Busy, busy being creative..!

Monday 25 November 2019

The Missing Island

One of the very beautiful bays on Caldey Island
Have you ever dreamt of being marooned on a desert island? 
Having the whole place to you yourself?
I experienced a taste of this in September when staying on Caldey Island. Just 2.7 miles off the coast of Tenby, South Wales and with a crossing time of 20 minutes, it was the Island that I least expected to be marooned on, but marooned I was. Thankfully, not completely alone. There were the two other guests staying at St. Philomena’s, the retreat house I stayed at, and the fabulous wardens – Serena and Lloyd with their dog Louie [who has sardines for dinner], and the local population of 20 islanders which includes Rita, a feisty 89 year old ex-Carmelite nun who has lived on Caldey for nearly 40 years.

Rita, who 'grew up in one of Wales' most haunted houses and has never worn make-up' can be seen speeding around Caldey on her bright red scooter. 'Listen to the horn, it's rubbish,' has no time for Monks who are late for their religious services. If they are tardy - she'll leave a note on their pew telling them as much. And of course there's the resident population of Cistercian Monks, only 11 now, who live in the huge Italian inspired monastery built in the 1920s to house 300, although the Island has been a Holy one since Celtic times. The Celts LOVED Islands as they saw them as portals to their underworld.

Even with all these people also marooned [they’re used to it] it was very easy to wander around the island, follow the footpaths and explore the ruins, and not see anyone else. It was truly magical and I’m grateful that the ‘wind was blowing from the wrong direction’ on this occasion. 
Obviously, this wasn’t such a good thing for those who’d been looking forward to their own stay on the island as with no boats to take us off there were no boats to bring in visitors, post and supplies.

And there's more to tell: such as joining some of the Monks daily services, what life on the Island is like now compared to how it was, the red Squirrels [lots], the views and the ruins....but I need to save some things for the book!

Why Caldey? Why Now?

When I started my UK Islands Project way back in 2017, I was booked to go to Caldey but my stay was cancelled and the retreat house closed. I was never really given a reason at the time, but discovered that they needed to carry out some changes to the building and the way it was being managed. Actually, it all worked out for the best. The new wardens are fantastic, I met some great people, got marooned and can now say I've completed the set I'd planned to and it's no longer my 'Missing Island.'  Hurrah!! ;-D

Fancy your own Caldey Island Adventure?

You can stay at St Philomena's retreat house on the island from Easter to October on a donation basis [recommended minimum is £50 a day]. This includes a simple and clean single room, shared bathroom and three delicious vegetarian meals a day with the freedom to do as you choose. You can create your own retreat.

It's open to all faiths and none. Even though the accommodation is basic it's very clean and having a room of your own, although small, is great. The only thing that they really ask is that you are on time for the meals [packed lunch is an option] and to help with the washing up and setting the table for the next meal, which is an easy task.  I'd really recommend staying here for an affordable island adventure. It’s a real gem and I was so well looked after. I can't guarantee you'll be marooned there, but I'm sure you'll have a fabulous and interesting time if you go.  Let me know if you do!!
Visit the Caldey Island website for full details: caldeyislandwales.com
Happy Adventuring!

A snapshot of Caldey Island:
The Monastery. Built in the 1920s to house around 300 monks, only 11 currently live here.
Beach to myself!
Part of the ruins of a Norman building which was as the original monastery before the new Italian inspired building was built.
Lots of lovely textures to be found around the island

One of the many beautiful stained glass windows that was designed and made
by one of the monks in the 1920s.

Tuesday 15 October 2019

The Seal of Curiosity

Inspired by the seals of Bardsey Island, my Seal of Curiosity is now available as a hard enamel pin badge. :-D

This litte quirky Seal was inspired by one of the seals I drew on the Bardsey Island Manuscript that I created after my stay on the island. The Lifesaving ring around the seal, for me, represent Creativity, Adventure and Nature as these are the three core elements that I consistantly return to when looking after my mental health. I see Curiosity as a part of creativity and so this particular Seal is a gentle reminder of what supports my own wellbeing.

What are your wellbeing life savers?  What three things would the life saver represent to you?

Hard Enamel Badge Product Details:

They measure 25mm, made in the UK and come with a metal backing clip. 

Each seal comes with a numbered backing card and is wrapped in hand-stamped tissue paper [colour of tissue paper may vary]. 

They are £7 each plus postage & packing 

To buy your very own Seal of Curiosity click below selecting the right postage option: 

Seal of Curiosity

Postage costs: 
£2.95 [UK]
£3.50 [Europe]
£4.50 [Rest of World]

I can't wait to see what adventures you take your Seal on [and what you call it! Mine is called Jenny ;-P] - please do share with me on social media and use #sealofcuriosity ;-)

The Bardsey Island Manuscript

One of the seals from a first draft I created that inspired this badge

All images copyright Morwhenna Woolcock

Friday 14 June 2019

30 Days Wild & being a Wildflower Detective

Getting up close to wildflowers this month and learning about them as part of #30dayswild. This is Herb Robert.

