Friday, December 30, 2005

It may have been a quiet Christmas.......

......which indeed it was. But here we are some five days later and being visited by my family in its entirety. Four children with their partners/spouses, plus six grand children. Add all that up, include my wife and myself it totals to......fifteen. That's a lot of bodies to cram into a small terraced house in Lancaster. Oh, and they are overnighting. As I write, the grandchildren are all asleep in bed and my adult children have gone out to the pub and all is quiet here.
Which brings me to the image above.
This one was painted some time ago when Throssel was in its infancy and conditions there were rather more austere. I can well remember back in the late 1970s those sharp frosty nights when we meditated. Sometimes the Moon's light woud stream in through the window and cast its pattern on the floor.This image is somewhat fanciful and romantic but does point to the stillness that can be found. Even when the house is upside down with family and kids all over the place.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Time Warp

Walking to the studio entails a walk along Lancaster's old quayside. It was a busy harbour in its heyday, long before Liverpool was even thought of. Sadly, it made much of its wealth out of the slave trade twixt Africa and the West Indies during the 16# and 17# centuries. There is a commemorative/memorial sculpture newly installed to highlight this.
However, this morning on my way to the studio I stood on the Millenium Bridge looking downriver and watching an estuary fog roll in. Soon the distant railway viaduct and the modern roads were obscured by the mist. Only the old quay buildings were left visible. It could have been 1605, not 2005 looking at that scene. It would only have needed a sailing ship to loom into view.....
However, I was standing on a very 21st century bridge. Time to move on.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Wall to wall Bach

BBC Radio 3 are running "A Bach Christmas" in which they are playing all of J.S.Bach's music. So no matter what time of the day you switch on there will be a cantata, oratorio, organ music or whatever on. Iy makes a very restful backdrop and a vast improvement on rock or techno beat which tends to be the acoustic wallpaper. Bach is also the perfect antidote to "Do they know its Christmas" or Bing Crosby's "White Christmas, - dreaming of". As far as I'm concerned, the best place for snow is on Christmas cards.
Anyway. Today, Brenda my wife, along with daughter Maggie headed off north to Halton-Lea-Gate and Haltwhistle to do the pre-Christmas visiting and exchange of pressies. I stayed here in Lancaster and gave the house a good cleaning. It needed it. It was a good chance to get it done at my own pace with everybody away. Which brings me back to wall-to-wall Bach. (No pun intended) Great background music. I believe the biggie to come is the St. Matthew Passion on Christmas Eve and the Christmas Oratorio on Christmas Day. Best check the website.
Talking of Christmas music, I still smile wryly when I remember walking down the Athinon in Cyprus and a shop churning out the carol,
"In the bleak midwinter
Frosty winds made moan.
....Snow came down, snow on snow......"
I was in tee shirt and shorts at the time, the sun blazing and the temperature in the mid twenties. Incongruous or what?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Seasonal Picture

About a mile up the valley from the monastery at a road junction there stands this old barn.Those of you with sharp eyes will see that it is signed and dated '98. I did this watercolour in the December of that year. I had planned on using the image for a christmas card but never got round to it. It does make for quite a seasonal image. I was not on retreat at Throssel at the time, I was at Ninebanks Youth Hostel just across the valley. I do remember the motorcycle ride being rather hairy with all that snow. The fortunate thing about British winters is that the snow never stays for long. If its laying in the morning, the roads are usually passable by the afternoon.
"Not like the old days." Well I would say that, wouldn't I?

At Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey

Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey is a Soto Zen monastery in West Allendale in Northumberland, located just over ten miles from where I once lived, in Halton-LeaGate.
Just a short walk from the main monastery buildings there is a small shrine dedicated to Kwan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. It is approached by crossing the beck by way of the stone bridge. Footwear is removed in the porch before entering the shrine proper. It is a good place to meditate in solitude with only the sound of the small waterfall in the background for company. This is a picture of it taken on a December day some four years ago. Snow used to be a frequent feature in the Northumbrian Pennines, Alston Moor was famous for it. We don't get the winters we used to.
The shrine is still worth a visit though, snow or no snow.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Another favourite Artist

This is "The Peasant Family" painted by Louis Le Nain, a contemporary of Goerges de La Tour. This painting also hangs in the Louvre. I really love the way he uses light to pick out the subject.It is a characteristic of these painters of the Baroque era to use chiaroscuro in this way.

Monday, December 19, 2005

To illustrate my point..

Further to what I was banging on about yesterday, another artist whose work comes to mind is Gerge de La Tour who lived from 1593 to 1652. One of his most famous paintings hangs in the Louvre in Parisand called "St. Joseph the Carpenter.Shown above.
Another classic example of this use of shielded light source can be found on this link .

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Artistic Ideas

I was showing a visitor round my space today and talking about my work and the development of ideas. As I follow the present line of development, graphite drawings in the style of b&w photos, I come across so many side avenues that beckon exploration. For example, what of draughtsmanly paintings as well as painterly drawings? At the moment what is emerging is the introduction of a single coloured object or at least tinted in the monochrome field. There is also the idea of small coloured areas where the colour ranges beyond the field of the object. Think in terms of a match flare in the dark or two hands cupped round a candle flame in the dark. The two images above might help illustrate my point. The first is the original pen drawing and the second is a computer generated image of this partial tinting.
None of this is new, Caravaggio exploited this. Look at any of his paintings. But in the drawn concept? Now there's a field to explore.
And that's to say nothing of the cairns, dolmens etc I would like to build.
If I want to fulfil all these ideas I reckon I will have to live until I'm 125 or so.If I'm still Blogging in 2065 you'll know I made it. And I bet there'll still have a few ideas left over.

Two more cards

Top one is from "Group", one of my paintings. T'other is from a certain Mediterranean beach.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmans Cards

Its that time of the year again and at Luneside we make our own, usually for circulation among ourselves. The cards tend to reflect what we do.

Two designs here. One is the sand, weathered by the sea and the other is a stone on the beach. Or is it? The stone has some spots of lichen. Blue forest stone perhaps? I'll let you be the judge of that.

These, along with a few others have been made from ink drawings on tracing paper superimposed onto a watercolour of the same object. This gives the effect of a somewhat displaced print. Rather like the way objects seen underwater from above the surface are displaced by prismatic action.

