Salt Air and Sea Breezes, Plymouth Hoe by John White

Up here, on the Hoe, you do not simply stand on the shoulders of bygone seafarers, explorers and settlers, you stand where they stood and understand their points of compass view, to a wide wide world that was out there waiting for them, and is still waiting for you.

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It's a glorious place, even on a rain-filled day, the pelting drops will take your mind to a pitching deck of a sea going ship, bound for who knows where, the rolling motion underfoot, the sea spray in your eyes and rolling down your cheeks .. You are going somewhere, fresh as the winds, free as the seabirds, master of your own destiny, prisoner of no-one.

 

John White

Developing a Cornish Coast Mug featuring St. Michael’s Mount and The Minack Theatre.

W Casley St Michaels Mount

St Michael’s Mount has been the subject of many paintings by artists over the centuries, Turner included. Wonderful pieces of this atmospheric seascape on the south coast of Cornwall are to be found throughout British art history. The distinctive silhouette shape in the bay at Marizion; the play of light on the moods of the sea and the historical significance of the Priory and Castle have all justifiably attracted attention. 

Co-incidently, I have a large painting of the Mount by artist W. Casley 1882, hanging in John’s study. We bought it over 30 years ago for no other reason than we liked it – struck by the staging of the composition, the fishermen at their daily work almost lost to the grandeur of the greater significance of the Mount.

This was still the scene we found on our visit – practically unchanged for centuries. Armed with photos and sketches I planned my second Cornish Coast mug for lino cutting.

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The classic image of the Mount with the slinking, watery Causeway linking it to the mainland, gave strong shapes to work with and balanced well with the man-made, bold structure of the Minack Theatre on the reverse.

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This too, allowed for some lovely patterning and textures to be cut into the lino.

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I was happy with the final print. The ink added its own dimension and character to the cut lines. This design is now at the next stage adding colour with a screen printed ceramic transfer that can be wrapped and then fired onto the mug.

Minack Print  St Michaels Mount Linocut

We expect delivery of the final mug in October. This will be one of two of the Cornish Coast collection that will be available; the other being Tintagel and Boscastle. In the meantime there are other designs from around the British Coast and the National Parks at http://www.hkwhite.co.uk.

St Michael’s Mount Island Castle and Minack Open Air Theatre, or “How to impress a Canadian”

Our Canadian guest this July wanted to “see castles”, (there are not many of those back home). St Michael’s Mount with its wonderful history and situation at Marizion seemed a good choice. We would throw culture into the mix in the form of the uniquely English and eccentric open-air Minack Theatre at Porthcurno. Together they would make a fascinating day out.

Conveniently the causeway at St Michael’s Mount was emerging from the sea as we arrived and we were able to walk across to the island without having to remove footware.

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It was an extremely blustery day but the light was bright and the surrounding views from the castle’s tower and battlements superb.

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The church and priory were built by monks in the 12th century but the years have seen it change to fort, iconic castle and to family home. It is still used today by the St Aubyn family, who have lived here since the 17th century. The harbour and cluster of buildings house 30 people who live and work on the island. The National Trust provides a wealth of historical displays about life on St Michael’s Mount and, of course, essentially, plenty of cafes and icecreams. http://www.stmichaelsmount.co.uk

From there we drove the short distance along the coastal road through the pretty fishing village of Mousehole to Porthcurno where the Minack Theatre is built into the cliffs above the beach. The Minack Theatre was the brain-child of Rowena Cade who created it with her gardener, at her home Minack House in the early 1930s. The story is fascinating and an example of what can be achieved through determination and vision. http://www.minack.com

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A quick stroll on the beautiful white sand beach, fish and chips from the pub and then back to the car to collect rugs, cushions, woolly hats and coats. All were gratefully used during the evening- you have been warned! The sun setting on the sea provided the Minack with an astonishing backdrop. Seagulls entertained the crowd, pre-performance, by gracefully dive-bombing the water to catch their evening fish.

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The black night, the lit stage, magically suspended the performers and audience in the world of the play. It’s an experience NOT to be missed.

