(the retrospectives…)

The idea of exploring and painting all the named Dales of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (YDNP) was always going to be a long haul and a bit fuzzy around the edges. It sounds easy to define – paint all the Dales on the list supplied by the YDNP rangers – and tick them off one by one.

Currently the list has a grand total of 44 Dales (boundary changes of the YDNP in 2016 added a few), most draining to the North Sea but several draining to the Irish Sea in the West.

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My latest conquests have been on the western boundaries near Ingleborough and further north near the upper reaches of western Swaledale.

The beautiful moors above Doedale often go unnoticed as Ingleborough dominates the scene across the valley; and the light on the remote barren moors between Great Sled Dale and Little Sled Dale (tributaries to Swaledale) often dances unseen. I depicted these wonderful spaces using small compositions to be simple and powerful in ‘OVER-SHADOWED’ and ‘MORE WEATHER’:

But what about pictures I painted four or five years ago when the QUEST idea was just forming, do they count? And what about those from even longer ago, do those check-off on my list?

Perhaps it depends on how I captured each Dale. Maybe the question is whether these retrospectives still convey what I’d like to convey about these places? Do they offer you the experience of being in that Dale, on that moor? Do they put the wind in your hair?  

A few years ago I focused on the Three Peak area and the big drama there, with compositions such as ‘I AM INGLEBOROUGH’ and ‘UP AND DOWN WHERNSIDE’. I think they still speak for themselves…

…so that allows me to check off Silverdale (below Ingleborough) and Ribblesdale (flowing south from Whernside)!

I also previously captured the big drama around Swaledale, with compositions of its glorious upper reaches and its distinctive barns, in ‘SWALEDALE BARNS I’ and ‘SWALEDALE BARNS II’:

Having walked in this area very recently, these still work for me! But there are other characterful aspects of Swaledale – I love the way it journeys eastwards, swaying from side to side, creating fabulous patterns of swooping contours amongst the fields. I will definitely paint it again one day.

Dentdale has a different remoteness and quiet charm. I have painted it twice: once when the horizon of Middleton Fell slowly emerged from an early morning mist, and another time capturing the huge moorside of Aye Gill Pike in a triptych (which was a large paintig, even though it looks small here!):

I still like both paintings… but I think Dentdale also deserves another visit, yet another Dale with several different sides to its character.

Much closer to my home in Ilkley, Airedale is just over the moor. Scenes in Airedale change substantially along its route – from the industry around Bingley and Saltaire to beautiful farmlands around Skipton and beyond. Nearest my home mid-Airedale has a gentle pastoral quality, which I captured when the stone stiles caught my attention a few years ago: ‘YORKSHIRE STYLE I’ and YORKSHIRE STYLE II’.

Each stile is a unique sculpture of stone, a signature of the local dry wall craftsman, and an invitation to wander the footpaths and fields whilst the walls keep the livestock safe. I hope I have done them justice and earnt Airedale a tick on the list.

So many vistas, big dramatic places, other secret landscapes, other places in-between. Some Dales with one character, others with many. My list feels a little endless as I continue to explore - but I’m loving its fuzziness and lack of time scale.

Gradually the checked-off list grows bigger. Despite the fuzziness, I think I’m about half way there!