It all may sound a bit technical but they do make for interesting pictures.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Just who ARE these guys? Throughout my stay at Limassol Studios this lifesize cutout of two people has propped up the wall. Their happy smiling faces greet you every time you walk into the studio from the acomodation block. It looks like it has been done in acrylic on chipboard and they look slightly Scandinavian.My enquiries have come up with nothing. They have always been there it seems. But their image is yet another of those memories of the place which has nothing to do with Cyprus but was an integral part of my experience of Cyprus. But the question still remains, "Who are these guys?"
Perhaps I'll never know. Pehaps its better I never do.
I plan to return to Cyprus in October next year. The dream lives on.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Party's Over...

So goes the old song that Sammy Davis Jr. used to sing, "The party's over now / Its time to call it a day... " I have just finished clearing my studio space prior to sorting packing my bags. This song came to mind. Its been a wonderful month here. With a little bit of luck I may be able to repeat the experience next year with the added advantage of knowing what to bring and what not to bring. Some items never got used while others.... I could have done with bringing a light coat for the cool evenings but I brought too many pairs of socks, I hardly wore them being in sandals most of the time. I'd like Brenda to come along this time for part if not all of the trip. When you're here for a month the "holiday urgency" evaporates and soon you settle into a rythm like you've always been here. I took each day at a time and simply followed the routine that had evolved. The climate helped too. Warm weather most of the time. I can count the wet days on one hand and they were something of an event.
As this is my last full day in Cyprus I simply wandered about town, window shopping. The shops are all shut on Sundays except in the touristy area. We went beach-combing (again), I and a couple of other artists. We built a construction at the water's edge and photographed it before the sea claimed it. A monument to impermanence. Nothing lasts.
I fly out from Larnaka at quarter to six tomorrow evening, Cyprus time, and land at Heathrow at 9-00pm GMT. The bus for Preston leaves at midnight. I should be home by breakfast time on Tuesday.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Memories are made of This

Its not the great sights of Cyprus such as the Amphitheatre in Kourion or Aphrodite's Rock, great though these things are, that make the abiding memory of being here, its the simple things as shown here. This is the studio courtyard. The chair in the sun, the pomegranate tree growing in the background. The day spent sitting out here with the others, all of us making art or music as the sun circles overhead. the acommodation is primitive to say the least but the cameraderie is priceless. It is as it says on the tin; artists frrom all over the world come to Limassol Studios. The majority are Brits but we have artists from Russia, Bulgaria, USA, the Carribean, Germany, Greece and of course, Cyprus itself.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Clear Mediterranean

The clear waters of the Med. The sun sparkles on its surface. Tropical fish swim freely in it. This is how it is just now. I believe its freezing or even colder in England. This is just to let you know it is abit warmer on other parts of the planet. Roll on the summer hols eh?

Unfornutnately for me my stint in Cyprus comes to an end next Monday and I fly back to England and all that goes with it. Now where did I leave my overcoat?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Greek Ikons

These ikons are in the porch of St. Anthony's Church in Limassol. The sun was blazing on them at the time so there was no danger of damage by "flash" photography. Last Friday afternoon I was experimenting with pencil on canvas and working outside in the courtyard. One of the artists from the studio next door invited me over for a Greek coffee. In Cyprus it is considered bad manners to decline such an offer. He showed me what he does. Ecclesiastical work in the Greek Orthodox manner; murals, frescoes and ikons. He demonstrated the techniques whereby the actual pigment is used and mixed with the support medium as one works. No pre-made paint for him. He showed me how he makes egg tempera for ikon work by mixing pigment and egg yolk.

He made a mean cup of Greek coffe too.

The art form is rigidly prescribed having its roots in Byzantine works. Indeed, for many, the making of these works is a religious act of devotion in itself; a sort of artistic liturgy where instead of the prescribed words for worship, it is the making of prescribed forms.

One of the images shown here is of a man holding a baby and a cross. This is St. Simeon, the one who held the Christ child and uttered the "Nunc Dimittis". He was one who was destined not to die until he had seen the Messiah. This is why he is depicted as a very old man. He died shortly afterwards.

This incident is not unlike the one related in the story of the Buddha's birth where a saddhu named Asita held the Buddha child and prophesied He would either become a great king or a Buddha.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wave Cairn

The finished article. A truly international effort.
For fuller written account of this, see "Wave Cairn" posted Friday November 11.

Topping Out

Cairn Building Team

The group of art students who took part in the cairn building project last week. They came from all over the world, Germany, Greece, Eire, New York, and UK. The half built cairn is behind them. We stopped for lunch. In the far background is Lemesos Harbour.

At Kourion

Thole Man 'imself in the sun, in Kourion, in Cyprus. Can't say more than that.

Kourion Amphitheatre

Ancient seating arrangement of the open air theatre in Kurion, some 20 km west of Lemesos. It is still used for performances.


You might be forgiven for thinking I'd slipped in one of my "forest" images in here but this is in the forest that lies on the slopes of Mount Olympus in Cyprus. The impression is one of a well managed forest as a national park, which indeed it is. Along the tracks there are signposts indicating the fauna of the area. For example, at the base of a particular specimen of say a blach pine, there is a sign telling you that is what it is. I might know my way around a forest and be able to see the more subtle signs of forest activity but here in Cyprus the trees are unfamiliar. Not a Sitka to be seen anywhere. These tall pines are Cyprus Black Pine, indiginous to Cyprus. There is, one can see from the picture quite a mix of broadleaf and conifer. The forest, set at 6,000 ft above sea level has a more English climate. Today it was distinctly autumnal, rather like the Lake District at this time of year.
For the bus trip up into the mountains, warm clothing was the order of the day.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Work Completed

This is it. The Limassol Chain for want of a better title. I worked far into the night last night to complete it. It is a graphite work on paper, 120 x 84 cm (A1 size). Needless to say I slept rather well after that. I'll be bringing it back to England with me.

Hard to believe it, but there's only ten days of this residency left. Three of us intend to take a bus up into the Trodos mountains tomorrow morning. The Trodos is the mountainous region in the centre of Cyprus. The highest mountain is Mount Olympus, 6000ft high. Not to be confused with the Olympus in mainland Greece.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Dominant Colour

The forest's dominant colour, not surprisingly I suppose, is green. Usually to get that particular quality I use viridian and ultramarine mix and for the deeper hues, add a little prussian blue. The very bright greens encountered on the forest floor need pricipally primary yellow and viridian for the very bright, almost bleached colour and of course one of the deeper blues for the rest. Light red and umbers feature also but like I said, green is the main colour.
In the Mediterranean, it is blue. Yes, we all know that is the dominant colour but what blue? I brought some cerulean with me thinking that with the strong light the colour would be bleached. Well it is somewhat. But to my surprise, the only colour that seems to get it right is an intense ultramarine. The tonality has to be varied of course, just as the use of viridian is in the forest. Good job I brought some ultramarine as well then.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Work inProgress

This large drawing on A1 size paper is shown here in its half way stage. Tim, one of the other artists here kindly photographed it on his digital camera so I can show it here.

