Posts in Winter
A Beachcomber's Diary: February
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Sarah takes a reflective look back on her beach adventures last month…

Usually in Cornwall, February is the month of storms. Just when the steely, harshness of January begins to soften, the snowdrops emerge and the days begin to lengthen again. It’s then, that one begins to fool oneself into thinking that spring is close within reach and that’s precisely when the storms strike. Last February we had a bout of snow storms which was most unusual for Cornwall, in particular the western peninsula where I live and where we enjoy a microclimate which keeps the temperatures mild.

The storms blow in all sorts of detritus off the seas, dredge up all manner of things from the seabeds and the beaches become a veritable treat for the beach combers of the south coast. The usual finds; sea glass, pottery and various shells are easily found on many of the Cornish beaches all year round but the storms churn up the sand and reveal fresh and exciting finds that may have been overlooked before. Once, I even happened across a stray buoy from a boat which I took home, you’ll find many tiny fishing cottages in rural west Cornwall that have decorated their gardens with buoys washed up in coves.

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Sea glass (also colloquially known as drift glass) takes on average 20-40 years to become enough withered by the waves that it gains its smooth, frosted characteristics. It can even take as long as 100 years so it’s exciting to think that when you find a smooth, aquamarine blue piece, you’re holding something between your fingers that perhaps once belonged to a victorian gin bottle or may have even washed up on the shore, a broken relic from a ship wrecked  hundreds of years ago.

In west Cornwall, you’ll have to get up early, beat the dog walkers and mind the tides to have your best chance at finding some beautiful pieces of sea glass however if you travel out to our nearby archipelago, the Scilly isles, there’s practically no sport in finding it as you’ll be tripping over the biggest, chunkiest turquoise pieces you ever did see.

What’s more exciting though, far more exciting than withered and worn Victorian glass, is when the storms blow in some curious creatures from the high seas. Hydrozoa such as ‘By the Wind Sailors’ are a frequent visitor of the Cornish coasts in February and March. With their space-like dreamy blue colour and little shiny clear sails they’re almost alien looking and quite magical. They live and drift on the surface of the ocean, feeding on the plankton but the strong wintery onshore winds blow them up onto the beaches. Although they’re a very pretty decoration and exciting find on the Cornish beaches,  it’s a great shame as many dry out and don’t survive if they get blown up too far for the tide to rescue them. Last year, with the storms, we also witnessed a glut of Portuguese man-o-war on our beaches. Although beautiful, they are an incredibly dangerous jellyfish and have been affectionately nicknamed ‘neon death pasties’ by some of the locals here.

If you’re beachcombing at a spot where the river mouth meets the ocean, you may also find some beautiful Oyster shells washed up. Oyster shells are one of my favourite shells to pick up and on one of our recent visits to Looe last weekend, we did manage to pick up a few of them.

One of the most interesting recent beachcombing finds that I’ve heard of recently was that of my friend Mariette. Down on the Lizard peninsula she happened across an unassuming lump of smelly, greasy ‘something’ which she brought home and turned out to be Ambergris. You’ve got no idea what Ambergris is? Good, because I didn’t either. Ambergris is formed in the digestive system of sperm whales and is extremely valuable and coveted by perfumers. It’s sort of ‘whale vomit’ in crude terms and if you’re a beachcomber that comes across Ambergris, you’ve struck gold. Mariette is already planning her holiday with her unexpected windfall. The takeaway from all of this is that you should forget rare pieces of shipwrecked lego or lost pirate coins, the real beach treasure to be searched for is whale barf.

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When you can bear to take your gaze away from the swirling swell and churning sea foam, look down: The winter beaches suddenly become an exciting bazaar of fascinating detritus and glistening, quirky, natural treasures to take home and decorate the windowsill (where many of my finds end up.) Some of my favourite finds are shells with particularly giant barnacles, fossils, hag-stones or very occasionally dried coral - I found the Isle of Wight was an excellent spot for picking up coral (another bittersweet beach find.)  Lyme Regis and the Jurassic coast are excellent for fossils if you have patience, a keen eye and a dash of luck.

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In the wintertime, Cornwall shuts down and becomes bleak, empty and quiet. I get asked often how I survive over the wintertime here or what we do for fun. Personally, I feel that the county comes alive out of ‘tourist season’ and particularly during the stormy periods. Misty beaches, churning aquamarine waves and endless sea caves to explore, beaches aren’t just for sunbathing and building sandcastles. For me, a winter beach is an endlessly exciting, peaceful and restorative space bringing us these tiny treasures with stories to tell; stories of shipwrecks, lost fishing nets, tiny creatures from the high seas and lost cargo from thousands of miles away.

