Picture Books

Over the past few years, I have been working on several children’s Picture Books.

Here’s a little bit about a few of them!

wild goose chase!

Slumber-Down Valley is a quiet peaceful place…until one night, a big, noisy stranger comes roaring into town!

The villagers all agree. This pesky goose has got to GO!

Then one dark night, when a robbery takes place, all the evidence seems to point in one direction.

But is Wild Goose really all he seems? Find out, in this stonking, honking tale!

hurry up, hugo!

Hugo is the slowest post-tortoise that ever plodded up your path. The trouble is, everyone around him seems to be in a hurry!

Hugo needs to find a way to get up to speed – and fast!  Perhaps his old friend Hare will be able to help him?

But after a series of disasters, Hugo discovers that there is always a place in this world for things that take their own sweet time.

squirreled away

Deep in the Ferny-Green Forest, a clever, young squirrel named Squidge, manages to bag herself a tasty treasure!

After a near miss with a pilfering thief, she buries her acorn stash beneath the ground. 

But when a snow-storm blows in, she cannot remember where she buried it!

Can Grandpa’s old diary help her?

Join Squidge, in this heart-warming tale about love, loss and ultimately new hope.

A Month Without Rain…

When the grass turned brown…
We all thought the rain, 
Was a bit of a pain,
Drumming on rooftop,
And down window-pane.
"This weather!"
We grumbled,
"Is always the same,
It's nothing but rain, rain rain,
Rain, rain, rain...
Rain."

"Go away rain!"
We began to complain,
"Get on your bike,
Adios! 
Take a hike!
Cos we've had it to here,
With your damp, soggy drear,
Just give us a break,
Go away, disappear!"

Then one July day,
The rain went away,
Just packed up its bags,
Whilst the sun came to play.
And the temperature soared,
To heights never known,
And the ponds and the rivers,
Were as dry as a bone,
And the sun grew so hot in the sky overhead,
That the grass wasn't green,
It was scorched brown instead.

And we struggled to sleep,
And we tossed and we turned,
And the fields set on fire,
And the forests they burned,
And we suddenly realised,
We now understood,
Why when God made the rain,
He declared "It is good!"

















Alum Bay & ‘The Needles’

“Let’s go and see the Needles!” they said!

“It’ll be fun!” they said.

My three daughters, two of their friends and my husband, all unanimously agreed that this was the one place they most wanted to visit during our recent trip to the Isle of Wight.

Hazy memories of our previous trip to Alum Bay, some twenty years earlier, began to surface… I recalled a nail-biting ride on an ancient chairlift, equipped with minimal safety features, over a steep cliff-side…legs dangling, shoes being lost forever…

The Hairy-Scary Chair Lift!

“Well…okay!” I gulped, not wanting to appear the party-pooper.

So, the next morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, we jumped in the car and headed for Alum Bay.

Round about half-way there, it dawned on us that as a party of seven, and an odd number at that, one of us would have to ride the chairlift alone.

Emily, our youngest, had already decided she was going to ride with her daddy. And who could blame her?

Grace and Lydia, each had brought a friend with them.

And so that just left…

me.

Great!

I steeled myself, placing all my hope on the fact that my life was squarely in God’s hands and that if in His sovereign wisdom I was supposed to die plunging over a chasm…well that was His business, and not mine.

On, to the chair-lift I jumped, before I had time to bottle out.

Up, up, up cranked the chair. Boom, boom, boom went my heart. As we sailed over trees, I fixed my eyes on Grace and her boyfriend who were riding in the chair in front of me, and told myself over and over again: “it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay!

And, of course, although it was awfully high, it wasn’t quite as scary as I had remembered, provided you didn’t spend the duration of the journey trying to figure out just how the chair-lifts were attached.

In fact, I even managed to snap a little photo!

ALUM BAY

The descent into Alum Bay soon took my mind off things. The views were truly magnificent!

Jumping off that chair lift, and onto the shingly beach, I felt exhilarated, not only to stand on terra firma once again, but also to witness the vast sweep of the Bay, curving round towards the iconic ‘Needles’ – a crop of three chalk rocks that jut up dramatically out of the English Channel.