I am using the same techniques as in the "forest" pictures but to continue that theme here would be something of a waste of my journey to Cyprus. The trip here is an opportunity to do something different. I came here with an open mind and to simply let things evolve. It seems the theme has settled on beachcombing. I spend the day wandering the beaches in a beachcomberish sort of way collecting ideas. This anchor chain for instance lies embedded in the sand at a boatyard about half a mile or so west of the old harbour. It makes an interesting study and as can be seen, is progressing as a fairly large work. (Working on paper means it can be easily rolled up for transporting back home.)

The stretch of beach between the Old Harbour and the boatyard is where the cairn was built. It is not a "holiday" beach. There is a container depot inland and this particular beach is devoid of sand. A perfect place to fertilize an artist's imagination. Out to sea there are lots of ships coming and going. Not surprising; this is the first port west of the Suez Canal. Its only 10 hours sailing time away.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Wave Cairn

A new bigger cairn has been built. Six students came along and after I had gone through the basics of dry stone walling we set to. Many hands make light work. After a couple of hours or so we had a five foot high structure. Three of our number set of to find more decent size stones. They were gone a long time and the rest of us were just about to give up on them when a couple of hours later they returned with some stones but also a large bag of newly picked figs. That was the cue for a lunch stop. I've never tasted fresh figs before, I've always had the dried variety. They were delicious. But the juice does make for sticky fingers. No matter, we can always wash up in the Med. W hich we did. Even in November the Eastern Mediterranean is warm. the lunch break by the way was held on Greek time. Nobody hurries on the greek timescale. It was well into the afternoon before work resumed. We completed the structure, and took photos of each other beside our handiwork. But what to call it. One of our number decided on "Wave Cairn" as we were beside the waves. So "Wave Cairn" it is. Pictures will be posted when the film is developed.
Early evening. Seven figures strolling back towards the Old Harbour. The westering sun warm on their backs as their shadows extended in front of them. It had been a good day.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Poseidon's Cairn


This is the Greek Orthodox Basilica in the next street to the studios whose early morning bell-ringing ensures no-one needs an alarm clock.

It is the official seat of the Bishop of Lemesos.


Took a bus trip today about 15 miles west of Limassol to the recently restored Greek theatre at Kourion. This is a world heritage site. The bus got me there for 10-00 am. and would pick me up at 3-00 pm. Plenty of time to do some drawing. Which I did. When I arrived there were three busloads of German tourists on the site. The guide was explaining it all (in German). It seems the theatre played a principal role in the days of Homer, Plutarch and in the Roman period the likes of Virgil. It did have a short period during Diocletan's reign as a colosseum during the anti Christian purges. But this was short-lived and soon reverted to its original purpose. Today it is used for staging both modern and classical Graeco-Roman plays.
The sun rose high in the sky. It got very warm, even by Cyprus standards. Later I wandered on the moors above the cliffs of Kourion that overlook the Med. Much of the vegetation is shrivelled except for a particularly vicious looking thorn bush that grows just about everywhere around here. Later I was told this is the type of thorn from which Christ's crown of thorns is reputedly made. Ouch!
There is a church nearby dedicated to St. Lazarus. Seemingly this Lazarus is the same one as was raised from the dead in the Gospel story. After his recovery he spent the rest of his life, a period of about 30 years, in Cyprus.
I did a few drawings of these thorns I mentioned earlier. It is a wild place here but without the wind and rain you get on British moors.
After that, the bus ride back into Limassol and a much needed siesta. It is now evening as I post this Blog. the sun has gone down, and the temperature with it. Such contrast. Tee shirt and shorts through the day and sweaters and jeans in the evenings.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Limassol Studios

This is the main entrance to the Studios. The place is a converted cinema. The main studio space was the auditorium. The ceiling is a long way up. The red brick part with the balconies is the accomodation area.

The Street where I live...

The studio buildings are just behind me. Some of the streets are even narrower than this and still carry traffic. Never again wil I winge on about Lancaster's narrow pavements. These are less than a couple of feet wide...and cars park on them. Needless to say a one way systen is in operation. This picture was taken early morning as I was heading for market.

The Man Who Loves Cats

Not far from Lemesos there is a monastery dedicated to St. Nikolas of the Cats. Access is very limited on two counts. The nuns are part of an enclosed order and it lies right in the middle of the Sovereign Base which is a restricted zone.
This morning I saw a man carrying a large carrier back walking towards the pier in the Old Harbour. He was followed by what appeared to be the entire feline poulation of Limassol. And, more and more cats rin to join him. When he got to the pier, he stopped, opened his carrier bags and handed pieces of cat food to each individual cat. There was no hurry. No scrabbling among the cats and the man himself made sure the weaker ones and the kittens each got their fair share. The entire process took some time. He patiently fed these cats untill all the cat food was gone and the cats all fed. Then he turned and left the cats and went his way.
There are many feral cats on the island. Cyprus is said to be famous for them. Its nice to know there is at least one guy who cares about them.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Its Not Over Yet...

News of the destruction of the cairn has spread round the Studios. The students want to build another and could I teach them? We will make a day of it. We'll build something more substantial, take some food, take some local red plonk and have a good time! The students will learn a bit about stone dyking and some of them are unsure as to what a cairn is. They are from all over the world so its not that surprising.
Another day by the sea. More drawings. Probably the most abiding memory of Cyprus I'll retain is walking along the pebbly beach back to the Studio with the warm sun on my back as it sets due west, the gentle breeze and my long, long shadow on the beach. The gentle sound of the Mediterranean lapping on the shore.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Poseidon has claimed his cairn

Ther was a heavy deluge of rain last night with a stiff breeze blowing. Consequently the tide was higher than usual. The cairn has been swept away, only the foundation stones remain. Poseidon has claimed his cairn.
Good job I took some photos.

