A Sky Full of Birds
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My inner twitcher had wanted to see a murmuration for quite a while. After a bout of flu last winter, me and my partner Suzi drove up to Dumfries & Galloway in search of those beautiful birds. We had been reading up on good locations to spot them and from our research, Gretna seemed to be a good place. So we packed up the car with all our camera gear, overnight bags, and headed north. We stayed in a cute little Airbnb with the most amazing views over the Solway Firth, it was the perfect hideaway for a few days.

On the first day, it was pretty grey and wet, so we didn’t hold out too much hope. There was a stillness on the edge of dusk, as the day gave into night. We drove into Gretna and watched a cute mini murmur, probably of around a hundred birds. And suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a smudge on the horizon. We jumped into the car and followed the fluid black cloud as it moved across the sky, we felt like tornado chasers. And then suddenly we were right underneath it.

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 As dusk raced in, smaller groups joined, and the flock grew. We've since learnt that every bird is keeping an eye on the other 7 birds around him or her, so this is how they keep tightly together. It was so fascinating to watch the constant ebb and flow of the murmuration, and the beautiful patterns it made as the birds swirled in the sky.

During the day, we travelled around the area a bit more and we headed to Caerlaverock Wetland Centre for more twitching! No starlings, but many other different types of bird. We saw egrets, whooper swans, geese, teal, widgeons and many more. It was a beautiful crisp winter's day. The sun was lowering, and bright pink streaks began to form in the sky, so we headed to our familiar spot and waited for the birds to arrive. We had mentioned our sighting to a couple of people at the bird reserve, so they turned up to the spot to wait for them too. We were a bit worried as it was getting late and we hadn't seen a sign of any birds, but fortunately, they all suddenly appeared over the other side of the M6 and started their silent dance.

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Sometimes like tea leaves swirling in the pot, then we’d spot a punctuation mark. They created speech bubbles, UFO shapes and love hearts, we were transfixed by these momentary sketches in the sky. We were lucky enough to see these beautiful shapeshifters on three consecutive evenings. Watching the sky full of birds is one of the most amazing sights we've ever witnessed, after the birth of our daughter this year.

We met our friend Leena a couple of days after we got back from our trip, and we chatted about the starlings. In Latvia, where she's from, the first sightings of the starlings signify the start of spring. They leave the UK at the beginning of March and migrate to Northern Europe to breed. It's traditional in Latvia to make a little birdhouse for the starlings, and you hang it in your nearest tree to welcome the weary travellers. We are itching to see them again, and we hope our little daughter will feel the magic too when we go on our next adventure looking for that sky full of birds.


Sarah Mason is a photographer based in Hebden Bridge. Alongside her partner Suzi, she takes pictures and makes films about life, love and connections. Find out more on the Sarah Mason Photography website, or follow on Instagram and Twitter.

WinterContributor
Emotional Cosiness in Your Home
 Image:  Bright Corner

Light is fundamental to our well-being and happiness.


“The light that surrounds us on a daily basis has a huge impact on our brains, our mood and our mental health and yet, on the whole, we tend to pay it very little attention.”

Karl Ryberg, Light Your Life: The Art of using Light for Health and Happiness


Sunlight increases serotonin levels which in turn makes you happy but during the winter months our source of natural light is greatly reduced. Therefore, lighting your home correctly is important to make sure you create emotional cosiness, leaving you feeling happy.

The Danish have a word called Hygge, meaning a quality of cosiness and comfortable feeling of contentment or well-being. Mood lighting is a massive part of this, big bright lights like hospital or office lighting makes you feel uncomfortable and on edge. For a well-lit happy room, you need to have several light sources, creating areas of darkness as well as light, giving a space character and personality, creating an inviting atmosphere.

Flickering light from candles and fires are also great for a space, they create a sense of life and energy making you feel relaxed. Fairy lights also have that twinkling, magical effect, they add a sense of wonderment and adventure to a room.


“You want to create small caves of light around the room”

Meik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living


Colours such as red, orange and yellow evoke feelings of happiness, optimism, creativity, success and energy. So warm coloured light bulbs with a low lumen number, are best for that cosy, dimly lit, happy vibe.

Winter can be tough, especially after the festivities of Christmas, so leave your fairy lights up all year round. Good interior lighting design is crucial for emotional cosiness. Look at your lighting arrangement in your home, make sure it creates mood and ambience making you feel inspired, warm and happy.


