East Hardwick

Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire Nature Diary, Monday, 3rd May 2010

East HardwickcrossI'VE BEEN DRAWING locations for the High Ackworth walk of my booklet using my extra fine nib ArtPen filled with Noodler's El Lawrence (brown) ink. While I like the crispness of line drawings these will definitely all have watercolour added when they appear in the final book. It's a delight to be able to add colour.

Blue skies and yellow dafoddils are going to make East Hardwick church look more springlike.

marker stonebridgeColour will help distinguish that this Bridle Road marker is stone and the arch of the bridge is brick (although apparently rebuilt from a stone original).

viaductThe railway viaduct across the little River Went (left) is in mellow brick. This viaduct was a landmark for me when I set out on my Britain journey 30 years ago last July, a book that I'd been commissioned to write by Collins. After all the planning and trial pages I was out on the road at last. I was 28 at the time and to have an advance of £200 a month to cover my expenses touring the country gave me a great sense of freedom, as if I'd been let off the leash after all my years of training at art school and my early efforts to make a living.

junction 32I'd booked a bed and breakfast in Wentbridge and packed my new blue canvas rucksack. I stopped to draw the viaduct because it framed the view of the magnesian limestone ridge beyond. The viaduct marked the boundary of the Wakefield Naturalists' Society recording area which I'd taken as the subject for my overly ambitious A Sketchbook of the Natural History of the Country Round Wakefield, my first book, which I spent 7 years researching, writing and illustrating.

As I approached the viaduct and stepped through one of its brick arches I felt that I was about to cross a border - a threshold - leaving my home patch behind me and setting out to become absorbed in new landscapes and to have all sorts of adventures. My own take on When I set out one Midsummer Morning.

But as a I crossed a plank bridge and glanced down at my feet I realised that I hadn't included walking boots in my checklist! So during my first tour of eastern England (Wentbridge, Retford, Lincoln, Louth and Cleethorpes) I had to make do with the crepe-soled suede shoes that I'd put on that morning. Comfortable, but I made sure that I wore my hiking boots for my subsquent tours!

There's a theme running through Greek mythology that the hero when setting out on a quest loses a sandal in a river (this incident forms the opening scene in the 1960s film version of Jason and the Argonauts). I felt that as a student I always had my head in the clouds but my feet in the mud. I still occasionally have dreams in which I'm out on ramble or attending some social event and I look down at my feet and discover that I'm wearing an old pair of slippers. Very much the feeling that I had when I set out on my Britain trip.

The little sketch on the right was drawn from BB's cafe at Junction 32 yesterday, as we waited for the rain to clear.