New finds in old places

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New Finds in Old Places

I have come across some fabulous ‘new finds’ in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Of course, they are only new to me – these are ancient places with huge tales to tell – stories that span millennia.

My latest find is Mossdale.

I was rather staggered when I realised there was a tributary Dale to Wharfedale that I’d not heard of and never visited. But as it doesn’t have a tea shop, a tarmac road, or a pub, I had to take a good look at the map to find it at all!

It is hiding on the upper fells above the well-known confluence of Wharfedale and Littondale. From this angle above Consitone (depicted in MEET AND GREET below), Mossdale is literally hiding behind you.


Take the bridle track which starts in Conistone and head away from Wharfedale towards the fells. It is a three mile journey but the track offers easy walking all the way, and after the first steep bit behind Conistone the ascent is quite gentle.

Oddly placed on the high-up plateau of grasslands the Dale takes shape as you approach. You become aware of a dry river bed following the track, a heather-clad slope ahead entertains you with its abrupt change of colour. You can hear a gushing waterfall, but there is no sign of its whereabouts.


What a puzzle! My new understandings of geology help me understand: layers of millstone grit mainly lie on top of the limestone on these upper fells (as shown in my LITHOLOGICAL SKETCH of MEET AND GREET above), but in some places the millstone grit has been eroded and it is the limestone which sits just beneath the top soils.

The personality differences of these rocks explain the odd scene before us; the sudden changes of underlying rock showing on the surface in the sharp changes of contour and vegetation colour. There are rounded contours formed by millstone grit covered in purple heather, suddenly giving way to wide flat grasslands supported by the well-drained top soils of the limestone.

Pinning down a composition to make it behave was quite a task: MOSSDALE MISCHIEF seemed an apt name!


But Mossdale wasn’t finished with me yet: it had a glorious final piece of magical trickery for me to find. After gathering in the springs of the uplands, Mossdale Beck meanders quietly across the wide valley bottom of the Dale then…. suddenly disappears!

The Beck favours a different route to the old dry river bed of previous years; it now noisily plunges underground into a hole at the base of a limestone outcrop.

I was mesmerised. The mysterious sound of that gushing waterfall was now explained - I am told by our friends at the YDNP that after descending into the pothole, the Beck joins the River Wharfe a few miles away underground. As I sat and looked I knew I had to paint it.

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Capturing water is quite a challenge: but observation is always the key. Lots of photos of the Beck and visits to other rivers to study and watch water flow were required, and gradually the composition took shape.

Soft pastels are wonderfully forgiving and eventually I managed to sort out the textures and movement: Mossdale’s DISAPPEARING ACT.


Thank you, Mossdale, for your magical entertainment.

……I wonder what my next find will be?


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