Posts tagged countryside
Officially Spring...phew!

officially spring


So here we are - spring has officially arrived in the northern hemisphere! Not a moment too soon for me!. What a thoroughly drab winter that was and to go out on a snowy blizzard - what an exit…(and it better had be the end, that’s all I’m saying…).

On Tuesday I scoured the lane for any signs of spring and was rewarded with one brave little celandine. Oh, it made me incredibly happy. I looked back at the photos I took on the same date last year and discovered that the banks of the lane were yellow and green with celandines in full bloom. Proof indeed that we’re well behind this year.


But then we were treated to a couple of days of sunshine (although not a lot of warmth) and at last, the magic of spring has begun to reach us.

On Thursday, as we were leaving the wood, a heron flew overhead making it’s wonderfully primaeval call. There’s a heronry close to where we park our car and people travel for miles to come and watch them on their nests, but I’ve found that the herons regularly fly over us on their way I suppose to the canal, so we are treated to a private view.

On one memorable morning last year, we were overflown by a group of five herons, I’d heard the noise and initially assumed they were gulls, only to look again and realise they were in fact herons. It’s moments like that which really take my breath away, even now as I think about it I feel a little awe-inspired.  I’m so fortunate to have the time to spend outdoors every day. You can’t buy an experience like that.

On days when I’m struggling to find colour in the lane, I’ve discovered that it helps to look closer, to get down amongst the leaves or peer deeper into the hedge. And this week it was the mini-gardens of moss growing on a decaying tree-stump that amazed me. Such fascinating plants, tiny but with wonderful shapes, colours and textures. I don’t know the names of any of these little beauties and I feel a touch guilty about that.


Then, finally, on Friday we found the first leaves beginning to unfurl on the elder trees. Elder, the tree of regeneration and wisdom according to Glennie Kindred. It certainly inspires me with joy when I see the first hints of green returning to the hedgerow trees.

In other news

  • Thank you so much to everyone who’s been in touch with ideas, thoughts and suggestions about a Contemplative Stitch workshop - you’ve helped me enormously. I think I’ve got some ideas now and I’m going to spend a while developing my thoughts. If there’s something you’d like to add to the melting pot, please get in touch. All input is very welcome.
  • On Monday we hung the new spring exhibition at The Workhouse, Dunstable. Lovely to meet such talented artists bringing their work to show and to sell. It’s an open exhibition this time, no actual theme, but many people seem to have brought along very springlike artwork, which is giving the gallery a fresh boost. Do call in if you’re in the area.
  • I’ve started a new piece of stitching. (No pictures yet - not deliberate, just a lack of time and light!)
  • I’ve just added a page to the Spellbook for Stokesay Castle, Shropshire. (Click here if you want to see it). As I mentioned once before, I’m not really a sketchbook keeper and I intend to use the Spellbook as a place where I can stash words and images that inspire me, that was really one of my reasons for creating this space. I’m still working on how I’m going to do that. Sometimes there are more words than pictures, other times it’s all about the images. Often I’m not really sure what I want to show or say - it’s a feeling of scribbling in the margins, but I want to capture a feeling or an atmosphere. Anyway, my intention is to gradually add to those pages. They’re currently grouped under hedgerow and places in the menu for ease of finding.
  • Stokesay Castle is a perfect example of a fortified manor house, built during the reign of Edward I and largely unaltered since. Which makes the history-junkie in me deliriously happy.
  • And last week, I read on impulse a book by Gretchen Rubin (the author of ‘The Happiness Project’) called ‘Better than Before’. It popped up on my Kindle suggestions and something made me buy it. I’m really pleased that I did because it was one of those ‘light-bulb’ reads. It’s all about the power of habits and how to adopt them. I particularly appreciated the way she characterises people according to certain traits - this made so much sense to me and it was a relief in some ways to feel understood. Anyway, I have a theory that sometimes we find the right book at the right moment. It may not be of any interest to you right now, but it certainly was for me.

Until next time…

Happy stitching!

Anny x

Hello Spring?

Hello Spring?

Greetings from a very snowy Beds/Bucks border, on what some people are calling the first day of spring...

Spring or not, you'd have to say it's doing a very good impression of winter - and I promise I will never use the adjective Siberian again to describe anything just a bit chilly, turns out the winds from Siberia are piercingly sharp, brutal in every way.

So, enough of the weather. What else has been going on?

Honestly? It's all been typically February here. It's our month when everything seems to happen within the space of a couple of weeks (which repeats in June for some reason) - do you have times like this? We have a succession of family birthdays, school holidays and reunion get-togethers, to which this year have been added university visits and catching up with various friends dotted about the country.

Almost all of it absolutely lovely, but at the same time both exhausting and totally disruptive.

When I get home I'm always disappointed to discover that the laundy-elves failed to come in and put the washing machine on or clear the ironing pile. And their colleagues, the house-elves are no better, how hard would it be for them to whip the hoover round, I ask you?

