Wednesday, 16 May 2012

There`s gold in them thar hills.

I have always been a lover of the outdoors, and like nothing better than a few nights under canvas. Until two years ago, I had a two man tent, but got fed up having to do the duckwalk to get in and out of the darned thing, so I went out and bought a six man..........just for my wife and myself. The first time we used it we were overjoyed at the fact that we could actually stand up in it, and the addition of a canopy meant that we could sit inside the tent when the rain was lashing down, with the door rolled up, and the groundsheet stayed dry.
                                                                    The old tent.

One of my favourite places is the Lowther Hills in Dumfries and Galloway, a beautiful place when the sun is shining, but dour and cold in bad weather. A couple of miles west of the village of Wanlockhead, the highest village in Scotland, is my preferred camping place, and this is where I met Nelson.
Nelson is in his late seventies, but he travels from his home on the Isle of Wight, all the way up to the Lowthers, and farther, to spend a few weeks panning for gold, which is what he was doing when we first met.
                                                                   The new tent.

He showed me the gold he had panned there over the weeks of his stay, and I was so impressed that I decided there and then that I would be there the next weekend with all I needed to pan the river..........and a permit. From the end of July 2010, my wife and I were camped in the hills most weekends, as I cultivated a bad back and sciatica, because, rest assured, digging rocks, gravel and sand is hard work. What did I find for my weeks of dedicated digging?.................sod all!.............but I`m not someone who gives up easily. 2011 didn`t see us camping there at all, due to work commitments and really bad weather, so my permit ran out.
                                                       Yours truly. "Is that a speck?"

This year I hope we will get out there among the sheep and the red grouse, weather permitting, but, having renewed my permit, I have been panning on five occasions this year, and have found some gold, two large flakes, a small nugget and some specks. The secret is to dig down to bedrock if possible, because the gold lies really deep, among black sand, so each visit sees two holes I started getting deeper and deeper.

Today my latest piece of equipment arrived from the USA, an aluminium sluice onto which you put the stuff from the river bed. The gold, being heaviest, drops through mesh and get trapped in fibre matting, while all the lighter material gets washed through the sluice. With a sluice you can process lots more material than is possible from continually filling your pan and slooshing it out.
BTW "Slooshing" is a very Scottish word which you won`t find in any dictionary, but it really fits the bill in the context of gold panning.

I know that I will never get rich panning for gold in the Lowthers, unless I trip over the mother of all nuggets, but it ticks all my boxes. So wish me luck lovely people, and I will keep you informed of my success...............or not.

The finished vignette.

At last I have got round to a post about the vignette I made for my son John Jnr. Sorry that there is only one photo, but of the few I took, the one shown is the best.
John got an acrylic display cube for the vignette, and when he told me it`s dimensions, I realised that I would have to make another base for the figures. Mind you, I did tell him the size of the first base, so, I blame him for the double work. Still, the old base will do for another vignette.
I promised a post on the making of the colours, then decided just to describe what materials I used and how I went about the making of them.
The pikes were made from 2.5mm copper wire, easy to straighten, and as they will be protected by an acrylic cube, they will be safe from being bent. I had made an Italian meal (eh?) and had an empty tomato puree tube to hand, which, when opened out, washed and flattened, became the material for the flag. First I made the crown and lion finials on the pikes using Green Stuff, then super glued the edge of the foil flag to it, sticking my finger and thumb together in the process. That was fun! The whole flags were then primed, painted and bent to shape. That was the part I dislike most out of the way.
The figures I then painted "toy soldier style", i.e. flat paint, no shading or blending, and none of that dipping  that wargamers are so fond of these days, because I like my toy soldiers to have that traditional Wm Britain look.
The next stage was to stick the colours to their respective subalterns and glue all the figures into their cut out spaces on the base before coating the whole area with a mixture of PVA glue mixed with filler and acrylic paint and allowing to dry. I had left the stone and its base until last as I didn`t want it in the way when I textured the base, so that was the last piece to be glued into place.
All that remained to be done was the lanyards, thin wire with Green Stuff tassles, twisted onto the pikes and painted gold.