Are you taking part in #30dayswild this year? And if so, what wildness have you been up to so far? [30 Days wild is a free annual initiative by the Wildlife Trusts aimed at encouraging everyone to spend time connecting with nature.]

I’ve been learning about wild flowers and realised that I’ve been doing some detective-ising! I must admit, I’ve always rather fancied being a detective.
Well, actually one of the things I wanted to be when I was a child was a forensic scientist, until I discovered what that *really* involved. No thank you. Also, my aptitude for the sciences didn’t cut the mustard, so I’d never have made the grade. It’s only been relatively recently that I’d been thinking about things I’d wanted to be growing up – Journalist, Spy, Forensic Scientist, that I realised they all have something I common. Finding things out. I do love finding things out, and also looking for interesting things….and I’m always doing it. Always asking questions and wanting to know more about things than sometimes is really necessary! I’m naturally curious.

So choosing one wild flower a day and seeing what I could find out about it has been so interesting and joyful for me and especially sharing what I discover with others via my Instagram account. For example; who knew that Herb Robert can repel deer and rabbits and can be used as a mosquito repellent if the leaves are squished and rubbed onto your skin [not tried it yet] and that the leaves of Red Valerian are edible? Or that the Romans used to put silver weed leaves in their sandals to help keep their feet cool during their long marches? And I’m only 14 days in! Its also encouraged me to get all the books I have about wildflowers and wildflower related-ness off my shelves and on to the flower identification station [dining table] including the book about sacred and healing beers that actually feature quite a few of our wild flowers and plants.  It’s starting to remind me of the love I once had for creating my own wild liqueurs and my interest in the medicinal uses of plants. Plants that are often considered to be weeds.

This has been an interest of mine on and off for a number of years actually and I seem to wax and wane with it. Are you like this with some things? For me I think my penchant for wanting to turn EVERYTHING into a project means that I’d lost touch with just enjoying things for what they are. I have to remind myself often that I don’t have to make everything a project. I don’t have to make every single beer in the healing beer book [and enter them into beer awards and set up a local brewing group even if that is a thought that crosses my mind [see how my mind sparks?!] I don’t have to go in search of every orchid across the UK [or the world] after finding a few during my dog walks. It’s enough to notice the one flower a day, learn a bit about it [I set myself a time allowance for detective-ising!] and then to stop at that.

I have a tendency to get overly obsessed by things which I’ve realised is part of my mental health and anxiety and so need to be acutely aware when I start going down this path – sometimes I get further down it than others! I’ve learnt to be mindful and notice the signals, to pause, and get myself out of that one way thinking. What’s this got to do with identifying wildflowers? Well, I’ve been struggling with my anxiety quite badly recently and I’m using the wildflowers to help me to focus on one small thing, doing that and then moving on to the next thing. I’m setting myself time windows or time allowances so that things don’t spiral out of control. So then I'm applying that to my other tasks and activates and it's helping reduce the feelings of overwhelm.

I’m also noticing certain qualities of these wildflowers that I'd like to have myself. Characteristics such as – tenacious, hardy, resilient and potentilla – which means ‘little powerful one.'

I’m going to carry on with a flower a day until the end of June and then reflect and see what stands out and what I’m REALLY learning about this, the process and what nature has to teach us.

If you'd like to see and learn about the wildflowers I’ve identified so far – skip on over to my Instagram page [@morwhennawoolcock]. If you know anything else about any of these wildflowers – please do share!

On the topic of Wild – this month on Saturday 29th June is the annual ‘Wild Night Out’ event which encourages us all to spend a night out under the stars. Don’t be put off by thinking that’s the only way to join in – you could have a wild picnic or a wild art-tanoon as I did last year [read about that here] Or even staying out in your garden to watch the bats flit about whist you’re wrapped up in a snuggle blanket – all counts! For more info visit www.wildnightout.org I’ve not really decided what I’ll be doing this year yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know just as soon as I do.

Friday 31 May 2019

Meandering Surprise

Cheddar Reservoir ©Morwhenna Woolcock

Do you know where your nearest reservoir is? Have you even been to explore it?

Not the most obvious of places for a creative adventure I grant you, but I've become rather intrigued by them as I live close to one and there's at least five others within driving distance. What springs to your mind when you think about these humanmade bodies of water?

Last week I had an spare day so to speak. I’d taken the day off to be an extra on a new TV show, that didn’t happen in the end, so decided to go for a mini adventure. 

I'd bought a set of OS maps for my local area last year and started looking for interesting places to meander around. One place that’s been on my list for quite a while is Cheddar Reservoir. Looking at it on the map it looks pretty uninspiring. However, it’s near Axbridge which is known for its fine medieval square [apparently] so my curiosity was piqued.

