Inspired by the Northumbrian Countryside

Inspired by the Northumbrian Countryside

Two weeks ago I took advantage of Covid restrictions being lifted for self catering holidays in England and took off for a weeks holiday in one of my favourite UK destinations. Rothbury in Northumberland is a small, picturesque town nestled in the Coquet Valley.

Looking towards the town centre from south of the river
Heading downhill from my apartment into town

Unfortunately the weather forecast was looking bleak but I was going to make the most of it. I set off with my car packed with as much crafting gear as I could fit in i.e. fibre and felting equipment, fabric, sewing machine, etc, etc the plan being to have a relaxing break, do a little walking and create a piece of work inspired by the Northumbrian countryside. I would return home feeling refreshed, fit and with a finished piece of work…..if I only managed two out of those three (and I did) I wouldn’t have guessed which would have fallen by the wayside!

The view from the patio was pretty good.

Although there were occasional (very) heavy showers and lots of cloud the weather turned out be a bit better than I had expected so it made sense to pack a rucksack and walk during the day and leave the creative stuff to do in the evenings.

Rothbury is a great base for anyone who likes walking with beautiful scenery and lots of trails in the surrounding hills, forests and along the riverbank. Plus it’s only a forty-ish minute scenic drive to Beadnell on the coast, another favourite haunt, with almost deserted beach walks to Dunstanburgh castle heading south or Seahouses and Bamburgh Castle heading north.

Climbing the hill behind my accommodation gave stunning views of the Simonside Hills on the opposite side of the valley.
Crossing the river and heading for the Simonside Hills
A terrific downpour has just passed over!
One of my favourite lunch stops on the riverbank
Harbour at Seahouses
Pace Hill is a tiny spit of land jutting out into the sea just to the east of Seahouses Harbour.
After clambering over the rocks I reached the curious stone construction which turned out to be a Grade II listed building dating back to 1886. It was built to store gunpowder used in blasting when the Long Pier and New Harbour were being built. On the horizon to the left you can just make out one of the Farne Islands.
Lunch stop on the Harbour Wall on my way to Bamburgh Castle
Approaching the imposing Bamburgh Castle from the south on an almost deserted beach.
This is one of my favourite images of the castle and will definitely inspire a textile piece. I’m seeing the background and castle painted and the foreground grasses stitched.

I also came home with lots of dry stone wall images… if I don’t have enough already!!

Although I had every intention of being productive in the evenings the combination of loads of exercise, beautiful clean air, wine and a well stocked book shelf in my apartment, meant I didn’t get much creative work done at all while I was there! Who cares!! I had a terrific time and came home with a few of what I refer to as my ‘bacon rashers’ (lengths of abstract felted pieces, often with fabric included) in colours and textures inspired by my walks. Plus all the inspiration I needed to produce a large abstract mixed media piece based on the Northumbrian countryside including those beautiful rolling hills.

‘Bacon rashers’ formed from a variety of fibres and silk fabrics drying in the sun
Pinning together with sheer fabrics to try different layouts.

Since getting home the rashers, plus various other slivers of sheers and painted Lutradur, have been assembled onto a background of painted Lutradur measuring 110cm x 60cm and are now being stitched in position.

So far so good but the top left corner needs some thought.
A few extra pieces of felt have been made to fill gaps while a fine tip soldering iron is used to cut the slivers of painted Lutradur.

Now I’m happy with the placement of all the pieces it’s just a matter of adding more free motion stitching until it tells me it’s done. Lastly I will make a wooden framework to mount it on and then it’s ready to include in the ”Final Show” (of the now defunct CCN group) Exhibition at the Sam Scorer Gallery in Lincoln from the 8th June.

It’s still a work in progress but the end is in sight!

25 thoughts on “Inspired by the Northumbrian Countryside

  1. Wow – such lovely pictures – particularly like your drystone walls as very familiar with similar ones growing up in Devon. The textures in your work are marvellous – and your colours so soothing. I am sure we will all be looking forward to seeing the final results!

    1. Thanks Nancy and what a beautiful part of the country to grow up in! There is something special about a dry stone wall, it’s such a basic primitive construction but no matter what state it’s in it has an appeal all of its own. I’ve been meaning to do a dry stone wall piece for ages so that might have to be the next project once this ones finished.

