Country Diary: Thixendale – a hidden gem on the Wolds

A kingfisher on willow is just one of the amazing wildlife paintings on display at Robert Fullers Gallery in Thixendale.
A kingfisher on willow is just one of the amazing wildlife paintings on display at Robert Fullers Gallery in Thixendale.

...mist is steeping,

The trees that winter’s chill of life bereaves;

Only their stiffened boughs break silence, weeping,

Over their fallen leaves.

Robert Bridges

Weep no more. ‘Animals make you laugh out loud’ when you visit Robert Fuller’s amazing gallery, a hidden gem tucked away on the Wolds in Thixendale. Robert’s original paintings and sculptures, amazing photographs and CCTV coverage of wildlife in his garden must be seen to be believed.

Our beautiful drive took us first to Fimber, a tiny little place on a hill between Malton and Driffield. Below the church of St Mary, built by Sir Tatton Sykes, and standing on a Bronze Age barrow, is the village pond and secluded seat.

Gone are the old thatched cottages of the 1830s. They’ve been replaced by brick-built houses. From Church Lane, do enter the stone lych gate and follow the quaint little ‘avenue’ of trimmed yew trees to the church. Find Sir Tatton Sykes’ bust on a window sill, and admire a fine brass screen between the nave and chancel.

Fimber is famous for a devoted archaeologist – John Mortimer, born here in 1825 and died in 1911. He first dealt in grain and other agricultural products, but spent many years of his life opening up the graves of the earliest inhabitants of the Wolds. He made a great collection of flints and pottery. Helped by his brother Robert, they established a museum in Driffield. After his death, the collection was bought and given to Hull’s archaeological museum. [Details in church.]

Leaving the church, a wondrous drive of about four miles follows. A narrow, single-track lane hemmed between steep hillsides may be deserted, apart from pheasants! Drive slowly to observe nature in autumn, and seek Thixendale off right. Ten miles from the nearest town, where many dales unite, it may be snowbound for weeks in winter!

Its trim little church was built in 1870, and along with the school and vicarage, all designed by the same architect. Inside, you’ll find a bust of Sir Tatton Sykes on a window sill, and all windows are stained glass. You’ll see six scenes depicting the Creation. There is also a painted triptych showing St George on horseback, holding a bunch of lilies.

Leaving the village itself, turn right to Robert Fuller’s Gallery just beyond. You’ll be amazed by the wildlife cameras, and by his awe-inspiring studio where he works. It’s free, and open daily Monday to Friday, 9.30am-4.30pm, and weekends, 10.30am-4.30pm.

Returning up the dale, our day was complete when we observed a large flock of fieldfares. Flying across the open countryside towards farmland, they alighted on nearby trees before flying off together. The fieldfare is the most colourful of our thrushes, and a winter visitor often accompanied by redwings. Look out for them feeding on worms, insects, fruit and berries.