Hedge walks

Like the hedges, my Blossom & Thorn project is in bloom now! Last weekend I led a guided walk along a section of the National Forest Way in Leicestershire. 14 of us (and one dog) explored several stretches of hedges in really varied condition. Some were closely clipped and others gone semi-wild, while others were entirely feral. Most of them had signs of old laying within them and we found a good variety of species including some unexpected like gooseberry!

The participants told me they had a lovely time, chatting with each other about their own nature enthusiasms and learning about hedges, fields, landscape history, trees and plants. It was a really fun experience for me to take others on my hedge walks as I do most of my hedge-spotting research walks by myself.

I’ve been exploring different parts of the National Forest Way for this project and have been to both places I know well and completely new routes. Last week I visited the Rosliston Forestry Centre, in the middle of the National Forest. The National Forest Way, the focus of this project, snakes around the site and into local fields and villages. I managed to visit on a beautiful sunny day and enjoyed a 3 mile walk with only a little bit of deep mud. I found my first old hedge immediately upon leaving the visitor centre (top left image below) and followed a line out into the village of Rosliston. This turned into a flourishing young hawthorn hedge around the churchyard with the remnant of a hedge opposite, one forming a green lane but now a stray hedge on an access road (top centre image).

I found some amazing old hedge trees turning into full sized ash trees (above left) and some fragments of hawthorn (centre) as well as some beautiful sheep and lovely spring hedge bottom plants like hedge mustard / garlic and bluebells.

I’ll be sharing more of my hedge discoveries, my sketchbook and plans for the artwork in the coming week for National Hedgerow Week.

In the meantime, please volunteer to share your hedge stories if you are near to the National Forest Way and can visit in the next few weeks before the end of May. Find out more here about taking part in this project. My project is supported by a National Forest Arts Grant.

Postcard from West Dean (2)

Alongside my teaching, my week at West Dean involved a lot of both looking closely at details and looking (and walking) to points far away. I found myself with nearly two days off before teaching, time to explore, wind down and replenish. Between teaching sessions the gardens were my playground.  The wide open views of the South Downs are a much-needed counterpoint to city life. The chance to stretch my vision, my horizon and my legs. The college building and the gardens invite close inspection while in contrast the farther hills and the wider landscape need wide angle eyes to take it all in.






Last year’s Postcard from West DeanPostcard from West Dean

Postcard from West Dean

I travel a lot, often for work. I go out of my way to find beautiful places – historic buildings, parks, woods, gardens and meadows. I take a lot of photos. It’s time to share them more. Postcard from… is a new blog series with photos of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. Pictures are all taken on my phone with no editing.

At the end of May I was teaching for nearly a week at the glorious West Dean College. I spent pretty much every spare daylight moment outside in the gardens, on the estate and walking up the hill to the arboretum despite the grey and the drizzle. It is a truly magical place and I can’t wait to go back next year.