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.


Rainy evening in Shropshire


My dear little bedroom, where I spend so much time working and resting, has been Spring cleaned and tidied. This is my sanctuary, my safe place, where I am surrounded by everything I love and everything that interests me. 

At the bottom of the bed, I have added an old tool box, placed on its side, so that I can have a changing display of flowers or dried cuttings, to enjoy and study for future painting.

This evening the rain has been steadily moving across from Wales. The field was cut for silage two days ago and birds of all kinds have been gleaning titbits from it, including a skein of swallows, swooping low to collect flies and other delicious treats.

Today has been divided between painting for two of my Patrons and working on a needlefelt commission; it’s time to rest, so I am indulging in some light reading on one of my favourite historical subjects.


Painting the hedgerows

Mid-may and the verges are spattered with Queen Anne’s Lace and sundry other wild pretties, overlooked by copious clouds of foaming hawthorn, which we must not pick and never, ever bring into the house, for fear of bad luck.

Even the ancient, warty Wrekin is softened with the flush of new green growth.

I have aways loved the sight of a narrow country road cutting through the landscape and forging onwards to an invisible end, softly edged by tumbling greenery, blurring the hard edges so that the road, for all its visual dominance, never entirely wins. And here is my own tumbledown cottage, hiding behind the greenery. If you look carefully, further down the lane you can see the lilac tree by the gate of Jean-and-Brian-next-door, 

This is a motif that comes out in my own work again and again, as I reinterpret and simply the landscape around me, most recently in these miniature hills, an edition of two. It is also a firm control of the messy chaos of wool, taming the fibres into a solidly outlined  object.

And there is the contrast again, in this large still life I painted last Sunday, with the hard plaster wall being softened and almost overwhelmed by the exuberance of the paint, depicting Fumitory and Honesty spilling out and escaping the confines of the white ceramic jug.

Here is a return to my early painting days of thirty years ago. A letting go of control, a ‘let’s see what happens if I do this’ and being content with using just a few loose, broad brushstrokes to do the visual heavy lifting of the background.

I cannot express how exhilarated and exhausted I was, by the time I put my brush down and thought ‘that’s it’.


Resurfacing with flowers


Dusting off the dear old blog and decorating it with some pretty hedgerow flowers. I have completely lost track of time, and can’t believe I haven’t posted since February (apologies)  but I’m still here, lost in my quiet bubble of needle felting and painting. 

My new needle felt book is finally due to be published at the end of May and I’ve posted links for pre-orders on my website, including major worldwide sites. Although you can also order it through your local independent bookstore.

I’m so happy with every single one of the twenty patterns, which are mostly seasonal home decor and wearables, with additional decorative elements of darning, stitching and patching. It’s not so much a book about how to needle felt  as a book about what you can do with needle felting and how to expand the creative possibilities. 

This has taken nearly two years to come to fruition, as it was commissioned pre-Covid at the start of 2020. When I finally got the go-ahead, I worked non-stop for months, eventually making over 100 pieces of work for the style photos. I haven’t yet held an actual copy in my hands; only then will it seem real. 


In the lambing shed

My first little adventure of the year and a day away from the cottage, to the other side of Shropshire where Friend One had arranged for Friend Two, her little girl and myself to visit a local sheep farmer who was in the middle of lambing. It was a chilly, wet day with a  keen wind, but warmer in the shelter of the large hangar barn with the sweet scent of straw and wool scenting the air.

Not to mention the gentle bustle of dozens of sheep tending new born lambs, waiting to have lambs and ewes being jumped over (and sometimes on) by older lambs who had found their bouncing legs.

And of course, lambs copiously feeding from their ever patient mothers.

There was also a trio of orphaned lambs, being hand fed by the farmer who was on site all the time to look after his flock at this busy time of the year. Farming is a tough job and often gets a bad press, but this farmer dedicates his life to the welfare of his livestock, and it was very apparent from the way he cares for them. In fact, he almost persuaded me to adopt a friendly stray who followed us around like a little dog. I was a finger's width away from taking him home to keep the grass down, but came to my senses. Although I did decide he was called 'Henry'.

When we'd had our fill of woolly adorableness, we returned to Friend One's lovely house, where she provided us with a delightful lunch - lamb was not on the menu.