“Light is the magical ingredient that makes or breaks a space.”

Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, Elle Decoration


Chloe Harrison is the founder and owner of Bright Corner, who design and make simple wooden LED lights. Follow her on Instagram to inspire a happy home with a calm and cosy atmosphere.

LifestyleContributor
My Countryside: Jessica Townsend
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Today Jessica Townsend tells us a little about ‘her’ countryside.

Callum: Where in the world is ‘your’ countryside?

Jessica: The heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds, a small village surrounded by fields and sky. It’s where I grew up and I was instantly drawn back here when I left the big city life for a slower pace. This landscape is home - from the muddy paths leading to my front door, to the bird who every day calls me to the second tree on the left in Farmer Terry’s field – I know it all so well.

 

Callum: Earliest countryside memory?

 Jessica: The land where our house now sits was once part of the fields that surround it. I remember when my parents first bought the land, seeing nothing but long grasses and running through them getting stung by nettles. When I do the same now it always brings me back to that moment, when we first came to this place and called it home.

 

Callum: Why do you love the countryside?

 Jessica: I love the quiet and the noises that disturb it - the chatter of birds, the rustling leaves, the whispers of the wind. I love the absolute solitude that can be found just moments from my door, and the inspiration that can be found in it. But most of all I love the amount of sky. The Lincolnshire Wolds are relatively flat and at times it can feel like the whole world is nothing but wide, open skies. It makes me feel free.

 

Callum: You have 24 hours, anywhere: describe your ideal day in the countryside.

 Jessica: I would start the day with crisp, autumn sunshine overhead and a steaming coffee outdoors, followed by a walk with the dog through paths of red and gold. Rosy cheeks are a must, and a stroll through the woods wouldn’t go amiss. The day would end with a lakeside pub and a warming cider as we wait for the stars to appear.

 

Callum: Favourite season and why?

 Jessica: Spring first comes to mind, as I love the sense of new beginnings and nature coming to life. However, after becoming part of the Creative Countryside Community I’ve been shown such beauty in the autumn months that I may be a convert, especially after the never-ending summer we just had. Autumn is also a time I can wear socks, boots and jumpers everyday and that definitely has my vote!


Check out Jessica’s slow fashion at House of Flint.

LifestyleCallum Saunders
12 Days of Christmas

Our Gifting Guide

Join us in celebrating and supporting our small, handmade and sustainable businesses. We’ve hand-picked a selection of creative folk who we know you will love just as much as we do.


Day 1:  Greetings

Festive cards by We are Stardust

Where art and science collide, these hand illustrated festive cards are a perfect seasonal reminder for friends and family. Get 10% off your Christmas order using the code CCCHRISTMAS2018 (offer ends December 2018).

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Day 2: Time out

The Empowered Entrepreneur by Elizabeth Cairns

As the year draws to a close, the The Empowered Entrepreneur, Elizabeth’s first book, complete with botanical illustrations and pictures,  is the perfect antidote for reflection and self-development.

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Day 3: Bringing Nature into the Home

Mini wreaths by Botanical Tales

Add a touch of seasonal creativity with these cute little handmade wreaths. Perfect for Christmas place settings or even a small token of appreciation.

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Day 4: Indulge

Natural and homemade skincare by Kindred + Wild

We love the Lavender and  Chamomile bath salt, ideal  for those who are always on the go - a simple reminder to slow down and enjoy nature’s gifts. Last orders are December 5th. They’re also offering a gift wrap service!

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Day 5: Let Light In

Hand Blended Aromatherapy Soy Wax Candles by The Smallest Light

Let some light in over the dark period with this hand-blended festive candle duo. Environmentally friendly candles are the perfect gift for those with consideration for the earth.  Get 10% off using the code ‘community’ (offer ends December 31st), or buy our Yule bundle, which includes a ‘Star of Wonder’ candle.

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Day 6:  Make Do and Mend

A copy of Mending Matters by Katrina Rodaugh

This book is the ultimate gift for those looking to learn how to keep their old clothes and give them a new lease of  life. We’ll be running this as a book giveaway early 2019!

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Day 7: Capturing the natural world

Artwork by Deborah Vass

If you like to be cosy during this time of year, why not bring a touch of the outside in with this wonderful oil painting of a scene in Sussex, a print of a wren in winter, or this beautiful painting of a yew bough.

