Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Muncaster Castle - Day One" 9-8-08

Imagine the most beautiful valley you can. The mountains surrounding the valley are covered with rusty reds of Bracken changing color in the fall, and rich, deep greens from the excessive rains and some parts have exposed rock face a pink tint in certain light. Now imagine a perfect winding lazy river meandering across it's deep valley and the view from where you stand is so perfect, you can see for miles down it's center, the distant mountains turning blue with the atmospheric mists. Now you look up and realize there are Buzzards (Hawks) flying up the valley, floating on the drafts that carry them.
You turn and look just behind you and there is a great castle, standing like a strong old soldier. This is Muncaster Castle, built in 1258 partly on Roman foundations. A Roman coin from AD380 was found there!

So, onto my adventure! You can see below I'm standing on the road that winds around the castle, sketching the view of the valley. My art kit is strapped to my waist, at the ready to grab my waterbrushes or pencils, and my backpack with extra supplies in case I need them, including my 35mm camera, rain pants, extra art suppies and snacks.
Below you can click on my sketchbook page to read the notes I wrote. I talked about my first English Breakfast, and my first impression upon seeing the castle. I was surprised when I turned the bend and saw it, wow! The color scribbles on the page are just that, I was testing out colors there for another sketch.Below, here I am now sitting at the top of Cannon Bank, the castle is right behind me again. I did the small watercolor below the picture, working with my little travel palette. It's from this bank that every afternoon they feed the wild herons...more on that later.
The "Eskdale Valley and Muncaster Bridge"
Below is a view of the back of the Castle, I'm now headed up the hill for a walk into the expansive woods. There are 1,800 acres with the property, I think that'd keep me busy exploring for awhile!

This is a great shot of a back door into the castle, what a great drawing this will make!
Everyday they hold an owl demonstration behind the castle, with the birds being flown to educate people about them. I think this might be an Eagle Owl.
I added this picture just so you could see (and enjoy) the fantastic wing span of this beautiful bird.
Here is another page from my sketchbook, not too many sketches here, but lots of notes about what I was seeing. I then headed into the Owl Center they have on the grounds to take pictures. I listed the owls I photographed for further reference.
Next..well you gotta eat sometime! I sat and had a most enjoyable hot lunch after all that exploring. There is a phenomenal cafe on the property with so many choices. I tried the carrot and marrow soup because I never heard of marrow and it's an English vegetable. It was great!
I have notes on the page about meeting the owner of the castle himself! Please read it and see!
As the day wound down I took an adventurous walk down the hill along a path that I had no idea where it went. All I know is it went down and I was curious to see if it got anywhere near that gorgeous valley? I had my trusty L.L. Bean rain hat with light in the brim so I could see if it got dim, and with the surroundings always noted, I began. The photo below shows the 'picture perfect' top of the hill path, this is a painting waiting to happen!
The path meanders down from there...crossing a noisy little brook on a wooden bridge, and many large stone pavers.
I made it all the way to the bottom and walked off to the left following the path. It ended suddenly at a big metal gate and the view I had was wonderful, yes it was my valley floor I was looking for! There were sheep grazing in the distance and as the light faded I did a small sketch with my watercolor pencils. It was getting chilly and hard to draw as my hands were stiff, I saw a bat flying overhead and then....the clock tower bell tolled 8 times...eight o'clock, time to pack up and go before it gets dark suddenly and I can't find my way back!
I don't have a picture or drawing to tell about the last adventure of the day but it was exciting. After dark, I grabbed my 35 mm camera and tripod and headed outside. It was pitch black and not a soul was about, absolutely quiet! I wanted to play around with getting some photos of the sky, it was just full of stars! I heard a deep hooting from the owl pens just near me in the owl center, I imitated it and then...I heard the same call answer but not from the pens...but from up the hill in the woods!! How cool is that?! I tried to imitate it as best I could and we called back and forth.
After this I walked down to the side of the castle that looks over the valley. In total blackness I sat on the same bench that I had sat upon that day, listening to the sounds of the night. I heard a very large bird (of prey) give an alarm call from the woods below. If I hadn't ventured out at night, I would have missed so much!
Please come back for the next post about Muncaster, I have so much more to tell!


camulus said...

I am surprised that you have encountered vegetable marrow before. Looking like very large fat cucumbers they are related to North American Pumpkin and make very good soup.

What with the castle set amongst mountain scenery and the owls, it sounds like you were on a real Harry Potter experience at Muncaster, Mary.

Mary McAndrew said...

Hi Camulus,
No I've never heard of Marrow before, but I do love things made with pumpkin so no wonder I loved it! I'd be interested to try it cooked plain so I could see what it tastes like. Are they colored with some sort of stripes?

Yes, the experience was quite mystical! I think though, part of it is what you let yourself notice and experience, so many times, people just go on vacation and try to see it all. When you take time to sketch...you start to notice so much more!!!