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.

Creative in the Countryside: Raahat Kaduji

Today we’re talking to Raahat about her beautiful illustrations and what inspires her work…

Jessica: I’d love for you to start by telling us more about you and your illustrations, how they started, and what it is you do?

 Raahat: I currently live and illustrate in a town near Oxford, England. It’s where I’ve been for most of my life and this creative journey is deeply rooted in my beginnings here. Art has always had a significant presence throughout my childhood. My dad worked in the creative industry - first in game development and then as a visual effects artist - so I grew up with his paintings on my bedroom walls, his sketchbooks on my bookshelf, and a treasure trove of his old painting materials. This certainly nourished my early desire to create. I’ve also had an affinity with the natural world for as long as I can remember. I spent a lot of time in nature with both my family and childhood friends. There was an abundance of tree climbing, den building, and frog catching. Rainy days were for dreaming up stories, painting landscapes, and drawing animals.

My desire for a career in the arts really emerged when I went to university. I was 18, studying English and Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, and I wanted art to be more than just a hobby. Around that time, I started to share my work online and suddenly discovered that the internet was a wonderful place to connect with an audience, other creatives, and my future clients. I’m truly grateful to say that I’m now navigating this world of art and selling my work internationally. Something amazing also happened at the start of this year. In January, I signed with the wonderful Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, and I couldn’t be more excited for this new chapter and the future adventures that await.

Jessica: What do you love most about what you do?

 Raahat: The list is endless, though I’ll share the things that immediately come to mind.

 When I illustrate, I begin to recall places and stories from my childhood. I draw a lot of forests, meadows, woodland animals, and the sense of nostalgia that arises is quite special really. I often feel as though I am reacquainting myself with the magic, curiosity and childlike wonder that seems so hard to come by in adulthood.

 Although this career in illustration has been such a vibrant experience, self-doubt has almost always crept into the equation. Thankfully, however, through social media I’ve encountered an incredible community of individuals, who share the same passion for creativity and nature, from across the globe. These kindred folk have been some of my greatest supporters and motivators, each with creative journeys that constantly inspire me to grow, learn, and create.

 Jessica: Can you tell us about your work-space, and the methods you use to create your designs?

 Raahat: I illustrate from home and have my desk space set up by a window. Natural light is really important, not just so I can see but because it lifts my spirit. There’s a beautiful copse of trees beyond the window (the same trees that I used to climb with my siblings and friends from our childhood). My space is cluttered with things that bring me joy: books, candles, potted plants, treasures that I’ve collected on walks. There’s also the tools of the trade: my graphics tablet, sketchbooks, pencils, pens, and a little packing station for my Etsy shop orders. When I illustrate, I often listen to music or audiobooks, but when it’s warm enough, I open the window and let birdsong fill the room.  As creatives, it is incredibly easy to get distracted - the to-do lists and looming deadlines can be particularly overwhelming - so I’ve tried to create a space where I am both comfortable and reminded to embrace the slow, mindful moments of peace. Having a view where I can watch the wildlife, the changing of the seasons, and peer at the moon after the sun has set is an extra bonus that I’m very thankful for.

 My method consists of a lot of experimentation. I think that’s one of the joys that comes with creative work. The realm of art is constantly shifting and mistakes are a welcome part of the process. Generally however, most of my projects begin as rough pencil sketches. After that, I determine a colour palette (usually inspired by earthy tones) before refining the final artwork.

 Jessica: I know your work reflects your love of nature, but what inspires the specific content of each piece?

 Raahat: Nature is everything. Much of what I create is dedicated to the wonder that the universe instils within me and I feel very lucky to live so close to the countryside.  I keep a small sketchbook in my bag and take it with me when I’m off travelling or exploring the wilderness. You can never be sure when inspiration will strike! When you sit in an environment, observing the shapes, textures, colours, you suddenly attain this deep sense of awareness and alignment with the earth in that present moment. It’s these experiences that stay with me, moments in nature that I feel the desire to recreate when I’m back at my desk.

 Jessica: What impact would you like to create with your illustrations?

 Raahat: I went vegan five years ago after learning about the impact of animal agriculture on our planet and the exploitation of the peaceful beings we share this world with. Whilst my work doesn’t explicitly handle topics like veganism and environmentalism, I hope that the content inspires gratitude for the Earth and a desire to take care of it and our fellow earthlings. Beyond that, I want my illustrations to be a reminder to accept our inner child, because we are never too old to appreciate the light and magic that this world has to offer.

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

 Rahaat: If you have a creative dream, then tear after it! Nurture your ideas and bring them to life. It helps to visualise and research, but don’t worry if you haven’t formulated a long term plan to begin with. Trust your instincts and go for it.

 Community has also been such an important part of my journey, for guidance, support and friendship, so don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow creatives.