WinterSarah Porteus
The Spirit of Winter

Tis the season of profound dormancy in the wooded hills of northern Romania, yet the birds, deer, rabbits and foxes are so very alive - casting their whereabouts in the snow. Mice and other creatures are happily hiding underneath the great white blanket, nibbling grass seeds under haystacks and devouring their winter stores, out of sight and out of mind till the flowing melt begins...

Wheels ground to a halt this season when 45 cm of white, frosty flakes covered the roofs and lands in the course of one night. In a village with no plows, people took to brooms and shovels to make knee-deep paths in the snow. Promptly the horses and sleighs took over the arduous task of bringing freshly harvested alder and beech down from the woodlands during the week. On the weekends they engaged the tourists with a chance of a lifetime, to live like we all lived once upon a time: traveling upon a horse-powered sleigh to navigate the hilly lanes of the village, laughing all the way!

In deep snow, wheels are no good, so we must return to our animal instincts and stumble-walk headlong into the drifts, casting our own bootprints in the snow. Though it is tempting to stay inside, toasty by the fireplace, nature beckons us to see the incredible beauty she has produced.

Stepping out into a vast bed of snow is like venturing into the freezing sea, walking through it and forging your own path, however, is a measure of stronger willpower. If you know the lay of the land, then everything will be alright, if not, you might be in for a deeper surprise... It goes without saying, that if you know by heart the footpaths walked by generations and the way the land flows intimately, then navigating the covered terrain will be far easier, than to step blindly as a stranger on the first outing.

In our part of the world, this means recognizing key trees and befriending the many haystacks that dot the landscape. As we walk familiar routes throughout the village spaces and beyond the edges of civilisation, we become acquainted with the age, season of harvest and shape of each haystack. Some weather gracefully, others slide and slump over time, while the rest remain forever young in body and spirit.

Haystacks are the quintessential markers of the land and the pride of the landowners.

In winter, they don their village coats, not of handspun wool, but of heavy snow, and they each seem to take on new personalities, if only for a short while. They come and go at a reasonable pace, carefully deconstructed and loaded onto carts heading for wooden stables with hungry cows. Such a movement of dried grass is to be found few places in the world, and to make the hay by hand scythe, well, we can only hope that is not a dying art...

A long winter is also filled with moments to slow down, to reflect, to dream, to carve poems that nurture our souls:

In the deepest depths of winter,

Silently shiver under a crystal blanket
soothe your ears
with a comforting blankness,


communicate in soundlessness
hear the fox bark
give ear to the jays’ bicker
explore footprints running astray
do not speak

Quiet as dark
bright as the sun
snow keeps on piling,
adding to the undeniable beauty of winter

For months and months
the land is ever white
it won’t be long till all is speckled with


As we indulge in our private collection of homemade preserves and sit in silence with determined reason, we already dream about blossoms aplenty - though we will not rush nature, patience is a winter virtue indeed.

Follow Cheryl and her family as they navigate Instagram without a smart phone at Forest Creek Meadows.

WinterCheryl Magyar
Winter Gathering 2019
Image by    Annie Spratt

Image by Annie Spratt

Was the first Creative Countryside Gathering only a year ago? It’s hard to believe more time has not passed, the connections made throughout this year have become so strong.

At this, the first gathering of 2019, Eleanor arrived in Bratoft, Lincolnshire, early to set up alone, soon to be joined by the first arrivals for cocktails and nibbles. I was late to join after an unfortunate misunderstanding between ‘left’ and ‘right’, but we were all soon settled in the beautiful Old Rectory for a few days of good food, creativity and conversation.

Image by    Gemma Evans

Image by Gemma Evans

On Saturday a few rose early to catch the morning light, before we all joined for some grounding in the dew covered grass, and then to feast on pancakes with blood oranges and syrup.

Images by    Annie Spratt

Images by Annie Spratt

The day filled with activity, as we were slowly led by Eleanor to create journals, to free-write, and collectively to make a zine based on the moments shared that weekend.

Images by    Gemma Evans

Images by Gemma Evans

Somehow in this day full of creative pursuits, we also had time to wander nearby, chatting or taking photographs of the myriad of snowdrops that lay at our feet. As the night drew in we took to the comfy chairs with a warming drink to write, or sew, or think.

