crEAting, sEAsons

Still Summer lingers…

 …on these peaceful shores,
Nor yet she quits her rose-erected bow’r;
Tho’ oft in many a dew-drop she explores
Her beauties fading in each passing hour!
John Carr


 This week is back to school week and as is often the case a true Indian summer, but as summer is now starting to slip away the nights are getting noticeably cooler and darker and you can spot the odd leaf already starting to change colour.  September will be full of many changes as the transition from Summer to Autumn slowly takes place.

My Art Journal ‘Celebrating the Year 2010’ was all about the things that I love, the things that make me who I am and below is a section taken from the month of September entitled Chic Shacks which reflects my passion for old shacks, pavillions and tin chapels.

Holiday Chalet Calver

Chic Shacks

‘There is something very comforting to me about coming across an old ‘shack’ in the English countryside.  My grandparents had such a weekend chalet at Calver in Derbyshire where we would go for the day as a treat. 

My love of these places extends to Cricket Pavilions and old tin Chapels like this one we came across recently at the Bridge of Dee in Scotland that is still in use today. 

Tin Chapel at Bridge of Dee

Although in decline they are experiencing some kind of revival but sadly the temptation to modernise and develop these places often leave them bland and faceless and lose that run down quality which is so endearing.

One of the best places to see some of the most cute and creative old chalets is on the park at the Fitties in Humberston, four miles south of Grimsby.  Now a conservation area and one of the best examples in the country of these customised holiday chalets, recently saved by the local council from private developers after the provision of electricity made them far more desirable.  They are a collection of old train carriages and prefabricated houses with that ‘edge-of-the-world’ feel.  Many owners have trimmed their little English castles with the accoutrements of suburbia, from stick-on leaded lights to picket gates and fences.  It is these ramshackle dwellings that best capture the spirit of living close to nature and by the sea.’

September is Heritage Open Days (in Scotland Doors Open Days) each weekend and it is a chance to view many of these places that are normally closed to the public. Have a look at their website for a list of events in your area

Have a great September – what are your plans?

crEAting, sEAsons

Whilst August yet wears her golden crown…

    Ripening fields lush- bright with promise;

Summer waxes long, then wanes, quietly passing   

  Her fading green glory on to riotous Autumn.”

–  Michelle L. Thieme, August’s Crown 

I always think of August as the transition month between the slow fading of summer and the coming of Autumn.  By this point I am always feeling desperate to hang on to the warm sunny days and light nights, having the windows wide open and eating meals outside and we are really trying to make the best of each day left now.  Today we decided against staying in and doing those endless chores so we set down our tools and headed off into Derbyshire, stopping for lunch at the cafe at Hassop Station and then having a wander around Tideswell.  Having a leisurely ‘potter’ around is definitely one of our favourite pastimes and below is an excerpt from my Art Journal ‘Celebrating the Year 2010’  In this journal I talk about all the different things I love in my life.  This is the entry for August.

Sketching at Gawsworth Hall

Watercolour Sketch at Gawsworth Hall August 2002

Lazy days and Sundays

‘There is no other word that best suits wandering around one of your favourite places on a lazy summer’s afternoon than ‘pottering’; a day when you are more comfortable with familiarity rather than looking for adventure.  We often make one of those spur of the moment decisions to head off for the day to some sleepy corner of the countryside and take a picnic or stop on the way somewhere for lunch.

One of our favourite places for such a day is Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield in Cheshire.  It is a beautiful black and white timbered hall, the private home of the Richards family and this is so evident when you step inside as the whole place has a feeling that they have just gone out of the room for a few minutes to make you a cup of tea!  In the sitting room you might see a part read Radio Times left on the chair from watching the TV the night before together with a piece of half finished knitting, while in the bedroom don’t be surprised to find a pot of cream on the dressing table just used that morning.  The little chapel still in use today has spectacular stained glass windows.

The family hold many events here but the biggest attraction is the Open Air theatre held in July and August.  Take along your picnic, a couple of deck chairs, and some fine wine, and of course a good friend or two and look forward to a memorable evening.’

How do you spend your lazy summer days?

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Summer Flowers

Sweet Summer

crEAting, mEAndering, out and about, sEAsons, sketching

The dawn of a summer day…

Poppies at Renishaw Hall Gardens

Taken from my Art Journal –  ‘Celebrating the Year 2009’

Poppies at Renishaw

Watercolour Sketch July 2004

That beautiful season the Summer! 
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
–   Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

July is one of my favourite months.  The flower borders are bursting with summer colour and if you have never been to Renishaw Hall Gardens and you live nearby then you are definitely missing a treat.  It is the home of the Sitwell family and their history is steeped in the Arts and Crafts movement.

Renishaw House

Here we all are (apart from me – I’m taking the picture and we are missing a daughter and partner and a neice) on our recent family picnic posing in front of Renishaw Hall as if it were ours!

Meet the family at Renishaw Hall

Allium Bed Renishaw

The extensive grounds are a mixture of formal gardens near to the house leading into the naturalised woodland area Bluebell Wood Renishaw

complete with this Laburnum walk.

Laburnum Walk Renishaw

There are also plants on sale that you will have seen growing in the garden.

 Yew Hedge Renishaw

 We have been lucky enough to be there when they have had musicians positioned behind the huge Yew hedges playing flute and violin.  The sound is carried around the gardens on the breeze with the nearby fountain bending and spraying spurts of water as if in time.

The Fountain Renishaw

On a warm summers day I could sketch happily here for hours popping into the tea shop in the popular Courtyard for refreshments and a home baked scone then a wander around the grounds what could be a more perfect relaxing day?  You can also book ahead to attend a performance at the outdoor theatre or fireworks or have a tour of the vineyard and sample their own wine.

The courtyard also houses a little museum and art gallery.  In the tea room you can buy a cold salad lunch by weight.  Just help yourself to a plate and choose from the vast selection of salads and meat, then weigh and pay!

If you go in Mid April to early May they have a splendid display of Auriculas (a type of Primula) in a purpose built Auricula House.  This is like a small wooden bookcase painted black to enhance the colours of these delicate blooms with a wire netting front.  They are quite fascinating when displayed this way.

Auricular House Renishaw

Auriculars Renishaw

I hope everyone has a glorious July and that we have some of those warm halcyon days we can all remember from our childhood when it never rained all summer long!!  This will be posted ahead of time (I know it isn’t July until Monday) but I will be on my way to Scotland and without any internet, TV and a very intermittent mobile signal.

crEAting, drEAming, mEAndering, open gardens, random thoughts, sEAsons

“June is the month of dreams, I think”

–  Joan Adams Burchell

Hello again everyone – I know the gaps between posts have been rather long of late and although I am trying to rectify this I am finding it a bit of a struggle at the moment.  I just wanted to say thank you for all the lovely comments I have received about the recent death of my dear friend.  It has been quite a whirlwind month so far and I am hoping things will settle down a bit now before our holidays.  I have a lot of catching up to do but somehow I haven’t, as yet, got the desire to blog that I had before all this sadness set in.  I will begin slowly to work my way back into blogging by turning as usual at the beginning of the month to one of my past Art Journals.  The excerpt below is taken from ‘Celebrating the Year 2009’  illustrated with a little watercolour sketch I did in 2004 on a visit to Dunham Massey on a beautiful warm June day.

 Blue Irises Picture

Blue Irises – Watercolour Sketch in Dunham Massey Courtyard June 2004

“In your neat garden iris grows
Bright yellow, mauve – in stately rows. 

This one you’ve picked’s a lovely thing;
I know it brightens up our spring.
But in the forest, springtime’s child,
A purple
iris growing wild,
Can melt my heart as spring melts snow;
It’s spoilt me for the sort you grow!”
 -Jude, Wild Iris

“June 24th is Midsummer’s Day and June the 21st is the longest day.  It is now most definitely the middle of the year.  For me it is time to enjoy being in the garden more with the lighter evenings and warmer days, either relaxing with friends or actually weeding, planting and improving our little haven.  There is no place I would rather be – it is my place to unwind and refresh.

