Clearing out a few Christmas and New Year cobwebs, I got up to Scotland last weekend with my partner Aidan. He was keen to go west, but I promised him if we went east that he could get at least two new Munros (he's now got about 50 to go to get them all), the Ben Avon hills on the eastern edge of the Cairngorm Plateau. The forecast was better for that side of the Highlands and I wanted to visit the Cairngorms again.
Starting from Braemar, we cycled in to leave our bikes close to the old ruin at Slugain (if we'd had more time we would have searched for the secret Howff) and continued on foot to climb Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe and Beinn a' Bhuird. It hovered around freezing all day, there was just a light wind. At around 900 metres we climbed above the cloud to see an inversion the whole of the Cairngorm Plateau rose above. It was a day for superlatives. And for swearing, at least from Aidan when we found that the granite tor on the summit of Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe was covered in too much verlass to reach the top of, at least with our flimsy running crampons. We were about 10 feet short of the top. If I am honest I was not that bothered, hopefully it does not sound bad but I am not at all disappointed that Aidan will need to return to reach the summit proper. I touched the top a few summers ago, when I was out running alone. It's not about summits for me like it is for Aidan. The verglass just meant he would have to return. I will tag along again, I love the Cairngorm Plateau.
After retreating we continued on our way, over Beinn a' Bhuird and got back to our bikes as darkness properly fell. Thankfully we had packed some decent lights, the descent back to Braemar was super fun if a little cold. The day felt like a proper adventure, starting 2019 off with a good one.
I took photos through the day, one or two of which I may paint later in the year. Since November I have been oil painting again and am working on a series of paintings inspired by my holiday to Kintail last summer - here's the latest. It's coming along, still have a fair bit of work to do, I am enjoying it very much.
Happy New Year! In between the fun and games of Christmas (and recovering from the viruses my children aquire and give to me this time of year) I have got a bit of painting and writing done.
Just before Christmas (when I was forcing myself to rest up and recover from a nasty cold) I wrote a blog about the reception Waymaking has received and where I think it could go next.
Pleased to say I am now feeling chipper and hope this continues well into 2019. All the best for your year ahead :o)
It was a few weeks ago now but in late November I went bike riding in North Wales with my old friend Rich Siepp. Me and Rich go way back, we did our first LAMM together in 1999 and went on loads of mountain biking adventures together around the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District. The best part of 20 years later it was fantastic to see him again, catch up and have fun biking in the mountains. We rode from Bangor down the coast to Porthmadog and Harlech. Crossing the Rhinog mountains to Dolgellau was superb,we then rode through Coed-yBrenin forest to Bala. We then headed east down the Dee to Llandrillo, from where we climbed up into and over the Berwyns. A fantastic few days away and great to get back to rides like these.
Last Friday I was interviewed on Radio Scotland's Out for the Weekend (from about 1 hour and 7 minutes in) about Waymaking with one of my fellow contributors, Anna Fleming. Anna read from her work - Taking the Plunge - and we discussed the gap that exists regarding women's mountain and mountaineering art and literature, and how these can differ from the often told stories of conquering mountains. It was a really interesting discussion, with similar points and conclusions to those made by Natalie Berry in her thoughtful review of Waymaking on UKClimbing.
I have just finished the first oil painting I've done in over six years. Just before and in the months after my first daughter was born in 2012 I had a long spell of painting mountain after mountain (here are a few of them). Then the urge to do that went away. While I didn't think it had gone for good, I didn't try to push it, I just went with it and waited to see when it would come back.
It came back this summer, when I was out running in the scottish mountains. To the north east of Glen Affric climbing a few hills, I saw I scene I knew I would paint. I took a photo and carried on with my climb. Since then I have had the drive to paint again and now I have started I feel one or two more coming on.
It was quite a gloomy day but at times the light was amazing, I have tried to capture some of its variation in this new painting.
It was wonderful to be part of the launch of Waymaking at Kendal Mountain Literature Festival.
