Tag Archives: Mountains

“Relax and Formulate a Plan”

This  beautiful, wiggly wall over Lingmoor Fell is an allegory of the way my week – and emotional state – has been fluctuating since we walked that way on Monday. At one point on I was surrounded by botched printed vases, newly created landfill to prick my conscience, a mountain of useless greyscale printouts after my printer forgot how to do colour, no lights downstairs after all the fuses went (I looked in the fusebox but it seemed to be very windy and cold in there which is odd) and the DPD delivery driver stuck up to his axels in the mud outside. It has felt at times like I’m living in a kind of Krypton Factor game show for dummies, where every task has involved a massive hassle and steep learning curve; still, it’s much more satisfying when something goes right at last if it has driven you to tears for hours beforehand. Walking in the brittle spring sunshine, arms pinkening and prickling with unaccustomed exposure to sunlight and tummy rumbling with too much coffee and not enough cake, we climbed to the summit of Lingmoor and learned some lessons from the survival bag we used as a picnic blanket. These lessons, and the continuing sunshine, probably helped prevent meltdown and/or murder later on- and besides, what reason do I have to complain? Imagine building that wall… it was immaculate, with each header stone at the same angle despite the terrain.

I love the idea that you would ever be able to “relax and formulate a plan” should you ever find yourself actually needing to get inside an orange plastic bag for survival. Further down it suggested something to do with dried leaves, I can’t remember exactly what. I think this winter there have been a few cases of people whose lives have been saved by these bags though so I shouldn’t joke.

So as Friday night turns into Saturday, I’m sitting by the stove, with the cat dangerously close to my feet, feeling a little bit of the same sense of achievement I get on reaching the top of a hill. I’ve rebuilt my evil website, after many tears and it even has a shop. It’s a big improvement on the previous one so even though it’s more expensive and drove me nuts, I’m actually really glad that Flavors.me closed down and forced me to do it. I’m playing shops and it seems so much more exciting than Etsy because it’s my very own. The first two sales made me feel like a tycoon and I could never take for granted the magic of being able to do that without leaving my nest, from home, in the middle of nowhere.

Most things seem to be slowly coming together in preparation for BCTF but it’s frightening how much money you can spend on services and materials without even leaving the house; and how you think you’ve worked out the costs of things but then remember you need to factor in the sellotape, Paypal fees, tissue paper or sticky labels. Its fair to say I have felt huge ups and downs of mood and confidence this week and have been trying to be more careful about dealing with the downs. Sometimes it really is important just to relax and formulate a plan, to go for a walk or take time to read a book and not feel guilty; because the upside of being self employed, to balance out having no money, is that I have that freedom at the moment and I’ve noticed I work best in the evenings anyway. I’m like that annoying hamster you probably once had that slept all day, got vicious if you tried to wake it up and then suddenly started rushing about on it’s treadmill at bedtime- making a sound like squeaking bedsprings (the rushing about is me, not the squeaking).

And sometimes it’s tempting to sew up the scraps and offcuts to make something new, because, at the risk of sounding like an infuriating meme, failure is often just a state of mind or a view from a certain angle, it just depends how you frame it. Well, it’s time I let you go, thank you for reading and also for all the survey responses. I need to look at the results properly and apply my amazing analytical skills, before finalising my master plan, so for now it’s back to relaxing and dreaming of more days like these. Dipping toes into achingly cold water till the blood fizzes like champagne, winter dimmed eyes blinking in the light and you can almost feel the vitamin D soaking through your skin.

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir



Are we there yet?

Crummock  Water from Low Fell

Well on Tuesday I bought a beautiful fountain pen in Cockermouth and I’ve just spent ages uploading all these pictures for you but suddenly I’m lost for words again; I’m drinking tea and looking at that big sky. Im sorry to tell you this, now that it’s the Easter holidays and it’s raining again, but last week was probably the most perfect week ever in the Lake District. Sara and I wore our little legs even shorter with some wonderful adventures… it’s much easier to walk further when you have a companion to share sandwiches with at the top. We discussed the amazing human ability to forget how it felt to be exhausted to pieces once faced with the view from the summit … a bit like childbirth! We also talked about the contrast between Sara’s city life in Bristol and our love of this special landscape; both feeling a little discontented … what is it you miss out on in each place? Could you swap city life for a rural one or vice versa?

