pissarro's london

When the weather's a bit iffy and you don't fancy getting wet but have to walk, it makes sense to head to the nearest woods don't you think? The trouble with living in London is that, while there are plenty of fantastic parks to stroll around, its not exactly known for woodland.

Aah, but look where we found over the weekend ...

This wooded area could easily be missed because it's just a narrow and unassuming entrance off a very busy main road called Lordship Lane in Dulwich, SE London. However, once inside it would be so easy to forget that you were in the Country's largest city.

Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Woods is one of the closest ancient woods to central London and is the largest remnant of the historic Great North Wood. It is home to a wide variety of birds, butterflies and other insects, and also several types of wild flower, moss and fungi. Bats are also encouraged to breed here, although this particular box was inhabited by blue tits!

Oak and Hornbeam are the dominant trees which is a sign of the wood's ancient origins. Apparently Hornbeam was used by the charcoal-making industry in the area, which provided fuel for London until the 1780s. Its hard wood was also used for machinery and tools and is still used today for chopping boards.

In the middle of the woods is the remains of a folly that was built in a Victorian garden as a talking point for visitors.

But not only is the Sydenham Hill part of it a nature reserve, (the Dulwich part is owned by the prosperous Dulwich Estates), the woods are also steeped in a very different sort of history.

There was once a railway station at Lordship Lane and a certain French impressionist, Camille Pissarro, used to stand at this very footbridge ...

and did an extremely fine and famous painting ...

{Lordship Lane Station, 1871}

Sadly the station is no longer but take a look at how its disused railway track looks today ...

It's hard to believe isn't it? But one thing's for sure. I bet Pissarro didn't do this in between brush strokes ...

Pissarro lived for a time in nearby Crystal Palace and painted some beautiful paintings of not only CP but the surrounding areas too. You can see some of those paintings here, here and here.

I hope you're enjoying the Bank Holiday.

Kate x


japanese swallows

We love birds in our house (but not literally) and swallows are one of the favourites. I love the way they fly along so low to the ground at great speed, grabbing their food as they do so. The children love them through stories, think rescuer of Thumbelina or the classic Swallows and Amazons and as well as being synonymous with the onset of Spring, they are linked with many other tales and legends too.
  • It is Estonia's national bird and there it represents free blue sky and eternal happiness;
  • Swallows are often the first birds to land on a ship that had been out to sea for long periods of time. So it came to symbolise being close to, or finding your way home;
  • It is said in an old superstition, that when you see a swallow for the first time in a new year, it is an omen of wealth. You're supposed to rub the money in your wallet whilst watching the bird, to help the cash roll in;
  • A tattoo of a swallow became popular for it's symbolism of home, pride, love and a host of other reasons that you can read about here.
But fear not, I have no tattoo to show you but I have been sewing. Again.

I've been hoarding this Japanese swallow-print cotton for too long now and thought that, with the onset of warmer weather, and like the bird, it was time for it to make an appearance. This Japanese book is a new release and has some really pretty patterns inside which are divided into sections for Town, Party and Resort.

The instructions did have me baffled a little this time, namely the pleating across the top which, once underway became completely obvious and crystal clear. The illustrations weren't as concise as previous patterns I've used so I had to fill in the gaps but this is becoming easier as each project goes by thankfully. My Mother still finds it amusing that I'm teaching myself to sew from Japanese patterns but there you go, in for a penny (or perhaps I should say Yen) ...

I love the sweet sleeves with their double layers.

The fabric is soft and lightweight too, so it'll be perfect for the Summer and the warmer weather, should it decide to return. In fact I wore it on Monday in the searing heat and it was a godsend then.

So, all I need now is a Party!

Have a wonderful long (and sunny?) weekend xx


lifting bricks

There's nothing like a spell of hot weather to get you out into the garden - it's about the only time we venture out anyway. But when we do get out there, we try and fit in two season's worth of work to make up for our absence. And it's amazing how quickly the results do show.

Over the weekend I 'watched' my beloved toil away, scraping weeds from between the paving stones in our patio area, brushing the dust and general muck into a nice neat pile for the dustpan ... contributing the odd bit of advice by calling out every so often, as you do. Always a good idea to have one person do the work while the other acts as overseer, don't you think?

We've had a mini pile of bricks stacked against a wall in the patio ever since we moved in a couple of years ago, ahem. Don't ask me why but they were never moved on but this weekend, oh yes, it finally did happen. And who needs ponds to dip into when there are bricks to be moved, because look what we found hiding in between ...

Well, the excitement was almost too much for one member of our family. The nature mad one who ranks newts and snails among her most favourite creatures. And as luck would have it she was given a pond dipping kit for her birthday party earlier this month from a friend at school and has been begging to go in search of ponds ever since. Easier said than done in London, but out it came and poor surprised "Cutie Newty" was duly plopped into some (probably not too welcome) clean water. They're strangely fascinating little things and I love the way the plastic distorts the image, making them seem even more prehistoric.