I was part of a line up of twelve contributors to Waymaking at the launch which was compered by fellow editor Claire Carter. It was quite something to hear and see such a varied and thoughtful work - artwork, prose, poetry - this all combined to make for an inspiring session.
Seeing Waymaking grow from an idea Helen Mort and I discussed as we ran along trails in Leeds four years ago to a beautiful book with so many talented contributors is quite something - I am very proud to have been involved.
Photo credit: Kevin Moran
I have been running on the Otley Chevin a fair bit over the past few weeks. This time of year the trees are arguably at their finest. I keep getting distracted from my runs by all the different colours that change day by day.
The kickstarter project to fund my new book A Cycling Year did not work but I got loads of positive support and feedback. I will continue to work on it and hopefully publish it next year. I will keep the webpage for the book updated with progress so please keep an eye on that if you would like to get hold of a copy when it's published and thank you for your interest :o)
This coming Sunday I will be at the Waymaking launch at Kendal Mountain Literature Festival. Tickets are still available so do come along if you fancy it. Waymaking is an amazing book!
If running the Mourne Mountain Marathon three weeks ago was doing something and visiting somewhere I had meant to do for years, then last Thursday I did the same with the Trough of Bowland and the Nick of Pendle.
I have run over some of the Forest of Bowland fells a little and up and around Pendle Hill lots, but never traversed them by bike.
I got an early train to Lancaster with my friend Rich. I'd planned a route that would take us back to Otley via some of the classic roads and climbs of the area. It was just over 60 miles with about 2200 metres of climbing. A tough but beautiful route that from Lancaster climbed into and crossed the Forest of Bowland, through Clitheroe, over the Nick of Pendle then the Pennine watershed into Lothersdale (and Yorkshire).
The scenery was fantastic all day and we had a great cafe stop in Dunsop Bridge at the very centre of the United Kingdom. This is the October ride for my new book A Cycling Year that I am currently crowdfunding for on kickstarter. I am enjoying writing about it and painting some of the scenes from the ride.
The culmination of almost two years of thinking, cycling, painting and writing - the Kickstarter project I am hoping will fund the publication of my new book A Cycling Year is now live. Please take a look and spread the word :o)
Last Sunday I rode the Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross for the 11th time. It's been a few years since I last did it (having another baby meant a bit of time out), and it was awesome to get back at it. Can you tell from the photograph (thank you Mr Sparkle) how much I was enjoying myself? I am getting slower every time I do it but who cares - my next aim with this race is to get to my 20th ride and then keep going :o)
Last week I also put live a picture gallery that shows some of the illustrations for my new book A Cycling Year. I aim hoping to crowdfund its publication and will be putting a Kickstarter project live very soon to do so. The project is all ready to go, just waiting on a bit of admin from Kickstarter.
Once the 'Peaks is over for the year it always feels like autumn is in full-swing. I am enjoying night-riding - had a great adventure this week getting lost on some relatively local trails. Thankfully we managed to find ourselves and a beer in the pub afterwards.
Over the next couple of months I will be at both Cheltenham Literature Festival (13th October) and the Kendal Mountain Literature Festival (18th November). Both of these will be to present and discuss Waymaking, and I will be with a number of other contributors and editors of this book, including Helen Mort at Cheltenham and Claire Carter and Camilla Barnard at Kendal.
Waymaking is a book I am very proud to be involved with. It is out on 4th October and will be launched at Kendal. It's already had a few very good reviews - here's one from Dennis Gray.
Last weekend I finally got around to something I had been wanting to do for years - running over and around the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland. I don't know why it took me so long, they are wonderful and Northern Ireland in general a very friendly and interesting place.
I spent some time last year working on a project based in Antrim Hospital (about 20 miles north of Belfast) and headed over for meetings every now and then. I saw the Mournes from a distance and that was enough to whet my appetite.
This year I was really keen to do the Mourne Mountain Marathon, and last weekend ran it with my friend Andrea Priestley. It was a superb two days of mountain running, a great event, very friendly and well organised. We really enjoyed ourselves (despite struggling to find a couple of checkpoints in the clag on the Saturday and losing loads of time). We will be back - both to do the MMM again and to run around the whole of the amazing Mourne Wall.
