Discovering Derbyshire oaks

drawing of an old oak tree
‘Chatsworth 007’ conté and sanguine on paper

Heading south

Following six months hard graft in the studio preparing for my exhibition, it felt like the best reward to spend a week in my homeland, discovering some new trees.

So, I packed my drawing kit and headed for Derbyshire, excited to be feeding my imagination once again, turning the creative cycle back to the beginning of the process.

oaks in Chatsworth

Meeting the Chatsworth oaks

I grew up in Matlock and as a child used to visit the Chatsworth estate often with my grandparents. I have warm memories of lolling about the grounds with a picnic, paddling in the river and getting towed reluctantly through the big house. I had no inkling at the time that one day I’d be back with a drawing board to study the trees there.

Tansy drawing in Chatsworth park

The whole estate is vast, but close to the house are the remains of a centuries old deer park, the slopes cloaked in old oaks and still stocked with red and fallow deer. This was the area I focused on exploring for the week and I went there every day to draw and photograph these stunning trees. I also made detailed location notes and learned my way around that area of the park, tracking my walks and plotting photos using the Outdoor Active app.

I made quite a few of my ‘Woodland’ drawings, though they should more accurately be called ‘Wood Pasture’ drawings in this instance, since the trees are open grown in pasture covered ground, rather than a closed canopy wood. They have specific characteristics as a result and support an extremely high number of other organisms.

a conte drawing of an oak tree
Conté and sanguine on paper

What really struck me was the sheer scale of some of these trees – perhaps a more benign climate than that of Scotland has led them to grow so big, perhaps they are extremely old, it’s hard to tell.

large oak tree in Chatsworth
One of the largest oaks, with Dr Moir for scale

I’ve come home with a rich resource of new material to inspire future work. It might take a few months to percolate through my subconscious but it’s definitely fired up my imagination again  – I’m creatively refreshed.

old oak tree in Chatsworth park