So yes, it's quite likely that I'm turning into some sort of grumpy-drawers. I've never been much good at creating a routine, much less sticking to it, but then as soon as what passes for a routine around here gets disrupted, I end up all over the place.

Still, it's now March and therefore things will naturally improve enormously...

There has been stitchiness in February - Excalibur made it to The Workhouse (by the skin of it's teeth - don't ask) - although I cut things so fine I failed to take any good photos of the framed item - you'll have to imagine it...or if I'm super-organized I'll remember to take photos next time I'm at the gallery.



It's really not as wonky as it looks here!

If you're anywhere near Dunstable, Bedfordshire, it's at The Workhouse Gallery until March 17th - or until someone decides to give it a new home.

And I've started another piece, as yet untitled. I've been putting a few 'work-in-progress' photos on Instagram and Twitter when the light is good enough (ahem). And this week I also signed up for an account on Vero (I'm Anny - Dreaming In Stitches if you want to find me there).

I'd really like to see Vero work, it would do Instagram good to have some serious competition, but so far it's extremely glitchy and I can understand many people giving it up quite quickly. We'll see how that fares, but if it worked, it would be a lovely way to share quick updates.

Out in the lane - when it isn't under inches of snow - there's very little sign of spring to report. A few green leaves pushing up, catkins on the hazels, birds being noisy and busy, but other than that, zilch. I wonder if, once the snow thaws there'll be a transformation? Daft though it may sound, once spring does arrive the first sign is more a feeling of energy than a particular flower or bud. I've walked the lane in previous years and simply become aware of a new sense of potential and I couldn't begin to say where that comes from, it just does.

What are you looking forward to when spring returns? What does spring mean to you? I'd love to know. It's never really been my favourite season, but perhaps after this winter I'm going to appreciate it much more. What about you?

I'll leave you for now with a few more 'spring' photos...enjoy! (And happy stitching) x

Oh January, do get a grip...

Oh January,

do get a grip...

How are things with you? Around here we've had the luxury of three days of sunshine (yippee!), followed by torrential rain, then gales, then a return to dull warm greyness, then sleet, then snow (didn't last), then more torrential rain. Right now it's a little bit sunny - in that January kind of way which means we could be having any other weather five minutes from now.

A January week in the lane...

Walking the dog down the lane each morning really does bring home the changeable nature of the weather and the huge variation in the light from one day to the next. Some days when I get home and look at the photographs I've taken you'd think it was early evening rather than first thing in the morning. Then, when the sun comes out it's so bright and so low I can barely see anything, I'm blinded by the light (sings...).

The birds are definitely prepping for spring. There's a lot of activity going on and if the flora is still a tad disappointing, the birds certainly aren't. This week alone in the lane I've seen robins, jays, crows, pheasants, tits, kites and a plethora of small brown birds (you can just tell I'm only a beginner on the bird-watching front can't you).

On the whole I'm managing to stay pretty buoyant this winter, I hope you are too, but I'm so ready to be warm again. By the way, there's a splendid article by Emma Mitchell in the Guardian about tackling SAD - here's the link if you're interested. You can follow Emma on Twitter, she's @silverpebble

In other news...

slow-stitch work in progress-01.jpeg

Considerable progress is being made on the current stitchy piece. I'm doing most of the work under artificial light which is really quite challenging in a way because the organza behaves so differently under natural light. I'm working away at night and then getting up in the morning to find out what it actually looks like in daylight. 

There will be a new exhibition opening at The Workhouse in Dunstable on the 30th January and my intention is to have the two pieces I showed you last time framed for that show. I don't think this one will be ready in time, but it feels part of the sequence.

I'll keep you posted.

Happy stitching...

Anny x

That time of year...

I wonder, is there a time in your annual calendar you refer to as ‘that time of year’? For us it is always June and July. During these two months we squeeze the best part of our entire annual social life into about six weekends of frantic travelling about the country, bell-ringing with very old friends and generally meeting up with people we only see at this time of year.

It’s always a pleasure, but it does tend to throw you off your routine and I’m now right in the middle of our busiest period. Which would make this a terrible time to choose to embark on something new, something that requires a lot of learning from scratch or something that’s extremely time-consuming…you can guess where this is going can’t you.


So yes, on top of all the other things that are happening at the moment, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks getting to grips with building a new website. If you saw my post a couple of weeks ago, you’ll know that I found the initial stage quite a challenge. For someone who spends such a lot of time quietly stitching, I’m really not naturally a patient person, and trying to teach myself new things doesn’t always bring out the best in me.

But I’m pleased to say I bit my lip and got on with it. Inevitably once you really get down to something eventually it comes together. I’m now at the ‘playing with it stage‘ so I won’t ask you to race over and have a look just yet, but don’t worry, once it feels ok I’ll give you all the details.

