Tickled pink by a Cockchafer!

Monday – 15th. May 2017. Cockchafer or May Bug. Latin name – Melolontha melolontha.

Almost home after a late night walk in the drizzle with my son – I found a beautiful, bronze-coloured Cockchafer crawling on the surface of the glistening, wet road.  Because of its perilous position – I gently persuaded it aboard my hand for a quick ride to the sanctuary of my nearby garden.  What a giggle! 

As it slowly tickled its way up my hand towards the cave of my sleeve – I found myself laughing-out-loud much to the disapproval of my son – who told me to keep the noise down – “People will think you have been drinking!” – “Put it down!” He snapped.  What he didn’t understand was – I couldn’t easily flick the Cockchafer off into the garden because they have barbed legs – so I just stood outside my house on a dismal May night and laughed – while my son grew evermore impatient for me to get the front-door key out my pocket with my freer hand. Too distracted by the Cockchafer – I couldn’t find the key – so he had a rummage in my pocket which just made me laugh louder! He did reluctantly agree to take one photo with his phone – before he disappeared inside his own sanctuary – away from his embarrassing ‘drunken’ mother. 

His fuzzy photo will serve as a reminder of quite one of the most delightful – as well as side-splitting encounters with Nature – I have experienced. Because of insecticides – Cockchafers are sadly much rarer these days – but I can remember throughout the 60’s and 70’s – the golden era I grew up in – when ‘May Bugs’ were a familiar sight and sound in the countryside – and bedroom!  This however, was the first lifetime opportunity that had presented itself for me to hold one…Cockchafer or May bug. Held in the hand they are fascinating as well as super ticklish on bare skin! Its impressive pair of feathery, orange feelers instantly reminded me of Dennis Healey – a memorable Labour politician from the same bygone era.

Eventually ‘Dennis’ grew tired of tickling me half-to-death and decided to buzz-off into the sticky night air. What a lovely sight to see the Cockchafer slowly open its back – before spreading a fine set of golden wings.  I just stood and watched in awe as it rotated upwards above me – like a small helicopter – and I fancied I could even feel a small downdraught blow over me as its whirring wings carried it away into the enveloping black; really quite magical.  

Writing this the day after – as the rain pours down outside my window again – I’m reminded that it is the merry month of May! 

Black Bryony

A May photograph of my own. I just love this black heart reaching for the light. Black Bryony aloft a Devon hedge – Sunday 14th. May 2017.

Faith, Hope and Charity.

When one person’s junk is another’s treasure – and the other way round.  A post about the cyclic magic of working in a charity reuse shop. 

Some ornaments left on the shelf.

Left on the shelf!  There are some items that no one wants – not even for the bargain price of 50p!

Downton Abbey.

‘Lady Downtown’ – as Val – one of my favourite customers called me.  A frilled cushion re-purposed into a rather splendid bonnet!

I love my job working in a recycling centre; for a magpie like me – it is such an interesting and fulfilling place to work. Occasionally one has to handle unsavoury things that one would rather not – but that’s a small price to pay for its rewards. Rarely a working day goes by when I’m not reduced to eye-watering fits of laughter at something that’s been brought in for recycling. It’s rarely the item in itself that’s funny but the combination of ideas that it sparks between us…

Wednesdays are always a guaranteed giggle when first mate - Sallykins volunteers for the day.

Wednesdays are always a guaranteed giggle when first mate – Sallykins volunteers for the day…


Makeover magic. A pair of slightly more flattering hats!

A tired old pram gets a new life...

A tired old pram gets a new life…

With wheel re-affixed – Lady Downtown’s love child ‘Trevor’ gets an afternoon out in the fresh air.

In an effort to dress the pram – we dressed the ‘baby’ in a romper and paired them together.  They certainly afforded plenty of admiring glances throughout the afternoon but alas no buyers.  On more than one occasion I found myself bouncing the handle of the pram – like he was real! I have no idea why I named him Trevor – it just popped into my head and stuck – perhaps he once belonged to a boy called Trevor?  Unfortunately, Lady Downtown wasn’t a good mother – and she left him outside in the yard at home time and by morning he’d been kidnapped – ‘just’ Trevor not the wonderful, vintage pram!  

He was too adorable!

