A New Year collection of writing celebrating the winter months.
Is anyone struggling with the cold damp weather? It’s so easy to feel dragged down by it and to trudge around with our heads down focusing only on placing one foot after the other; however if we stop to notice and observe – there are so many beautiful things around us in the natural world to notice.
This was the theme for a workshop that I ran in October with fellow writer Nicky Hutchison. Nicky creates and produces her own books which are beautifully hand-bound. We invited all workshop participants to submit their work for inclusion in a Winter Solace themed book as part of the NatureWrights online community involvement.
We are very proud of the result. Nicky will be making more of these publications to go on sale to the public soon!
Our resident artist Sharon Williamson did a really beautiful job of creating the art for the books. We are excited to run more workshops like this in the future 🙂
Autumn 2022 started with a visit to Scotland, sadly for a family funeral. The weather was bleak, wind and torrential rain when we arrived but by the end of the visit we were walking on the beach in sunshine watching the seals. My other half was channeling his Scottish ancestors with a beard and guernsey, not at all bothered by the storms.
As a family we have been weathering a few curve balls, sickness, bereavement, personal challenges. Hence why it has been quiet on here. I’m limping along with my research study and have some exciting developments with my nature writing freelance work (more to follow).
A much needed trip to the North East coast to see my best friend and her beautiful greyhounds was a moment of joy, a hoar frost had settled on the surrounding landscape, which brought an ethereal beauty to our walks.
Sending everyone well wishes for Christmas and New Year.
Before I set off for a half term adventure to Bath my friend lent me a little trug for tired little dachshund legs. A little beach trolley that we could pull our dog around in, should she decide to give up on walking. (Which is quite frequent.)
Let me explain, it’s not that she is ill, or arthritic …. we own a ‘cat’shund, a dog who thinks she is a cat. Unlike a normal dog that gets excited when you eagerly say ‘walkies’, our dog looks at you, rolls her eyes and raises a flippant paw, as if to say ‘no thanks, you go on dear, have a lovely time’ before readjusting her lounging position on the sofa.
So it was with trepidation that we set off on our city break, with my husband taking the gung ho attitude of ‘she’s a bloody dog! I am not pulling her round in a trolley!’.
Needless to say the last few days have been what we term ‘divide and conquer’, this used to be reserved for our two children, with a three year age gap. Now it’s teen activities / versus dog activities.
Finding dog friendly green spaces we discovered that Bath is one of the most beautiful and green cities that we have visited. Golden sandstone Georgian town houses, are gathered in terraced rows, proudly sitting against a vista of rolling hills and trees.
The streets are peppered with antique shops, bric a brac finds and quirky outlets, we are all coming home with a few vintage finds. After a ten mile walk on Tuesday, in which we strayed out of the city and found Prior Park (National Trust site), and then yesterday the Royal Victoria Park with its gorgeous botanical gardens, we thought the dog would have given up. However it turns out the sight of a squirrel can re-ignite some inner canine hunting instinct and spark a burst of energy big enough to put a race horse to shame.
She still had her moments though, which luckily for us meant a good excuse to frequent some gorgeous coffee shops and long lazy pub lunches. Her doleful eyes ensured lots of treats from cafe owners and even a carry from one of the teens. Especially after we stumbled across this smug pair:
A very dog friendly city, I highly recommend a visit. Not sure if the ‘cat’shund would agree, she is looking forward to getting back to her beloved sofa and blankets, but we will definitely be returning in the future.
I’ve been very quiet on here since summer, mainly due to a hectic schedule during September and over-committing myself to too many exciting opportunities, meaning my freelance work has had to take a back seat, while I have been getting my PhD and other commitments back on track. My day job at Converge (www.yorksj.ac.uk/converge) has just come through two years of external research on our project – with hugely exciting results, so it has been all go – celebrating the outcomes and future planning for our team.
As part of my work with York St John University I had the opportunity to go to London for a few days to network with our London Campus. We stayed in Canary Wharf, which I had never visited before. It felt such an alien landscape for someone who is so deeply connected to the natural world, I found it a surreal environment, you could have dropped me on Mars for the same effect!
I was however, both surprised and delighted to hear a bird of prey from the 10th floor of the hotel. It was also encouraging to see ecological work being done around all the concrete and steel. I saw a beautiful yellow wagtail on the Lilly pads at the campus ponds.
It was a brilliant reminder of how important the natural world is to me and to experience something so hugely different to my usual lifestyle.
On another note … for anyone looking to take comfort from the natural world with winter approaching, I am running a Winter Solace Writing workshop on the 30th of Oct. Details on my Events page here.
Meet my gorgeous Dachshund- she’s coming up nine years old later this year. She has just accompanied us on holiday to Cornwall and Devon.
Photos: Enjoying my sunnies, being miserable due to not getting to eat my pub chips, paddling at the beach and enjoying barking at every other dog within a five mile radius!! Chilling in the holiday cabin.
This beautiful and opportunistic racing pigeon dropped in on my allotment plot a few weeks ago when I was filling up the bird feeders. We noticed that he/she had a lot of twine tangled round one foot, and as they were very friendly – managed to get hold of him/her to remove it.
It’s not the first time we’ve helped a racing pigeon. Last year one arrived on our doorstep and took shelter. I had a very excited phone call at work from my children, explaining that they had put it in the the cat carrier to protect it and had given it some food. They dutifully let it rest for the day and then released it from the back yard in the evening. Much whooping and delight was had at the thought of our good deed. The only thing was….. when I left the house the next morning it was back on the door step! When I ignored him, he flew round to the back of the house and started tapping on the kitchen window with his beak. This went on for a few days until he finally gave up and hopefully flew home.
A lot of people are disgusted by pigeons, I’ve heard the term ‘flying rat’ on a number of occasions. I find it ironic that the only thing that makes pigeons so unclean is the dirt that we create in our cities. Many are grimy because they are surviving from our waste. They often have manky feet because their toes get tangled up in human hair and debris from our products.
Pigeons are amazingly intelligent and were celebrated during the war for their efforts in delivering messages. In York we have a string foot pigeon rescue group who de-string the city pigeons feet and make sure our pigeons are well fed and cared for. When you start really looking at them and forget all the narratives you have been fed, they are really quite beautiful colours and patterns. Also – there is little difference between a pigeon and a dove – only the colour of the feathers. Isn’t it funny that feral pigeons are shooed away and doves are upheld as symbols of peace and love. I often use them as an example when teaching nature writing and philosophy – sometimes it’s good to examine a story from many angles and also our own truths within that story.
It was the sight of the tree canopy at night that most surprised me most when I went wild camping in the woods last Friday.
The camp had been booked with an instructor as a birthday treat for my 14 year old son and a couple of his friends. My husband was meant to be the ‘designated’ second adult to join the sleep over, but at the last minute fell ill with a stinking cold. So I got to go! Although of course – disappointed for my husband, I was delighted to have the opportunity to camp outdoors.
With no rain predicted we pitched our hammocks in a small clearing amongst Corsican Pine trees and decided not to bother with tarps over head.
The wood was eerily still at night, not creepy though, but quietly beautiful. I felt safe wrapped up in a sleeping bag cocoon and protected by the wood. The cool night breeze washed over my face and my body was warm and snug in thermals and eider down coziness.
It didn’t get pitch black, instead a white glow shone through the canopy, which looked like an ink blot painting against the sky.
I lay listening to sheep bleating in a distant field, the occasional ruffles of a startled pheasant and the shivering of the wind through the pine needles. At 4am the wood woke up with a cacophony of sound. The little chiff chaff merrily punctuating the air ‘wake up, wake up, wake up’ against an assortment of other bird calls.
When I say it was a ‘sleep over’ in the woods, not much sleep happened, but it was a wonderful experience to be immersed in the natural world overnight, to have the scent of woodsmoke on my skin and a warm mug of tea cupped in my hands at 6am.
For anyone interested in a wild camping experience we went with Forest Quest who I can not recommend highly enough.
A week on the Scottish Coast. Each day filled with sea air, beach combing and woodland walks. We were lucky enough to find some plant fossils in the shale rocks.
Much needed time for writing and creativity after a busy couple of months. Looking forward to delivering more nature based creative writing courses over the next few weeks including a nature writing poetry master class and a woodland inspired four week writing course which I am planning for June / July.
I always love returning to the home comforts of Base Camp and my gorgeous cats! I think they enjoyed having the house to themselves for a week, although we have been getting lots of cuddles .