My home in the country had animal magnetism
ALL that talk of Bleak House and my 28 years of life at Crowden in Longdendale last week had my creative juices in a blender.
There was so much to get your pulse racing in the valley and every day produced a cornucopia of delights.
The back garden alone was a revelation, and although we had all the usual garden birds, at 800ft above sea level and basically being part of the moor, visitors included wheatears, ring ouzels, whinchats, cuckoos, red grouse and red-legged partridge, while overhead it was not unusual to spot ravens, peregrines, short-eared owls and curlew.
With Woodhead Reservoir out front, we also had common sandpiper, dipper, oystercatcher, teal and on occasion whooper swans.
It was my kind of house – the wildlife came to me, including blue hares to be fed in harsh winters and the quite wonderful pure white and ever-inquisitive ermine.
The animals were part of the fabric of the place and it was always that way, ever since the original landowner, Tollmarche, sold the land for the house to Manchester Corporation, along with most of the area, for their Longdendale Reservoirs in the middle of the 19th century.
Believe it or not, as I touched on last week, the traffic was moderate in the early 1980s, and it was only when some bright spark created the Stocksbridge by-pass and stuck a sign on the M1 pointing towards Manchester that the chaos began. Overnight the number of wagons quadrupled and more, until we reached the situation we are in today.
Not long before we sold the place in 2008, I once waited six minutes to cross the road, whereas before the Stocksbridge by-pass you could cross at will. On a number of occasions I was able to attract a family of the aforementioned ermine to scamper over the road by impersonating a squealing rabbit.
As an aside, I once got caught doing this by a hiker – imagine trying to explain that one away.
It does work though, just make sure no one is watching.
Coincidently, it is 20 years since my first exhibition of paintings, Bleak House Icons, and many of the animals I came into contact with appeared in the paintings, as did the landscape, water, rocks, trees, big skies and everything that laces it all together, including the heather, sphagnum, fluorescent orange fungi and iridescent lichens.
I once got asked at an exhibition: ‘It’s the Dark Peak, where did you get all those bright colours from?’
I wanted to advise, ‘open your eyes’, but I probably said something like: ‘it’s amazing what eight pints of Guinness does’.
I have some of the
I probably said something like: ‘It’s amazing what eight pints of Guinness does’
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop