Summer in the lane…

And so, finally the sun decided to amble over in our direction and grant us a few weeks of what we could probably agree to call proper summer – by which I mean being able to wear sandals and occasionally bring out the embarrassing sun hat.

Things are a bit different here for us this year. Unlike recent summers when we’ve disappeared up to the Highlands with a couple of tents and an optimistic attitude to rainfall, this year we’re staying put – or more accurately – not straying very far.


Not getting to walk along the beach at Balnakeil near Durness, is something I’ll miss, but instead I’ll have the opportunity to watch as the summer progresses in the lane. Already I can sense a change in the pace of growth. The pumping energy of spring has given way now to a mild sense of exhaustion, the fresh bright greens of May are now darker, dustier. The delicate cow parsley has turned brown and shrunk back, replaced by the stronger stalks of hogweed and banks of purple thistles. The nettles standing sentry are gradually being pulled down by the wreaths of wilting cleavers.


In the field, the grasses which in June swayed like waves have been cut and bailed, and already a new growth of nettles, thistles and grass is greening the pale stubble. We haven’t yet reached the point when the countryside turns golden, although I don’t think it’s far away – soon the colours will change and the tired greens will be replaced by the rich reds and ambers of late summer.

High summer has never really brought out the best in me, which is perhaps why I normally prefer to travel north for a cooler sort of summer, but I admit there’s something that feels right about observing at close hand the slow changes as the seasons roll round. I’m enjoying it in a strange sort of way, but at some stage I’m going to have to head for the coast and dip my toes in the sea…

I do hope you’re having a good summer – it’s great fun watching Instagram friends post pictures from their travels around the world – vicarious holiday pleasures!





It’s all go…

My mind seems to have been all over the place lately.

I’ve been preparing for the Discover Original Art exhibition – more over at my website (click here for gallery details) – which starts  on Wednesday this week, 3rd June. 

I’m so pleased to have had this date to work towards, because although at times I felt as if things weren’t ever going to come together, knowing that I had to get there, eventually worked its way into my subconscious and turned things around.

2015-05-31 10.43.05

This last 12 months has seen the most amazing upheaval in my approach to making art. Twelve months ago, I had a stack of stitched canvasses sitting on a shelf, with no one except immediate family and you, my lovely blog readers, ever seeing any of them. Now, less than a year later, I’ve met and joined a local community of wonderful artists and begun to find my voice in the real, as well as the virtual world.

2015-05-31 10.43.17

In a very literal way, I’m beginning to feel as if various threads in my life are now coming together.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have dared think of myself as an artist. Now, well, it doesn’t feel too far-fetched.

2015-05-31 10.42.57

So having dates to work towards helps remind me that this is real, and at last there’s the freedom to make art without feeling guilty, which for me, is the most amazing gift imaginable.

2015-05-31 10.43.31

Keeping my head together though, with home, family and art to juggle, is helped enormously by the daily routine of walking the Delinquent Dog.

2015-06-01 09.30.09

Over the last week, everything seems to be growing at such a fantastic rate. The pictures in today’s post were taken this morning and last week – proof that however hard we try, nature just does it all so much better…

2015-06-01 09.45.32

Happy stitching…



Green – everywhere I look…

I just don’t seem to be able to get away from greens at the moment. I suppose that this year, even more than usual, I’ve been tuned-in to greens, having been working with a green palette for quite a few weeks.

Embroidery – well the way that I do it – is an extremely slow art form, and all those hours of stitching, inevitably lead you into a very close relationship with the different shades you’re using.

2015-05-11 09.30.35

2015-05-01 09.07.03And similarly, the various textures, coarse tweeds, strong wools, fluid silks, all play differently in your hand and in the canvas – all working together in sometimes unexpected ways.

2015-05-11 09.30.57

2015-04-30 08.30.28Trying to plan what goes where I find to be a fairly pointless exercise. Instead it seems to be better to simply let each thread decide, according to what else is happening around it.

2015-05-11 09.29.49

2015-05-12 09.50.02

Impossible at this most verdant time of the year, to ignore the way that the countryside changes colour. So many delicate plants appearing in the lane every day now, but all held together by nature’s tapestry of green.

2015-05-01 09.07.27

All photographs taken in the lane on the daily dog walk, over the last couple days. Follow me on Instagram for other daily pictures…

Tree Time: December…

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s nearly a full year since I started the daily tree project, but there we are, time flies and all that.


This was the oak on Christmas Morning. It was a simply gorgeous time to be out and about. There had been a slight frost, but almost all was gone when I took the Delinquent Dog for his constitutional, instead there was an almost warm sunshine and fabulous blue sky.

