The Bits Inbetween

BETWEEN crop(Nidderdale and Wharfedale)  (2).jpg

The Bits Inbetween

The Yorkshire Dales are so sculptural: I love these 3D maps showing the stunning contours, dips, dales, u-shapes, v-shapes and big wide moor shapes. Capturing any of it on my 2D canvas is always going to be a challenge; just one of the many challenges along the way!

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Each named Dale has, of course, a very specific place – usually identified by its river or beck and the journey of that water along the valley bottom. Although I enjoy walks by any beck or river, some of my favourite places are further up the contours, where the space feels bigger, the vistas exciting, and the weather and skies entertain.

These are the places of the watersheds – the boundaries between the Dales.


When I painted ‘WATERSHED’ a couple of years ago (between Wharfedale and Wensleydale), I mused at the abundance of these places:

‘the watershed is the point where here the water flows in one direction into one catchment basin rather than there where it flows another way into a different valley and a different river. And so the Yorkshire Dales are riddled with them…..’

I am now wondering whether the watersheds move over time - when a new spring bubbles up here and another over there sinks into the underground maze of limestone cavities? Maybe these spaces are more fluid than we think, somewhat fuzzy on our maps, and a little bit undefined?

But I love them!

(‘HEATHER BOTH WAYS’, above Wharfedale and Washburndale – image below)

HEATHER BOTH WAYS above Washburndale.jpg

Often, when you are so high, you can no longer see into the lower parts of the nearby Dale. You know it is there, in a comforting way – with its pubs and cafes and car parks. But up here you feel removed from the normal pace of life; here is a place to sing, shout, be uplifted by the emptiness and hugeness.

Looking at my watercolour map of the YDNP I realise that it is these places - the places around the watersheds -  that fill a great deal of the map. All those expanses that I have depicted in purply hues! In the hundreds of square miles of the Dales (there are evidently 841 sq miles in total), only a fraction are the valley bottoms and running waters. An awful lot are the beautiful spaces inbetween.

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3 WHARFEDALE Above Kettlewell with sheep.JPG

It is therefore not surprising that these spaces are the focus of many of my compositions!


Here I enjoy the bright green pastures of some of the upper limestone scenery above Kettlewell (the purples were an oversimplification on my map). From these upper moors you can look straight over the valleys, across the hidden valley bottoms to the moors opposite; across Wharfedale towards the distant contours of Littondale.

The moors between Sleddale and Widdale are celebrated in my painting ‘SLEDDALE GRIT’, and the upper contours between Coverdale and upper Nidderdale in ‘A PLACE TO PIROUETTE’…..

And most recently, here are the moors between mid-Wharfedale and mid-Nidderdale, shown in their glorious orangey winter hues…

It was choosing a title for this which got me thinking: I called it ‘BETWEEN’.

9 NIDDERDALE BETWEEN (Nidderdale and Wharfedale) .jpg

Special places indeed, places we are lucky to have. They are a huge part of my connection with the YDNP.

As I continue on my quest to paint all the named Dales, I must find a way to count these fabulous bits inbetween…. any suggestions?

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