this northern boy

Illustrations for an imaginary age

Category: general

August blogfest – day 10

I’m lucky enough to live just a stone’s throw from Bushy Park, a royal park southwest of London sandwiched between Hampton, Kingston, and Teddington.

I probably don’t spend nearly enough time in the park, but whenever I do, it’s an absolute joy.


The Royal Parks Foundation says this –

Before a Royal Park…

The flat site of Bushy Park has been settled for at least 4,000 years. A Bronze Age barrow & burial mound was excavated near Sandy Lane and the contents are now housed in the British Museum. There are clear remains of medieval settlements, with the finest example found South of Waterhouse Woodland Gardens, where there are traces of the largest and most complex field system in Middlesex.

The Longford River

King Charles I had the idea of creating an artificial waterway in the park because Hampton Court Palace was always short of water. There was nowhere locally with a sufficient fall of water and so the Longford River was built exceeding 19 kilometres in length. It was designed by Nicholas Lane in 1638-39. It was built by hand, took 9 months to complete and cost £4000!

Chestnut Avenue

This mile long avenue was conceived by Sir Christopher Wren as a formal approach to Hampton Court Palace in the reign of William III & Mary II. Flanked on both sides by a single row of horse chestnuts and four rows of limes, it marks the park’s zenith in terms of royal ambitions and sophistication. The view from Teddington Gate provides the most striking view of the Avenue, with the Arethusa ‘Diana’ Fountain and the Banqueting Hall as the backdrop.

The House of Windsor

During the First World War (WWI), areas of land in the park were turned over to the plough to ‘Dig for Victory’. King George V gave his permission to use Upper Lodge as a home for Canadian Convalescents. Queen Mary visited the troops and made sure entertainment was provided with the help of local people. This Canadian tie with the park is commemorated by the Totem Pole and the Canadian Glade in the Waterhouse Woodland Gardens.

During the Second World War (WWII) large areas of the parks were again turned over for the production of food.

From 1942, Bushy Park became the site of a large U.S. base called Camp Griffiss, headquarters to a number of the Allied departments. General Dwight Eisenhower was averse to working in the centre of London during the Second World War. He decided instead to make Bushy Park the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) centre for planning Operation Overlord, the 1944 D-Day.

Orange is the new black.

No, not the TV show. The colour.

[NOUN] A bright reddish-yellow colour like that of the skin of a ripe orange:tones of golden brown and orange[NOUN]: the most shocking of pinks and oranges.

It’s my favourite colour. I don’t have any orange clothes though, they’d clash terribly with my hair.

What’s been going on…

I’ve been reasonably quiet on the blog recently, and I’m determined to post more regularly for the rest of the year.

As a bit of a catch-up post, here are some pictures – illustrations and photographs – from the last couple of months.


I’ve been to both York (my home town) and Windsor in the last couple of weeks, both boasting more crenellations than you can shake a sword at. I always try to take plenty of photos when I’m visiting historic places, just to add to my reference folder. You never know when you might need to draw a castle.


I’ve just come back from a few days in The Black Forest in southwest Germany. It was my fourth trip, always around New Year, as my wife’s mum is German and the family still have lots of friends over there. We stay at Gästehaus Waidelich in Enzklösterle, a lovely little B&B run by my mother-in-law’s oldest friend.

The Black Forest is a wonderful place, even in winter it’s full of beauty and character. Walking in the woods, or looking out at the forest from the car window, it’s so easy to imagine the stories of the brothers Grimm springing to life. The forest is very dense pine and spruce, dotted with birch, oak and beech. The trees are so close together that the woods get very dark, very quickly. Walking there at night would be a deeply unnerving experience. It’s a place where your imagination can run wild, and I’ve come back brimming with thoughts of ogres, trolls, giant bears and wolves, elves and fairies. I’m looking forward to getting some of these ideas down on paper, either as drawings or as stories.

Here are a few photos I took while I was there…




Relics of the Race for Space.

Yesterday I had a little free time so I travelled into Kensington in west London to visit the Science Museum. Until March next year they have a fantastic exhibition on display – Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age. In the words of the Science Museum –

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age will reveal the most significant collection of Russian spacecraft and artefacts ever to be shown in the UK, including:

  • Vostok 6: the capsule flown by Valentina Tereshkova, the first ever woman in space
  • Voskhod 1: the capsule used on the first mission to carry more than one crew member
  • LK-3 Lunar Lander: a single cosmonaut craft built to compete with Apollo
  • a collection of gadgets that cosmonauts – and pioneering space dogs – need to live in space, including a shower, toilet, medical instruments and survival kits for crash landings. 

Explore the historical, cultural and spiritual context of Russian space travel, shaped especially by the turbulent early decades of the twentieth century. See poignant testimonies and memorabilia belonging to some of the biggest names in spaceflight and discover the deeply personal stories of the pioneers who kick-started the space age.

It’s a marvellous exhibition, my only gripe being that photography isn’t allowed (oops). The chance to see real spacecraft, that have journeyed to, and from, space is a real thrill. Looking at Valentina Tereshkova’s Vostok 6 capsule sent shivers down my spine, it’s a tiny, primitive spacecraft, and looks so battered and scorched from its re-entry. I think my favourite exhibit was the unused LK-3 Lunar Lander, the Soviet counterpart to the Apollo program. It’s a beautiful, intricate, beast of a machine, like a huge steel cyclops. 13 days before the launch of Apollo 11, the N1 Rocket (designed to carry the LK-3 and Cosmonauts to the moon) suffered a catastrophic failure, destroying both the rocket, and the launch facilities. The program never recovered and was finally cancelled in 1974. It’s a shame the LK-3 never made it to the moon, it’s what it was born to do.

I did manage to sneak a few pictures, and I grabbed a few souvenirs from the shop. I think my drawings might take on a distinctly Soviet and utilitarian appearance for a while now.

Birthday Haul

Today, the 24th of March, is my birthday. I’m 42 years old. An important number for any Douglas Adams fans. For me it’s the age at which I’m hoping my third career begins. Roughly seven years working in and managing bars, 15 years as a designer, and now embarking on a quest to make a living as an illustrator.

My day started pretty well with some lovely presents, including some inspirational books, and a stuffed crow (I’ve called him Russell)…

Photo of birthday presents

Birthday haul

Line Signal

My friend John Panton makes fantastic short films under the banner of Meat Bingo (best to ask him about the name).

His latest work is a perfect seven and a bit minutes of eerie film-making, set amongst the woods and mists of southwest England. It’s well worth watching – and then you should definitely check out the rest of his films.

<p><a href=”″>LINE SIGNAL – Short Film</a> from <a href=””>Meat Bingo</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Sketching by the pool

I’m currently on holiday, spending a couple of weeks in the Maldives, and enjoying the chance to get away from the day job for a while.

I can’t stop drawing just because I’m away though, in fact if I don’t draw for a few days, I get a bit cranky.

Here’s a little sketch that I did by the pool. The subject was suggested by my wife, and inspired by being surrounded by ocean.


Twelve Human Hearts

I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to go in to space, just like Neil Armstrong, or Flash Gordon, or Dan Dare.

I still want to go into space. I always will.

I’ve been working on these posters for a while, they are the first two of a set of four to celebrate the Apollo missions of the late 60s and early 70s.

The first poster names all twelve astronauts to land on the moon, as well as the combined time spent on the moon. The second poster features the F-1 rocket engine, five of which powered the Saturn V rocket.

Apollo Poster 1

Twelve Human Hearts

Apollo Poster 2

Saturn V