catching up with the year: Lud’s Church

I’ve been offline most of this year but am now back connected.

In the spirit of the coming  turn of the year, I’ll try to catch up a little with the work I’ve been doing in my sketchbook.


Lud’s Church, Staffordshire

Lud’s Church is a striking natural chasm cutting through the the gritstone ridge of the Roaches in the Peak District National Park. It’s signposted and accessible via public footpaths but not easy to find. We came across it in spring when the trees were just beginning to leaf and the surface of the moors were covered in acid green mosses, bilberry bushes and white bog cotton. The chasm itself is narrow with sharp turns and steps, starting gently but then as the path descends sharply beneath high stacked walls and boulders, the air chills and thickens. The atmosphere is dark, still and eerie; all the more so for the glimpses of sky and the notes of remote birdsong in the heights. Named after the Celtic deity, Lud, legends of green men, folk heroes, refuge and worship have gathered round this place. It also has a strong case for being the location of the green chapel described in the anonymous medieval english poem ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’.

I fell in love with the poem when I first read it in the original at university. I’d recommend the Simon Armitage translation (2006); narrative drive combined with a deep commitment to the dialect and alliterative verse, combined with  a real understanding of the original work. Years later I spent many days rock-climbing with friends on the Roaches escarpment nearby, only recently coming across the connection.

This is a sketchbook drawing of the north entrance. I started drawing with a lamy fountain pen, then some watercolour washes. I like working with lamy ink as it’s water-soluble, washing into rich ochres and greys, perfect for the depths of colour in  the mudstone and gritstone rock. Conte crayon rubbed into the surface indicates the intensity and saturation of the spring greens.

I’d love to go back there and do a series of sketches from surface to chasm and back again. In fact it’s the kind of subject that could become a life’s work.

5 thoughts on “catching up with the year: Lud’s Church

  1. What a great post. The sketch is immediately attractive. Thanks for the tip about Gawain. I liked your description about your mixed media drawing. I’s never thought to combine conte and wash – going to try that one!

    • Thanks kestrel. I’m a great fan of conte crayon. The crayons are tough and less messy than soft pastels, but give an intensity and a wonderful sfumatura effect. For you, warm and well-deserved congratulations on being selected for the RBSA Open. Your work is marvellous.

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