The other side to all this hilarity – are the things that can reduce one to real tears.  Not literally you understand – because I’m not given to that sort of thing – but often I come across something – that makes me stop and think; a quieter moment in an otherwise busy day. This week it was a falling apart bible with an inscription in the front – it belonged to Ethel – whom ever she was? What I loved about it were all the little treasures that were pressed between its pages – a petal, a fern frond, a strawberry leaf – and a number of pretty foil sweet papers – even a cellophane wrapper that had been re-purposed into a holy cross.

Ethel's Bible of treasures.

Ethel’s Bible of treasures.

Page turning itself – caught by that other unseen energy – the Wind.

As I flicked through the pages – I wondered at the significance of all these priceless yet worthless things and what they all once meant to someone called Ethel – that she should have preserved them so carefully in the holy book. Perhaps they served as simple markers to the text – or maybe they were reminders of special occasions – of Christmases and birthdays – and of days roaming the countryside and picking wild flowers…

So many of the things that pass through our recycle shop – are things that once belonged to people who have passed on themselves. I myself have not long cleared out some of my father’s things – all perfectly good and reusable but no one in the family wanted to keep them – so I donated them to our shop. While going through his books I found another bible of a kind – an old volume called ‘Wayside and Woodland Trees’. Drawn by its title – I stopped sorting his things, to look inside…

Four leaf clover

Found again – Dad’s lucky four-leaf clover.

There like Ethel – he had put-by a treasure for safekeeping. Inside, folded in a scruffy piece of paper – I found his lucky four-leaf clover now faded and tatty with age.  I remembered how much these four, small, conjoined heart-shaped leaves meant to him – the childlike belief he invested in them, especially when he was diagnosed with terminal illness in his late eighties.  My father loved walking over open green fields – he could climb over stiles and gates and walk up steep hills without ever stopping – inevitably though – his circles got smaller and smaller as his illness got the better of him. In the end I don’t think it was cancer that killed him but confinement – in that sense hope predeceased him.  I kept his book and its precious contents and wondered whether luck can be bequeathed – I hope so. To be able to roam freely and to pick up things that can only be found is luck enough for me…

Like this bejeweled buzzard’s feather – found in April, in the snow, in the dark – in Shedland.

One of my all time favourite television shows – has to be Bagpuss! I love the ethos of Emily’s shop – and now I’m lucky again – to be living and working the dream!  There’s a kind of magic – an unseen energy – that’s attached to all the things that pass in and out our magic door. It’s easy to believe that even the unwanted ornaments on the shelf come to life once we lock up and go home at the end of the day…

How else could one ever explain how they came to be so artistically arranged?

An episode from Bagpuss and Co – not about small white elephants like some of those on our shelves but a pink one made of straw! 

To Skylark and Raven.

 Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! 
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
From ‘To a Skylark’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Listening to a Skylark at sunset. Leeden Tor - Dartmoor

Listening for Skylark while turned towards the setting Sun.  Leeden Tor – Dartmoor Tuesday – 2nd May 2017.

The second day of May – was one of those crystal clear Dartmoor days when my eyes and ears led the way – while my earthbound feet just dragged along somewhere behind… 

The living and the dead.  Trees reaching for the Sun in Ravens’ Haven – Dartmoor

My visit started with a wander through my favourite Dartmoor wood to see if the Ravens were in – and whether they had produced any young this year.  It always seems to be that the beginning of May marks the time that this pair’s offspring – if any – usually fledge their swaying tree-top nest…

Oh for a bird's eye view! How I'd love to be able to see inside their swaying tree top nest.

Oh for a bird’s eye view! How I’d love to be able to look down into their swaying tree top nest.

From another angle.

From another earthbound angle.

" Cronk Cronk" One of the adult Ravens on parental duty.

” Cronk Cronk”  One of the adult Ravens on parental duty. (If you enlarge the image by clicking on it – you’ll see it’s in full cry – a beautiful din!)

I arrived in the afternoon amid a flurry of raucous noise – the two parents were frantically flying back and forth the length of the wood – keeping close tabs on a fine pair of youngsters that had clearly not long discovered they had wings. I was in my element. I could have sat inside the wood – and listened to their cacophony of deep throaty ‘cronks’ until sunset – it was sweet music to my ears!  I stayed in their company for a couple of hours and managed to snap my best Raven shot ever! 