I love this this of year for both the races and generally getting out and about. Last week I published a blog about some of my summer adventures and what I am up to next. The summer may have gone but there's loads happening, next week it's the Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross.
This year many of my paintings have been inspired by some of the bike rides I have done close to home in West Yorkshire and further into the Dales. Hopefully within the next month or so I will put my next book project on Kickstarter - this new work is part of it.
I spent yesterday working in Knaresborough and took in the Beryl Burton cycle way on my bike ride over from Otley. This sustrans route runs alongside and over the River Nidd from Ripley. It was a cool, windless morning, perfect weather for riding a bike. Autumn is pretty much here and I am excited. The summer has been amazing but I am looking forward to the change in colour and some of the fantastic low light you get this time of year.
I am really proud and excited to say Waymaking is soon to be published by Vertebrate Publishing. This project started off back in 2015, when Helen Mort, Claire-Jane Carter and I came up with the idea for such a book after collectively wondering what an anthology by women of writing and art inspired by the outdoors and adventure would look like. Roll forward a few years and here we are. Camilla Barnard and the wider team at Vertebrate have done a great job of producing the book after our initial call-out for contributions and editing.
Waymaking will be published on the 4th October and you can pre-order a copy here. Here I am signing some of the Kickstarter ordered paperbacks and special edition hard-back copies (my mum has one and is very chuffed with it).
Since Christmas I have been upping my weekly running mileage a little, planning ahead for later in the year and some longer adventures. Last week I got dropped below Windgate Nick on the far-western end of Rombalds Moor (aka Ilkley Moor) and ran home to Otley. I was out for about two and a half hours. The weather was mostly grey but it cleared as I was approaching the trig point on top on Ilkley Moor. A bit of blue sky and a change in the light was welcome.
This week the weather is a fair bit grottier - cold, wet, sleety. I'm looking forward to the weekend when I'll in the Lake District with hopefully some white fells to run over.
Happy New Year! I have put a new gallery up - 'My Back Yard'. This one will grow over the next few months as I do more paintings.
All the work in this gallery has been inspired by the area in which I live. It's been great to travel around on foot and by bike, catching scenes over the seasons and painting them when I'm back home.
2017's been a mixed year. I turned 40, my younger daughter turned 1 and my Dad died. In many ways happy but also sad. I have been working at my analytics consultancy a bit too hard too, I pretty much stopped the painting and writing.
When I realised this was not doing me much good (in the late autumn), I began to rectify things. Now I am fitting in a little painting and writing again and feel soooo much better for it.
I have also been getting out in the mountains a little more (in between everything else!). Here's a photo from the top of Cairngorm the week before Christmas. What a day! I went on to climb Ben Macdui, a beautiful day on the hill.
The day after the snow melted at a pace, I got lucky being there when I was. I will be posting some new work on here soon and am aiming to update this page more than once a year going forwards (maybe even once a week...).
Happy New Year :o)
The year's gone by fast, autumn's gone now it's winter. We have already had a little snow, hopefully more will come soon. I have been inspired by the autumn colours on the Otley Chevin and a couple of snowy runs on Ilkley Moor. Here are a couple of recent pictures.
Summer's here again, last week at least. In between fun and games with an 11 week old baby and lively four year old, I have been sneaking in a few runs and rides, from my front door I can get out quickly to some great places.
This new watercolour painting is the view of Wharfedale from the Bar House at the top of the Leeds Road. It's a great scene, the valley opens out as you turn the corner heading to Otley. Always a welcome view on the way back from working in Leeds or London (or anywhere else for that matter), the countryside and moorland beyond is a very relaxing and rejuvenating sight.
Almost seven months have gone by since I last updated this site. What have I been up to? Having a baby, trying to finish my PhD, building a new website for my data analytics business and developing software for that business. I have not yet finished my PhD but almost have and most importantly my new baby daughter is lovely - healthy and happy.
