January

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The first few months of winter have come and gone! There have been a lot of changes for me too! There has been a wedding, a Norwegian Christmas and a change of location.

I’ve been doing a lot of planning for my business this year and now January is over, things are starting to fall into place. I like routine to keep up my flow of projects, however that has been quite difficult this past while. Now I have just finished setting up my workspace in my new flat, and I have some weeks free of client commissions to focus on exciting projects I have lined up in my head. I am hoping they can help push my work in a bit of a new direction. I’m also really keen to make contact with new clients in Norway, and I will be hopefully posting about creating some more local themed illustrations to help with that.

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A lot of my client work over winter has been emailing and sketching roughs so I haven’t had much to share online. However, I did get some time to sit down and do some media experimentation with my painting. I decided to paint a cuckoo as I had seen them on the local mountain this summer and was fascinated by them. A few pages of sketches on layout paper and I was ready to paint.

I was hoping to see what would happen if I painted with no prior colour planning and just stuck at it for a few hours. I am pretty happy with how it went, so it’s a definite incentive to play around with my process more. The colour planning and the then inevitable laborious colour matching on photoshop was really beginning to take the enjoyment out of painting for me, so I am happy to try out new methods, even if that means my final aesthetic changes quite a bit as a result.

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Over December I attempted the challenge of swimming every day in the fjord. Unfortunately, as I probably should have anticipated, there was absolutely no sunlight to tempt me out into the water. This wasn’t helped by a couple of weeks of temperatures below -10°C! I think I maybe made it in for half of the days, and this is probably a lot more swims than I would have managed without the goal.

However, when January came I was determined to keep up a routine of cold water dips. I appreciate how helpful it is for my mental health to have something like that – especially in January! For the last two winters I have aimed for a once-a-week outdoor swim goal, and I can happily report that this January I have managed it – even getting in one extra swim!

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Well that’s January – I hope that I can keep those swims going and keep up a positive mindset as the year goes forward. (I can now say I have swam in 1°C water for the first time!) I have a lot of interesting and exciting illustration ideas in my head, but I feel I am not jumping into them when I have the chance as I have been held back by frustrations with my painting technique. Hopefully more experiments and practice over the next month or so should get me where I want to go and I can start creating those artworks I have been dreaming of for so long!

Last of the summer in the mountains

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What a summer it has been! I have managed to get long walks in almost every weekend! Having shin splints for almost a year and half now has been a big mental challenge for me but over time and partly in thanks to my plans to reach some nice long distance goals with very gradual progress over the past few months I have come to settle to what I think is a much healthier state if mind. The shin splints haven’t gone away, I am still not running but I have been able to do and see so much this summer without feeling much pain at all, have discovered that hiking poles are great and am looking forward to see what I can achieve next spring!

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I also used the bike a bit to travel further distances away from home. Almost all of the early journeys had a mountain pasture as the end destination though. I would eventually start making some mountain tops in the early autumn but the time spent exploring the old huts and surrounding landscape of these historic places was very interesting and inspiring. There are so many of them around in the uplands of this part of Sogn and I expect I will be drawn to explore more of them next season and perhaps even reach a few on skis this winter too!

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Now the hunting season has arrived and I am adapting my time outdoors to fit in with the new challenges this brings. It’s not something I have ever had to think about before! The forest around our home is particular suited for deer hunting. It has very good access for quads and tractors as well as many flat places the deer like to sleep in. Hunting is normal across the whole of Norway but this area is much more busy than is normal elsewhere. This makes it particular important to take care in these areas after 15:30 and it is usually best to avoid them altogether at this time.

So far I have started thinking about doing some uphill running in the middle of the day as well as the possibility of cycling further afield from the hunting, while carrying the gear to do a short mountain walk. This might be something I start considering for the season but I will just have to see how the weather plays out. I don’t really  enjoy cycling in persistent rain (compared to walking when I am quite happy if I have my rain gear on) and the last month has been so wet almost every day. I am very aware of how much I will be limited in my route choices once the snow falls proper so if the weather improves over the next week I will hopefully have good motivation to seize any free time and to do as much as I can now!

Evening cycle in Sogn

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Here are a few photos from a recent cycle I made up to a lovely spot by Sognefjorden in Norway! I was very happy to find that there is plenty of rustic farm inspiration to be found there as well as quite spots by the water to sit and reflect. With the pond there is almost a Hobbiton feeling there too!

