My inner artist and I arrived at Uckfield Millennium Green with high expectations and an even higher temperature; we had walked the two miles there from home with a rucksack full of art materials.
I was expecting a nature reserve like Hempstead Meadows on the other side of town, but this was very different. I noted the neatness of the surfaced path, the drainage ditches and the picnic benches. It was a former clay quarry and brickworks converted into a public park by a Trust.
I liked the breeding pond for the Great Crested Newt. I didn't see any newts, but I saw a fallen moth and a myriad of reflections.
The marshland area gave way to open grassland with views of the surrounding countryside. I plodded uphill along a muddy track to a monument for the brickworks on the site of its old engine shed.
Faces from the past stared out at me from black and white photos printed on sheets of metal. People who had worked this land and lived in the area. People for whom Uckfield or Framfield was most likely their home. I felt a peculiar bond with them.
I sat on the bench and laid out my art materials; two sketchbooks, a tin of pencils, charcoal sticks, a small jar of black Indian ink, an assortment of brushes, a plastic palette, a plastic water pot and a bottle of tap water.
I decided not to draw with pencils. Too safe. I watered down the ink into different shades of black and grey, then began painting.
Increasingly cold and intermittently showered with rain, I became irritable. The wind kept flipping the page over. I wasn't enjoying it. And I didn't like what I had painted.
I placed the sketchbook on the bench and pinned down the pages. Whilst the painting partly dried, I sketched the same scene in charcoal. It didn't go well. Negative thoughts set in. What is that? You can't draw trees. You can't paint. Who do you think you are? This is pointless. Look at all the time you've wasted. Blah blah blah blah blah...
I thought I'd rescue the situation by making a video: a quick chat about the challenges of working outside in the winter. But my mobile phone stopped working after a few seconds. I had forgotten about a long conversation the night before. The battery was drained.
I packed away my things, zipped up the bag and walked towards the exit. Except I couldn't find it. I'd wandered onto a different path. I descended some steps into a waterlogged clay pit. Dead end. I climbed back out and followed 'Bob's Path'; boggy and slippery and peppered with dog poo. When I finally found an exit, I slipped backwards and plunged my hands deep into the mud.
That was it. I was done. I tiptoed back to the road, wiped my hands with a tissue and marched home at double pace in a foul mood.
I didn't enjoy our second date. I wasn't talking to my inner artist by the end of it. But after a cup of tea and a think, I realised it wasn't all bad: I had made the effort; I had enjoyed the pond and the monument; I had seen rabbits and a green woodpecker; I had painted something in public, even if that something was not what I'd hoped it would be; I had done it in poor weather in the month of February; and I had walked the whole way. Of those things I could be proud.
Richard Pettitt, cartoonist.