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Combine a visit to my wildlife art gallery with a walk to see wildlife

See paintings of wildlife and then walk the Yorkshire Wolds to look for the real thing. Wildlife artist Robert E Fuller suggests a walk around his gallery to spot the wildlife that inspires his exquisite artwork

As the Tour de Yorkshire sweeps through the county and weekend cyclists spin along the lanes, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that May is also National Walking Month. Whilst I appreciate the joy of cycling, and am always interested to meet cyclists that stop at my gallery or the many cycling enthusiasts that pop in to visit after watching the race, you can’t beat walking to really see the countryside. You’d be surprised what’s hidden in the hedgerows as you cross the landscape on foot. There are many really beautiful walks around my gallery high on the Yorkshire Wolds and often people combine a visit here with the opportunity to explore the landscape.

The Robert Fuller Gallery See paintings then enjoy a walk around Thixendale
Enjoy a walk when you visit the Robert Fuller Gallery

The gallery is a few minutes off the Yorkshire Wolds Way national trail, a 79-mile trek through dramatic chalkland valleys and one of Yorkshire’s greatest secrets. We often get walkers making the detour to see the paintings of the wildlife that they have spotted on their travels that hang on my gallery walls. Last summer a visitor was inspired to write this detailed blog about a walk he took through the Yorkshire Wolds that circles the gallery. Click here to read it and to see some of the fantastic photographs he took of this inspirational landscape.

Every evening I cycle through this spectacular scenery to put food out for badgers that live in an ancient sett in the valley below the gallery. But if I have time, I prefer to walk.  I set off at dusk and usually return after dark. In winter this means walking in near pitch black. After a long day painting at my easel my eyes are often sore and so this nightime walk is my favourite time to unwind and appreciate my surroundings.

The landscape is strange and beautiful at night. The sky, punctuated at this time of year by trees still bare of their leaves, is a soft monochrome and the shapes of the valleys are often enhanced by low mist. Once it is completely dark I navigate by the light of the moon or the stars. This spring the weather has been less than desirable, with driving rain and even snow. But on even on those walks when the weather has been at its worst I have had close encounters with wildlife. In fact frosty nights are my favourites or better still when there is a covering of snow on the ground that reflects the light.

One windy and rainy night, I heard an animal’s startled footsteps directly in front of me. I switched on my torch to find myself practically eye to eye with a roe buck. The last thing it was expecting was to bump into me, especially as the sound of my coming had been muffled by the weather.

Badgers painted by Robert E Fuller
Badgers at Twilight, limited edition print by Robert E Fuller. Click to buy.
Fox painted by artist Robert E Fuller
Fox at Dawn, print by wildlife artist Robert E Fuller. Click to buy

Over the last few months the male tawny owl in the valley has been trying to attract a mate and my walks have been accompanied by the soundtrack of his reverberating ocarina call. I also often hear a dog fox calling as I set off down the valley. And then, as if it were an echo, another returns its call from the other side. Once I switched on my torch and picked up the eye-shine of the fox out on an arable field near the gallery. Strangely he didn’t run, but just watched me as I passed by.

As I watched him there was a clatter of wings and the noise of a bird taking off, but I knew the sound of the wingbeat above my head that this was just a wood pigeon. Further along my route I heard a larger bird trying to take off. I switched my torch on. It was a young female buzzard. I turned my torch off and walked away leaving it to roost. Visible in the silhouette-skeleton of an ash tree above my head there was a cock pheasant, so close I could reach up and pull its tail. It sat stock-still, believing itself invisible in the dark.

Roe deer painting by Robert E Fuller
Roe deer, print by Robert E Fuller. Click to buy.
curlew painting by Robert E Fuller
Curlew, limited edition by Robert E Fuller. Click to buy.

On spring moonlit nights you can hear curlews and the rasping wing beats of lapwings, followed by a breathy ‘pee-wit’, as they arrive on the wolds to breed. The highlight of my walk is always the moment I arrive at the badger sett. As I approach I am often followed closely by a barn owl. It flies right over my head, creating a shadow in the moonlight that moves right across my shoulder. It lets out an eerie screech as if it’s saying, “You’re late”, then lands on a post and waits for me to put some food out for it. After feeding the owl, I usually put my torch on so that I can see what else is about. It’s not long before I pick up the eye-shine of the badgers.

I have been walking down to this sett each night for eight years now and have become an accepted member of the clan. I usually sit on the ground amongst them and watch up to eight barn owls fly about above me at the same time. Not everybody has access to the countryside at night and I am lucky to have the opportunity living where I do.

But being on foot means you see so much more whatever time of day you choose. May is one of the best times to get out and enjoy the countryside. If you want to make the most of National Walking Month why not pack your walking boots and combine a visit to my gallery with a walk? Click here to download a map of a short walk around the gallery. 

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