Frost whitened rushes,Calder Valley, Addingford, 26 January 1997
dark iced water,
isolated in the mist
in warm winter sun
the Strands looked at its best
Twenty-two years ago this weekend, in 1997, I was busy painting the scenery for the Pageant Players’ production of Dick Whittington at Horbury School but, instead of driving there, I put on my wellies and walked through a pristinely frosted Calder Valley, following first the canal, then the river.
In my a new page-a-day diary I’d decided a that I was going to try, every day, to make a note of the wildlife I’d seen and to add quick sketches in colour. In the following year this diary became the basis of my online Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, which was originally intended to be just one strand of a more ambitious website, which would include sections on geology, history and villages.
I was keen to immerse myself in natural history because for the previous seven years I’d been working pretty intensively on geological projects. I was just finishing my illustrations for Steve Cribb’s Whisky on the Rocks and I’d also made a start on an educational publication, What is Coal? for the National Museum of Coal Mining but I was starting to get further afield as I set about planning and testing out the routes my first walks book, Village Walks in West Yorkshire.
A couple of weeks later, I sold my first computer, an Amstrad 386, to friends and upgraded to what then seemed like a suitably powerful PC but my self-publishing business, Willow Island Editions, didn’t get going until after I’d invested in my first scanner, a Umax Astra 1200-S. I remember that it cost hundreds of pounds, £350 I think, but included in the package was a full version of Adobe Photoshop 4.0, so it proved to be brilliant value.
It’s strange to look back and read a note that I received my first e-mail, from a birdwatcher friend in Plymouth, on the second of April, 1997. However did we manage before that?!