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Places That Inspire My Art: Yearsley Woods

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

As a landscape painter, my art is a response to the places around me. With Ryedale Open Studios fast approaching (9/10 and 16/17 September) I thought I'd share one of my favourite inspiring places to paint in Ryedale in North Yorkshire: Yearsley Woods, also known as Yearsley Moor. It's also where I live, so I guess I'm biased.

Light through woodland trees
Yearsley Woods - evening light

Yearsley Woods (or Yearsley Moor) is an area of woodland between the villages of Gilling East and Yearsley.

If you like trees (and who doesn't?) then Yearsley Woods has everything: stately Scotts Pines, Oaks and Beeches; two lovely lakes; well marked trails for walking and biking; abundant flora and fauna.

Distant hill view from woodland
View of Ampleforth Valley from the Woods

Yearsley Woods Walks

You can wander about all day in the Woods here - from the top of the hill there are lovely views over to Ampleforth Abbey and the Kilburn White Horse.

Here's a link to a lovely 4 mile round walk - which you can start and end at the wonderful Fairfax Arms, This is a fabulous walk for families, and especially good for dog walkers, as you can let your dogs run free in the woods.

A woodland path through a lush green wood
Woodland Path

Yearsley Woods History

The origins of the woodland date back to medieval times when a deer park was created at the top of the woods. Still in existence is an area of ancient woodland, which is believed to date back to these times and has been preserved between the more recent conifer plantations.

In the 18th Century, the Fairfax family at Gilling Castle landscaped the woodlands, creating the fish ponds. Some of the older trees, including the majestic Scotts Pines, probably date back to this time. The area around the ponds is aptly named the Wilderness and is a haven for wildlife and birds.

If you interested to find out more (bell pit mining, the Woods in the 18th Century, or the medieval deer park) there are 3 short videos on the North York Moors website.

Mirrored trees in a lake
Ampleforth Lake

Yearsley Woods Paintings

Here is a painting of the woods in low winter light. This uses ink and watercolour and a bit of masking fluid to preserve white.

Atmospheric painting of woodlands, autumn, winter
The Way Through The Woods

And here's a sunnier one of the lakes when the waterlillies and yellow flag irises were out in early June. You wouldn't know to look at this, that there are pike beneath the still surface. For this painting, I used mainly watercolour with some wax resist, gouache and ink.

Atmospheric painting of waterlilies and lake, green, blue
Waterlilies at Ampleforth Lake

Indigo Forest. This semi-abstract landscape of conifers in Yearsley Woods is painting is done with watercolour, using the card swipe technique.

an atmospheric watercolour painting of woodland, indigo, pink
Indigo Forest

If you have a favourite place to visit or walk in Ryedale, please let me know.

About the Author

Ione Harrison is a contemporary landscape artist and teacher with over 30 years' experience of painting and teaching.

Based in North Yorkshire, she works from a studio in Nunnington and delivers workshops across Yorkshire.



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