Tag Archives: the magical town of crickadoon

The Rhiwiau, Yew trees and The Magical Town of Crickadoon.

“To find the universal elements enough, to find the air and the water exhilarating: to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter – to be thrilled by the stars at night:  to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of a simple life.”   John Burroughs.

The Rhiwiau – The big stone barn is to the left of the house….note the small shepherd’s hut in front of the barn – this is where I slept.FB_IMG_1523948682803 I first visited the Rhiwiau, the home of my friends Anne and Mike Ranstead , about twenty-four years ago.    Along with enjoying happy hours with Anne and Mike and  painting in the surrounding hills, this place represents a ‘hot spot’ for me.

When I left my home in Crickhowell in 2005 to move to London, I stored my furniture in the stone barn for four years.       Prior to that, two large panels I painted for St. Edmund’s Church in Crickhowell (aka The Magical Town of Crickadoon) – were stored in the barn for a period of time.     All of this is recorded on a video.

The two completed panels hanging in St. Edmund’s Church, Crickhowell.   They were installed in 1996.     20180713_100147Then five years ago my two good friends, Heather and Andrew bought the Rhiwiau from Anne and Mike.    Hill walkers and dog lovers, they are the perfect people to take over.  They have now made the Rhiwiau into an Air B’nB – attracting people from around the world who love hill walking and all the other bounties that the Brecon Beacons National Park has to offer.      Here are the links to their air BnB.

airbnb.co.uk/rooms/6074819      and    airbnb.co.uk/rooms/13812920

Close to the Rhiwiau is Llanfeugan Church in Pencilli.      In this unspoiled place Heather took me to see a circle of Yew trees that are around two thousand years old.

Heather and one of the magnificent Yew trees at Llanfeugan Church, Pencelli. 20180708_125531  Old head stones interspersed amongst the Yew trees.    A magical place20180708_125821During my stay Heather introduced me to Janis Fry –  artist, writer and expert on the Yew Tree.  http://www.janisfryart.co.uk     Janis has written two books on the subject – ‘The God Tree’ and ‘Warriors at the Edge of Time’    

Janis and Heather are now giving tours aimed to introduce people to some of the best examples of ancient yews in Wales.   They occur in a relatively small area, probably due to the culture of revering yews and planting them which dates back to the Silures, the Celtic yew tribe who inhabited this area and fought the Romans.   The tour starts with a five thousand (5,000) year old yew and ends with one of four thousand (4,000) years and is designed to take up a weekend.    For more information go to http://www.janisfryart.co.uk

Heather and I went to The International Welsh Rarebit Centre in Defynnog to meet Janis.   I had been told that the food (especially the welsh rarebit) was excellent – and I was not disappointed.    Not only is it a very attractive place, run by an interesting woman named Rose, the Welsh Rarebit – and I had Stout Welsh Rarebit was fantastic.

Some of the best Welsh Rarebit I have ever had…….89bf7a63dd98854fcd0aa13e38ffb66fInterior of The International Welsh Rarebit Centre….An art gallery and meeting room up stairs. IMG_7047I haven’t mentioned yet how hot it was.    Usually when it’s hot in London or even in Crickhowell….when you get up into the hills the temperature drops by a few degrees, however, not during this heatwave…and more worryingly a drought!    Anyway,  given that the house was filled with Air B ‘n B guests, I slept in the Shepherd’s hut which sits just in front of the barn….and I loved it.

As I lay there in my bed looking out at the beautiful scenery and listening to the sounds of nature, I was reminded of the joys of the simple life.   I thought of how much ‘stuff’ we carry around with us, both emotional and physical – stuff that weighs us down.     In the shepherd’s I felt totally free and at peace.  

My abode for two nights…..had everything I needed and much more, i.e. Mother Nature surrounding me.    20180708_080411My view from inside the Shepherd’s hut along with the sounds of sheep and birds…….perfect.20180709_124803Another special visit was to the artist Janet Foster who lives and works in the village of Llanfynach.   I met Janet when I was tutoring for the Brecknock Art Society and have always enjoyed her work. 20180708_120944

I love to doodle in a small sketchbook when travelling.   Quick images and thoughts forever remind me of special moments…..

