The Empty Nest , Sketch by Kim Tillyer

Let me begin by apologising to all you lovely, loyal blog subscribers who got a wordless, randomly titled version last time ( I panicked and pressed the wrong button which is why I’m not in charge of anything important) . Anyway some recent events made me think wordless was the way forward …but maybe more of that later.

I uploaded the images for this post last Thursday just after I had been to vote in the most scenic polling station in the country; the sun was shining and it felt exciting and optimistic. The fact that it’s rained ever since says it all really but I’m not going to rant on about politics because last week some lovely things happened too and they are things which make the world seem a kinder, more generous and caring place than the cold hearted, money orientated one we seem to be living in day to day.

Polling Staation at Newlands Church

The first thing was a surprise parcel from my virtual friends in the Big Forest, Benjamin and Michael. I’ve never met them in the real world but I’ve loved their bears for a few years now and Benjamin has been so helpful with advice on Etsy selling, as well as being a great promoter of other people’s work on his Facebook page. I had to drive in to Keswick to collect the mystery box which turned out to contain this little chap ( as well as a card and “woodsman ” brooch which I have been wearing on my jumper) …

The Big Forest Bear

So after work and voting we skipped off up the hill to look at the view and chat to the sheep about EU farming policies and the joys of mountain landscapes. I’m not sure but I think the sheep was hoping for a different election result too.

Herdwick sheep on High Snab Bank

So the other good thing that happened was that the divine trinity of Facebook-Etsy-Twitter actually worked for me for the first time ever and a polar bear I’d been struggling to finish ( his feet just wouldn’t behave) and eventually managed to list in my shop, sold before I could even close the page! I wish everything would work so smoothly as it would make the whole process of making so much more satisfying and meaningful…I mean, I love making things but when you have a cupboard full of unsold sheep and bears shouting to get out it can make you think it might be better and more useful to do the hoovering instead.

Needlefelt Polar Bear

Well its nearly time to go, I am preparing things for Art in The Shed again… Jane Thorniley-Walker’s  annual fundraiser for Street Child Africa. It will be the first time back in North Yorkshire since the eviction and while I’m looking forward to the exhibition and seeing friends and family again I’m worried that it will be upsetting.

Polar Bear Print

I recently found out that my totally unfair eviction and my writing a blog post about it, had directly lead to a close family member being refused a tenancy by another landowner in the North York Moors … because they didn’t want “that type of person” living there. Excuse me? What type of person? A family who lived, worked and loved their home and did nothing wrong?

At first I felt devastated by the news, delivered rather tactlessly, and questioned whether I should ever write from the heart again. I felt guilty and dismayed by the way my plight and my words about it had been misrepresented. After much soul searching my fury at fat cat landlords and bigotted cronyism amongst some very unpleasant people, won over and I will not be silenced like a guilty secret.

I told this crowd and they totally agreed…never be afraid to speak out against meanness and unfairness wherever you find it.

The "Alpacaly ever after" alpacas

(These alpacas are part of Alpacaly ever after’s “woolly army” and they are celebrating because they got their Kickstarter project funded, hurray! I was feeding them last week while their proper parents were away at a fair (selling stuff not going on the waltzers) and I want to thank them all for not savaging me and for helping me feel a bit more Cumbrian)

Finally (because I haven’t even got space to describe PrintFest, meeting more artists at the Northern Lights Gallery, battling with stoats or admiring bluebells)  if you’re in London, my dad’s exhibition continues until the end of the month at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery on Duke Street ( near Fortnums) Here is a Lake District watercolour from a few years back…

William Tillyer

Reading:- The Fortress by Hugh Walpole ( god its a long book!) Listening To:- London Grammar “Wasting My Young Years”

A Visit to the Cloud Factory

Newlands Valley from Dale Head

Goodness, I nearly sent this post off to you with no words. I pressed the publish button instead of preview because I’ve been on so many adventures since I last wrote that I was struggling to put them in order. Perhaps the pictures don’t need words… maybe you can imagine how it feels to be on top of a mountain watching a snow shower sneak around the corner like a curtain being drawn across a sunlit window? It was my birthday last week and the weather was so hot we began to think about shorts and ice creams and passed people heading back from Buttermere wearing swimming costumes, but by Sunday it was back to winter again. Twenty minutes after the first photograph was taken I was standing on top of the world (Dale Head) at this cloud factory having walked through a shower of the most perfect star shaped snow flakes ( like the bits in Lucky Charms breakfast cereal).