Image by    Annie Spratt

Image by Annie Spratt

Images by    Gemma Evans

Images by Gemma Evans

We feasted that night by fairy light, on Indian food and gin cocktails, before we talking and laughing deep into the night. A much needed cooked breakfast brought our time to a close the next morning. Another gathering brought to a close with friends old and new, we said our fond farewells and took one last look at those grand walls, those happy rooms, and those snowdrop walks. See you next time?

Image by    Jessica Townsend

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

On a Winter's Morning

Winter mornings can be a struggle to get up to when it’s cold and still dark outside. It makes me want to stay nestled underneath the duvet covers until the morning light appears through my curtains. But early on a cold and clear winter’s morning, magic begins to happen.

Although it’ll still be dark outside, I’ll open up the curtains wide to see that the window panes will be frosted and condensated and cold to the touch. And if I peer through the window, I’ll just be able to see the ice formed on the windows of the cars parked along the street. I like to turn on the fairy lights for that warm, comforting golden glow to fill the room whilst it's still dark. I’ll wrap up warm in my dressing gown and sleepily head downstairs to boil the kettle for a big cup of tea. By the time I'm back upstairs, setting my cup of tea to one side on the bedside table, it will start to get lighter outside and that's when the magic begins.

It will still be quiet outside, although with the hum of cars passing by the main road in the distance, sometimes catching the sound of a train chugging along its tracks at the nearest railway, a few birds chirping in the back garden and if I'm lucky, I'll catch a plump of geese flying close together over the house. There's no rush at this time of morning, just warmth, cosiness and the company of a good cup of tea and a book to read before I get ready for the day.

As it begins to get lighter, just below the row of trees at the bottom of the street the sun will begin to rise and the colours of the sky begin to change. It sets alight with fiery oranges and peaches and notes of pinks, purples and yellows, that blend in streaks through the white clouds like watercolours bleeding across a canvas painting.

The morning frost will glisten on the rooftops, across the lawns and down the paths of the street. Sprinkled around like fairy dust, dressing spiderwebs in tiny, delicate ice crystals, freezing old crunchy autumn leaves left trodden along the paths, clinging to the details on the veins of each leaf. The whole street will be transformed into a winter wonderland, as if everything has been lulled to sleep under a thin blanket of ice, until it melts away by the time the afternoon arrives.

And so, when I get up just that little bit earlier with an extra slow hour to spare, it’s definitely worth it to see the magic on a winter’s morning.

Kayleigh Wright 

WinterChelsea Louise Haden
A Forest Adventure

I wonder where our heavy boots, caked with sticky mud, will take us, as we set out on the winding, forest trail in search of a shy snow drop?

The sun will surely warm our icy cheeks through the branches, as we head deeper into the woodland.

Hand in hand, we stumble through puddles and clamber over fallen tree trunks. We climb logs and gather feathers. We spy moss-strewn faerie doors in burrows and run excitedly on, as our dear forest guardian, Robin, hops ahead from branch to branch, leading the way.

Breathing in the cold winter air, we feel it energise our core and carry us deeper into nature, to seek adventure. 

Looking back to our muddy boot prints pressed into the trail behind us, we see that we have  come a long way. Each step tells a new story...where we are heading and where we will end up. 

It's time to pause a moment. We find a welcoming tree stump, sit down and bring out the steaming flask to warm our bodies. As we sip, we giggle and tell tales of the woodland folk who may be watching us from around the forest. We prick our ears and listen for their sound; but all is quiet, except for the sweet chorus of birdsong. 

Time to rise and adventure on some more. Robin appears, nodding, as if certain he's found what we're seeking. We follow his lead, enchanted by his dedication to our little expedition. Getting nearer to a grassy clearing, we run on, butterflies rising up within us, as we await our surprise destination. Eyes sparkle with anticipation. Then, just like that, we see them. Our shy, snowdrops; their heads bowed with grace and dignity.  A soft, glimmer of hope that Spring is growing near. January's gift, amongst the cold, dark days.

We stand together; one small hand holding mine, as we take in this magical sight. When you've got a child's hand in yours, Winter in the forest is filled with the greatest surprises. No matter the weather, being amidst nature is the most special place to play.

Pull on your boots, and have your own woodland adventure. You may just unearth some beautiful surprises of your own this Winter.

