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Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England

Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire in North-West England (as defined in the Preamble). Here is a list of all Saunterings so far.
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170.  Nicky Nook and Landscape Art

While contemplating the challenge of walking up Nicky Nook I came across this painting of it:
nicky nook1

Nicky Nook

This depiction differed somewhat from the first view of Nicky Nook that I gained as I walked along Gubberford Lane towards Scorton (shown below). Nicky Nook is a modest little hill, only 215 metres high, that lies to the east of the M6 just south of the Lancaster (née Forton) Service Station. There is no drama to the hill, no crags or precipices – just well-worn paths around and to the top. In January and partly in the shade it completely lacked the vibrant colours of the painting. In the summer and in sunshine it does too, really. So what is being attempted with the Nicky Nook painting?
nicky nook2

Nicky Nook from Gubberford Lane, approaching Scorton

Landscape art, in the sense of depictions of natural scenes such as rivers and mountains, has existed for millennia but in the UK the concepts of ‘landscape’ and ‘landscape art’ developed concurrently in the 18th and 19th centuries when painters such as Constable and Turner established landscape art as a respected genre. At first landscape artists focussed upon three aspects: the pastoral (conveying a peaceful, contented air due to humanity’s taming of nature), the picturesque (showing the beauty and wildness of untamed natural scenery) and the sublime (displaying the power of nature, almost as a warning to those who seek to tame it). Artists did not feel bound to seek fidelity with the natural scene. They felt free to omit or add features (for example, to include humans at ease in the foreground of a bucolic scene) or to distort them (to exaggerate, perhaps, the fearsomeness of a mountain). Nonetheless, a viewer of a landscape painting could agree that it was indeed a depiction of Flatford Mill, Mount Fuji or the Langdale Pikes, as the case may be.

Impressionism of the late 19th century changed this. No longer was there a clear bond between landscape, as it might be thought to exist in the world, and landscape art that purported to depict it. Instead, artists, now working outside rather than in a studio, intended, through the use of light, colours and shadows, to convey an impression, a sense, a mood, an aura of the landscape, without necessarily clearly depicting any feature of it. The Nicky Nook painting above is in the post-impressionist style of fauvism that developed in France, led by Matisse, in the early 20th century. Fauvism is characterised by the use of bold paint strokes using bright, even gaudy, colours.

I walked on the Wyre Way, on a fine new path separated from the road, under the railway line and then on Tithe Barn Lane, which was too icy for my liking, and then under the M6 to enter Grize Dale. This path was still in the shade and again quite slippery in places. It was silent, away from the motorway. The path climbed gradually up to Grizedale Reservoir (that’s what the OS map calls it but the signs at the reservoir call it Grizedale Lock Reservoir). In the dark the reservoir did not, I must say, look very appealing.
grize dale path

Silver birches on the path up to Grizedale Reservoir

The painting below is entitled ‘Nicky Nook’ but it is so lacking in distinctive detail that it is hard to be sure that it is of our Nicky Nook. Assuming that it is, it can only be of the woodland path that I followed past the reservoir. The painting seems to me to be in the early pastoral style, intended to convey a pleasurable sense of the scene. I think of it as hotel art – inoffensive, soothing, but not something you’d want on your wall to look at every day. It may be more realistic than the first Nicky Nook painting but it is not as interesting.
nicky nook2

Nicky Nook

I emerged from the wood, in sunshine at last, confused at first, after the silence, by a low rumble – which I realised was the sound of the motorway. The top of Nicky Nook is a renowned viewpoint, despite its unassuming height. Inland, we see the Bowland hills of Clougha Pike, Grit Fell and Ward’s Stone beyond Harrisend Fell, and to the west Fylde, Blackpool Tower, Morecambe Bay, the Lake District skyline (snow-capped on this occasion), and the Isle of Man (or at least the grey outline of its hills).
to clougha pike

From Nicky Nook to Clougha Pike, Grit Fell, Ward's Stone and Harrisend Fell

to lune estuary

From Nicky Nook to the Lune Estuary, with Black Combe behind the power station and the grey outline of Isle of Man hills to the left

The painting below, entitled ‘Lune Estuary from Nicky Nook’, seems, to me, to be in a style somewhere between the previous two. The colouring is unnaturally bright and there is little attempt to realistically depict much of what can be seen in the view. In fact, from an apparently nearer vantage point, it depicts more of the Lune estuary than I could see from Nicky Nook. It does nonetheless convey an impression of the flat fields of Fylde to the estuary.
lune estuary from nicky nook

Lune Estuary from Nicky Nook

The path down from Nicky Nook was no fun at all. It is such a popular route up from Scorton that walkers had compressed the snow into ice. I passed a number of walkers on their way up and they all kindly warned me that my path ahead was slippery. In return, I warned them that paths down are always more slippery than paths up.

I reached Wyresdale Park, with its relatively modern hall, built in 1858. As with many halls, its owners are trying hard to make the hall viable in the 21st century. They seem to be trying everything they can think of – farming, walking, weddings, fishing, shooting, glamping, studios, spa, wild swimming, and so on. The sign at the entrance promised “café, shops, workshops, wellness”. I have not been offered wellness on my walks before but I felt that I had sufficient of it so I pressed on past Wyresdale Lake, which I couldn’t get a clear view of past all the ‘private’ signs.

By this stage, I was tiring of mincing along with small steps as I manoeuvred around icy patches. None of the lanes since Gubberford Lane had been treated with salt, although the snow had fallen a few days ago, and none of them had pavements so it was a matter of walking where traffic had squashed the snow into ice. Back across the M6, I walked as far as Cleveley Bridge, near Cleveley Mere, which is, I read, a “luxurious and hidden Lancashire lakeside estate”. I left it hidden and proceeded south on the Wyre Way path, where I was grateful that the mud was solid. Despite being pincered by the M6 and the West Coast Main Line, Scorton seemed an agreeable place, its sense of priorities perhaps being reflected in it never having had a pub but having three substantial places of worship (not including The Priory, which is a shop and restaurant): a Wesleyan Methodist chapel (1841), a Roman Catholic church (1861) and an Anglican church (1879).

On the road from Scorton to the A6 I looked back to Nicky Nook. I still couldn’t see any pink, yellow or purple.
Scorton and Nicky Nook

Scorton and Nicky Nook

Please note: details of the three paintings are given at these web-sites:
    Nicky Nook, Scorton, Lancashire by Carol Owens.
    Nicky Nook by JG Paintings (I haven't been able to find the name of the artist).
    Lune Estuary from Nicky Nook by Janet Mary Robinson.

    Date: January 20th 2023
    Start: SD491472, Gubberford Lane bus stop  (Map: OL41)
    Route: (linear) E, NE on Gubberford Lane, SE on Tithe Barn Lane, E on track through Grize Dale, N, SW, W – Nicky Nook top – W, NW, N – Wyresdale Park – N, W – Cleveley Bridge – S on Wyre Way – Scorton – NW on Station Lane – bus stop on A6
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 195 metres

The two following items:
     172.   Out to Pasture in the District of Eden
     171.   Along the Ribble Way to Brockholes
The two preceding items:
     169.   A Quinquennial Ambulation over the Moor
     168.   To Lancashire’s Highest Point, Wherever It Is
Two nearby items:
     153.   Thoughts from the Towpath (Galgate to Garstang)
     112.   Walking around Pilling with Pink Feet
A list of all items so far:

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018-


Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar; Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell