Art Journal: The Victorian Halloween Stage by Stage

For this artwork, I first sketched out the rough shapes onto a piece of A3 (poster-sized) paper with a light 2B pencil, and then gradually added the finer features with a graphic pencil. One of the first items to be detailed-in was the marionette stall.

I had put out a request online for suggestions and one person had asked for a “dancing skeleton”; this gave me the idea of a puppet.

I have a mini-desk and tiny stool set up beside me and my daughter sits there beside me in the early morning whilst I work, with her own little art set. I keep a sheet of laminate close by that I can pop over my work-in-progress so that she can point out features she likes.

One request was for a “spooky merry-go-round with skeletal horses” and for this I referred to a veterinary anatomy book – even though the horse is actually only a centimetre in size.

A special friend, who is fighting a very brave health battle, requested a little girl with Star Wars buns in her hair, accompanied by her pet dog. I gave the girl the central position in the whole piece.

One suggestion was for “spiders with hats.” The town’s tavern therefore found its name: The Hatted Spider.

I was asked to include a “wizard with a huge beard that gets everywhere!” This developed into a mischievous character who used his beard to steal both hot chestnuts and a toffee apple. Local children can be found using it as a skipping rope.

“A mother witch with her children, all on broomsticks” was another suggestion. I imaged that this would probably require reigns of some sort to keep the little ones from flying off. The witch family can be found in front of the milliner’s, the mother witch balancing groceries on the back of her broomstick.

If you peek in the top window of Dr M. Shelley’s, you might spot Dr Frankenstein tinkering about with some cables that he should really leave alone. Both the Book Depository and the Physician’s have “established” dates that match the dates on which the famous books were published. B. Stoker’s book shop is “Open From Dusk.”

Gradually, it begins to take shape.

Here is the haunted mansion on the lower right corner being drawn in:

The outline finished. Time to add colour.

I wanted to create a sense of the orange-yellow glow that always accompanies a fairground at night. I focused on the areas of bright light first; the carnival rides, street lamps and windows.

The little dog here belongs to a lovely friend who gave me a photo of their pet in a woolly Christmas jumper. The witchy fortune teller was another brilliant request.

Nearly there.

The Ent-like tree, with his arm around the letterbox is one of my favourite parts of the poster.

Mrs Hudson hails a cab for Sherlock from a first floor window.

After everything is complete, we scan them and my husband turns them into digital artworks for

I want to thank the 130+ friends who took part in creating this artwork, with cheery company and fantastic suggestions.

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Art Journal: Creating the Storybook Garden in Autumn

The first stage of any artwork I create is to sketch out the shape of the piece in a light 2B artist’s pencil.  This allows me to see how the image flows across the large A3 poster.  My aim is to create pockets of interest throughout the page.

I then put out a request to the online community for suggestions of their favourite autumn sights for me to include.  Below you can see the tiny fly agaric and wheelbarrow full of pumpkins and squash that were sent in as requests.

Gradually, the giant poster starts to fill with outlines and swirls.  I work from home and have five children so sometimes a fairy might decide to take a nap on my pencil case.

The perspective in my work often skews in different directions. The aim is to try and give different vantage points, as if the viewer is taking a walk around the drawing and seeing everything from lots of different angles.

Once the outline is complete, in this case after thirty hours of drawing time, we take a careful scan so that we have a “colouring sheet” copy.

Afterwards, I highlighted just the suggested items and laid out lots of little labels with each person’s name next to their request, as a thank you for taking part.

Then I gradually inked-in the rest of the poster.  In this particular piece there is a lot of sky, weaving pathways and green spaces, so I tested out different tonal graduations to prevent large blocks of the same colour.  This stage takes around twenty five hours.

 After 55 hours … the poster is complete; it is time to scan the finished artwork and start to design the products for the Storybook Garden in Autumn Collection.

If you would like to colour in this giant poster yourself, wherever you are in the world, you can download it from our shop for just £2.50. I would love to see how it turns out if you do 🙂 Every sale helps our tiny family business grow x

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Potager Garden: August 2020

We started a tree hospital in our garden. Wilting self-sown spindle trees from the front garden and seemingly dead twigs were replanted with care in prime positions. I watered them every day and fed them a seaweed feed. After five weeks – a rush of bright chlorophyl-green shot up the stem of the smallest twig and signalled the start of the healing process. A week later, tiny leaves appeared.

