stories and illustration

What Cranesbill?

I found this flower growing along an old railway line. It is not the normal deep violet blue Cranesbill – can anyone enlighten me as to its name? The petals were actually slightly pinker than in the photograph, and the seed heads were not very pronounced. Could it be Hedge Cranesbill or Bloody Cranesbill? I can’t remember ever coming across this particular flower before, and there was just one small clump of them, no others, in a wooded area, where many wild orchids also flourish.

July 15, 2017 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments

Liddesdale 4


June 29, 2017 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dog Violets

dog violets

April 24, 2017 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Close Up: Liddesdale Flowers


July 21, 2014 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Young Blackbird in the Garden


I may be wrong, but I don’t think this bird is very old, it has that fat fluffiness about it still.  The blackbirds more or less disappeared until we started throwing out apple cores round the bird table, and now suddenly the garden is full of them. I suspect a nest in the one of the big hedges. They chitter and complain when we appear suddenly, but are almost the tamest of birds; if you leave a door open they are inclined to hop in. I notice that now it is sunny and we are out pottering about in the garden the birds are more inclined to ignore us.  The dried mealworms are a big draw, as well as the apple cores. We have planted some wild flower mats under the bird table, since there is a spare raised bed (the original site was a Flodden graveyard, hence the raising of the beds), as it is no good planting broad beans -they are amazing, then suddenly get a kind of black wilt.  So now looking out of the studio I can see the birds, and soon hopefully a mass of wild flowers as well.  This year something to be cheerful about: there are far more bees around, and today I saw a butterfly. Perhaps the planting the fields of phacelia, aka “Bees’ Friend”, in great mauve swathes last year has been having an effect.


April 15, 2014 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wild Flowers by River Tweed

Flowers by River Tweed

These flowers grow along the banks of Nun’s Walk, which rises high above River Tweed, with a sheer drop to one side, and the walls of gardens on the other side, so that plants drift over the wall and find a rootold amongst the wild flowers. Now the June flowers have been scythed, the July flowers have sprung up with amazing speed. It has been very hot, I have taken to walking in a straw hat.  I will have to hold on to it going up Nun’s Walk, as it may easily be blown away by one of these light summer breezes, and land down in the water amongst the swans and ducks and the occasional heron. There are evening primroses on the banks, and mallow. The martins zip above ones head on Nun’s Walk, and I go past a group standing perilously close to the edge, where a young girl is telling her older companions some story about a long-ago nun jumping off the edge. But no known accidents in recent years. My husband has promised me never to ride his bike down this path again.

July 13, 2013 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Little Path of Flowers


I was told that at the top of the path that runs from Lennel up to the little cemetary there was an abundance of wild flowers, and since I am on the trail of this abundance this year especially, I took the  walk through the lower wood, across the steep lane, then into the far wood, where in the spring the rooks have their nest in the trees by the river, and make the most stupendous noise.  Today there are only a few desultory caw-caws. The path winds upward quite steeply and comes out beyond the trees, there is a clear spot where you can look down on to the Tweed, and there is the trail of the small path almost vanishing beneath the flowers (I dont think many people can walk this way):




I don’t know how long this lusciousness of wild flowers will last.  I have noticed that at this time of year the paths are strimmed, so that whilst there is a lining of plants, this lush delicate growth is cut back to the margins.  Of course, if the land was left untended, then nettles and docks and sorrel would take over, as has taken place just beyond the river on the other side of Coldstream Bridge, in Another Country.

I have been trying this year to capture these fleeting moments while I can.  I have also taken pictures of individual plants, so that later in the year I can go through my photographs and recognise the individual species, so as to try and emulate, over a couple of years, the more than 150 different species I had written down as having seen when I must have been about ten years old.  I can’t remember going out looking at flowers at all: if it wasn’t for a list at the back of a book I would hardly, consciously, recall this search at all, though I know it was my grandfather who took me out on Chailey Common in Sussex when I was very young, looking all round, and especially keeping an eye open for autumn gentians, that used to grow there – maybe still do.

I stopped by this bench, with its touching inscription:



And looked down over the Tweed, and the fields beyond, with the young wheat growing:


If I sit on the bench where Esme loved to sit I would have problems seeing the water, as the foliage is so dense.  But it would be a lovely spot to sit anyway.  I continue up the path, looking at the flowers on the way:




Until I come to the cemetary at the top of the path:



It is very peaceful up here. Some of the gravestones are too sad to photograph, so I took a picture of one celebrating the life of a couple who seemed to have had long lives, for their time, and a handsome gravestone to commemorate it, deep within the long grass:


And on the way back down the high road, to end on a cheerful note, I see this rose in the hedgerow, starting to fade at the edges here and there, as roses do, but a splash of lovely colour amid the green:


June 26, 2013 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

August and the Hare book

Started working on the final pictures for a new picture book about a boy and a hare, and had completed four pages, when I decided the technique, using brushwork outlines, and watercolour throughout, was not expressive enough. The watercolour was becoming too heavy, and there was too little animation in the figures.  There’s no escaping it – ink outlines are needed, I’ve worked so long with pen and ink it is part of how I feel. Since the pens I like are no longer manufactured, it seems best to go back to the old-fashioned dip pens, and use various inks.  There is a website which is dedicated to selling The Dip Pen. From Pullingers Art Shop I shall order a large block of Fabriano Artistico, and some different inks, but especially a high class sepia, if they sell this.

In the meantime, I have decided that the book is set in August, when some of the fields are cut and some are still gold-brown with the ripe wheat (the swallows in Coldstream fly in a crowd over the wall and the River Leet, and attack the first few rows of the wheat, like small bird looters, then all fly back together; meanwhile the swallows feint professionally above the wheat chasing the insects). I have been taking photographs of the flora of August (and been bitten badly in the process by the insects that have suddenly appeared).
The rape has been cut now.  There are no birds on the Tweed, only the occasional salmon leaping. The place where the swans laid up beside the river had become anonymous grass and mud, there is nothing but the furrowed field and the shorn field path. The swans feathers and the reek of swan have disappeared. In a few days I shall go up past Oxenrigs and look for hares once more.

Each month now I shall take photographs of the flora, to see if I can match the 170 or so wild flowers I found listed in the back of a book, in my 10-year-old writing, flowers that I had seen in the countryside of East Sussex, many of them in walks with my grandfather on Chailey Common when I was a very young child. I especially remember looking for autumn gentians on the Common.  I wonder whether they are still there, as were the wild orchids in Liddesdale, thirty years or more after I first saw them there. Maybe the search for the autumn gentians will become a painting for the exhibition at Berwick Watchtower in January.

August 27, 2012 Posted by | Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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