How We Live Now; Eviction and Homelessness in the North York Moors Upland Estates..


This post was originally intended as an upbeat antidote to some of the previous ones…there’s only so much a reader wants to hear about someone’s stolen bicycle or dead tortoise!… positivity breeds positivity and all that (although I have a feeling that two positives repel or cause huge explosions or something? I didn’t pay much attention in Physics lessons).  I wanted to tell you all about my exciting decision to take a stand at next year’s BCTF in Harrogate and share the journey from here to there … but then I met my neighbour in the supermarket.


Known locally as “Cyanide Sue”* I was nervous when she called me over for a friendly chat by the soap powder, in 14 years she had only ever ignored or sworn at me. But she genuinely seemed friendly and we parted with me offering any help they may need on the farm. However, at the till she dropped the bombshell ” I hear you’re moving” …

Now some of you have been reading Witchmountain for years and maybe some just discovered it but even if we only met here in this virtual space I think you will have seen that my love for this place has been self evident and deeply passionate. This house on the edge of the moor and more importantly the garden I’ve made and the view beyond; over the field to the big oak and across to Arden Moor,  has been my life support for 14 years. The idea that I would leave voluntarily is so unlikely that I laughed it off and assumed it was just a nasty parting shot from someone who had never made me feel welcome at Snilesworth.



Three ignored calls later and the land agent confirmed my fears. I am to be evicted with two months notice and my home given to the son of my suddenly “friendly ” neighbour. My world has fallen apart. I took a jar of homemade jam to the Lodge and spoke to the landowner, Toby Horton , begging the Trustees of the Estate not to make me homeless… like a character in a novel by Catherine Cookson, not much has changed around here in 300 years!

The fog and drizzle seemed appropriate and the situation almost comical… penniless artist pleads with landed gentry offering jam and appealing to a mutual love of this place, this land in all its seasons and hardships. “Unfortunate circumstance”, “beyond our control”, ” the agenda for managing upland estates and the North York Moors National Park… we only want farmers and gamekeepers, not outsiders”….  Perhaps I should hold my tongue for fear of making it worse but from where I sit, looking out through misted windows, it couldn’t be worse. What century do we live in?


Anyway, all that was two days ago and there has still been no official contact from the estate or its agents… not even a courtesy call to check I hadn’t died of  shock. They are well within their legal rights to evict a tenant with only two months notice, and no reason needs to be given apparently ( Under a Section 21 notice) , but morally it seems so wrong when I have always paid my rent and cherished this little piece of heaven; even promoting it and introducing them to Joe Cornish who has taken groups of photographers to the Lodge for weekend workshops.

Meanwhile, before the bombshell, I had been preoccupied with the idea of Home and was drawing imagined places, cottages surrounded by huge flowers or standing alone on a hill. The tower is a symbol from an image my dad made in the year I was born called “The Masterpiece in the Tower” I always found it haunting and strangely prophetic. This morning a protoype mug design arrived in the post and now seems a good point to stop and grind some beans to fill it with coffee…maybe with a dram of Highland Park to take the edge off the day!


So, thank you for reading and much love to you from Witchmountain, while I can still send it, I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.

If anyone is interested in writing on my behalf I think letters or e-mails could be directed to The Trustees of Snilesworth Estate, c/o John Hoddinott,15/17 High Street, Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, YO51 9AW


*Please note I did not coin this nick name, nor do I condone mean and unfriendly behaviour or name calling. I hope this post reflects a true and balanced account of the situation despite my emotional involvement.



Looking at the Big Skies


Already the wild and windy moors are starting to hint at Autumn and I’m tucked up in my kitchen with the stove on and “Mother Earth” by Underworld teasing me from the radio “6mix”… its Friday night why aren’t you dancing? Well actually that’s one of the perks of living alone in the middle of nowhere… no one can see me or complain about the volume.

