How to watch deer in the wild woods.

First you need to find a wise woman who, without being asked, will make for you a shawl. The shawl has to fit you in such a way, each being different, as all people are different.

shawl3 shawl6

Yesterday I was given such a garment by a very wise and beautiful woman. She had knit it with love in each stitch, for a special event. There is green, for the nettles Eliza must knit, picked by her soft hands, spun into thread. And into the shawl nettles were woven.shawl4

Feathers too, white for her swan brothers and gold for their crowns. Moss green ribbons tangle through the fabric, rough hessian for the forest floor and soft white silks. Seashells from the beach on which she finds her brothers weight each hem.

And a small black ribbon, in a bow ties up the mourning, for Eliza is mourning her mother still, and I have my own heart’s losses to gather and hold close, safe in a ribbon knot.

And because she is wise and kind the piece that drapes around my neck is fine and soft as swan’s down against my skin.

Once it is finished let her wrap it around you and she will find a scent, in my case the rarest of moss oils, to stroke into the fabric.

shawl2 shawl1

Once you have such an item you can walk into the early morning wood (though I was late to rise this morning, tired after yesterday’s event at the ancient fort in the hill where the green man of the trees holds firm to the old ways). Be quiet, in your heart and mind and as you walk wrap the shawl around you until it becomes your hide. Grow from your head a set of antlers, not too large as you do not wish to challenge. You will find deer, they will find you. Red bright in early morning light, a small herd of does and stags, one rich red, the other darker. And when you do, stand still, hold fast to the glamour you cloak yourself in and let your eyes watch the wildness of the beautiful wild things.

Thank you Jan. Pure magic.



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So, acorn: or, an answer to Meg Rosoff’s question.

Meg Rosoff asked me yesterday ‘do you EVER do any work?’

My answer is:

Out, walking, early.


710 9All the time I was walking I was watching the light through the trees, the squirrels in the canopy, deer in the woods come in to focus while I stood watching thinking ‘only trees’ but, no, an ear twitch and there was deer, camouflaged to perfection, creature of woodland. And all the time I was walking I was catching in my mind’s eye the double page spread for the word ‘acorn’ for The Lost Words book, and knowing that I could NEVER paint what was in there, but would muddle through to do the best approximation I could manage. And all the time I  was walking I was thinking about how I would use my time this afternoon, reading from The Wild Swans.

Some days my work is hard graft at the paper face. Sometimes it is the scent of moss, the fall of light, wild things and watching, the tumble of leaves from treetops where squirrels run and buzzards call. Sometimes my work is imagining the life of an acorn.

And when we walked home there were more deer, right by the house.

So, I guess the answer is always. That’s when I get any work done. And while I wish I had time, more time, putting colour on paper, this has been a good morning.

But Meg knows this anyway, because she’s a writer, and she’s wonderful.


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Mounsey End: Holiday, fragility.

Time moves too fast. On Wednesday we drove to Dulverton, via Keeble Antiques where I signed books for Clive who is a great supporter of my books. We arrived at Number Seven and tumbled in to the chaos of Davina and Jan getting ready for the exhibition at the weekend, the warmest welcome, an excessive amount of beauty, and a feeling of coming home. After riffling the shop for beautiful wrapping paper Davina led us to our cottage that we have booked for a week and a bit. It’s amazing. Wonderful.

The forest is creeping into the house leaf by leaf.

I’m on holiday, so I won’t say much. The first day we went for a short walk, got lost and found our way home 3 hours later. Today we walked, Ivy shot off on the heels of a deer and I thought that was the last I would ever ever see of my dog again. But she came back.

So, here’s a walk:


houseFirst, the house. So hidden in the wooded valley, down a road that looks impassable. Gorgeous.

morninglightNext, the view. Stunning. Forest.

Then the woods, with ancient castles mounds, a place of curious dreaming.

mounseycastle maddog ivybabe

Something fragile in the beautiful leaves.fragile earlymorn deerherd cleanwater

whitehorsefield riverland riversedgeLater, painting, watching, thinking, knitting.

paintingknittingmounseywatchingA heron crossed the sky as the sun was sinking.


Now, the fire is lit. Tomorrow I will be in the gallery at Number Seven Dulverton for a couple of hours, and on Sunday we will be walking into the woods to talk about white hares, wild swans and nettles. Tomorrow, bring knitting. Also, in the woods, if you wish to sit and listen and knit, that would be just perfect.

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Painting hares

The film lasts 3 minutes 56 seconds. The painting took 5 days, and 54 years.

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Maybe it was because I had phoned the vet, paid the bill, for Little Leopard who died last week. Maybe that was it. Whatever, you know how it goes. You are getting on with life then sorrow hits you like  a cold wave and catches your feet and tumbles you. Like being tumbled in the sea. So, there I was, driving to the Mill to sign more stock for Anna when it hit. A weight of sorrow, dumped on my head. And then I saw, beside the road, a sparrowhawk, wild, fierce, fat, sitting on a tumble of pigeon feathers. I slowed the van, but feared to disturb it in its meal so coasted by.

