THE ANCIENT woodland next to Skipton Castle, just a few minutes walk from the centre of town has during the coronavirus crisis become even more of an oasis of calm and escape for residents.

Managed by The Woodland Trust and a team of volunteers, it remained open throughout the lockdown, but with restrictions in place, such as a one way system to ensure social distancing could be observed.

The woodland includes a rich array of native trees, oak, ash, beech and lime, amongst others, and is home to an abundance of wildlife, including kingfishers, herons and dippers, while there is an ever changing seasonal display of woodland flowers.

It is also a source of inspiration for creativity, poetry, storytelling, photography, painting and sculpture.

Three Craven Arts artist, living and working in Skipton, have felt so inspired by Skipton Woods, that they have produced a series of works which have emerged from their visits.

Christine Yardley, Marisa Marquez, and Kenny Foster are all regular, almost daily, visitors.

“I fell in love with Skipton a few years ago after a day visit,” says Christine, who finds peace meditating in the woodland. “The beauty of the woods moved me to tears and I spent most of the day enjoying the magic of the woods and nature, reflecting, re-evaluating, contemplating my life, its direction and what changes needed to be made in order to improve my health and well-being.”

She joined the Craven Arts group and eventually relocated to Skipton, from Colne, ad the end of last year.

“ My home is within walking distance to the woods, so I’m able to visit most days. I meditate daily sitting with nature, embracing and feeling the energies that nature provides.

“I found the woods and still do, to be enchanting, magical, peaceful, health giving and such an inspiring creative space to be in. My photography and artwork are a reflective creation of nature mostly inspired by Skipton woods.”

Marisa Marquez was born in Morocco, lived in Spain and Majorca, and sailed the world for many years before visiting and making Skipton her home seven years ago. She has exhibited widely in Spain, Majorca and London.

She first visited the town for a holiday to visit her daughter Marina and young grandson Alan, and collecting Alan from primary school, they would make the woods a place to visit every day on their way home.

A magical place for children, Marisa would tell Alan stories, they would take photographs and produce paintings, drawings and poetry inspired by their walks and adventures.

She also finds Skipton woods a healing place, as well as a place of beauty. Her paintings are all inspired by her travels and her love of Yorkshire: the beauty of nature, rugged landscapes, and changing skies.

She paints, draws, creates mixed media collages, using acrylic, fabrics, sand and other found materials. Her photographs capture light and colour and her paintings are her way of sharing her passion and the positive feelings art can evoke.

Kenny Foster has lived in Skipton all his life. Inspired by the landscape where he lives, in all its seasons, he is also a regular visitor to Skipton Woods.

A self-taught photographer, he has an eye for an unusual angle, a shaft of light, an amazing reflection, often capturing what others may fail to see.

And, travelling many miles around the Dales on his bike, he is fascinated by the geology and ancient history of the scenery and has many tales to tell about his journeys and the photographs he captures.

Kenny is a well-known Skipton character, and has used nature and his photography to turn his life around and give it purpose.

An exhibition by 29 Craven Arts artists is currently underway at the Mill Bridge Gallery, Mill Bridge, Skipton.

‘Connecting with Nature’ sets out to demonstrate how the artists have been inspired by the natural world during the last few months since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

It includes paintings, mixed media, and sculpture. The gallery is open every Saturday, from 11am to 5pm. Craven Arts enquiries:

Hidden behind one of Britain’s most popular medieval castles, the Woodland Trust’s Skipton Castle Woods is a rare ancient woodland habitat straight off the high street, says the trust.

“With a fascinating history that dates back a thousand years, stunning seasonal displays, amazing wildlife and central location, Skipton Castle Woods is a must-visit if you’re in the area.

“One of the Woodland Trust’s most unique sites, there’s lots for nature-lovers and families to see and do, so step off the high street, feel the earth under your boots and come explore.”