“The Invigorating Effects of Uncertainty”

Britt_E

I can promise you this is no April Fool!

Today marks a rather significant day for me.  After 10 incredible years of working as Arne Maynard’s PA in London, I have finally given up the commute to live full time here at Hawthorn Cottage. Whilst still working part-time with Arne, I have decided to follow my heart and continue where I left off nearly 15 years ago, as a photographer.

My first Kodak camera was given to me when I was 7 and unbeknown to anyone, photography became second nature to me.  In my school holidays I used to process the film at home, hanging negatives over the bath to drip dry. I would set up my grandfather’s enlarger on the kitchen sideboard and as soon as it got dark my darkroom came to life, the smell of chemicals wafting through the house.

After achieving a BA in Photography at Nottingham Trent University I began my working life as a PR photographer, mainly in the travel industry.  This led to some incredible trips worldwide and gave me a taste for exploring which I then left the UK pursue.  With 80 rolls of slide film in my back pack and my Leica R8, I set off for Costa Rica, beginning my journal at a remote turtle reserve on the Caribbean coastline.  I let the journey begin and over the course of 8 months, travelled solo through Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and finally Brazil. It was an extraordinary trip and the most memorable of all was finding myself walking through the rainforest with a group of Kogi indians.  I will hopefully share a few of these images as my website unfolds.

Upon returning to the UK and submitting work to various picture libraries, I began working as a PA. Being naturally organised and capable, the glove seemed to fit and my love of photography just simmered away.  In more recent years I have been fortunate enough to capture some wonderful gardens designed by Arne Maynard and have a valuable collection of work of which some has been published over the years.

Having moved from London nearly 3 years ago I am overwhelmed by the extraordinary amount of creativity here in the Stroud valleys and am excited to explore even further.

I have begun with the creation of my letterpress business cards which were handmade by Rod Shaw of The Nonpareil Press, based at The Vatch in the Slad Valley.

My website is also underway, but not yet ready to share, so please bear with me. I am setting out on this  first day of April more of a free agent than I have felt for a long time. It’s a nerve-tingling feeling, but one I’m getting used to. The sun is shining and the future looks bright.

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Seville Marmalade, from my Aga with love!

On January 16th my beautiful pearl grey City 60 Aga arrived, I’ve kept my promise not to publish images of the team off loading it and bringing it along my garden path on a sack barrow, but of course I recorded every second of its journey. Of course to be able to buy such a beauty meant I had to sacrifice another beauty, my incredible Triumph Daytona 675 which I hadn’t ridden in over a year and still resided in London, unfortunately I didn’t ever manage to throw it round the fabulous bends in the Gloucestershire valleys.

So now I’m learning to cook all over again from the very beginning. My first attempt at cooking was a little ambitious, I’d decided that I was going to cook a roast as well as try my hand at making marmalade (for the first time). With hindsight I would recommend that you start off with something simple and uncomplicated! After making what my mother called ‘marmalade honey’ (erring on the clear runny honey side), I decided not to give up and spent the weekend refining my technique to achieve a ‘good set’!

Everyone has their own way of making Seville marmalade, so I thought it best to do it the Aga way to begin with and stuck to Mary Berry’s recipe, though instead of putting in the simmering oven for 2 hours, I put them in the simmer oven overnight, the oranges covered in water.

In the morning I removed the softened oranges from the water and sliced them into halves, I then scooped out the fleshy centres and put them in my Mouliere. This was a wonderful tip I was given recently and was the best advice ever! I squeezed every last bit of pulp from the oranges and pectin from the pips and mixed it back in with the water from the oranges. I halved the juice/water consistency just to make the liquid more manageable as it becomes like molten lava, I then made the first batch by bring it to the boil and letting it simmer for 6 minutes, then added the sugar and let it bubble and boil away until setting point, approximately 20 minutes. I bought the jars out of the simmer oven and carefully poured the marmalade into the sterilised jars, topped them with wax paper and put their lids on. As they cooled they sealed themselves nicely and the sound of popping came from the kitchen while the suction drew in all the remaining air. All that’s left to do is label them, perhaps next weekend! That’s quite enough work for this weekend.

Freshly baked bread and homemade Seville marmalade, roll on the weekend.

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Making an entrance

Making an entrance

Gardens Illustrated December 2014.compressed

Please click on the above link to see the work of a very talented friend in this month’s Gardens Illustrated.

Prepare to be inspired by the wonderful work of Kristy Ramage photographed by myself.   Not only can Kristy add magic to the twiggiest of twigs but she can create the most beautiful birds from seed heads & berries, truly captivating.

Merry Christmas!

Chris Prindl Pottery

A few summers ago I was down in Cornwall with my mother, we visited the newly refurbished Duchy of Cornwall Nursery near to Lostwithiel. It was full of unusual plants and trees as well as wonderful pieces of art and intricacies, to top it off there were delicious home baked cakes! It was during this visit that we were captivated by the beautifully coloured glazes on large decadent platters and vessels, the work of a wonderful potter, Chris Prindl.

We tracked him down and more recently visited him at Trebyan Forge, near to Lanhydrock, his inspiring place of work. Trebyan Forge is a listed building and filled with plentiful reminders of its original working life, untouched by Chris. I was fortunate enough to have free rein with my camera and began to see the smallest of details all around, which I hope have captured the wonderful atmosphere in this historic Forge. Chris is an intriguing potter with a fascinating history, he recollects time in Japan where he spent some time growing up before heading to the UK to go to school and then US to further study ceramics. From there he headed back to Japan, where the language was second nature to him and it was then that he refined his incredible techniques in ceramics before returning to the UK.