By Amelia Goodall

Creative, WinterContributor
Winter Wellbeing

The nights are long, and the days so much shorter. The skies hang grey over our heads with a weak sun doing little to warm us. Winter can take its toll on us both mentally and physically, leaving us feeling unwell in more ways than one. Follow these tips for an easier route to wellness this season…


Your kitchen cupboard can hold the cure to many a bout of cold and flu. Try a combination of turmeric and cinnamon for their fantastic anti-inflammatory qualities. A little cinnamon in your coffee is a tasty way to start the day off right, and turmeric is a traditional staple in Chinese and Indian medicine. Read more here about what remedies your spice-rack holds.


Take advantage of those long nights and do as nature does - rest. The shorter hours of daylight mean our bodies natural rhythm adjusts, don’t fight it if you can help it.


Cook with mushrooms for some immune boosting benefits - white button and shitake especially. These stuffed mushrooms look delicious!


Deep rest and relaxation is a great contributor to wellbeing. Here, Elizabeth guides us into Yogic Sleep for a short restorative period of deep rest that will leave you refreshed - a quick way to incorporate relaxation into your busy week.


Massaging essential oils into your skin can provide a perfect winter pick-me-up. Uplift your spirit with rose, enliven with geranium leaf, relax your muscles with peppermint and use lavender for a calm unwind for bedtime. Take time massaging them into your skin, they’re also a great moisturiser.


Finally, find time to do something that makes you laugh! Important for any season, any month, any day - keep happy, keep well.


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

The Revival of the Wassail

The ancient English tradition of wassailing has had somewhat a revival of recent and regained popularity. Pulling on your wellies, heading out into the frosty night and singing to apple trees to encourage a bountiful harvest whilst sipping cider has become an annual tradition for lots of country dwellers and January revellers. 

In orchards, allotments, farms and gardens across the country, wassail celebrations will be spreading positive joy ahead of spring. On the chosen day, groups with perhaps painted faces and fancy dress attire gather for a procession down to the fruit trees. Often, a wassail King or Queen will guide the merrymakers by a flaming torch to the oldest tree in the orchard, garden or allotment. Once gathered round, a piece of cider-soaked toast is placed onto the tree (or shot out of the tree with a shotgun a la The Ethicurean) to entice the good spirits to come, thus ensuring a good harvest of apples in the coming season. Then, cider is poured around the roots of the trees in honour of the spirits as pots and pans are clattered to ward off the evil spirits that might be lurking in the branches before serenading the tree. Legend has it that there’s fire involved as it represents the returning sun, so sitting around a bonfire or being led by a fire torch to wake up the sleepy winter soul and inject some magic into the evening is to be expected. The term ‘wassailing’ derives from a much-debated translation of the Old Norse ‘ves heill,’ which ultimately translates to 'be healthy’, ‘be you hale.’ 

Drinking plenty of cider is another way to liven things up.  The ritual centres around a wassail cup, which was traditionally filled with local ale or cider blended with spices and honey and drunk to drown animosity in small communities.  

Traditionally, a wassail takes place on the old twelfth night (17th January), although these days not all wassails are the same and different people hold them on different dates. This tradition dates back to pagan times and apparently has roots in 5th century Kent when the first Saxon Jutes brought a celebratory toast, which was named the wassail. Certainly the practice of wassailing was considered a pagan threat to the Christian church and there was even an edict banning it in 1577. 

However, today, as we start to pay more attention to our environment and crave community in what can be a fast-paced, busy world, the wassail brings us back to nature, the land and our communities to embrace tradition and celebrate in all the midwinter glory. 

 Joele Forrester is a digital journalist living in Bristol, although she always makes time to go back to her Dartmoor roots and enjoy the little things in life. When away from the office, you’ll find her walking in the woods, exploring new places close to home or flicking through independent magazines in coffee shops. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

A Sky Full of Birds

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.


 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.

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!


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!


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.


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.


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!


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

WinterChelsea Louise Haden
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.

Winter Gathering 2018
All images courtesy of the very lovely  Annie Spratt , unless otherwise stated.

All images courtesy of the very lovely Annie Spratt, unless otherwise stated.

I can't quite believe it's taken me over three weeks to formulate the words to tell you about the very first Creative Countryside Winter Gathering. What began as a late night musing on Instagram led to 18 of us holed up in the Peak District for the first weekend of the new year. It was rejuvenating, inspiring, incredibly hard work(!), and taught me so much about how I want to build this community from now on.


