To the moors

To the moors

There's something very unique about the landscape here in the Pennines. Towns clambering up and down valleys, patchworked rows of terraced houses and allotments and cobbled streets, the remaining gargantuan mills built from local stone and now windowless and empty. Not all of them, actually. Many have become offices, arts centres, apartments.

But surrounding it all - the places where we live and where the ghosts of the cotton industry can still be seen and felt - are the moors. Sometimes desolate and bleak, sometimes a calm and peaceful haven. It often depends on the weather and the time of year.

Of course, the moors are synonymous with the Bronte sisters and their novels. Although I actually prefer Jane Eyre to Wuthering Heights (perhaps because I studied it at A level and have re-read it many times since). Yes, their novels describe the Yorkshire moors near Haworth where they lived, but the wild moorland landscape - from Dartmoor to Lancashire and beyond - has inspired many writers and poets including W H Auden, Thomas Hardy, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Arthur Conan Doyle, Frances Hodgson Burnett and fellow Lancastrian Jeanette Winterson.

We often head up into the hills. Of course, it doesn't matter which moor we decide to walk; they all require a steep climb to reach them. But it's always worth the effort. Occasionally I go alone, more often the three of us set out. I love the moors in summer when they're filled with dancing grasses and flowers, but also when it's cold and windy and overcast.

Right now, the heather's out. The hills are blanketed in it along with wiry, ruddy-leaved whinberry (wild bilberry) bushes and bleached grasses. Any moor enthusiast who owns a camera knows that resistance is futile. You feel the pull, the urge to try - somehow - to capture the late summer magic before it fades away again to sere browns and greys.

Heather and romanticism aside, there's something about a windy day which draws me up onto the moors. It's a subliminal thing, a primal urge almost. Perhaps it's the desire to meet that wind head-on and feel the cobwebs get completely and thoroughly blown away. There's something so incredibly invigorating about it. Fresh air's a wonderful thing; inhaling that air on top of a hill whilst looking down at the world below transforms it into something indescribably invigorating and restorative.

Of course, when your four-year-old hasn't yet tried out the kite their uncle sent them at Christmas (actually, has never even flown a kite before) then a trek up to the wide expanse of heathland on a blustery day makes perfect sense.

Racing clouds, fleeting spells of brilliant sunshine illuminating the cotton grass and heather, dark pools of peaty water, springy moss underfoot, the last of the whinberries to stain your fingers and lips. The ultimate freedom to roam as far as the eye can see, the wind whistling and the comforting knowledge that the walk homewards is downhill.

It isn't only literary giants who find this rugged landscape inspiring. We artists look to it too. I recently made a series of mono prints using shades of green and purple. They're all named 'Pennine Summer'.

Sadly, I haven't mastered the art of using heather in my printmaking - yet. One day, when I become the proud owner of an etching press, that might change.

I've had a few quiet days whilst Joe stayed with his grandparents and I used them to catch up on some writing, printmaking and a million and one other little things. I also spent a few blissful hours on Thursday afternoon drinking tea and talking with my friend in her back garden. The weather was mild and it still felt - just - like summer.

We've reached the halfway point of the school holidays. Still plenty of time to take Joe adventuring in the hills; enough whinberries remain just yet to justify an afternoon's foraging. Perhaps we'll take the kite again. And lie in the heather watching the clouds.