We loved it. Our Canadian friend loved it; and took home some truly unique English memories of an extraordinary day out on the Cornish Coast.

Helen White

Tintagel and Boscastle; thoughts from my sketch book

Visiting Tintagel and Boscastle provided many visually rewarding ideas for a Cornish Coast mug to add to our British Coast Series. Firstly, at this time of year especially, I enjoyed the many varieties of wild flowers that seem to be able to cling onto the salty cliffs and provide a great spring display.

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Up close there is an infinite variety in their shape, colour and form and how they interact with their surroundings; daisies contrasting with a turquoise blue sea, cushions of pink thrift taking advantage of stoney crevices.

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Secondly, catching my eye were the textures of the solid stone forms and the flexible movement of the water surface. Bubbles and flows of white water patterned the blue while colourful slate had been weathered into a iridescent mother of pearl at the top of the headland. Organised slate built walls with horizontal stripes of bright yellow lichens contrasted with the sea smoothed boulders on the little beach.

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Doorways, arches, windows and walls makes the structure of Tintagel a fascinating subject for sketches and photography. Tintagel 1.6.15

At Boscastle the arm of the harbour wall makes a grand sweep up onto the coastal path and out of the river mouth towards Tintagel. The snaking structure gives a lovely image to work with for the reverse of the mug.

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Next step; to move my sketch to the lino and start cutting. I love this part as you get closer to the spontaneity of the printed result.

See my other fine bone china mugs from the landscapes of Britain at http://www.hkwhite.co.uk

“Plan B” – Carreg Cennen Castle, Brecon Beacons by John White

Here we were, set on Plan B having been told that Plan A, which was to climb Pen y Fan with our two youngsters in tow, was way too dangerous in thick mist, so we had come to Carreg Cennen Castle, on the western side of the Brecon Beacons for a day out in the fresh airs of Wales.

We have a bead from Wikipedia that let us know some origins of this amazing structure –  Carreg Cennen Castle (Welsh: Castell Carreg Cennen meaning castle (on the) rock (above the) Cennen) is a castle near the River Cennen, in the village of Trapp, four miles south of Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire, Wales. Of course there’s much more to it than that and our first views of this well preserved ruin atop the limestone precipice is stunning and we drive into the car park below champing at the bit to get up there to see it close and to stand on its highest tower.

Carreg Cennen Castle

If you were going to build an impregnable castle this would have been the one, it’s situated on such an incredible strategic site and in its heyday must have been an inspirational piece of real estate to be lord and master of, and to be hailed as such. I imagine it in days of old bedecked with flags curling brightly in the wind, adding height to the already formidable walls, pronouncing the power of those within to permanently withstand any unwelcome visitors.

We climbed the steep path, each step bringing even more spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Wales is wonderful in the vastness of its green mosaic hills and downs, farm fields and scudding clouds and from the escarpment of the castle there is the impression of being firmly in charge of all life below.  The sheep wouldn’t move from their resting places on the sun-warmed castle stones that lie in the entrance, they are comfortable with their visitors and just carry on munching and watching as people come and go.

Our two young girls, one daughter and her school friend, raced ahead to start climbing the inner walls, perching above us at every turn of a secret corridor, obviously no fear of heights. We plug on, looking through every archer’s peep hole, marvelling at how any attacker would even think they had a chance to climb the precipices let alone dodge the arrows and flaming sheep that would have met their attempts to sneak over a back wall or two.

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On the precipice side itself you truly get to appreciate the grandeur of this castle, the sheer drop to the valley floor below is frightening to those who suffer from vertigo, it is also the view from the Lord of the Castle’s bed chamber and must have been the setting for many a glorious rising sun shining through windows that no-one, and I mean no-one, could ever have peeped through from the outside. This is what it means to sleep well without a worry in the world at night, plenty of fresh air, a great fireplace, loads of minions parked in the corridors in case of intruders and all the bad people locked up in the dungeons below.

