DO YOU KNOW YOUR WIDDALE FROM YOUR WALDENDALE?

My QUEST is underway, and here's a second 'blog'!

My first blog (scroll down to find it) outlined some of the task ahead: I aim to explore and paint ALL the named Dales in the Yorkshire Dales National Park - it might take some time!

The first question is: WHERE IS WIDDALE?

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Most of us have heard of Wensleydale – if only for its cheese. A grand, wide, majestic Dale of fields and farming, cows and sheep; and the River Ure gliding gently through its wide flat valley bottom.

But it has some great secrets: begin to explore its side tributary Dales and you’ll find some fabulous places that are spectacularly varied.

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Starting at Wensleydale’s southern flank from the west, I discovered WIDDALE. I had driven through it many times before but not stopped to look. It is a fabulous place of upper contours and grandeur which I had whizzed past on my way from Hawes to Ribblehead viaduct. Now I stopped and found a path up to the moortops, discovering a glorious space where the Dale delivered its best – even under grey skies it entertained me. My painting invites you to ‘PRESS PAUSE’ and soak it in.

Neighbouring SLEDDALE shares some of this rounded grandeur. It is Sleddale that offers the breath-taking scenery when travelling the road over from Upper Wharfedale down through Gayle and into Hawes. Here the top soils appear to be quite barren in places, having easy-to-mould muddy gritstones beneath, and the rain-pounded slopes are riddled with stream rivulets.

Some hardy farmers work this land, maybe it is their gritty determination that I refer to in ‘SLEDDALE GRIT’.

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RAYDALE comes next, with the gorgeous treasure of Semer Water nestling in its bowl. It is totally different from the previous two! Here limestone takes prominence under the soil, limestone escarpments protrude and there are steep slopes of scree. The underlying mixture of rock belong to the famous Yoredale Series, which offer well-drained, rich top soils, so I use a lush green palette to depict the scene.

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But there is a further local tale: these limestone escarpments stand guard not only over Semer Water but also look down on the site of Wensleydale’s old Roman Fort at Bainbridge. I fancifully feel that they remain as Roman Sentinel Guards, and name my painting ‘YOREDALE SENTINELS’.

I continue east to find WALDENDALE, yet again a different type of place. Its two roads peter out and only old tracks and pathways cross its upper moors. These purple contours surround it protectively: there are lush green fields and old stone farms, sheep and overgrown paths. Secluded and quiet, almost in a time zone of its own: as depicted in ‘WALDENTIME’.

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What a taster of variety; and I have only just started! It is time to retrace my steps along Wensleydale’s southern edge and fill in some gaps. RAYDALE has two tributaries of its own: I painted bleak BARDALE last year, I have recently walked CRAGDALE and am mulling on how to capture it. And there is farm filled BISHOPDALE to wander, bleak COVERDALE to ponder, and COLSTERDALE to find. I’m going to stay busy.

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