 Embrace the fear and the mistakes, and enjoy the process.

Follow Raahat on instagram, or check out her work here. If you love her work and would like to buy a piece head to her shop.

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
Repairing Summer's Wear

It’s always hard to admit when a piece of outdoor clothing has had its last run. It probably cost a lot of money and over several summers has gathered memories you’re not willing to part with. Now there’s a third factor finding voice among the outdoor community — the environmental impact of our specialised gear. Chemical coatings are used during manufacture to provide technical features and finishes. Every time we wash this clothing, these substances (called perfluorinated chemicals) seep into our water systems, eventually finding their way into rivers and seas

Yet, while the use of PFCs and microplastics is still considered essential by the industry, consumers are looking for other ways to reduce the environmental damage that is growing on the back of the outdoor lifestyle trend.

One solution is repair and recycling.

Meet Neza Petreca. Slovenian-born co-founder of Blind Chic and saviour of tired equipment.

Over the last few years several leading brands have begun encouraging customers to return gear for repair, rather than discarding it. Patagonia have even gone as far as setting up pop-up repair shops for gear from any brand. However, Neza takes it a step further. When a piece of clothing is beyond repair she turns it into something new. In collaboration with her customers Neza looks first at repair and if this isn’t possible, they’ll discuss what material can be saved and what new item the customer wants from it.


Her specialism is in bags so often Neza will make pouches, bikepacking bags or even rucksacks from damaged clothing and gear. It was the humble pouch that sparked her ambition to turn recycling into a business. Following the success of her DIY tutorial video on, friends and family started approaching Neza with their old clothing.

She’s been at it ever since.

When Neza realised this was a passion she undertook an internship with Barbara Heinze, repair seamstress and owner of her own kids clothing brand. It was Heinze who taught her to see every repair as a new problem to solve and who instilled the confidence needed to start cutting up £500 technical jackets!

Since returning to her native Slovenia, Neza has been putting her new techniques to work, as well as persuading anyone who’ll listen to consider where their old clothing goes.

What happens to it once we’ve decided it’s worthless?


The good news is Neza sees change happening. Once recycling was a thing people did because they couldn’t afford new. Now even the wealthy want to buy quality, take care of it and see it last. Customers have become curious; they want to know who’s making their products and where they’re coming from. In turn, this creates a mentality of investment. The customer knows the story behind their purchase which gives them a personal connection, not only to the brand but to the product. It’s an investment — both financial and emotional.  

As well as thermal layers and softshell jackets, Neža loves to work with damaged camping mattresses because the stiff fabric makes items that hold their shape. Tents interest her too because the large surface area offers the possibility for multiple new pieces. Here’s a few of Neza’s suggestions for simple ways to make worn summer gear work in winter:

  • merino t-shirts become neckwarmers

  • a thin windbreaker transformed into a vest

  • merino ear flaps on a summer cap when the temperature drops

While the recycling work continues to gain momentum, the designer has set in motion plans to open her own repair shop in Bovec, the outdoor capital of Slovenia. In this tiny town, on the banks of the turquoise Soča river, she envisions a shop and community space offering outdoor education. After all, education is the force driving change in outdoor consumerism.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in recycling or repairing your own equipment, contact Neza through her website.

Image below by Franzi Wernsing

Neza_8_Credit_Franzi Wernsing.JPG
Gathering String

“String is everywhere for the taking, if you have the talent to take it.”

This quote jumped out at me from a NYT article on Serendipity, the author was talking about the reporter-ism of ‘gathering string’ - following the lead of a story wherever it leads you.

But gathering string is a way to walk through life.

Being aware of the pieces of string that are moments of beauty, the blessings, the sparkles that are constantly surrounding us-for the taking.

What does the ‘talent to take it’ look like?  Webster’s defines a talent as a special ability that allows someone to do something well.  I would even take it one step further to believe that many of our talents are something that we are born with and if nurtured, can shine brighter.

If I close my eyes and imagine this string gathering, I picture literal red yarn strewn all over my day. I picture myself literally picking it up and following it, gathering it in a ball in my hand as I move on. It would be hard to ‘miss’ the red string if we were holding the ball in our hand, if it was leading us from one amazing moment to the next.

Why then is it so difficult to see the beauty that surrounds us daily?  Granted, there is no vibrant yarn path leading me to each moment of awe.  I do not actually hold this bright red yarn ball in my hand as I move about my day, but the moments of beauty are no less present.  The blessings and acts of grace and mercy are not hidden from sight.

Perhaps this is where the talent comes in.

We must nurture our ability to walk through our days, the mundane Thursday afternoons of winter, as if we were following a beautiful path of wonder.  As if we are following a clear and bright path, leading us from one spectacular thing to the next. We possess this talent, this ability that allows us to do it well.

