Dartmoor and Exmoor Spring Event 2018

Dartmoor & Exmoor Site Specific Event

The Arborealists are delighted to have have been invited by both Exmoor and Dartmoor National Park Authorities to create site specific works based on their ancient and managed woodlands. The first visit by a group of Arborealists takes place at the end of April 2018.

Environmental campaigners believe that the majority of the population feel unconnected to nature and that there is no simple solution to this problem. We have become separated from our primordial roots and our once instinctive reliance on the cycle of life of our native flora and fauna. Many of us do not see ourselves as part of nature and so we do not understand or even care that we depend on the health of the natural world for our survival. It is recognised that doom and gloom reports of wild-life extinction and the destruction of vital environments can have the opposite effect to that intended.  We readily accept a depleted state of nature as a baseline that continues to creep; biodiversity is slipping away without being noticed. We refuse to accept or digest the evidence and we bury our heads in the sand.

There is a consensus however that fostering some kind of personal connection to nature is vital in order to awaken and mobilise a largely urban population to take action, and that this could include spirituality and the arts as well as science.

The project will draw directly on this premise and the Arborealists will visit specific tree and woodland sites on Exmoor and Dartmoor in different seasons and make new work for a special exhibition.

The aims are as follows:
  1. To present an emotional and artistic response to the trees and woodland sites in
    order to amplify awareness of them as a natural resource of especial value. 
  2. To compare and contrast the diverse ecology and environments of the different sites through    works of art.
  3. To disseminate and promote the related ecological, historic and social research of the sites and thus their value, through the content of the exhibition and accompanying, interpretive texts.
  4. To highlight the threats to the sites such as neglect, degradation and climate change in order to encourage behavioural change in people who visit and enjoy the national parks.
  5. To celebrate and promote the precious and unique environments of Exmoor and Dartmoor.

The Project

Relevant officers of Exmoor and Dartmoor National Park Authorities will identify and provide information on 4-6 tree and woodland sites on each moor of special ecological and historical significance. Information and access details for the sites would be made available for the artists.

The project will be advertised to the Arborealists and guest local tree artists of significant reputation. Artists will sign up to the project and select from the proposed sites. It is envisaged that an appropriate spread of artists and sites will be established, with each artist selecting one or more sites.

The Arborealists will share accommodation on specific long weekends in the spring and autumn of 2018 (and possibly 2019) and make preliminary or finished works of art at the sites. Artists may choose to work individually or in groups or return to the sites at other times. A community spirit and shared experience is part of the Arborealists' ethos that helps to develop art practice through cross-fertilisation.  

The Arborealists will programme a high quality exhibition of completed project works with an appropriate art gallery of superior reputation as close to the moors as possible, and ideally timed to coincide with a related moor festival of May 2019/20

The National park Authorities will provide wall texts to accompany the exhibition, each of about 3-400 words, describing the ecological, historical and social significance of the sites represented.

The National park Authorities will assist the Arborealists in promoting the project and exhibition through regular channels such as website, social media, literature and festival programmes as appropriate for maximum publicity and footfall.

The project may grow to incorporate other art forms such as film and photography, poetry, literature, sculpture and music. These avenues will be explored as the project develops.

Related events such as artists’ and ecologists’ talks, workshops and guided walks to the sites may be incorporated as part of the project.

The project may, depending on available funding sources, be recorded in a publication to accompany the exhibition. This would further disseminate the aims of the project and assist in its interpretation and act as a legacy.


Wye Valley River Festival 5 May - 19 May 2018

Wye Valley River Festival 2018

Seeds have been sown for the Wye Valley River Festival 2018. There are whispers in the woods of the dates being 5th - 19th May 2018 and TREES being the theme. As the sap quickens and the branches grow watch Wye Valley River Festival 2018 and the Facebook page for more details.

Wye Valley River Festival 2018
Facebook page

Monmouth Museum
Priory Street, Monmouth, Monmouthshire, NP25 3XA




Julie Held

Julie Held
Instagram: julie.held

Trees, like people and places have been subjects of mine since I began painting. They embody and reflect elements that mirror ourselves as human beings : roots, mythologies, diversity, mutability and connections. Thus presenting endless possibilities to examine and capture in their representation.

