Working towards a solo show later this year about walking the old drovers roads that criss cross the landscape around here, I was vaguely aware of the term 'drovers roads' and just thought of it as moving cattle in the olden days between towns. Then I read something about naked Scottish men running through the hills here and my attention was caught!
I started researching a bit in the reading rooms at the Dales Museum, the wonderful staff there found me bits from old papers and books and I realised I had the makings of a whole new way of looking at the landscape around me. I bought a few historical books and really delved into the history of these men and their long walks from the northern-most points of Scotland to the fattening grounds of Norfolk. They had to be married men or the village couldn't trust them to return with the money from the sales, they only carried onions and oats as they mixed blood and milk from the cattle in with these for food.. and if the cattle strayed they stripped off their long kilts and ran naked over the hills to round them up again!
So in September I have a show starting about walking these old paths, which I'll be writing more about. Contemporary landscape paintings with stories... It's about shared human experience of wild lands and a feeling of belonging. I'll be describing the landscape around me in terms of the histories of the people who walked it and my own wanderings on their paths, collecting parts of nature or man-made items that are here and now. I use oil paints, often mixed with cold wax to create layers and textures that I can excavate back into, scratching and revealing the layers and histories beneath. Building up and scraping back seems to echo the subject matter, adding detail and revealing past workings.
I’m trying to fix myself in this landscape, to feel grounded in a new place and feel that I belong because many others have also passed through. We don’t just belong where we were born, we can feel that connection with other places and times.
The painting below, Pink Twine and Old Tracks has beautiful lilac-pink baling twine I found on my walk along Mastilles Lane, a road used by drovers, monks from the local abbey and Roman soldiers before them. So many feet have walked these paths, how much has the landscape changed, would they still recognise it?