Our little daughter started to spend all of her time in the garden. Together we created a little reading nook, shaded from the full sun under the giant fuchsia. She took Mouse and Rabbit into her hideaway and taught them their alphabet.

We celebrated when the first solitary bees moved into the tiny hive I had been gifted for my springtime birthday. The spaces are almost all filled now … happily, we may need to add a second one next year.

Helpful friends identified this exotic looking self-seeded bloom as a Himalayan Honeysuckle. At first I was perturbed that it was entwining its way up the rose arch with surprising speed. Having been reassured that it will reach a comfortable 4-5 foot and then calm down, I can now enjoy its presence in our shady miniature woodland area.

In the last week of August, the storms came; too rough for the delicate summer blossoms. My daughter and I together collected the fallen flowers – mostly stemless so not destined for a vase arrangement. I was suddenly inspired to paint with them instead. I let the raindrops fall away into the artist’s paper and then added a matching pigment.

Back in the Springtime, we had watched the delicate apple blossoms, hoping that they would brave the breeze…

…we then watched the very same branch as it bobbed and swayed in the gales. It held on until morning – just!

Many nights were too fierce for a real candle. Standing out in the dusk gales was exhilarating nonetheless and I loved being in the night garden, buffeted by the swirls of fresh breeze.

Eventually, the storms drifted away, leaving us with a second Summer. Lavender, Salvia, Buddleia, all had their third flowerings. To add a little smidgen of anticipation, the Sedum began to bud, just as September approached.

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Travel Diaries: Autumn in Scotland – Rockpooling at High Tide

In the autumn of 2019 we returned to Scotland, to the little holiday cottage on the windswept north west coast. We wanted to see how the changing seasons affected the landscape that we had fallen deeply in love with back in the springtime and timed our trip for when the autumn colours would reach their peak.

As soon as we had recovered from the long journey north, we set out for Durness, eager to see the Atlantic waves crash against the shore.

Our baby daughter was now just-turned-one and still in her carrier, wrapped up in blankets and scarves, huddled against me in the bracing winds.

There is a knack to getting children beach-ready in September in Durness. You master the art of catching gloves and scarfs as the breeze whisks them out of the car boot.

As you first step foot on the sands, a stream runs down from the crags to greet you, ripples under an old arched stone bridge, and then follows you down to the surf.

The clouds above us race by; shafts of sunlight appear for seconds and vanish.

We find a spot where the waves pool between the rocks. Our boys venture forward into the foam and quickly scuttle back, the youngest squealing with delight, every time the tide rushes in just a little quicker and further than expected.

Everywhere new textures catch my eye; just to my side is a cluster of shells that look as ancient as the weathered stone they cling to. I hold my daughter close enough to prod them gently with her mittened hand.

My little son, who speaks only rarely, runs his fingers over the barnacles that edge each rock pool and I just catch his words over the roar of the sea: “same but different!”

I love the deep greens of the seaweed, stretching out to greet the tide. My son reaches out eagerly to touch the beautiful strands, for he has a love of ribbons and streamers, but he gasps and then recoils back at the shock of cold, wet slime.

At a glance, the huge dark standing rocks are shrouded in deep blues and greys … and then, up close, they are streaked with a palette of coppers and deep reds.

Clear bell-like shapes of jellyfish peak up from the sands. From above they shine like polished amber.

A last glance before we take to the road. This is how I alway see Durness in my mind: the dark guardians under ever-moving skies.

On our journey back to the cottage the autumn landscape surrounds us; layers of gold, russet, burnt orange and muted red.

The mountains beckon to us; tomorrow we climb.

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A Week in Books: Bonfires, bee bread and poetry with petals

On a Sunday evening, I like to clear the shelf next to my desk, in preparation for the week ahead. There will always be a pile of books that have accumulated beside me. I enjoy the moment when I scoop them up and shelve them again, the titles on the spines evoke a diary of the days just passed:  

A Week in Books.

Copyright: Tiny Potager

The Art of Fire: The Joy of Tinder, Spark and Ember by Daniel Hume

The first of the maple leaves fell this week and their orange-yellow colours brought to mind flickers of flame and evenings by the fire. Every year, at around this time, I bring The Art of Fire down from the shelf.