Julie Held
Dull Day at St James Park. oil on canvas, 20 x 15 cm

Julie Held
Autumn bright day, mixed media on canvas, 76 x 61 cm

Julie Held
Valentine's Day Florist and Trees, watercolour on paper, 71 x 61 cm

Julie Held
Autumn Garden, oil on canvas, 183 x 183 cm

Julie Held
Moonlit Garden. oil on canvas, 183 x 183 cm


Mike Holcroft

Mike Holcroft 

My immersion ‘into the landscape’ began when unknown to my parents I bunked-off school and spent my eighth birthday in late January shivering with a fishing rod on the banks the River Ribble in Lancashire. This experience - two minnows and a gudgeon - led to an obsession with fishing and shooting and by the age of fifteen I owned three shotguns. In the game season, I supplemented my lowly-paid day job by selling trout, partridge, pigeon, duck, pheasant but mainly rabbit.

Mike Holcroft
Stoodley Pike and Heptonstall church, charcoal/pastel on paper, 102 x 85 cm
My shooting days came to an abrupt end aged 17 when in fading light I shot an owl by mistake. My hunting friends and I had a deeply held but perhaps superstitious belief that such an act had ominous consequences. I threw my treasured Bernadelli shotgun into a deep basin in the river never to shoot again. This experience led me to turn inwards and from that moment on I developed a more contemplative approach to life. Instead of stalking game, I became a hunter of images and in the blink of an eye I was in the life room of Blackburn School of Art (65-67) gaining admission with a 20ft long work on the reverse side of a roll of wallpaper using charcoal, pen and ink - expressionistic depictions of the Blackburn poliomyelitis epidemic of 1965. Then on to Walthamstow School of Art (69-72) and Royal College of Art (72-76).Returning to my roots in The North of England after a long absence has triggered a passionate interest in landscape. Here in Todmorden, it’s easy to access within a ten to fifteen minutes  brisk walk, the rambling, natural rich diversity of oak-clough woodlands that rise up steeply from the valley bottom and cluster along the skyline of pasture, eventually petering-out into wild moorland.

Mike Holcroft
Church of Saint Branch [Three-Limes], charcoal on paper, 2018, 110 x 80 cm

Mike Holcroft
Stoodley Pike from Lobb Mill Todmorden, 2018, charcoal with pastel on paper, 100 x 93 cm

I find the ever changing complexity of wood-land-scape simultaneously uplifting and unsettling and I try to reflect this ambiguity in my work. Gradually, over the past few years trees have become essential subject matter through which I’m able to ‘speak from the heart’ with my language as a visual artist. Returning to ones place of origin after a forty years absence can be a gamble but in my case I feel increasingly able to connect with that magical element- inspiration. It doesn’t happen everyday and it certainly doesn’t come easy. The very best moments on a walk can leave me lost for words as I reach for the camera or sketchbook in order to capture what can often be a fleeting moment. The photo/sketch may lie dormant for weeks or months but once triggered passes through a series of graphic transformations all leading towards the closest proximity to the original scene that grabbed me.

Mike Holcroft
The River at Eashing, oil paint on canvas, 91 x 62,cm

When a drawing takes-off it slowly develops to a point where it has its own inner dynamic and momentum. A struggle then ensues as the surface undergoes constant orchestration, a process of erasure and editing, akin to both forging with hammer and anvil alongside the delicate application of pastel or charcoal.

It is an ironic use of trees burnt offerings charcoal, used in order to record its beauty!

Mike Holcroft
Road to Rake Farm N° 5, charcoal and pastel on paper, 55 x 62 cm, 2017

Mike Holcroft
Mist on The Road to Rake Farm N° 3, charcoal and pastel on paper, 59 x 45 cm, 2017

Mike Holcroft
Road to Rake Farm N° 4, charcoal and pastel on paper, 62 x 52 cm 2017

Mike Holcroft
The Unitarian Church, charcoal and pastel, Todmorden,80 x 78 cm, 2017


Natasha Lien

Natasha Lien


Brought up walking my dogs everyday in my nearby National Trust woodland,  experiencing the change of seasons and different colours and the contrasting structure of trees with and without leaves I want to share their life-enriching experience in my work.

