Shropshire snow

I ventured out for a short walk this morning, as although the snow was falling it is due to rain later and as I write, there is a steady, wet spattering as it slowly melts and drips from the cottage roof. So off up the hill I went, with my camera. 

It isn't unheard of to get snow in March but it is odd to see the cheery yellow daffodil heads bent under the weight of their new white bonnets and the surrounding farmland resembling a Christmas scene.

I only noticed the other day that the trees and hedgerows were just - barely - starting to acquire the warmer flush of colour that precedes new shoots and growth, however today they were stark silhouettes, with not a hint of Spring about them.

I walked up to my usual gate, exchanging a cheery wave and hello with a father and his two children, who were playing with a sled. There was no sign of the Wrekin, which is usually plain in sight here.

Feeling a little damp and chilled, I headed home, with the  comforting sight of my little cottage waiting for me and the prospect of another day of working in the warmth of my bed. 


Little cottage room made good


For the first time since moving into the cottage over ten years ago, I have a functioning front room. There are many reasons why it has remained a 'zombie' room, mostly due to my being overwhelmed by the sheer muddle of it all (one of the many symptoms of my ADHD) and needing to get the wood burner swept. It has only been briefly lit once, when Andy was alive and has been unused ever since.

However, with a very small electric budget and the ongoing issue of rising bills, I decided to leave my upstairs studio storage heater off this winter, with the result that I've been unable to work in there without catching a chill (even with several layers of clothing and a dressing gown on top). And I can't afford not to work.

So last month I used some Christmas money to get the sweep in. He declared the fire fit for purpose and Brian-next-door helped me put a rudimentary curtain rail over the open doorway, to block the cold upstairs air off. I finally got this neglected space sorted out; I now have dedicated painting and printing space, and a place where I can work in the warm with the fire going. 

It's made a huge difference, as I can pick things up and put them down without losing sight of them, as happened with the other space, where my work table had several roles, and had to be cleared for each one.  Life is slowly starting to make sense and ideas are beginning to return. Little bits of my brain, the ones that dreamed of silly, whimsical things, are waking up again and the results are finding their way onto paper.

My aim is to expand what I do, on top of needle felting and bring in enough extra money to cover the mortgage and be able to stay here. It's been a long struggle to maintain things and at times hasn't seemed worth it, without Andy to share it with.

My drive to be an artist and to earn a living creating has seen me through tougher times than this. As a young person in the care system, trying to fend for myself, my ambition to be an artist saved me from many pitfalls; nothing else mattered apart from that one thing that drove me forward and to make a better life for myself. In retrospect, I'm amazed I achieved what I did, especially now I know I had undiagnosed ADHD on top of everything else. 

If I'd known how long and hard my journey would be, I might have given up, but I didn't, so I'm not about to throw the towel in now, not without a final effort. I owe it to my younger self.

(The ceramic cat in front of the fire is one I made when I was a 20 year old art student and it looks totally at home underneath the warmth). 


New Year Return

The first day of a shiny New Year seems as good a time as any to crank this old blog back to some kind of wheezing life. The Old Year was a difficult one, particularly in the autumn, when I sank into one of the worst bouts of depression I’ve endured for years, largely down to the looming prospect of having to sell the cottage and face an uncertain future. However, I managed to drag myself out of it and am starting 2023 feeling remarkably positive, despite everything. 

After a creative slump, when I felt as if I’d never create anything original and pleasing again, I began making a new range of little creatures who have cheered me up during the dark winter evenings and are proving popular, quickly finding new homes and so helping me to stay in mine.

I tend to withdraw into myself when things are going downhill, hence the quietness here. When Andy and I relocated to Shropshire over ten years ago, it was supposed to be the next exciting chapter of our lives together and as many of you know, it was completely the opposite. The trauma of losing 
him, just three months after we moved into the cottage has taken it’s toll and I don’t think I’ll ever recover from it. What I didn’t know then, was that I was also starting the menopause, which brings its own set of difficulties, especially, in my case, mental health ones. I was also unaware that I have severe ADHD. I was finally diagnosed in May last year. It didn’t come as a surprise, but it has led me to reevaluate the way I live and to realise that all of these things made my time here the most difficult period of my life, which has not been the easiest in the first place.

I’ve no idea what the next ten years hold, if I’ll be here this time next year or even this summer. I am, however, feeling stronger somehow and more like my old self than I have done since leaving the Cotswolds. I’m older, more tired and achey, but I’ve managed to find a little nugget of courage kicking around in a corner, just when I thought I was all out of it.