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I long for a fire when it is too cold to be out at night without one and the breeze whisks the smoke upwards in spiral. A hot drink in a mug, just a little too hot to hold with bare hands, can be clasped between woolly mittens, whilst we watch the flames dance. In the chillier months fire brings light to the darkness.

For now, I am content to browse The Art of Fire, reminding myself of all the different ways to build up a small campfire and of why “over loving” a fire never comes to any good … although I know I shall still enjoy poking the embers back into life all the same.

“The fire in the woodland glade with paper lanterns in the canopy above”
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No matter what page I turn to in my book, I am left feeling like the fading summer will not be so hard to part with after all.

Soon … the kettle was dancing over the flames; at last we could relax in the knowledge that everyone was safe and dinner wasn’t long away…

The Art of Fire: The Joy of Tinder, Spark and Ember by Daniel Hume

Wildlife of Britain by Dorling Kindersley Pocket Nature

This year, amongst the familiar white flowers that dot the hedgerows (as below), we noticed a new variety, with pink candy-striped flowers.

Copyright: Tiny Potager

A quick check in the nature guide told us that it was not a mutation, as I had supposed, but a different variety of the same plant, known as field bindweed.

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England’s Heritage Food and Cooking by Annette Yates

The recipe we chose for this week was a “Kentish Cherry Batter Pudding”. My sons enjoyed it straight out of the oven, eaten with dessert spoons whilst still in the cake tin. We are going to try creating our own version, with Autumn’s seasonal apples and blackberries.

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Dancing with Bees by Bridget Strawbridge-Howard

Throughout the summer, hundreds of bees have visited our little garden and some have even made a home here. Chapter one of Dancing With Bees takes a look at what happens beyond the bees’ visits to the flowers.

I had always assumed that the pollen brought back by worker honeybees was fed directly to the larvae, but I could not have been more wrong.

Dancing with Bees by Bridget Strawbridge-Howard

Strawbridge-Howard goes on to explain that pollen is actually indigestible by bees and has to be fermented into bee bread. There is, therefore, a great risk to bees from the human use of fungicides, which destroys the wild yeast required for this process, depriving the bees of the food they need to nourish both themselves and next year’s generation of pollinators.

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Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems by Kate Coombs

Storms swept across Britain towards the end of the week, sending delicate summer flowers swirling up into the air like confetti. Gardeners throughout the country watched nervously as sunflowers and hollyhocks, runner beans and dahlias swayed precariously on their thin stems and cane supports.

My little daughter helped me to gather up all of our fallen flowers; those which were too small for a vase, we laid out on the table.

We fetched our poetry book, turned to the storm page and I let my daughter decorate the words with her windfall.

The poems have a metre to them that brings such a sense of calmness, even as the storm rages on outside.

Is there a book that you like to read as autumn approaches?

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Seasonal Recipes: Homemade Maple Toffee Apples

These are the maple toffee apples from my story A Week in Books: Stories to treasure, traditional recipes and seasonal flowers

Maple toffee apples are wonderful in autumn, for evenings spent outdoors, wrapped up warm by a fire. Consider also making these with surplus apples in August and enjoying them cool from the fridge on hot summer days.


6 eating apples

400g (1 3/4 cups) golden caster sugar

100ml (1/2 cup) water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 tablespoons syrup, such as:

  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup + 1 tablespoon maple syrup = maple flavour
  • 4 tablespoons golden syrup = standard toffee apples


6 skewers

Baking parchment

Baking sheet or chopping board (to fit your fridge shelf)

Medium drinking glass

Ice cube tray (you will need one ice cube)

Large, deep saucepan

Metal teaspoon

Metal desert spoon or ladle

Wooden spoon

To make toffee brittle with the leftover syrup mixture, you will need to prepare a square cake tin, lined with baking parchment.