  2. It sounds like an absolutely wonderful break from being in lockdown. The photos are gorgeous and I love the way the bacon rashers are coming together. I look forward to seeing it after it’s been stitched. Looks like you have plenty of inspiration for further work!

    1. Thanks Ruth. It’s always a treat to spend time up there…maybe next visit I will stay for two weeks and get a piece of work finished!

  3. Your photographs are amazing. The earthiness of the colors are striking to me. It’s no surprise that these images jump-start your creative work.

  4. I used to work with someone from Northumberland who claimed that it was God’s own county and that Seahouses was the best place to be. She was born there and went back every year for her holiday.

    Beautiful photos – I felt refreshed just looking at them – and the view from the patio could be enjoyed for hours.

    The rashers are fabulous! The colours really do reflect the countryside.

  5. I do love how you’ve broken the landscape down. That’s a fantastic and inspirational idea! Very well done!

    1. Thank you Carol, I deliberately avoided referring to the photos while I was making this piece as I wanted to convey how the landscape made me feel rather than how it really looked.

  6. Beautiful country. And you’re so lucky to be able to escape to it. It certainly demands inspiration, hard to deny that.

  7. Your photos brings back fond memories of a summer holiday at Seahouses in the early 50s! Bamburgh Castle hasn’t changed! 😊

    1. If you go back to Bamburgh Castle now you could stay at the newly refurbished Clock Tower. It’s been opened as a luxury B&B and guests get free reign around the castle grounds once the public have left for the day. It’s not cheap but what a fabulous venue for a holiday!!

  8. Karen your photos & resulting work are stunning.

    As a born Hampshire Hog but now a naturalised rural North Yorkshire Lass I could take issue with the ‘God’s own County’ statement 🤪
    Instead, I will simply confirm how privileged we are with the calming beauty of our inherited landscape, whether country or sea, which can relax the soul, recharge the batteries & inspire the creative processes.

    Seen in howling cold winter conditions with dark skies & lashing rain the dominant characteristic becomes one of steadfast bowed enduring strength.

    The colours, or more accurately ‘the Karen palette’, of your piece are as usual soothing &, combined with the gentle lines, evoke a calm memory of your holiday surroundings.

    Looking forward to seeing it complete.

    Ps – what do you paint your Lutrador with?

    1. Oh Antje….you do make me giggle! You have such a wonderful way with words and I was lost in the poetry of it……and then brought back down to Earth with the P.S.!! I tend to use whatever is to hand in the right colours. For this piece I used opaque acrylic, a bit of metallic acrylic and Inktense. On smaller work I might use Kohinoor, transfer paints or felt tips.

    2. My PS was a last minute question that just popped into my head!
      Thanx for the paint info….I’ve yet to try Lutrador so need to do some research. If you’ve any suggestions please DM me.

      No more waxing lyrical….for now!

  9. Karen, your photos make me want to get up north again. I live in Dorset and our countryside is beautiful too, if more gentle than you have it up there, but I miss being able to walk in the wilds of the North.
    I’m looking forward to seeing your finished work. I hope the Exhibition draws in plenty of punters.

    1. Thank you Ann. I’m not holding my breath for lots of visitors to the gallery as it’s a bit soon after lockdown but will make the most of my time while I’m there.
      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head regarding what it is about Northumberland… does feel ‘wild’ in comparison to a lot of areas in the UK….certainly when compared to living here in rural Lincolnshire!!

  10. Beautiful pictures, I love the dry stone walls. We don’t really have them here. The bushes(gorse?) look impenetrable, a safe place for lots of little creatures. Its really interesting the way you put the small pieces together. Sad that your group is ending.

    1. Yes Ann, the gorse is pretty evil stuff when your trying to squeeze past it on a narrow track! It’s so beautiful though and we have loads of it on my local coastline too.
      It is sad about the group, particularly as it had been going for around thirty years. I was introduced to it, and joined, just twelve months before it folded. Nice to have the opportunity to take part in this exhibition though.

  11. Sounds like you had a lovely break. The North (ha, South for me!) is beautiful. Too bad you didn’t get much creative work done but that’s Murphy’s Law for you – I bet if you hadn’t brought anything to work with, you’d find plenty of time to want to be playing with it 🙂

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