Tuesday, 26 August 2014


"The waters of Gormire, once sparkling and bright, to the blackness of ink were changed in that night..."
This is an ancient landscape, ingrained with thousands of years worth of myths and folk tales. Here is the deep water of Gormire Lake, left behind by the Ice Age, on the edge of the vast Plain of York. It is over-shadowed by Whitestone Cliff...


...sometimes called White Mare's Crag, where one fateful night, so the story goes, the Devil disguised as the Abbott of Rievaulx (or was it the other way round ?) drove an ignoble nobleman who had stolen his beloved white stallion, over the precipice to his watery grave.
"To that terrible spot where Hambleton Heath
Breaks in a cliff to the valley beneath;
Eight hundred feet sheer by plummet-line sounded
And nought but some heather the precipice bounded.
'Tis a terrible cliff, e'en the stoutest grow pale,
As they stand on the brink and look down the vale."
   Another story tells of a witch chased across Hambleton Moor into the woods...

...shh, she's still here.
When she reached Whitestone Cliff she leapt into Gormire. Legend tells us that the lake is bottomless and that a current swept her along the course of an underground stream until she emerged, unscathed, at a well 9 miles away.
If you turn and look to the left of Gormire you will see Hood Hill, scene of two tragic RAF crashes in the mid-20th century, in the second of which a plane flew into a 20 ton boulder, known to locals as The Altar and alleged to be an ancient druid sacrificial stone. Hood Hill is also the site of a late 11th/early 12th century motte and bailey castle, as yet unexplored.
It seems you can survey almost the whole of the county from this cliff - beyond Hood Hill are the towers of South Yorkshire power stations and a little further West are the faint outlines of the moors above Haworth. Look north and you'll see the angular fells of Wensleydale looming through the mist.

Turner drew only a quick pencil sketch of this scenery on a Yorkshire tour and  John Sell Cotman made it look a bit too much like Wales for my liking in this watercolour. 
William Wordsworth had a go at describing it, but even he didn't quite capture the magic.
"I turn and view thy awful heights
Stupendous HAMBLETON! Thy dreadful wilds,
Thy gilded cliffs and blue expanded sides
At once infusing horror and delight!"
He was recently married to a local girl when he wrote this, so I think we can forgive him for not being on top form. Perhaps he was visiting his in-laws.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, here, that our own personal grassy knoll is fortuitously placed so as to have witnessed thousands of moments in history - and, often, more minor events. 
Yesterday, a flight of fancy was cut short, in the field across the way.
These chaps look a bit sad, not least because it's starting to drizzle. But a kick is hardly going to solve the problem...
...much better to have a snooze till the cavalry arrives.
Here they come - hope they've brought the instruction manual.
"Hello darling, hang on a mo' while I take a pinch of snuff." These intrepid funsters are no spring chickens. You could call them silver gliders.



And there they go, on the Great North Road!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


It might not quite be MOMA (Museum of Modern Art in New York) but MIMA, the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, is a fine example of a new gallery, bringing amazing and important modern art to what often seem to be the most neglected corners of our country. This is the latest exhibition at MIMA:
ARTIST ROOMS Louise Bourgeois: A Woman Without Secrets
Louise Bourgeois, 1911 - 2010, made art of every kind, in many materials and she could be described as the last surrealist. She expressed female emotions and anxieties in her work - hysteria and tensions were not hidden.
The spider symbolises the Mother for Bourgeois
The human form also appears in many works, sometimes easily recognisable...
...sometimes disturbingly distorted.
I particularly like her delicate pink marble sculptures.
Shades of her influence can be seen in the work of today's young artists, but, for me, there is one question which needs a positive answer before I know if I really rate an artist's work. Would I like to own that piece and look at it every day?
Oh, yes please Louise!
Mima is a beautiful museum and a pleasure to visit, beyond Middlesbrough's bustling shopping malls, across a municipal green space...


Remember the name.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014


It is generally accepted that the A1 road is, more or less, the Great North Road, but there are areas along the way where the old Great North Road leaves the A1 route and then rejoins it further along, and other stretches where the A1 seems to follow Dere Street, the ancient Roman highway to and from northern Britain.
Our house overlooks one of these minor diversions, a humble B road, but, situated halfway between London and Edinburgh, almost certainly part of the ancient route to the North. We like to imagine those who, before the advent of motorways and dual carriageways, passed within a whisker of our front steps...
Sometimes we still get a birds-eye view of a group of unusual voyagers; vintage cars in convoy, old steam-powered traction engines. On Saturday afternoon it was the noise that alerted us to this lot!