  • Line the baking sheet or chopping board with the baking parchment. Set aside for later.
  • Fill the saucepan with boiling water and place the apples in the water for one minute.
    • Dunk the apples under the water with a wooden spoon so that all of the apple skin touches the boiling water.
  • Remove the apples from the water and twist off the stalks.
  • Insert a skewer halfway through each apple core from the stalk end, until it holds the apple securely. We used homegrown bamboo canes for ours.
  • Fill up your drinking glass half way with cold water, add an ice cube and leave within easy reach of the hob. The ice cube will keep the water cooled ready for later.
  • Discard the used water from the saucepan.
  • Place the empty saucepan on the hob.
  • Add the sugar and the 100ml of water to the saucepan.
  • Bring the sugar-water mixture to a boil, whilst gently stirring.
  • When the mixture has boiled, reduce to a simmer until the sugar has fully dissolved.
  • Add the lemon juice, golden syrup and maple syrup (or the syrup mix of your choosing), stir in gently with the wooden spoon, then bring back to the boil.
  • Carefully watch the boiling sugar mixture at all times and every minute take a scant teaspoon of the mixture and drop it into the glass of cold water. When the syrup in the glass forms a little solid ball, rather than dropping like liquid to the base of the glass, the mixture is at the perfect point for coating the apples.
  • Place your lined baking sheet / chopping board next to the hob, making sure to keep the parchment lining paper well away from the flame if using a gas hob, to prevent the paper catching fire.
  • Pick up an apple by the skewer, dip the apple into the boiling mixture with one hand, whilst using the dessert spoon / ladle to gently coat the apple. Then place the coated apple onto the parchment paper to cool. Repeat for the remaining apples.
  • If you want to make toffee brittle see the optional stage at the end of this recipe. If not, empty the saucepan straight away and soak in water to prevent any damage to the pan surface by the sugar as it cools and sticks.
  • Traditionally, you would leave the apples to set with the skewer standing upright, so that the flattened part of the toffee is at the top of the apple – I prefer to have mine resting lengthways, so that I can fit them in the fridge.
  • Place the tray of coated apples in the fridge until the toffee is completely hardened. This takes approximately one hour.
  • They are now ready to enjoy.

Optional final stage – to create shards of Toffee Brittle

  • Carefully pour the remaining hot sugary syrup into a lined cake tin and after waiting for it to stop boiling, place the tin into the fridge to cool.
  • Once completely hardened, the toffee can be broken up into shards by covering it with parchment paper and lightly tapping with a rolling pin.
  • The shards (see photo below) can be used in other recipes, reboiled to create more toffee sauce or dropped into warm drinks, in the place of your usual sugar cubes, as a warming autumnal flavouring.

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Apple: Recipes from the orchard

A Week in Books: Stories to treasure, traditional recipes and seasonal flowers

On a Sunday evening, I like to clear the shelf next to my desk, in preparation for the week ahead. There will always be a pile of books that have accumulated beside me. These will include stories my daughter has brought over for me to read to her and those that I have quickly grabbed to find a quotation, or check an ingredient for a recipe. There might be a seasonal book or two where I have looked up a flower name or gardening wisdom.

I enjoy the moment when I scoop them up and shelve them again, the titles on the spines evoke a diary of the days just passed: A Week in Books.

The Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem

This week my daughter chose our Brambly Hedge treasury. After reading “A Summer Story” we took the book out into the garden to see which flowers we could spot for ourselves.

The Complete Brambly Hedge: A Summer Story

We live near to hedged fields, so our walks together often seem to leap out of the pages of the Brambly Hedge stories.

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2020″ by Lia Leendertz

I think of The Almanac as an “outdoors book” to be read in the open air. August’s chapter tells of the luck of finding a traditional Scottish charm:

A rare patch of white heather … historically sold at fairs and tucked into brides’ bouquets

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2020″ by Lia Leendertz

I happened to be reading by the pebble stream where our white Scottish heather plant is growing, so took a sprig to use as a bookmark.

“The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood” by John Lewis-Stempel

John Lewis-Stempel’s “The Wood” tells of August being:

[T]hat awkward old month at the end of summer, when the majority of plants are past their profuse youthful best

“The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood” by John Lewis-Stempel

It prompted me to gather in samples of those flowers that still remain in mid-August, creating a photographic reminder for winter, of the colours of summer to come.

“Apple: Recipes from the Orchard” by James Rich

A friend kindly dropping off a crate of their surplus apples resulted in this book being happily retrieved from the shelf.

I gave the children reusable stickers and they staked claim to the recipes in the book that they most wanted to try. Toffee apples won. We created our own maple-flavoured versions ( Homemade Maple Toffee Apples ) and then made toffee brittle shards from the leftover syrup to add to warm drinks: Autumn in a mug.

