Friday, 21 June 2013

Midsummer

Here in England's north country, fine June evenings remain light until at least 11pm. Can there be a nicer way to end a perfect day than sitting on a warm terrace with the heady scents of summer flowers filling the air.

This picture depicting midsummer hangs in my kitchen. It is by one of my favourite artists, Meg Falconer. The inscription is taken from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. I expect you'll recognise the verse below.


 I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk roses and with eglantine.

Meg Falconer is a local artist and her prints have been sold for many years from a lovely gallery overlooking Lake Coniston. Last week we decided to drive the few short miles to the lake and take another look at Meg's inspiring work. Sadly the clouds looked rather menacing but thankfully the rain stayed away.


After several miles negotiating narrow country lanes we arrived at our destination. This is Brantwood, the former home of John Ruskin. He was a leading English art critic of the Victorian era. Also an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and a philanthropist. His house containing much of his original work is open to the public.


Ruskin's coach and boat are on display in the coach house and above this is the art gallery we had come to visit. But sadly things didn't turn out as we'd planned. The gallery was closed and the contents had been removed. I was so disappointed.


I know of no other galleries that display Meg Falconer's work and so I think my collection is unlikely to grow.


Whilst I'm content to enjoy midsummer in my garden (when fine) many thousands of people flock to Stonehenge, the world famous Bronze Age standing stones situated on Salisbury Plain. Visitors have to arrive before 4.52am in order to witness the sun appearing over the horizon and aligning perfectly with two of the largest stones.



Apparently today this event was masked by dense cloud and the sun was nowhere to be seen which must have been a huge disappointment for the many who had made the trip.

For folk like me living in a Lakeland valley the midsummer sun isn't visible until it has risen above the hills. Of course you can get out of bed early and climb up a mountain for a better view or maybe pitch a tent and stay on the mountain all night. From the mountain peak you will get a spectacular view of the midsummer sunrise (as long as the sun isn't masked by cloud as so often happens in our country).

Not being someone who scales mountains or pitches tents I am content to spend midsummer at home. And of course my midsummer night's dream will be filled with pictures like this!


 Enjoy your weekend everyone
Eli x

Friday, 7 June 2013

NEW knitting pattern

Greetings friends. Last week I promised I'd try to get my new dolly pattern finished by this weekend and here she is. I have to confess I've already fallen in love with her as she's a real sweetheart.

 

I've named her Little Nellie Nutkins and she spends her day gathering wild food for hungry red squirrels.


In autumn she gathers acorns and nuts which she leaves in quiet places for the squirrels to find.


All profit from the sale of the Little Nellie Nutkins pattern will be donated to the Westmorland Red Squirrel Society who work tirelessly to protect red squirrels in the English Lake District.


More details of Little Nellie's pattern can found in my Dollytime shop. Meanwhile I hope you all enjoy a really great weekend.

Eli x

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Gone forever?

Greetings Friends. Here in the English Lake District we have seen many visitors this week as schools have had their half-term holiday. Beatrix Potter, who lived and worked in this area, is lovingly remembered and her little books and associated memorabilia fill many of our local shops.



The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin is about a rascally little red squirrel who upset Old Mr Brown the owl by singing silly rhymes whilst his sensible cousins brought gifts to exchange for nuts.


 
The good squirrels caught fish for the owl but Nutkin gathered pine needles and made a pin cushion and Mr Brown was not pleased.
 

It was the woodlands of the Lake District that were home to Old Mr Brown and the red squirrels and at this time of year these woods are carpeted with bluebells and the air is filled with perfume and birdsong. The wood below adjoins our garden (picture taken yesterday).


Beatrix Potter I'm sure would be delighted to find that much has remained unchanged in the Lake District since she lived here but she would be broken-hearted to know that her beloved red squirrels have almost disappeared. Why? . . . In the late 1800s it was fashionable to bring wild animals from other countries back to Britain and this is when American grey squirrels were introduced to our countryside. It seemed a harmless thing to do at the time but the larger, hungrier grey squirrels carried a deadly disease which quickly spread amongst the red population with the result that red squirrels have been almost eradicated from much of England.

The English Lake District (marked with a red square on the map) has until fairly recently remained a relatively safe haven for red squirrels but we always knew their days were numbered as populations of greys quickly spread northward. I used to watch reds playing in our garden then one fateful day in 1997 I spotted a grey squirrel and knew I'd never see another red.

 
I find the sweet picture below rather poignant as these days it is only off-shore islands that have remained relatively safe places for red squirrels to live. Most people have assumed they would soon be gone forever but now there is a growing body of people who are no longer prepared to accept this defeatist attitude. Around the country small groups of red squirrel lovers are joining forces with the aim of reintroducing the native reds back into safe areas of woodland.


Needless to say I support this worthy cause and am a member of our local Westmorland Red Squirrel Society which is run by a band of dedicated volunteers and relies almost entirely on charitable donations. The process of re-establishing grey-free areas for the little reds to inhabit is a slow process but progress is gradually being made.

  

In order to raise much needed funds I am designing a knitting pattern for a new dolly. 100% of all profit made from the sale of this pattern will go to the Westmorland Red Squirrel Society. By next weekend I hope to have something more colourful to show you. Meanwhile if you would like to visit the Westmorland Red Squirrel Society website please CLICK HERE.
 

Today is a sunny Saturday and I'm now off to our local garden centre to buy some bedding plants to pop into my pots on the patio. I just hope we don't get any more snow before next winter!

Hope you are all enjoying your weekends.
Eli x

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