I've been looking at some interesting architecture over the last couple of years and I'm continually amazed at some of the strange and beautiful buildings there are near where I live.
About two hundred years ago a craze seems to have started among the local aristos for building follies. Not tiny, one- off fripperies but bridges, castles and, just outside Masham, a stone temple with every imaginable bell and whistle.
From an artist's point of view they are fascinating and challenging. Challenging because they look so strange in the context of the landscape which surrounds them. How do you make them look as though they really exist?
On the left here is Mowbray Castle - one of the follies at Hackfall, a wilderness "garden" created by John and William Aislaby. The Aislabys also created the landscaping and follies at nearby Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.
Hackfall has undergone extensive restoration and much of its current popularity is down to the excellent work down by its warden Paul Mosley. Go and visit - its wonderful.
The big daddy of local follies has to be the Druid's Temple just outside Masham. Built by local folly-nut William Danby in the eighteenth century, it is an amalgam of every neolithic building feature. It has guard houses, a grotto, an altar and an enormous "phallus" stone! William advertised for and installed a hermit here for a while until the poor man deserted his post for good.
The local landowner has tried unsuccessfully for years to hide its existence, refusing to put up any signs leading to the folly. Consequently everyone knows where it is and it appears on countless websites dealing with the odd, the ancient and the para-normal.
I've got a couple more odd places to paint for the next exhibition and I'm looking forward to tackling them.
Exhibition details below.