There are a few places where the sky dominates the landscape; the Lancashire mosses; the Somerset Levels; the Western Isles; some wide coastal estuaries and of course Norfolk. To this list I would add Exmoor.
We recently spent a week near Dulverton on the southern edge of the National Park.
Fortunately we didn’t have that ‘bland hot weather’ when the sky appearsÂ interminably blue and visibility is reduced by a heat haze. It may be what people want on a beach holiday and is the weather that is so often coveted by the forecasters as they reveal the ‘good news’ to a hopeful audience. We hit a period when a pulse of fronts gave changeable conditions and as a result some powerful skies. On the highest ridges Dartmoor opens up to the south and to the north wide expanses of the northern moors give a stage on which some of the finest skies act out their rapidly shifting moods.
Too often skies and the clouds that give so much animation to them are seen as an adjunct to the landscape. Ruskin was aware of this,
â€œIt is a strange thing how little in general people know about the sky. It is the part of all creation in which nature has done more for the sake of pleasing man, more, for the sole and evident purpose of talking to him and teaching him, than in any other of her works, and it is just the part in which we least attend to her.”
Constable, surely Britain’s best cloud painter understood them more than most and he stated that you “see nothing till you understand it”. He saw them as ‘the chief organ of sentiment’ within his paintings and gave them there due accord in the part they played in his interpretation of rural England.