Magical meadows

Every place holds its own stories: echoes of people, wildlife and the land itself. Widecombe-in-the-Moor looks like a rural idyll, a thriving small community tucked away in a Dartmoor valley surrounded by heath and moor and woodland. Any student of Devon folklore will know this place holds some great stories, of Dewer the devil, of ne’er-do-wells who sold their soul […]

The art of wild plants

Before 2017, the last time I remember sitting down with a sketchpad and specifically drawing plants was on the Scilly Isles when I was about 11. We were on holiday on St Mary’s, marvelling at exotics like Datura, the strange new discovery of ‘Whistling Jacks’, the corn marigolds everywhere. I drew plant after plant, experimenting with pencil shading and watercolour […]

Hats full, caps full

Old apple tree, we wassail thee, and hoping thou will bear For the Lady knows where we shall be when apples come next year   It’s been a really difficult January here on Dartmoor: biting cold, constant rain and high winds, short daylight, relentless work, and very little to warm the heart. So what do we do in the south […]

High Kings and heritage

I’ve been very privileged to work with High Bickington Primary School recently. High Bickington is a small village in north Devon where the church is next to the primary school, with a special doorway between the two. Following my work with the school on community trails and landscape, with Devon Wildlife Trust through Beaford Arts’ Hidden Histories project, the school […]

Tree tragedy

Elm hateth man, and waiteth Till every gust be laid. Rudyard Kipling (1906) There’s a particular book on my bookshelf that’s been high in my mind recently.  Written by Gerald Wilkinson and published in 1978, it’s called Epitaph for the Elm. I found it in a little bookshop in Norwich in the 1990s, when the regenerating elms next to the Unthank […]

Weeds and wonders

I spent all of yesterday in Great Torrington in north Devon. The good people of Torrington, and arts company Wolf and Water, are holding a festival to celebrate the Reverend Keble Martin, sometime vicar of the parish and author of The Concise British Flora in Colour. This groundbreaking book was published in 1965, and had pride of place on my […]

Rich connections

More of the Devon coast to coast walk today. In early summer, Devon is bursting with greenery and birdsong and life of all kinds. We are truly blessed to live in such an abundant part of the world. Everything out there has its own story. The baby bird, just fledged, a tiny scrap of belligerent life, vulnerable on the forest path.  The wild […]

Plant folklore, plant folk tales

What is a ‘folk tale?’ When does modern become traditional, and anecdote become received wisdom? For my book Botanical Tales, I’ve been researching the traditional folk tales recorded from many different parts of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, looking for stories where wild plants and trees play a central role, and relating these stories back to the folklore of plants and […]

Fairy confessions

British folk tales are a big part of life for me right now. Any spare moment I have, I’m working on my book ‘Botanical Tales.’ There’s a lot of stories now, and yet new ones keep on appearing. Listening is as important as writing: to go with the inspirations that regularly turn up as part of the research, to follow those stories […]

Direction of travel

It’s the Spring Equinox, the time of equal day and night, that will tip over into the summer months and warmer times. It’s meant to be a time of balance, equilibrium, and calm. Allegedly. Looking around me, I see very few people in a state of balance. Over the last few weeks, I have been drawn to the fact that most […]