the summit of Hindscarth

I loved taking a week away from normal concerns and BCTF panic, to enjoy just being here in the Lake District, feeling lucky despite all the bad luck and upheaval. We climbed three Fells, Hindscarth, Maidenmoor and Low Fell, used my birthday voucher to have a swim and fantastic bone crunching massage at Armathwaite Hall (where we also spotted the Alpacaly alpacas  doing rolypoly’s under the trees)  and cycled to Keswick on unsuitable bicycles to do the shopping (so much more stylish to cycle in the sunshine with a dress on and an aubergine in your basket than to charge around in lycra with serious intent).

colourofspring copyAnd now it’s back to work with less than three weeks before Harrogate and the trade fair. Luckily the sun left as soon as Sara went back to Bristol and even more luckily I was able to find almost all of the hooks and bits and bobs that I need for my stand when I went to Cockermouth… I’d searched in the giant B&Q in Penrith and various other shops until eventually finding the perfect things in the wonderful JB Banks  .It may seem like an odd recommendation but if you’re ever in the Lakes don’t miss this shop; it’s fabulous and has a museum at the back which I keep forgetting to look in.

Spring in Newlands Valley

So Spring has sprung, the air smells good and all is well… ah, apart from the fact that I smashed one of my vases while trying to photograph it today, I have a sore thumb from folding and stapling catalogues, all the printing I did yesterday went wrong and the cat has taken to sleeping up a 7 foot holly tree, perched on a twig like the Cheshire cat (only with a resentful look instead of a grin). I think I’m making her nervous.

preparations for BCTF

The next three weeks are going to be hectic for me and very different as today is also Rupert’s last day working at Carlton Outdoor Education Centre. For the past year he has driven to the North East at the crack of dawn every Monday and pretty much lived in the van all week; but he’s got a new job here now, within cycling distance, so life should be easier for him and I’ll have to become a little less feral and learn to live with people again! (I talk so little during the week that I almost forget how at the weekends and a whole day of talking gives me hiccups so Harrogate should be fun!). Fingers crossed for more days like last week’s to share.

Derwentwater from Maidenmoor

Here I am heading up the valley on a small bicycle with the sun in my eyes. And here is a quote that I think is relevant to the whole BCTF preparation process, because whatever happens I have learnt a lot and after all, thats what we’re here for isn’t it, to learn and experience and breathe in the air? Have a very happy Easter.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway

cycling in Newlands Valley

Reading:  Various terms and conditions and a Maigret mystery. Listening to: David Grey “Sell Sell Sell” Watching:- Rare that I watch TV but “The A Word” was filmed right here and it’s pretty good so far.

Nature Cure

stormy Cumbrian sky

Getting out of the house to deliver work was good today. It has become too easy to stay in my grey stone nest, looking out of the high windows at the storms and not venturing out until the weekends when I gasp my way up a fell, rewarded with paper wrapped sandwiches and a view to lift the spirits and feed me for another week. The wild weather lately meant that the weekend was postponed until Monday and the walk was an easy one, up Loughrigg Fell to gaze down on silvery flooded valleys and across to various Pikes and Stickles and knobbly hills whose names are becoming woven into my life like a poem muttered repeatedly, like a mantra, under my breath. We played at surviving by getting in the billowing “group shelter“,  a large blue, bottomless tent that made me think of  John and Yoko’s “Bagism” peace protests or getting trapped in the sheets while building dens in the bed as a child.

The poison path, yew berries at Grasmere

The storms had loosened bright scarlet yew berries, a trail of poisoned beads and shaken the last of the leaves into a soggy carpet that smelled delicious. Walking through a wood in Autumn is like walking along a beach… impossible not to fill pockets with collected treasures, a jewel coloured leaf, a sprig of sticky pine, an acorn perhaps (although like beach treasure they never look quite as bright when  brought indoors and dry). It makes me feel like a child, sticking leaves in my hair and swishing a freshly fallen bamboo pole, pretending to be a pony… forgetting the horrible indignity of being, in reality, a nearly 50 year old in a second hand raincoat and borrowed hat who should probably be more dignified or risk frightening other walkers.

