red squirrel

Autumn is well and truly under way and this Half Term has brought my very favourite type of weather. There is nothing more satisfying than a good brisk scenic walk during this season - wellies pulled on and lots of leaves to kick about! And the colours of the leaves are just gorgeous. Mother Nature is very clever with her choice of palette - ochre, russet, bronze, orange, red and yellow all mingle happily, creating a visual feast, and the crunching of those leaves makes it a totally interactive experience. If I'm honest it's been a trifle warm for my Autumnal taste, temperature not quite crisp enough but it'll come, I know!

And I love acorns too. They are so evocative of Autumn, all that it stands for. The time when hibernating animals begin to store a larder for when they wake from their slumbers, and we all know just who likes to hide away those acorns!

This Half Term holiday we had a family trip to Brownsea Island. We can do this so easily from our part of Dorset, there's no excuse not to go more often and armed with a picnic, it's a super day out. We just leave the car in the National Trust car park at Shell Bay and take the chain ferry across from Studland to Sandbanks. At Sandbanks it's just another short hop on a little yellow boat out to Brownsea.

The sight-seeing starts as soon as you get on the Brownsea ferry really, the houses lining the harbour there are some of the most expensive in the world. They don't have much land but the views and position they enjoy is amazing, so unsurprisingly each house has a multitude of windows to capture every possible aperture. Each one also has its own jetty at the bottom of the garden and with Brownsea, Poole, Sandbanks, Studland and beyond beckoning, the owners' possibilities for day trips are endless.

Brownsea is famous for Baden Powell's scout movement. And red squirrels! Smaller and far cuter than their grey cousins, they are also infuriatingly shy and so can be difficult to spot. But with luck and a good deal of patience, we were finally rewarded by the sight of one sitting low down, in a nearby pine tree happily nibbling on, you've guessed it, an acorn.

So, still thinking about Brownsea, I've had a bit of fun embroidering my own little red squirrel. Something to add to the upcoming Christmas Sale I'm doing in Brighton in the next few weeks.


trompe l'oeil

They fascinate me! If they're well done, of course. An old friend of mine once lived in a house in Chelsea where the owners had the most amazing trompe l'oeil running the length of a long hall. It was of a Roman landscape where animals grazed on hills dotted with olive trees, maidens carried water in urns, and a grand house standing ornate with frescoes and columns. Painted on sand coloured walls, the large Roman walls looked so realistic it was all rather strange to touch. Something unexpected. A complete trick of the eye!

It just so happens a few of these have popped up in Swanage, near where we spend our holidays. Not a Roman imagination but earthy, raw scenes that are more believable and relevant. Four years ago when we started coming, Swanage was a typical scruffy English seaside resort. Now, it's rapidly becoming a lovely little town - great shops are opening up and, of course, its proximity to the beach really makes it. More of that another time but back to the trompes! There is a building situated alongside the seafront, next to the pier, where you can find a set of them painted voluntarily by a couple of local artists for Purbeck Art Week in 2007. The images depict the past, present and possible future of the site and will remain until the building is re-developed.

I love these pictures. The detail is incredible - rats scurrying about looking for food,

a pair of house martins nesting,

the dog leaning out of a broken window cleaning up a bag of chips,

and the couple smoking in the café.

Not to be outdone, the little hut next door has been decorated with the sweetest puppy, who looks out of an open window.

Not far from here but still in Swanage, the entire front of a private house has been dedicated in memoriam to the owners' pet dog, Donut. It's a huge, in your face affair and, complete with the painter's contact details, the biggest business card I've ever seen!

Here's one climber that never needs pruning!

And now I think I'm trompe l'oeiled out (my husband will know what this means!) and am off to bed. Good night!