Natasha Lien
Frithsden Beech Pencil 90 cm x 120 cm

I am passionate about drawing, painting and doing etchings of trees all over the world
(including Ethiopia, Jordan and Morocco) : my mission is to depict them in various forms from rhythmical group compositions to the individual textures of each particular tree and structure within.

Natasha Lien
Hampstead Sweet Chesnut 150 cm x 95 cm

I am inspired by drawings and paintings of trees in art from Titian, Constable, Corot, Delacroix, Courbet, Shishkin, Cezanne to Van Gogh and Mondrian. I am also intrigued how trees have a quality that encourages pareidoliacs to see random objects in them and cultures to create stories about them.

Natasha Lien
Hamstead Heath Etching-Aquatint 76 cm x 54 cm

My work varies in scale and medium; I naturally work on a large scale which suits the complexity of trees. The size of a work affects the way one enters it: I want to give the viewer the sensation of being present. I often work on location for several months frequently using joined up sheets of A1 paper for practical transportation. I transcribe some of my drawings into etchings or paintings.

Natasha Lien
Kensington Gardens Pencil 138 cm x 149 cm

In today's world where many people are often in a rush, I feel that it is a real privilege to pause and reflect on life, so my work on location is like a meditation of being present.

Natasha Lien
Kensington Gardens Etching 83 cm x 60 cm


Lara Cobden

Lara Cobden

I feel most at home amongst trees. Wherever I am, the woods offer a place to retreat to, to reflect, inspire and individual trees an eternally generous and benevolent source of healing and wisdom.

Lara Cobden
She fell, landed somewhere between awareness and surrender, Oil on canvas, 70 cm diameter

Rooted in a central theme of recollection and sense of place, my paintings are informed by observation, memory and dream. They are a subjective and individual response to my surroundings, calling on an imagined, coveted past that is unreal; a magical realism. Pulling between the chimerical and the familiar - I hope there is both a stillness and fluidity in my work; in the ordinary, a sense of reverence. Paintings evolved from remembered fragments and casual snapshots shift between misty and precise, perceived reality and imagined narratives. 

Lara Cobden
Afterglow, Oil on wood panel,  50 cm x 50 cm

A desire to capture the essence of experience - a fleeting moment, ephemeral and yet resilient in its presence, are what inspire me to paint.

Lara Cobden
Her Heart was shaded by the sadness of gravity and the bliss of dappled sunlight, oil on linen 100 cm x 130 cm

I like to inhabit and explore this in-between place and try to collect and recreate that residue of experience; like recording details, grasping at the gossamer fabric of waking from a dream. 
Trees and forests offer a unique space for this journey to begin, at once interior and exterior, offering both refuge and unease, a starting point for as yet untold stories, portals into another world.
The thread pulling my work together is about 'coming home', belonging; or conversely a sense of ‘unbelonging’.

Lara Cobden
 A willow and an oak, Oil on wood panel, 50 cm x 60 cm

Lara Cobden is a figurative painter living and working in Norfolk. Following her Fine Art, Painting degree at Brighton University, Lara spent 11 years in Ireland before relocating to East Anglia. Focusing on memory and sense of place, her paintings are a response to the natural world around her.

Lara Cobden
Following the call of inaudible voices, Oil on canvas, 100 cm x 100 cm

‘Cobden’s ethereal forest scenes delicately balance impressions of a rather contradictory nature, where feelings of slight caution created by the lurking depths of the forest are met with a distinct sense of life and hope, emanating from light found at the end of the foliage’s misty tunnel.
The hazy nature of the artist’s graceful technique however helps bind these apposing elements together, somewhat diffusing and blending the darkest darks of the works into the softened earthy colours of the surround trees. By handling the paint so tactfully in all areas of the painting, the space and depth of the environments become evermore prominent, helping emphasise such feelings of being swallowed and suffocated by the growing forest, or relief from finding the fresh, open air.’  Adam Reid - Metaphysical Objectivity in Comparison with Realism 2013

Lara Cobden
In to the Enchanted Garden, Oil on wood panel, 80 cm x 100 cm