detail of polar bear mug design

I’ve really agonised over writing this blog today because its been such a rotten few weeks, my self confidence and faith in personal and professional relationships felt shattered and for various reasons I was feeling that perhaps writing was my undoing. Perhaps the internet is no place for openness and candid musings when we’re always being warned to guard our identities and upgrade our privacy settings. I felt unsettled enough to read back, to double check to see if I had given away too much or spoken out of turn or been mean inadvertently. I thought about who I want to be and the kind of people I respect (I’ve been reading Richard Mabey’s book “Nature Cure” and he absolutely isn’t afraid to speak his mind on subjects close to his heart) and decided that I am not ashamed to bare my soul here so long as it’s balanced with good stuff too and doesn’t involve the entire laundry basket of dirty linen. Because sometimes it’s important to admit that things go wrong, that its not all primrose paths and that you have to walk up some pretty spiky, slippery tracks to get the sandwiches.

top of Loughrigg in a borrowed hat

And …”Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”—Jodi Picoult

In other news, today’s drive took me to the lovely Eden Valley home of Jenny “Boo and the Noodle” who is having an Open Studio this weekend to raise money for a new village play area. It looks like there’s going to be everything you could ever want for the dreaded Christmas Shopping, and all handmade in Cumbria; including beautiful prints, exotic faux cacti pin cushions, textile artwork and some rather swishy Witchmountain mugs.


boo and the noodle open house

And so getting out of the house proved to be the best thing I could have done. I left the mountain in a storm of pouring rain and despairing tears and drove east into a massive double rainbow over Penrith. Heading home there is a point on the A66 when Blencathra looms beside the road and all the now familiar mountains of this magical corner of Lakeland are suddenly revealed in moody layers and it actually sends a shiver down my spine.

And so to bed. Thank you again for reading whoever and where ever you are, it means the world to this mountain hermit x

Reading:- that Richard Mabey book Listening to:- “Courting the Squall” – Guy Garvey

The Other Side of the Lake

Crummock water

Today is suddenly September; the year has clicked smoothly into another gear, my lovely family have all returned to their distant homes, the Bank Holiday crowds have left until next season, somewhere in North Yorkshire the swallows will be gathering on the wires above my old home and I’m here, alone again, drinking green tea in the last house on the mountain.

My daughter took these pictures on an idyllic evening walk around Crummock Water on Sunday evening. I’d never been to that side of the Lake and it felt so magical to be looking at a familiar view from a different angle and most of all to be sharing it with people I love. We made tea with the Kelly Kettle and ate a hastily prepared picnic of homemade cheese focaccia and peach cake while Terrible Grasmoor lit up pink in the sunset. There is something about the living in the Lake District that makes you want to be out exploring in a way I never really felt before. The North York Moors were “Home” and the landscape was beautiful but I was always quite happy mostly admiring it from the garden. Now what is it about wanting to get to the top, for no other reason than to look back down? Each Fell now labeled with the memory of the day it was climbed, the summit picnics and the names listed like a poem… Silver How, Helm Crag, Fleetwith Pike, Maiden Moor….

 Crummock Water

So, I have TWO exhibitions coming up and the table is covered with half finished things, labels, prints to be stitched, cellophane to battle with, price lists to write and as well as this I’m being whisked away on a train to Italy in a few days! The surprise trip was perfectly timed to celebrate (or distract me) since it will soon be  a year since my evil neighbour stopped me in the supermarket to tell me I was losing my home. Its odd to think that this time last year I was planting autumn onions and garlic, picking the last strawberries and watching the swallows gather for the final time, with no idea what was about to happen… I suppose this is what life is and why you have to make the most of every moment, good and bad.

House design by Kim Tillyer

Anyway, this is one of the images I’m using to make some new cushions with the help of lovely Emma from Temporary Measure while the one below is a framed piece that will be at The Great Print Exhibition at the Rheged Centre near Penrith   until November. Meanwhile Cumbria Printmakers C-Art Exhibition opens at Dalemain House, near Ullswater on September 12th. My work will be there but sadly I’ll be away so please go if you can and let me know how it looks. There are loads of amazing printmakers taking part, all with links to Cumbria and I just hope my work stands up along side theirs and I don’t feel too much like an imposter !