“England’s Heritage Food and Cooking” by Annette Yates

Traditional recipes teach us how to make the best of each season, as they hark back to a time when the majority of people had no choice but to cook with whatever grew in their gardens or was available locally. We have been baking Shrewsbury Cakes, a biscuit recipe from the 1600s. We will also be trying a Kentish Cherry Batter Pudding in the next week.

“The Hobbit: Three Dimensional Book” by JRR Tolkien

On Saturday we discovered a Mirkwood full of spiders under the Fuchsia in our garden. A moment of dramatic tension occurred when a large very real spider crawled into the pages unseen and then dropped out on a thread when we lifted the book up. My little daughter thought that this was an excellent addition to the storytelling, however, I wonder if she will expect this level of realism every time from now on.

In a cave by the little stream, we encountered a strange fisherman. I used a torch to make Bilbo’s little reflective blade glow its warning.

Our tale concluded with us sneaking away safely from a fire breathing Smaug, who had hidden in our pumpkin patch amongst courgette-flower flames.

It is now Sunday evening and time to gather up all of the books and replace them on the shelves, whilst wondering what the next week will bring.

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood that you still treasure?

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The Complete Brambly Hedge: Celebrating forty years of Brambly Hedge with this gorgeous storybook treasury (Brambly Hedge)

Apple: Recipes from the orchard

The Wood: The Life & Times of Cockshutt Wood

England’s Heritage Food and Cooking: A Classic Collection of 160 Traditional Recipes from This Rich and Varied Culinary Landscape, Shown in 750 Beautiful Photographs

Art Journal: Collecting wild seeds and finding inspiration

On an afternoon when it is too hot to be outdoors, I unroll some parcel paper on the table and set out our recently foraged seeds. Cloud parsley, milk thistle, clover, grasses and rose hips.

My little daughter can see that I have plants all over the table. She runs out to the garden and returns with a freshly harvested fuchsia flower.

“Away on a Breeze”

The feathery seeds are awaiting their first flight on the tiniest of air currents. Every time I breathe, they start to float out of frame. I carefully encourage them back into place. I hold my breathe. Time stops. Click.

My daughter returns from another garden visit and hands me two fallen hollyhock blossoms.

One of my younger boys runs through the kitchen singing. Grasses scatter across the table whilst milk thistles take to the air. He happily helps me catch them as they float towards the door, a practised skill from many hours spent chasing delicate storm bubbles in the garden.

“Gentle Partings”

The patter of footsteps. My daughter has found six faded rose petals and a handful of leaves.

Of everything in this wild harvest, the cloud parsley seeds are my favourite. I almost prefer them to the actual flower. I lift the sprig out of the diorama and study it in detail, turning it in my hands, before laying it back down carefully. The brittle stem makes a scratching sound against the thick paper.

“Be Free”

When I have completed my work, my daughter is still intrigued, standing on her tip toes to see.

I recreate her mouse doll in petals, using delicate little seeds as the eyes and lashes. She asks if her mouse can be a dancer, so we use the hollyhock petals as the skirt and give our ballerina a tiny fuchsia crown. Snipping a piece of the cloud parsley, we give the mouse a miniature flower stem of her own.

“At midnight, Mouse transforms into a Dancer”

We take a photograph together and safely store the seeds away to sow in our garden.*

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*We only gather a few common seed heads that have already fallen to the ground in the hedgerows near our home. Wildflowers in bloom should be left to go to seed so that they may return the following year. Please respect the wildflower laws wherever you live.

Seasonal Recipes: Apple, Raspberry and Almond Cake

This is the cake from my story: The May Garden

I found this recipe in a beautiful book entitled, “Apple: Recipes from the Orchard”. My version is a little simpler and misses out the icing stage – regular readers will know that I tend to avoid any sticky toppings as my bakes have to travel across fields and woodlands in an old shortbread tin. I have also added my own adjustments to help the fruit settle evenly throughout the cake. The original recipe is to “serve 8” however my family of seven dispute this 🙂


150g ground almonds

250g golden caster sugar

185g self-raising flour

1 tablespoon plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 eggs, beaten

