East Coast Mainline

Hedges near RetfordDoncaster railway buildingWakefield Westgate to London King’s Cross, 10.18 a.m.: The embankments are splashed bright yellow by clumps of common ragwort, magenta with rosebay willowherb.

In the sidings at Doncaster there are a few spikes of mullein and a sprinkling of pale yellow evening primrose. Buddleia is in full flower but it’s only when we stop at Newark that I see two butterflies (peacocks?) chasing each other around its purple bottle brush spikes of blossom. There are white butterflies at Grantham where birdsfoot trefoil grows on the trackside ballast.

train sketchesAfter a steady climb up the Jurassic limestone scarp at Grantham the countryside opens out south of Peterborough. There’s a glimpse of cattle grazing in water meadows near Sandy, Bedfordshire, and of stag-headed oaks near Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

One of the catering staff compliments me on the watercolours in my sketchbook.

“I always take it with me.”

“You’ve got very steady hands,” she says.

“I wish I had!”

It’s part of the challenge of drawing for me, especially at 125 m.p.h. on the Virgin East Coast train to London.

A Walk Across Town

treesA bank of cloud hangs over the city but it’s just as well that it’s a bit cooler here as there’s 100 mile cycle race from Pall Mall into Surrey and back and they’re expecting 10,000 riders.

The journey into London for me is a journey back in time – to childhood visits and to my student days here and to when as a freelance I took my portfolio and my book ideas to publishers. There were always expectations and I still always feel that I’m going to come away inspired.

blossomAs usual we make our way to South Kensington via Regent’s Park, Baker Street and Hyde Park. We find a shady bench by the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens where I draw a tree, about 35 feet tall, which is in blossom.

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