What with the trees – combined with a Raven’s speed – it’s almost impossible to capture a Raven in its haven…

Raven in flight - Dartmoor

I’m thrilled I got this shot though!

Walking back to my car from the wood – I was delighted to get that wished for aerial view of a bird’s nest – not a Raven’s but a beautiful nest nonetheless…

Abandoned nest in the Gorse – all bar one brown oak leaf from Winter past…

Then it was onward by car and upward by foot to Leedon Tor for sunset – where I laid down on the moorland grass and lost my earthly self.  Slowly – one by one – all my senses shutdown until I could only listen…I think it was the nearest to Heaven I’ve ever been. 

Pure bliss.

Pure bliss.

Finders Keepers.

Love Shed Hunting. It's not just about looking down - it's about looking up and all around - it's the whole magical experience.

Love Shed Hunting.  It’s not just about looking down – it’s about looking up and all around and listening…the birdsong at eventide is sublime.

It is my experience, late April heralds the time of year when Red Deer cast their magnificent antlers; they cast not only their antlers but a magic spell – that holds me in thrall until I find one – it is a Quest.

There is no way of knowing exactly where or when an antler will fall because they fall at will – but it is the expectation and excitement of finding one that’s addictive; I say expectation because you have to believe that you will find one.

Every evening this week – I have disappeared for a couple of hours or more into the forest I call ‘Shedland’ – in the hope that I’ll find a cast antler.  There is nothing more exciting in my eyes – than that first moment of recognition when suddenly I realise what I’ve been searching for – a huge, branched beast of an antler! Tuesday – 18th April 2017 was my lucky day – and it came right at the end of a two hour shed hunting session when day had almost descended into night.  Suddenly five beautiful, glowing white tips lying on a muddy bank in the darkness stopped me in my tracks – their tracks. I waited until my eyes fully opened and acclimatised to what lay in front of me – it ‘s a magical moment that I often play over and over again in my mind – it is so powerful.  Before picking it up – I took a photograph of it in situ… 

White in the darkness - moment of recognition.

White in the darkness – moment of recognition.

I say ‘always’ – I have only ever found three – two whoppers in 2016 and this beauty. It’s what makes all three so prized.  The odds are I won’t find a shed antler because they are more likely to be cast over a huge area of thicket that’s impenetrable to mere humans – thank God ‘my’ four boys have sanctuary away from people with guns.  These are truly wild stags. 

‘Four Stags of Yggdrasil’

My boys! I call them the ‘Four Stags of Yggdrasil’.

A freshly cast antler provides a great calcium source for many nocturnal animals too – foxes, badgers, mice – and the deer themselves enjoy a wholesome gnaw and nibble – so I’m deeply grateful when Nature leaves one for me.  I know the date that this antler was cast because I covered exactly the same ground the night before.   

They enjoyed a nibble and left the rest for me.

They enjoyed a bit of a gnaw!

It's like finding magic!  It measures thirty-one inches from its pedical to it's tip.

It’s like finding magic!  It measures thirty-one inches from its pedical to it’s tip.



Casting a shadow. Bringing my prize home under the orange glow of the street lamps.

Casting a magical shadow.  Bringing my prize home under the orange glow of the street lamps.

When finally I emerged out of the forest – I carried my prize all the way round another three miles on the road – it was a perfect excuse not to get home too early and put it down – even though it’s got a good weight to it!  I stopped off in the church yard – to show it to my Dad…  

Forget-me not.

Old habits die hard.  I still like to show him my finds!

Showing Dad my first find.  'Yod' an eight-point cast antler in April 2016.

Showing Dad my first find.  ‘Yod’ an eight-point cast antler in April 2016.

I placed the antler on his plot and sat awhile next to him.  I listened to the owls – and thanked the stars above. They were shining over the church more brilliantly than I can ever remember…

I didn’t really want to come back in – I was so happy!

Earth to earth.

From earth – to earth.

Yod and Son of Yod - cast Red Deer antlers.

Yod and Son of Yod – my other ‘pair’ of cast Red Deer antlers.

My three cast antlers have all been given names – my first is ‘Yod’ – my second is ‘Son of Yod’ – and this year’s find – is ‘Yaffle’! 

‘Yaffle’ because it’s got a ‘Y’ at one end – a huge ‘E’ at the other – and in between there is a small white mark on its trunk-like structure where the wild animals got to it before me – it looks like a Woodpecker’s hole!  ‘Yaffle’ is a country name for a Green Woodpecker.  It all makes perfect sense to me! 

