Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Fracking, Facts and Fear

"Springtime on Woldgate"
This is one of my paintings of the glorious Yorkshire Wolds. The whole area has an air of unspoiled beauty with its golden fields, leafy lanes, picturesque villages and rolling wolds that give the distinctive name. Who in their right mind would want to despoil this unique place? You might be surprised (or not!) to find out that our Whitehall based government have given licenses for this whole area to become available for 'high volume hydraulic fracturing'...or 'fracking' to you and me. Now like most people I admit to having a vague disquiet about fracking but to be honest I didn't have enough information to make an informed decision.Not until last night that is. I attended a public meeting held here in Kilham where I now live, to discuss concerns about exactly what effects fracking could have on our lovely village and its surroundings. It was both shocking and terrifying. But first things first - what exactly is fracking? Fracking is a drilling process designed to release trapped gas from shale rock. Firstly, a well is drilled vertically to about 7 - 10,000 ft, then drilled horizontally for up to two miles. A mixture of water, chemicals and sand is then pumped down the well at high pressure. This creates cracks in the shale, allowing the trapped gas to travel up the well to the surface along with large quantities of contaminated waster water. How much waste water do you reckon? The industries own estimates are that an average well may require up to 5 million gallons.5,000,000 gallons of clean water over its lifetime and that's an industry estimate so the reality is that a lot more water is probably involved. All of that water is permanently contaminated. But don't panic - they dig a new well and use the old one to dump the waste water into and there's always the sea of course! By the way under the Infrastructure Act 2015 UK law now permits any substance to be injected into the ground and left there so fracking waste underground would not be illegal. The same Act includes a change in the law so that fracking under your home does not now require your permission. Are you getting a bit worried now? Of course it is pure coincidence that there are not many plans for fracking down south and pardon me for pointing it out, but perhaps this is why 'Northern Powerhouse' has become such a buzz word with the government. And how many wells do you think? No one knows for sure but Andy Aplin, Professor of Unconventional Petroleum, Durham University, gave us a clue in 2014 when he stated "To recover 15%of shale gas in Lancashire would need 33,000 on 5,500 pads." A 'pad' is  an area where multiple wells are sunk. No matter how bad your maths may be you can clearly see that it adds up to a lot of contaminated water. But there are other problems and dangers of fracking:
Health Problems - fracking is banned in many other parts of the world because of health and environmental concerns
Possible contamination of water supplies particularly boreholes and during flooding.
Thousands of HGV movements on rural roads and through villages for every frack.
Increased levels of  dangerous air pollution near fracking sites.
Increased risk of earthquakes.
Noise pollution, particularly at night as drilling and fracking can take place 24/7
A serious threat to local wildlife and the natural environment.
Abandoned wells can leak for many years to come, and are often unmonitored.
Fracking will require thousands of wells on hundreds of sites,resulting in the industrialisation of the countryside
I could go on and on but the point is that these are facts and we have every reason to be fearful. And don't think this me being 'NIMBY' just because Kilham and the Wolds are threatened. No - the licensed area covers the whole of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire. Here's a couple of websites where you can check out the facts for yourself:,, and

Don't wait until it is too late, or assume it's someone else's problem. Join a growing community of local people who are helping to protect the land we love...including the glorious Yorkshire Wolds!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Bathroom, Builders and... Brian!