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The Dungeons! Well, not as such, instead Rhodfa i’r ogof (Passage to cave) and the hand-hewn corridor that slopes downwards to the dark, scary chambers below, mark the skills of yesteryear’s master stone workers. Such an impressively carved ceiling! When we reach the chamber itself, complete with crumbling stone steps disappearing into the darkness, we recall the torches-for-hire back down at the entrance gate and the girls decide these chambers are a must see so we must go and fetch. I go with them, fork out the small sum required, hand over my driver’s licence as a bond, and let the girls return with Helen to their dangerous dudgeons whilst I carry on down the hill to the cafe in the farm barnyard for my traditional, everywhere I go, cup of coffee and a slice of cake.

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Today it is carrot cake, Welsh serving size (they don’t do things by halves in Wales) and I enter the massive barn setting that is the venue for many weddings in this terrific setting. The plate glass scenic windows hold back the whistling wind and I am snug inside, with my coffee and soon to be finished cake, watching Red Kites hang, glide and dive down through the valley looking for their prey below.

Carreg Cennen Castle would be equally impressive covered in snow, mists or whatever else the Welsh climate might bring to a day. With so much history to mull over thousands of years from its prehistoric iron age fort origins, to Roman camps, to many battles between Welsh, Norman and English forces and then an ironic 20th Century contractual twist of fate that put it back into the hands of a Welsh family without a drop more blood needing to be spilt, the memories will call to an open mind.

Turner painted it, people get married here, there are campsites nearby, and dreams aplenty for all who mount the steep paths to take in this spectacular place.

Helen and the girls rejoin me. More cake, another coffee, some fizzies, amid tales of turning off the torches and squealing with fright, a great day out for all.

Don’t forget to collect your driver’s licence! It’s not easy writing to a ticket seller’s box in the Western Brecon Beacons!

John White

See our Brecon Beacons fine bone china mug featuring Carreg Cennen Castle at http://www.hkwhite.co.uk

Wild Kinder Scout to impressive Peveril Castle in the Peak District

An amazing walk and visit to the bizarre rock formations on Kinder Scout provided the inspiration for one of my Peak District images. While sketching my pencil found its own characters among the stones; a pig’s nose, a Buddha, a thinking head and an inclining mother with her baby.

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The Wool Packs have a lovely natural grouping like a giant huddle of sheep on top of the moor.

Wool Packs with dogs

Peveril Castle in Castleton sited on the edge of a limestone ridge gave me a dramatic subject to work onto the opposite of the mug. Undermined by caves and steams, the castle might be built on top of a hollow drum. Drawing off the first print…..

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Time for a little reward!  Mugs available at hkwhite.co.uk

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“Dorset Coast” – folded rocks & scaly stones from the Age of the Ruling Reptiles

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I especially loved the look of “crumpled fabric” with folds and wrinkles of the Jurassic rocks at Stair Hole for one side of the mug. The dominating, confident shape of Durdle Door contrasted for the other side; its scaly back advancing like a massive Jurassic dinosaur into the waves. The simplicity of the cut lines created patterns and movement across the lino surface and the ink print gave the lines a further spontaneous life of their own.

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Doesn’t it ever rain in Wales? Bagging The Brecon Beacons by John White

This day, blessed with sunshine and cloudless skies, we set out on Plan A, to climb not two (you always bag two peaks on this walk) but all four of the Brecon Beacons guardians, Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn, and all the way around the rim to Fan y Big to stand on the fabled Diving Board, some of our party more keen to do this than others.

We parked at the top car park opposite the Storey Arms, already crowded despite the early hour. At the gate leading onto the pathway we passed a returning lone hiker who grumbled to us that it was like a village hall event at the top today, so many walkers up there already. He probably would have been happier up here yesterday, lonely in the mist.

You become immediately aware of the cut slate stones, individually hand set edge up into the ground, literally a million of them, stretching up towards the first peak of Corn Du and beyond. As it transpires the entire walking pathways of the Brecon Beacons feature this use of slate, helping to protect the paths from erosion, providing grip to walkers in the snow and ice conditions that mostly prevail up here. At this early stage of the walk we marvel at the workmanship of the stones, later we feel every bone-jarring-one of them as weary muscles support sore toes pivoted on the raised edges, whether on the rise or descent. Thankfully, the views in every direction are worth the effort and it is simply part and parcel of the life of intrepid adventure, which is the sentiment we keep the ankle-biters motivated with.