Never let a Name Mislead You

In the posting, "Angelus" I said the nearby basilica was Roman Catholic. Not so. It is Greek Orthodox. I was thrown by the title, "Katholiki". Turns out this place is the seat of the Greek Othodox bishop of Lemesos. So now we know.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Poseidon's Cairn

Set off after breakfast around 8-00 am to do a bit of local sketching and take a few photos. The idea was to have about an hour's session at that and return to the studio.
It didn't work out that way.
I was taking some photos of the local Basilica when my camera batteries died. So.... made a diversion into Theo's newspaper shop and got new batteries. I realised by now a Greek phrase book was becoming essential. Went to the books shop down the Athina towards the harbour. Got the phrasebook and as it was getting seriously warm by this time I finished up in a local cafe. After spending an hour or so there soaking up the ambience and trying to learn some basic Greek, the studio was long forgotten. So I wandered down to the Harbour and passed St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Church. I looked in. It is full, wall to wall with ikons. Fantastic. The verger showed me around and explained these ikons but, he only spoke Greek. All I could do was nod sagely and look at the works. They are well worth seeing even if you do miss out on the commentary.
From there a walked along the stony beach between the old harbour and the new one where the cruise ships call. the other visiting artist had already made an installiation on the beach; a small stone circle. About a mile or so further on I built a cairn. As its by the sea lets call it, "Cairn to Poseidon." Wind and tide will ultimately destroy it so I took some photos of it. THEN I returned to the studio. It took me 3 hours to build that cairn. No wonder I felt tired when I got back. It has been a full day.


In the next street to the Limassol Studio there is a Roman Catholic Basilica. Early rising is not a problem. The Angelus rings out at 6-00 am every day and is followed every hour by a peal of bells to announce the Mass. This lasts untill 10-00 am.
Fortunately, this part of the town retires early. The Tabernas are closed by ten and we've all gone to bed.
Anyway, once the sun rises in the morning, the temperature rises with it and it can be in the lower twenties by seven.
So in its way the Angelus is far gentler than an aggressive alarm clock.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


I'll not go into details about flying over the Alps or the lovely green Greek islands passing beneath etc. I arrived very tired at Larnaka airport just as the sun sank into and orange sky. The mountains ecthed into sharp sillouette. After having been told not to worry about learning Greek because everyone in Cyprus speaks English, well the taxi driver that took me to Limassol spoke no English and I no Greek. But we managed somehow.
To arrive in the old quarter of the town afer dark was something of a culture shock at first. But next morning after a good nights kip, simple accomodation, but a VERY comfy bed, I took stock of the surroundings. If you like things that are well off the tourist trail, then this is for you.
By the end of the day I feel my face has a permanent grin stuck on it.
Cypriots are very friendly and very helpful.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

My Bag is Packed...

As the old song goes.........
"Oh my bag is packed / I'm ready to go...../
I'm leavin' on a jet plane.........
Well, not quite just yet. First I have a 250 mile bus ride to the airport, THEN I'll leave on said jet plane. Anyways, I set off tonight. Fly out tomorrow morning.
I'll probably update the Blog once a week. Depends on how much it costs to use internet cafes in Cyprus.
This piccy is of a single tree up in you-know-where. the original is some three feet long. I'm thinking about using it as a margin on my notepaper. Makes a change from letterheads.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Greek Doors

My eldest daughter, Cath returned from a holiday in Corfu and brought me back a calendar with pictures of Greek Doorways. They are very bright and colourful and full of character. It has given me an idea for something in Limassol if, that is, there are some old greek doors around in that part of Cyprus.But seeing I'll be staying in the old part of the town I'd be surprised if there weren't a few old doors, archways, alleys etc.
I haven't scanned in any of the pictures from the calendar, I don't want to fall foul of copyright laws whether they be UK or Greek. So it might be worth a peek at their website.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Countdown to Cyprus

It was planned way back last April. I would spend a month making art at Limassol Studios in Cyprus. Now departure day is just over a week away. The flight is booked as is the bus to the airport. Taxi organised for the other end.
The plan is to go by National Express to Heathrow. That bus arrives there at 5-00am. I'll be in good time for check in! Fly out at 10-00 am and land in Larnaca around 4-00 pm, Cyprus time. They are two hours ahead of British time which will have reverted to GMT by then. Then the taxi for the fifty or so miles trip to Limassol.
I don't think a two hour change in time zone is likely to bring on jet lag, but length of time spent traveling may well result in similar symptoms.
As I look out of the window at the grey November sky, a sky that can't quite make up its mind whether to rain or not, and think about where I'm going, I think the trip will be worth it.
According to the weather forecast for Cyprus it is 25ºC and sunny. The evening temperature is 17ºC.
I'll be making some art. Its a hard life but SOMEONE'S got to do it!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Co-op at Halton Lea Gate

The HLG store has had something of a reprieve. I read in the Hexham Courant that negotiations between the good people of The Gate and the management ot Penrith resulted in the store getting a further six months to prove itself. It is now up to the locals to follow the old mantra, "Use it or lose it."
We'll know the outcome by next March.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Autumn Afternoon

I did take some photos at Byrness as well as doing on-site drawings. A shaft of sunlight filtering through the tall trees picked out a small patch of the forest floor in an almost flourescent green.
The picture is in B&W. I prefer to use a monochrome format. But then I do tend to draw in monochrome.
For some strange reason my profile photo doesn't show up. I've checked it on Flickr, the host site and it still seems to be valid.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


From time to time we see the reason for the forest's existence. Growing timber either for the paper industry where the felled trees are ground into wood pulp or sent to the sawmills to become cut and dressed wood for joinery and carpentry.
This particular stack, which I drew "from the life" has stood for about a year so is clearly intended as timber. It will be well seasoned by now. If you look closely you will see the bark has begun to peel away of its own volition.
The felled area has now been replanted. There is a policy of for every tree felled, two are planted to replace it. Sustainable foresry practice.
In some areas the newly planted trees have plastic sleeving to protect them. these are broadleaf trees. FE has embarked on a programme of re-introducing native species as well as commercial conifer. The days of dense blankets of sitka are coming to an end. But the FE still intend to have sitka make up 60% of its tree cover. Visit their site for more information.
This image is taken from my sketchbook and is about 21 cm square. Pencil drawing with some watercolour.

NT 767072

That number is the grid ref for this little scene in Redesdale. It is an area of the forest made up primarily of larches. But the area in the foreground has been left to grow wild and not only is there new growth of the curvacious larch but a few stray spruces as well, both Norways and Sitkas. There's a lot of bracken around which is treacherous to walk through as it covers deep water filled holes and some serious bogs.
Not far from this spot there is a clearing with a perfect circle of larch trees around it. The ground within this circle is flat and bright green. It looks inviting until more closely examined. It isn't grass that covers this lush zone but a thin layer of sphagnum moss that hides a watery bog or mire. I poked this with my walking pole and a jet of water spurted out. You don't walk on this stuff. Beautiful but deadly.
There was evidence of trees having fallen into this space but have disappeared under the moss.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Quite a mouthful but that is the name of it, just on the Otterbern side of Byrness looking down the Redesdale Valley towards where the River Rede enpties into the Tyne near Bellingham.The length of its name reminds me of another long named place in North Wales,
Llanfairpwylltansiliogogeryddllanberysansiliogogogoch. That's if I've spelled it right or got all the syllables in. It means , "The little house beside the church upon the hill," or so I've been told.
Cottonshopeburnfoot is simply the foot of the Cottonshope Burn where it joins the River Rede.
Whatever. Its a nice peaceful place to be.
As may be gathered by the fact pictures are posted, I am back in Lancaster. For now.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Changing Seasons

The trees are turning golden very quickly now. A skein of some forty or so geese flew from due north and went right over the hostel on their southern trajectory. Those vee formations are a wonder to behold. As they fly on there is a constant shifting of position so that the goose at the apex of the vee only holds its position for a short time. The due south flight line would put them on target for either Morecambe Bay, the Dee or the Severn estuaries. They were too far east for the Solway. If they came in a straight line I guess they came from Svalbard, Spitzbergen in the Arctic North. Its wonderful when you think about it, how they can fly all that way.
Whilst in the forest a red squirrel put in an appearance high up in a larch tree. Later on I saw a buzzard drifting lazily in the sky.
I haven't seen any deer this time round but their spoors are plentiful. Judging by the small size of the prints I reckon they are Roe Deer. They are around. As I sit drawing in the forest I can hear their characteristic asthmatic sounding cough. I did hear a bellow the other day. It could only be a stag, (you don't get cattle in dense forest), the rut starts any time now.

Friday, September 30, 2005

After the Storm

Yaesterday was wind and rain. As the day progressed it got windier and rainier. A good day for staying indoors.
Today is a total contrast. The sun shone and it actually got warm in mid afternoon. I walked through a very boggy forest. The rains of yesterday had really enlivened the undergrowth of ferns and mosses on the forest floor. The sunlight filtering through the trees picked out the most brilliant emeral greens. Talking of colour, now the autmn has really set in the broadleaf trees are turning and the larches, the only conifer I know of that sheds its needles during winter (not counting Christmas Trees!) are starting to go a brilliant orange-red colour. Soon whole swathes of the forest will be golden. But I'll miss all that, I'll be in sunny Cyprus by then.
I've run off the last of my film today and I'll get it processed when I get back to Lancaster. Then we can have some new piccys on the Blog.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


The hostel manager gave me a lift into Jedburgh this morning. We got there about nine o' clock. Good time to catch the shops as they open you'd have thought. Nothing doing. The town wakes up between half nine and ten. It gave me a chance to look around. I have been here several times before and have "done" all the touristy things; Mary Queen of Scots house, the Abbey, the Old Gaol, etc. Did a fair bit of window shopping, its the best way, you don't buy anything so it doesn't cost anything.
Anyway, the reason I wanted to be in Jedburgh was to take a look at the Community Arts Centre's gallery. The curator runs the local mountain bike shop so I needed to call there first.
Yes, you've guessed it. It dun'open till ten. But once ten o' clock arrived, shop opened and they were very helpful. I got a good look at the gallery so now I have some idea what needs to be done. It should hold about fifteen of my pictures. The wall space is about the same as the Duke's in Lancaster, maybe slightly bigger. The room is quite large with huge windows in one wall and modern floodlighting.
Afterwards, a stroll along the side of Jed Water, a cup of coffee, and then back to Byrness.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Observing Little Changes

Took a walk into the forest yesterday under and uncertain sky. The trees themselves seemed to huddle together against the damp. Small patches of vague grey mist lay trapped under the canopy. Then with startling suddenness a shaft of watery sunlight pieces the gloom picking out the undergrowth. The wet bracken reflects an almost white light. Ferns and bay willow herb act as filter lenses sending out bright green light. In the foreground the Sitka trunks present a black silhouette to this backdrop. Then the sun is once again obscured by cloud. The shaft of sunlight fades and all reverts to monochrome once again.

Today I took a different sort of walk in intermittent showers to the top of Byrness Fell above the tree-line. A strong westerly wind had me sheltering behind the summit cairn. I could see the rolling green carpet of forest below me and in the middle, the pale blue of Catcleugh Resevoir. Kielder Resivoir lay in the next valley but one, out of sight. I lingered here a half hour or so watching the play of light as parts of the landscape was obscured by passing heavy showers. Cheviot played hide and seek with the rainstorms. All too soon it was time to return to the valley and open up the Hostel. No one booked in tonight though. I'll probably watch TV.

Got hold of a copy of the Hexham Courant. The Co-op store in my old village is under threat of closure. Seems to be the way of things these days. More and more rural ameneties closed down because they are uneconomic. Where will it all end I wonder?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

No Time to Relax

I was struck by this picture the other day. It is by the Dutch painter Jan Zoeterlief Tromp and called "The Sunday Stroll". A picture of pastoral innocence harking back to a golden age when life was less hectic.
Or was it?
If you look closely at the elements in the picture you will see the woman is knitting as she walks with her children. They [children] are enjoying the cornfield but mother is not relaxing. she is working at her knitting as she goes along. She has no time for the innocent purity of pastoral life. She wears her clogs, working shoes. Then again she'd probably need them for walking across a field. Note the pet lamb in tow. Now I can remeber the days up at Halton-Lea -Gate when keeping a pet lamb was commonplace. It was reared until an adult sheep then became mutton to feed the family.
Nowadays poeple work all hours, usually both partners. The children are in nursery or school followed by so-called "afterschool" until their parents can collect them on the way home from work. Then its time to prepare for the next day.
Its called living. Nowt's changed really, has it?
We don't keep pet lambs for food any more, we spend a large part of our time in the shops instead. The actions may be different but the urgency's the same.

