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Winter Blues …… and purples and yellows and oranges and pinks…

Like the rest of the country, Irvine has been pretty cold for the last three weeks now, despite the influence of the Gulf Stream!

The studio had been ok until last weekend, it had just been a case of keeping the heater on full blast while I was painting and wearing numerous shirts, jumpers and hats to keep warm. The trouble was that once everyone had left at night, the temperatures plummeted and on Monday I arrived to find the pipes completely frozen. So, no water, no toilets. It was a case of either wandering along the road to the Harbour Arts Centre to use their facilities …or move some of my gear back home and paint in the spare room until the thaw arrives. As I’ve been working on some smaller paintings at the moment I decided to go for the latter option and now have my make shift studio in the house.

But of course, despite these downsides to winter, visually things are looking stunning. We haven’t had all the snow that other parts have but that saying we’ve had a few falls of snow and with the freezing temperatures it’s hanging around. Yesterday myself and a friend decided to make the most of the weather and headed for the low but rough hills that lie just inland from Largs … 15 – 20 miles up the coast from here.

My friends’ wife having pre-booked their car for Friday, we went by train. This meant an early start, catching the 06.30 train from Irvine and arriving in Largs just 50 minutes later …while it was still dark!Not really good for me as the limited bit of sight I have deteriorates very rapidly as the light fades.  In the dark I am almost totally blind ….  but as we had to walk a way through town to get to the start of the path we were taking, it wasn’t too bad.

By the time we got to the path the first light was showing in the sky and as we quickly gained height on a very icy path we were treated to the first days worth of amazing winter colours. …all shades of blues and purples followed by bright yellows and oranges as the sun rising lit up the very summits of the hills around us creating great contrasts between them and the deep shaded glens. The views all around were stunning but those west out over the Firth of Clyde to the Isles of Cumbrae, Arran and Bute, really drew our attention. An amazing location, so close to home.

Once off the path the snow was quite deep and up on the tops … even deeper. Under normal conditions this is very rough ground and this had now filled with snow. If it had been compacted and hard it would have made for great walking but instead the snow had an icy top layer covering in places, two feet or so of loose soft snow. It was hard and very slow work at times trying to force a way through it and we quickly realised our initial plan to walk over several of the hills wouldn’t be possible. Instead we decided just to try and get to the first summit …Brown Hill at 388 m. This sounds a grand place but in reality is no more than a slightly high bump in a huge area of frozen bog and moor. But if really didn’t matter. The views, both distant and close up were amazing. The snow was sculpted into amazing shapes by the wind and was covered by animal tracks.

We returned towards the main track as the sun was setting and were once again treated to a colourful display as the setting sun turned some of the hillside a beautiful shade of pink and purple. The final walk back towards the town was accompanied by the reassuring crunch and clink of our crampons on the thick ice

Needless to say we didn’t get back to the station until it was dark. It only goes to show that you don’t need to go all the way to the big mountains to have a fantastic winter days walking.