Easter break….

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 .

The Iron Coast…

‘For when the sea is calm [says Camden], the waters at Skengrave being spread as it were into a plain, a hideous groaning is often heard in these parts, on a sudden, and then the fishermen are afraid of the sea. They believe the ocean to be a huge monster which is then hungry and eager to glut itself with the bodies of men.’

Folklore attached to Skinningrove – taken from The Iron Coast by Jane Gardam

Bright skies greeted us driving over the North York Moors to go to the coast today. I met with my best friend on the beach at Skinningrove. A little known place with a huge stretch of sand. Steeped in history Skinningrove is a Viking name – which meant Skinners grove or pit.

At one time Skinningrove was home to a large iron works which opened in 1848. Today you can find remnants of the iron industry along the coast line.

I love the raw beauty of this coastline. The Cleveland Way coastal path runs through Skinningrove which is situated between Saltburn and Staithes, the cliffs above Skinningrove are breathtaking and pass by abandoned Alum Works where huge pits of land have been carved from the cliff. Now filled with bracken and heather they are both eery and beautiful at the same time.

I would take this coastline over any other, any day. For anyone interested in the North East Coast I highly recommend The Iron Coast by Jane Gardam which captures the visceral essence and history of the area, illustrated with black and white photographs taken by Peter Burton and Harland Waltham.

Mini Adventure: The Sumptuous Dyls Cafe in York

I can not encourage you enough to visit the gorgeous Dyls Cafe in York. Saturated in beautiful colours and a range of art work and graphics it’s a visual feast.

Based in a small tower that held the motor for moving Skeldergate Bridge in York, the cafe now has a fairy tale quality. Plants trail from windows, you follow a tight winding staircase to each floor, the top floor is a tiny round room at the top of the tower, it feels like you have been transported to another time.

I love the quirky style and humour of the decor. It’s a little adventure just spending time soaking up the atmosphere. I don’t get to go that often, but I have to say it’s my favourite cafe in York based on the interior and setting – great coffee and food too!!

Contrasts …

The crisp winter days are capturing my attention. Mid afternoon sun falling through the woodland paths where we walk our Dachshund (when she is in the mood for walking).

Long shadows fall across the paths. I’m waiting for the first signs of Spring, snowdrops and bulbs pushing through the frozen ground. The starlings are gathering in the trees at the back of our house. All the woodland paths are punctuated by a chatter of bird song.

A sense of movement and change is in the air, each day a new beginning.

Happy New Year!

We welcomed the New Year with a walk along Hunmanby Gap beach today. A few brave folks were having a New Year’s day dip in the Sea. Strolling along the sand, listening to the waves rolling in and feeling the wind on my face was enough for me.

I would love to claim credit for making pebble pictures of 2022 and a spiral, but we found these along our walk. Today’s adventure was a treat for our Dachshund who doesn’t care for walking much, but does adore the beach. It’s so cute to see her giddy with excitement on the sand.

I was thinking about New Years Resolutions as we walked. Mine this year is to keep on keeping on. Writing is a lengthy process, it’s too easy to give up. I’m going to press on with writing daily and forging ahead with my PhD. The process is as important as the end product. Over the last 7 years I have gradually phased more art and creative writing into my life, I’m looking forward to devoting more time and attention to writing and creativity during 2022.

Happy New Year!

I wish all the best for everyone for 2022!

Taking a leap of faith…

In indigenous cultures nature is full of meaning and symbolism. We can learn from this and follow our own intuition using nature as a guide. Using nature for reflection is a useful tool.

Recently on my allotment we found a very docile grasshopper. We were able to get close up and inspect him / her and the wonderful markings.

As is usual for me, I became intrigued with grasshoppers and crickets (and the differences between them) if you want to know more follow this link. It certainly gave me plenty of inspiration for my field notes.

Whilst researching I also came across a fun page on animal totems and spiritual connections. Apparently if you encounter a cricket you can expect good fortune and you should decide whether to take a leap of faith. It is also representative of finding your true voice.

Having spent some wonderful days delving into books, writing poetry and working on prose for my PhD recently, I will take this as a sign that I am on the right track!

Find of the week… The Mint Moth

I was actually looking for frogs (for the children to inspect), when I stumbled over two of these stunning moths resting on the oregano in the allotment herb border.

About the size of a five pence piece , they are absolutely beautiful. Wings the colour of red velvet cake with lemon yellow splashes. The tips of the wings fading to light feathers.

I love the contrast of colours against the gem green of the plant. Just beautiful ❤️

My daughter and I made moth inspired paintings after seeing them. It really helped me to appreciate the fine markings, I especially love the zebra stripes running across the main body.

Moths and butterflies are definitely the fashionistas of the natural world. Always such amazing patterns and colours.

Discovery of the week: Mysterious Toadstone Amulets

This week I was delighted when my daughter found a baby toad under a patch of grass on the allotment. A beautiful little creature, satisfyingly compact and full of character. (Don’t worry he was safely returned to his hiding place a few moments later).

I was doubly delighted to discover the poem Toad by Norman MacCaig via a Twitter feed. The last verse of the poem reads:

A jewel in your head? Toad,
you've put one in mine,
a tiny radiance in a dark place.

I love a poem that raises questions. ‘A jewel in the head?’ had me intrigued. A quick google later I discovered there is such a thing as a ‘toadstone’ a highly polished stone which was thought in medieval times to hold magical powers and act as an amulet. They are in fact fossilised fish teeth! There is a great article here if you want the technical fossil info.

A toad stone was thought to sweat if venom or poison was detected and protect the wearer from the effects. My favourite part of the information on the ‘Wartski’ web page is that in ‘1658 the English cleric Edward Topsell suggested a method of harvesting toadstones by placing a toad on a red cloth and waiting for it to cough up the stone.’

Fascinating!

I once read of a toad that lived in an enclosed courtyard in France for 50 years, quite happily, it sounds like an urban myth, if only I could find the article again! Ah well 🙂 I will satisfy myself with the thought of magical toadstone amulets instead.