So I sit here writing with a head full of images and ideas and wishing I could be settle to something meaningful instead of making smiley sheep from the wool I find on fence posts!. Yesterday I visited the Castlegate Gallery in Cockermouth and found out more about an artist called Percy Kelly whose paintings of little white houses and Cumbrian scenes really inspired me. Kelly used to write letters full of illustrations and a book about him called ” The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Drawing” is next on my wish list. In another strange twist of fate I opened the book right on a page showing a painting of Newlands Valley looking up towards this house… there was a quote which was something about the colours in the landscape and how exhausting it is for an artist to be constantly looking and looking; I wish I could remember exactly what he said.


I will never be a painter but I do look and notice and want so badly to be able to express it all somehow. I’ve spent plenty of time wondering exactly what colour those purple-grey- brown mountain tops are, so it was rather wonderful when my dad ( a real painter ) wondered the same thing as we walked up the valley in blazing sunshine, last week. Apparently Pip Seymour the paint maker would know.


And so, with many adventures untold and being a whole year older ( nearly eligible for a whole new category of vitamin supplements ) I will leave you with this small white cottage … a digitally manipulated drawing that I made last week. I’m going to try and do some more drawing and get some stuff together for this years Art in the Shed in Osmotherley on the second Bank Holiday in May. As usual Jane Thorniley-Walker is hosting this charity exhibition (and excuse to eat a lot of cake) in aid of Street Child Africa.

house in the woods

Which do you prefer?


“Beside the lake, beneath the trees”

view across the valley

The house is silent again now that the Easter break is over. Everyone has returned to work or university and I’m alone again; watching as a great bank of Groaky mist creeps up the side of Causey Pike and some wind battered daffodils bob about outside the window like a Lake District cliche. Soon the trees and hedges will be thick with leaves and the view will be hidden until Autumn.

These pictures were taken over the Easter weekend when we were bathed in sunlight and blue skies and the fells looked like the frayed old brown velvet on the pocket edges of my great grandma’s coat. Sara and I looked down from Scope End and enjoyed a hot Brandy and Ribena with chocolate eggs which made the rest of the walk a bit wobbly.

Causey Pike

So much has happened in the tiny way it does when you’re not really making plans … red squirrels spotted in Dodd Wood, soft Magnolia buds on the bridge at Grange and the Snake’s Head Fritillary I forgot I’d rescued from “home” is flowering in an old tin box by the door.Trying to build a new life from scratch, I’m hoping to become a volunteer at the Calvert Trust‘s Stables, helping with Riding for the Disabled sessions and I’m really enjoying my days in the Northern Lights Gallery, getting inspired by some of the artists (Patricia Haskey is my favourite at the moment).

Red Squirrel sketch

Looking at work that sells ( big painterly landscapes here)  and needing to find a direction of some sort …… “For oft, when on my couch I lie, In vacant or in pensive mood….” ( do I just draw for fun or am I still trying to make things that will sell?) I’m sketching and looking and thinking hard about my postponed place at Harrogate BCTF next year. Thank goodness I didn’t go ahead this year as it is this very week and my head is still a fuzzy jumble; kept awake by imagined confrontations with ukip supporters on quad bikes and sudden fury over lost family heirloom irises and worry that the swallows may return and be locked out…

Blossom twig sketch

Anyway, there’s no point in looking back when Spring is here and everything is new. The bantams have settled in quite happily and lay more eggs than I can use; at Easter we hard-boiled and decorated them for passing walkers, along with little wraps of salt. The only trouble is we have a furry visitor who is causing havoc…. Mr Stoat.