Deer Yaffle!  From muddy bank 18th. April 2017 – to crowning a cushion of Daisies in my garden – 21st. April 2017.




A Cruise to Portland Bill & Chesil Beach in Zunny Dorset.

To the lighthouse. Portland Bill - Dorset.

To the lighthouse; Portland Bill – Dorset.

One of the fun things about having a grown-up son – is being taken out for a spin in his nice motor!  On his visit home this time round – he surprised me with a newer model.  I have to say – I was rather sad to think of his faithful runner abandoned on some faraway forecourt in Kent but I’m sentimental about cars – where as he isn’t – to me they hold memories. I give them names – he thinks I’m potty!  His latest car is ‘Ravena’ – not just because it is black and it can fly – but because it has a bonnet that reminds me of a Raven’s beak. His former car had a front grille like a Great White – so I named it ‘The Shark’!  

Ford focus Titanium and BMW 1 Series.

Goodbye ‘Shark’ – Hello ‘Raven’!

Monday 10th April 2017 – marked my maiden flight – or voyage – drive in ‘Ravena’ – a day out over the border to Dorset! Our first port of call was the county town, Dorchester – and as always with me – I sought sanctuary from the brightness of the day inside a church – St. Peter’s.  Inside St. Peter's Church Dorchester. Something about DartmoorInside it was cool and quiet while outside the town hustled and bustled under a clear blue sky. I bought a perfect postcard in the church to send to my beloved Uncle Peter and his faithful lion-dog ‘Sir Winston’.  

Peter loved his card - and made a couple additions of his own!

Peter loved his card – and made a couple additions of his own!

The postcard is an engraving of one of two recumbent medieval Knights that can be found sleeping on the sills of the Church’s beautiful stained glass windows – together they add a lovely feeling of peace and sleepiness to the atmosphere inside the church – especially on a Zun drenched afternoon in April.  

Bathed in “Zunsheen”.  Memorial to one of Dorset’s own great literary sons – poet and writer William Barnes near the steps of St. Peter’s Church – Dorchester.  He was born in Dorset in 1801 – his  collection of pastoral poetry is written in Dorset dialect; so it’s  Zun not Sun in Dorset!  William Barnes died in 1886.

From the glow inside – and outside St. Peter’s Church – it was onward to Portland Bill Lighthouse with a bought picnic from M&S in town…

On our arrival – I was thrilled to be greeted by a familiar feathered-friend perched on the gable end of Portland Bill lighthouse; the clever Raven was expecting me!

“Cronk Cronk” went the Portland Bill Raven.  One only need compare it to the seagulls to recognise its impressive size.

Images from the Head. The Portland Bill three-sided Daymark made of Portland

Images from the Head. The Portland Bill Daymark: a Portland Stone obelisk erected in 1844 to warn shipping.  Also my lucky find at the very tip – a Hag Stone!

A Hag Stone is simply a stone with a natural hole through it – but it is a whole lot more besides!  To read more about Hag Stone lore – just click here.

From Portland Bill we cruised along to Chesil Beach…

Chesil Beach from the high road from Portland Bill.

Chesil Bank viewed from the high road coming back from Portland Bill…

Foot bridge over the water to Chesil Beach...

Footbridge over the water to Chesil Beach…

Watching the Moon rise from the footbridge…

Listening to the drag of shingle…

A walk along Chesil Beach at sunset – is a ‘Kickerbocker Glory’ of sensory delights complete with a raspberry-ripple topping.

Here we enjoyed a walk along part of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast – and although I didn’t find any recognisable fossils – the experience was as old as Time itself – or as timeless…

'Boys' will be boys! It wasn't all peace and serenity - a couple of times they needed chastising for lobbing the occasional small pebble at me - but most of the time they were good 'Boys'!

‘Boys’ will be boys! It wasn’t all peace and serenity though – a couple of times they needed chastising for lobbing the occasional pebble at me – but most of the time they were good ‘Boys’!

To one side of the long strip of beach – April’s Moon rose like a huge orange – while on the other side – the Zun melted to a glorious raspberry-ripple-pink over a serene sea that just rumbled ‘n’ rolled the shingle continuously into shore – and out again…

Time and tide wait for no man. Shingle on Chesil Beach.

