Beech House Publications, 2011, 120 pp
Reviewed by Hilary Norton
Judith Bromley’s Climb up to the Moor, about the moorland of the North Yorkshire National Park, is a feast for the senses. Some of us have been or will be able to visit the places that are described so vividly in this book. Everyone reading it will certainly want to experience the moorland as Judith has.
I have visited the North Yorkshire Moors on three or four occasions, always in the summer. Judith walks there in every season: observing, watching, writing and painting. Each month she describes the impact on all of her senses of what is above her head, below her feet and within her field of vision. She reflects on the changes of the weather, the temperature, the ground and man-made changes; gently pointing out how we humans affect the moor for good and for ill. She tells us the stories of the peat, the black grouse, the moorland water. As I read I have to stop regularly and close my eyes to fully absorb the experience she is describing to me: the impact that wildness on her. I love her knowledge of the names of wild flowers, the calls of the birds, of natural cycles and her descriptive language.
By itself the language that she uses paints glorious pictures in our minds, but the written words are accompanied by stunning paintings of the places she describes: great rolling vistas of moorland and sky in every season, and exquisite close-ups of tussocks with intense purple grass heads, frosted heathers, mosses and lichens as well as a variety of indigenous birds: Red Grouse, Owls, Buzzards, Merlins.
The pictures are as remarkably vivid as the landscapes being described and Judith’s artist’s eye for detail leads her to notice and paint unfurling ferns, rainclouds, multicoloured vapour trails, grasses, the effect of breezes, the sun-touched hill tops and shadowy valleys.
The pictures are painted by Judith herself and by Robert Nicholls, each of them complementing the work of the other to create a delightful odyssey that nourishes the soul of the reader.
I love the relationship and respect for the ‘other than human’ that is demonstrated in these pages and the evident delight in the companionship of the hare, the juniper, the grouse, the red admirals that Judith experiences as she walks, watches and paints. She celebrates each step that she takes on the moor and this book is her celebration.
Each section includes a quote, a poem or a reflection from one or two others: we hear the voices of scientists, local farmers, theologians, bee keepers, school children and poets. Judith’s generosity in inviting these contributions gives the book another dimension. It allows me to identify personally with this group of people who love this wild place and others like it.
If you know these places, you will recognise them in the pages of this book and if you haven’t visited the North Yorkshire Moors yet, you will want to see them at any time of year and in any weather! This is a book through which the many elemental voices of the moors speak and the beautiful delivery of it matches the intensity of the topic.