I have lots of exciting news to tell you since the last few tragic tales of woe. Firstly we returned to the Lakes to try and erase the memory of that awful bike ride. I’ve been reading “Rogue Herries” by Hugh Walpole and wanted to see what Stye Head ( Styhead?) was like in real life. Well it was wonderful and despite threats of hurricanes it was a perfect day … the kind of skies that remind me of theatre lighting; much more atmospheric than perfect blue days don’t you think. Here is Wasdale in the spotlight before we turned away and headed up to Sprinkling Tarn and the way down via Grains Gill ( ? ) .


Back home on my own imaginary mountain I had been making some new cyanotypes on some gorgeous off cuts of thick handmade water colour paper that my dad gave me. The paper is so lovely that these will have to be framed carefully to make sure none of the texture and rough edges are lost behind mounts. I really enjoyed making these and like the odd, slightly dreamlike, unfinished white cottage; although part of me wants to do something else to them…stitch maybe…hmmm. My favourite is the one with the willow dome.


And so, carried away with blue and the idea of home…


…Until the sunshine and heat of July gave way to wet, grey August and premature thoughts of log stacks and winter nesting … or should that be hibernation?


Anyway the main news is that I have done a slightly mad thing and got myself a stand at next April’s BCTF in Harrogate. I now have 7 months to panic and worry but at least I have something to aim for and I wish I’d done it years ago when I was less jaded and more optimistic! I have exactly no pennies to invest in product development but I’m going to take a risk, give it one more big chance before retraining as a plumber or drystone waller… I’m lucky to have some lovely friends who are full of good advice and experience so we’ll see what happens I guess.

IMG_1250People were very kind on Facebook and over 1,000 lovely people now follow my page which meant I gave away one of my needle felt bears. He jetted off to the USA last week leaving these two characters on the Etsy shop shelf.


Now I really should turn this music down and head off up the apples and pears, I’m sure I’ve forgotten to tell you something; must write more often x

Reading: “Rogue Herries” Hugh Walpole  Listening To:   “Confessions of a Dancer”  Doorly and “Lily” Kate Bush …come on, who got me a ticket? Hey?







Did  the army mobilise their forces last week to save me from despair?  No of course not, not really, they just flew round and round the house in circles while we surveyed the wreckage of an outbuilding and the empty tortoise house through a haze of disbelief and insultingly glorious sunshine. It’s hard not to wallow in self pity, it truly was an awful week but tragicomic in places which kind of made it worse! So first, a big thank you for all the kind words after Mr Tortoise went missing… and all the sympathy when he was found. I was so upset that Rupert decided to whisk me away to the Lakes to find solace in the mountains in the camper van…unfortunately the bikes came too.


I’m not an easy person when filled with sorrow and the unfairness of life.  Even the beauty of the hills and the stillness of the lakes made me cry and really nothing but time or whiskey was going to snap me out of it…least of all a bike ride. I’m not sure why we did it but we ended up setting off on a “gentle” mountain bike ride on the hottest Sunday for a million years. I won’t go in to details, but I basically went for a very long WALK with a lump of black and green metal that was too exhausting to ride uphill and too terrifying to ride downhill. Eyes blurry with hot tears of resentment I cursed that bike and every cyclist or smiling hiker that passed me by; eventually hurling it to the ground with foul obscenities, I sat in a stream and sulked like a toddler, the bruises already showing up purple and green like the hill sides.


Well, guess what… after getting home that evening we woke in the morning  to discover that all my dreams had come true, the bike was gone, stolen ( almost as if I has arranged it) along with Jake’s motorbike and all my garden power tools. The robbers had pulled the entire window frame and stone lintel out of the building and carefully removed rolls of barbed wire, plant pots and old speaker boxes ( an attempt to foil them after the last break in which the landlord hadn’t repaired)  to nick our stuff…we were too tired from “cycling” to be disturbed. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or just go back to bed in disgust. So, yes, the past two weeks have been pretty crappy, we’ve all missed precious days at work and spent a lot of time talking to policemen about security measures  and enduring the smirks of people who find it hard to keep a straight face when you tell them your tortoise ran away …but with the help of some flying bears, a few good friends and all the lovely people in the virtual world ( that means you) , I think we might be through the worst ( fingers crossed, touch wood). I’ve planted wild flowers on the little Tortoise’s grave and am contemplating a commemorative tattoo ( sorry Daddy!).


