Travel Sketches

AFTER OUR WEEKEND trip to Glasgow we returned to Wakefield Westgate station exactly 48 hours after we set out. Travelling by train gave me a rare chance to sketch, so here are yet more drawings from our travels that I wasn’t able to fit into my last posting. I couldn’t have done much drawing if I’d been driving but the main reason that I was able to be so productive – in terms of sketchbook pages – was getting away from the distractions of home life and running a business.

Dark Angel

It’s a 4½ journey but on the way out the daylight only lasted for the first hour and a half or so, about as far as Durham, so the grim outline of the Angel of the North was the last thing I drew. He doesn’t look like an angel about to take flight. I’d hate to look out each morning on such a doom-laden figure, weighed down by his iron wings, which are surely shackles of imprisonment rather than a means of soaring to escape. It seems churlish to say that I’d rather look out on a utility than a work of art but the pylon that stands in the field above the wood is light and airy in comparison with this grim apocalyptic figure.

Early Start

On the return trip, looking around for something to draw at Glasgow Central station, I had a wobbly attempt at the Uppercrust refreshment booth. It often takes me a while to get started in the morning. I don’t always feel like bursting into a drawing, especially when I’ve got a train to catch which makes me feel unsettled, but doing some kind of drawing is better than doing none at all.

It gets me started.

The pigeons coming down for scraps of sandwiches were a better warm-up than those tricky parallel curves of the sandwich booth.

At our stops at York, Edinburgh Waverley and Newcastle, the cast iron pillars seemed the obvious subject to draw. As in all the other views from the carriage window, I added the colour later. There’s hardly the time to draw a tree or building as we hurtle past, let alone add colour, so the drawings are from one landscape, the colour from another, or from memory.

Wild Tracks

I drew these cattle and sheep as we crossed through the Scottish borderlands, heading for Berwick on Tweed. Where the line runs close to the cliff-top, we looked out for seals in the rocky bays below. No seals and we didn’t see much in the way of wildlife at all so to spot a woodpecker as we sped along was a bit of a bonus.

Barbara thought it was a green while I thought it was great spotted but we both agreed it was a woodpecker from its size and its bobbing flight as it crossed an open field, heading away from a nearby copse.

The motion of the train makes for a jerky pen line.

As we came back into Yorkshire, the North Yorks Moors loomed above the farmland. They’d been almost imperceptable in the mist on our outward journey, their tops hidden by a long low cloud.

Last Snows of Winter


IT SEEMS as if winter has lasted six months but although almost all the trees are still stark and bare there’s a feeling that the landscape is at last about to burst into spring. In Scotland snow lies on the tops and in gullies on distant hills, in the pattern you get when you pour double cream over a pudding. On lower ground in the Midland Valley it lies in random swathes, as if snow showers had been localised over particular slopes. I don’t think this was due to overall snowfall melting in patches because some of the slopes that have retained snow are – if I’d got my bearings right – south-facing.

On the calm waters of a loch, a few anglers are fishing from rowing boats. It looks like a clip from a ‘Discover Scotland’ commercial and I’m surprised that it can look so wild and open in the country between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

St Andrews in the Square

We’re in a Glasgow for a wedding in the airy nave of St Andrews in the Square, restored to its 18th century splendour a few years ago. Bonnie Prince Charlie saw this church being built in 1745 when his army camped here on their retreat from their failed invasion of England.

At that time ‘tobacco barons’ were bringing wealth into the city and this is reflected in the confident elegance of the church with its Corinthian capitals.

As we took a taxi back to Central station I was saying that I would have liked to have seen this interior with the light flooding in on a sunny day but the taxi driver told me that he’d been to a summer wedding there; it was the first time he’d worn a kilt and he found that it got very warm in there when the sun gets out. Another taxi drive explained that the sun gets out on only one day of the year in Glasgow, so that’s not such a problem for the venue.

Unfortunately this turned to be a white wedding with snow falling all morning. Barbara and I were hoping to have some time to explore the city but we hadn’t brought our fell-walking waterproofs, so we’re going to have to return to do that.

From our apartment on Glassford Street, I started drawing the building opposite but just as I got to the most interesting bit – the ornate shop-front of the Blane Valley bar – I had to break off. From our first floor window across the street I was seeing the building in 3 point, or rather 4 point, perspective, as I was looking both up, down and sideways on it, but I tried to straighten up what I was actually seeing into an architectural elevation. If I’d had time I would have gone on to add the next building, Coral Bookmakers.

East Coast

These days, it can prove to be a bit of an adventure getting my mum to the co-op once a week so I insisted that, if she was going to travel with us, we should take the through train (there are two a day from Wakefield right through to Glasgow) and, for the first time ever, go for the roomier seats and the complimentary light refreshments of First Class. I could get used to it and I want to try it again soon!

There’s no restaurant car on the East Coast route and the chefs are given the weekend off but even so the highlight of the return journey for me was lunch, served at our table from the limited weekend menu. Eating a vegetable curry as I watch the wild coast of Northumbria going by comes pretty close to the perfect dining experience!

Link: St Andrews in the Square