Widdybank Farm, Upper Teesdale

Looking up from my sketch, I remember how the sun fell brightly on my way to Widdybank Farm and how the howling teeth of a snowstorm chased me back out again.

An unforeseen yet fortunate change of circumstance now finds me working one day a week at Widdybank Farm, Natural England’s Reserve Base for Moor House National Nature Reserve in Upper-Teesdale. I walk each Wednesday along the rough track, with Cronkley Scar and lapwings as companions. Below the scar runs the infant river Tees, fast flowing and already filled with attitude, its character born from the high plateau of the north Pennines. No river in England has such a lofty place of origin.

On the other side of the river Widdybank Farm sits in the shadow of the great Cronkley Scar and it’s a perfect spot to enjoy some of the rare wide flowers of Upper Teesdale, not to mention the fauna and especially the wader birds. People of the past have also left their mark on the land. From the harsh landscape of Forest-in-Teesdale to the lower reaches below High Force, Mesolithic, Bronze and Iron Age people have made this area their home. There is also evidence of Anglo Saxons at Simy Folds, although very little is known about the early medieval period of the area.

Working in such a remote location offers escape from the trappings of my normal routine. At Widdybank I have no mobile signal, I’m divorced from that other world, I have no connection with it, other than those who share the old farm as their office.

However, I’m constantly in awe of the view from the window. The light is forever changing, as shadows of the clouds race across the hillside. From one moment to the next, the view is different, as details in the rocks and landscape are revealed and then hidden once more.

How exposed those old occupants of the farm must have felt. For them, darkness was consuming. Those of us growing up in towns or cities know darkness only through the friendly street lamps or headlights of cars. Here in Upper Teesdale, darkness is absolute.

As I headed home, I glanced back towards the farm, which by now had become lost in a snowstorm. I felt lucky and alive.


28 Replies to “Widdybank Farm, Upper Teesdale”

  1. Awesome sketch and delightful storytelling – thank you so much for sharing.. Oh I wish I had seen UK through you eyes as I may never get another opportunity to visit and I was so much freeway – not green and cozy and thoughts of darkness…Wow

  2. I like how you’ve captured the light by painting around a white background
    the Farm looks “lit up,” hope that made sense ?
    thanks for sharing Danny

  3. I think this is what I meant :-

    Thirty spokes join together in the hub.
    It is because of what is not there that the cart is useful.
    Clay is formed into a vessel.
    It is because of its emptiness that the vessel is useful.
    Cut doors and windows to make a room.
    It is because of its emptiness that the room is useful.
    Therefore, what is present is used for profit.

    But it is in absence that there is usefulness.

    – Tao Te Ching

  4. I’m late to this one, again… sorry, Keith. I love your artwork – and your writing is poetic too, I wonder if you realise that? I miss your posts, I wish you’d post more often, but I understand the call from nature.

  5. another great sketch. and thanks for sharing your experience when you work on the farm as compared to living closer to “civilization” with wifi connections, etc.

    I could never imagine living on that farm. But I sure like looking at it.

  6. Hi Keith…..it’s John Boyd here,we met on the riverbank last Thursday. You obviously knew something we didn’t as the heavens opened just as we hit High Force. We were soaked on the way back to the car at Bowless and drove thru flooded roads to return to Cotherstone.
    As for your web site,it’s excellent and at the risk of sounding like a mutual admiration society (thanks for your kind comments about my site) I love your style. Thats what makes the man – style- some have it and plenty don’t. I feel like you do about Teesdale and the North Pennines in particular

    1. Hi John, I believe it hasn’t stopped raining since that very day! I enjoyed your website. Nothing wrong with a little mutual admiration. I’m pleased you enjoyed my humble blog. I’m told by more accomplished artists that pictures are not paintings – but sketches. They seem to bother some. Perhaps we might share a walk along the Tees someday – I think I would enjoy your kind of company.


  7. I wish I didn’t have to rely on my mobile phone these days and could get by without one. Being in remote places like that I think brings out peoples human creativity. Lovely picture – thanks for sharing 🙂

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