At the bottom of the hill I parked and decided to walk back up, to see.

So me and Ivy walked, along the road then up through the woods. He would be gone by the time we reached the top.


Autumn leaves were falling. Light was falling too.

greenlight woodland

When we reached the top we came towards the confetti of feathers and out from an old hawthorn tree, arrow fast at eye height a sparrowhawk, the sparrowhawk shot. He had been roosting in the tree above his kill and all that remained now were feathers and the memory of his bright wildness.


Back down to the mill. Across the road from the carpark is this shed.  Something happens inside, but the door has not been opened for years.


In the mill I signed new copies of Cat Walk, and looked through at the pages where Leopard still walks. He did make the landscape shine.


pattern knittingmill

I did a little knitting, for I seem to carry it everywhere with me now, talked a little, and  then home, to paint. I love the way the wild thing pulled me out from my melancholy, but also loved the way that sorrow hit, so like a wave. So very like a wave. And like a wave it left me, feeling fresh, calm, clean.


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I went for a walk with a cat and a dog and I sat on a hill above the sea while a raven flew circles around me. It was so still I could hear the air move in the raven’s wings.


I thought about otters and also herons, because I need images. The sun was warm.


I had sent a message to Robert MacFarlane to see if he might dream about herons. Because I need words. As I lifted my knitting what should I find, beneath the wool, but the feather of a heron, soft,grey.

There’s magic in this book.

Now, at the end of the day an email from Mr MacF. Some words. Acorn. And yes. How just right. How perfect, like a single acorn.

Now, it’s time to make this book grow and be worthy of the paper on which it is made.


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Walking, thinking.

I walked the land this morning, with The White Cat and The Grey Dog. As we walked I thought. It’s easy to think in the company of animals.

greywhiteI thought about the work I have to do, and I thought about other things and these, as we walked the beautiful land together, are some of the things I thought.


I thought of how if you share your life with animals you will at some point learn about the nature of grief, but of how I would not wish to have my life empty of these beautiful beings to save myself from mourning.

I thought of how as humans when we love we often learn that harsher grief that comes with the ending of a relationship, the losing of a lover, often tinged with green envy, heart sharp, ripping, dark grief. And yet I would not save myself from this by never loving.

And I thought about the difference of the way I love this land beneath my feet, and how animals, lovers, might come and go but the land, this land would always be here. How it fills my soul. Home.

And then, then, I thought, no. Not always. What if it was taken away. What if people, who thought differently from me came, with guns and bombs and violence and took away my home and destroyed my land and drove me out? I thought of all those people whose homes have been crushed by bombs, who have been driven from their homes and their land and their lives by circumstances beyond their control, beyond most people’s control. Through no fault of their own forced out to live in camps and wander the earth as what was familiar is crushed to dust. Taken. Those people who have risked everything as faced only with despair they have tried to move to a place of greater safety, refugees in a foreign land where they have been greeted with more violence, hatred and suspicion.

What can I do? Not much, but something. First I can call them refugee, not migrant. Because names are important. I can try to make those people who reach our shores feel welcome. And then I can try to raise money, to help. Such a small thing, but better than nothing.

To find out something more, beyond what you hear in the news, listen to this wonderful programme about food, from The BBC Food Programme. Hear people from Syria talk about their experiences. It’s worth half an hour of anyone’s time to try to understand.

So, I am going to auction the proof pages for The Wild Swans. Because there are so many pages, and I have work to do, I will do this a few at a time. All money raised will go to either

  1. Doctors of The World: They have a special appeal for Calais, where they are working in the camps providing medical attention for refugees, and also work worldwide to help provide medical care for vulnerable people.
  2. MOAS: Moas sails the Med trying to save refugees from drowning. With winter coming the death toll will only get higher.
  3. Hand in Hand for Syria: This charity is one of the few getting aid into those still left in Syria. Medical help, food, clothing, medicines. And they also run a campaign to knit and crochet for Syria. Something so simple can maybe save a life.

You choose, if you win the auction, which of these you prefer to donate too.

To begin I have just put up 1 piece. These things take up so much time and I’ve so much work to do. Starting price for each piece is £30. They are proof pages, NOT original artwork, but there are only 1 or 2 of each piece, and they will frame up nicely. Because they are only proof pages I will put an upper limit of £250 on each piece, so, first to £250 gets the page.  Happy to sign if required. Each piece is as seen.

If you want to see what will be coming up in future get a copy of the book from the library, your local bookshop or Solva Woollen Mill. It seems fitting that these pages work to raise money for refugees. To understand why take a look at the article in The Guardian magazine online.

To bid, click on the picture and leave a comment ( all comments have to be actioned by me) I will contact you by email if your bid wins. Then you can pay the charity of your choice and I will post you the picture.


Another coming very soon. This image is used in The Wild Swans. Image size 28.5 x 17.6 Proof page. Sold as seen. To bid click on the image and leave a comment.