Watching Chris working the ‘hump’ was captivating, his steady and skillful hands made the process seem so effortless and each wonderful vessel was lifted off after the other, ready to be dried and then fired in the kiln and glazed.   His work was all around whether it be porcelain or clay (from the St Austell clay pits), glazed or drying, ready for firing, that together with the softness of the light flooding through the huge age old forge windows further enhanced the brilliant colours of each piece.  My knowledge of the material and the chemical reactions is limited but it is very clear that the evolution of each piece occurs during the process of glazing and firing which seem to have endless possibilities and the results are unique and stand alone pieces of art as well as being functional. Chris was thrilled to have on display a few vessels through which the techniques he used with the wood kiln have resulted in him reaching a pinnacle in his work. It was a truly magical visit and I hope something that took my eye, takes yours too.

http://www.prindlpottery.co.uk/

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Purton Ships’ Graveyard

I was led to this intriguing place back in May this year and it really didn’t disappoint. The Purton Ships’ Graveyard is quite an extraordinary and most surprising find along the shores of the River Severn.

From the working docks at Sharpness, a narrow hedgerow walk with a canopy of damson trees opened up to reveal a vast, deep and very dark expanse of water with a lock. This is the entry point where ships join the canal from the river, it was rather eerie but it soon lead to the hustle and bustle of long boat inhabitants all moored up alongside the waterside edge. The views across this stretch of the river were invigorating and Wales across the way felt almost within reach, apart from the vast expanse of silky sand and deep narrow channel that divided us. The tide was out and the banks of grass waved in drifts as the air moved gently through.

We walked along a grassy path, flanked on one side by the river and the other by the canal, it was fascinating to read up on the history as we went. There once was a railway bridge that connected Sharpness and Chepstow along this part of the river which transported coal from one side to the other, but unfortunately it was knocked down in 1960. Two barges overshot the docks and collided with one of the bridge columns in thick fog, sending it up in flames, four sailors lost their lives and the bridge was beyond worthy of repair.

Further along, the path gradually dipped down onto the river bank and before long sightings of boat skeletons lay dotted along the edges. These boats were purposely sunk and laid to rest here in order to provide protection for the river bank of the canal. The surrounding views are truly atmospheric and the peace is nothing but tranquil.

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A Perfect Entrance

The happiness a garden door brings has surprised no one more than me.

The feat of getting this beautiful door into place was a fair few months in the creation. It was an idea I’d been brewing on for well over a year and something I didn’t ever think I’d be able to achieve without professional assistance. Let’s face it, I’m not the best at DIY and the thought of rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck in with posts and a heavy oak door simply were not on my agenda. Well, once I had been inspired by my friend Kristy Ramage, there was no going back. I’m not one for not seeing things through and after a visit to Leominster Salvage Yard I was hot on the trail to find my door. They had a huge selection but once my tape measure sized a few up, it was decided that the idea was planted but the door had not been discovered, as yet!

One Saturday morning I popped up to Masco’s, a local salvage yard near to Chalford, they had a small selection and I spotted a humble and very lovely old solid oak door that I felt fitted the bill, narrow that it was, it had the right look and feel I was after. It squeezed into my car and off I went, stopping on the way at Baileys Paints to pick up primer and top coat.  Before Sunday was through, I’d started stripping the door, removing all the multiple layers of glossy paint, quite a task for me and my sander.

I bought posts from a local wood merchant and set them up in the garden, treating, priming and finally top coating them.

After a few weekends of dust, paint and determination, the door and post were ready for installation. Fortunately I am blessed with a treasure of a neighbour, Barry – his incredible workshop had every tool for every eventuality and with a team of three (Barry, my brother and a friend), the concrete demolition began. The posts were in and curing within hours and the following day the door was hung into position.

The space now feels totally magical, the sense of enclosure and privacy has given the garden a new dimension. It feels so much more like a secret garden and my rampant meadow can now relax and not feel the pressure of peering critical eyes.

The final touch to the door was to paint on the name. With a steady hand and deep concentration I carefully applied the last drop of paint, not wanting to smudge or create any ligatures that shouldn’t be there!   So that leaves me to present my lovely entrance to Hawthorn Cottage.

It still isn’t totally complete, I have yet to added chippings to the threshold and find a suitable evergreen shrub to fill in the gap, but you can’t rush these things!

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Early Morning Light

The light one early morning was magical and before heading off to work I had to capture the dew and sun which began to slowly touch every petal as it rose to wake up the valley. This is dahlia La Recoletta who survived last winter without being lifted, she was planted alongside annuals like this Cosmos Double Click Cranberry and other frothy cottage flowers, such as Love in the Mist. Nigella had a huge presence in one of my borders this year and just to make the mix more interesting, I dotted a few nigella African Bride throughout, their seed heads are extraordinary and will be lovely to photograph as they dry and age. Self seeders like Ox-eye daisies are plentiful, as well as poppies though I have no idea which ones they are! It’s time to cut the meadow now, all the rattle and vetch have sown their seed and the tidy up is about to begin, well in a week or so!

 

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