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A Love Founded in the Hills and Art


In the wuthering heights above picturesque Wharfedale, a previously untapped passion for art has been the foundation for a remarkable triumph over adversity.

Yorkshire artists and partners Dave Marsh and Liz Clarke, who are marking the fifth anniversary of the founding of the breathtaking Elm Gallery, high above Addingham, on Addingham Moorside, turned to the majestic beauty of the Yorkshire countryside and their then-unfulfilled artistic talents, to overcome personal battles.

Dave, a former IT specialist from the west of Halifax, had moved into a converted barn which now serves as the spectacular gallery, with his wife Ange in the late 1990s to enjoy the wonders of the moors high above Ilkley and Addingham.

Sadly, Ange was diagnosed with ovarian cancer just weeks after moving into the barn – called The Elm – and life changed for them forever.

Dave gave up his job to look after Ange, and they continued to live in the barn, which overlooks Beamsley Beacon, for six years, until she sadly died on her birthday in 2004.

Finding himself without income and alone, but with the staunch support of good neighbours and friends, Dave knew he had to get himself back into circulation, rather than finding himself virtually isolated on the top of the moors.

Always a keen amateur artist having submitted many pen and ink drawings of Yorkshire and Cumbria to the Dalesman and Cumbria magazine over a number of years, he decided to expand his interest for drawings and watercolours.

And it was while exhibiting at Pool Village Hall that he met artist Liz Clarke , who herself had given up work due to ill health, and who had started to paint part time.

Dave says:

“When Ange died, I was suddenly faced with a dilemma. I didn’t want to go back into IT – I was 55 and it was a young man’s game really – I couldn’t easily pretend nothing had happened and just go back again.

“I just knew I had to get off the hillside – I didn’t know where, and how but I knew it would be difficult to say goodbye to the barn that Ange and I had made our own for that short time. Despite the advanced stage of the cancer, Ange had survived for six years after the diagnosis.

“Then, out of the blue, I was invited to an exhibition at Pool Village Hall, where I was roped in to making bacon sandwiches – an excuse to get me back into the swing of things really – and it was there that I met Liz.”

Liz says:

“I had given up work through ill health and I, like Dave, found myself on my own  - and it was a pretty bleak time really.  When I was in work, I didn’t do any painting as I had the sort of job where I finished late and after such a long day I never felt like doing anything creative.

“I decided to start painting again and sold my first painting at the Winter Gardens Art Show in Ilkley and that spurred me on.”

Soon afterwards, a tentative courtship began, with the pair discovering both love and a growing passion for art almost out of nowhere, in the mists of the moors above Addingham.

A first exhibition of cards and other works at Muker Show cemented their relationship – or at least made them realise they had a perfect understanding of each other’s artistic mindsets – and more and more works were exhibited over time across Yorkshire.

Eventually, Dave went to live with Liz, but was still renting The Elm.

The pair soon realised they had the perfect opportunity to use the unique location of The Elm as a gallery, and since opening in July 2005, the beautiful gallery’s reputation  - and the couple’s love - has blossomed.

The gallery is now open to the public and features a display of the duo’s distinctive works, including original paintings, prints, cards and the many gift items they make from their artwork.

Liz says:

“I knew of Dave’s background and the difficulty he had faced, but I was impressed by the total lack of self-pity that he showed and I knew he was taking the first steps towards putting his life back on track again.”

Dave mainly works in watercolours, painting landscapes and animals, as well as painting using a limited palette of blue-greys. He still does the occasional pen and ink drawing too.

Liz uses strong, very vibrant colours with an ethereal quality featuring flowers, landscapes, foliage and mystic themes.

Dave says:

“Both of us are inspired by the beauty of the countryside surrounding us here in Yorkshire, and of course that of the immediate vicinity of The Elm Gallery.

“The amazing thing about what has happened to us is that through art, and through a talent we both knew we had but which remained untapped, the pair of us are gently finding inspiration and passion in each other and through our love of art. It’s a complete change of lifestyle and a new beginning.

“I had so many happy memories attached to The Elm even during the period when Ange was ill and I was reluctant to let it go.

“Having it now as a gallery – although an exciting development– felt very strange at first. But now it’s a perfect way of combining past memories with an exciting new future with Liz. We are two very different characters but, certainly for the pair of us, everything seems to have dropped into place, after a very difficult time for both of us.”

In the last two years, the pair has begun to sell their art cards to shops in Yorkshire and beyond, and are aiming to develop a stronger online presence.

Music also plays a key part in the atmosphere of The Elm Gallery– every month in the summer, folk, blues and jazz bands take centre stage on the lawn outside the gallery, adding to the upbeat atmosphere of the exalted site. Liz’s son Tim, who started working at the gallery two and a half years ago, is also a musician and occasionally serenades customers with his cornet playing to add to the ambiance.

·         The Elm Gallery can be found on Moorside Lane, at the end of Straight Lane, and can be reached via Brown Bank Lane from Silsden, or Turner Lane / Cocking Lane from Addingham. It is well signposted and can also be found online at www.the-elm-gallery.co.uk