A Cornish Søndagstur

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We are now living in sunny Cornwall! We have arrived as late summer is coming in and have been blessed with some amazing weather. So on our first weekend we decided to head out into some coastal nature to keep up one of our favourite cosy Norwegian traditions – Søndagstur!

In Norway pretty much everybody heads out into their local woods, mountains or lakes on a Sunday. This is Søndagstur! People are kitted out for all weather and bring plenty of treats and usually a flask or 2 of hot chocolate or coffee. (The snacks are perhaps my favourite part!)

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So we very excited to be adapting this tradition to our new home in the South West of England! Unlike most Sundays in Norway, we didn’t need so much rain gear on this particular walk but we did bring our towels and went for a peaceful dip in the sea, where we were surrounded by a huge shoal of sand eels (slightly surreal!) adding an interesting flavour of nature to our trip.

Already we are noticing the days are growing shorter and how fast darkness seems to set in this part if the world. It is going to be very interesting adjusting to the change in landscape and climate but I am already looking forward to it and Søndagstur is the perfect way to settle in!

Ride Journal – Egersund to Stavanger

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A few weeks ago I took the train down to Egersund to explore a length of the North Sea Cycle Route on my bike. I had heard lots of nice things about it and knew that Nordsjørittet – one of the most popular gravel races in Rogaland is held along much of the route. I was excited to experience riding the entire length of the Jæren region for the first time, known for its farmland and fields of glacial boulders, as well as feeling slightly nervous to be doing my first long ride in a good while. An hour or so of comfortable train ride later and I was pedalling out of town.

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The route starts out on an old railway track of gravel at Egersund (it was about 30% gravel over the whole 80km route) winding its way to the amazing beaches at Ogna. I really wanted to stay by the beach for longer but decided to keep on as I had no idea how slow I would be along the route!

I was already pretty tired, as the gravel section veered inland just before the beaches of Ogna and headed up into the steep rocky hills. I didn’t mind getting off to push as it gave me an excuse to take a lot of photos! I was the only person around for miles! Just me, an empty track and sunshine!

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Then I was properly heading up into Jæren! I made use of the wee villages dotted along the route to pop into a supermarket for some lunch and then started along the coastal gravel section. There were so many nice things about this route that I would be hard pushed to pick a favourite. However, the company of the sparkling sea to my left and beautiful Lapwings calling to their young in the fields to my right made this section of the coast (Kongevegen ) particularly special!

Freewheeling down from the eerily silent uplands to the lush fields filled with birdsong was a little like cycling into spring. I was glad that it was finally here!

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Obrestad lighthouse provided a welcome (if very windy) stop to savour a few pieces of Swedish chocolate biscuit. From then on it was a case of winding my way up the many cycle paths that line most of the main roads in northern Jæren up to Sola and then Stavanger. However, I made a wee diversion out to Vigdel strand to dip my toes in the sea.

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Vigdel Strand has to be my favourite cove on the whole of Jæren so far! There was a perfect spot to bivvy up on the headland and I can just see myself getting up out of my sleeping bag and going for a swim in the calm morning sea as the sun rises!

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I am hopefully going to have the opportunity to explore the Jæren coast a bit more on my bike soon, (Hå Prestegård in particular!) but for now here is a map I drew up showing my route and of course – I had to paint some Lapwings!

Jæren Coastal Walk

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I have been really taken recently with the Norwegian tradition of a Sunday family walk or ‘Søndagstur’. I like how enjoying nature seems so normal here in Norway and how young children are often part of the walk, so people are often dandering around at a very relaxed pace which means plenty of time for chatting and resting.

I am also really enjoying researching the Jæren coast here in Rogaland and looking for interesting walks along the shore. So when my girlfriend’s mum was visiting one misty Sunday this spring, we got together and headed out for a slow family walk by the sea!

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The walk starts at Tananger Indre Havn which is just outside Stavanger. I really want to come back to the harbour again in low evening light as there are quite a few lovely old buildings on the wharfs. From here on the rocky seashore scrambling begins!

