Climbing Arant Haw, the even-higher fell that rears up after you have wearily crested the hill above the town, carrying a loaded pochade box and the rest of the essentials (food, water, clothing) was hard work and took about an hour but it was well worth it. I circled the summit, taking in the views from all around – the whole 360 degrees is pretty spectacular. The decision was made to face south west and take in the light over the sea, a river wriggling along the bottom of a valley and hills sweeping in from the sides, with Winder fell reaching up towards the distant horizon below.
Some kind hill god had created a comfortable seat for me in the middle of a group of rocks. It was just the right height and had a flat piece of grassy floor underneath on which to rest my feet. Below was the drop into the valley below. Of course, I had forgotten to take my camera and there was no question of trekking back home for it so I made plans to return and, hopefully, there are now pictures to go with this post.
Sitting on my rocky perch high above everything I felt a strange sense of euphoria and this made the painting process flow. Those kinds of feelings are not always a good thing, as you can find that you’ve just been merrily daubing away creating a right old mess, senses anaesthetised by awe. This time, the light was changing every minute and I knew the result wasn’t going to be great but decided it would serve as a useful sketch that would help me decide whether the spot was worth returning to.
With nothing higher than the summit near which I sat as far as I could see it was all I could do not to break into song and, as the clouds turned the sun on and off, I had to remind myself that the tonal values in the painting would need to be monitored a bit more closely if the picture was going to read as anything at all.
Over the course of an hour I struggled with the paint as the wind got up, blowing more and more fiercely and trying to dislodge dirty brushes from the moss into which I’d shoved them. One gust managed to seize the corner of the plastic bag I’d wrapped my remaining brushes in and I had to take a moment to firmly tuck everything under my rucksack which served as a giant paperweight.
Eventually, all the tiny specks of walkers I could see on the flanks of Winder began to disappear and I realised my hands were turning numb. It was time to stow the brushes away, close the lid on my painting and put on a pair of gloves before racing back down to civilisation. Hurrying home to make the phone call I’d promised my Mum I slipped on a large flat rock at a diagonal angle, one foot skating downhill, the rest of me unbalanced by the heavy weight of the pochade box in one hand.
I’m not sure why but I didn’t fall, just carried on on my way. Maybe those hill gods again or maybe all of that ice skating I did when I was younger.