Almond Castle Drawing by Richard Johnson

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Almond Castle

Richard Johnson

United States


Size: 16 W x 10 H x 0.1 in

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Art Description

Drawing: Graphite, Pencil on Paper.

It is always embarrassing to have grown up in an area and only later in life discover how little I knew, and how much I ignored of my surroundings. Case in point was my discovery of Almond Castle. Now in my defense, everyone seems to have a bit of a blind spot to this particular piece of Scottish history.

It was as fine a sunny/cloudy/windy early-spring day as any I have enjoyed. I parked the rental car in a ditch on the Vellore Road between the villages of Maddiston and Whitecross, about a mile south of Grangemouth. I hoofed it along the dirt track, bleating back at the sheep that scattered. Over the Manuel burn and straight up to my ankles in some fine cloying mud. I finally managed to free myself of that as I approached the Union Canal. There are often times when Scotland manages to take my breath away with its beauty. Approaching the old canal Kirk bridge with everything just starting to come into full green, it struck me as being every bit as beautiful as your posh English bucolics. Then I crossed the bridge and found the recently burned out car in the middle. Not quite Oxford or Cambridge then.

The bridge now goes nowhere. One end leads into the sheep field I just crossed, and the other to the back wall of the graveyard at Muiravonside Parish Church. Lovely spot. Indeed I am not sure there is a nicer setting anywhere to set fire to a recently pinched motor. Its beauty and its remoteness probably meant that I was the first one to even notice it. So first I checked inside for a body, then got to sketching. Scotland, you break my heart every time.

With that done I turned my back on the charred chassis and hoofed it down hill through the trees in the direction my map app told me to go.

Standing at the edge of the trees looking across the base concrete of the flattened brickworks at the castle I can see a steady movement of lorries carrying debris away from the site. I hoof it across what was once the factory floor and walk along a road made entirely of red bricks. From better times I guess.

The castle is surrounded on all four sides by fencing and three rows of barbed wire. To keep the castle safe from people, or to keep people safe from the castle in equal measure. I ignored the subtle hint and found a gap in the fence. The castle, about four storeys high, is still in amazing shape, a testament to building things out of stone.

So I backed myself up against the wire fence for support, and with the sky filled with startled jackdaws loosed from within, and lorries full of debris periodically rumbling by behind me on the brick road, I get down to drawing.

As usual I have gotten way too close to my subject. The problem with so many abandoned buildings is that you can't see them for all the foliage so I end up getting close to avoid all the tree drawing.

Standing outside among the industrial detritus and condom wrappers it is nevertheless easy to step past the weathered neglect of the last three hundred years, and the lazy demented graffiti of the last half century, to see straight back through time. To a time when it was essential to find safety behind thick walls of stone. To a time when craftsmanship was such that half a millenium of weather, revolution, industrial progress, neglect, nor idiocy can only dent its strength.

It is enough to make me all misty for days gone by.

Drawn over two facing pages in a sketchpad




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