What might we notice today if we were utilizing this special ability?  Would it be the sunrise we often see on our drive to work, and take for granted, but today we took the time to park, pause, and savor it.  Would it be the sunbeam that shines in your doors on a frigid afternoon? Would it be the birds singing in the morning that stir thoughts of summer, even while wearing a winter coat?

Today I will watch closely for where that string is leading me, I will carry what I see in my heart and I will be thankful.

Anna Bonnema
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
Community Meet-ups
All images thanks to    Eleanor McAlister-Dilks

All images thanks to Eleanor McAlister-Dilks

Nature, the seasons, living simply, and making time for creativity - all were up for discussion at our two community meet-ups these past few months. In day-to-day life we may not all have the opportunity to converse with others about these topics. With the love and passion we have for them, meeting like-minded souls who feel the same is so empowering!

Conversations and connections that enrich our lives were continued or begun during those few short hours.

First, in October, we headed to the Attenborough Nature Reserve in Nottingham. New faces were welcomed as we sat in some late summer sun, before heading out on one of the circular walks. Eleanor led a few mindful activities along the way, such as “grounding”, where we connect with the earth beneath our feet. Unfortunately the earth beneath mine was a patch of nettles but I enjoyed the concept all the same!

We stopped a while as the waters lapped by our feet to enjoy a warming tea, an apple from our orchard, and a little crafting from foraged twigs to create a star. Mine still hangs from the shed and lightens my day as I reach for my wellies each morning.

Our second meet-up in Edale was hampered by train strikes, but those who made it through met in the tiny National Trust cafe and talk began of the new year that had only just begun.

Soon we braved the weather, and as the harsh winds bit our cheeks we walked on and were prompted to write some seasonal reflections on what surrounded us that blustery day. A hard-earned rest beneath a bridge was accompanied by mulled apple juice and a brief wassail to fortify us to complete our walk.

Our connections and feelings of community were also fortified, and plans were devised for more meet-ups around the country. Larger ones planned by Eleanor for those that can travel, but smaller gatherings too, arranged and attended by those in closer proximity to each other. The relative ease of these for other to attend will mean our community continues to grow, to flourish, and to nourish.

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

Lifestyle, CreativeContributor
The Slow Flower Movement

It began with fruit and veg: in a bid to reduce waste, wonky items started appearing in supermarkets and weren’t just reserved to your local farm shop. Now flowers are following suit and shorter stems, stunted growth and wonky blooms will grace the shelves.

Aesthetic imperfections are no longer deemed unworthy and flowers that were once discarded can now find their way to your home through supermarkets and florists alike. These less-than-perfect ranges not only allow growers and farmers to reduce waste and still profit after a bad harvest, it also makes it possible for us all to afford some pretty blooms to cheer our lives from day to day.

The demand for locally grown arrangements has also grown, as sustainability incentives spread through all areas of consumerism. The ‘slow movement’ inserts itself into so many areas with this ethos in mind, helped along by social media and an influx of interest in buying from small, local businesses.

Common Farm Flowers grow cut and wild flowers from their Somerset farm, packed with English blooms. They also encourage their customers to grow their own flowers, offering workshops and ‘grow-your-own’ kits. Theirs is not only a flower farm, but a haven for wildlife, lovingly tended in their bid to enable everybody in the UK to have British grown flowers on their kitchen table all year round.

The Slow Flower Movement has taken force on a larger scale in the US, with advocate for American-grown flowers Debra Prinzing leading the way. Check out her latest pod casts as she stimulates the conversation for conscious choices within your floral purchases.

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

Slow LivingContributor
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.

Seasonal Distinctions

2018 saw Christmas butterflies and Boxing Day bumblebees. The Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar project has received over 64 records of early spring activity that started in November 2018 – including insects that have been spotted active up to 5 months earlier than normal. The Creative Countryside Community has also noticed some changes in our ‘Mapping the Seasons’ project, documenting daffodil buds, emerging bluebells and some very active squirrels.

Mild weather seems to have temporarily disturbed insects from hibernation. A small tortoiseshell butterfly appeared flying outdoors on Christmas day in Merthyr Tydfil, and a red tailed bumblebee on Boxing Day in Somerset. The average date for small tortoiseshells is 14th April, and bumblebees 26th March – making both over three months early. Even earlier still, a red admiral was seen on the 17th December in Cambridgeshire; the average emergence date is 7th May, making it nearly five months ahead of schedule.

Members of the public have sent in many other signs that spring has sprung:

  • Flowering snowdrops were spotted in Southampton on 30th November – over a month earlier than expected – and there have been 24 records of this in total

  • There have been 23 Hazel flowering records, beginning 1st December. This usually happens in early March

  • A flowering oxeye daisy was seen in Gloucestershire on the 28th December, despite normally blooming from mid-April to early June.