But this is what Boxing Day looked like…


Taken at the same time of day as the previous picture – just goes to show how huge an impact the weather has on the way you see things around you.

And after almost twelve months of watching that oak pass through the seasons, it’s really the weather and the changes in light each day that have held me most in thrall.

I know we’re incredibly lucky to live in a country where the weather varies so much, even if we’re famous for using it as our stock conversation line – it’s not difficult to see how it must affect us, when you realise just how many shades daylight comes in.

Over the year, I’ve learned just how ignorant I am about natural history. I’ve watched countless species of green plants emerge from the hedgerow, grow and die down, and managed to identify only a few of them. I’ve seen lots of wildlife. Squirrels top the list of animals, although rabbits have their season, and we’ve seen quite a few deer over the year too. Fox encounters have been rare, but actually my favourite, they seem almost as intrigued by us as we are by them, they stand and take us in for a few seconds, assessing us, before judging it best to run and hide. I’ve practically never managed to get the camera out in time.

Birds are even more difficult to photograph. We are in a red kite area, and from time to time, I’ve stood and watched them wheel around above the field, but my pictures are no use at all. We see lots of jays, which always give me a little thrill, it’s just that flash of colour you can’t miss. And at the moment, we seem to be seeing robins everywhere – but maybe that’s just a function of the season!


But birds and squirrels, lovely though they are, haven’t taught me as much as the trees, hedges and plants about the passing of time. Even at the beginning of December, (2nd December above), there were still a few leaves left on the hornbeam hedge, now though, after the wind, rain and frosts, there’s not a leaf remaining.


The 19th December and all the leaves have finally gone.

Sometimes, as we get older, we talk about how time flies, and of course there are ways in which this feels right, but having spent a year walking the same route, almost every day, stopping to look and notice what’s happening along the way, it seems to me that a year is a long time, a full and rich time, in which a whole cycle of life and death has passed, and already I’m looking out for the signs of life beginning all over again. I find that immensely reassuring and exciting too.

I haven’t quite decided what to do next year. It won’t be possible to walk past the tree and not take its picture, but I’m not sure if I’ll post them on Instagram (where, by the way, you can see almost every day’s photo from this year) and I think perhaps there should be something new here on the blog for 2015. But having amassed pictures from 2014, I’m quite keen to do it again and compare year-on-year. This, I strongly suspect, will be of far more interest to me than anyone else, and although I would one day like to be the sort of old dear who’ll tell you how late spring is this year, how the bluebells are early and how things were different in her day, I’m not quite ready to be that woman just yet.

Next month, I’ll do the January 2014 vs January 2015 post – just so we can see the full circle. I hope you’ve enjoyed the Tree Time posts, if anyone feels like doing something similar, I’d say don’t hesitate, ‘do it!’ You probably won’t learn what you thought you might, but I guarantee you’ll discover a lot of new things.

This and that…


I just seem to have too many plates spinning this week. Nothing special or particularly exciting, but you know how some days you’re busy all day and go to bed wondering what you’ve done with the time.

One thing I have done, is to finish the latest stitched tapestry. Well, when I say finish, I mean I’ve stitched it, but there is still all the stretching and coaxing into shape to do and then the mounting onto canvas – but that will have to wait for a few days. Here it is in its raw state…


At last we seem to be having proper autumnal weather and the colours are well and truly turning now.

We’ve just had our first frost.


Only mild, and most of it had steamed away by the time the Delinquent Dog and I got out, but still a change.

Then we had rain – heavy showers, but not nearly enough to make a difference to the garden.

And then the sun came out and we had marvellous rays through the trees. I took this picture on my phone (well actually I always do, not having a camera), but it still looks a little odd – ephemeral things sun-rays.


Right, back to the plates.

Have a lovely week/weekend!

Tree Time: September

In which we know it’s autumn…

IMAG4042 IMAG4234

Nothing quite like a blue sky for lifting the spirits...

IMAG4768 IMAG5702 IMAG5935 IMAG6886 IMAG7083 IMAG7524

Nine months of watching the changes to the oak tree on the lane. Above is a picture from each month of 2014, starting in January and ending with the picture I took this morning, showing how the tree – and the hedge – has changed over the weeks and months.

In August, although I felt that something was beginning to be different in the air, you still couldn’t really say that we’d moved into autumn, but now, despite afternoon temperatures on many days reaching summer levels, you certainly know at 8am in the mornings, that the earth has turned into the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…

The oak is changing colour now. There were hints of change last month, but they were difficult to pinpoint, the quality of light makes such a difference to what you can see each day. Now I can see the beginnings of a golding, as if someone has lightly sprayed antique gold paint across the leaves. But it’s still subtle, green continues to dominate.