My sister, Jess, came along as my indispensable co-host, and we arrived mid-afternoon on the Friday at Dalehead Bunkhouse, near Edale, to set up. Darkness steadily rolled in as we decorated with greenery and prepared for the first attendees to arrive. I'd chosen a location nearby a train station (I don't know about you, but arriving by train always feels a bit more stress-free), and after a couple of pick-ups we were settled for the night. 

We began with cider bellini cocktails (which turned out to be a bit more lethal than we'd imagined...) and coupled with a roaring fire, they helped encourage the group of strangers to bond and connect. Before dinner, Mugdha from Kindred & Kind led a herbal tea talk and tasting, and as someone who absolutely hates licquorice, the blend that included it was surprisingly delicious! Jess and I then got on with food preparations, before leading everyone through to feast on creamy mushroom and herb pasta followed by mulled winter fruits and spiced gingerbread.

Conversation flowed in the candlelight and slowly people moved up to bed, or closer to the fire for late night reading. Sleep eluded me that night, but we were up early to make the most of the day.


Just as the sun was rising, Elizabeth led an inspiring meditation with around half the group. I've always struggled with the concept, but her advice that you're supposed to get distracted, that it's coming back to focus that's of most importance, really rang true. The flames of the fire crackled and popped as we were still with our thoughts and Elizabeth's guidance. The second half of the group had left early to explore the hills, and returned just in time for buckwheat pancakes for breakfast.


I managed to escape for half an hour or so to explore with my camera, and it was wonderful to see so many others doing the same, despite the early hour. Creative Countryside's online editor Chelsea then led us over the hills and through the valley on a mindfulness walk. The brief rainstorm lent even more meaning to her words, as were guided to take note of the feel of the mossy wall, acknowledge our senses, and connect with our emotions. A potential stumbling block - a deep boggy pit right next to a stile - was avoided thanks to the characterful farmer who let us walk down his track, albeit with the caveat, "Don't make a habit of it!"


We returned with handfuls of foraged greenery, a few berries, and skeletons of winter grasses, ready to begin our foliage crown workshop, led by Jess. Event bags were handed out, and included craft aprons from Pursuit England, a luxurious green bath potion from Magic Organic Apothecary, lavender firelighters from Rebecca FletcherThe Almanac by Lia Leendertz, and smudge sticks to cleanse the air from Kindred & Wild.

Image: Jess Townsend

Image: Jess Townsend

Image: Jess Townsend

Image: Jess Townsend

Image: Jess Townsend

Image: Jess Townsend

Image: Eleanor Cheetham

Image: Eleanor Cheetham


Lunch was a warm cumin roasted carrot and lentil salad, with a cashew nut cheese that I'd never made before, which turned out to be incredibly popular! It was followed by two workshops: pouring our own beeswax candles, and learning all about the process from Francey at Tea and Wildflowers, and a very relaxed mini wreath-making session. It was wonderful to watch as some became engrossed in the creative act of wreath design, and our candles took on so much more meaning once we'd added our words to the glass jars - all taken from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. 

Image: Jess Townsend

Image: Jess Townsend

Image: Jess Townsend

Image: Jess Townsend


Before our Twelfth Night feast, we ventured out into the half-darkness to wassail. After wishing each other wassail (or 'good health') and taking a sip of mulled organic Wyld Wood cider from the antique cider mug, we poured cider onto the roots of an apple tree I'd brought from our orchard at home, adding a cider-soaked piece of toast into its boughs, hoping for a prosperous apple harvest for the year ahead. The ceremony then moved on to a raucous session of banging pots and pans to rid the air of evil (insect) spirits, and we closed by eating an apple from my orchard at home, and I encouraged everyone to plant the core and start their own apple-growing.

Image: Jess Townsend

Image: Jess Townsend

The temperature had dropped and we returned indoors. Our handmade beeswax candles decorated the table, and we feasted on spiced celeriac soup with za'atar, honey-roasted vegetables with quinoa and pesto, and mini apple crumbles. We lingered at the dinner table before venturing outside again to do a spot of stargazing. Shooting stars flashed across the sky as we picked out constellations and attempted to take photographs. 

Image: Sarah Porteus

Image: Sarah Porteus

Image: Sarah Porteus

Image: Sarah Porteus

Our final morning began with a few heading up to Mam Tor to watch the sunrise. The rest of us grabbed a bowl of Nordic spiced porridge and packed up the last of our possessions. A few left early with a long drive ahead, but we stayed awhile in Edale, exploring the village and surrounding fields, and enjoying a hearty pub lunch before saying our goodbyes.