Auction for this piece now closed.



The auction on this item is now closed.

Thank you.

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Landscape with Ginger Cat

The best days begin with reading. And I have been trapped in Fairyland with Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner, a glorious book.

kushner Next, a walk. A short walk to the top of the hill and for the first time in months Elmo comes too. He has not walked for months, because of Leopard, who would fight him all the way to the top of the hill. This is like going back in time. A ginger cat beside me, sun shining. Beautiful. Thinking about work and taking time to walk.

Elmo climbed the elder tree just to look around, but I told him not to worry, he was safe beside me. elder Up the greenway, the holloway, autumn beginning to paint the path with small gold leaves, and all around the wind singing, but here in the greenlane it was warm and calm.holloways away rockgrasscat glow morninglight catndog At the top of the hill Mo found a warm place, in the sun, out of the wind.catlandscape Then he did what Mo has always done and tucked himself in a sheltered place by my feet.

Sometimes good things come from tragedies. So good to have Elmo walking with me again. And all three cats relaxed at home without the little nightmare child deamon that was Little Leopard, and the fear of him picking a fight. And yes he could be sweet, but he had become a bully to Elmo. So I try to make the best of things.feetcat And it is good to see my ginger orb cat shine in the landscape again like a bright flame.rockcat dappledsea The Elderberries are ripe. Blackberries also.elderberry blackberry Back home the spotted cats were waiting, the white cat sleeping in the scratch lounge on the window, the silver darling on the kitchen table.lounge silvercat

Home, breakfast, time to settle to work. I have much to do, including illustrating The Lost Words, by Robert MacFarlane.


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Seals in Pembrokeshire with commentary from The White Cat; what the White Cat Says

The White Cat has obviously been taking lessons from David Attenborough. Here he is, commenting on seals in Pembrokeshire:


sealc sealc2

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Swans, books, knitting, walking, seals.

This weekend saw the launch of The Wild Swans into the world. To mark the occasion I spent the day at Solva Woollen Mill, reading, knitting, talking, signing books. And people joined me, with and without their knitting. There is something very pleasant about reading and knitting in company, so thanks to all those who came, some from the far off land of England, to share time with us, and thanks to Solva Woollen Mill for once again dressing the mill up to celebrate.

knit6 mill3 Rick brought Viking knitting, which was all the more intriguing when I remembered that I was buying a silver Viking chain from True North Gallery.

knit4 knit3 knit2 knit1 nf 12038878_10153224728113348_7907922770446610735_o 12000873_10153224728088348_2689657832710914405_o 12036777_1064917420209920_1625886798899107976_n bookl1

Meanwhile I had written a piece for The Guardian online about both East of the Sun, West of the Moon and The Wild Swans. These are companion pieces really. They sit beside each other well, for many reasons. To read the article Follow the link to the Guardian Online and please share it as much as you can.

2booksbadgesBoth books are available form all good independent bookshops and signed copies of these and all my other books in print are available from Solva Woollen Mill.

The new Christmas card is now available from Help Musicians, via their webshop.

qmAnd the card, Otter Hunting, Curlew Rising, for the Suffolk Wildlife Trust joins a beautiful gallery of rather lovely cards, including one from Catherine Hyde on the Suffolk Wildlife Trust site also.


After the launch we took my tired head to the beach. I had woken with migraine, after 2 weeks in which I had 3 public appearances and my cat had died horribly. Not easy. Sunshine, sand and sea eased heart and mind. Karin walked at the water’s edge.

The next launch at Solva Woollen Mill will be the relaunch of The Seal Children, in hardback, with Janetta Otter-Barry Books. This will be late April, early May 2016 and I am planning something different, special for this. If you want to be kept informed please sign up to the Solva Woollen Mill mailing list.

sealsx2For now, thank you, to everyone who has bought books over the last couple of weeks, sent messages, and just been there with support and kind words and prize winning honey cake. Without readers, writers are silent, lost. So thank you.

The day after the launch was one of rest, walking, talking. I had promised to show Karin seals.

stdsWe walked up the hill and The White Cat came too. White Cat, Grey Dog.

white whiteb b3 sealwatch sealbeach5 manys

Of seals there were many and plenty. And they sang songs, mournful praise songs of the sea. And the White Cat walked as if he owned the path. We passed some walkers who stopped to talk, not noticing His Elegance who lay stretched on a rock, markings blending with the lichens. At least not seeing until The White Cat peeled himself into standing and prowled down the rock.

” Oh my God,” the walker said, “What’s that?”

” We call them cats,” I replied. ” But this is a special one, a creature of legend, Cath Palug. He fought with King Arthur’s Knights. He is a warrior cat.”

I smiled. The walker looked at me as if I might be just a little crazy. And perhaps I am. For The White Cat is not Cath Palug. She swims the waters around the Menai Straits. But every cat has a little of her in its bones. And if you click on the link you will find a story. Tell it to your cat. Then they will know that you are wise.


cliffs relaxed


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