The Needles!

It was an unimaginably beautiful day – the bright blue sky dotted with wispy cotton-wool clouds, rays of sunlight glinting on the sea. And most importantly, I was surrounded by so many dear faces – all sharing this rare and wonderful moment with me.

The bluest of skies over the Bay…

NEEDLES BOAT TOUR

We took a fascinating boat tour out to the Needles, which afforded us a much closer look at them.

the missing needle!

The Needles got their name, due to an original fourth rock, known as ‘Lot’s Wife’ which had a very pointed needle-like shape. Even though this rock collapsed into the heart of the sea, during a storm in 1764, the name stuck.

the lighthouse

The Lighthouse, three-feet thick at its base, and rising some 80 feet above high water, was built to withstand wild waves of up to 20 feet high, sweeping in from the West. Up until 1944, when the lighthouse became fully automated, it was manned 24-7 by a Lighthouse Keeper and three assistants. This crop of rocks have always been perilous to sailors, and still to this day, the foghorn sounds every 15 seconds in periods of low visibility.

THE COLOURED ROCKS

Alum Bay is also famous for its colourful rock face, caused by geological folding, which over time, pushed the horizontal layers of rock strata to a vertical position,

ALUM BAY SANDS

Because of these colourful rocks, Alum Bay is unique in having 21 possible shades of sand. Ever since Victorian Times, it has been a tradition to collect and layer these colourful sands in pretty glass jars to take home as a souvenir. Apparently, Queen Victoria herself had a glass jar filled with Alum Bay sand in her home at Osborne House!

Many a child, including our Emily, has fond memories of the Alum Bay Sand Shop, in which you can experience choosing a glass (or plastic bottle) and carefully tipping in varying layers of pink, yellow, beige, brown and white sand!

Carefully does it!
Emily’s cute jar of Alum Bay sands – which she aptly named ‘Clifford’

Alum Bay is more than worth a visit if you’re ever on the Isle of Wight! And, I’ll let you into a little secret…you don’t even have to take the chair lift! There are steps, albeit a fair few of them, if you’d rather!) But, however you decide to get down to the Bay, I promise you, you won’t regret it!

What a wonderful, unforgettable day was had by all!

‘Grandad’s Island’

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide,
Is a wild call and a clear call that cannot be denied,
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the seagulls crying!

From the Poem, 'Sea Fever', by John Masefield

Our kids are fortunate enough to have a grandfather who lives on an Island. Going to visit him is always an exciting adventure that begins…with a trip on a car ferry!

THE ISLE OF WIGHT

The Isle of Wight is a diamond shaped Island, situated just four miles off the South Coast of England. It’s famous for its beautiful scenery and beaches, for boating events such as Cowes Week and for Osborne House, the historic holiday home to Queen Victoria.

There are several ways to get to the Isle of Wight. We use the Wightlink Ferry Service, from Portsmouth to Fishbourne, a 40-minute crossing. But there are other ferry routes from the mainland, namely Southampton to Cowes and Lymington to Yarmouth.

Cottage & garden

Grandad lives in a stone cottage, with the loveliest of gardens, not far from the villages of Nettlestone and Seaview.

Flowers abound!

The Isle of Wight, boasts a temperate maritime climate, with warm summers and cool to cold winters. The weather is rarely extreme and so things seem to grow like Billy-o! In fact, Henry Higgins might well have been correct when he taught Eliza Doolittle to say:

In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen!

From the 1965 Musical Film, ‘My Fair Lady’

Grandad’s garden in full bloom is quite a sight, with pots full of Geraniums, not to mention his Begonias, which I’m convinced could win prizes. As you can see, it’s also been a very good year for the Roses!

Seagrove Bay & seaview

Grandad’s cottage is a short walk, down a winding stony lane, from Seagrove Bay, a very special beach.

