A most wonderful commute

Sep 26, 2023

So it's coming up to a year of being self employed as a professional full time artist and I wanted to share with you some of the things I've discovered, changed, observed.

One of the big changes was my commute. Prior to the pandemic I was commuting early doors on the train to Leeds and joining that whole bun fight of dealing with cancelled trains, catching sniffles and colds from everyone, not really aware of the changing seasons apart from when it impacted the trains.

My commute to work is now very different. My studio is 3 miles from my home and I have so many options to walk through woods, along the canal or up on the tops.


Dowley gap in winter


I am more aware of the changing seasons and what is going on in the surrounding area. There are times when I miss out on my walk because it is just too wet and on those days I really feel a difference, not just in terms of the exercise and being out in nature, but also because of how much processing of ideas I do on those 3 miles to the studio. 


Hirst wood in the fog


My walk generally should take around 40-45 minutes but I do tend to be a little distracted by the dogs I meet and the wildlife. There is always something of interest from the drama of swans coming and going, ducks snaffled by pikes right before my eyes, geese moving up to the canal from the river to nest and hatch masses of noisy goslings, the odd kingfisher and coot, and the wonderful knocking of woodpeckers in spring. The most entertaining are the crows who have cottoned on to me regularly feeding the swans so now follow me through the woods and cackle at me until I leave them some biscuits.


Swan family on the Leeds Liverpool Canal


As well as the wildlife I am amazed by the changes to the landscape over the year. Over winter we had some really hard frosts which resulted in the canal freezing which was incredibly beautiful but also a bit tricky for the swans and other bird life which would find itself trapped in the ice. Fast forward to June where the weather was so hot for so long that it affected the oxygen levels in the canal and resulted in dead fish including some massive pikes. Amazing what lives on as well as in the canal.


Pair of swans on the Leeds Liverpool Canal


It's fascinating watching how wildlife migrates to and from the canal as well as people. The canal is home to many people on the stretch that I walk and as the weather gets warmer more boats arrive in all shapes and sizes. 


Dowley gap in autumn


My main go to walk has been through Hirst Woods and then on the canal and it is truly a wonderful start and end to the day. The woods are a magical place and when I changed my job and started commuting on a daily basis I decided to take a photo a couple of times a month of one place in the woods which opens up like a cathedral. 


Hirst woods by Paula Dunn Artist


This short video is a result of 12 months of commuting. Watch out for the dramatic change from April to May when I'm away in Cornwall for a month. It's amazing how quickly the foliage developed over that time.



Over the next year I'll continue with my photos of Hirst wood but will add another view which takes in the broader landscape, the view from Gilstead Crags down to Bingley and my studio. 


Paula Dunn artist's studio


I'm excited to see how this new view will change with the weather and the seasons over the next 12-18 months and who knows it may end up informing a new collection of work.

Want to know more about Hirst wood then check out Hirst Wood Regeneration Group. For more information about the beautiful landscape in Bradford and the surrounding area then check out the South Pennines Park.

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