Wakefield’s Old Park

  • Stanley Hall.

This walk, which starts and finishes at Wakefield cathedral and passes Pinderfields, the Old Park and the Chantry Chapel. There are a number of Robin Hood connections, including a sculpture of his sparring partner George-a-Green, the Jolly Pinder of Wakefield. On 25 January 1316 the maidservant of Robert Hode, was fined two pence for taking dry wood and green vegetation from the Old Park. This walk must pass very near the scene of the crime!

More about Robert Hode and the early Robin Hood ballads in my Walks in Robin Hood’s Wakefield, available in local bookshops, visitor centres and some farm shops. Also available online, post free in the UK, from Willow Island Editions, price £2.99.

The walk passes the site of St Swithen’s chantry chapel. Walk it while you can because there are plans for a relief road which it is proposed will go through the Old Park, later the site of Parkhill Colliery, linking with the roundabout near Wakefield Hospice at Stanley Hall.

King of the Meadow

Biscuit and friendThis is when it takes so long to get through the Christmas cards, when I start getting tempted to draw cartoons in the neighbours’ cards.

Biscuit is a pony with attitude problems but I’m not sure who would come out on top if there was a contest to see who was King of the Meadow, Biscuit or that bruiser of the black and white cat. He’s the kind of cat you see trotting down the road with a vole in his mouth and he’s been known to bust through a neighbour’s cat-flap and push the resident cats away from their food to eat it himself.

Art Journalling


Sketchbooks that I’ve been working on this year. You can imagine the pile that has accumulated over the past half century of my work!

“What have you gotten out of a life time of journaling?” 

Writing my ‘Wild Yorkshire’ nature diary for the Yorkshire Dalesman has meant looking back over the past 16 years of my sketchbooks and blog. It’s been a chance to review my work and to think about where I’d like to take it next.

Since my first online post on 4 October 1998 here’s been a gradual evolution, starting with a simple, sketchy format based on a nature journal that I kept in the mid-1990s. This became more ambitious and when I met art journallers Danny Gregory and Dan Price, I felt that I wanted to go a step further and put a lot more effort into my drawing.

Under the influence of the two Dans I went drawing mad and some of my favourite pages date from that period unfortunately they don’t work for my Dalesman unless they also tell a story. However evocative the drawing, a mossy stump on its own isn’t enough for my Wild Yorkshire column; I need a stoat rummaging around in its nooks and crannies to bring the scene to life.

I’m now trying to combine more ambitious drawings with stories that might hook the reader in.

Problems with People

people in IkeaAlthough I describe myself as a wildlife illustrator, riffling through those old sketchbooks I found that I liked some of the drawings that made me smile were of people in everyday situations, for instance the shoppers queuing up at the cafe in Ikea. I would like to draw more people but as I post everything online I feel that there’s a privacy issue! I can say what I like about the aggressive mistle thrush that this week has been bullying the blackbirds so that it can have the crab apple tree to itself, but you can’t write stories like that about family and friends, fun though that might be!

“Can an artist have shaky hands?” 

I’ve been reflecting on my work today as Danny Gregory has been interviewing for a feature that he’s planning to run on the Sketchbook Skool. He wanted to examine the issues that I raised in a post a couple of months ago about dealing with shaky hands, not looking at that particular condition but considering how apparent limitations – such as a physical disability or living in a less than inspiring neighbourhood – can spur creative innovation.

I commented that I’d love to have perfect vision – colour, high definition etc – but we all have to learn to live with the hand we’ve been dealt.

My books in print

My current books in print.

In discussion I concluded that the shaky hands and my partial red/green colour blindness hadn’t done me a lot of harm as I’ve been able to do the kind of work I love doing throughout my career.

Link; Sketchbook Skool

Danny Gregory

Dan Price

Willow Island Editions, my publishing imprint.

Walton Colliery nature park

  • Birches

I got so much from working in black and white last weekend but with some winter sun at last as we walked around the woodland and the lagoons at Walton Colliery nature park I couldn’t resist the  autumn colour against that clear blue sky.

Jay, buzzard and cormorant flew over.

Be a Tree

crab apple4.55 pm; Blackbirds are alarming as the gloom of sunset fades out the remaining colour in our back garden. Not that we can see the sun setting; it’s remained cloudy with varying degrees of gloom all day.

In contrast to the twilight mood, the golden hornet crab apple by the pond is bubbling with pale yellow fruits, festooned with golden baubles.

In movement and dance, school children are asked to be a tree. What kind of tree would you be if you decided to be an autumnal golden hornet?

Although it is stretching to the skies in classic tree-mime fashion, those awkwardly bent limbs suggest that it might be attempting to support the firmament – like the Viking cosmic tree – rather than reaching for the sky in hopeful supplication.

A couple of broken paving slabs that I’ve leant against the raised bed give the impression in my sketch that the crab might have used those scraggly limbs to scrabble and scrooge up from an underground lair, like Mole in The Wind in the Willows.

Dripped in Ink

sketchbook and notebookDrawn, or rather dripped, in bamboo pen using Daler-Rowney Calli waterproof ink, the drawing is so blotty that it will take days to dry, so I’m photographing it rather than laying it on the scanner. And thank goodness I didn’t use my regular sketchbook and put that out of action.

As I got inky fingers opening the bottle, I thumbprinted the basic shape of the main stem on the blank page before I started the drawing. I decided that might take away the some of the scariness of the blank white sheet while working against the clock.

I started at at five to four and called it a day after fifteen minutes.

Drawn by Hand


albumLooking back on the black and white album that I put together for a Facebook challenge, I’m surprised how much I managed to do over a 5 day period, just setting myself the achievable goal of posting five black and white photographs a day.

My thanks to John Welding for suggesting the challenge. It came just at the right time and got Barbara and I out and looking at things in a different way. The weather wasn’t sparkling but the couple of days since have been even more damp and dismal.

‘November seems ideal for black and white.’ says John, ‘Grey, misty. Tonal.’

Yes, I always think of warm autumn colours but colour is so seductive that I neglect the tonal values that could give an image some structure.

handI’d like to try a similar thing with short sessions focussed on taking shots of animals or making widescreen movies about a particular place. It’s made me dig out the manual for my FujiFilm FinePix S6800 bridge camera.

But it’s back to pen and ink and watercolours and writing now, including these two hands drawn in waiting rooms yesterday.

‘You’re passing the time by doodling!’ quipped a passing physio.

Doodling? Hmm!


Moss Garden

  • Leaf of leek.

It’s my final day of taking five black and white photographs a day but this time I didn’t get the chance to go further than the back garden. The mossy lawn, overgrown pond and garden shed didn’t look very inspiring but as soon as I saw the honey fungus on the path I began to focus in on the grassroot jungle of the meadow and the moss garden on the sandstone rocks surrounding the raised bed.

Notton Bridge

  • Railside path, Notton Bridge, near Royston

At Notton Bridge the Trans Pennine Trail passes the Chevet branch line, itself now a traffic-free cycle route and, in part, a nature reserve.

Caphouse Nature Trail

  • Canker.

Photographed this morning on the nature trail at the National Coal Mining Museum for England, Caphouse Colliery, Overton, West Yorkshire.

Nostell Priory

  • Cross-bedding in sandstone on the kitchen extension to Obelisk Lodge at Nostel Priory.