But change is more obvious in the lane.

The lush growth of midsummer is dying down now. Bracken is tinged with brown as the first fronds die back. The cleavers that I thought would strangle the nettles have all but disappeared. And everywhere, the huge abundance of fruits is evident. The hedges are red with haws and hips, and sloes and blackberries hang heavy along the way.

Gradually I’m beginning to be able to see through the hedge again to the fields beyond, which until now have been hidden behind a curtain of tall, thick green foliage.

This month I’ve surprised a couple of pheasants and been mocked by dozens of squirrels – they obviously think that teasing the Delinquent Dog is a jolly good game. And is it me, or can I hear more birdsong now – it certainly seems so.

I haven’t quite had to resort to gloves and a scarf yet, but it didn’t feel far away today – I might get them out ready.

I post my daily photographs of the tree and other snaps from walking the Delinquent Dog on Instagram – either follow me there, or see the mini-versions on the right-hand sidebar of the blog for regular updates.










Tree Time: August

Shhhh! If we all keep very quiet, I might manage to write this before the teenage daughters materialise from their beds. I don’t generally find August compatible with blogging – we’re either out and about doing too much, or we’re in, but I can’t get anywhere near my computer for girls watching YouTube or playing fantasy games. So let’s be quick…

When August started, you could still make a fairly convincing argument for it still being summer. We had plenty of hot sunny days with a few gloriously blue skies off-setting the wonderful greens from the oak and the hedge in front of it.


But it wasn’t long before I felt there was quite a change to the air on the early morning walk. A tinge of coolness on the edge of the breeze that hadn’t been there before. Much of the hedgerow undergrowth has died back now and views are beginning to open up again through the gaps in the hedge.

By this morning, there really isn’t any doubt that we’re now at the beginning of autumn.


Thick dew on the field this morning. And berries appearing all along the lane.

IMAG7124 IMAG7151

There was a different quality to the light through the trees.


Autumn is my favourite season.

I’m not going to dwell too much on this, but this morning, I noticed how extremely glossy and gorgeous the holly bushes are at the moment – and how many berries they seem to be growing – isn’t there some country saying about the amount of berries and the harshness of the winter?…


Too soon to be thinking about that.


Sounds from upstairs – time to be off.

Enjoy the rest of the summer, back into the swing again very soon.

For more or less daily pictures of the oak and what’s happening on the lane, follow me on Instagram or watch the bar at the side of these posts.



Tree time: July…

Phew, we made it to the last day of term! Things are a bit behind around here, but I’ve just stolen a few minutes to write up the latest from my daily tree project, before I pour a large glass of something red and delicious and head to the sofa.

This was the oak at the beginning of July


As the weeks go by and the hedges fill outwards and upwards, it’s getting harder to see the tree behind the green screen.

And here it is today (July 23rd) – the bird box is now almost invisible behind all the growth.


Seven months in and the best thing for me about this whole project so far, is that I’ve gone from sort of noticing what was going on around me, to really being interested and looking out every day for changes in the hedges and trees along our route. I’ve become much more aware of what’s growing where and the developing leaves, flowers and now fruits too. I wish there was a pet naturalist handy to come along on the odd walk and tell me more about what I’m seeing, but I’m definitely learning a lot about the local plant and animal/bird life.

A while ago, I realised that I’m inevitably going to want to be able to compare what I’ve seen this year with what happens next year. At first I tried keeping a daily diary – on paper and then digitally, but I just don’t have the time to keep up that pace, so I thought I’d try to do a summary here once in a while.

So the highlights of July on our daily walk have been…

IMAG6720_BURST001Seeing the baby conkers start to form.


But being concerned that the horse-chestnut trees already seem to have gone into autumn mode – they’re all like this, is that normal or are they ill?


Ok, you’re probably wondering why I’ve put this picture here. Well, until mid-July the whole lane was a mess of huge, dangerous pot-holes (which it has had for as long as I’ve been walking this route) Then one morning two weeks ago, as the dog and I stood clear of a fast approaching Audi, we watched him hit a particularly big hole and blow out his front tyre. I stopped to talk to him and he said the council should sort out the road – oh yes, I thought, and pigs will be sprouting wings any day now, but just look what happened a week later!

Mind you, it was a very patchy job to say the least, as you can see by the amount of water still filling the holes after the mid-month thunderstorms…


Can you see the squashed traffic cone in the hedge – it used to mark the biggest hole. You’d still be foolish to drive, walk or cycle in those puddles.

