Tag Archives: Arant Haw

Shadow, sun, moon

photo of Arant Haw in the evening

high on the hill, looking up to Arant Haw summit in evening light and shadow

At last the weather warmed itself enough to trek up the hill carrying outdoor painting gear. As well as paints and canvas you need a bag full of scarves, woolly hats and gloves to prevent the cold from seeping in as you sit still while the sun lowers itself. Huge shadows unfold themselves, draping down the hillsides like giant black backdrops. They make the foreground look even more unbelievably golden in the slanted sunbeams before sunset. Wearing their shadows the steep slopes become massive dark forms, quite terrifying in their glowering vastness. They seem to lean towards you as you fiddle about with boxes, a puny being attempting to set up a painting site clinging to a slippery grass perch on the hillside. One shrug of their shoulders and you’d be off.

hills in evening light, bright sun

evening sun bounces off the lens, looking down Crosdale

plein air painting spot in evening sun

dark shadow looming above my painting spot

After a winter break plein air painting skills are always rusty but there’s nothing like the elation of being the last person out on the fells on a brilliantly lit evening. There’s always excitement with every brush stroke even if the finished picture isn’t quite what you had hoped. Eventually, after the furious attempt to daub the view into its new life on the canvas has gone on for half an hour or more, you realise just how cold you are, sitting on your scrap of mat as the air around you chills. I’ve found the best way to stay alive, with blood flowing to all the relevant parts, is to have something hot to drink. So I crack open the flask of steaming cocoa I lugged all the way up and feel warmth returning to my fingers.

plein air painting tea break

a hot drink helps to stave off hypothermia as the sun goes down

Once the sun really starts to drop it gets much colder very quickly. You have to rush to pack up and keep moving to avoid numbness.

plein air painter setup

as the sun disappears it’s time to pack up and depart

While the sun was saying goodbye in the west I felt an eery ‘you are being watched’ prickle on the back of my neck and whipped round to see an old white face. Fire and warmth were ebbing away on one side as bright paleness entered the sky on the other, gleaming and peering at my activities.

moon over my shoulder

a white face …

moon rising

… peers over my shoulder

One last look towards the Lake District mountains and the invisible sea beyond, underneath a red strip of sky, and I was on my way down.

fading sunset over the hills

last glowing embers in the west

In the east the colours were gentler and the moon was already halfway up the sky. Not a breath of wind stirred as I made my way slowly and happily down the Gill towards home.

moon at dusk

misty pink clouds gather over the hills as the moon takes off

And suddenly everything, absolutely everything, was there

photo joiner looking west from Howgills

up on the windy ridge between Winder and Arant Haw, with glowering clouds

One night I decided, just as the light was disappearing, to hasten up the fell, 1,955 feet of steep climbing right up to the summit of Winder. A lung-opening, blood-stirring, bone-strengthening lunge of an effort, guaranteed to leave you feeling at first terrible and then, as your body begins to recover, elated while surrounded by sweeping views up in the clouds.

Going up the hill at night is even more exhilarating than a daytime jaunt because you are racing against the dark and know that you will probably have the summit and the ridge all to yourself to scream or dance or quickly scrawl a sketch.

On this particular evening the sky was full of threatening clouds but, as I stepped across the windy ridge that links Winder and Arant Haw, with views west over the Lake District mountains, there was a single band of red sunset colour streaked across the grey. The strong dark shapes of the clouds and the dash of colour seemed to vibrate above the steep plummeting hill slopes that run away from the ridge to right and left and the scene painted itself in my mind’s eye, making me promise to return.

This afternoon I dodged rain storms and braved an icy wind to take photos, subsequently joined together, of that view. The forecast promised worse this evening so no return trip was made and no sunset recorded. Following my original night-time foray I had created a watercolour from memory to test my first impression of the night-time experience, to see if I could capture the feel of that moment on the ridge. During today’s afternoon visit I quickly made a pencil sketch before my hands went numb.

near Winder at night, watercolour sketch from memory

small watercolour impression, from memory, of being up on the fells near Winder with night drawing in

The sun was trying to break through as I approached the summit of Winder, creating some interesting patterns of light and dark.

Winder summit photo

view from the summit of Winder under dark cloud

Over in Dentdale the village of Dent was bathed in sunshine while I was donning a rain jacket on my journey across the heights.

photo of clouds over Dentdale

boiling clouds over Dentdale, with Dent itself lit up in the distance

Proving that, once again, my trying to carry out any art-related activities on the hill activates some kind of spoilsport alarm, a team of film-makers arrived just as I was reaching the spot where I wanted to stop and sketch. They, naturally, chose the same area I was interested in to set up their tripods and proceeded to record a local guide and her party of walkers treading the path to Winder.

Resigned to my fate I skirted around them and assumed they would be there all afternoon but – no – in a matter of moments they were gone! My sketchbook was released from its bag and I managed to get down the basics of the scene I have in mind to paint before succumbing to hypothermia in the biting wind. Who knows what will happen when I return with my paints – maybe a parade of unicyclists or a troupe of accordion players will march over the horizon … but it will make for an interesting blog post nonetheless.

view towards Arant Haw

looking toward Arant Haw with film crew member showing as a red speck in the distance

I have two rules in life – to hell with it, whatever it is, and get your work done.

― Ray Bradbury