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Day 8: Dress Up

Slow, handmade fashion by House of Flint

Think seasonal and practical pieces made of organic cotton and linen. Our favourite is the fold dress made out of Irish linen and available in three autumn / winter inspired colours.

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Day 9:  Catching the moment

Iconic bronzed leaves by Ashleaf London

Time goes too fast but you can preserve the moment with your very own bronzed leaf. Ashleaf London provide a customisable handmade service. Check out their Instagram for some awesome behind the scenes.

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Day 10:  Join the club

Simple and traditional crafts by Snapdragon

Snapdragon is a wonderful membership site which offers craft tutorials and products for the home and garden. There is something for all ages!  Our favourite is this embroidered flower apron to keep our best clothes clean from all of that Christmas baking.

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Day 11: Embrace the Elements

Frost inspired pendant by Silver Nutmeg

Keep the winter season close to your heart with a handmade silver sterling hoop pendant beautifully packaged with eco friendly materials.  

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Day 12: Finishing touches

Porcelain tree decorations by Kate Luck Ceramics

Replace plastics with luxurious porcelain ivy, holly, oak, bramble or feather decorations handmade with love. Our favourite is the holly!

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Thank you for helping us to support these wonderful small creative businesses!

WinterChelsea Louise Haden
Autumn Gathering 2018
  All images courtesy of    Annie Spratt   .

All images courtesy of Annie Spratt.

It’s hard to believe how quickly the Autumn Gathering came around this year. At our community meet-up in October we all said how warm it still felt, but just a month later we could definitely feel the autumnal chill upon us.

Eleanor and I arrived early at the beautiful Cronkhill Farmhouse in Shropshire and couldn’t help but marvel at the space and the stunning views to be seen at each window.

Once we’d unpacked we were soon joined by the first arrivals for a seasonal cocktail of ginger, apple and a splash of gin. As the rooms slowly filled, we chose to gather on the cosy sofas and chatted as the daylight waned.

I took this time to give a short tutorial on how to insert the ‘Scraps Pockets’ everyone received in their goody bags which, as the name suggests, are pockets ready to be inserted into any garment, made from waste material from my cutting table. I had also brought along a few garments from House of Flint, which everyone was invited to try on and wear over the weekend if they wished.

Dinner was enjoyed beneath fairy lights, with a candlelit table and easy conversations carrying us into the night. Our first day ended with a calming tea ritual led by Eleanor.

As morning broke on the Saturday, Elizabeth led a meditation for those who wished to join. At the Summer Gathering the meditation she guided took me utterly away from myself, yet during this one I delved deep inside my mind without a necessarily conscious choice of doing so. It’s amazing the difference between the two, how she guided myself and others to places we may not have found otherwise.

After a warming breakfast of porridge and cinnamon stewed apples, Bex from Botanical Tales taught a workshop in which we created calendars full of intentions for the season. Each intention was written on a small piece of paper, rolled and tied to a branch with dried flowers and foliage. Each of us shall individually reveal a tiny scroll every week for the next three months. I’ve begun mine early and unrolled one in which I told myself to go for a winter picnic in the woods, which was such a lovely thing to do that I may not have made time for otherwise.

A hearty lunch and then outside we went, with Hanna from Ashleaf London leading the afternoon. She shared with us her love of leaves and made us all look a little bit closer at them as we gathered our favourites to use for the next stage of her workshop.

Within Ashleaf, Hanna is dedicated to preserving leaves in bronze, and we were lucky to be shown the first part of this process before trying it out for ourselves on our chosen leaf.

Following the day of creativity, those who wished took some time for themselves to read, write, take photographs or simply sit by the fire in quiet conversation. A special thanks to Mugdha, who tirelessly helped me to hang leaves from the ceiling for our autumnal feast that evening.

Three delicious courses ended with apple crumble before we slowly embraced the darkness and each light was put out until only a single candle remained. Eleanor led us into this dark with some words about the season and the darkness it brings. As she extinguished the final flame a shiver of something quite magical went up my spine.

The final day began and a few of us braved the cold and took a walk through the fields and lanes surrounding us. I tiptoed along a fallen tree and tried to avoid falling over before returning to a feast of bagels and plenty more cinnamon apples.

