The Future is Round

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.

 

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Revisiting Dove Cottage

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.

Thank you to all at Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Trust for this inspiring event.

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On the Shores of Loch Lomond

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.

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The Dance of the Starlings

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.

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To Autumn in South Lakes

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.

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Evening Scenes

A barn owl quarters the spent earth
while a field mouse scurries for cover.

As summer surrenders to the wild atmospherics of autumn, nature prepares for its seasonal transition.

Travelling back to base-camp one evening across the Cheshire and Lancashire plains, it’s clear that the nights are quickly drawing in.

There is something spell-binding about the fast-fading light, which creates a transient palette of colour and hues.

Smoke grey clouds streak the sky, remnants of earlier sharp showers, and the landscape begins its routine merger with the night.

Upon reaching the west coast, a burning pink and orange tinted ribbon is all that remains of the sunset, but the grey cloud blooms have cleared to leave the most magnificent blue sky made richer, perhaps, by the energy of recent solar flares.

Moths begin to storm the road over the moss. A barn owl quarters the spent earth while a field mouse scurries for cover.

These evening scenes, though fleeting, remain with me long after the day’s journey ends. What simple nourishment for the soul.

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Exploring Halsall Village

With summer coming to its close,
there was a moment of peaceful reflection.

We often find ourselves passing through the pretty West Lancashire village of Halsall en-route to somewhere else. On this occasion, we decided to stop for a while to enjoy a leisurely wander.

Surrounded by low-lying mosslands, which stretch out west to Ainsdale and Formby sands, the parish of Halsall, with a population just under 2,000, stands on a slight rocky ridge close to the ancient market town of Ormskirk.

At the heart of the village is St. Cuthbert’s church, a designated 1 listed building, dating from the 14th century.

The church is situated amidst beautiful trees and lovingly cared for gardens. In the church yard, there are grave slabs from the Middle Ages and there is even a gravestone for a Mr James Bond.

On the day of our visit, we were drawn to nature’s abundance. Damselflies sunbathed and birds sang from the branches of all the beautiful trees here. The light was so beautiful. The hydrangeas glowed, and so did we.

If you find yourself in Halsall, look out for the sculpture by Thompson Dagnall, which marks the commencement of the Leeds and Liverpool canal. You’ll find this near the bridge at Saracen’s Head. If you’re ever passing through the village in June, you might be lucky enough to see the annual scarecrow festival. A must see!

With summer coming to its close, there was a moment of peaceful reflection.

After time spent well beneath a rare blue sky, we journeyed on across Halsall Moss looking for the phantom hitchhiker who has been known to haunt these lonely roads. We didn’t see him on this occasion, but perhaps we’ll meet him on our return. In Halsall, we have the feeling that anything is possible.

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Walks in West Lancashire

Nature endures. Nature always finds its way.

As summer reached its height, we took a stroll along the West Lancashire and Sefton section of the Cheshire Lines path. Forming part of the Trans Pennine Trail, this 346km coast-to-coast route, which was once a railway line, runs from Southport to Hornsea.

It is in these fields and woods, an ever changing patchwork divided by the silvery threads of rivers and brooks, where we’ve seen owls, hares, and deer.

On this occasion, as we stood on the bridge of Downholland brook, a grey heron made an appearance along with the stealth sky pilots that are swallows, swifts and martins. Although they were going about their daily rituals, feasting on late summer’s offerings, we were treated to an avian air show like no other.

The riverbank was sweetly covered with clover and a myriad of grasses, plants and wildflowers. A common blue butterfly – a female – flitted around us before settling in the abundant green.

There is an uneasy chill on the breeze. We see how humans attempt to tame and master the land and elements, yet nature overcomes. Nature endures. Nature always finds its way. 🌿

I’m sure we’ll be back here before long, and perhaps we’ll explore the route by bicycle. That will certainly please Fen.

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Birkrigg Stone Circle

There is something about Birkrigg stone circle, situated on a hillside south of Ulverston, that never fails to captivate me.

The incredible views from the elevated common overlooking Morecambe Bay certainly makes this site so special, but there is an energy here that is tangible and full of mystery. I can’t help but wonder what has taken place on this common in far-off days. 

We first visited this circle with lovely friends one winter not so long ago and returned early this month on a breezy late summer’s afternoon.

Birkrigg stone circle, also known as The Druid’s Circle, has two concentric stone rings. Apparently, there are only around 30 such circles in the UK and nothing else like this in Cumbria.

The inner circle consists of 10 stones and the outer circle has about 15 stones, although some are obscured by grass and bracken. It is also said that there are several bronze age tumuli on the common although we haven’t explored these yet.  Perhaps we will on our next visit.

Having visited quite a number of stone circles over the years, Birkrigg leaves a lasting impression. Time stands still here and I always have a distinct feeling that we’re not alone.

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Light Weaver and Future Stories

When Light Weaver, my debut novel, was published in 2012, I had no idea how this book would resonate with all the lovely people who chose to read Tom and Cali’s extraordinary story.

My partner, Fen, was the first to read Light Weaver and was so enthralled that he asked me if he could publish the book. At the time, I had just started to make initial enquiries with literary agents and publishers, and with favourable responses, but independent publishing appealed to my ‘let’s do it now’ outlook. By taking this route, and accepting Fen’s generous offer to take care of all the commissioning of editors and designers, typesetting, lay-out, printing and all the publishing admin, it meant that the book would find its way into the world much quicker than taking the more conventional publishing route. I was fixated about getting the book out in 2012, and so Fen took the project on board and made it happen.

If you have discovered a print copy of Light Weaver you will see the love and care that Fen put into transforming my manuscript into the final book. He did a magnificent job, and I’m very grateful.

Slowly slowly, Light Weaver began to find its readers. This hasn’t been an easy route partly because the novel doesn’t fit snug into a particular book genre. Some have described it as visionary or metaphysical fiction, some refer to it as fantasy / sci-fi set in a familiar place (the Lake District), and some refer to it as a nature-inspired love story with an extra dimensional twist. These are all valid descriptions, but it doesn’t make it easy to place the title on a book store’s shelf. To me, it’s all about the story and I love nothing better than finding something extraordinary in the ordinary (and vice versa) to share with my readers.

Back in 2012, I had hoped to start making progress on the next novel. I have so many stories (and curious characters) inhabiting my imagination, and they need to find their way on to the page. Was it John Lennon who said, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans? I did start writing and researching, but I’ve been caught up with life’s funny twists and turns and pre-occupations. This leads me to another pertinent quote courtesy of Virginia Woolf: A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. (Of course, this applies to men, too.) In this instance, money equates to freedom, and freedom is what I value greatly, but the stories won’t leave me alone. They rattle their cage bars and keep me awake at night. They swim in the pool of my thoughts whenever I’m adrift from the moment.

Although Fen invested in bringing Light Weaver into the book world, publishing and marketing books is not his life’s venture. He is busy with his own creative projects. If I am to bring new stories into the world, I will need to find a publisher I can co-create with… a publisher who is listening to my slowly growing readership and understands what they want.

Right now, I am joyfully busy writing inspiring features and content for magazines and clients, but I am open to the possibility of bringing new stories into the world. There is one story – set in Scotland – that is weaving its threads through me, and which I would like to complete and publish before the fires go out. Not a week goes by without readers asking me if I have another novel available or even a Light Weaver sequel. This is telling me something, but are there any publishers or literary agents taking note and willing to take a chance on me? If so, let’s talk.

Way always leads to way. While there is light within me, there is a spark of a story waiting for the dawn. I hope I’ll be able to share more curious tales before my tour of earth is done.

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