Even birds have made an early appearance. The song thrush has been heard in eleven locations since the 5th December and is increasingly reported singing all winter, though expected mid-late March.  Blue tits were also seen exploring a nesting box on 26th December, though the UK average date for nesting is 4th April.

Met office records for the UK report both November and December as mild, with average temperatures more than 1 °C above the 1981-2010 long-term average.  However, with a potential cold snap on the way, more delicate species could suffer.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite, citizen science manager for the Woodland Trust said: “Once again - despite being in the throes of January - flora and fauna are reacting to milder climates, and spring seems to have sprung early. We were far from a white Christmas, with hazel flowers and snowdrops being spotted by our citizen scientists across the country.

“Data like this has continuously brought into question the way we think about the seasons, and to see spring in December no longer seems unusual. The more data we have, the better we will understand the effects of warm winters, cold snaps and heatwaves. In short, we need more Nature’s Calendar recorders.”

Nature’s Calendar is a continuation of seasonal recordings which date back to the 18th century. By recording the timings of natural phenomenon, thousands of people have enabled Nature’s Calendar to become the leading survey into how climate change is affecting UK plants and wildlife.

In 2018 an early spring was paused by the beast from the east, only for a summer heatwave to make berries ripen early and conkers shrink. Temperature research by the Met Office suggests that the growing season is extending by up to a month, and this is corroborated by Nature’s Calendar data; budburst is happening earlier and leaf fall later.

To become a Nature’s Calendar recorder, visit Or, to watch time lapse footage of trees throughout the seasons go here.

MusingsEleanor Cheetham
Behind-the-Scenes: Looking Ahead to 2019

This post has been sat in my drafts for a week now, and it’s only after a mammoth inbox clear-out and organisation session today that I finally feel ready to sit and write, and look to what’s in store for the year ahead.

A lot of the thoughts I’ve had about the future of Creative Countryside have been to do with boundaries. With reduced working hours, I’m going to have to get much better at prioritisation, and - although I always have so many ideas and new projects - I need to be realistic about what I will be able to achieve. So here’s what you can expect for 2019.

The Magazine

The biggest change is in the publishing structure of the magazine; we’re moving from a quarterly to a bi-annual. Printing 500 copies four times a year means that even if I sold every last one, I still wouldn’t make enough to cover all the (increasing) costs of the business. But printing 500 copies twice a year, with an issue that will be twice the size (240 pages rather than 120), and an increased cover price, might be able to. I’m under no illusions that the magazine will suddenly start making lots of money, but it just needs to be self sustainable so I don’t have to worry about losing money.

It also means I can be far more focused and prepared in terms of content. And, of course, I won’t have to put on my marketing hat (which I’m not a big fan of) quite so often. Issue 7 - ‘emerge’ (spring/summer) will be released in April, and issue 8 - ‘ember’ (autumn/winter) will be released in September.

Inevitably there will be a much bigger upfront cost to printing such a large publication, and so I’ve decided to run another crowdfunding campaign (as I did with issue 1). I’ll be offering the magazine at a special pre-order price, plus the opportunity to purchase digital back issues, which will not be available to buy on the website in the future. You can also expect handwritten seasonal postcards, back issue bundles, and more TBC. Sign up to the newsletter to be the first to hear.

The Community

No major changes here, but I’m opening one of our informal meet-ups to all (non-members included) - join us on Saturday 23rd March at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for an afternoon to chat, appreciate the artwork, and embrace the season.

I’ll be opening community doors again in May, when you’ll have the chance to join our group of like-minded souls. To receive updates about the meet-up in March, and the community re-opening in May, sign up to the newsletter.


Other than the community meet-ups (and the winter gathering this weekend!) I will only be running one event this year. Taking place Friday 10th - Sunday 12th October (location TBC), the weekend is themed around ‘embracing the darkness’, and will include 2 nights’ accommodation, nature inspired creative workshops, all meals and drinks, plus the chance to connect with other nature-loving folk. Members of the community have first dibs plus a 10% discount on tickets, which will be released over the summer.

Other Projects

That all sounds enough really! But I have got another couple of very exciting creative projects on the go. I’m working on a collaboration with Maddy (A Slow Adventure) which we’ll announce more details on soon, and I’ve got a few other ideas up my sleeve. As always, newsletter subscribers will hear first - sign up if you don’t want to miss out.

As February, and Imbolc, approach, I finally feel like I’m ready to act rather than just think and plan. This year I gave myself permission to take January more slowly, and it’s a good job too, as it’s taken me all this time to finalise plans! Thank you for sticking with CC through this lull - here’s to a slow and seasonal year ahead.

CreativeEleanor Cheetham
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.