Work recommenced until, lo and behold, a second was found and so "Cutie" met "Beauty" and all was well with the world.

Fear not though, because their life expectancy was indeed higher than the average beast that's been picked up around here and loved just that little too much - they were let back into the wilderness that is our garden and I swear they moved faster than I ever imagined a newt capable of!!

Do you have any critters lurking at the bottom of your garden?


miller's beach

The weather here in London is fabulous but I can't help but think about a beautiful walk we did when last in Cornwall visiting my parents.

It was on a particularly cold and blustery day during the Easter holidays but the colour of the sky was similar to what I'm seeing now.

The walk was on Lelant beach, looking across at Hayle Towans, where the Hayle Estuary runs into the Atlantic Ocean. There is a vast expanse of the most beautiful golden sands you could ever imagine and yet we had the whole place pretty much to ourselves.

On one side of the beach there are lovely high dunes, look beyond that and you see St Ives and on the other side, the open sea crashes against the sand in colours of turquoise and emerald green.

As we were walking along, I realised just why so many painters flock to Cornwall and I thought of John Miller, perhaps one of Cornwall's finest. But only when I looked him up on Google later did I see that he loved it here too!

Enjoy the weekend, apparently it's going to be a goodie and I think you've probably guessed where I wish I could be!

Kate x


meadow flowers and sewing thread

I've had a busy week or two (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). Last weekend I was in Brighton doing the Open Houses for the Festival which runs throughout May. But despite taking my camera with me, I forgot to take any photos, can you believe it? If you're in the area though, this particular Open House is where I was and is definitely worth a view as there is a fantastic selection of paintings, vintage repurposed clothing, cards and stationery, ceramics and, of course, jewellery. I blogged about it back in December when I was there for the pre-Christmas sales.

Last season I made a decision. I'm not going to buy any new dresses, skirts or blouses for my little friend from now on. Knitwear, jeans, tee shirts and underwear I'll do of course, but anything that can be home sewn I have been and will continue to do myself.

And with the prospect of the return of warmer weather, I thought I'd better get cracking. So, reaching into the trusty old stash I grabbed this lovely Japanese pastel pink fabric with delicate meadow flowers to make a comfy dress.

Using one of my very favourite Japanese sewing books for girls (the same one that I turned to for this dress), I sewed a straightforward but so sweet number with two little pockets into which I'm sure all sorts of 'stuff' will find it's way this Summer.

One thing that excites MLF so much is the prospect of having a fitting. It makes her feel special and I'm not sure I could blame her. As well as choosing the fabric, she decided on the dress length, how elasticated it should be around the neck, whether it's pockets or no pockets and what trimmings, if any, went on. This one has no trimmings, simply because she wants to be able to make use of a small, but growing, collection of brooches. Bless!

Here's hoping you have a wonderful, hopefully sunny, weekend!

Kate x


bluebells and garlic

What a miserable, wet and cold bank holiday weekend! With all that rain that Sunday brought we stayed in and enjoyed watching this film, played Monopoly and did, eek, a little homework. However, by Monday cabin fever had well and truly set in and we just had to get out. No debating where we should go, there was only one place and we knew if we didn't get there this weekend we would miss it for the year.

We found a lovely wooded area on the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, a couple of years ago where, if you look in one direction you see

and turn to another you see

as far as the eye can see. Look elsewhere and it's all mixed up.

You very often find bluebells and wild garlic growing alongside one another and this place is no exception, there is so much of both. Shame about the lack of pretty dappled sunshine, and taking photographs was tricky because it was so windy, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Being the good countryside citizens that we are we left the bluebells untouched however there was enough garlic to sink a ship and it was begging to be taken.

{foraging at its very best}

A good wash and within minutes of picking, our lovely, pristine, unblemished leaves were wilting down in the pan with a dash of olive oil for company and just a small amount of crushed sea salt to serve. Nothing more.

Woodland to table, 20 minutes!

Sorry, no photos of that, you didn't expect it to hang around that long did you?

See you soon.

Kate x



We're having a blossom fix at the moment. When it first appeared, my little friend had us all picking petal confetti from the ground and throwing it wedding-style for a photo opportunity. Easier said than done, since I've not yet worked out the shutter speed option on the camera!

Now it's starting to fall from the trees, the pavements look like they're covered with pink snow. The streets of London are looking beautiful but I'm not so sure the street cleaners would agree. But thinking of ways to preserve the blossom for just that bit longer I made a little dress for you know who.

I bought some Japanese sakura fabric a while ago and, with the help of this lovely book, made a simple halter dress with elasticated back. It looks fun with a plain white tee underneath; in fact I love it so much that if I have my way, madam will still be wearing it when she's twelve. But hopefully with jeans underneath by then!

I hope you're having a lovely, relaxing and sunny (?) weekend.

Kate x