Grated zest 1/2 a lemon

1-2 drops rose water

200g unsalted butter, at room temperature (and a little extra for greasing the tin)

125g raspberries

2 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced into cubes


23cm springform cake tin

Baking parchment

Kitchen Mixer



Sharp knife

Small bowl



  • Preheat the oven to 160ºC/320°F
  • Grease and line the cake tin.
  • Put the ground almonds, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and mix well.
  • Gradually add the eggs, whilst continuing to mix.
  • Add the lemon zest and rose water.
  • Fold in the butter.
  • Gently coat the raspberries in the plain flour (this will help prevent them from sinking to the base of the cake)
  • In the separate small bowl, incorporate the raspberries with the apple pieces very carefully. I found that if I did not do this, the fruit distribution would be uneven and half of the cake would be apple, half of the cake would be raspberry.
  • Add the raspberry and apple mixture to the other ingredients and fold in with care, so that some of the raspberries remain whole.
  • Pour the mixture into the lined tin and level with a spatula.
  • Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately one hour. Towards the end, add foil to the top of the cake to prevent it from burning.
  • When a skewer, inserted into the middle of the cake, comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool.
  • After the cake has cooled, remove from the tin and serve.

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Apple: Recipes from the orchard

Potager Garden: July 2020

The sunshine of late July beckoned us to the woodlands and with it being such a busy month in the garden too, I am a little behind on my garden diary.

I signed off in June with the sight of our onion crop harvested and drying on the raised beds. Soon after, the garlic was gathered up, dried in the open air and plaited. I wove in little handles so that they could be hung up for storage.

Within days, the weather changed and lightning storms were forecast. We eagerly anticipated the rain’s arrival, which would bring an end to the stifling humidity of water-saturated air. Little speckled showers came and went.

Then, one evening, we saw the oncoming storm and headed to the fields to watch. I have never seen such a clear divide between a summer sky and the swirling mass of darkness across the horizon.

It rained for several days and as the dry ground was replenished, we watched our resident snail venture out for a daytime drink at the stream.

The garden itself, which had been on the cusp of a new harvest, suddenly burst into life.

Our first radish crop of the year was followed a few days later, by the season’s first lettuces.

The rhubarb was moved as part of the winter garden re-design and is thriving in its new placement by the stream. As tasty as it looks, I am letting the rhubarb have a year to settle before I start cropping again next year.

After just four weeks, the onion beds were full to bursting with broccoli, courgette and pumpkins plants, all pushing up against the protective bird netting. Last year our courgettes were destroyed by snails before they even grew their first full leaves. This year I kept the seedlings on my kitchen windowsill, then surrounded them with a copper mesh and gravel when I transplanted them into the raised beds. So far, so good.

A peek under the netting revealed newly formed pumpkin buds. It is amazing to think how quickly they will grow between now and October.

Just as we reached the start August, the hollyhocks burst into flower. The little trumpets that announce the height of summer.

The flurry of work is now done. August, for me, is the month of enjoying the garden, of long summer days that merge into beautiful evenings.

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Almanac: Hidden Kingdoms – In search of the invisible

In summer, the little woodland becomes a dark and shaded place. Leaves grow with such veracity that the canopy above lets in less light than any other time of the year.

I share today’s walk with my 12 year old son. It is so quiet here. Sudden rustles of foliage or scraping on bark reminds us that we are sharing this space with many unseen creatures. At any such sound, we immediately pause. A shared inquisitive glance asks the silent question “what was that?”

Ripples of bright light dance across the forest paths as the clouds float by, unseen, overhead. My eyes never quite adjust to this constant change. My vision is a little blurred, settling somewhere ethereal. I feel the slight twinge of my pupils widening and then hurriedly dilating over and over. Hands shielding our eyes, we veer off the footpath in search of softer, diffused shade.

We follow the trails of badgers until we find ourselves barred by brambles and start retracing our steps. Here, away from the footpath, are signs of the woodland’s hidden life. A mouse hole. An abandoned bird’s nest caught between low branches. A tuft of coarse grey fur caught on a blackberry thorn. It is easy to step away from the path, but having taken a winding route, it is more difficult to find our way back. In a small woodland, this disorientation is wonderful. How glorious to feel momentarily lost when we live in a land of tarmac roads and mobile satnav. We are soon back in well-trodden sign-posted normality.