Our final activity was led by Chelsea, who took us on a foraging scavenger hunt and asked us to take note of what we found with each of our senses in turn. I noticed the smell of a holly leaf and the sound of a pinecone and felt truly present in the time spent exploring with each of my senses.

Lunch signified the end of our time here, and as each person took their leave I noticed new friendships formed and the meaningful connections that had been made over our few short days together.

I’ve often spoken of the importance of community and yet again I left this gathering feeling inspired and thankful to those wonderful people who joined us. I hope to see you all again - or if you were not able to attend, for the first time - soon!


Jessica Townsend creates slow and sustainable fashion at House of Flint. Follow her behind-the-scenes on Instagram here.

AutumnContributor
Gatherers - A Handmade Cornish Book

‘Gatherers’ is a handmade photographic and recipe book which celebrates and shares the stories of the modern hunter-gatherer. Photographed in Cornwall, it captures different subjects throughout the diverse ecosystems the county has to offer, using a combination of film photography, typewritten and handwritten text.

As a result of the fast growth of our society around material growth, we can too easily become detached from our connection to the resources we consume in our day by day. Even while living in the big city and being distracted by the hectic pace of the metropolis, this book leads us back to those playful moments of outdoor exploration and connection with nature we lived throughout our childhood. 

In addition to re-connecting us with the natural world by engaging with the gatherers, it also emphasises the importance of sustainability and challenges what it means to be sustainable. For the gatherers in the book, to be sustainable is to be aware of how the natural resources we use have been extracted and where they come from. For most of us, this knowledge is limited by what we are told on a label, even in local produce. Instead, the gatherers in the book show how the concept of sustainability goes beyond a piece of paper, by making an effort to knowingly search and forage these resources for themselves. Always being conscious of how much and how to extract them without breaking the fragile balance of their local environment.


Jaime Molina is a Colombian photographer based in the UK. Find out more about his book and how to get your copy here, where he is currently selling through a Kickstarter campaign that ends December 9th. You can also follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

CreativeContributor
The Power of a New Season, and a Fresh Start

As we dive into the final months of this year, many of your thoughts will be turning to a new year, resolutions, and a new beginning. The New Year is a well-known time for us to plan a fresh start, but is it the most logical? Perhaps not, when we think to the seasons.

With this in mind, spring is the season that becomes our obvious choice for this fresh start, being so full of new life and signifying the re-awakening of nature from its wintry slumber. In the past I have always used this time to make my fresh start, and intentions for the year.

However, this year has been different. The last ten months flew by in a whirlwind with the completion of my degree and my clothing line beginning to take shape. I feel that, quite without realising it, I’ve stumbled past spring, summer and autumn without truly taking a moment to think about whether the path I’m running along is the right one.

Now, winter is beckoning to me and I look to it with delight. It is not demanding the big changes and to-do lists that a conventional fresh start may require, it simply suggests I stop, and take note. This is the season in which nature pauses, so shouldn’t we too? It does not rush to be something new and exhilarating after the boldness of autumn’s colours. Our grey skies are peaceful, the sun hanging low, and commanding no hurry within your day.

It is with this in mind, and a constant reminder through my window, that I begin anew as winter draws near. Questions I’ve been asking myself will now be answered, however long it takes, and my intentions for the coming year refreshed.

This is the season to think, to read, to write, and to slowly implement those little changes that will bring about your goals. But there is no hurry, no deadline. So pause, and breathe, feel the crispness of the air on your skin, and make that your fresh start this season.


Jessica Townsend creates slow and sustainable fashion at House of Flint. Follow her behind-the-scenes on Instagram here.

WinterContributor
Bodacious The Shepherd Cat

‘The stillness of the moon belies the wind-singing branches and clouds flashing by.  ‘Tis nearly 3am, but there’s little sleep to be had as the wind dances through trees still heavy with leaf while their branches rattle across rooftops and rain thunders down, lashing at the window.  The first of the autumn storms breaks the season into a rapid departure from summer.’

When Suzanna Crampton returned to the farm in Kilkenny which had been in her family for generations, she set about making her own mark on it whilst cherishing the farming ways of the past.  Determined to work with nature and not against it, she began by introducing a flock of Zwartbles sheep alongside alpacas, horses, ‘egg makers’ and dogs, until a rather special cat strolled into her life one day, 11 years ago.  Who would have thought when Suzanna took up a suggestion to go and look at a cat in an exotic novelty toilet-seat shop that she’d end up lending a paw to write a delightful and heartwarming memoir on its behalf?  However, this is just how it happened and how a fine looking feline in need of a home became Bodacious the Shepherd Cat.

