The Pocket Book

IT’S BEEN a while since I looked back through the pages of the pocket-sized sketchbook that goes in the passport wallet that I attach to my belt when we’re walking.

Next to this sketch of the lake at Newmillerdam, drawn almost a month ago, I’ve written:

‘Waterside Kitchen
looking south. Temp. 17
but with cool  breeze & grey
skies it feels like September
10.45am 27/8/12

When September proper came along Barbara drove as we headed for Langsett, giving me the opportunity to draw the trees and hills. We were following small winding roads so they look as if they’ve been drawn by a seismograph. The chair and the sausage-loving labrador were in the Bank View cafe after our walk.

We came back via the Flouch Inn, a famous old pub which now has a new identity as an Indian restaurant. Returning via Crow Edge, Lane Head, Shepley, Shelley and Emley, we crossed the watershed between the Don and Calder valleys, a plateau of land above 400 metres (over 1300 feet) of pastures and hay meadows divided by drystone walls with small hamlets and isolated farms.

The Dam Inn

A couple of weeks later, on the 17th, I drew the chimneys of the Dam Inn at Newmillerdam from the cafe. It really does look like September now.

We were at Newmillerdam again yesterday and the first person we met was a woman from the village who had just lost a Peregrine falcon. The jesses had just slipped through her hand as it flew off.

‘It could be a hundred miles away now!’ she said in resignation. As the name suggests this falcon is renowned for its peregrinations. We took her phone number just in case we spotted it.

Richard Long at the Hepworth

Today we had a book order from the Hepworth gallery and were able to combine that with lunch in the cafe there, overlooking the Calder and the old canal offices.

After our  walk on the moors the other day it was interesting to see Richard Long’s evocation of a walk across Dartmoor. Rather than cram a sketchbook with little drawings as I would, he’d simply arranged twigs in a long rectangle in a modulated pattern that echoes a natural arrangement – not so much pattern that you see it as weaving but enough set up a natural rhythm.

‘Did the artist actually come here and arrange this himself?’ I asked the attendants, ‘or did you have to follow his instructions?’

‘No, he came and arranged them himself.’

Tilly the bookshop border collie is looking a little subdued today (or you might say, well behaved) because his (correction her, sorry Tilly!) master is away for the weekend.

You’d hardly think that a gallery in town would be a sympathetic setting for simple natural forms but a surprising feature of the Hepworth is the view of wild(ish) water that punctuates your circuit of the galleries. There are several floor to ceiling views of the weir on the bend of the Calder which, in normal flow as it is today, makes a continuous cadence of curtains of white water cascading to a jacuzzi of foaming lace below.

The thing that unsettles me about Richard Long’s work is the element of a cultural colonialism in it. He’s not content to just visit a desert or a meadow without trampling a line or a spiral in it, then taking the sort of photograph that a Victorian explorer might take of his handiwork.

I know that they say ‘take only pictures, leave only footprints’ but Long takes this to the extreme. With my size thirteen hiking boots I probably do an equal amount of damage to habitats, but it’s not deliberate.


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