Sunday, 15 April 2018

Scotland By Rail - Dalry Ayrshire - station paintings - The Nature of Dalry




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west platform:





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east platform:















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25+ bird species to spot, plus other details to spot, both platforms:


























































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Previous Dalry blog posts


Paintings now in situ
https://landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/scotland-by-rail-dalry-ayrshire-station_9.html

Paintings complete (not yet in situ)
http://landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/scotland-by-rail-dalry-ayrshire-station.html

Lynn Glen walk 
http://landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/scotland-by-rail-dalry-ayrshire-station.html

Hare unveiling & River Garnock walk 
http://landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/scotland-by-rail-dalry-station-garden.html

Blair Estate walk 
http://landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/scotland-by-rail-dalry-ayrshire-blair.html

Nearby - RSPB Lochwinnoch 
http://landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/scotland-by-rail-dalry-briefly-then.html



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How to get there

Trains to Dalry take half an hour from Glasgow Central. Mon-Sat there are 3 per hour from Glasgow - 2 going to Ayr, the other to Ardrossan Harbour. Hourly on Sundays.

See 'Ayrshire, Inverclyde & Stranraer Timetable' and 'Buy Tickets' on ScotRail website.


Many thanks always to ScotRail for enabling my Scotland by Rail work.




Monday, 9 April 2018

Scotland By Rail - Dalry Ayrshire - station paintings now in situ

My paintings for Dalry station in Ayrshire are in situ at last. Three 4x4ft panels on either side of the station bridge. The work is titled The Nature of Dalry.

On 23rd March 2018 Dalry Station Garden Group held an opening event attended by Dalry residents, councillor, MP and MSP and by ScotRail representatives and station adoption volunteers from around Scotland. Afterwards we moved to The Auld Hoose on Dalry Main Street for refreshment and chat accompanied by live folk music from James Dippie and John Hodgart (see them hare).

- Project proposed and made possible by Dalry Station Garden Group (DSGG), thank you Anne, Bob, Fiona and Phyllis for everything.

- Funded by the ScotRail Foundation managed by Foundation Scotland.

- Additional materials sponsorship from Edinburgh Art Shop, many thanks.

- And a special very big thank you to John Yellowlees, ScotRail Honorary Rail Ambassador, who enabled me to get me started on my railway work more than ten years ago when I approached ScotRail at the time of a 150th Anniversary at Elgin on the Aberdeen - Inverness line. John has encouraged and supported me ever since, knows more than it seems possible to know about everything and everyone railway, attends my exhibitions (buys paintings?!), provided a foreword for my book Landscapes & Birds of Scotland, an Artist's View (Northern Arts, 2013. Let me know if you wish to order a copy - £20, signed) and more. Thank you John.

Here are photos of the painting unveiling. I'll show zoomed-in details in the next post.

The Nature of Dalry, west platform. What can you spot?

The Nature of Dalry, east platform. What (/who) else can you spot?

west platform daffodils. (spot the paintings)

Now for real, spot the paintings. How small they look from far away!

speech with scarf. photo thanks to DSGG

no-one asleep yet, and John is smiling. photo thanks to DSGG

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Previous Dalry blog posts

Paintings complete (not yet in situ)
http://landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/scotland-by-rail-dalry-ayrshire-station.html

Lynn Glen walk 
http://landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/scotland-by-rail-dalry-ayrshire-station.html

Hare unveiling & River Garnock walk 
- http://landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/scotland-by-rail-dalry-station-garden.html

Blair Estate walk 
- http://landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/scotland-by-rail-dalry-ayrshire-blair.html

Nearby - RSPB Lochwinnoch 
- http://landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/scotland-by-rail-dalry-briefly-then.html

travelling to Dalry for artwork unveiling - crossing the Forth, 7.40am, 23rd March 2018, pen in sketchbook
















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How to get there

Trains to Dalry take half an hour from Glasgow Central. Mon-Sat there are 3 per hour from Glasgow - 2 going to Ayr, the other to Ardrossan Harbour. Hourly on Sundays.