Easter eggs

While is is wonderful to see this little person scampering about fearlessly ( nothing much survived the gamekeepers traps at Snilesworth) it is not so good for the poor hens. So far he is only stealing eggs but I fear it could be worse. Here he is, standing 3 feet from the window staring  at me bold as brass…well he was here first.


So, it’s time to feed the monster stove and maybe draw a little something. I’ve just ordered some new greetings cards for my Etsy shop, here is a sneak preview; what do you think? Bye for now and good luck to all those taking part in the BCTF. x

mountain girl greetings card

Reading: The Keswick Reminder        Listening To : “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen” Baz Luhrmann & Quindon Tarver


Wool, Wandering and Wildlife

Newlands, towards Robinson

This week I’ve been doing a lot of wandering and thinking and wishing I was a landscape painter. Yesterday, I realised that I’ve probably never spent such long periods of time alone and I have to be very careful not to get too used to it. I could easily become a bearded hermit, muttering at passing hikers ( and sheep), especially now that my dear friends are so far away (we had pledged to keep each other’s old lady whiskers and grey roots in check as we dash towards decrepitude). It is a strange contradiction that finds me sometimes pining for the days of dancing in a crowd of smokey, loved up strangers; with thumping bass and ecstatic breaks still ringing in my ears as the sun comes up…. whilst at the same time finding peace and contentment by total immersion in an empty landscape with only birdsong to dance to.

Herdwick sheep on Robinson

I met this friendly soul yesterday as I paused for breath, she seemed to think I needed to work on my fitness but was happy to chat for a while and pose at a jaunty angle to the rock face. In the evenings I’ve been doing a bit more needle felting and by accident this bear emerged, looking so terribly sad and serious that I had to give him a beaded necklace to cheer him up. I’m hoping to visit an exhibition of Herdwick Sheep photography before it ends next month and also The Wool Clip for more woolly inspiration.

Needlefelted Brown Bear Kim Tillyer

Meanwhile, as well as sitting about like a contemplative hermit I’ve also been having wildly exhausting weekends when Rupert comes home. Last weekend we went to Seascale where an old school friend I hadn’t seen for nearly 30 years had told me about a Beach Clean event she was organising. I’d never been to the Cumbrian coast except when cycling for Greenpeace as a protest against the nuclear power station at Sellafield in the 80s! It was actually really beautiful…. except for the rubbish. Why do we do this to our precious planet? These pictures show the more savoury debris but stuff like this, known as “ghost gear” can cause all sorts of problems for wildlife, while what we thought were lolly sticks turned out to be ear-bud sticks (eugh) that silly people had flushed instead of binning ( I won’t go on but you can imagine) .

Seascale Beach Clean

I took some pictures and collected a few pieces to help Sara with her final project at university. Her illustration work is based on the pollution of the oceans and plastics in particular, how it affects marine life and even enters the food chain.

Drawing by Sara Tillyer Smith

I’m really looking forward to seeing her exhibition in London’s Truman Brewery later this year , but first the group need to raise some money to pay for it so here is a link if you have some spare pennies:-   Degree Show Fundraising

Seascale Beach Clean

Oh there is so much to tell you ; there’s a woodpecker outside on the sycamore stump, the hens are laying like mad, I saw a red squirrel yesterday ( bright red in a field of purple crocuses), all my post including my bank card has gone to an empty holiday cottage miles away… and so much more good and bad. But for once it isn’t raining so I promised I would walk and try to draw (my lovely friend Jane sent a miniature sketching kit including woolly mittens so I just need to make a flask of something). So I will leave you with this picture from Saturday (after the beach) which is Great Gable from Yewbarrow (Yewbarrow is one of those walks that makes your arms ache too as both ends are protected by steep rocky crags that needed scaling and scared the s*** out of me!)