For inspiration this is the month that many private gardens are open to the public under the Open Gardens scheme.  If you have a spare weekend make a note in your diary to go and visit one.  You can find details at

As well as individual gardens we often visit two pretty little villages near York called Great and Little Ouseburn where many of the residents open their gardens on the same day.  You can wander from one to another with the aid of a hand drawn map provided.  We went for the whole day this year taking a picnic lunch so we could browse leisurely around all of them.    Quite often there are some delightful surprises awaiting as you go through into the back gardens and each is quite different reflecting the individuality of the owners.”

So far this year I have missed attending the Open Gardens that we usually go to but I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will find some new ones to go to when we have a free weekend.  How has your June been so far?

crEAting, sEAsons, sketching

Ne’er cast a clout till May be out…


I cannot believe it is May already and I have only just found time to get back to my blog – this must be my longest gap ever.  There is so much going on in my life at the moment but the main reason for my absence is the office move.  It is taking forever to get sorted out and I am finding it is well after 6pm every night before I leave work and by the time tea is over I have completely run out of steam.  I really dislike being caught up in someone else’s agenda – I certainly would not have added this amount of stress to my life at this moment!

On the good side at last we can put the cold wintery days behind us and look forward to summer.  This year Spring has been a long time coming and I am not very prepared as my current wardrobe is still in winter mode and my summer outfits are packed neatly away in the spare room.  It is so long ago that I cannot even remember what I wore during the summer last year.  As usual I will start off the month with a look back at one of my old Art Journals and this excerpt is taken from Celebrating the Year 2009 and the pencil and watercolour sketch dated May 2003 from my sketchbook.

Winter is many months of the year
But now at last Maytime is here;
And birds sing from a leafy screen
In the trees and hedgerow freshly green;
And the wood-anemone is out in the shade,
With its blushing petals which too soon fade;
Once more the bracken is unfurling there,
And bluebells gently perfume the damp air.” 

 Veronica Ann Twells, Maytime


Whilst wandering around the gardens at Tatton Park one glorious day in May I came across this unfurling clump of fern along the edge of a pond and stopped to make a quick sketch.  They looked so majestic – about to burst open and produce their feather like plumes.  At this moment the heads were tightly wrapped into little balls as if hiding away until the moment is right to spring into action.

May itself, like the unfurling fern, reminds me of little surprise packages.  All around us nature is surprising us with its secrets.  Bare trees become laden in blossom, buds burst open to produce a green leafy canopy, and everything springs to life once again. 

May is also the month that the Well Dressings begin in Derbyshire.  The true origins of Well Dressing are lost in the mists of time. According to many sources, it developed from a pagan custom of making sacrifice to the gods of wells and springs to ensure a continued supply of fresh water. Like many folk traditions, it was later adopted by the Christian Church as a way of giving thanks to God for His gift to us of water.

From May until September in villages across the whole of Derbyshire there will be a different well dressing week.  Look on for more information if you live near enough to visit.

Ashford in the Water Well DressingDSC01117

Ashford in the Water Well Dressing

 We go more or less every year and have never been disappointed.  It is a time when the villagers get together and design and make these decorative boards from flower petals and foliage.  They often have a carnival or similar event to mark the start of the week and most places offer cream teas in the local village hall. 

I can’t promise that I will get to my blog every day or even every week until things at work calm down a bit – but I am missing you all and am trying to keep up with your blogs here and there.  Have a good Bank Holiday weekend to everyone in the UK.

beach cottage, bEAching, crEAting, sEAsons

Sweet April Showers…

It is great to be back… but it was hard to leave as we had such a wonderful time at the cottage and experienced the first rays of warm sunshine that we had felt for ages and we have left it all behind to come back to the dismal grey and rain.  But who can resist April even in the rain.  My elder daughter was born this month and many times we have celebrated her birthday outdoors with a picnic and only once or twice have we had a sudden fall of snow.

In my Art Journal ‘Celebrating the Year 2009’ this is what I wrote…

Luce Bay

My heart gives thanks for many things;

I know not how to name them all.

My soul is free from frets and stings,

For Sun and stars, for flowers and streams,

For work and hope and rest and play –

For empty moments given to dreams,

For these my heart gives thanks today.