See 'Ayrshire, Inverclyde & Stranraer Timetable' and 'Buy Tickets' on ScotRail website.


Many thanks always to ScotRail for enabling my Scotland by Rail work.


Saturday, 3 March 2018

Scotland By Rail - Haymarket to Craiglockhart Woods & Hill




Wherever I go I try to work walks into my plans. If I have a meeting or I'm running a workshop or I'm delivering a painting or I'm visiting a friend, I look at the Ordnance Survey to see what green spaces I can find. Nature spots are everywhere and it's so satisfying discovering them, so much nicer walking through and along them than rather than sticking to the most obvious main-road routes.

Each month through autumn, winter, spring, the RSPB Edinburgh Local Group puts on an evening talk at Napier University's Craiglockhart campus, two and a half miles from Haymarket station. From Haymarket I could get the bus, taking half an hour, costing £1.60. Not bad but I prefer to leave home at least an hour earlier and walk from the station instead. I've gradually honed my walking route to maximise nature and minimise road, I use canal and residential streets and nature reserve with woodland, hill, pond. A really interesting varied walk.



The Route:

- exit Haymarket station
- walk briefly along Dalry Road
- up Dalry Place (Where I lived my first two years. Admire the gardens of the colony houses.)
- turn right along Morrison Crescent, cross the busy Western Approach Road (there's a crossing.)
- cross Fountainbridge and walk up Gilmore Park (where the new Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop will be)
- turn right onto Union Canal at Leamington Lift Bridge, keep on the towpath for more than a mile
- exit canal where North Meggetland Road crosses the canal by bridge
- turn right onto Colinton Road
- turn left onto Lockharton Gardens which soon becomes Lockharton Crescent
- on your left pass through a small gate into the trees. This is Craiglockhart Woods and Hill, a Local Nature Reserve (LNR)



Craiglockhart Woods and Hill, Local Nature Reserve

As you enter the woods turn right and follow paths through the trees. Soon you come to a small patch of marsh and then Craiglockhart pond. Look on the pond for swan, moorhen, coot, mallard, tufted duck and - when I did the walk the other week - a water rail padding silently through the reeds. This was 21st February, a pair of swans were already a good way through building a nest. A third, younger, swan seemed almost to be helping them.


nest building on Craiglockhart pond

Spot the water rail. Well, just about. Water rail tail anyway. Just about.


From the pond make your own explorations, there are various footpaths to follow. I usually take a steep path up to a high point looking over city to the west and golf course to the east. I spend some time sitting and watching up there then follow a path downhill towards the university. From my high point further footpaths will take you all the way up and around Easter Craiglockhart Hill, if you wish.

To get to Napier Craiglockhart campus follow the pond-level footpath south until it emerges onto Glenlockhart Road. Ahead you'll see the uni and its spaceship lecture theatre. Alternatively continue your walk by taking the footpath/track immediately east of the uni buildings. This leads up onto more golf course from where you can explore Wester Craiglockhart Hill. Jackdaws nest on the cliffs under landslip-prevention wire and further along there are lots of wild raspberries in summer.



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Come to my Edinburgh talk - 20th March 2018, Craiglockhart campus, Napier Uni


RSPB Edinburgh Local Group puts on lots of talks and walks. Details by clicking here

My talk:


Title: Landscapes & Birds of Scotland - An Artist's View

Time: arrive 7pm - 7.30pm, talk starts at 7.30 pm

Price: members £2, non-members £3, under 16s free (includes refreshments)


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How to get there

Haymarket is the station immediately before Waverley as your train arrives into Edinburgh.

Timetables and 'Buy Tickets' options on ScotRail website.


Many thanks to ScotRail for enabling my Scotland by Rail work.



Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The Nature of Winter - Jim Crumley (Saraband, 2017)


After Jim Crumley's talk at the 2017 Edinburgh International Book Festival last August I sat on the train home with my new copy of his book The Nature of Winter. I was trying to begin at the beginning. When Jim gave me the book a few hours earlier I'd persuaded myself not to flick through in search of mention of a Firth of Forth whale watching day we shared in Fife back at the start of the year. More exciting to just come upon it as I read, if it was there at all. I restrained my curiosity through the first page, a painter's eye rendering of a portrait of forty-five little egrets, beautifully described. Got a quarter of the way through the second page, came to the phrase, "an artist's canvas". Artist's. Decided a quick check of the Contents page was acceptable. Chapter Six - Whale Watch (1): The Narwhal in the Sky. Chapter Ten - Whale Watch (2): The Humpback's Back. That second was what I wanted, the whale in the Forth was a humpback. 

But do things in order, six comes before ten. I flicked to page 76, scanned the chapter. Not a du nor a Feu in sight. Chapter ten, starting page 145. The humpback was there. The Forth was there. By the time we reached home I'd finished the chapter and on the second last page - du and Feu side by side in that order and preceded by a Leo. A lot of excitement for one half hour.

Two months passed, a baby appeared, a few more months passed. A January day of snow came and I picked Jim's book up again, began reading it on my train journeys and sometimes out loud at home to Oren. Jim is one of his favourite authors. As long as I stick my tongue out a lot whilst reading. 

In The Nature of Winter Jim talks about the fact that the nature of winter is changing. It is changing, it has changed, it will keep changing. There's not really very much winter about it any more. How is this shift to unreliable winters (unreliable weather year round! - climate chaos.) going to affect wildlife? How is it already affecting wildlife? Jim has been watching nature for a lot of years, he knows his local territory - and much of Scotland - as well as anyone, more than almost everyone. In this newest book he charts and discusses the changes this intimate knowledge enables him to notice.

Jim's books are intelligent, thoughtful, great reads. They teach you, they make you wonder. They make you feel you're out there, sitting silently beside Jim as you watch that ghostly male hen harrier over the RSPB Insh Marshes, as you storm-shelter with young swallows and martins behind a silver birch in ancient hazel woods on Mull's west coast, as you settle in a February corrie watching that pair of ravens play with a snowbow. And they are witty, funny. I laughed out loud at Jim's silent dismay as he finds himself in a bar, heading towards yet another "a buzzard or an eagle?" conversation with a pint-gulping stranger.

Yesterday morning - snowdrops and lion-headed aconites massed in woods and gardens, daffodils preparing to be next out, chaffinches and tits and thrushes in full spring song - I came to the end of The Nature of Winter and there on the last page were another du and another Feu, side by side, in that order. Preceded by a Leo. Back on that August train it hadn't crossed my mind to flick further, all the way to Acknowledgements. Thanks Jim!


The Nature of Winter and Jim's other inspiring reads:




Whale watching with Jim:



Jim's whale - humpback in the Forth, 18th Feb 2017, oil, 20x40cm

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Scotland By Rail - Dalry Ayrshire - station paintings now complete



Four months ago I was close to completion of my 4ftx4ft paintings for Dalry station in Ayrshire. Then baby came along and caused a quarter of a year pause.

Now at last I'm getting back into it and with just a little help (see bottom of this post) panel six of six is complete. Here are my original mock-ups (above) plus a few details from the finished works (below). More and better photos once the paintings have been installed.













This project was proposed and made possible by Dalry Station Garden Group (DSGG), funded by the ScotRail Cultural and Arts Fund. 

Dalry station is an inspiring example of how much positive change can be made by just a few dedicated individuals - all volunteers. DSGG has planted native berry-bearing woodland, meadowland for pollinators. They've created mini ponds and insect hotels and put up nest boxes. They've brought poetry and sculpture and now painting to the station. Well done DSGG!



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Previous Dalry blog posts

Lynn Glen walk 

Hare unveiling & River Garnock walk 

Blair Estate walk 


Nearby RSPB Lochwinnoch 








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How to get there

Trains to Dalry take half an hour from Glasgow Central. Mon-Sat there are 3 per hour from Glasgow - 2 going to Ayr, the other to Ardrossan Harbour. Hourly on Sundays.

Double check 'Ayrshire, Inverclyde & Stranraer Timetable' and 'Buy Tickets' on ScotRail website.



Many thanks to ScotRail for enabling my Scotland by Rail work.