20180716_113134I couldn’t complete this part of my post without mentioning Bounty….a beautiful horse I met that lives just down the road from the Rhwihau.   I really liked her. 20180708_094441After two blissful days at the Rhhwiau – Heather drove me to Crickhowell (about ten miles) where I met up with friend Jane who had driven from London for her first visit to The Magical Town of Crickadoon, where we stayed at the fantastic Dragon Inn.      Having heard me talk about it for twelve years, at last she could see it.

I have decided to write a separate blog about the Crickhowell part of the trip…which I will post next week.     Arriving in the hustle and bustle of The Magical Town of Crickadoon, as I call it, felt like a great metropolis after being at the Rhwiau……….20180713_093600A few watercolour sketches painted when visiting the Rhiwiau over the years – always trying to capture the ever changing light of the Brecon Beacons. 20-11-15 - 1 (204)

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A Bientot

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A Christmas story about a homeless little cat and how she found hope, trust and courage….

The subject of homelessness becomes more prevalent every day.     Whether one of the millions of stateless people roaming the earth, or people we encounter on the streets of our towns and cities – the problem looms ever greater.

I wrote and illustrated a children’s Christmas story 15 years ago entitled ‘Christeve the Cat Finds Her Home’.     Based on a true story, it focuses on the arrival of a little cat into my life on Christmas Eve 1996 when I was living in Crickhowell, Wales.   

I have been displaced a couple of times in my life, and know what it is to yearn for a home of my own.    In many ways this story is autobiographical.   It is filled with symbolism including of course the magical hummingbirds.

In the story the little cat was homeless and had been living in a tree across from my cottage.   I believed that she belonged to Mr. Pickford, one of my neighbours and so had not been concerned about her.

My neighbour, Mr. Pickford. 20-11-15 - 1 (1340)Here is the lonely little cat wishing she could live in a nice warm cottage like the one across from her tree. 20-11-15 - 1 (1330)“Sitting between mountains and watched by the moon, with magical hummingbirds weaving their love” this story takes place in The Magical Town of Crickadoon. 

The little cat looking over the Magical Town of Crickadoon. 20-11-15 - 1 (1339)During the long dark cold nights, every noise would give the little cat a fright, and sometimes she would cry.20-11-15 - 1 (1328)   One night when the winds began to roar and howl, the little cat had a visit from a wise old owl.    The wise owl told the little cat to be patient and trust.    To close her eyes and dream of magical hummingbirds.

Something inside of  her always knew that there was nothing to fear and that help was always near……..20-11-15 - 1 (1337)The little cat began to make friends with the birds and animals that lived beneath her tree.      After days of fun and play with her new friends the little cat would fall into a deep sleep and dream about finding a home of her own.

Some of the little cat’s new friends 20-11-15 - 1 (1336)One of her new friends, a red robin, told the little cat that she would never be alone because hummingbirds were always near, helping her to find a new home of her own. 20-11-15 - 1 (1325)One morning red robin and little cat woke to see that the Magical Town of Crickadoon was completely covered in snow.    everywhere the little cat looked, there was a special glow.20-11-15 - 1 (1335)Later that night when little cat was dreaming in her tree, a beautiful white hummingbird appeared.      White hummingbird told little cat that there was nothing to fear, and that after a terrible storm, all would be clear. 20-11-15 - 1 (1338)The next morning when the snow swirled and whirled and the winds roared and howled, the little cat felt so cold and alone was beginning to think that she would never find a home of her own.        20-11-15 - 1 (1334)In her dreams the little cat heard White Hummingbird say – “Don’t give into your fear, soon all will be clear. – Follow the light through the storm and there you will find your home, so cosy and warm”. 

As the little cat came closer to the only light she could see, she realised that it was shining from the cottage across from her tree.     As little cat reached the door and raised her paw she called out as loudly as could be…Meeeeeoooooowwwww, I am here, I am here…….

The door to the cottage across from her tree opened wide and there was Janet the Artist waiting inside. 20-11-15 - 1 (1333)Janet the Artist scooped up little cat with tenderness and love, and from high above the Magical Town of Crickadoon, hummingbirds of every colour were flying under the moon. 20-11-15 - 1 (1332)Janet the Artist named the little cat, Christeve the Cat because she had arrived on a very special Christmas Eve.

THE END

This is the actual cottage where Christeve the Cat and Janet the Artist lived together in The Magical Town of Crickadoon. 

