I drew the magnificent pile that is the Majestic Hotel on a short break in Harrogate last month. Forty-five years ago, in August 1972, as part of my final project on the Graphic Design course at Leeds College of Art, I organised an exhibition at the Harrogate Festival about the life of Yorkshire composer William Baines (1899-1922) and a recital of his music by pianist Eric Parkin at the Majestic.
On our visits to Harrogate, we invariably head up through the Victorian park of the Valley Gardens and continue through The Pinewooods (left) at the top of the slope to Harlow Carr, RHS gardens.
With its vegetable and flower gardens, woodland walk, meadow area and alpine house, there’s always something to see, whatever the season. There’s even a woodland bird hide.
Usually, as soon as I start drawing a commuter, he or she will change position or get on to a train but I thought that I had a chance with this man, sitting nursing his luggage and thoroughly absorbed with his phone. After five minutes our train started moving away but I’d made a mental note of the colours and I quickly added them. I like plain inky drawings but usually I feel that sketches like this come to life when I add a bit of colour; there’s so much more information in a drawing which includes colour.
‘You are now entering a great crested newt site’ a notice on the trackside near Hornbeam Park informs us.
Drab, Dry and Dusty
The countryside has a late summer look to it. Oaks near Horsforth now look drab, dry and dusty. The flowers of creeping thistle have largely turned to downy seed heads. There’s a decadent feeling that the party is almost over, frothy creamy white flowers of Russian vine and trumpets of greater bindweed are festooned over fences. The waste ground flowers that I associate with the end of the summer holidays have appeared: Himalayan balsam, rosebay willowherb, common ragwort, goldenrod and, looking rather dull and mildewed even at its freshest, mugwort.
It’s the first time that we’ve visited Harrogate for years but we’ll certainly return. We walk up through the Valley Gardens then through the pinewood on Harlow Hill. We don’t get chance to walk around the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Harlow Carr because we spend so long queuing for a leisurely lunch at the deservedly popular Betty’s Tearooms.