The Grand Union Canal is, thankfully, within walking distance of my home.
The tow path walk is a pleasant experience at any time of year. The colours change but the gentle pace is sustained and beguiling. It is a mood enhancing tonic.
The electric dart of blue from the Kingfisher is a welcome distraction. So fast and usually a frustratingly brief encounter and usually out of the corner of the eye.
The fields of undulating emerald meet the gentle banks of reeds. Swans and moorhens go about their business unfazed by prying eyes. Small patches of woodland keep the landscape varied and enticing.
On the waters I catch glimpses of roach and the perch with its stunning tiger stripe – only when the water is clear and the light is just right.
I have walked these paths in the stifling heat of summer and in the dead chill of winter when the water has frozen over. The calm remains like an invisible blanket. There is much to recommend it any time – each season brings its own unique character to the land.
This glorious area near the coastal town of Sheringham is a haven of calm and tranquility. The woodland and nature surges from the earth in abundance and vigour.
It is a charming experience to flag down a steam train to take you into the centre of Sheringham via luxuriant landscape. There is a little platform on the end of woodland that sits on the line. A genuine delight.
The walks available are extensive, and you can take several routes around the coast.
This area is mainly heathland and woodland. You can walk for miles in a world of greenery and calm.
It seems curious that this is home to a fair number of park homes and is also a touring park for caravans and motorhomes. The layout maintains a natural and wild feel. When I walk around it, there is no proper sense of it being a holiday park.
The spaciousness and sheer expanse of vegetation keeps the human element barely perceptible.
Norfolk is one of my favourite counties and I never tire of visiting it. I have it to thank for the inspiration behind an enormous part of my work.
Look out for further posts, on more of my treasured places in Norfolk, coming later.
Introducing another of my favourite places. A 700 acre designated ‘Special Area of Conservation’ near Fakenham, North Norfolk. Pensthorpe Natural Park was created in the 1980’s by conservationist Bill Makins. In 2003 it was acquired by the current owners, Bill and Deb Jordon (of Jordon’s Cereals), to preserve and continue Bill’s vision.
Working closely with the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust (formed in 2003), it showcases the importance of species and habitat conservation. Most notably is the Operation Turtle Dove, The Create Crane Project and re-introduction projects for red squirrels and corncrakes.
Pensthorpe Natural Park was the home for the BBC programme Springwatch from 2008-2010
My visits are always a wonderful day with so many different natural habitats to explore. Woodlands, lakes, gardens, and wildlife meadows, as well as award-winning children’s play areas, to help engage the next generation.
The woodlands are home to deer and awash with bluebells in May. I always take time out in the hide to watch birds feeding close up.
The Wildlife Habitat Garden creates food and habitat for many insects and mammals, particularly for bees. It’s an inspirational space providing ideas for our own gardens.
The Millennium Garden is particularly glorious late July to mid September. Designed by Piet Oudolf, who founded ’New Wave’ planting. A movement taking inspiration from nature while employing artistic skill in creating planting schemes.
An Arts and Crafts National Trust property set in the Charnwood Forest, Stoneywell Cottage was designed by Ernest Gimson and completed in 1898 for his brother Sydney, as a summer residence away from the intensive industry and dense population of Leicester at the end of the 19th Century.
Donald Gimson, Great-nephew to Ernest, with his wife Anne made this cottage their full time family home in the 1950’s and devoted the rest of their lives to creating much of the garden as we see it today. Stoneywell Cottage remained in the Gimson family until 2012 at which point the National Trust took the opportunity to purchase it from Donald, thereby preserving its unique heritage for us all.
In the Spring of 2012 the National Trust put a call out for willing volunteers to help restore the gardens to an earlier glory. I was one of those fortunate to be selected to join this honored team. We immediately set to work with gusto working non stop through heat wave, gales, snow and persistent rain to prepare its opening to the public in the Spring of 2015.
During my time there I often wandered around the gardens at tea breaks, delighting at the changes each month and attempting to capture its glory in photograph. Over this time my new creative business was also growing and eventually I made the difficult decision to hang up my gardening fork and devote more time to this personal venture.
Stoneywell Cottage continues to give a sense of escape and peace from the hustle and bustle of modern life. It is a place of enchantment that seems to capture the hearts of all those who enter it’s gates. It will certainly always be in my heart and I like to think I left a bit of myself there too.
You can find Stoneywell just off Junction 22 of the M1. Please note you will need to pre-book your visit at least 24 hrs in advance.
This latest work is inspired by our recent ventures out into the beautiful Derbyshire Peaks and Dales. An area full of nature’s beauty and splendour.
Our campsite was next to the village of Birchover ”.. situated close to several prehistoric monuments, including Doll Tor and Nine Ladies Bronze Age stone circles and numerous Bronze Age burial cairns on Stanton Moor… There is also the Earl Grey Tower, raised as a monument to the passing of the 1832 Electoral Reform Act and much evidence of ancient and modern sandstone quarrying”.
With no provisions to speak of in our trusty motor home Gordon, and the devastating news the pubs in the village were all closed for the day, we set out on foot, in earnest search of food and a pint.
We decided to try our luck at the The Flying Childers Inn at Stanton on Peak, about 1.5 miles away, so headed off hopefully along Birchover Road . On arrival we were greeted with the news that the kitchen was shut but (seeing our looks of desperation) were then asked , ‘would you like to help yourselves to the pork pies, sausage rolls and sandwiches on the bar. Here I will get you some plates’. Much later, after many a pint, we ambled contentedly back to Gordon and slept peacefully on full stomachs thanks to local warmth and hospitality.
Later that week , back in my studio and full of inspiration, I set to with pen and paper to create my first of what will hopefully be a series based on my various visits to this beloved part of the country. My creative process starts with a line drawing, then layers of colour are gradually applied, to produce the final piece.
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