There is no breezy, springtime forest now; the air is stiflingly humid, like a Kew Glasshouse. When the path dips low, we often hurry on, feeling a little dizzy from the lack of air. At other times we stand under a rare gap in the canopy and gulp in lungfuls’s of air greedily. There is a particular greenwood smell that fills us with life like pure oxygen.

Overhead, branches twist and turn, seeking the daylight. My son and I like to spot the silhouettes of letters hidden in the leaves. Aptly, the canopy that casts shade over our favourite sketching bench forms a little “S” to mark the spot.

From above, to below. Crouching down, a whole other world opens before us. At the level my one year old daughter sees, rain drops perch like tiny globes. Is this why children see magic everywhere?

Throughout the woodland, there are imaginary worlds to discover, if you allow your eyes to roam and imagination to wander. Whenever my little daughter joins me on my daily walk, she sees mouse towers and castles everywhere. She calls down into gnarled holes in the bark to inhabitants within and joyfully points out steps and entranceways.

My daughter will also knock politely on tree trunks, because she is convinced squirrels live inside and will come out to play if cordially invited. On one walk I spot a tiny mushroom that looks so alike a miniature door handle that for a moment I think she might be right.

Finally, there are the microscopic habitats that our eyes are just not adapted to spotting. The craggy volcanoes and tropical jungles that form entire worlds … all on the top of an old tree stump.

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Almanac: Patterns of nature, ripening blackberries and a sketchbook

The last time I wrote about these fields was in late April. The seedlings had just started to show themselves in thin rows under a grey-blue sky. The house martins had just made their return to nest in the eaves of our house, and were circling above us in an otherwise quiet and sleepy landscape.

What a difference a few months can make.

July has finally broken into sunshine.

My 12 year old son is with me today. He loves to draw, so has brought his sketchbook along. At first we talk together about our day, until the undulating path before us proves irresistible and he charges off, skimming his fingers through the swaying wheat as he goes.

A pair of cabbage white butterflies flutter skywards in a helix-like courtship dance, before disappearing again. This year we have seen more varieties than ever before and today we spot not just cabbage whites but common blues, peacocks, tortoiseshells and orange tips.

On the sunny south side of the farm, the corn grows tallest. The waxy leaves clatter against each other; like the sound of a polite applause.

We crouch down, looking along the lanes between the crop drills, so neatly ordered that you can see right to the other side of the vast field. For a moment our perspective tilts and it seems as if we have shrunken to miniature size, surrounded by towering blades of grass.

In the hedgerow beside the path, the blossom is bathed in full sunlight and has unfurled early this year. The blackberries are already ripening and will be ready to pick in just a few week’s time.

In the meadows, there is a constant low clicking of grasshoppers. It reminds us, joyfully and somewhat unnervingly too, that everywhere is teeming with unseen insect life.

Then, a dash of metallic blue across our path … a dragonfly! Utterly distracted from our uphill climb, we try to spot more. Our eyes steadily grow accustomed to the flickers of glinting colour. Soon it is like we are standing knee deep in an aquarium of darting tetra fish. A giant one; we follow after. It zigzags at speed and then disappears in a flash of silver.

The blackberries in the upper field are a few week’s behind those we saw earlier. It is shadier here and the stems have to put all of their energy into seeking better light before they can even think of producing flower buds. The effect is a glorious unfurling of pink petals, cascading over the top of the hedgerows. A heavy floral scent hangs in the air.

The more challenging stage of our hike now complete, we settle down for a rest. My son sketches stems of wheat, the distant horizon and outlines of trees. I am nearby, photographing clusters of bees.

We are so immersed that when someone passes by and calls “hello” we both jump slightly. It is a local artist, out searching for butterflies to paint. We point him in the direction of the lower meadows where we found countless common blues and tortoiseshells.

On the way home, my son pauses every few steps to sketch. I fall a few steps behind so that he feels no need to hurry.

As we pick up pace together, the fast chatter, from when we first started out, has disappeared. Instead, we find ourselves remarking on the nature around us. A flock of rooks flies over and we stop to watch their progress until they are tiny specks on the horizon.

Walking onwards, we remain like this, living in the moment, until the rooftops of houses appear over the tree line and thoughts turn back to the day ahead.

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