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grey wagtail

Walking Boots

Saturday, 17th February 2001, West Yorkshire

grey wagtail A WHITE FROSTING lingers on the meadow but the morning sun soon melts it away from a neighbour's east-facing roof. A Grey Wagtail trots about on the tiles picking off insects or spiders from the crevices.

green lacewng There's been a Green Lacewing in the studio for a few days now. It's emerged too early from its winterquarters into the warmth of the house, so it is unlikely to survive until the spring when its preferred food, aphids, becomes plentiful. In the evening it heads for the light of my monitor and walks around on the screen as I compile my web page.


haversackIt's got to the time of year when I start sorting out my outdoor kit for the new season. Things have improved since I used this haversack, the type with a triangular metal frame, on my trip around Britain (published as a facsimile sketchbook, Richard Bell's Britain, in 1981). Although it worked well for the purposes of sitting it on the ground to get at my sketching gear in the various pockets it wasn't the most comfortable design. Its centre of gravity was too low and it swung from side to side, so I usually walked along with one hand behind my back, holding it in place. My latest backpack, which I bought for my Skokholm trip last year, fits around my shoulders like a ergonomic armchair.

the artist at work


Boots have improved tremendously too; I remember my first walking boots, how could I forget them? With only a few days to go before my first stint as an osprey warden in Scotland my dad bought me a pair of miner's boots. They were all he could get in my size. Even for size 12s they were big and, armed with steel toe caps, they were heavily built to cope with the worst that work at the coal face could throw at them. Unlike the lightweight pair that I now use, which incorporate a layer of Gortex fabric, they demanded long periods of applying black polish to keep them waterproof.

After my first walk over a Scottish mountain I decided that I preferred shoes and plimsols and they were relegated to the back of the storeroom for several years until my mother, then an infant school teacher, painted one of them white, added a cardboard roof and used it in a nursery rhyme display to illustrate The Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe. next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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