Don't get confused

This is NY680947. Not to be confused with the previos posting of NY678945. The more astute of you will have figured they are not so far apart, two hundred yards north and two hundred yards east. Which, according to Pythagoras' rule, is almost 283 yards north-east. Or to be precise, 283 yards, 2feet and 6 inches but i think we're labouring the point here.
This painting is 60 cm x 90 cm, acrylic on canvas.

Byrness Revisited

Well it will be next week. I'll be off doing another stint at the YH. And doing the odd foray into the forest. Of course its the start of autumn now and while most conifers stay green, the larches go golden brown. The birches along with other broadleaf trees will be turning too.
This time I'm going up by train and then bus. I have always been hesitant about getting there this way as I rather believed the cost would be prohibitive. Imagine my surprise when I find the cost of a return ticket is less than what is normally spent in petrol one way. Mind you, it is helped a bit being over that certain age so my tain and bus pass helps.
So those of my family who get coaxed into giving me a lift into what they consider the back of beyond heave a sigh of relief. (Only joking).
But this does mean that in future I'll be getting the train.
The piccy is a painting, about four feet square, acrylic on canvas of some of that forest on a hillside. This is one of those titled by a grid reference, it is NY678945.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Just Like on Skye

The mountains on Tenerife are in a strange way reminiscient if the Cuillins on the Isle of Skye in the Western Isles of Scotland.
Walking along what passes for a beach round here [Tenerife] one sees the pebbles are honeycombed with holes. Probably from escaping gas as the lava started to solidify. These stones are very light, like pumice. They probably ARE pumice.The rocks are black. When I looked at a large rock or part of the cliffs the penny dropped. Of course the mountains have the look of those on Skye.This rock is gabbro. The Black Cuillin is gabbro. The difference between Tenerife and Skye is the climate. One is as dry as the other is wet.
The stones made interesting objects to draw.
Well next week I'll be back in the forest at Byrness

Sun, Sea, but no Sand

Just got back from a week in Tenerife. Very warm, hot in fact. Someone told me the temperature was in the 40s. I can quite believe it. Brenda and I stayed at a place in the south of the island. The area is made up of volcanic debris. It all looks rather arid and inhospitable, the more so as development of this area is far from complete. luxurious resorts stand incongruously in the middle of one huge building site. Still there is sunshine in abundance and the sea. The outlook is southwards and as these islands, the Canaries, lie off the west African coast just 1000 miles from the equator, the next landfall in a straight line would be Antarctica which is somewhat cooler. when at the seaside I have always been somewhere where the next country is not too far away. Like Norway opposite Nothumberland's coast, or Ireland from Morecambe or if on the Med, well nowhere's too far away. The sea is so vast.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


At Begbroke, a small village near Oxford, the Norman church boasts a sundial high up on the south wall of the bell tower. The style of it suggests it is a more recent addition to the architecture. My guess is somewhere around the Reformation or at the earliest, the high mediaeval period. More interesting however is the inscription on the left lintel of the main door as illustrated here. I was rather intrigued by this and thought it was some sort of mediaeval benchmark. The local verger put me right on that one. It is in fact a simple sundial and could well date back to sonn after the church ws built.
Apparently, when Mass was being celebrated, as stick was inserted into the hole. The shadow showed the hour and when the Mass would end. If the pole/stick was absent, then it showed the priest was not in the church building. Simple but effective.
This is from my sketchbook while staying at Yarnton a fortnight ago.

Saxon Cross at Yarnton, near Oxford.

Yarnton's church building is clearly mediaeval and one could be forgiven for thinking this goes back not much further than say, the XIII century. But the Saxon cross just outside the porch shows there has been a place of worship here at least since, if not before the days of King Alfred of Wessex.
In the earliest days of the re-establishment of Christianity in Saxon England, priests were rather few and far between and they had perforce to travel around the area and when they arrived in a village a cross would be planted in the ground. This served as a temporary open air church where all the ecclesiastical business pertaining to that area was done. As time went by, the wooden cross was replaced with a stone one. Later, as the local community grew, and felt it could support a priest, the villagers would get together and build a church. The building belonged to the villagers or, under the feudal system, the local lord of the manor.
This weathered piece of masonry (of which there are quite a few dotted around England) is direct evidence of the strength of faith that has lasted down the centuries.
It was a lovely hot afternoon when I sat in the churchyard doing this drawing. When I had finished it I was taken aback somewhat by the way it came out. It has a bit of a Pre-Raphael look about it. Not surprising I suppose when most of the landscape hereabouts has something of that feel about it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bargoed Oaks

Those of you that have followed my art output may well be familiar with the Bargoed I-IV pictures of twisted oaks covered in moss. Its a strange sort of forest just to the north of Bargoed village (or is it a town?). Stunted or very slow growing oak trees line a hillside. There are two or three footpaths threading their way through it. Wildlife is absent. This is mainly due to the number of locals who walk their dogs through here.
The forest itself looks like the set for some gothic film, especially in mist and rain (which seems to be 90% of the time)
Anyway, here's an image from my sketchbook of yet another Bargoed oak. At the time, heavy grey clouds were gathering overhead and shortly afterwards a heavy downpour necessitated a hasty end to the drawing session. Typical Welsh weather really.

He's Back!

Returned from the "Grand Tour" with grandkids in tow, well two of them.
Visited Yarnton, a small village just outside Oxford. It is an area with charming little mediaeval churches and the countryside is relatively flat, therefore more conducive to liesurly cycling.
After a few days we decamped to Ellies place in Wales where I rode around a couple of cycle trails there. For all Wales' noted mountains, these tracks were fairly flat too.
Then on to Birmingham for an overnight stay before coming home.
Tomorrow it is Wednesday. More of my family will be in Lancaster. Its going to be a crowded time. School starts again next week so all will return to their respective homes on the week-end and peace shall return......
Let's wait and see. There's always summat happens.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Off On Another Grand Tour

I'll be out of Blog circulation until August 28. We're off visiting family and friends in Oxford, Bargoed, and Birmingham. The bicycle's coming too. Taking a sketchbook as well but that goes without saying I suppose.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Joy of Making Art

