Sunday 11 September 2016

The War of The Rose(s)...

Continuing the journey from Ulverston, and my visit to Lancaster, I then began my meandering way across the country, eastward, and eventually over to York, being very aware of the old rivalry between the branches of the house of Plantagenat, those of Lancaster and York, and the War of the Roses.

I would encounter a battle with a rose myself, once I made it to Pocklington, York, but of the natural variety.

Before that, and with my first voluntary session under my belt, I was feeling more comfortable, and was taking things a little more gently...time to recharge my batteries, which would be very wise, once I got to my next placement.

So I parked up in a few places outside Kendal, and Kirkby Lonsdale, and got some proper sketching and painting done.

Chocolate House on Branthwaite Brow, Kendal

I am sure the fact that this lovely building in Kendal, on Branthwaite Brow, housed a chocolate shop had nothing to do with my choice...of course, it was soley due to the characterful chimney stacks and roofs! Of course, chocolate had no impact on my motivation...but perhaps to finish the piece, it might be a reward.

Kendal was very friendly. Whilst sitting there painting, I was approached by the local knitting shop owner and the estate agent, and offered coffee and a really friendly chat, which is a great way to spend the day in this lovely town.

The next two days would see me driving up the road to the nearby market town of Kirkby Lonsdale, South Lakeland district of Cumbria. Which has famous views of the river Lune. Often drawn to water, I also have a fondness for old architecture - always astounded by the long-lasting nature of older constructions. Those monks really knew how to build things that lasted.

Devil's Bridge - Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria

I spent a lovely afternoon sitting on the banks of the Lune, drawing the bridge, and was able to chat again to a mother and her son, who were interested in how the day's drawing was going, and I was able to talk through the technique.

The next stop, on the following day, found me coming across a really famous view. Originally painted by the master artist J.M.W. Turner, the art critic Ruskin, who may have been inspired to go there after seeing Turner's rendering, and who had defended Turner's work in his book Modern Painters in 1843. Ruskin said that an artist's principal role is "truth to nature". That sense of paying attention to nature and being true to that when interpreting within visual art is an ongoing practice. In capturing the atmospheric nature and force of the skies, Turner certainly showed his expertise, and is incredibly inspiring.

Ruskin's view, as this scene became known, and "one of the loveliest views in England" was therefore a challenge, and capturing it in my style, whilst exploring some of the colour in the view would therefore be my morning's project. The view is deemed to be perfectly balanced between the view of the river, flood plain in the midground, and forest area, as well as the background hills.

Ruskin's View

It then began to rain, quite heavily, so I managed to make my way back to the centre of Kirkby Lonsdale, and after lunch, take refuge in the central covered Market area. I glanced across at a lovely tudor building, and noticed the pigeon's roosting on the roof, and looking a little sorry for themselves. So my day's sketching could continue, even in the rain.

Pigeon's Rest

Having spent a few days in Cumbria sketching, I then began a trip to meet up with friend's Melvin and Kate, where Maude was going to have a wee little challenge of her own, as we journeyed up towards Dent, in Cumbria, (confusingly still within the Yorkshire Dales National Park after the border being moved).

Single track road to Dent, hoping not to meet another car!

This would see me spending a lovely weekend with Kate and Melvin in Dent! Gorgeous scenery, getting a wee rest, and with Kate's help, scanning in some of my sketches! We were also able to explore the spiritual path of the Quakers - and I learned a bit about the Society of Friends, and the beginnings of the movement with George Fox, having had a vision in Lancashire, and converting the Seekers that he met from that point. A visit to Briggflatts, near Sedburgh also gave me time to look at the Quaker Meeting House, and soak up some of the peaceful atmosphere, heavy in the air in that beautiful place.

From here though, I needed to move on to my next placement, in the rival house of York, and the forthcoming battle with the rose. Pocklington, a village just a few miles east of York, holds another Buddhist retreat, and this time my energies would be channelled both into gardening and general maintenance, and I would discover physical stamina than I thought I had!

The start of the excavation

Gardening became the first of the tasks - with weeding and water carrying taking over most of the first day, before being asked to fiercely prune and dig out a rose that was growing too wildly and not flowering. I innocently and keenly said yes, until I saw the eight foot bush that needed to go. Honestly, the photo does not do this plant justice!

Success - defeated rose

The task of excavating it would see me occupied for most of the afternoon and the morning of the next day. Eventually the rose gave way to the inevitable, and after severing the old roots, I was able to pull it free. This must have given me a taste for digging, as I found myself volunteering to help fix an ill flowing water source to one of the cottages.

My next task saw me confronted by my first pick-axe

Enter one pick-axe and one spade. A two-man job, Mohamed and I then would take it in turns to hack away at the hard ground of the driveway to the cottage, and then dig out the channel. Two days of this, and my arms were beginning to feel as battered and bruised as I imagined the road did. My patience was really tested here, as the water pipe proved to be illusive - looking every now and again for the small blue tube that would be the water pipe revealed! However, we would at first find the sewer and then the electric supply!?! (narrowly missed I might add). Sweat flowing, and at times unable to pick up the pick-axe, let alone swing it, at last the water pipe was found, only to realise that it was not the source of the problem! More patience needed...draw deep to find more energy. Finally, the t-point (I was becoming more familiar with this plumbing language) was found close to the inlet point by the road...and fixing this meant that the problem was cue another learning phase of how to replace a faulty flow correction valve, and replace with a new junction! And task seemed set...fill in the holes again! Cue...yes, more digging.

I really enjoyed my dinner that night! And my sleep!

Later on that week, my next challenge would be to face my fear of heights...up ladders. Not good with that, so a very nervous David would spend a day going up and down a few, with the mantra...this will soon be over, this will soon be over.

Old, trained apple trees had previously been growing up a heated wall. Apparently steam used to be pumped into a two-layer wall, with a cavity for the purpose of passing the steam through and so providing both protection and heat to the apple trees. At some point, the wall had been demolished, and the trees had suffered. But when we saw them, they looked incredibly healthy, and needed a trim.

Head for heights?

Who's got hold of the ladder!

After all the weeding, trimming, clearage and pruning, it only remained to deal with all the green waste, as well as some rubbish being accumulated at the house. There is definitely something satisfying, primal and hugely calming, as well as just plain fun in lighting a gigantic fire!

A relaxing end to the day beside the fire
At the end of the last day here, I was able to stand back and relax with the two Italian Stallions I'd worked with during my stay. Apparently this sort of bonfire was forbidden in Italy - too much risk of it spreading in the heat, so this was a new experience for them. For me it was pleasant again to feel the warm fire, and watch the hypnotic flicker of the flame, and finally to watch the last of the defeated rose burn away.


  1. Loved reading your comments and also your sketches. You are doing a wonerful job. Say hi to Maude for me. LoveMary xx

  2. What a wonderful experience David. I can't wait to read more! Axx

  3. You are inspirational, David! Love the sketches. I am just packing my art materials in readiness to head off to a new adventure in the States for a couple of months. Best wishes. Elspeth