I paint man-made structures that link the land with the sea.
In 2010 I decided to start a journey travelling round the English Coastline covering as much as I could in search of inspiration for my work.
I decided to start at the most Northerly English town on the East Cost and travel clockwise. I figured that if I kept the sea to my left I couldn’t go wrong… It’s worked so far.
I am not able to explore all the time. I spend most of my time painting in the studio and various aspects of my life have taken priority… and of course I have to finance it.
I had no idea how long this would take and 9 years later I am still going.
I usually spend a couple of weeks twice a year ‘on tour’ covering a manageable chunk of the coastline.
I have painted over thirty paintings ranging in size and medium and have been lucky enough to sell most of them. This has helped to finance the continuation of the project.
I have kept a diary in my note book and have selected the parts that relate to the paintings.
The beginning… February 2010
7 am on the coldest February morning for 20 years. The car thermometer was registering -5.
I had arrived in Berwick upon Tweed the night before to spend a solitary night in a pub b&b that even the owners didn’t frequent during the hours of darkness. Maudie and me were left to our own devices until morning.
One of the major hurdles I have found when planning this adventure has been the availability of dog friendly B&B’s in this country. I managed to buy a book with the title ‘Dog Friendly B&B’s’ which should have been encouraging but on closer inspection seemed to be aiming at budgets a lot [ a LOT ] higher than mine…….. about £25 per night on average so I expect I should have been grateful to find anything at all.The B&B at Berwick was quite frankly their ‘only’ B&B open this side of April.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne has a history that dates back to the 6th Century.
It is about 3 miles wide and 1 and a half miles long and one mile from the mainland and only accessible via a tarmac causeway at low tide.
I had picked up a causeway time table for Holy Island from the tourist information centre in Berwick. Here I was given plenty of warnings about checking tides and times and plenty of anecdotes about previous tourists getting stuck, presumably by not taking her seriously. I took her seriously.
I set off and I had about a 4 hour window of low tide time for the safe passing of the causeway . The snow clouds were pressing down from over the border which according to the bbc.co.uk were imminent.
The causeway entrance is very unassuming and doesn’t prepare you for the thrill of driving into the sea. The only thing preventing the foolhardy from possible drowning is a tiny weather beaten warning sign suggesting you check the ‘not on display’ tide times notice before setting off.
You really do get a sense of drama when you enter the thin ribbon of tarmac periodically covered in sand and occasionally seems to dip down creating deep puddles.
I could see the island in the distance and even though the air had been full of sleet, the morning light made the causeway shine blue green.
About half way along the causeway the refuge hut perches precariously on thin stilts against the edge of the tarmac with it’s back to you looking towards the island.
It is the only vertical for miles. I can only imagine how desperate you would have to be to need to climb up into what is basically a garden shed on legs, and stand there for about 5 hours in the middle of the sea until the tide gave up your car again.
After the drama of the drive its a bit of an anti climax walking from the car park. but then the beach is revealed.
Lindesfarne is the landing place for Christianity in Britain and brings pilgrims from all over the world but it is also an important pagan landmark. It has an unusual mix of far distant and unobtainable history and modern day tourism. It is also one of the most beautiful walks to be had in England.
Heading anti clockwise along the beach I began to see the beginnings of the castle and the silhouettes of the fishermans huts that sit on the beach.
The upturned hulls are sawn in half to create two huts. Then they are roughly weather proofed with tarpaulin and have been covered in layers of pitch in over many years giving them an organic appearance. Over time they had tilted as if bracing against the weather and these turtle like structures shone like wet leather.
The weather was getting worse and I could no longer see the mainland so I headed back over the causeway.
Next stop Bamburgh just for the dog to have a run but the view from the dunes takes your breath away.
The sky had cleared and the cold February light bounced off the completely flat sand.
As I walk towards the lighthouse high up on the hill I came across the red dice. Giant lumps of concrete about four foot square painted red with white dots. They were apparently exposed recently after the sand had washed away and were remnants of anti tank defences from the second world war.
This painting is one I choose to keep. It marks the beginning of the tour and I am very pleased with it.
My research had not thrown up anything of interest at sea houses but I could not resist calling in purely because of it’s charming name. The weather was definitely not charming and I was ready to call it a day. I found the lighthouse teetering on the end of the little quay still sporting it’s municipal christmas decoration in the form of a giant santa. I found it all the more charming for it’s lack of majesty. It’s very squat and inelegant but it seemed reminiscent of a by gone age because of its odd angular shape.
In the painting I have handed it’s dignity back and removed the offending christmas decoration.
Very worried about snow so headed back to Bay. Spent next week cosily snowed in at the cottage… wonderful.