I guess this is something that writers, musicians and artists have in common.
I have been working on the centre picture of the triptych referred to in the last posting for quite a number of days and for some reason things refused to work out. For example, The background is black. It being the interior of dense forest it would be. For this I wanted an intense black. I built it up, layer upon layer. Rather in the way Mondrian made his black lines; endlessly repeated layers of charcoal and graphite. Barbara Hepworth, in her memoirs refered to this incidence when she along with other artists, including Mondrian, lived in London before the outbreak of World War II. She asked Mondrian why such intensive layering was nescessary. His reply was to the effect that he needs to have the blackness of those lines as intense as possible.
Usually this works but I was using an unfamiliar type of cartridge paper. The paper is very white indeed and is quite heavy at 300gsm. It just seemed to absorb the material in spite of me using 12B graphite. But 12 hours of layering up and suddenly it "gelled". The finished item is not 100% what I envisioned at the beginning but there is a harmony about it that is pleasing.
Its alovely feeling when it all comes together like that. There is an excitement about it that takes me by surprise every time.
Is this what it means to be an artist, I wonder?
I have watched musicians, from organists like Andy Sievwright at Hexham Abbey to jazz pianists like Duke Ellington improvise, invent and explare harmonies and other musical combinations, (sometimes disharmornies) until something beautiful, if unexpected is produced.
All art is a journey of discovery.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Studio Latest

I usually have two or three projects going on at the same time in my studio space. Right now is no exception.
Some time ago I completed two drawings and a painting, "Group" which have been shown on the Blog, and at the time I hinted there would be more "groups" to follow; but of different tree groups.
During my last visit to the Forest I identified several tree groups for future work and the first of these is on the large drawing board. At present it is little more tan a few marks on a large piece of 300 gram Fabriano 70 x 80 cms.
Another ongoing work is a "changes" series which was going to be a five part but now looks destined to be a triptych. Well, it happens. Especially in art. Things never seem to turn out the way they were planned. But that's the joy of it, its unpredictability. Logically this shouldn't happen. But it does.
I'll show more images when I get more of my work photographed.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Pure Line

Sometimes I draw using technical drawing tools. In this case a 0.35mm Rotring pen on tracing paper. The tree is drawn freehand but for the background cross hatching I used tee square and set square.
I had originally thought of doing it like this to project onto other images to create further work but this seemed to be a complete statement in itself and so I have left it as it is. It is mounted against white paper on a mount card ready for framing at some point.
The original drawing was done from life at a bird sanctuary near Lancaster.

Ongoing Project

A series of drawings showing changes. In this instance, the same imgage but each frame shows a different technique. Reading from the left, a line drawing, then one with some tone added followed by on with some tinting and ending with heavy shading. Different ways of looking, onr the one hand and showing the way the same scene is transformed by changing conditions on the other. I am doing several in this way. The picture in the previous posting is another example.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Sitka at Jedburgh, 2006

I will be having an exhibition at the Community Arts Centre in Jedburgh during June, 2006. The show will run from June 3 to June 25. It will be of my work featuring the Sitka and its environment.
Jedburgh is a border town some ten miles into Scotland on the A68 running from Newcastle upon Tyne to Edinburgh. The town actually stands outside the Border Forest Park ityself but is an integral part of the ancient Jedforest of which there are still some traces.
The exhibition itself will feature paintings and drawings and it is planned to display found objects in a sculptural way. For example, pieces of timber with the bark still in-situ but the exposed wood polished to reveal the grain.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Galadriel's Mirror

If you're familiar with Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" then you will remember where, after their adventures in the Caves of Moriah which resulted in Gandalf falling to his apparent doom, the party of hobbits and and others emerged on the east side of the Misty Mountains and entered the enchanted forest of Lothlorien.
Lorthlorien was ruled by the elven queen, Galadriel. She possessed a mirror which reveals the truth.

The mirror of Galadriel can appaer quite unexpectedly. A small quantity of rainwater gathered in the hollw of a fallen tree branch reflects the sky. So by looking at the forest floor you see the sky. Look closely and you reveal yourself.

Seriously though, in the forest the light is fairly subdued and any water that catches the light will surprise the eye. After a shower of rain, if the sun comes out the trees glisten like they are covered in diamonds. In Zen we say a single dewdrop reveals the whole universe. Likewise droplet spangled trees resemble those described in Buddhist visions of Heaven. Jewel trees.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Family of Blog - keeps growin'

Two more have joined my circle of Bloggers. There's Iain who now lives in Japan and there is a (Buddhist) monk who I have not seen for a number of years as he has been in a monastery in the USA for a while but now lives in Wales. Why not visit their respective Blogsites?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Luneside Portrait Project

Portrait at Luneside
Originally uploaded by Thole Man.
At Luneside Studios in Lancaster we have just completed a portrait project in which we each did a portrait of a fellow artist in the Studios. The results are on display at the Theatre Gallery in the Duke's Theatre in Lancaster until July 30.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Cathedral Grove - Drawing

Cathedral Grove - Drawing
Originally uploaded by Thole Man.
This is an on-site drawing taken from my sketchbook of the so-called "Cathedral Grove". The sketchbook is A4 size. At the far end is a tussock of grass which caught the sunlight and was the most brilliant bright green, almost fluorescent.

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove
Originally uploaded by Thole Man.

It was another artist living in Byrness, Sue Moorhouse, who coined the name for this particular fire-break. She too paints the forest. Not surprising, seeing she actually lives there. But she, like me agrees that the forest interior has that cathedral like quality about it. Looking along this fire-break is indeed reminiscent of some nave or quire. The branches that form the forest canopy almost mimic a vaulted ceiling. This image will become a painting/drawing somewhere along the way.

Kwan-Yin in the Forest

Kwan-Yin of the Forest
Originally uploaded by Thole Man.

In my room at Byrness I set up a small altar of Kwan-Yin, the compassionate Bodhisattva. There were no candles available nor any of the other usual bits 'n' bobs. The shelf on which the figue stood was only three inches wide so I was a bit limited in scope. However, as can be seen, I gave her a backdrop of pine sprigs and a few cones. The figure stands about six inches high. I think it made for a very peaceful looking image.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Back to Lancaster

Sunday afternoon. Back in Lancaster after a longish train journey from Hexham. The train got into Carlisle just two minutes AFTER the Lancaster train left. So an hour or so's wait for the next train.
Back home here, waiting for Brenda to get back this evening from her trip to Riga. The forest now seems a world away. However, tomorrow I take two films in to Jessops for processing after which I should be able to get some new pictures onto the Blog.
Watch this space........