Cuttings from a garden in Wales

Last month Jean-and-Brian-next-door invited me out for an afternoon of sight seeing, namely Glansevern Hall and Gardens, over the Shropshire/Wales border near Welshpool. As long term readers know, I can’t get out and about, due to the complete lack of public transport here, so I have barely explored the area I’ve been living in for over ten years; the offer for a trip to somewhere new was very welcome.

On the day we went there was a voluntary payment system rather than a ‘pay on the gate’ entrance fee.

It’s a rambling, overgrown wild beauty of a garden, bursting out over grassy pathways and only loosely tamed to some semblance of formality. Let’s follow my neighbours down the veg and herb patch and have a wander. 


Through the walled gardens…

 …past the little orangerie…

…down ‘Wisteria Walk’ towards the classical fountain…

…discovering a fairy folly…

…and a handy bench by a fallen beech, where I rested my arthritic knees, while Jean and Brian took a brief detour to visit a nearby bird hide and came back filled with delight at having seen a kingfisher.

Leaving the main gardens, we headed towards the side of ‘the big house’ (which I thought was relatively modest by Georgian standards).

Coming round to the frontage and a drive large enough for a few carriages.

Directly in front  of the house, there is an area of clipped neatness, with the lush, rolling Welsh landscape in the background and tumbling, moody skies overhead. But even here, the planting has been allowed to spread and spill along the edges.

On to the final adventure, a long walk around the lake, with a tantalising trellised canopy decorating the centre; a delicate confection of a frame under which it would be wonderful to sit and have afternoon tea, with tiny colourful cakes and hot tea in porcelain cups.

Dear little lichen covered stone benches for just sitting and looking.

Although it was overcast,  it was one of those muggy, still summer days, and the lake was perfectly still. The Chinese bridge is much steeper than it looks and I almost came a cropper, but I took it very slowly and my dignity remained intact.

Coming up around the side of the house, and onto the original drive, lined with lovely topiary balls (and as you know, I do love a bit of topiary).

Although I found the main house to be too austere for my liking, I was very taken with the humbler red brick out buildings and could imagine myself living there quite contentedly. (Jean and I debated for some time as to whether the fan tail doves on the wall were real or not. I decided the matter by taking a zoom shot - what do you think?)

I think we pottered about for around three hours and had a thoroughly lovely time. My head was filled with images of a joyous riot of plants, a mirror lake and tangled woods, with the looming block of the house sat squarely in the centre, keeping watchful window eyes on the wild rowdiness surrounding it.

(If you are one of my lovely £3 month blog extra Patreon subscribers, you can read about our visit on the return journey to a special little church in the Welsh mountains with a chequered and ancient history here).


Decorative Needle Felting


It’s been a while and in that time my book ‘Decorative Needle Felting Projects’ has not only been published in the U.K. but is now available in the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Europe, Japan…I’ve popped some live links on my website here, but you can easily find it in your country of choice by pasting the ISBN number 9781399000307 into a search engine and seeing what comes up. And it’s always great if you can support a local independent bookshop, rather than the usual Big Place. If you don’t follow me on Instagram where I’ve been posting images for a while, then here are a few hints of what to expect. (If you already subscribe to my weekly updated Patreon blog for behind-the-scenes content, then thank you; you’ve been there since the early making days and sharing the dark winter nights in bed as I frantically made little geese with cold fingers).

There’s a mix of wearable designs, from a fox bangle to a sleepy squirrel brooch, with a range of decorative projects.

A front section on techniques, including darning onto felt, patching and adding beads.

Four seasonal sections each containing five lovely patterns, with some stand out Christmas projects including a gingerbread village and a ‘Marvellous Mr Hare’ tree topper - this is one for the dedicated needle felter. 

Generally though, I’ve designed many of the projects to be small scale and easily made in a short amount of time, so that anyone new to needle felting can dive in and create something little and sweet in one session. And for the adventurous, there is the option to upscale and develop your own take on designs.

One of the nice things about having a book published is the opportunity for a dedication to someone special. Initially, back in pre-Covid 2020, that was going to be Joe. (Remember him? Me neither). That leaky ship mercifully sailed long before publication, and I was able to dedicate it to the people who have been the most supportive, through everything I’ve catalogued here, there and elsewhere. That’s you, reading this. 

I almost forgot to add - I was interviewed for our local BBC radio Shropshire last month, to talk about needle felting and the new book - you can find the episode here, on BBC Sounds. I start at 2.08 into the programme, coming in after Bonnie Tyler. It’s only available until the 26th August (2022) so apologies to any historic readers finding this in the future.