"Whorlton Castle by Moonlight"
We are having our bathroom transformed into a walk in shower room which means the builders are in. They are a great bunch of lads so no complaints...and we have kept them well supplied with bacon sandwiches and cups of coffee! It should be all ready for our first shower on Friday night. I have already got the wine in to celebrate but in the meantime we are having to make a lot of trips to my mother's bungalow which, fortunately, is very close by. Never mind the frequent walks help to combat the effects of all the bacon sandwiches.
It reminded me of an amusing incident from many (very many!) years ago. At the time I worked for the Ministry of Defence (0017 - yup no kidding - that was my ID card number) and was posted as Chief Clerk to 'E' Coy 1st Bn Yorkshire Volunteers a famous TA Regiment in Leeds. It was the very best job ever and I made lots of really good mates some of whom I am still in contact with today. One of these good friends was Brian P. Brian was the unit storeman and although small in stature was a giant in heart. The Company Sergeant Major 'Paddy'  had bought a house in Wakefield prior to his retirement in a few months time. Paddy had recently had a new garage built but was having problems with the doors. This was a good enough excuse to leave the office behind and enjoy a jaunt to have a look. After suitable liquid refreshment in a nearby pub we eventually arrived to make our inspection. Now I will never claim to be an expert in the builder's art but even I could see the basic problem... the doors wouldn't shut. Nevertheless we had to justify the many miles in the army landrover at public expense so we wandered around inside and out in a very meaningful way. "It's pretty obvious", Brian said  "the walls aren't 'plump'". I stood silent as he and Paddy continued their scrutiny. "Definitely not 'plump'" confirmed Brian repeatedly until I could stand it no longer. I had to put him right - "Brian - it's not 'plump'" but he cut me off immediately "That's what I've been saying all so-and-so afternoon!" he chirped smugly. I gave in gracefully...the walls were not and never would be 'plump'!
I did a bit of building work myself on this painting. Whorlton Castle is near Swainby on the very western fringes of the North Yorks Moors national Park. It's actually a ruin but I needed a window to light up so rebuilt it.....not sure if the walls are 'plump' though! 

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Summer Exhibition 2016

"Hockney's Tunnel from t'Other Side"
I live just a ten minute walk from the tunnel of trees made famous by David Hockney in his marvellous landscapes of the Yorkshire Wolds in his "Bigger Picture" exhibition at the RA. I have painted the classic view of the tunnel from Langtoft Road but this is the view from the other side looking back towards the road. We had strolled up the green lane to Broach Hill and got marvellous vistas of the Wolds including our delightful little village of Kilham where we now live. On the way back down I realised that the tunnel was just as ‘paintable’ from this side. The idea was to try and capture the warm spring light bathing the trees and hedges with the sharp contrast of the shadowed side. I think this is a lane I will be returning to on many occasions!  This large watercolour will be featured in my Summer Exhibition at Bridlington Old Town Gallery from 1st June to 31st July 2016. The gallery is open every day from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Mon - Saturday and 10:00am to 3:00 pm Sunday. I will be in the gallery from 1:00 pm on the following afternoons - 10th, 12th and 14th. There will be some more dates in July and I will let you know them as soon as confirmed.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Shade, Shadows and Sketches

"Just Before the Dawn"

Several years ago I was given permission to use some sketches by JMW Turner as a base for a series of watercolours to be included in my 'Inspirations' Collection. To think I could turn sketches by the great man into watercolours was a bit presumptuous to say the least but what the hell....I sure enjoyed doing them. I did a few, concentrating on sketches that he never turned into paintings. These were early sketches and are obviously the work of a master craftsman but I noticed that he never included any shadows in them. I don't know about you but when I am sketching for a painting later on, I always record the shadows in the drawing. I thought this might be because Turner would add the light and shadows during the act of painting. After all he is the master of light and shade and with his knowledge and skill it wouldn't have been a problem. However Professor David Hill gave me food for thought by suggesting that perhaps Turner used a form of shorthand to record shade and shadows in the sketches that he could refer back to if necessary. Intriguing. Anyway it was a pleasurable challenge for me. As the sketches had no discernible shadows and certainly no colours I was given a free hand to use my imagination. I did tend to use a very limited palette and not compete with Turner's dazzling colours. The painting above was based on a sketch Turner made on his first visit to the Lake District. It was part of his first tour up t'North and it is said that this was when he changed from a topographical artist into the sublime painter of landscape that we all know and love. 'Just Before the Dawn' started off well and I was pleased with the sky but somewhere along the line I sort of lost the plot and the overall result is a bit bland totally unlike Turner's watercolours. Here's one that did work:
"Turner's York"
Again I chose to make this large watercolour a 'nocturne' so I could use the subtle effects of moonlight to enhance my composition. There are a lot more sketches to go at and I have already been asked to do another one so I am planning to pay Mr Turner's sketchbooks further visits later on this year.