Talking of rain, we’ve certainly had our share this month. The lane becomes a fast-flowing stream – which I love, but the dog hates…

IMAG6901 IMAG6897

The sky has been wonderful


But perhaps the best part of the month has been watching the fruits arrive in the hedgerow…


elderberries, not ready yet, but there will be plenty.




and blackberries, although there are still a lot of brambles in flower.


These thistles are nearly over now, but I loved their shape and texture.


The lane feels more like a tunnel now that the hedges are so high. This was the lane in February


And today.


I think I may have become a tiny bit obsessed with all this 🙂



Open gardens…

One of our local villages held it’s open gardens event at the weekend. They really couldn’t have asked for better weather, in fact for those of us walking around it was almost too hot. (Note to self: must buy a decent sun hat that doesn’t make me look like a cricket umpire or extra from a Poirot episode)

I didn’t take many photos because it was just too bright to see what I was doing in most of the gardens, but also because it felt rather impolite.

But there’s no doubt that a HUGE amount of work had been done, bringing the various gardens to a peak of perfection. A great variety in styles and planting on show too, from immaculate Japanese -style, to a mini-Hidcote, cottage garden to stumpery, all beautiful in their own ways.

I’d assumed when we went that I’d end up feeling inadequate about our own little space, but oddly enough I came home very happy because I know I don’t have what it takes to create the sort of garden we visited yesterday. I love seeing what other people have achieved, but it doesn’t inspire me to do the same.

It was a thoroughly lovely way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon, but I’m content that re-classifying our garden into a nature reserve was the right move for us. I’m much more of a potterer than a real gardener, although I do reserve the right to change my mind, who knows what might happen in years to come…

Tree Time: June…

So here we are, half way through the year. I must admit to being quite pleased with myself for sticking with my daily tree photo project, but the truth is that I’m enjoying doing it very much indeed.

When I started, it was the changes in the weather and the light that held my interest while the tree didn’t seem to be doing very much, but since then, I’ve become far more aware of all the other developments happening as the year progresses along our route. So this year I’ve watched all the wild flowers as they bloom, I’ve seen the hawthorn blossom turn the lane white, I’ve heard the first cuckoo of spring, I’ve been soaked to the knees wading through a sea of grass in the field after rain, and I’ve held onto the dog’s lead as the new tiny rabbits made their initial forays into the lane.

It will be midsummer in two days time and I think I can already feel another change in the air. There is so much growth, bracken and nettles tower over me in the hedges, I have to force my way into the place where I stand to take the tree photos, but all that energy can’t be sustained, it will soon be time for nature to rest.

I’m excited to see how the next six months unfold.

Happy Midsummer.

Hidcote Blues…


If all had gone to plan at the weekend, this post wouldn’t be here. Instead I’d have written about a visit to Chastleton House over at Mists of TIme (I’ve only been waiting about fifteen years to go to Chastleton, it had better be worth it when I finally get there!).

But on Sunday morning, after a week of rain and grey skies, the sun came out  as we  were driving westward and we made the executive decision to ditch Chastleton and head for Hidcote instead.

Which was such a good move, because it turned out to be the most perfect English summer’s day, and really, what better way to spend it than languidly wandering around one of the most beautiful and iconic gardens in the country (rather ironically the creation of an American).

I took about a zillion photos while we were there, but in honour of the famous lavender ‘Hidcote Blue’ (which I didn’t photograph at all…), here are just a few alternative blues spotted as we meandered through the seemingly endless secret gardens.

IMAG5976 IMAG6013 IMAG6032 IMAG6034 IMAG5998 IMAG6033 IMAG6067

For me, the experience felt like walking through an Impressionist painting. The dazzling variety of textures and jewel-like points of colour seep into your soul and I’m certain it’s not only gardeners who feel inspired by its treasures.

Hidcote Manor is tucked away in the countryside close to Chipping Camden and managed by the National Trust. It’s always beautiful, but just occasionally, when the Fates decide, it’s magical.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Tree time: May

Well I’ve been photographing the oak tree almost every day for five months now. So instead of showing you the pictures from mid April to mid May, I thought I’d show the mid month pictures from January until today…

Here goes

January 2014…


February 2014…IMAG4240

March 2014…

April 2014…


Today – May 21st 2014…


All the daily pictures are on my Instagram feed – the latest are over in the sidebar, but if you want to see them all just click on the pictures in the sidebar (then click on Dreaming in Stitches), the Instagram icon, or HERE.

I also post the daily pictures via Twitter, so feel free to follow me there if you prefer.  

Nearly half way through the year and at last the oak is dressed in all its green finery.