Great Gable from Yewbarrow

“Now is the Happiest Time of Your Life”

Yesterday the log man came; so today the hungry stove is happily ticking away with a belly full of sweet smelling wood. It feels so different here, although less than a hundred miles West of “home” – the log man gave me a goats’ cheese in return for 6 bantam eggs and we discussed the work of Kaffe Fassat, needlefelting and ceramic design over a cup of tea and home made custard creams…so civilized!

Anyway, after what seemed like a lifetime the internet has finally started to work this week (did they have to hand craft each wire from spun gold? What is going on with these companies?!) so I feel as though I am actually living here now…my enforced period of exile from real life is over and already it is the middle of March, snowdrops are making way for daffodils and I expect the Curlews have returned to the moor whether I’m there or not.

Map of Lake District Fells

Certainly Cumbria is living up to its reputation, with rain every day and gales that mean I’ve spent much of the week armed with a butter knife and a pack of tissue paper, seeking out drafts to stuff. The Yorkshire saying “shut the door! were you born in a barn?” makes sense once you actually do live in a barn and the wind is hitting you in the face even as you sit in front of the tv watching Miss Marple, wrapped in a blanket and clutching a mug of hot tea.

Ah, but in between there are days that make you want to walk for miles and wish you’d brought a picnic. This is where I ended up on Monday afternoon having only intended to get some phone signal and take a few pictures of the sheep I’d just made…


Wearing a dress, Doc Martens and a big woolly jumper, it was only after I got up from the ground (getting a good angle) that I saw the other walkers; head to toe in sensible “outdoor gear” and probably relieved that I stood up before they had to call Mountain Rescue. I’m sure they didn’t spot my tiny sheep and thought I was just exhausted from the climb.

Needle felt Herdwick, Newlands

And so I continue to try and draw, struggle with motivation and spend a lot of time looking out of the windows wondering about the meaning of it all. Luckily I have found a lovely part time job which helps me feel less of a hobo. Purely by chance I walked in to a gallery to buy my daughter a birthday present and got chatting to the owner who turned out to be looking for someone to help out. Its a lovely little gallery, Northern Lights Gallery, with some gorgeous work and right next door to a favourite cafe, the Square Orange.

Herdwick sketch

Tomorrow I’m meant to be going to a Beach Clean Up Day at Seascale, organised by an old school friend. Hopefully this nagging headache and dizzyness will have gone by then … probably need more coffee!

Squirrel sketch

Yet again, a million thank yous to all of you for reading, sending messages and being so supportive; you’re wonderful.

Reading:- “The Fortress” Hugh Walpole  and “Tove Janson, Love and Work” Tuula Karjalainen

Listening To:– ” Now is the Happiest Time of Your Life ” by Deavid Allen/ Gong who died today.

New Lands

This post was written a week or more ago but comes to you courtesy of the wonderful Cafe West at the Keswick Museum since EE and BT Openreach have spectacularly failed to connect me to the world beyond Newlands Valley! I’ve missed you…..


The wind is racing down the valley bringing curtains of hail and sleet which hammer on the door like unwelcome guests, I’m writing next to a different stove…a large and hungry beast…but despite the draughts and unfamiliarity this new home in the West feels like a haven in a storm. It does feel as though I have been parachuted into someone else’s life and although it’s pretty sweet, it isn’t mine…yet. It’s hard to believe that I got through the past six months without going totally insane and waking up with white hair or going on a rampage with a large axe. The final weeks at Moorside House were so painful that I think some kind of post traumatic thing may be lurking under the surface but this blog post is about now and trying to look forward. It’s hard but I’m trying to let go of all the bitterness and hatred I’ve felt over the eviction and concentrate on the wonderful opportunity I’ve been given to make a home in arguably the most beautiful part of England… and this time it really is on a mountain.


The North York Moors were part of me before I was even conscious… the big skies, the smell of the heather and bracken… but I cant pretend I have always felt welcome (too posh, too common, too hippy, too vegetarian!) I’ve lost my confidence and trust in other people’s good nature, and I don’t want to jinx things but look what I found in the wall along the footpath – I can’t help feeling I would have been unlikely to make such a discovery on Snilesworth Moor. 