From the very beginning, we hear how Bodacious established himself as the boss of the farm,  and how he has come to be Suzanne’s right hand ‘man’ on the farm.  As Suzanne began telling stories of her shepherding companion on her blog and Twitter account, Bodacious’ following grew.  However, I’m not sure that she ever imagined that Bodacious would end up with his own YouTube channel with over 500k views let alone his own book.  Such is his charm.  He’s even graced the cover of The Lady.

This is a story of seasons and the little moments capturing the highs and lows of farming life in rural Ireland.  The narrator is an avid observer, recounting his experiences and adventures of flocking his herd with a serious injection of humour as he chronicles a year in his life as a shepherd. 

You may think it rather odd to have a cat as narrator of country life but believe me, Bodacious is no ordinary cat.  His prose is lyrical and witty, anecdotal and charming – in fact, he steals the heart from the first page with his sheer pluckiness.  Tales of farming life are interspersed with beautiful descriptions of the landscape within which the farm sits and as one season flows into another, we journey with Bodacious and his Shepherd as they cope with inclement weather, trials and triumphs on the farm, the passage of time on the landscape and the patter of tiny feet at lambing time. 

‘All is quiet, only the rustle of straw as the lambing ewe circles and paws the ground in anticipation of her first lamb.  Both Overmitt and I purr in the comfort of companionable company.  The rest of the flock are all cosy in straw sleeping or methodically quietly chewing their cuds.  Time continues gently to weave its way through these calm moments of reflection.  It helps to strengthen a pattern woven into the fabric that is our life; it enables us to absorb frenetic events that occur throughout one’s lifetime.’

Although Bodacious is well and truly the storyteller of the book, never far behind are little asides about his dog squad friends Pepper, Bear and the Big Fellow as well as cat shepherd apprentice, Ovenmitt.  For those who love a light-hearted countryside yarn, Bodacious The Shepherd Cat makes the perfect read.  It’s the sort of cosy fireside reading that we all need in our lives this time of year.


‘Bodacious The Shepherd Cat’ is published by Harper Collins.  To read more about Bodacious and his antics, visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

Slow LivingRebecca Fletcher
Harvest Lunch
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I fill the coffee pot each day, staring outside while it bubbles and steams on the stove. The garden is overgrown, life pushing its way through mesh and bark and turf. Moss holds the lawn together and prickly grasses, long and wispy stand tall leaning only in the rain. Upturned pots and an abandoned hanging basket are notes, a memory of time passing. Another year of plans put aside as life takes over. A sudden flurry reminds me that the garden is not only for me.

Today is harvest lunch, a host of winged visitors gleaming under autumn sun gathering to take their pick. Two rowan trees lean, naked now but for soft, overripe berries which drop with the faintest breath of wind. Tiny flashes of yellow dart through the long grass, blue tits searching for the ruby morsels. A tall, dark ivy strangles one of the rowans, reaching high above its branches, it’s thick foliage the perfect spot for a blackbird family to wait its turn. Here they nested in summer, losing little ones to predators but still they reap the benefits of the ivy’s grip. High up, two crows sit watch, holding court and flapping their wings once in a while to remind everyone of their presence. A flash of red against cornflower blue sky is a bullfinch, now two, dipping in and out swiftly to grab berries from under the nose of a plump thrush. Then a swoop of starlings, young, boisterous, sends everyone into the air. Branches sway and more berries drop. In a moment, only the crows remain, steadfast. Lunch is over for today.

Yesterday, under dull skies, the garden was bleak, a burden, another missed opportunity. Today, it is a garden of Eden, a safe place where all comers take their turn. There is plenty to go around. So I’ll leave the lawnmower in the outhouse, put away my gardening gloves. For a while at least. Until the feast is over and each feathered creature has had their fill.

AutumnSarah Davy
Creative in the Countryside: Kate Luck Ceramics

On the journal today, we talk to Kate a ceramic artist. Watch our for her increbible conker masterpieces - a perfect seasonal orement.