Heart's Home Kim Tillyer

Well, it’s almost time to go to bed. Tomorrow I’m doing my morning at the Calvert Trust Riding Centre, getting my weekly pony fix and feeling inspired by the wonderful work they do there. Its going to be a busy few days but hopefully there’ll be time to look at the sky a bit and daydream.

August sunset over Grassmoor

Reading:-  not enough!    Listening To :–  Underworld and REM and the fan  on my computer going in to overload when I try to do anything on Photoshop

Enchanter’s Nightshade and Sycamore Shadows.

a view from Wandope, Lake District

More time has flown by; faster than I have been able to write it all down, blurring one day in to another. Six months have passed since I came to live in the mountains; months marked by the changing colours of the fells- monochrome snow scenes melting to become Bracken slopes of  Caput Mortuum and now dark lush Hooker’s Green with bright Magenta spikes of Foxglove… oh and the more or less constant rain. August feels a bit too jungly for me, the Bracken could hide anything and the patch outside the big window has become heavily shaded by Sycamore and carpeted with Enchanter’s Nightshade (which is apparently used in binding spells to keep precious things close).

Nothing stays still for very long here, except the sleeping dragons in Newlands Valley- the fells themselves. The hills are full of people rushing about doing energetic things in lycra but always, even in the busiest season, there is the magic of being able to flop down on the mossy grass at the top and look at the view as if you’re the first to have ever seen it.


In the past two weeks we’ve been on two lovely adventures… up Eagle Crag and then the strangely named Wandope .I don’t seem to be getting any better at the uphill bits… after about an hour my legs finally warm up and stop aching just in time for my feet to start complaining. I really admire people who can run about doing things like the Bob Graham Round  (they often come pounding past here in the dark with minutes to spare as this is the last mountain on the round) but I’m still fundamentally a tortoise and prefer to dawdle along admiring the flowers, sniffing the sappy pine cones, filling my pockets with Bog Myrtle, making wands out of rushes and only making it to the top because of the promise of sandwiches.  The Garden Tower,cyanotype  Kim Tillyer

And before you think this has turned into a blog about hiking, here is what I’ve been up to for most of the week, when Rupert isn’t here to leave a trail of crumbs up steep mountain paths. I’m trying to get work together for the Dalemain House exhibition so I was pleased when a woman admired my work in the gallery the other week. Not realising it was mine, she asked about the technique and came in again a few days later, with a framer, who offered to frame a piece for free to see what I thought. He made a lovely job of it and chose a frame I would never have picked for myself; now I just have to save up to get some more done and hope that the gamble pays off because obviously I need to sell them to justify the whole endeavour. Working in galleries certainly gives you an insight into what sells, if not the ability or desire to produce it. On several occasions it’s been obvious that the customer is really looking for an investment rather than buying for love and its not just the artist’s name that matters but the medium they use. Why is it that oils are seen as superior to watercolours or a ceramic sculpture more highly valued than say, a needle felted one? IMG_3122

I’ve been stitching into the recent cyanotype prints I’ve made since moving here. The work represents ideas of home and security, impermanence and the need for shelter- from nests to ivory towers; stitching into the paper represents domesticity and also safety and healing… holding things together with stitches. There … do I sound all arty and conceptual?! Meanwhile some new greetings cards arrived and a piece of fabric from Spoonflower,to make purses … (this one was a birthday gift for Ruth who has been very kind to me since I admired her trousers for not being beige walking trousers when she came in to the gallery one day. She runs this guest house which you might want to stay in if you visit Keswick)  mountain girl caed and purse

Now it’s time to have a last cup of tea before bed and make sure the place looks tidy and loved because the landlord is coming round in the morning to discuss the howling gales that blow up your trouser legs in the kitchen… I need to be in the right frame of mind and not the angry defensive bundle of resentment I have become due to my last landlord’s jackboot tactics. I will leave you with this view of Borrowdale, lying on my tummy on a flat rock in the sun…well away from the edge, higher than a helicopter and amazed by the ridiculous beauty of it all.

Borrowdale from Eagle Crag

READING: The Slow Mountain Company Blog which is pretty wonderful and “Flora Britanica” by Richard Mabey

LISTENING TO: “No Light , No Light” Florence and the Machine

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