Please don’t talk to me when I’ve just woken up. Actually, probably best to leave it for an hour and a half. Do not request a hair cut, even if it is “just a quick one”; don’t ask “have you got 80p in your bank account? There’s this Sonic the Hedgehog app I’d like”; please don’t request my help to decide how you can best waste £50 to make your new xbox controller work on your pc; in fact, just stop asking me anything. All I can hear is noise, and I really don’t like noise when I’ve just woken up.
“Why are you still in your pyjamas? I was planning on a long walk today, how am I going to do that now, if you’re not ready to leave? You were supposed to be meeting your friends at 11, it’s almost midday.” “What time do you want picking up? 4 o’clock? Well, that’s not gonna happen, I’m going to the Roseland for a walk, I told you.” And so it goes on…
I pull into the lay-by at Wrinkling Lane (don’t you love that name?) near Trelissick
Good concentration is still eluding me at the moment. How do you manage to focus when the creative things you usually do take time and thought? Do you have a strategy?
Mine is to do something physical, raise the heart rate (considerably) with a speed walk, a run or a bike ride (although I haven’t been motivated to get my bike out of the shed for the last couple of weeks…) and that seems to help for a short while afterwards. I’m also focussing on purposely small creative projects like these landscape sketches and the ones below. If I can produce a drawing that I can finish in an hour or so I feel like I’ve achieved something; working on bigger pieces, or ideas that take a lot of clear thinking leave me feeling frustrated and down, so my policy has been to put them on the back burner for a while.
I’ve been thinking a lot about walking lately (thinking as well as doing!) and most of the few sketches I’ve done have been made in a book when I’ve been out locally. This lonely hill, St Agnes Beacon, seems to be constantly in my line of sight! It’s not a large hill, but it’s distinctive and one that I’ve run, walked and biked over. From the top there’s a 360 degree view of the coast and countryside: dramatic cliffs and distant headlands, wind farms, villages, small networks of fields edged with stone hedges and stubby windswept trees. It feels raw, exposed. A tiny bit of wildness. I feel constantly drawn to it (no pun intended!).
Another piece of inspiring wildness near home is on a section of the South West Coast Path towards Perranporth. Cligga Head is a spectacular granite outcrop. Vast sheets of rock look like they’ve been snapped, leaving shards rising from the sea 90m below. The area is rich in rare minerals and the cliffs are riddled with mining tunnels; tungsten was mined as recently as the second world war. A quarry on the cliff edge breaks open the rock to reveal intricate folds and layering: you can literally see what ‘molten‘ means. But what draws me most to both these places lately are the colours.
The Beacon is swathed in heather and gorse, a deep vibrant purple and acid yellow when it’s in bloom, fantastic earthy burnt siennas once the flowers have died back. The colour on Cligga Head is jaw dropping. Iron has stained the cliffs a pinkish blood red; the colour seems to drip, ooze from the rock as though someone had been over it with an over-laden paint brush, full of watery alizarin paint. Next to it are rich, deep yellow ochres that I haven’t seen anywhere else except Peru. There are cliffs that are soft white, pale grey, pitted and knobbly. Some rocks are scarred with green copper and the layers of bright lush green moss, lichen and pink thrift are settled on them all. It’s a dynamic palette laid out before me and I can’t get enough of it – and frustratingly the palette of soft chalky pastels I have can’t be made to capture what I can see! Neither does the sketch for that matter – I plan to go back and do some more soon. (When I did this one my hands got too cold, despite wearing gloves, and guess what… I lost concentration!)
Maybe I’ll go back tomorrow; I want to go for a longish walk of 12 miles or so, but haven’t planned where yet. How about you, what will you be doing this Easter Sunday? Apart from eating chocolate! Hope you have a lovely day.
Last night I slept in the open. No companion, no shelter, just me, my sleeping bag and a book (Macfarlane’s The Wild Places) on top of a hill overlooking the sea.
Before the sun went down I wandered along the coast and made a few pastel sketches of St Agnes Beacon, the hill I slept on. They’re rudimentary; my hands began to get too cold too quickly, so I packed up and headed up the hill to watch the sunset unfurl over the sea, before I snuggled down inside my sleeping bag to read by torchlight.
As I flipped through the sketchbook this morning I realised I’d picked up an old one. A very old one. One of the earliest sketches was from 1996:
Still looking at telegraph poles 18 years later. Curious.
I’ve been walking a fair bit of late, around 30 miles a week or so over 4 or 5 days; I keep asking myself why I’m doing it. I feel like I’m looking for something but I don’t know what. Answers maybe? But to what questions. I know that for me walking’s a time to notice things, like today as I was walking down a steep grassy hill in the finest mizzle. I was looking at my feet, transfixed as the water saturating the grass flung from my shoes in a silvery spray with each forward step. It seemed like something and nothing
We’re on to a new map, but my map of the area is holed and creased with the ink thumbed away to nothing in places. It’s been just a few weeks since I was last here, a beach stomp at Godrevy before the storms. It didn’t have the purpose of this walk and the further west we get on this particular mission the more excited I become. I’ve lived here 30 years, it goes to say I’ve walked significant parts of the coastline in that time
Sea water and rain pool on the rocks like spilt milk, reflecting the white misty glaze that washes the sky. Miles of sand floats on beyond the horizon, the clear edge of the land invisible, caught under thick, tumbling clouds. We watch the sunlight break through in silence. It creates a shifting tracery across the sand reminding me of light falling through high stained-glass windows onto the stone floor of a mediaeval cathedral.
It’s pitch black. I’m struggling to see anything at the back of the car as I tussle my bike off the rack. There’s an eery quiet, nothing but the sound of the ocean. The waves sound big and much closer than I expected. I lock the car and wonder, vaguely, if it’ll still be there tomorrow when I come back to find it. I cycle off anxiously leaving it isolated and vulnerable, probably to vandalism rather than being washed away on another spring tide. There isn’t much at Godrevy, except the lighthouse
Steps. Up. And Up. With each twist in direction I have to stop; my legs are heavy and my lungs won’t fill up enough. After a mile or so’s walking Katie and I have just started on today’s coastal section and I’m already exhausted. Man flu
I feel like I’m at school getting my bag all packed for the morning. Sandwich made, milk in a bright pink plastic bottle (left here by a 7 year girl ironically enough), both tucked up waiting in the fridge; flask on the counter ready for some fresh coffee, sitting next to some all important soon-to-be-crushed Cadbury’s mini rolls. Nothing healthy. It’s about 1am and I can’t sleep