The fragrance of spring is already in the air,
subtle yet sure.
January passed in a fit of gales, rain, and sleet with a rare moment of stillness. I have moved between resting and weaving – that delicate balance that is needed when creating something from the heart.
February will see the birth of the Magical Kinship, a Social Enterprise project that offers an invitation to rekindle and foster a deeper connection with nature. I’m co-creating this with Fen, and it feels like all roads I’ve travelled along have been leading me to this one.
Winter has been extremely wet, windy, cold and damp in my part of the shire, and yet unnaturally warm at times. For most of this period, life has slumbered along beneath a suffocating blanket of grey. I’ve been tuning into my inner light in order to thrive, and when the sun is allowed to shine, I bathe in those nurturing rays.
The elements have been harsh through these long, dark days (a reflection of mainstream consciousness, perhaps?), but winter has its own song, and I’m reminded of these words by this pure poetic soul…
“It is a pleasure to a real lover of Nature to give winter all the glory he can,
for summer will make its own way, and speak its own praises.”
– Dorothy Wordsworth
Short journeys here and there and quiet moments spent in nature have proved uplifting and essential. Each one has brought a magical moment – the little owl posing for a photograph, a white horse standing proud beside an ancient oak, murmurations of starlings and lapwings, numerous hares crossing our path at dusk, rain-jewelled tree branches glistening in winter’s light…
I’ve continued to dance and write and sketch, and I’ve been singing, too, in a flurry of fearless and spontaneous creativity. This brings me joy.
The fragrance of spring is already in the air, subtle yet sure. The birds are more vocal. There are buds filling out on branches and green shoots emerging from still wet soil, and yet some flowers never stopped blossoming over this strange winter.
As I write, on this first day of February, the sky has cleared. I throw open the window, to let those rare rays enliven my spirit, and breathe. Life is beautiful.
One of the highlights of 2017 was having the opportunity to try out ‘glamping’. I was on my way to the Weleda Open Day in Derbyshire with Fen and we needed somewhere to stay. Through a curious string of synchronicity, I discovered Nether Farm near Ashbourne and they happened to have one of their three glamping roundhouses available. I always take special note of synchronicity and booked immediately. It felt like it was meant to be.
Before the visit, I viewed the photos of the roundhouse, which suggested that we were in for a luxurious glamping experience. This would be very different to days long ago, where a type of glamping involved spending a summer night with friends in a hay-barn or family caravan holidays in the Norfolk Broads.
Upon arrival, Nether Farm’s Pam Brown greeted us and showed us to ‘the round’. I had that fluttery excited feeling that comes with being in a space that is rather special. It felt as though this roundhouse had been built with a lot of love, care and attention to detail. And it truly was luxurious with all mod-cons, beautifully designed and furnished, and had everything we could possibly need.
Sensitively crafted and positioned, the roundhouse offered views of the quiet rolling green of the Henmore Brook countryside. With plenty of natural light in the roundhouse and a spectacular circular window in the dome for star-gazing, I felt close to nature while being in complete comfort.
During our brief stay at Nether Farm, it occurred to me that I could easily live in a roundhouse such as this. It’s surprisingly spacious and has all the comforts of home. It’s built with ecology and sustainability in mind, and has a special energy. It feels like a pure space, a healthy one, and certainly good for well-being. Why can’t we have roundhouses for our homes?
A few months on, and I have been fortunate to connect with the wonderful Gemma Roe of Rotunda Roundhouses, the Spatial Designer who is at the heart of these stunning roundhouses – at Nether Farm and in many other locations on these fair lands and overseas.
I recently interviewed Gemma for Happiful.com and discovered her inspiring vision for the future of natural and sustainable housing and community. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have the option of being able to live in a space such as this.
My wish to live in a roundhouse appears to be something I share with my maternal granddad. Apparently, he had always wanted to live in a lighthouse or windmill. Perhaps he knew a thing or two about the special qualities of the round.
If you have the opportunity, book a break at Nether Farm to experience the roundhouse for yourself. Maybe you’ll become a roundie enthusiast, too.
As we burrow deeper into winter, make time for yourself with issue 10 of the inspirational and soul nurturing Breathe magazine.
I have two features in this issue: Remains of the Day (beautifully illustrated by Sara Thielker) which is all about evening rituals, and Best Foot Forward, which gives insights for keeping your feet healthy through these cold months.
This issue is out now and available from all good newsagents and stores or can be ordered direct from breathemagazine.co.uk. Enjoy!
For a while, and with joyful heart,
I was cut loose from time.
I never tire of visiting the Lake District. This enigmatic landscape of lakes and fells and ever-changing moods was the setting for my first novel. Although the characters of this story still greet me each time I return, there is another story here – one of secrets and longing and love – that keeps me intrigued in such a way that I have to resist the temptation to stop everything else and take up the pen to write.
On Tuesday 12th December, I returned to Dove Cottage in Grasmere, former home of the Wordsworth family, and now a magnet for all inspired by the romantics of poetry and art born out of that vital period in the early 1800s.
Photo: Wordsworth Trust
A small group, including Fen, my mother and myself, sat by the fire in Dove Cottage to listen to Sophie Verbeke’s fascinating talk about the commonplace book (also known as scrapbooks) and how the Wordsworth family used these to store ideas, news, sketches and insights.
