Artist Richard Holland on painting the Derbyshire Dales

Cheedale Bridge

Cheedale Bridge - Credit: Archant

Artist Richard Holland recalls a tranquil summer of painting among our county’s picturesque landscapes

Richard Holland at work

Richard Holland at work - Credit: Archant

My year-long Painting the Derbyshire Dales challenge was my biggest project to date; starting in August 2018 and finishing 12 months later, in August 2019.

The project saw me venture out to stunning local locations almost every week, creating small oil sketches on location throughout the Derbyshire Dales, and slightly beyond; with the overarching aim of capturing elements from each of the four seasons.

The Derbyshire Dales is a rich, diverse and varied landscape - from the open moors of the Dark Peak to the much flatter floodplains of the Trent Valley; a pleasure to go out and paint each week.

Having made it my quest to capture images of the Derbyshire Dales in all its glory across all four seasons, the summer leg of this year-long journey started off quite bright and cheerily, warming up considerably over the three months. My summer paintings began in early June at Milldale in Dovedale, and incorporated sketches featuring open fields, bright sunlight on rivers, streams and derelict farms with strong shadows.

I concluded the summer collection with the bridge at Cheedale, with its lovely reflections, a few months later, at the end of August.

Here are a selection of paintings, the stories behind them and why the settings were chosen, from the summer section of my Painting the Derbyshire Dales project.

Milldale, Derbyshire Dales painting by Richard Holland

Milldale, Derbyshire Dales painting by Richard Holland - Credit: Archant

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Summer’S here - The Dove at Milldale

Milldale, on the River Dove, which is a delightfully positioned hamlet at the northern end of Dovedale, was one of those painting I had wanted to do for a long time. We parked up at Alstonefield, walking down into Milldale itself before crossing the Packhorse Bridge. I then positioned myself partway up the hill in a bid to avoid the crowds on the main path. This painting features my favourite serpentine lead in, along the path and across the bridge, before using a bright flash of light to draw the eye into the centre of the painting, where the house is.

I have added a few people on the bridge, although in reality there were considerably more walking there while I painted.

I normally position myself off the beaten track to try to avoid too many people looking at what I am doing. I don’t mind the odd person looking but I don’t want continued interruptions. Once this sketch was finished, we walked down the valley and then headed off to Stanhope and to the pub in the valley there before retracing our tracks to Alstonefield.

Reflecting on summer - The river Wye at Cheedale

This painting was put together from a sketch on one of our Thursday afternoon walks, when there tends to be a lot fewer people around. It was a beautiful summer’s day and, after waking along the Monsal Trail for 30 minutes or so, we headed for the bridge at the start of the Cheedale walk.

Cheedale Bridge, Derbyshire Dales painting by Richard Holland

Cheedale Bridge, Derbyshire Dales painting by Richard Holland - Credit: Archant

The position I wanted to paint is normally frequented by people having picnics but luckily on this day no one was there.

The bridge frames the river beautifully, with trees each side in full summer leaf. It was the reflection of all this in the river that drew me to want to paint this sketch with the river, although still moving, having a stillness to it with the left-hand side having the bottom of the river showing through the shallows.

Charlotte, my wife, usually sits and waits whist I paint, and on this occasion she sunbathed, giving me plenty of time to put the sketch together. I didn’t alter much between my sketch and the studio work as I felt I captured what I wanted. We finished our walk down Cheedale, over the stepping stone and back round onto the Monsal Trail.

Foxgloves and Tors - Back Tor on the great ridge

I wanted to paint somewhere on the great ridge as part of the summer oil sketches. Parking up at Hope, we started our walk up onto Lose Hill, bypassing the summit in favour of the lower path to Back Tor; passing many foxgloves on the path and beneath the trees along the route.

Rejoining the main path again I decided I didn’t want to paint on this as it was very busy, so we headed down the Edale side of the path until I found somewhere which had the view I wanted.

Back Torr, Derbyshire Dales painting by Richard Holland

Back Torr, Derbyshire Dales painting by Richard Holland - Credit: Archant

Unfortunately, it had no foreground interest so I borrowed the foxgloves from earlier in our walk to enhance this sketch.

The hill had some great summer light at the top of the tor itself from the Castleton side of the valley, leaving the rockface in the Edale side of the valley in shadow. After this we walked the rest of the ridge to Hollins Cross and back to Hope, via the pub in Castleton.