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We reach the turning point for the last steps to Corn Du’s peak. This gives us a first look at the very steep drop away to the northern side, it is like the bowl of a volcano with the fire gone out. The tarn far below looks inviting but the only way down from here is fast and perilous, not one for us.

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We look and marvel at the view, and realise why we were warned off climbing this the previous day when the clouds had descended in a thick shroud. This is not a track to be clueless upon, one foot at a time, probably on hands and knees, might be the best advice in mist. But we were blessed with clear skies, and could see forever into the distances all around, this was our luck-filled day for sure. Onwards, up the final steep steps and team White collapses onto the flat plateau that marks the summit of Corn Du.

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From here Pen y Fan is just a hop, step and a jump away .. No bother for the rapidly hardened walkers, in fact a sudden spurt of energy from the youngsters who decide it is imperative to beat the parents to the next milestone, the beacon on top of Pen y Fan. Some terrific photos taken at the cairn, and a kind stranger steps forward to help give us a photograph to remember Team White’s achievement.

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Helen White was not yet satisfied, we had two more peaks to go, water was low, but spirits high so we settled down for a quick lunch break before the next, and more arduous part of the day.

Lunch was taken in company of a crazy sheep. Fellow walkers taking selfies with the sheep who shares their love of crisps and coke, has zero fear. We spot sheepie looking our way and decide it is time to hotfoot to the next phase of the walk, Cribyn.

Now the hard work began in real earnest,  there is a benign pathway off Pen y Fan’s summit, almost Roman Road like, enticing, calming, and we walk as innocents to the edge, then see the steps reaching down steeply far below. We start our careful progression towards Cribyn. Be warned, knees will hurt, it is one longish step down at a time and all the while we can look ahead and realise that as we reach the bottom of this tortuous descent, there will only be a short flat section before the ascent rises equally steeply to Cribyn.

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Back side steps of Pen y Fan seen from half way up Cribyn.

We are overtaken by what is either the Welsh front row, or SAS soldiers in training. Impressive, very impressive. “Who runs wins” sort of impressive, the back packs can’t be helping their screaming leg muscles. Our young guest, female, Sporty Gal, decides this looks like fun and we have some fine photographs of her fast disappearing out of focus as she jogs down, along and then up, following the musclemen, before stopping three quarters of the way up Cribyn to rest, and wait for us slow coaches. It was a long wait. She has decided not to join the army after all, although she’d definitely be on their most wanted list judging by this performance.
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Now, after a brief rest at the summit, and the realisation that a small bottle of mineral water each is well short of required rations as we gaze into the distance still to be covered, we set off on a long rim walk towards the last summit, and the famous diving board on Fan y Big. There is a final steep ascent, a short uphill one, before reaching the inviting jutting rocks of the diving board.

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Here, you really earn your stripes inching out, with a few hastily taken photos to prove courage, the photographer thankfully excluded from the ritual, then we turn for home, weary limbs, thirsty throats, sun-drenched skin, and with a long way to go from here. A last look around the entire rim, we see all four peaks marking the amazing black run slopes that run down to the valley where we set up our campsite two days ago.
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We decide to take the advice of other climbers and on the return journey go round the backside path that skirts Cribyn. This way is definitely kinder on our feet, but there is no avoiding going back up Pen y Fan and having to rise three quarters of the way to the top before reaching the next part of the skirting trail. Even reaching this point takes sheer willpower, a lot of encouragement to keep the youngsters going, our water gone, almost delirious (it is seriously stupid to go up on these beguiling, green hills without sufficient water) and after skirting Pen y Fan we take a wrong right hand turn back towards its summit. Even on a clear day it is easy to make a navigational error.  Thanks to an observant daughter we get back onto the right path, then start the long walk back to the car park, one painful slate step at a time, sun still beating down relentlessly. Doesn’t it ever rain in Wales?