If I believed in fate or divine intervention I could tell you a story that began a few years ago with a walk up Catbells or a sketchbook page completed in the early days of a relationship while still mourning the end of another, of strange coincidences, random twists of fate and a failure to salute at magpies which made me either the most unlucky girl in all the world or the luckiest.

So being here with no telephone or internet has meant that I’ve been in a bubble, not managing to draw or do much ( other than chopping firewood and feeding the ravenous stove) but I’ve been looking at old sketch books and projects which have in someway been inspired by the Lake District, wondering what, if anything I will do next. Packing up 15 years worth of “stuff” has given me a horror of making more “stuff”… I gave away, burned or recycled so much old work that a fresh start is called for… however, somewhere in New York is this sketchbook page which gave me a jolt when I saw it again tonight. My new home is exactly under the jewel in the Magpie’s mouth and the message could not have been foreseen when I made it over four years ago!


Well, one thing’s for certain, there is no turning back and luckily I’ve already met some lovely people here and even sorted out some part time work in a gallery which is a massive relief; but what I have learnt so far is that it is impossible to underestimate the impact of potential homelessness and the hidden costs of eviction and relocation – emotional and financial. Having somewhere to call “home”, that is warm, clean and comfortable is a basic human right and in the last weeks at Snilesworth with no heating, contaminated water and snow adding to the bleakness, I was acutely aware of how LUCKY I was… I’m no Pollyanna but I had a place to go to, I had help from a partner, family and friends and one day it will be OK. What about the people who face this with none of that support, those sleeping rough, families evicted for no reason? I think it ‘s vital that private sector landlords are made to behave responsibly and that the rich and over privileged landowners like Toby and Fiona Horton are held to account for decisions they make… hiding behind charitable trusts that are really a form of tax avoidance and claiming to be supporting farmers and the local economy whilst dismantling communities and caring nothing for the people whose rent pays for their lifestyle.

Ok, rant over..for now. My trawl through old projects also found this mock up of a climbing chalk bag which I’m quite pleased with, especially after a visit to the Keswick Museum yesterday where there was an interesting exhibition on 3D mapping techniques.


Its been so long since I had modern methods of communication and the time to write , that I’m in danger of waffling on until you get cramp or fall asleep so here is a picture by Beatrix Potter of Newlands Valley …. my hope is that I will be able to skip along the path up Little Dale with a straw hat and a sketch book on hot summer days and that maybe soon I will be filled with inspiration and the creative muse will reappear in some form and lead me off on new adventures. Meanwhile, thank you for still being there, for all your support through the dark days and I hope I can keep you amused with tales of my life on this new mountain. x


Last Day of the Year.


I’ve been awake since about 4am and now as New Year’s Eve dawns I am sitting in the kitchen, cuddling a hot water bottle despite the stove. I wanted to write before but I’m haunted by a sign I once saw on a bookshelf in WHSmith’s ; it said “Misery Memoirs”… I wouldn’t want to inflict more of that on you. But some things need saying.

Its been a rotten Christmas ( apart from having my lovely children home), I’ve been ill (including a trip to A&E where I was over zealous in washing my hands and must have somehow lost one of the rings given to me by my children), we’ve had no water (a neighbour’s Kerosine tank leaked into the water table and we’ve been told not to even wash in it until further notice), a close friend had some tragic news and now I am preparing to send my daughter back to university knowing that she probably won’t get a chance to come home again before we are evicted.

So I have been sitting here this morning donating small amounts to the charities Water Aid (not for the first time due to the awful water here and the realisation that some people live like this all the time)  and Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide  (because my friend is so brave, though she doesn’t know it and so are my other dear friends who have been through the same thing and are some of the kindest strongest most generous people I know).

I really hope 2015 is a good year for everyone and that the world becomes a better, kinder, more equal place  (except for the Trustees of Snilesworth Estate, their land agent and the Sayer Family… I just can’t help it, sorry. Mean people should get all the bad luck, not the lovely people like my friend Helen.) Thank you for all your support in 2014… I will try to have drawings and pictures and good news next time I write x