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February 10th, 2015 - 02:13 PM
Galtres Forest was a huge Royal forest that used to stretch from the River Humber all the way up to Northumberland. It is mostly gone now but there are scattered remnants here and there. Strensall Common just outside York is one such area. It has two things going for it that have helped it remain relatively unspoiled. First, as the name implies, it is common land. Probably going back to mediaeval times this gives locals the right to graze their sheep so the opportunity for development has never arisen. On the other side of the road from the common land proper is an army firing range and training ground.. This is the second reason why this chunk of Galtres has been undisturbed because when the red flag is flying you enter at your peril! Bearing all this in mind and because it was more or less on my doorstep when I lived near York, Strensall became one of my main places of inspiration during my early painting days. It was and still is a great place to paint outdoors. I did several paintings of the area and named one ‘The Last Remnants of Galtres Forest’. This was on display in my small studio/gallery at Easingwold. One day a lady entered and after having a good look round she approached me. She was very pleasant and courteous but informed me that I was wrong about the location of the last bit of Galtres Forest. She told me that it was actually located in a place I had never heard of and mentioned I should have a look. This was my introduction to Skipwith Common. This too is situated fairly close to York so being so intrigued we went to explore the area just a few days later. I was instantly captivated by the place. Although sharing some features of Strensall Common it is so much larger and is in fact the largest expanse of heathland bog left in the north of England. As the word ‘bog’ implies it is a wondrous location of deep black reedy pools and swampy marsh. There are no non native trees growing here just oak, ash, hazel and the occasional Scots Pine. It is an artist’s dream of a place and I bet your appetite for it is whetted already! This was the first painting resulting from my affiliation with this inspirational area. We walked down this muddy track and I was totally intrigued by the semi abstract patterns created by the shadows and reflections. This may have been my first painting of Skipwith but it certainly wasn’t my last!Click Here for More Information