Meanwhile I’m hooked on needle felting , thanks to Susie, and since Jake is worried that I will fill the house with tiny bears I hereby announce a Giveaway!!!


To celebrate the almost reaching of 1,000 likes on Facebook and to thank you for reading this blog I will be giving away the little brown Celestial Bear as soon as the magic number is reached. To enter just leave a comment below ( you don’t have to be on Facebook but if you are, please do that like and share thing ) and I will announce the winner shortly.


The polar bears will be in my Etsy shop soon and until next we meet, take care and be nice to each other. x

Lost and Found


Just to let you know the little muse is dead. Seems like the final straw to be honest … A tiny loss in the greater scheme of things but anyway.

Strange really to be so affected by the loss of such a solitary, inscrutable creature… I cried less when the cat died!

Not all who wander…


You know how some times things are; one minute you’re busy making new things, getting excited about the ripening tomato crop and hoping for the best and the next your tortoise breaks out of his cage and the rain comes along with the bills, and the specially tailored suit of optimism dissolves into a puddle of despondency round your ankles. Yes it’s good to start a new blog post on a note of gloom, especially when writing has been long over due. Don’t be put off.

So I have been sending the chickens out as a search party, looking for the escapee but they are silly fluffy birds and only care about food and fawning over their flashy brother/boyfriend. I have named them Clarice and Cora (the twins from Gormenghast) and Tortoise never did get a name so can not answer when I call him even if he wanted too. It’s very sad.


The search meant that I missed going to the Home and Gift Trade Fair in Harrogate where my cards were once again on show with Natural Partners Ltd. My “Girl and Bear” image seems to be quite popular and they’d used it as a poster on the stand as part of the Best of British Showcase Trail. Hopefully they took plenty of orders…

Meanwhile I’m flitting from one thing to another, making some new lino prints and building a small herd of bears. The bears are needle felted, a new obsession after a lesson from Susie of Drawn By Badgers ( she made me the lovely polar bear you might have seen in previous posts). This feather winged and beaded polar bear is my first attempt… ( see, those chicks are useful )


I normally re- read my last post before writing but the internet is so slow that I didn’t bother this time, so I’ve forgotten where left you… before Willowman I think? This is a lesson to me that I must either write frequently of not at all because I now have too much to say and not enough time without lulling you ( and me) to sleep as I ramble on. Instead I will make yet another resolution to write more often and try to be a bit more inspiring. A giveaway competition perhaps to thank those of you who still keep in touch.

I’m off to draw squirrels now for a possible illustration commission and tomorrow will see me on my hands and knees in the long grass, searching for a tiny, perfectly camouflaged creature. Wish me luck. x




What Happened to May?


Well I’ve been lost down a rabbit hole again, or maybe underneath a tree, asleep like Rip Van Winkle. How is it June already?! How is it SIX years since I graduated from CCAD, and I’m still here in a kitchen full of ideas, waiting for it all to take off. Meanwhile another batch of hopefuls prepare their degree show, which opens this week . I recently invested my last pennies in a metre of cotton velvet, digitally printed at Glasgow School of Art’s Centre for Advanced Textiles. It’s pure luxury and I can’t wait to order more as soon as I can….my finances may not be the only problem though; it was awful to hear about the fire at the Art School last month and I did shed a tear for the poor students who had all their hard work destroyed, not to mention the beautiful Rennie Macintosh building. Anyway, to all students graduating this Summer I wish you the very best of luck.