Shingle on Chesil Beach keeping rhythmic time on our visit.  There is also a ‘pay and display’ car park that’s 24 hrs a day –  seven days a week!

My 'Saturn return' stone!

My ‘Saturn return’ stone!

 Among the millions – I found two special stones on Chesil Beach – one was a super-smooth, heart-shaped stone for a special man called, Peter – and the other was a small pebble for keeps; I have named it ‘Saturn Return’.  To read about the astrological meaning of ‘The Saturn Return’ simply click here

Speaking of return – it was all too soon time to journey home in the darkness to Devon having thoroughly enjoyed our visit to warm, Zunny Dorset. 

The Guardian Cormorant at the 'gateway' to Chesil Beach

Goodnight to the ‘The Guardian Cormorant’ who stands at the ‘gateway’ to Chesil Beach.

Finally, thank you to Archie – for chauffeuring us on our two-hundred-mile round, impulse trip to Portland Bill – we set off in the afternoon – so thank God for the lighter, Spring evenings! I look forward to our next outing – when I can’t promise not to ‘litter’ Ravena’s smart dashboard with stones and feathers again – and fill her roomy boot, with its once spotless interior, with more kindling twigs for the fire; he’s a tolerant son and a most excellent driver! 

My all time memory of riding shotgun in Archie’s former car – ‘The Shark’ – was at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire – when he was overtaken by a ton or more of speeding Rhinoceros!

Many happy afternoons – ‘The Shark’ 2014 – 2017.

Down Walkhampton way – Dartmoor.

A pair of Ravens etched in a glass screen in Walkhampton Church - Dartmoor.

A beautiful pair of Ravens etched in glass in Walkhampton Church – Dartmoor.

As the Raven flies – Walkhampton isn’t that far from my favourite Dartmoor wood – so a walk to both made a perfect April pairing.  First off – I enjoyed a quiet amble through Ravens’ Haven and almost immediately stumbled upon treasure – or leftovers! A second squirrel’s skull complete with two sharp yellow teeth…

Complete with two, rather yellow teeth.

Skull and crossbones.

Spring clean!

Spring clean!

I think the Ravens had been Spring-cleaning as the skull, plus bones and numerous pellets were scattered beneath their tree-top nest.

A Raven's left-overs.

A handful of Ravens’ leftovers.

A little further on through the wood – I picked-up another treasure – a Witch’s hat!

A dried, blackened Toadstool - or Witch's hat.

A dried, blackened Toadstool – or frilled Witch’s hat!

All the while I was searching the woodland floor – the pair of Ravens were searching me…


Raven watchtower.

Not wanting to crick my neck – their exact position high in the tree-tops was difficult to pinpoint at times – but by following their distinctive call I was able to track them around the wood.  My ‘Raven’ isn’t very good but they did allow me to join in their conversation – probably amused – or bemused – by the fool on the ground who tried to talk their talk!  



Eventually it was time to move on and leave the Ravens in peace – and wander over to Walkhampton Church with its fairy-tale tower…

St Mary's Church -Walkhampton.

Four over-sized pinnacles silhouetted against a darkening sky.   St Mary’s Church – Walkhampton.

 At around sunset – I would have expected the church to be locked – but as luck would have it – the door was left on the latch…

Inside Walkhampton Church.

Bringing the outside in.   Etched on glass – Ravens, Ponies and Granite Tors inside Walkhampton Church.

Stained glass window detail.  Beautiful ‘Sugared Almond’ coloured leaded lights.

As well as its impressive church – Walkhampton boasts another equally impressive shelter – its surprisingly comfortable bus stop!

If ever you are passing through Walkhampton - it's well worth a STOP!

If ever you are passing through Walkhampton – it’s well worth a STOP!

I finished this visit to Dartmoor – with an impromptu stop on B3357 betwixt Foggintor and the Staple Tors to meet up with my tousled haired friend again…

My luckiest find of the day.

Perfect end to a lovely day

Homeward bound.  A perfect end to a visit full of simple pleasures…

Early Hawthorn Blossom near Ravens' Haven.

Including a lungful of early ‘May’ near Ravens’ Haven – aah.

The wider picture: Plymouth.