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And what fun that scrambling is! It can be quite slow going on the sometimes slippy rocks but it is nice to slow down the pace. That way you  can enjoy the views out to sea and look out for seabirds and passing ships. Not that we could see the sea very much! (We could hear the ‘ghost ships’ though!)

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Returning to our car at the harbour we stayed a while to enjoy the first signs of spring and sip some lovely Norwegian filter coffee we had brought with us in a flask. I love this ‘Søndagstur’ tradition so much; I would love to try and do it as much as possible this year!

 

Climbing Clougha Pike

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At the start of the summer, Champion Lad, of Jerome Twell fame (see previous post here) travelled all the way up to Lancashire for a few days hanging out and climbing hills.

The weather was perfect  and after some time exploring Lancaster itself we headed up into the fells with the goal of reaching Clougha Pike and then walking home down the Lune valley.

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We took a while actually getting up onto the open terrain of Bowland as we spent well over half an hour reverting to our childhood ways, with a full on dam and cairn building session in a beautiful green valley with a stream cascading down it! It still surprises me how much fun it can be to play in the outdoors, even as an adult!

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Up onto the heather and under a beating sun we spent the morning looking for lapwings and testing our bird knowledge on each other. Reaching the summit it was time to discuss the merits of the various varieties of cheese we had brought with us (we went a bit mad in the supermarket!).

We discovered that there is a really good track up there so I definitely want to bring a bike up one day to cover a bit more ground and explore more!

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I am so glad Jerome made the trip up, as it was just great to be able to share the open hills with a friend, especially when we had such a nice weather window! I am already planning how I can get down to the midlands in the new year, so we can head into the Peak District!

Cycling in Longsleddale, Cumbria

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Earlier this year, I met up with my good friend Bee in the Lake District, where she is working on lots of exciting steam bending and craft projects. As I am currently getting very excited for my next adventures in Cumbria when I travel to the Kendal Mountain Festival, I thought I would share some photos from a cycle ride we did together up the Longsleddale valley.

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It was a particular special trip for me, as lots of my ancestors lived and farmed in Longsleddale and as we rode our bikes down the narrow lane that takes you up to the end of the valley I tried to imagine what their lives must have been like working on those steep hillsides. I sometimes wish I knew more about farming and my family history and I think that maybe in future visits to the lakes I can try and explore more farms and try to gather some stories to inspire my illustrations.

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There were so many interesting things to see on the ride up to the valley as well. Bee showed me a great barn that housed an amazing collection of boats, tools and all sorts of unusual old things. It was hidden down a wee lane and I really felt like we were discovering something secret and special!

A birthday barbecue in the evening sun at the beautiful Witherslack finished off a great trip! I know that there are many beautiful landscapes out there but perhaps due to nostalgia or maybe just too much Arthur Ransome as a child, I always feel a little bit sad when I have to leave the Lake District.

Cycling across Bowland and Salter Fell

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Here are a few photos from a ride I made across the moors of Bowland, Lancashire. I rode my Raleigh Randonneur bicycle across a fantastic rough track of gravel, boulders and ancient Roman pavement. This was my first real off road ride of any distance and I learned later that my Uncle and Grandad made the exact same crossing on the Salter Fell track many years ago!

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The glorious feeling of paved road again as I finally made it off the moor and onwards to the Trough of Bowland for some excellent climbing and miles of beautiful descent by the Marshaw Wyre river.

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I had concerns about impending thunderstorms and had made a half way point of no return on the map. I didn’t quite reach it on time but I was too eager to continue and went on ahead anyway. On the way down the final section I met a couple riding the other way on a mountain bike tandem!

I am now doing much more offroad riding here in Norway, having just got my very own Cyclocross bike!

In the picture above you can see the view off to Three Peaks country and Ingleborough. This morning I discovered the Three Peaks CX race online and now I really want to ride a bike up around the mountains there. I didn’t quite make it into the Yorkshire Dales this year but who knows where my bike will take me next year!

Weekends in Prague

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I am about half way through the final illustrations now on a big book project that I have been working on since my time in Prague. I haven’t had too much extra time to work on the blog but I thought I would just share a few of the pictures that I took when we visited the city at the weekends during our time there. Hope to have plenty of exciting new posts for the blog in a couple of weeks!

Thanks so much to Veronika and Joe for looking after us and showing us around in Prague!