We rest again at a very beautiful ford, removing boots and soaking our weary feet. A conversation with a elder couple also resting up reveals that both families are from almost the same part of Dartmoor, it really is a small world out and about. The elderly man mentioned that this was his last climb on the Brecon Beacons and we raised our hats to his doddery, determined legs and balance that took him to the top and back again, a devoted wife alongside. You can’t help but meet wonderful people in the wide open, magnificent ‘breathing spaces’ of Britain.

Dehydrated, delusional, argumentative, but feeling physically and mentally challenged and satisfied we head back to our campsite, ice creams for the youngsters, a beer for me, a cup of tea for Helen. That night the sound of thunder, close by, and then raindrops pattering on the raised roof, small at first, then thumping great big ones! And deep sleep follows from a day’s exuberant tramping across the magnificent Brecon Beacons of Wales.
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HK White Brecon Beacons mug available at http://www.hkwhite.co.uk

Tintagel, the Castle of Legends by John White

All my life, I’ve been a Knight in Mind and Amour and now, after visiting Tintagel, legendary birthplace of Arthur, he of Camelot, valiant leader of Knights and the entire Kingdom of England, I know why I always had dreamed of visiting this place.

Expecting to see only small remains of old castle walls hanging grimly to a cliff edge on the north coast of Cornwall, shortly into the walk I rounded a corner to gaze on two clumps that looked like I was right.

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Snapped off a few photos and continued the saunter down a pathway on a wonderful day in May, a light breeze, a high sky and almost with the castle to my own meandering.

On reaching the hill bottom my half-dreaming world opened suddenly to the magic that is Tintagel.

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A secluded cove surrounded on three sides by towering cliffs above deep, dark, intriguing caves, the sea a dazzling aqua, slapping gently onto rocks below, a fishing vessel crossing at sea, and up and around me to my left as I turned to see where else there might be, a castle that even today would be impossible to breach, if that was the purpose of the visit.  Breathtaking. Camelot. Still magnificent.

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For those hardy seafaring traders who rowed and sailed their small vessels from the Mediterranean Sea to these shores in search of tin, it must have been the highest and mightiest fortress ever seen. There was no chance of pillaging here, cash up front would have been the order of the day, and for tin they’d gladly pay handsomely. It seems a mutually happy place to be, it must have been a colourful and exotic sight on market day.

We climbed the steep stone stairway wound round the island’s sheer granite walls until reaching an ancient gateway where we could pause for breath and take in the amazing eastern views of the Cornish coast, seeing for miles, probably all the way to Lundy Island in the far distance. This was a clear and sunny day with only a slight breeze, no summer haze, uncrowded,  idyllic.
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Wandering amongst the ruins of cottages, garrets, storehouses, walled gardens, now roofless but the foundations still clearly evident, strong, built to last forever against all odds, including weather, it is still a place to inspire the imagination, to pause, take in the natural world and to think how exciting it must be to be up here on a day when the Atlantic throws in one of her best storms. The castle would still be here tomorrow but your hair may not!

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We would definitely have lived here, especially the Knights amongst us. It is interesting to see the inhabitants have only moved from the internal to the external regions of the castle. The new now perched up on the nearby high ground, looking down on the castle that continues to provide and secure their living.

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It’s well worth the visit, many times.

So, on to Boscastle ..
John White

Launching Our New Fine Bone China Beer Tankards

 

This year we have been working hard on creating and producing an exciting new product for our HK White collection. Our tankards are the best way to enjoy a sup of your favourite craft beer. The 500 ml capacity fits the standard bottle size perfectly and the fine bone china body keeps the beer cold to the last drop.

The individually hand-cast tankards reflect nicely the craft and care that goes into your favourite brew.

 

Right now, we have designs for six of the National Parks; Dartmoor, Exmoor, Lake District, Peak District, Snowdonia and Yorkshire Dales and will be happily adding more over the coming months. Find them at http://www.hkwhite.co.uk.

Cheers!

Helen