She is now nearly three months old and I am finding that I have an urge to paint again (very happy to say that I am also running and biking again and steadily getting some fitness back). I have just finished off this map painting of Skye's Cuillin and have one or two other ideas for new work that I will aim to fit in between everything else. I like to be busy...
It's been a fair while since I updated this page. My PhD thesis needs to be completed by the end of February next year - since August much of my time has been focused on it. Thankfully it should be finished in time and I must say that I am very much looking forward to that day.
While I haven't been painting all that much recently I am currently doing another map, this time of Skye's Red and Black Cuillin. I am enjoying this as writing up my PhD is pretty full on and it's a welcome change when get the chance to work on it.
Now it's December I thought I would put on some info about last dates for painting, print and book orders if you would like them in time for Christmas.
**For framed prints please order by December 12th, for original paintings and unframed prints order by December 16th and for books please order by December 21st.**
The picture on the left is of Simon's Seat in the Yorkshire Dales - it was plastered in snow this time last year. Let's hope some more of the white stuff arrives here soon.
Over the last few weeks I have had a few orders for prints. It's always nice when people get in touch with me to do this - and great when they are pleased with their delivery. The two photos below show a large block canvas print of my oil painting Five Hills of Assynt, and two prints of some recent watercolour paintings I have done of the Aiguille du Midi and the Aiguille Rouge - both of these are scenes from high above the Chamonix valley on the side of Mont Blanc.
All of my printing is done professionally and is very high quality (Giclee). You can order prints of any of my paintings shown on this website (originals also available where stated).
Along with this I have been getting out and about on my road and cyclocross bikes in the Dales and North York Moors. On the right is a photo of a barn at the bottom of Buttertubs in the northern Dales and two shots of Rosedale - my first time cycling up Rosedale Chimney - it was brilliant :o)
It's got to the time of year again where Wharfedale (the valley I live in) becomes even richer in colour than usual. Combined with some super dry and fast trails I have been zipping around on my mountain bike, stopping to take photos of the scenery from time to time. All in a very inspiring and fun place to be :o)
I have just got a few paintings finished off and also have got around to putting some older ones I did last year after I cycled the English Coast to Coast (my own version on the road from St Bees to Robin Hoods Bay) online.
I will be putting them in various galleries on this website over the next few days.
Well the summer's flying by even if it hasn't wholly warmed up yet. Last week I got a few days cycling and running in the Lakes. I packed up my kit and cycles from my house to Shipley, got the train through the Dales to Langwathby near Penrith, met my friend Andrea and then cycled through to Threlkeld. Later that afternoon we got in a fine run around Blencathra and the Caldbeck fells.
The following day we cycled around the route of the Fred Whitton. I haven't ridden this for years - it was brilliant and I was really chuffed to be going ok up the hills on the bike as I have had a few injury and illness problems this year.
The next day I headed home but not before a four hour run over and around Skiddaw. All in a great few days running and biking - hopefully it's set me up ok for the Yorkshire Dales 300 bikepacking event this weekend (these days I seem to do my training at the very last opportunity!).
The following weekend I am back in the Lakes to support one of my friends on his Bob Graham. The week after that I will be chilling! I used to race most weekends but these days I think all this activity will be a little shock to my system. Fun though :o)
I have just added a new painting - the first of a fair few that should be forthcoming after my recent three week trip to the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
This one is of Loch Ainort on South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. This is the view we had from the croft we stayed in for a week. It was beautiful I did not get bored of looking at it!
It's also now on my watercolour gallery page.
I am a bit late with this report as I have just got back from a fantastic three week trip to the Scottish Highlands and Islands - South Uist, Assynt and then the southern Cairngorms. Lots of adventures and lots of inspiration for more painting and writing :o)
For the third year running I have been really happy that the GL3D (Great Lakeland 3 day) mountain marathon has given two of my framed prints as prizes to the winning man and woman. Well done to Kerstin Rosenqvist and Dave Spence!