May also saw me in a last minute panic as I prepared for Art in the Shed, the lovely event organised each year by Jane Thorniley-Walker to raise money for Street Child Africa. The weather was typical English Bank Holiday torrential rain most of the time but it was an amazing success. I felt more involved this year,  since I wasn’t having to go to work as well and it was so good to spend time chatting with old friends and feeling overwhealmed with gratitude for the new friends who made the time to come and visit.


We raised nearly £750 for the charity and I sold enough to pay a few bills so I feel happy and proud to have been part of it.


Now I have to restock ready for Willowman Festival later this month where I will be selling a slightly different range of pretty, hippy, festival things as well as dancing a lot and embarrassing my family. Then preparations for Art For Youth North. This is another charity event and a little daunting as some rather big names are taking part and it would be letting the side down if none of my work sold after being invited to take part.


So today is a day for sewing velvet cushions, tye-dyeing knickers and making plans for bees… here I am, looking like I know what I’m doing (ha!), on a recent day out with the local honey man Trevor Swales ( see previous posts about cold remedies!). This was only my first experience of the bees and it was wonderful but I’m still a little terrified and haven’t been stung for years ( famous last words) so no firm decisions have been made. I read the British Beekeepers Association‘s Facebook page and feel fascinated and daunted; there is so much to learn. I like to have my childhood hero Sherlock Holmes as my role model though and he kept bees in the end ….so that’ll be me with my pipe and 7% solution.


The Wide Blue Yonder


Last week saw me feeling small in a big landscape, carrying my faithful Millican bag and eating a lot of chocolate (you have an excuse when it’s Easter and you need to keep your strength up). Visiting the The Lake District on Easter bank holiday weekend may seem crazy unless you like traffic jams but it was amazing to walk away from the crowds into the mountains and feel a real sense of solitude and remoteness. There was even a slight sense of panic as we reached our camping spot and I looked back at the way we’d come, to see quite how far I’d have to walk back the next day! Waking up to a bowl of porridge in the wilderness on a sunny morning is pretty unbeatable.


Easter Sunday didn’t involve chicks and eggs or bunnies in any way; instead I was treated to nearly 3,000′ of almost vertical rock ( a path apparently!) which made my legs itchy with fear and my head dizzy, followed by reaching the summit of Grasmoor bent double against the wind while my oversized “outdoor gear” inflated like a balloon and threatened to throw me back down. We looked down on Buzzards and ate a lot more chocolate and it was beautiful


Days of sunshine have meant some lovely results with cyanotype printing and the garden is full of bees, new shoots and over excited chicks who race about like little girls in tutus. And it is little girls mostly … because the naughty, unfaithful cockerel disappeared while I was out one night. The circumstances are highly suspicious… there are no foxes here ( too many gamekeepers), no body has been found and he is not with my neighbour’s hens. Ah well, he has only himself to blame for venturing out of the garden and imagining that the grass was greener …


Last week I finally got around to delivering some work to the lovely Lockton Tea Rooms and Gallery.Last time we visited Janilaine and Kevin were frantically decorating and building so it was amazing to see the results of all their hard work. A little gem in the middle of the North York Moors and I’m proud to have my work there along with some other very talented artists and craftspeople.


So, another weekend is almost upon us and I’m way behind in my blog writing, festival stock preparing and gardening. I’m about to write a post for Festival of Thrift about the cheese I’ve been making but first I need to test it …maybe sitting in the greenhouse with a pot of tea! Festival of Thrift recently won a big award at the Journal Culture Awards in Newcastle so congratulations…I can’t wait for this year’s event. I’m also looking forward to visiting Rounton Coffee Roasters in their newly refurbished Granary next week so watch this space ..and if I go quiet, give me a kick, I’m probably just sleeping off all that chocolate! x

Reading:- “The Little Sister” Raymond Chandler Listening To:- “The Take Off and Landing of Everything” elbow