Catherine Coulson

Artwork & Inspirations.

Gull Loch & Sea Views

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The word ‘strand’ means small stream, in the Dictionary of the Scots Language I like the description ‘A strand is a wee burn, or a streimlet fra rain’ (1838 A. Crawfurd).

Strandside sits next to a stream that runs through the garden, travelling downhill in a series of small waterfalls and sinks, and issuing back above ground further downstream. Apparently there used to be a water wheel next to the bothy where it runs fastest and on some of the old maps there looks to be a channel linking it to the well. The strand is fed from a loch which sits at the top of the hill in the forest behind the house.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect… on the OS map it is called Strandside Dam, and i had visions of an ominous deep blue pool lurking above. I set off up the track which runs through the woodland beside the garden. A fairly steep and short ascent through fir trees brought me up to a more open, grassier area, and in turn lead to the loch. I must admit i was surprised by what i saw, it was really nothing like the daunting prospect of my imagination, rather a gentle, serene pool, softened by reed mace and grasses, very similar in aesthetic to the Suffolk reedbeds in winter. A pale edged wetland creeping its way across the expanse of water. The banks were edged with deciduous trees, young saplings at the front, meeting the water with an impressionistic softness.

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Gull loch

A track headed west along the forest summit – here the trees were mossy and tangled and thickets of saplings sprung from the earth. As the canopy opened up to reveal the startling winter-blue sky above, trees became mixed with coniferous plantings – a lovely mix of deep structured evergreens and the feathery copper blush of young deciduous trees. The brackened ground spread out glowing deep orange in the sunlight and was laced with animal tracks to choose from.

Occasionally these passages opened up into clearings with bowl shaped depressions. At the top of one of these I could glimpse the sea through the tree line, a great distance below.

I followed a track down the side of the hill, southwards past more plantations and slightly more open terrain. The sun illuminated the trees in gold and amber light, quite spectacular. A path led off in what i felt was the wrong direction but i thought it would afford a view to get my bearings. It followed a line of trees, and then suddenly the screen ended, and a magnificent view revealed itself. I could hardly believe that the collection of islands and headland dazzling in the suns rays were not a foreign land. It was hard to look at the bright reflections on the sea, sparkling off the low tide mud flats. The heat of the sun was intense and warming after the cover of forest.

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looking across Rough Firth from hills above Rockcliffe

I could recognise the view from Rockliffe Bay and was surprised how far round i seemed to be, the circumference of the summit of a hill had made a far quicker journey than the base. I knew i needed to head downward and west and the route became quite steep in places. I continued on a while in in what i thought was the right direction. At one point in the distance i glimpsed a house which seemed to sit alone in an endless landscape of wild heath, sweeping down to hilly pasture fields, and in the distance the familiar sea view with the lake district mountains beyond. I felt slightly panicked that i couldn’t see more houses, but it gave me a point to aim for and i thought it would be a way of getting to a road. As soon as i continued, the scrub and trees made it impossible to keep my bearings, with so many animal tracks heading in different directions. A glimpse of the sea, and a glimpse of a house again kept me moving forward, and then a dry stone wall gave me a line to follow.

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view across rolling heathland towards the Solway Firth

Another steep descent and some clambering over fallen trees brought me towards another wall. I waded my way through a very waterlogged, boggy gateway and into a large pasture field. Gorse shone yellow in the sunlight and swathes of bracken cut across the grass. A stony outcrop covered in old hawthorn bushes hid the ruins of some kind of stone building. From behind a gorse line, a beautiful view emerged with another dry stone wall, surrounded by massive old trees, their spectacular winter skeletons shining in the light.

IMG_3909Soft orange from fir trees reflected the rusty bracken, and long shadows pointed down the slope to the wall. As i came round the corner, i realised that the wall was the boundary to the orchard, and that the house i had seen from the top of the hill was the back view of my house! I had been expecting the circular walk to end in a different place, and was slightly disoriented! Most of the bracken was too thick to cross, but I eventually found my way back to the bigger grassy path that i had expected to be on, and through the gate the other side of the house from which i had set off.

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across the west field towards the orchard (behind the stone wall)

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