~William Braithwaite

“By the first day of April everything around us is just beginning to stir and although the winds can still be quite fresh the air is warmer.  With the better weather creeping in the garden begins to cry out for attention as new growth is appearing everywhere.  This is the month when I want to throw open the windows to allow that fresh air into my home and begin a mammoth Spring Clean.  As I pack away the scarves, gloves and cosy blankets I can finally say goodbye to winter and be glad that those long dark evenings are fading fast.
Easter is most likely to fall within this month and everywhere there is so much to do and see.
Although I have lived in this Pennine area for many years I have not yet managed to go to our local- Marsden Cuckoo Day – celebrated in April.  It is a traditional festival that celebrates the arrival of spring (a bit like my Spring Cleaning!)  According to a local legend, Marsdeners used to try to prolong the cuckoo’s stay by building a wall around its nest.
I look forward to spending our Easter week at the cottage on the Mull of Galloway.  During our frequent walks along the beach we come across all kinds of unusual debris which has been tossed around by a raging winter sea and then ‘left for dead’ along the shoreline.  I have become quite a collector of these bits and pieces – it might be driftwood, metal, glass or old pieces of tile but each has become smoothed by the sea and formed into a new shape. Meanwhile in the woodland garden behind the cottage the birds are busy to and fro, gathering their own bits of fallen debris like twigs and hair and moss to make their nests”. 

So now the Spring Cleaning can begin in earnest..I can’t wait to get started.   And before you go I will have plenty of updates to post about our cottage garden in the coming days – we spent nearly all our time outdoors and our rubble pile is no more!

crEAting, drEAming, random thoughts, sEAsons

The Madness of March…

 The arrival of March sees the passing of winter and today the first day of March – it is dry, quite cold, but not bitter as the last few days have been and exceptionally still, a very grey day and typical of how I usually think of March but without the wind!

I am already finding it difficult to remember what I did in February the month passed by so quickly.  As usual I will begin the month with an excerpt from one of my Art Journals and this is taken from Celebrating the Year 2009 (coloured writing).  The photo is of the cutest little cottage on the very tip of the Mull of Galloway, it has not been lived in for years and there are no services or piped water laid on and no road – you have to cross a field. Every time we drive around the corner and it comes into view we fall in love with it all over again.  The farmer won’t sell (we have asked already!) but I could easily see myself living here and just absorbing the peace.

Mull of Galloway 2009


“Ere frost-flower and snow-blossom faded and fell,
       and the splendor of winter had passed out of sight,
The ways of the woodlands were
fairer and stranger
than dreams that fulfill us in sleep with delight;
The breath of the mouths of the winds had hardened on tree-tops
and branches that
glittered and swayed
wonders and glories of blossom like snow
or of frost that outlightens all flowers till it

–   Algernon C. Swinburne, March: An Ode

“When we are staying at our beach cottage, just as the sun is setting at the end of the day, we often take a trip around the loop road that skirts around the end of the Mull of Galloway.  Very few people live down here, just the odd cottage or farmhouse dotted along the way.  It is a place of perfect peace and freedom.  The undisturbed wildness has natural balance and beauty.  This is the place where my soul sings, this is where I feel I have the world to myself, close to nature and closer to God. 

As we crawl along the narrow winding roads we are lucky enough to see the wild deer grazing or a fox stalking through the long grass.  Suddenly a hare will appear in the road darting quickly from side to side looking for a gateway to make its escape.  After the long winter months there can be few sights more uplifting than the grace and beauty of the Brown Hare – they are symbolic of the British countryside but are becoming increasingly rare.  March is the time when they are most active as it is their breeding season.  Although they are usually solitary, you may be lucky enough to see two hares boxing as part of their courtship ritual.

You do not have to go as far as the Mull of Galloway to spot a hare in the wild.  The best time to see one is in the evening on open grassland, especially near arable land.

 However the High Peak Estate in Derbyshire is the only place outside of Scotland and the Isle of Man that you can spot a white Mountain Hare”.

Have you got great plans for March?

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February…the promise of Spring…