Today’s painting – the Moffat hills just past the small town of Moffat, in the valley of Annandale near Dumfriesshire. (This is a larger painting at 10×10 inches)
Here’s the first sketch developed later in the studio…
The character of Borders hills is not disimilar to the Yorkshire Dales in some areas, but on a smaller scale. I love the rolling shapes, dappled light and subtle gradations of colour of these hills and as I become more familiar with painting the Borders I’d like the brushwork to become looser – more expressive of the landscape’s rythms.
This is near the source of the River Tweed. As you drive up into the hills the landscape becomes wilder, more stark, leaving behind the lush, tree-filled river valleys. This is also where you’ll find the Grey Mare’s Tail and the Devil’s Beeftub – thus named because it was where the Borders Reivers would hide their stolen cattle after one of their moonlit raids!
I’ve mentioned a little of the Reivers history in a previous post – particularly how grim it was. This was all captured in the Borders Ballads of the time.
I’ll leave you with a contemporary poem which I discovered a few days ago (on the excellent Scottish Poetry Library website), by Valerie Gillies. It’s beautifully evocative, both of the Borders landscape and its history. She mentions many places, among them Talla; a natural loch developed now into a resevoir, also along this stretch of countryside..
Stream Rhythm by Valerie Gillies..
The Powskein, the knife-slash,
then Cor Water, the long marsh,
Badlieu, all mossy-grey,
a wet spot through the day,
Smid Hope, the blacksmith’s yards,
Fingland, with white gravel,
shining on bright pebbles,
and Hawkshaw, if it could talk,
the haunt of the hunting hawk.
Fruid water, the running one,
swift flow in shallow current,
Glenbreck, in speckled folds,
Glenwhappen, the whaup calls.
Menzion, at the standing stones,
Talla, the waterfall foams
Gameshope, a winter month,
back of the wind, a shivery one,
Glencotho where the cuckoo’s heard,
Glenrusco whose skin is fair,
bark from wood, the stripping-bare,
Kirk Burn of the grouse hen,
the hare’s stone at Hearthstane,
Glenheurie has the yew wood.
The wolfhunt land is a Polmood
where Kings came to hold assize,
every kind of fruit tree thrives.
Kingledores, the champion’s gateway,
Holms’ meadows, islands of greenery.
Hopecarton, old fort in the midden,
Drumelzier, Medlar’s dun is hidden.
The Scrape burn, the gash in the hill,
a rough scart, see it you will,
the little Louran, a chatterbox burn,
the loud voice, the shouting one.
Manor’s stony settlements rise,
Posso the pleasance, earthly paradise,
Hundleshope and Waddenhope,
a man’s name in hollow court.
Time passing, blooms in places,
people there tell differences
on the ground by a tributary,
name a feature, give stability.
It’s for a man who’s not yet born,
it’s a place for a future dawn.