(3 minute read)
Textures of Wildwood, A.Durbin 2021
Moidart is a jewel of a place on the West Coast of Scotland. It’s my family’s adopted home, where we have been putting our roots down since 2010. On our doorstep, there's a world-class landscape, a beautiful tapestry of rugged mountain, coastal and woodland habitats. The area is rich in biodiversity and complex in geology. An abundance of mosses, ferns and lichens cloak the ancient oak trees. Wildlife including otter, deer and pine marten share the area with a smattering of humans, whose homes are mostly well hidden behind trees, preserving the atmosphere of wild remoteness and peace.
"Aspen Leaves" photograph (L),"Aspen Sky over Rois Bheinn", mixed-media collagraph (R) A.Durbin 2019
Artists, naturalists and writers inspired by Moidart have included Liz Lochhead, J.M. Barrie, John Singer Sargent and Mike Tomkies. Glenuig, just down the road, is famous for its traditional music and dances. Lochailort, just up the road, was known for Inverailort Castle, a “Gaelic Camelot” that had been taken over by Special Forces for training during World War 2. In more recent years, the area has been the focus of the "Ardnish" trilogy by author Angus Macdonald. However, the artist most strongly associated with the immediate area is Jemima Blackburn, a talented and distinguished Victorian illustrator, who influenced Beatrix Potter, was described by Ruskin as "the best artist he knew", and whose ornithological observations were cited by Charles Darwin.
Although a nearby land plot recently sold for an astronomical sum, housing opportunities for young families are non-existent. We were very lucky to be able to buy a reasonably priced plot and build our house here over a decade ago. Still pinching ourselves, we pause often to gaze in wonder over the loch, or watch the clouds moving across the mountain. As custodians of our small “patch”, we have been slowly developing our permaculture-inspired forest garden, with a few beehives and a small flock of hens and ducks. The hazel, gean and soft fruit bushes that we planted are now bearing a yield that the wildlife often beat us to. For me, getting outside is essential for health. Gentle physical activity, learning while doing, with calm focus, care and connection with nature take me well along my “Five Ways to Wellbeing”. The patterns and textures of the landscape are a source of inspiration and materials for my art.
Despite relishing those quiet, solitary moments when I’m walking or working in the garden or studio, I also enjoy welcoming visitors who come to join one of my husband’s wilderness skills courses, or stay in our airbnb spaces. At the moment we have a young family staying with us for a while. It is our pleasure and privilege to host them while they experiment with "tiny house" living, growing food and surviving! They seem like kindred, creative spirits who share a strong connection to this wild yet peaceful place. My hope is that theirs will be the first in a series of "Wildwood Arts Retreats”.
Find out more about my work at www.wildwood-arts.uk and sign up to my mailing list for more details of a new collection of art and writing made by people connected to - and by - this special place.
The Woodsman's Hut, 2021
Alison Durbin is an artist, beekeeper and small-scale homesteader, based on the West Coast of Scotland since 2010.