CC: Tell us about Kate Luck Ceramics and the journey you took to starting your own business?

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K: I studied Ceramic Design at Central St Martins and decided to specialise in mould making and slip casting. I graduated without a product I wanted to sell but certain that I was made to make. Graduating in 2009, I walked straight in to a recession. The arts had been severely cut back and there were no jobs.

I went on to do an amazing apprenticeship with a master mould maker. After my year as an apprentice and a further two years working as an assistant to a couple of ceramicists, I learned of an incubator ceramics studio in North London, near where I lived. With no plan I joined the studio in September 2011, within three years I became the studio manager for twenty five ceramicists.

I started up a Facebook page and blog advertising my mould making and batch production casting service and the commissions came rolling in. For six years I worked on a wide variety of amazing commissions from replicas for Hampton Court Palace to chandeliers and sculptures.

After getting married and moving to rural Bedfordshire, I knew that the time was right to leave production work behind and start making my own work. I have been working on my own collection of porcelain wall sculptures for the last year. My seasonal designs seek to capture childhood memories and family stories in nature, gently reminding us to celebrate the simple pleasures in life.

CC: I know your work is inspired by family stories, magic and nature. Can you tell us why nature is so important to you, and how it influences the way you live and work?

K:My maternal family comes from Anglesey, a small island off the north coast of Wales. Most of our school holidays would involve a trip to Anglesey. Our holidays there were centred on time outdoors no matter what the weather, whether that was beachcombing and skimming stones or climbing trees in woodland covered in lush wild garlic.

En route to Anglesey we would drive through Snowdonia National Park and I grew up in awe of those mountains. Even now every drive through the mountains replenishes my soul. There is something special about the magnitude of nature that heals, grounds and balances me. I turn to nature to remind me that I am just passing through and unlike the mountains I’m not permanent. Nature has a way of giving me perspective.

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In 2012 I lost my paternal Grandmother and father to cancer in one week. When it was close to the end, the simple little pleasures we could find from each day became very important. I would bring my father blackberries picked from the garden and he would savour each one. One of my last memories is wheeling my father outside to breathe in the smell of summer rain on hot earth.

The power of these little simple pleasures has stayed with me ever since. When the world seems tough and problems seem to mount up around me, nature reminds me to take time to reflect and refocus on what it is that I truly need. There’s a quote that says it is impossible to walk in the woods and be in a bad mood at the same time, I find this to be true. Nature is my councilor.

CC:I’d love to know what has been the biggest challenge, and the best surprise in running your own business?

K:In the last year the biggest challenge has been switching from a service-based business to a product-based business. I’m still learning and navigating how to approach and gain new stockists and how to sell my work online.

I find that running a creative business is somewhat of an organic process; things do take time and evolve naturally. Despite the new challenges I am facing, it was certainly the right decision for my creativity and I am enjoying the transition.

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I think the biggest surprise is probably how much resilience running your own business requires. You need to have so much inner strength to pursue your dreams, pushing onwards even when it seems impossible just because you know that is the route to your true happiness.

CC:Can you tell us about your home, your workspace, and what a typical day for you looks like?

K: I moved to Bedfordshire almost a year ago and it was one of the best decisions my husband and I have ever made. We love the country life and it’s been a real joy discovering our local area over the seasons. I’m very lucky that I have a studio in my garden, but that doesn’t mean I don’t walk to work!

A typical day starts with taking my fox red Labrador Rupert for a good walk over the fields and around the lakes near us. I find it’s a great way to set me up for the day, plan what I need to achieve as well as being a great source of inspiration. I usually always snap a picture of something that catches my eye. Once home it’s kettle on and time to head to the studio to start the working day.

In the studio it’s usually classical music on the radio that fuels my mornings as I get all my emails and social media done and then I flip to an audio book ready to crack on with making undisturbed for the rest of the day. Making days have their own natural rhythm and pattern that add up resulting in a finished piece, it’s a very fluid process of both planning and responding to what needs to be done.

The vast majority of success when working with clay, unlike many other organic materials, is timing. Certain things must be done at certain times, too wet and the shape could collapse, too dry and it can crack. It’s the most instinctual part of my job, working according to what feels right.


CC:When you aren’t working on your business, how do you enjoy spending your time?