Plymouth Sound viewed from Sheepstor. Something about DartmoorI rarely visit Plymouth – even though it is so close to Dartmoor – in fact I’m more used to viewing the ships in Plymouth Sound from afar – from the area around Sheepstor.   I’m too much of a country mouse for the big city!Plymouth Sound viewed from Sheepstor. Something about Dartmoor

A colourful maritime window that caught my eye on Plymouth Barbican.

A colourful maritime window that caught my eye on Plymouth Barbican.

Up close – Plymouth is as monumental as the great Tor itself – 

Monumental Plymouth.

Monumental Plymouth. (‘image’ can be enlarged by clicking on it!)

although some just can’t tear themselves away from their mobile phones no matter what the wider picture! 

I of course was was snapping a picture of Plymouth's iconic Smeeton's Tower down on the Hoe - and they were in the foreground.

I was snapping a shot of Plymouth’s iconic Smeeton’s Tower down on the Hoe – and they just happened to be in the foreground.

Plymouth Sound. Something about Dartmoor

A ‘close-up’ of naval ships in Plymouth Sound.

If a wish was a heart-shaped stone. Foggintor Quarry.

Ruins at Foggintor on a suitably fogbound day. Sunday 19th. March 2017

Ruins at Foggintor on a suitably fogbound day. Sunday 19th. March 2017

It was while passing by the ruins of Foggintor Quarry – on Dartmoor – that I received my name Raven – as in Raven Bean. The Beanies are a walking group that I used to walk out with once in a while – everyone had a prefix name to ‘Bean’ – and mine was ‘Raven’.  It was when a lone Raven flew out of Foggintor Quarry over our heads – that I excitedly exclaimed to our great leader Old Bean – “Raven” – and the name stuck.  In that sense – Foggintor is where I was officially baptised into the Wonder of Dartmoor.  Nowadays – I’ve inevitably become a bit of a lone Raven myself and prefer to walk alone – or with just my son, Tom – for company.

I like to stand and stare too much – to move on at my own pace and think my thoughts without too much chatter.  Even young Tom finds my tendency for grinding to a halt trying at times – nevermore so than when I come across some beloved ponies.  It’s never enough for me to just say a simple “Hello” – I like to hold meaningful conversations with them; meaningful to me that is!  Tom gets impatient by my dawdling – and if he sees a dreaded group of them on our horizon first – he will deliberately try to guide me off course before I spot them. It never works though – because my eyes are as keen as my namesake. 

Foggintor Quarry is one of those interesting, atmospheric places on Dartmoor – that is suitable for an easy, short afternoon stroll – even when the infamous fog has descended because there is a track that will always lead you back to the road. 

Sunday 19th. March 2017 – was one such occasion!  We parked at the romantically named ‘Four Winds’ car park on the B3357 and set off in the direction of the quarry over moorland.  In no time at all – an inquisitive, young pony came running to me unbidden. Such a beautiful bright-eyed creature – and so trusting.  

Reflection of myself in the eye of a Dartmoor Pony.

Mirror mirror.  Reflection of myself in the eye of a Dartmoor Pony.

I find it unimaginable to think that these gentle, inquisitive animals too often go for meat – or are just shot before they even reach their first birthday. If I could have bundled my new friend into my rucksack I would have done – but wishful thinking is no solution to saving Dartmoor’s ‘unwanted’ Hill Ponies.  I enjoyed the ‘moment’ – and was delighted to see an aspect of myself reflected back – we both wore our hair untidily – in a side plait.

We shared the same hair style.

Same untidy hairstyle…

but without the beautiful, sun-bleached highlights.

Foggintor Quarry - 19th. March 2017.

Company at Foggintor Quarry – 19th. March 2017.

On our delayed arrival at Foggintor Quarry – we were treated to an aerobatic display – not by Ravens – but by a group of brave young hearts from Holland – who were queuing up to launch themselves off the edge.  

Foggintor Quarry

Foggintor Quarry – where not only Ravens dare. A brave, young outward-bounder leaping off the edge.  WOW! BRAVO!

From our aerial view above the quarry – we watched them one by one – bravely throw themselves off – as they whizzed down the zip-wire – ‘skimming’ the windblown surface of the dark, shifting water below.

Caught dangling in mid-air.

Caught dangling in mid-air.

We had arrived at the fortuitous time – any earlier and we would have had to stand around in the cold and damp for the afternoon’s spectacular to begin.  As it turned out – our meeting with the Dartmoor Pony had been most timely – despite Tom’s intermittent grumbles!  