Seagrove Bay has somehow managed to move with the times, whilst retaining all of its old-fashioned charm. With a mix of Victorian houses and modern holiday cottages, the seafront has a very smart facade. A short walk around the next curve, and you reach Priory Bay – another lovely beach, with rocks to clamber over. When the tide goes out, it leaves the most gorgeous crop of sea-weedy rock-pools, which look like something out of an Enid Blyton Novel.

A short walk away from Seagrove Bay, is the lovely village of Seaview. It has a handful of charming shops, and eateries, including a pharmacy, a Deli, and an ice cream shop, plus a great pub, serving delicious home-cooked food, such as Fish and Chips and Prawn Linguine; the perfect spot to sit and sip a long, cold drink, whilst watching the boats bobbing about on the Solent.

My favourite Interiors Shop

A stroll around Seaview
The pub!
Outside the ‘The Old Fort’ pub – a great place to watch the world go by…

I’m sure you’ll agree, Grandad lives in a very special place! The more years that pass by, the more our family have come to appreciate having a seaside home to escape to, especially in light of the recent pandemic, which has made travelling abroad more difficult.

I really hope that you’ve enjoyed this little tour around our home from home! I hope you can hear the surf and the Seagulls squawking and imagine the breeze tugging at your hair!

How very blessed we are to be able to enjoy this place!

Keep an eye out for future posts, featuring trips to Yarmouth, and Alum Bay.

A Visit to Hever Castle

As part of the Jubilee Celebrations this weekend, we spent a glorious day at Hever Castle!

Hever, an incredibly romantic 13th Century Castle

kent, the garden of england

Hever Castle is situated in the English County of Kent, near Edenbridge, around 30 miles South-East of London. Kent itself, is a beautifully verdant County, often nick-named ‘The Garden of England.’ When driving through the pleasant leafy lanes and pretty villages, it’s not hard to see why. Kent is home to acres and acres of ancient woodland and is choc-full of beautiful gardens, both public and private. It’s generously peppered with historic places of interest to visit, such as Chartwell (home of Wiston Churchill), Sissinghurst and Canterbury Cathedral originally founded in the year 597!

Views over Kent, from Toy’s Hill, Westerham Chart, Kent.
Emily & Winston Churchill, on Westerham Green, Kent

hever’s history

Hever Castle may not be quite as old as Canterbury Cathedral, but its history does span back some 700 years! Originally built in 1270, Hever was a typical medieval defensive castle with gatehouse and walled bailey (a courtyard enclosed by a curtain wall). During the 15th and 16th Centuries, it became the home to the Boleyn’s, one of the most powerful families in the country.

Hever was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the tragically ill-fated second wife of King Henry VIII. Anne Boleyn, Queen for 1000 days, was the mother of Elizabeth I, and played a huge role in England’s departure from Catholicism and the establishment of the Church of England at the start of the Reformation.

rESTORATION

As the centuries passed, the Castle gradually fell into decline. In 1903, it was bought by William Waldorf Aster, a wealthy American man with a passion for History.

He poured much money and time into restoring the castle and its extensive grounds, commissioning a Tudor Village, and creating the huge lake that was dug out by hand!

Side view of the castle with Aster’s Tudor Village’

Today, the castle is still privately owned, but it has become a much-loved place for the public to visit, attracting visitors from all over the world, all year round.

There is always something interesting going on at Hever, including jousting, open air theatre showings, fireworks displays, concerts and all sorts of other events. In fact, you can even get married at Hever – Can you imagine?

Without further ado, I really hope you enjoy some of the photos of the Castle and gardens from our visit. Apparently, we didn’t manage to see everything – which is always the perfect excuse to go back!

Hever is famous for its stunning topiary displays
The Castle entrance, suitably adorned for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee

As you can see, some of the Queen’s Corgi’s were missing in the Castle Grounds as part of the Jubilee Celebrations!

The Italian Garden with huge Trellis of Wisteria
The roses were out in force!
What a wonderful day out!

Trip To The Cotswolds

When my husband announced last month, that we were going to the Cotswolds, images of Lilliput Lane style cottages, trickling rivers and stone bridges instantly sprang to mind.

Turned out I was right about those things. But as the trip loomed, and we began planning our route, I soon realised that my knowledge of the area was extremely limited.