Image: Sarah Porteus

Image: Sarah Porteus

Image: Sarah Porteus

Image: Sarah Porteus

I'm not brilliant with texting people back or replying to emails immediately, and I definitely haven't done half the things I've wanted to with the online Creative Countryside community so far, but in a way these real life meet-ups are the antidote to all of that chaos. I met Chelsea for the first time, and Sarah, our folklore editor, too.  So many of the people that attended have been involved in the magazine. And some I'd never really chatted to before. It was a real mix of truly interesting creatives, and I'm so grateful to have had the chance to get to know them more.

WinterEleanor Cheetham
Slow Winter Magic

At this time of year when the grey and moody language of winter sets the tone for the month of January, I find myself in need of a little nurturing for the soul.  Mornings covered in frost, the light glinting on the horizon through a sea of fog and the glow of Christmas past make me long for the tiniest glimmer that spring is on its way.  However, I’ve found that for me the best antidote to a bad case of January blues is to try to embrace what the season may hold and savour winter’s last hurrah.

Heading off into the woods for the weekend, our little family of four did just that.  Off the beaten track in the New Forest is Warborne Farm, a family-run 100 acre farm which boasts a selection of lovingly converted boutique barns.  Perfect for retreats, families, couples and those who need nothing but cosiness, long walks and a chance to while away the hours in the wilderness of the forest.


Arriving after dark, The Grain Loft, our home from home for the weekend was lit up with the glow of a roaring fire within the woodburner.  Warmth, cosiness and the rustic feel of natural materials intermingled with exposed piping and industrial chic set the tone for the décor.  Handmade to perfection - from the sheep fleeces on the beds from the farm’s own flock and light fitting made from the original pulley system used for hauling up hessian sacks of grain for storing, to shutters handmade by Kate’s mum Ann, bedside tables carved from blocks of Douglas Fir from the New Forest and sills once part of an old sunken barge found emerging from the mudflats.  Modern, rustic but luxurious to boot. 

Everything has been created with an ambience of slow living in mind, helping guests to switch off from the hustle and bustle and reclaim time for themselves.  Perhaps one of the most special and unexpected features of our stay in The Grain Loft was a viewing window in the floor of the sitting room, from which we could watch and marvel at our neighbours below – a family of Boer goats.  I cannot tell you how magical it was to being able to witness the sweet scene beneath our feet.  I’ve never felt more like Heidi. 

Dragging ourselves away from goats and mugs of bedtime hot chocolate, the girls’ bedroom proved to be the stuff of little girls’ dreams.  Former stalls in the loft have been converted into a stunning 4 berth dorm complete with beds furnished with hay mattresses made from ox-eye daisies, ladies bedstraw and other wild flowers from the farm’s meadows.  Our bedroom didn’t disappoint either.  Soft sheepskin and downy pillows ensured a night of dreaming we were snuggled up in a chalet deep in the snowy Alps.  It’s these beautiful little touches which make staying at Warborne so magical.  A cavernous copper bath and time spent reading and chatting by the fire with a large glass of wine ensured the perfect digital detox. 

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Waking to a day of planned adventures, the surrounding heathland ensured that we had time to daydream whilst spotting wild ponies, collecting pine cones and getting muddy and rosy-cheeked with our dogs.  There’s also the seaside town of Lymington to explore if you wish to venture out for supplies and take a bracing walk along the sea walls.  However there’s heaps to draw you back to the farm.  Picking your own organic vegetables from the plentiful polytunnels, finding buckets by the front door with treats to feed the farm’s Kune Kune pigs and being able to collect your own eggs for breakfast from the hen house are all highly recommended.  We loved savouring the simple things and enjoying the beauty of midwinter at its best.  No need for screen time, although there are televisions and Wifi in each of the barns should you not be able to resist.  Our little ones spent hours just running about, visiting the farm’s many animals and bouncing off the top of the bales in the hay barn. 

There’s a touch of old fashioned farm living about Warborne Farm.  Our weekend stay gave us much needed time, space and freedom to enjoy a little midwinter magic.  I think that perhaps the most important thing I shall take away with me is just finding a space to be able to let myself switch off and enjoy my wintry surroundings.  It’s those moments I shall savour rather than try to rush the time away until we welcome spring again with open arms.  As Johanna Spyri, the author of Heidi wrote, “Let's enjoy the beautiful things we can see, my dear, and not think about those we cannot.”

WinterRebecca Fletcher