We continued our walk all around the top of the arena – and hoped that the fog would not descend too low should we end up going over the edge ourselves – only without the aid of ropes and carabiners!  Foggintor Dartmoor. Something about DartmoorFoggintor Dartmoor. Something about DartmoorFoggintor - Dartmoor. Something about DartmoorWe arrived back at the Four Winds – suitably soaked by mist – Foggintor had lived up to its name. 

Foggintor Heart shaped stone.

Foggintor gemstone glistening in the surface water.

On the stony track back – I picked up a small heart-shaped keepsake that fitted in my pocket with room to spare; if only the pony had fitted into my rucksack as easily…Dartmoor Pony with the wind in her hair. Something about Dartmoor

La Primavera! The Power of Three.

Posted – Friday 17th March 2017.  To serve as an update on my sweet – and purely innocent – Belladonna Babe.

'Atropa Belladonna' and 'The Go-Between' by L P Hartley.

‘Atropa Belladonna’ brooch made by felt artist extraordinaire – Inna Danchenko from Ukraine.  Bespoke made item available from her Etsy shop – InnaFeltArt.

I’m feeling excited as we race forward to the Spring Equinox; with longer, warmer days ahead and the promise of late-night walks in the dimsy.  I’m sniffing wafts of warm, heady scented summer breezes and I’m feeling intoxicated already – for three reasons!

Beginning to grow - Spring 2016.

Beginning to grow – Spring 2016.

My Belladonna Babe has survived her Winter sleep and now she is pushing forth also – growing noticeably bigger everyday that passes. She is so beautiful and green – and lush – and will soon need replanting especially as she has sprouted two small ‘off-shoots’ – or sisters as I like to think of them.  Together they have just about outgrown the confines of their small clay pot.  Daily, I will them to grow more strong – more powerful.  “Grow, grow, grow…”  I whisper sweetly to them.

The tallest and strongest sister is growing well-away – but her diminutive siblings have catching up to do – and need their own independent space to thrive.  I feel now is the time to separate them and to further encourage them – I have given then individual names.

For inspiration – I turned to an ancestral photograph that hangs on my parlour wall. The canvas is positioned high up over some french-doors – and because this is a Victorian house with high ceilings – the three sisters benevolently smile down at me from their elevated position up in ‘the gods’ – where spiders weave their clinging webs about them.

The Three Graces - Jane, Mary and Margaret of Tavistock.

‘The Three Graces’ from left to right – Jane, Mary and Margaret.

The Sisters have such kind, familiar faces – I feel like I have known them all my life; this side and next – and back through the mysterious tunnel of time from whence I came. Collectively I call them ‘The Three Graces’ – individually they are from left to right – Jane, Mary and Margaret – and they were all born in the ancient stannary town of Tavistock in West Devon – on the edge of Dartmoor.

All born in the 1800’s – they are my ancestor’s through my late father’s side.

It was only on a recent trip to my birth-land – following my father’s death in January – that I rediscovered their beautiful faces. I can’t thank my inspiring cousin adequately enough in three ‘simple’ words for having shared them with me but here they are – “THANK YOU SHARON!”

For me – the three sisters represent my faith and belief in the unseen – therein connection with my deceased father and so on and so forth… 

I adore everything about the composition of the photograph – the angle of light – the dry-stone wall overgrown with ivy – and I especially admire their long, black garments.  Their embroidered waistcoats, pin-tucked blouses and their hair so elegantly pinned atop their smiling heads.  I feel like they have come home – or is that me!  It’s only a cheap, modern canvas picture but it works like a mirror.

You may well ask why I should wish to name three potentially lethal plants after three such benevolent beings?

The Power of Three. Atropa Belladonna x 3. Spring 2017.

‘The Power of Three’.  Atropa Belladonna x 3.  Spring 2017.

Well, It is my argument – for example – that a length of string or a knife have the potential to do harm also, but for most people they are simply useful tools that we handle throughout our daily lives.  

Even when choosing a nice new shiny car – people are drawn by the aesthetics and performance – yet they are buying something that has the capacity for destruction also.  No one bats an eyelid at the availability and procurement of these three things.  Although I concede – that Deadly Nightshade can’t be compared to mere objects because it is a living, breathing entity – its potential for use or misuse are no different.  From the time of the Romans – Belladonna was used to open eyes and enable clear vision.  Although it is rarely used for this purpose today – metaphorically it still dose the trick in my eyes!

