Rough Sike, Judith Marshall superimposed a beautiful poem onto a framed view of Cross Fell, while I produced a mixed media canvas of a flock of sheep braving similar weather conditions and Tony McGuigan combined photography and graphic design techniques created a series of ’eco-heroes’ including the native sphagnum and reindeer moss.
Today was my first official (self employed) day back at work, the children’s holidays extending slightly longer than usual, I decided to take a few extra days, now it all seems like a distant memory. For those who ‘suffer’ my blog, you will know I’m definitely not a winter person. Suffering from SAD, I push through until the door is closed on February. Yet the festive season had it’s moments, a simple Christmas Eve stroll through Newcastle’s quayside being one of them.
Being another year older, I decided to embark upon another project to add to my growing list of unfinished work. Between, work, children/family, rugby, farmers’ markets, college and writing my book, I’ve tried to bridge an unfulfilled ambition to paint a large acrylic of Summerhill Force in Teesdale. I’ve made a few preliminary sketches in pencil and coloured pencil. I produced a few small watercolours last year, but I need to get the big canvas done to satisfy the thing that lives inside my head.
After a walk in the North Pennines, something strange seems to follow, a connection which remains with you for days – an emptiness or longing not unlike the feeling you have when you miss someone you love. The landscape seems to heal your mind, troubles disperse and the mysterious relationship between man and the land brings peace.
Often I’ve been aware of this feeling, none more so than my recent walk over Cross Fell, the highest point in the North Pennines at 2,930 feet, the highest and broadest piece of land in England.
The wilderness seems to filter through your body and you can’t rid the feeling nor wish. I spend days looking at my photographs, transfixed as though something is calling me back. The hold upon you is almost disturbing. Putting my feelings, (which I don’t understand) into words, is very difficult. Val can often be found trying to make sense of feelings and thoughts.
I’m still carrying the views and sounds in my mind, I’m certain if you put your ear to my head you’d hear the Helm Wind. Both inspiration and devotion I’ll never tire of the clouds and shadows racing across the burnt sienna and yellow ochare hills. There are moments when the mist descends its cloak, only for the wind to tear holes through the cloud revealing the nature reserve on one side and the equally stunning Eden Valley to the other.
While walking, we found the source of the great river Tees. A humble, gurgling spring emerging from rocks. Further down the valley the Tees becomes one of the most beautiful rivers in the British Isles with centuries of history along its banks.
Mines also splinter the landscape reminding us how difficult life must have been for people in the past. Loppyside Mine, Swathbeck Mine, Hunter’s Vein Mine are all names which sit between the contours of the map.
If any of you reading this feel a similar connection with a landscape I’d be interested in hearing from you.
An afternoon rangering with Natural England found me up in the windswept expanse of Moor House – Nature Reserve in Upper Teesdale. Here, the Tees flows from its birthplace down into the dark waters of Cow Green. Most of the ice flowers had by now disappeared, say for a few pink stragglers in the shape of birds eye primrose,shown in my sketch.
Butterwort and Alpine bistort were in plenty. (for some great photographs please visit Yasmine’s adventure in Upper Teesdale)
The mountain pansies however proved a riot of colour.
I followed the east shore to the dam wall before crossing over the west bank and down to Cauldron Snout. A pair of curlew wheeled above calling warnings to their ground-nesting young. They circled, yelling insults until I was deemed no longer a threat, distance saving my corner. No sooner had the aerial assaults abated than a new assailant buzzed along side. The meadow pippet flew at eye level, her calls warning me not to step any closer defending her young hid in the heather. I kept to the track respectful even if somewhat entertained by her valiant efforts.
Once the threat was over, she returned to her brood leaving me to follow the path in peace to the foaming waters of Caludron Snout. The sky was dark and overcast as distant bars of rain could be seen over Cronkley Fell. I followed the path north in the direction of the carpark, as Skylarks called from all parts of the marsh basin. I never tire of this walk or the scenery and wildlife. Back home there would be TV.