I first came to the Ceiriog Valley in the 1990s, almost by accident, from Cheshire. My husband Rob and I loved walking, and we hadn’t walked in this part of Wales. It felt very special straightaway, a little haven away from the world. A few years later, we came back, and found the Tithe Barn, that needed lots of work, with a For Sale sign on it. That was nearly 22 years ago. We moved in in 2000. We’ve been here ever since.
I didn’t start painting landscapes properly until I came here to the Ceiriog Valley. I used to work in fashion before that, doing watercolours and sketches for my job, but I knew I had to do something else moving here. I’d also been recovering from cancer, and painting was such a brilliant way to focus the mind. And then I started to look at the landscape here, and I was away. It’s extraordinary. Even just near where we live in Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, the hill farms and the River Ceiriog itself – going upriver and downriver – inspire me so much.
The colours of the Ceiriog Valley change so much by the season. In the winter, we get the weather patterns coming in straight from the West. Sometimes you can literally watch the snow coming! The colours also even change through the day. Right now I’m looking out at the snow-capped peaks, and the birds are out – a few kites are circling, looking for lunch. Later there are going to be bright blue skies. That’s why my paintings in oils and watercolours, and my iPad sketches, are so vivid and colourful. They reflect the land where I live, which is like a kaleidoscope to me, always changing, and always beautiful.
We’re in a pretty good place for passing customers – opposite two of the best hotels in North-East Wales. The Hand at Llanarmon and The West Arms are both renowned for their award winning chefs. We’re also near steep biking routes here towards the Vale of Llangollen and great walking routes in the Berwyn hills themselves [the Offa’s Dyke Path crosses the valley, and there is also a lovely walk on the old tramway in Pandy, north-east of Llanarmon]. I also exhibit art in both the pubs, and I’ll happily open on spec when their guests want to come and have a look at my studio. I’m only across the road after all!
We’re in a great place here – very rural, but only ten miles from Llangollen and Chirk with its castle, as well as Oswestry, just over the English border. We’re also only ten miles from the Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall, just west of here in the Tanat Valley, the highest waterfall in England and Wales, and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. There are lots of beautiful narrow drovers’ roads nearby, and ancient layered hedges too. I’ve painted them all, of course. There’s so much to see so close by.
I open my studio on the second Saturday of the month – sometimes I have a handful of people, sometimes there’s a queue down the road! I also have a class here for local artists every Tuesday morning. The area certainly inspires people.
I’ve also worked with the local children from the two primary schools nearby – they especially love doing the iPad sketches. It’s important for that love of nature to be held close, I think, and to keep going with younger people. I also know I’m very lucky that I live somewhere that brings that feeling home. It’s a part of my life every day.