Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ogu-dour Cove to Mullion

In Cornwall, between the roads the A3083 and the B3296 near Mullion is a small bridleway leading off towards Predannack Airfield. Walk along this bridleway for a couple of miles and you meet a lane, go left down the lane and eventually you come out above Ogu- dour Cove. From here you can either turn left southwards along the coast to Soapy Cove or you can turn northwards and walk along to Mullion Harbour. The descent into Mullion Harbour is steep and can get slippery, the rest of the walk isn't too difficult, depending on the weather.

All the rock along here is Serpentine which is good to see wet as it brings out the various shades of red, green white and black. The rock changes to Hornblende Schistes and Slate just further north.

It is said that you can walk all the way from Mullion down to the The Lizard in about three hours or so, but you will not see much on the way at that speed. This stretch of coast would be better done in three days rather than three hours, to take some time to have a good look around. Between Ogu-dour and Kynance Cove is the most solitary part, as it is well away from any lanes or carparks.

The coast between Mullion and the Lizard faces west. The Lizard is the most southerly tip of the UK and sticks out into the Atlantic, ensuring windy weather and high seas. Not many trees will grow on The Lizard due to the strength of the prevailing winds and the ones that do are bent over and will not get any higher than about eight to ten feet. The trees growing closest to the water were Tamarisk, but we also saw Blackthorn and brambles and a bit of Willow.

The weather was very wet and windy in late March which makes it a bit rough along the coast. Above the cliffs and inland it is partly moorlike and can be boggy. There a few houses and farms and small hamlets and villages. The coastline is crinkly-edged to the point that if you were mocking up a rocky coast most of this could be rejected as being a bit fanciful or unlikely, but there it is.

The first part of this walk takes us past Ogu-dour Cove and then around the coast to the north, where we get our first glimpse of Mullion Island and receive a good healthy facefull of rain.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fog and Filthy Air

Most consequential choices involve shades of gray, and some fog is often useful in getting things done.

Tim Geithner

Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

A quiet and foggy day on Mutters Moor in January. Many places here take their name from the feature that they replace; Orchard Way, the orchard now covered with houses, and so on.

Mutter's Moor takes its name from Abraham Mutter. Mutter was one of Jack Rattenbury's accomplices, and helped to distribute contraband. Mutter cut wood and turf at Peak Hill and carried the fuel into nearby towns for sale. This innocent activity acted as a convenient cover for the transport and sale of contraband, especially so since the biggest houses would consume large quantities of both fuel and brandy. Frequent visits by Mutter's carts and donkeys therefore aroused no suspicion.

Jack Rattenbury, Beer, 1778. He describes how a smuggling brig in which he was travelling was captured by a French privateer, and he was left at the helm to steer for a French port while the crew got drunk below...

'I began to conceive a hope not only of escaping, but also of being revenged on the enemy. A fog too came on, which befriended the design I had in view...'

Rattenbury steered for the English coast, and when they came in sight of Portland Bill, he convinced the crew that this was Alderney; similarly, St Albans became Cape La Hogue. When they got closer to the shore, Jack persuaded them to lower a boat and go and get a pilot — he eventually completed his escape by diving overboard and swimming into Swanage harbour. He hurried to the local customs authorities, who sent a cutter to recapture the brig from the French.

I have carried scores of kegs up the cliff. We used to strike a match and hold it in our hands a moment to call the boats in. The loads were then shouldered into a pit with a lid at Paccombe Bottom, or by the turnpike in the hedge there, and waggoned on afterwards. Once they were in Slade cellar but the revenue officers called and the kegs were only just in time started down the drain; it made the rats squeak. It was a pity for they were a nice lot of tubs...The goods used to come in a cutter called was her J Rattenbury steered with his foot...She was taken often by the coastguards, but generally had her papers right. She used to bring potatoes from Guernsey, but one day they caught her in a gale without ballast; she had just started discharging her cargo and that determined them [identified the crew as smugglers]. They sawed her in half, for they said nothing else would stop her. I knew Rattenbury and have heard he cut the officer up for crab bait, but Jack always laughed if it was thrown up at him and said it happened down Dawlish way by a Sussex man. The last cargo was Mutter's laid up under High Peak. G Salter watched all day from under a furze bush but about 4pm a stranger (gentleman to look at) came under Cliff and strolled right up to the tubs. The man in charge got as mad as fire but he had to lump it for if he'd spoken they would have taken him.

The Mutters' involvement apparently ended when the railway brought cheap coal to the area, killing off the convenient and effective cover.

I have a fondness for the smalltime dishonesties of old; people just trying to get ahead a bit it seems to me. The words to describe what it is that Goldman Sachs, the bankers in government and all those other pieces of shit do around the world fail me.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Two Paintings of Sidmouth

Well this blog is called paintings-art so some paintings should appear here once in a while, it is somehow inevitable.

I have painted three pictures over the course of the last few winter months of 2010. Two of them are landscapes, the first being a view on the beach of Sidmouth looking west towards Higher Peak and the second being a view from the Peak Hill side of Ladram Bay looking west towards Budleigh. Both are painted in oil and measure 40cm by 40cm.

At one time I thought that the first painting was finished and hung it on the wall indoors to have a look at it. In the low winter light it appeared to be almost completely black and it was fairly obvious that I was going to have to lighten it considerably. In the end it became a sort of very early morning in winter scene, as if it was only just starting to get light. It still looks a bit dark in the photo but is actually a little bit lighter than this.

The second painting came out a lot slower, and I watched with some dismay as the tide rolled out and back in again as I attempted to get the large cliff to work. The first big cliff would somehow overpower the rest of them, so the famous red cliffs of East Devon are now in part a murky Paynes Grey due to a shadow falling on them, but it did seem to work and you have to know to walk away if a painting seems done. Sometimes I have gone in to just alter a tiny detail and somehow ended up mucking the whole thing up, which is all part of the fun.

Seeing as winter (which seems to start October/November, looking at watch..March) is almost gone I am hoping to be able to paint for longer again, as the 'studio' will not be so much of an icebox. Hurrah for spring coming soon and more painterly stuff and also other things.