I’ve been blogging now for nearly ten years in one guise or another and over that time I’ve changed so much and so indeed has the whole blogging community. For many people their blog has been superseded by other social media, especially Instagram, which it has to be said does make micro-blogging much easier to do and also it makes connecting with people who’re interested in what you have to say much easier too. Then there are so many people who simply seem to have run out of blogging steam. I miss hearing from them, but life changes and things move on.

The major change for me in recent years has been finding a balance between the three things that go to my core; observing the rhythms of the seasons, evangelising for Britain’s old places and creating slow-stitched pieces of art. Now I finally feel properly at home with what I’m doing and it’s come as such a relief. Thank you to everyone who has born with me chopping and changing, and the frequent dithering over past months and years.

I will never cease to be amazed that I can now speak directly to friends, artists, nature-lovers and history geeks across the globe with just a few clicks, and it is being a part of this truly incredible online community that makes me certain that although the format evolves, I’m definitely happy and grateful to carry on being a part of it.

So when the new website goes live, it will be evolution rather than revolution. Still the same haphazard mix of content, hopefully better presented, more flexible for what I might want to do in future and importantly under my own control.

And so after all that, you may well be going never mind all that waffle Anny, where’s this week’s dollop of heritage?

Well, I hope you’ll forgive me this week for not coming up with an entirely new piece. What with website building, weekends with friends, children ferrying and general spinning of plates, I’ve simply not sat down to do it properly. So instead here is a flavour of what we get up to on our annual ringing get-togethers from a couple of years ago and which first appeared on my old history blog.



The wonderful thing about being a history junkie living in England, is the prevalence of parish churches. Every one of them is a little time capsule, telling stories about our national, regional and very personal histories. I love looking at them for what their architecture tells us about their building history and then going inside, or walking around the graveyards and seeing the human histories remembered in tombs, memorials, windows and simple graves.

At the weekend, we visited four churches, all fairly close together in the Warwickshire/Worcestershire borders. Each very different in character, and each a piece in the jigsaw puzzle of our past. None is particularly exceptional, but that’s the wonderful thing about them, wherever you go, a fascinating journey into history is waiting for you.

St Mary, Ullenhall, Warwickshire

This was our first stop. A strange little church, with a mix of architectural styles that can mean only one thing – Victorian! It was designed by John Pollard Seddon and built in 1875.

You need to walk around the outside to get a full impression – the rear is much prettier than the front, but you can’t tell from first glances. For me the clock face up on the odd little spire was the best bit.

St Mary Magdalene, Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

Tanworth-in-Arden is one of those perfect villages where you imagine Miss Marple would feel at home, wisteria and hollyhocks around the doors. And the church lives up to that ideal too, standing right in the centre of the village.

There were people rehearsing in the church so we didn’t have a proper look around inside, but the cool interior felt serene.

Outside an unusual monument butts right up to the side door, but I couldn’t read the inscriptions, so I don’t know who it commemorated. One face appears to have had a new piece of stone inserted – it’s obviously still important to someone.

I didn’t know at the time, but Nick Drake’s ashes were interred in the churchyard and somehow that seems to fit well with the character of the music he left behind.

St Leonard’s, Beoley, Worcestershire.

This is another church close to a big town but hidden away on the side of a hill. A huge mixture of styles reflecting the age of the church, but I couldn’t help feeling that the hand of the Victorian renovator had been a bit overpowering.

There is a chapel to the left of the chancel – the Sheldon Chapel – built in 1580 for a recusant family, which was a peculiarly oversize attachment. I always want to see the faces of these effigies, but it was very difficult to get into a suitable position. I held the camera where I thought it should be and hoped.

This whole area, Worcestershire and Warwickshire was deeply embroiled in the turbulent religious times and politics of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, with many characters involved in the Gunpowder Plot living in the region, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to find the chapel there.

When we came home and I looked up Beoley, I found this lovely story which connects Shakespeare with Beoley – if you have a few minutes have a read and see what you think.

St Mary the Virgin, Hanbury, Worcestershire


Now I must admit that I am not an impartial visitor to Hanbury. I spent the first twenty years of my life very close to Hanbury and it has a special place in my heart. That said, I’m sure anyone would find it a fascinating if not classically beautiful church.

The Vernon family who built and lived in Hanbury Hall (now managed by the National Trust)are closely connected to the church, with many of them buried in the Vernon Chapel. I rather like the marble figures in all their finery. I especially liked the juxtaposition of medieval door with the marble statue.

However, the very best thing about Hanbury is the position of the church itself, perched on top of a hill, with wide-open views across to the Cotswolds and Malvern Hills. Long before the church was built, there was an Iron Age hilltop fort there. Later the Saxons built a monastery on the site.

It’s exactly the sort of churchyard where you could sit and contemplate life the universe and everything.

A truly enjoyable afternoon of exploring.

Back next week, when we’ll still be in that time of year, but hopefully I’ll be better prepared. Having said that, I’m giving a talk to the Embroiderers’ Guild over in Northamptonshire next weekend, so that might be a bit optimistic!

Best wishes and happy stitching…