Kirkby Lonsdale, often shortened to Kirkby (with the second k silent) is a picturesque spot that I can heartily recommend for a visit. It's located between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, and if you travel by train, as I did, the nearest station is Lancaster. A car would get you there more efficiently, but you might want to abandon it on arrival, since the streets are narrow and twisting, and slope steeply down to the River Lune.
One of Kirkby's attractions is a lookout point near the parish church from which you can gaze across the river and its valley at "Ruskin's View", named for the 19th century art critic and social reformer. I'm not sure if Ruskin actually painted the view or just stopped and looked at it, and I don't know exactly which way he was looking, either, but these photos will give you an idea of what he saw, and why he apparently found it so inspiring. It's English countryside at its best, and fortunately doesn't appear to have changed much since Ruskin's time.
|Ruskin's View 2|
|Ruskin's View 1|
. . . but the first time I'd been there it was a dark, showery day, and with the camera I had at the time I'd had to use a flash, so the scene looked more like this (right) and correspondingly more sinister.
You have to look closely--this is definitely a case of the devil being in the details. The fence must have been erected when the tree was much younger. Maybe it was even here in Ruskin's day--who knows? In any case, the tree expanded outwards and became viciously impaled on the rusted spikes of the fence, which, though bent out of shape, remained firmly in place and poked through the bark. The roots continued to spread through the fence on to the "civilized" side, like monstrous toes trying to escape from jail.
Back in the studio in 2007 I painted three versions of this protracted border war in which nature pits herself against human beings for control of a few feet of woodland. Neither side seems to be winning and the tree has probably by now reached its full size, though I suspect the ogre's toes will keep trying to inch forward. As I painted I was thinking all the time about man-versus-nature confrontations, overlaps and conflicts. Here are the results, each 24 x36 ins.
|Encroachment 1: Toehold|
|Encroachment 3: Staked Out|
|Encroachment 2: Boundary Fence|
|Foot of Tree|
Next blog post in about a month.