Rannoch Moor.




The search for a mountain has led me here to Rannoch moor – fifty square miles of bog and lochan. Rather than climb a mountain I wondered what it might offer to be at their feet to look across the wide expanse of some might say not much. Rannoch station is the end of the line, the road ends here. Walking across the railway line there it lies – a plateau of burnt yellows and mossy greens seeping away the water that is this moor. Grey clouds threaten rain, mist smudges the mountains I don’t know the name of. A lone tree leans away from the prevailing wind. Waves break on the lochside, I pick up a pebble, mottled and speckled like a bird’s egg. I have forgotten my coat. It was there in the hallway, I remember seeing it, but it didn’t come with me. Small beaches of granite sand, the bright yellow of broom in flower. I draw the mountains, spread out concertina fashion across the horizon in my concertina sketchbook – an echo. Glencoe is a good walk away but not today, not without a coat. Silly.

Into the Black Wood of Rannoch, a remnant of the ancient Caledonian forest. These are woods of fairy tales. The Scots Pines are of such an age and size they are a wonder. These remarkable specimens are called ‘grannies’ – the old women of the forest. The woods were home to robbers, and illicit stills, burnt to flush out wolves and cut for their timber during two world wars. Now this small place is protected and I feel the desire to come and draw portraits of these grannies. They deserve to be marvelled and revered for their longevity and survival. The songs of birds fill this space as the first few midges find me out.

A special place .

Mountains and mapping

The Isle of May project is underway and I am about to start another project with Mark Goodwin – poet and climber. He lives south but knows many of the mountains of Scotland . I asked him if he had a favourite to which he replied – Am Bodach , which is gaelic for ‘old man’. I looked it up to discover there is another munro called A’Chailleach, which meas ‘old woman’ close by and so it it this mountain I will be climbing in a few weeks time. He says its relatively easy – that all depends. Anyway we are not sure how this collaboration will progress, but it might be drawings/text, film/text, performance/text/drawing/film. Nothing is certain yet but as always it is the way I like it, never knowing what I will encounter but the prospect is exciting and you’ll get to see my side of the story as it evolves.

Lime tree.

Charcoal sketch of a four hundred year old lime tree at Holker Hall near Grange over Sands.