Sunday, July 10, 2005


Early morning in my room at the Hostel. I sit on my zafu and face the wall. The silence is exquisite. I am alone. The hostellers have not yet risen. I become aware of the natural rhythm of my breathing and take care not to count the breaths as this will inhibit its natural cycle. As the scripture says,
"...even the slightest twitch will surely break the rhythm."
Later, after all the hostellers have gone and I have finished clearing up after them, I am alone in the forest. I am doing a detailed drawing of some tree debris on the forest floor. As I work I become aware of the very forest breathing as a huge living organism.
All life is interconnected. Meditating in a place like this only makes you acutely aware of it.
Its this interconnectedness of all things that is sound of the "Golden Bell that rings but once" that I referred to in an earlier Blog.
When body and mind are in harmony, one is in harmony with all things.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Walk on the Wild Side

Took a nice long walk deep into the forest along a footpath that meanders its way towards Kielder. Its well away from the regular tourist spots. It was so quiet I began to wonder if my hearing aids had packed in! I did a few drawings and took a lot of b&w photos. the weather was showery making it perfect conditions for the midges. But I went onwards, undaunted.
It really is great being out and alone in the wild places knowing your fieldcraft is essential and to enjoy using it.
Got back rather footsore about half an hour before I was due to open the Hostel. We're half full tonight, Mainly Pennine Way walkers.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Forest's Secret Formula

The Border Forest at this timeof year is notorious for its voracious midges to say nothing of the clegs as well. The former aren't called flying piranhas for nothing. And the clegs? Barracuda at least. Between them they can reduce a man to a hand flapping maniac in minutes. You can use Autan, Jungle Formula, Skeeto, they all work; - for a while. You spray the stuff on and if you leave as much as one square centimetre of untreated skin, they getchya.
But here in Byrness the foresry workers have and unfailing formula....
Mix equal portions of Meths, Dettol and Baby Oil together and apply to the skin. OK you end up smelling like a cross between an operating theatre and a chip pan but by 'eck it works!!!!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Here at Last

Byrness YH does have a computer but the internet is dial up and exceedingly slow so I shall probably only put in a couple of postings.
Left Lancaster in torrential rain but up her in t' far north its gloriously hot and sunny. For how long? Dunno. Enjoy it while it lasts I say.
Nice to be back among the tall pine trees.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Into the Depths of the Forest....

On Saturday I'm heading up to Byrness, about 15 miles from Kielder to look after the YH there. It is deep in the forest so no prizes for guessing what I'll be doing during the day, - apart from cleaning the Hostel and making ready for the next evening's arrivals!
IF the computer there is working then I'll kep this Blog posted. If not, then you'll have to wait 'till I get back.


While I was in Silverdale near Lancaster last Sunday I did quite a bit of fieldwork. One of them is shown here. It has I admit, a bit of an Anne Sudworth element to it. But this is no fantastical image. The Sun's strong light filtered through the forest shade and picked out elements in a surprising manner. So perhaps her images aren't quite so fantastical after all.

This picture is A5 size (15 x 21 cm) on and A4 size mount. It is drawn in black ink using a technical pen[Rotring] on tracing paper with white cartridge backing.

Originally uploaded by Thole Man.


Originally uploaded by Thole Man.
Anne Sudworth, an international artist who lives in the NW of England currently has an exhibition running at Lancaster UK
Her fantastical images show illuminated trees as if caught in car headlights or picked out by an independent light source. Some of her images include faeries and wizards. In some way her work reminds me of the Pre-Raphaelites but there the similarities end. Visit her her website here and see for yourself. Personally I like her stuff. But then, looking at what I do, I would, wouldn't I?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A little bit of Zen.

I was out on a field trip last Sunday walking in the woods around Silverdale doing some drawings of trees, rocks, plants, etc. The light was constantly shifting and changing as the sun coursed across the sky. I felt there was something timeless, etrernal in all this. I wrote a haiku :

Watching the unfolding seasons,
The ebb and flow of the tide;
One calls and one replies,-
The Golden Bell.

Do you understand?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Harrogate's Greatest Secret?

Some time back I was in Knaresborough and in my blog for the day was a bit disparaging about its neighbour, Harrogate. I still maintain that as a town centre it is not over inspiring but today I discovered the Town Green.
This is and area of mixed forest land which, so I have been told, had been under threat of development by the local council. However the good citizens of Harrogate united and ultimately uncovered an ancient bylaw which gave this area protection from such things. Consequently it is open to all and with totally free access. Oh, and by the way, residents have the right to allow their pigs to eat acorns there!
A group of us wandered through this small peice of forest land in the sultry heat of the hottest summer day so far this year. There's oak, ash, beech and scots pine, all growing randomly. No ordered planting. No evidence of timberwork of any sort, not even coppicing. Wonderful. There are a couple of brackish ponds with moorhens swimming around. Lots of grey squirrels. Well there would be, in broadleaf areas, wouldn't there? There is a newly restored footbridge and a couple of park benches. Otherwise it all looks quite natural.
A peaceful place. It was a good day. The only thing was, I hadn't brought my camera nor had I my sketchbook with me.

Friday, June 17, 2005


Originally uploaded by Thole Man.

About this time last year, I was up at Byrness, (where else?) and had Liam, my eldest grandson, for company. We'd taken our bicycles along and on this particular day set off up through Cottonshope Forest to the Hart of Toe on the Border and then on to the bothy at Spithope which is run by the MBA On the way there we stopped to take some photos and do a few drawings of an area that had been felled. Most of the timber had been cleared away leaving a desolate area of muddy pools which were quite deep in places plus lots of tree stumps and the usual detritus of logging operations. But standing alone and in a strange way, aloof, was this felled trunk of a Douglas Fir. The bole was a good three feet (1 metre for those who insist we measure in French) in diameter. I took several photos of if and this picture, "Annulus" was completed in the studio. The huge knot on the left is interesting. This is the start of a branch. Its amazing how big these knots can be. It is normal foresry practice to lop off these lower branches to prevent knot growth and ensure good quality straight grained timber. If the trees are intended for pulp then the knots are not such an impotant factor.

This Douglas Fir poses something of an enigma I think. All the other trees around were Sitkas. Its obvious this specimen had been around much longer than the Sitka plantation. Had it been felled in error? And why have they left it there? Has it been singled out for something else? If nothing else it has given me some good subject matter to work on. Compare it with "Double Annulus" in an earlier posting.