Atropa belladonna is a magical, all-seeing plant; she is good at listening and keeping secrets too.

Nowadays – her medicine, Atropine – is good for an ailing heart – so what better endorsement can there ever be for it’s broader cultivation than that.  

Warning: Atropine - good medicine for an ailing heart - but not for garnishing a salad!

Warning: Atropine – good medicine for an ailing heart – but not for garnishing a salad!

For my purposes – its cultivation is purely for its inherent, natural beauty; it is as innocent and as beneficial – and as powerful as that!  Mary and Margaret are my chosen names for my tiny specimens – but the tallest and strongest – has to be Jane.  

P.S.  I have notified my grown-up sons that while their three infant sisters are residing in their small clay pot on my kitchen window sill – it is not to be mistaken for Basil or the like…

Sweet BELLADONNA - NOT sweet Basil.

Sweet BELLADONNA – NOT Sweet Basil.

Bravo Sweet Belladonna! May you grow more lovely with each and every day that follows. Keep you posted . . .


Tuesday night 9th May 2017 – growing ever stronger…Deadly Nightshade - Atropa belladonna Tues 9th May 2017 Something about DartmoorDeadly Nightshade - Atropa belladonna Tues 9th May 2017 Something about DartmoorDeadly Nightshade - Atropa belladonna Tues 9th. May 2017 Something about Dartmoor


Growing ever stronger and lustier - Saturday - 5th August 2017. (Year 2)

No plain Jane! Growing ever stronger and lustier – Saturday – 5th August 2017. (Year 2)

I love the reddish tinge and hairiness of its succulent leaves.

I love her reddish tinge and hairiness.

Highways, High Days and Holidays: The Daymark – Kingswear.

Penn Inn Roundabout - South Devon Highway.

Last year – on Tom’s 16th birthday, I snapped this chance photo of a highways maintenance lorry as we circled the Penn Inn Roundabout ‘just for fun’ – in South Devon.  A gift in itself for highways fanatic Tom; he is undemanding and easy to please! Tom’s birthday always falls in half-term week so we mark his day with an outing of his choice – this year he chose South Devon again – and a cruise up and down his favourite stretch – The South Devon Link Road

He has gained considerable knowledge of Devon’s highways and byways from years of studying roadworks.org – and from his travels around the county.  I can’t remember a time when he hasn’t been interested in road construction and planning.  It’s been a lifelong interest and even though he’s seventeen now – he has always known where he is going!

On the 16th February 2017 – we sailed along the South Devon Link Road – to Kingswear – and across to Dartmouth by car ferry – aboard the appropriately named – ‘Tom Avis’…

Hands free driving. Big Brother at the wheel.

Hands free driving. Big Brother at the wheel.

Kingswear and Dartmouth. Something about DartmoorDartmouth Harbour. Something about Dartmoor

After a quiet afternoon mooch around Dartmouth’s individual shops and colourful houses – we drove back over the water again to Kingswear – for a sunset walk to the Daymark Tower.  It stands high above Dartmouth and Kingswear as a guide to mariners – because Dartmouth harbour is notoriously hard to find from the open sea.

Viewed from land the tower is equally outstanding. Viewed from within it is inspiring…  Inside the Daymark Tower. Something about DartmoorDaymark Tower archway. Something about DartmoorThe Daymark Tower Kingswear. Something about DartmoorCrop circles around The Daymark Tower. Something about DartmoorSun setting on Tom's day through the Daymark Tower. Something about Dartmoor

The Daymark Tower at Sunset. Something about Dartmoor

Tom enjoys watching this great video on YouTube about the construction of the South Devon Highway – and I have learned through him – to enjoy watching too.  I’m looking ahead to when Tom can realise his dream of joining these amazing earth-movers…

Tom at Seventeen standing inside The Daymark Tower.

Tom at seventeen standing tall inside The Daymark Tower that’s just 74 feet higher – at 80 feet!

The sky's the limit when you're inside the ultimate traffic cone!

The sky’s the limit when you’re standing inside the ultimate navigation cone.  Good Luck Son in all your aspirations and endeavours – the road is yours…