For a while, and with joyful heart, I was cut loose from time. Little has changed here. The presence of Dorothy and William – even Coleridge – and other wild romantics from yesteryear seemed to fill the room, which was heady with fire-smoke and candle-light.
Photo: Wordsworth Trust
After the talk, we enjoyed tea and toasted crumpets from the cottage kitchen while, outside, a gentle flurry of snowflakes fell without touching the sacred earth.
Each time I find myself here, no matter how many years between, I find a presence within my heart that is timeless. It is deeply rooted: a home-coming of sorts, and I know that I have unfinished work here.
It’s the story of land and water,
of nature in its pure wildness,
that will endure.
It’s been a crazy sort of year. My beautiful dad passed over to the eternal summerlands late July. I moved home twice. I’ve been here, there, and everywhere… sometimes without even flexing a muscle. I’ve written thousands of words for lovely people and magazines, and time has surged like a storm-kissed river, carrying me away and away. It felt appropriate to retreat for a few days before the year fizzled out, to find some stillness, and where better than on the timeless shores of Loch Lomond.
After a journey of four hours, Fen and I find ourselves at the stunning holiday lodge by the water, and it feels like we’ve entered a magical realm far removed from the world’s weary chaos.
My heart fills with gratitude for such a treasured spot. It’s so peaceful and the only sound is bird song and whispers from water and air.
It occurs to me that it’s over 6 years since my last visit to Loch Lomond, but it’s as if no time has passed at all. On my previous visit, I was in experiential research for my next novel – yes, the one that has still to be completed! I realise that much has happened since then… joys and sadness; beginnings and endings; life.
Being back here, I consider whether it will reignite my passion for writing this particular novel, but conclude that the fire of it has never left me. As dramatic as it sounds, my debut novel, Light Weaver, took more from me than I’ve probably ever shared. It took my time and the roof over my head, and I’ve been navigating the aftermath of that experience. Although I made a start on this Scottish based novel, the business of living has stolen the hours needed to continue.
I may write more fiction at some point, but other writing and projects inspire and feed me better right now, and I’m joyful and at peace with where I am. Being here again brings me to this sense of clarity.
So here, in November’s embrace, I meditate on the ever-changing light. I sing and dance. I sit by the water listening to its secrets. I let memories surface – memories of my dad, my earth family and friends, and of the wonderful moments forever being created with Fen. I allow my eyes to fill and my heart to overflow. But mostly, I’m present – absolutely present – aware of the gift of this precious space in nature.
I watch the birds on the water… a swan family, little grebe, red-breasted merganser, gulls; and the birds on the land… robin, wren, blackbird, crow. Like the birds, I’m on the edge between this place and another, and this is where I love to be.
Loch Lomond, the largest inland stretch of fresh water in Great Britain, once known as Lake of the Elms, is jewelled with more than 30 islands, including one that has a colony of wallabies! Munros and rocky peaks, green glens and woodland, surround the loch, becoming more or less – depending upon the mist and light.
There are stories here, for sure… of people that have been before and will arrive long after I’ve gone, but it’s the story of land and water, of nature in its pure wildness, that will endure.
I know that I will leave this otherworldly realm on the shores of Loch Lomond without really leaving at all, feeling richer and stronger and more vital for having spent time well within its healing embrace. Here on these bonnie banks, I am restored, and ready to continue my journey.
Travelling through West Lancashire late afternoon, I happened to be in the right place at the right time to capture one of the most beautiful and hypnotic sights in nature… a murmuration of starlings.
It’s not the first murmuration I’ve seen, but it’s possibly the largest. This isn’t surprising as I was on a country lane close to WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre, where some 50,000 starlings are currently roosting this autumn. It’s the largest number of starlings the Centre has ever seen.
The dance of the starlings begins around 4 pm, just before dusk, when the birds return to their roost. They give an aerial display that is enigmatic and unforgettable. This lasts for approximately 20 minutes before they land in the reed beds and settle for the night.
One is left wondering how and why. How do they fly together in vast numbers so flawlessly? Why do they do it? I love to think that they fly the way they do for pure joy, but there are possibly practical reasons, too. Flying and swooping as a flock might make it difficult for falcon predators to target one bird, and the energetic flight might help to generate warmth for the flock before their long night’s roost. But who knows for sure? The birds, no doubt.
Nature is full of magic and mystery, and this is just one of many marvels that is always a joy to see.
This place will always be full
of beginnings and endings for me,
and traces of old and untold stories.
A visit to Cumbria is a treat and especially in-between seasons. Trees and hedgerows begin to show their autumn tints in the late summer sun while swallows swoop and soar, testing their wings in readiness to fly south.
Despite the afternoon heat, the light gives way to cooler evenings, and there’s anticipation in the air of something unfathomable.
Returning to the Lake District and, in particular, South Lakes brings a sense of home-coming. As soon as the Lakeland fells come into view, my spirits lift and I feel a resurgence of energy, story, magic, life.
This is Light Weaver country. This is where I met the characters in my first novel. This is where something extraordinary seized my imagination while liberating my soul.
A richly-coloured, undulating quilt of fells, pastures, crags, lakes, shores, rivers, forests and hideaways is woven with the fabric of human, animal and other seen and unseen life.
The ever-changing light makes more or less of what is here and simply intensifies the transience of each moment.
This place will always be full of beginnings and endings for me, and traces of old and untold stories. I’m entwined with this landscape for reasons that partly remain a mystery, and this is why I keep returning with a happy heart filled with sparks of possibility.