©Morwhenna Woolcock
And I have to tell you - I was surprised with what I found.

The sun shone as I parked up in Axbridge and began with a little wander around there, which didn’t take long. I marvelled at the building known as King John’s Hunting lodge [all wonky and intriguing which has absolutely nothing to do with King John who lived about 200 years before the building existed. More likely, the volunteer warden told me, was some canny marketing!!]. Went up to the church which is mentioned at great length in my Somerset book from 1954 and was impressed by the beautiful ceiling and generally soaked in the atmosphere - which on a Wednesday afternoon, was relaxed.

Then set off to find the reservoir which according to my phone was a 20 min walk away. Walking there rather than driving meant I noticed some other interesting things – a potential plot of land for sale and people selling honey and tomato plants on the roadside. The tree lined entry to the reservoir was very inviting and led up to a vast open expanse of water and an intake of breath moment. I hadn’t expected that.

As I followed the flat gravel path that circles the edge of the reservoir, 2.2 miles apparently, most of the time was spent gazing at the views, watching sheep relaxing, following a lady on horseback, working out what hills I could see were – Crooks peak, Glastonbury Tor and the deep gash in the hills that indicated it was Cheddar Gorge and chatting to anyone else who happened to be around.

It was a glorious day, so that helped, but I hadn’t expected such views and the feeling of expansiveness you get as you walk around the reservoir.

The Old Drugstore Gallery in Axbridge [no, it's not made of cheddar cheese ;-)] 
©Morwhenna Woolcock
I discovered that this reservoir was actually built much earlier than I’d thought. Planning began in 1927, work was abandoned in 1936 due to severe weather and it was finally completed in 1937. It was the first British reservoir to permit sailing in 1950 and completely froze over during the big freeze in 1962/3.

Wildlife wise there were ducks, cormorants, butterflies, sparrows, magpies, wagtails, rooks, jackdaws all enjoying the space at the same time as me. It was all rather idyllic  and I’d stop every now an again to take in the views around me. If you ignored the concrete edging and looked across the water to the hills – you could in fact be on the edges of a beautiful lake, say in Italy…

I enjoyed the meander much more than I imagined I would, so it’s always worth just going to have a look as you never really know what you’ll find.

Is there somewhere you've been meaning to explore that's on your doorstep - how about going on your own creative adventure this weekend? I'd love to hear where you go and what you discover!
Happy Adventuring!


PS The Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild starts tomorrow [01 June] are you taking part? #30dayswild 

The church ceiling - very impressive don't you think? ©Morwhenna Woolcock

High Street, Axbridge ©Morwhenna Woolcock

Monday 13 May 2019

Are you a nature-noticer?

It's Mental Health Awareness week and one of the things I find helps my mental wellbeing is noticing nature. REALLY noticing. Even a few minutes can have a positive effect. Today, I decided to capture some of the things I noticed on my dog walk to share with you. [yes it's in portrait, sorry!]

I noticed...

The way the grass swayed in the breeze and how it felt as I ran my hands through it [not as soft as I'd imagined]

The brightness of the yellow buttercups in contrast with the grass

A peacock butterfly landing and creeping up close to see it's beautiful markings

The way leaves on the trees moved

The patterns that aeroplanes had left in the sky

The blue-ness of the sky

The different sounds of the birds chirping

The low hum of farm machinery

The smell of stinging nettels and hawthorn flowers

The delicate white flowers of cow-parsley and how it fills the lanes with an abundant spring bouquet

Are you a nature-noticer?  What have you noticed today?

Thursday 25 April 2019

[The 40/40 Project] No.9 The completed sketchbook!

Yeah! Another part of a project completed! Yes, ok, I submitted my sketchbook to the Sketchbook Library in 2016, and heck, it's now 2019 - but I've finally put together a little film with the photos I took. I can officially tick that box! *Hurrah & A Happy Dance*

I'd spend sooooo long procrastinating and considering the style and being anxious about getting it 'right,' that I'd forgotten about being playful and just having a go. So here we are - a playful experiment. 

Here's the post about the project and why I wanted to join it - The Sketchbook Project

Ahhhh, feels good to complete something that's been on my mind and to do list for some time...what's next? [I've plenty more to choose from]. 

How about you? What project[s] have you got kicking about that would make you feel better if they were completed? 

To view my sketchbook, sign up for yourself, or just be inspired by the thousands of creative sketchbooks online visit: www.thesketchbookproject.com

Friday 22 March 2019

Upcycling: Adventure Trousers to Zipper Pouch

Everything we wear has a story. From its very beginnings as the fibres before being woven or knitted into cloth to where we've worn those clothes and the memories that they've helped to create. That's why I thought I'd share this short story with you of one of my latest upcycled makes. 

Do you like to upcycle your worn out clothes into new and useful items? 
I'd love to see what you've created - do share here - or pop on over to my FB page and share your creations with me there.