The print is of a map I painted based on the map of the race itself, covering the much of the Lake District National Park, from Ravenglass in the south west to the edge of the Helvellyn range in the north east. I really enjoyed painting this map. In time will do some more, I am thinking first up will be some of the major mountain groups in the Scottish Highlands.
I have been back to the Outer Hebrides for the first time in years. We got a great spell of weather - the picture on the right is of some evening light in Loch Ainort on South Uist. I got in some brilliant running on the hills, took a lot of photos and I've got a fair few pictures in mind to paint from this trip. I will post them up here as I do them.
Over the last few months I have been working on a new project with two very talented women - Helen Mort and Claire Carter. Called 'Waymaking', it will be an anthology of women's writing and artwork that has been inspired by wild landscape and adventure, and will be published in early 2016. Submissions are now open and are very welcome indeed.
You can find out more by visiting the Waymaking website, we hope to hear from you soon!
Now I have started painting maps I don't know if I will be stopping for a while. This most recent one is of the north-west and central Lake District. I have spent years running and cycling around these fells with a map in my hand. I really enjoyed doing this painting, trying to get the shape and structure of the mountains to a degree that it looks like them! Mind you I wouldn't try navigating by it - one of the nice things about art is that it's an interpretation of reality and not an exact science :o)
I've just got back from a great mountain bike ride in the North Pennines. This morning I cycled to Shipley and got a train to Appleby-in-Westmorland. This town sits on the edge of the Cross Fell range, and is a great spot to start a bike ride into these hills. I headed up to the village of Dufton, up onto the fell to High Cup Nick. Pictured on the left, High Cup Nick is an amazing valley, narrow and very steep sided, with a rim formed by sandstone crags. After this I headed further into the Pennines, to Teesdale, and then to the source of the Tyne as I rode up towards the summit of Great Dun Fell. After a fast descent of this hill I cycled back to Dufton and then to Appleby with about five minutes to spare before my train home arrived.
The North Pennines are a lonely, beautiful place, I hardly saw anyone all day, and no one while on the open fell. I did see loads of ground nesting birds - curlews, red shank, golden plovers - and saw two dippers as I cycled downriver from High Cup Nick towards Cow Green Reservoir. A grand day out. Whenever I visit these hills I always think I should get there more.
I have just finished this painting - it's my first go at a topographic map and it's of the Mont Blanc Massif. I am currently working on my next book which has been inspired by a run around the Tour de Mont Blanc I did last summer. Since then I have been painting scenes from the route, writing about the journey and also about the creative inspiration myself and others have gained from getting out and about in the wonderful Alps. The book will be out this autumn and I will be adding more pictures and a few extracts from it to this site in the coming months.
Today I ran the middle section of the Derwent Watershed, from Cut-Throat Bridge to Snake Pass. It's a run that passes over some of the most remote areas in the Peak Distict. The weather was really mixed, heavy snow and hail showers with sun and blue skies in between, making for great light and colours. I always like seeing the mushroom stone. Not only is it interesting it tells me I am in the right place - the navigation is quite tough up there.
I have finally got around to something I have been meaning to do for a while - adding some of my new artwork to this site and also making a few tweaks to it. The main change is the addition of my watercolour gallery page. This currently has four paintings, all of which I have done over the past couple of months. They are snowy and autumnal scenes of the Yorkshire Dales, Lakes and Torridon in the north-west Highlands.
After Thursday's great run in the Lake District, over the weekend I was in the Peak. Loads of snow - I ran the Edale Skyline which was brilliant and got treated to a stunning sunset as I dropped off of Mam Tor back into Edale.
I got a bit fed up (and inspired) by quite a few of my friends posting great snowy pictures of the Lakes on facebook so I took a sneaky week day trip over. It was a perfect day, I ran around the classic Kentmere Horseshoe. After that I went to see the W Heaton Cooper exhibition in Grasmere (fantasic - I find his work beautiful and incredibly inspiring) and then managed to squeeze in taking a few photos in Great Langdale of sunset on the Langdale Pikes - maybe a painting sometime soon. All in it was a grand day out :o)