I had no idea that the Cotswolds was such a vast area, spanning almost 800 square miles, and five different English Counties – namely: Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire!

Lechlade on Thames

I had no idea either that the River Thames flowed as far away from London as Gloucestershire – and that the village we would be staying in, Lechlade-on-Thames, was situated on the highest navigational point along the River.

St. Lawrence’s Church spire, standing tall over Lechlade-on-Thames
It was fun to meet Little Jen, the donkey, outside the church on Palm Sunday!

Lechlade is a lovely little town with a friendly feel. It’s full of charming shops, inviting looking pubs and restaurants, and its fair share of stone cottages!

It’s also a wonderful place for walkers – St John’s Lock is situated nearby, and we spent a lovely morning ambling along the canal path.

cirencester

The County of Gloucestershire has so much to offer. We so enjoyed driving past fields of green, with plenty of wide-open space – a welcome change from the congested London suburb we live in. The Spring flowers were out in full force, and many of the Cotswold villages looked even more beautiful with an abundance of daffodils and tulips.

Gloucestershire also boasts plenty of towns and cities to explore, including Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud and Cirencester – a handsome and historic Market Town, dating back to the Roman era. Cirencester is a wonderful place to browse, with interesting, high-end shops, selling anything from household furnishings to artisan cakes and pastries.

BIBURY

Our trip to the Cotswolds would not have been complete without a visit to at least one of the quintessential villages that make this area so famous.

Bibury is arguably the most photographed village in the Cotswolds.

As soon as we got out of the car, it wasn’t difficult to see why. From the old water mill, recently transformed into a working trout farm, to the lovely hotel and fast flowing river, Bibury is an utterly idyllic place!

It’s famous for Arlington Row, a row of weaver’s cottages dating back to the 14th Century. and recorded in the Doomsday Book.

It’s hard to fully describe or photograph the curving sweep of stone cottages, situated alongside the gurgling River Coln. Pictures really do not do this place justice. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, and so rich in history – it’s hard not to imagine the generations of people who may have lived and worked in these cottages.

Arlington Row

We left the Cotswolds feeling revitalised and rested and as though our senses had been soothed by all the beautiful scenery. We also had the strong feeling that we had only just scratched the surface of all the wonderful places to explore! Not a bad place to end a trip I suppose…

It gives you the perfect excuse to return some day.

Risen!

Very early,
Sunday morn,
Grief rising up like a gathering storm,
Day-break,
Hearts ache,
As the weight of it all begins to dawn.

Thorns, nails,
Mournful wails,
Laid in a tomb that wasn't His own,
Laden with spices,
We make our way,
Not even knowing who'll roll back the stone.

Earth quake!
Guards shake,
Heavenly beings in dazzling white,
Our hearts pound with fear,
Afraid to draw near,
We fall to the ground at this awesome sight.

Don't fear!
He isn't here.
Why search for the living amongst the dead?
Hurry, go!
Let everyone know,
That Jesus is risen, just as He said.

To Love A Labrador

To love a Labrador,
And all the crazy joy she brings,
There's really nothing to it:
You must simply learn to love these things:

Early starts,
Morning barks
Dripping hair
Rainy parks, 
Six o'clock
On the dot,
Rain or shine,
Ready or not!

Muddy paws,
Mopping Floors,
Early morning tug-of-wars.

Boggy paths,
Soggy baths,
Crazy capers,
Belly laughs.

Sloppy kisses,
Slimy ball,
Dodging,
Chasing,
Bad recall.
Chasing squirrels,
Magpies too - 
Any moving thing will do!

Being followed
EVERYWHERE,
Stolen bits of underwear,
Chewed up slippers
Patchy lawn,
Shredded flowers,
Papers torn.

Licky face,
Tea-towel chase,
Zoomy round-the-table-race!
Piles of sticks
By the door,
(Did I mention mopping floor?)

Belly rubs,
And sofa cuddles,
Getting dragged through,
Muddy Puddles.

Thumping tail,
And big hellos,
Throw a stick
And off she goes!