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K: Having adventures with my husband and our dog Rupert takes up a lot of my free time and takes us to some fantastic places. Some of the best times we share as a little family are weekend walks, no phones, just holding hands walking the dog, talking about everything and nothing, letting the surroundings wash over us. After a really muddy or crisply cold Autumn walk there’s nothing I like more than an afternoon snuggled up on the sofa watching films with a roaring fire going.  


Together, my husband and I are avid travellers and really enjoy exploring new and obscure places whenever we can. Instead of giving each other gifts we usually take each other away, as we feel memoires last longer than possessions. We usually choose somewhere near mountains where we can just hike and explore, the wonder of our beautiful planet never ceases to amaze me.

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CC: And lastly, if someone reading your story were inspired to follow their own creative dream, what advice would you give them?

In a world connected by social media, the pursuit of perfection, branding and creating an image, comparison is a toxic inevitability.  So my advice would be to believe in the validity of your dreams. Your dream is valid because of you, and that validity is not based on or determined by how many likes or shares you get.

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Something I do to combat the toxic effects of comparing myself to others is to write down goals I want to achieve in my business at the start of each year. It helps give a focus to your work and a sense of achievement when you have fulfilled them.

The other exercise that I think is especially important is to define what success looks like for you, success doesn’t always need a financial focus. So define your success and go for it, reach for it and believe in it.


You can find Kate over on Instagram and Facebook


CreativeChelsea Louise Haden
Reviving the Medlar, Our Forgotten Fruit

Since 2016, I’ve been (as far as I know) the only specialist grower and producer of handmade medlar preserves in the UK. I’m reviving this ancient and forgotten fruit from our home in Eastgate, Norfolk. My husband David and I have planted a culinary and horticultural orchard of 110 Mespilus germanica trees on our six-acre plot. 

When we bought our Eastgate home in 2012, we became custodians of a beautiful six-acre plot with a mix of formal garden and several paddocks. We were excited. I was a little daunted, having previously been responsible for a garden measured out in feet and inches. We’d brought a medlar tree in a very large pot with us. It had been a wedding present in 2010, an eventual addition to the future garden we were going to make together.

This is also a story about Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital’s bowel cancer screening programme for 55 year olds. My diagnosis in early 2015 revealed a stage 1 cancer. It was quickly and successfully treated. The therapeutic power of our land and my kitchen - digging, planting, growing and becoming a small-scale maker - were essential to my emotional recovery. Norfolk had saved my life. I wanted to show my deep appreciation, and so the orchard and the business were born. By January 2017 we had completed the final phase of planting our  medlar orchard.  Only then did we discover that a hundred years ago this place was a fruit farm with apples and pears underplanted with blackcurrants. We have a dozen of the original Bramleys and we’ve had a bumper 2018 harvest.

We’ve planted a mix of very young bare root and slightly older container grown medlar trees. 101 of these are Nottinghams, the best variety for flavour and size. A six-foot bareroot seedling Mespilus germanica Nottingham on quince ‘A’ rootstock will fruit in its third year. Planted in a spacious hole, with bone meal, plenty of leaf mould, a stout stake and a bucket of water topped off with a mulch mat, all 110 trees will be productive this year. Medlars are relatively disease free, prefer a slightly acid soil with good drainage in a sunny spot. They love a really cold winter and cope well with long hot summers. Their yellow centred single white blossoms appear in late May and are magnets for honey bees. They are self-fertile and will fruit successfully as singletons.

There’s little evidence and a lot of uncertainty surrounding the origins of the medlar. The trees may have grown first on the western shores of the Caspian around 1000 C.E., spreading from Greece via the Roman Empire throughout Northern Europe. Stones were found in burial sites in France and Switzerland and ancient leaf impressions surfaced at Burgtonna in Germany. Carl Linnaeus’ book Species plantarum (1753) provides us with the modern binomial name for the medlar, Mespilus germanica, apparently in the belief that it was native to Germany. Maybe an apt name after all.    

It’s hard to say when medlars first arrived here. The Roman town at Silchester, Hampshire revealed medlar stones during an archaeological dig in 1903/4. These remain the only recorded finds of medlars from Roman Britain, and the fruit may have been an exotic import.  Not until the 13th Century are there clear documentary records of medlar cultivation in England: Westminster Abbey’s gardens were run by Monk Gardeners, responsible for supplying the Abbey with produce which included medlars, cherries, plums, pears and nuts.        