Saturday, 20 January 2018

Scotland By Rail - Visit Fife - A whale in the Forth (again)

the tale of the tail of the whale


**** NEWSFLASH - as I finish writing this post confirmed sightings of two whales have started coming through. Saturday 20th Jan, 12.30pm. ****



Visit Fife - The Forth Humpback

If you've been considering a trip to the Fife coast I say do it now. For the past two weeks we've had a humpback whale in the Forth, being sighted and photographed almost every day. I've been out looking six or seven times and have glimpsed it or more on four of those occasions. Some days only blows and back and dorsal fin are seen but I've twice seen huge splashes and tail, once three tail slaps in quick succession. Some people have seen full out-of-the-water breaches.

It seems likely that the humpback we've been watching this year is the same individual which spent several months in the Forth in early 2017. Possibly a young male who discovered fine fishing here and has decided to come back. Until someone gets a good tail photo with which those in the know can attempt identification we don't know for sure. 

Click here for sketches and oil paintings from the 2017 whale.

My most recent sighting was on Thursday this week when Jim Crumley and I were out searching. Six hours brought us five minutes of whale. Totally worth it. And a couple of cafes. Listen to Jim with Edi Stark, Karine Polwart and Alan Rowan on Radio Scotland's Winter Weekend programme broadcast on Friday 19th January. Jim talks about our whale in the first few minutes but I recommend the whole programme for Gavin Maxwell, live song, mountains by night. Read about the 2017 Forth whale, and the 1893 Tay whale, in Jim's The Nature of Winter (published Saraband Books 2017).


we didn't just look at whales. birds are good too.
bar-tailed godwits, ringed plover, one dunlin. Burntisland shore

bar-tailed godwits, ringed plover, one dunlin pretending to be a ringed plover, one oystercatcher. Burntisland shore
huge raft of shags, 250+

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Come and see!

With wildlife there of course are no guarantees but come to Fife and spend time sea-scanning - maybe four or five hours or maybe only ten minutes - and your chances are at least half good. Look for big splashes or a dark hump far away or, usually easiest to spot, an unexpected puff of smoke - the blow. Or if you're super-lucky, a dirty great whale rocketing out of the waves. Then get the binoculars and watch more closely. I find removing the distraction of a bright sky by wearing a peaked hat makes scanning much easier. Please be responsible, don't go trying to fly your drone over the whale or getting too close in a boat.


no whale this time

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Whale watch from where?

There are lots of places to try. If travelling by train I suggest:


Kinghorn

Whale-watch at:
- car park of Carousel Coffee Shop, two minute walk from station. High up, panoramic view
- Pettycur Bay car park, fifteen ish minute walk from station. Sea level
Warm up at:
- Community Centre Coffee Shop - great homebaking, top empire biscuits, incredibly cheap prices
- Carousel Coffee Shop - panoramic sea view


Burntisland

Whale-watch at:
- Lammerlaws headland, ten ish minute walk from station, south of Beacon Leisure Centre
Warm up at:


Aberdour 

Whale-watch at:
- Hawkcraig point - ten ish ish minute walk from station, at west end of Silversands Bay
Warm up at:
- Sands, a Place the Sea - cafe with sea view
- McTaggart's - cafe on Aberdour High Street, two minutes from station


People have also reported sightings from Cramond, Granton and elsewhere along the Lothian shore.

Forth Marine Mammal Project Facebook group is the place to go for up-to-the-minute sighting info


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Please help save our sea life:




rig Rowan Gorilla VI (the three-legged one) sitting on the deck of heavy lift vessel Blue Marlin (the red one) 

Rowan Gorilla VI on Blue Marlin

spot the whale? me neither.

Inchmickery island. spot the whale? (you really can this time.)

East Lothian lights from Fife - Bass Rock and Fidra

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Travelling by train


Thirty to forty minutes by train from Edinburgh Waverley, trains twice hourly during the day Mon to Sat, approx hourly Sunday and evenings. 

'The East Coast & Fife' timetable and 'Buy Tickets' options on ScotRail website.



Many thanks to ScotRail for continuing to support my ongoing Scotland by Rail work.