We know that Henry VIII helped make medlars fashionable among the nobility. Medlar, pear, damson, cherry and apple trees were planted at Hampton Court. In October 1532, Henry took Anne Boleyn to France, where he met King Francis I. Among the sumptuous gifts of swans, geese, capons, ducks and larks were large quantities of medlars.

Sir Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, created a garden at Hatfield House early in the 17th Century. He had already obtained medlar, quince, walnut and cherry trees from a Low Countries grower named Henrich Marchfeld. He sent his gardener, John Tradescant, back to buy more stock, including “two great medlar trees” for 4s 0d and “two great medlar trees of naples” for 5s 0d.

The medlar was widely grown and eaten in 19th century Britain. Its ubiquity and popularity declined steeply after WW1, a time of changing habits and tastes. It’s possible that preparing medlars to eat just took too long.

The fruit is usually ready to harvest in late October or early November after night time temperatures have dipped. They’re inedible as a fresh fruit or cooked until they’ve been bletted (ripened) on trays in controlled, cool conditions. Off the tree, while ripe to pick, they are hard and astringent.

Bletting liberates the fruit’s fragrance and flavour; the medlar becomes soft and juicy. It may take weeks - medlars won’t be rushed – but in time they’re ready to make into delicious preserves. I work with small batches of medlars, British sugar and whole lemon. I don’t use gelling agent or liquid pectin; all my preserves are suitable for vegans and vegetarians. They are gluten free.

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At the time of writing, it’s harvest. I’m connected to a lovely network of medlar trees around North Norfolk. The fruit is offered on the basis that it otherwise goes to waste, many gardeners loving the ornamental blossom and the autumn colour of their own medlar tree. Eastgate Larder donates to their chosen charity, recognising the value to me of this overlooked and forgotten fruit. I blend my Eastgate fruit into every batch I make.

The clear amber medlar jelly is delicious with cheese, meat, game and charcuterie. Medlar fruit cheese, a set purée of the pulp, is simmered gently for several hours and pairs well with blue and hard cheeses. My newest product is a spicy medlar chutney, delicious with a curry or in a cheese sandwich. Bon appetit!


Jane Steward is a specialist grower and producer of medlar preserves. Find her at Eastgate Larder, or on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

AutumnContributor
The Value of Creative Connection
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Living slowly can be difficult when you’re also running a business, making time for family and trying to remember you do actually have friends and they’d like to see your face occasionally. I try to achieve this lifestyle, nonetheless, by seeking connections to what surrounds me in day-to-day life. To what I eat, what I wear, who I speak to. It is these connections that help us feel life isn’t just passing us by in a blur of rushed meals and soon-forgotten meetings.

I’ll admit it is easy to lose sight of these things when I’m lost under a sea a fabric with just over five minutes to turn it into something resembling the garment in my head. This is why I find connecting with others on this journey so grounding. Being part of a community with similar aspirations for a slow and seasonal life is a constant and beautiful reminder of what is real and important.

The world of online interaction can have plenty of downsides but the one resounding benefit it brings is the ease with which we can make these connections. Shared thoughts and ideas are just a click away and introductions can be forged with ease. Relationships begin with those you would never be so lucky to meet in other circumstances. If and when the opportunity arises to meet in person, foundations for a meaningful and valuable connection have already been set.

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I’ve been so fortunate to attend all the Creative Countryside gatherings and community meet-ups, and each time I leave with fresh inspiration and vitality. This is a community excited by slow and seasonal living, passionate about creativity and eager to share ideas and unearth fresh, unique points of view in return.

I’ve discovered the sense of peace to be found in a mindfulness walk, created delicious herb butter from foraged ingredients, felt myself disappear completely into some other realm in a guided meditation, received some empowering business advice, and even enjoyed a little tree-hugging to boot. Each experience is unique, beautiful and infinitely more so thanks to the kind-hearted folk whom I’ve been so blessed to share them with.

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This community is ever growing, not necessarily in size but in value. Every shared thought or moment contributes, and I’m all the more tranquil, creative and contented as a result. Thank you to those who made this happen – thank you to our community.


Jessica Townsend creates slow and sustainable fashion at House of Flint. Follow her behind-the-scenes on Instagram here.


The Creative Countryside Community is open for new members until November 15th. More information here.

Slow LivingContributor