30371_309193229185374_253873514_nChristeve the Cat settled into her new home and sitting on her favourite chair302846_309648909139806_918859733_nChristeve the Cat (on the left) with one of her friends sitting in her favourite place in the garden of her new home. til August 10 119http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk    http://www.zazzle.com/janet+weight+reed+gifts

A bientôt.

“Every child is an artist………..” Picasso.

It was Picasso who said –

“Every child is an artist.   The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

In the midst of a rather gloomy train of thought with regards to Black Friday and the mad commercialism of the holiday season, a brilliant ray of light entered into my day – one that reminded me of Picasso’s words.  

Meir Rogers, a five year old artist from Chicago sent me one of his beautiful pictures and all of a sudden everything made sense.

In Meir’s painting we see the freshness, spontaneity, wonder and pure magic that the artwork of a child brings.     Thank you Meir 🙂

Birds by artist Meirs Rogers  

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“Think left and think right and think low and think high.  Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.”   Dr. Seuss

When we first enter this world, we are naturally full of curiosity and wonder.

When we observe children at play we see them following the words of the great Dr. Seuss.    Filled with curiosity and playfulness they take in all that surrounds them and much more.

Sad to say that by the time we reach adulthood, most of us have lost touch with and confidence in our inner creative energy.

Painting with children in Somerset, UK.    These children would be in their early twenties now.    They love to watch an artist paint….in this instance, I was painting Cristeve the Cat for them.   After I left them they painted their own version of Cristeve the Cat. 703984_10151335674775396_172685478_oIf we adults could time travel back to our earliest formative years, when the world appeared as a kaleidoscope of colour and shapes, we could regain our natural curiosity and love for colour and form.      We might see things in a much broader context than the one prescribed to us by our cultural experience.

Painting portraits with a group of children in France.     

til August 10 129As adults we forget how wonderful it is to play with colour….We are concerned about how we appear to others…..which often stifles the creative process.

In children we see a freedom of expression…..especially when a child is encouraged.    In Meir Roger’s case I happen to know that he receives great encouragement from his parents and grandparents.   I wish that this were true for all children.

Working with children in Brittany, France on a mural for their school.      I will always remember when the children sang me the song….’Red and Yellow and Pink and Blue………………. – a very special moment.      (these children would all be in their mid thirties today…..til August 10 126It saddens me greatly to hear a child chastised because they are making a mess, being silly or not behaving in a normal fashion.

Words such as these can stay with a child for the rest of their life and prevent them from experiencing the joy of creative expression.              Encouragement is key.

It’s OK to fail at being normal, whatever that is……When we observe children exploring their creative energies, we see other ways of seeing and being.    12314060_10153693416745396_9179756764978779361_nOver the years, I have collected a lot of children’s art….and have had many beautiful portraits painted of me by children from around the world.

As I observed six year old Beatrice focus with complete confidence on her artwork, it was a delight.   As is often the case when painting portraits…a very special connection is made.

A portrait of me by 6 year old Beatrice from Portugal. 20-11-15 - 1 (933)Painting water colour portraits of two very special young girls in Portugal 13076555_1162891533744325_7774473167615565835_nMy suggestion to children or adults as we approach the holiday season is to get paints and paper and make the creative process an important part of the festive season….and of course for every other season.      If you are not sure where to start…why not paint your own wrapping paper….now there’s a thought…..p-kids-hand-painting-owpMN8ZSw8-1And last but not least I leave you with a watercolour of  Cristeve the Cat and a magical hummingbird.    12238351_10153687926025396_2738025815690721220_oA bientot –

http://www.zazzle.com/janet-weight-reed-gifts     http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

 

When life is manageable

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony”   Thomas Merton.

Stair Hole, Lulworth, Dorset – part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site, which spans 185 million years of geological history.  – reminding me that we are but a blip in time and that ultimately Mother Nature rules!  watercolour  20-11-15 - 1 (1231)Given that I hadn’t been on the Isle of Wight since 1965, I decided to take a taxi from the Ryde ferry terminal to Bembridge where I was staying.      The taxi driver was lovely…a man who had moved to the Island from London thirty years ago.      As he pointed out, the Island works best for young families, people over sixty, and of course those who love to sail  – Cowes being a world class sailing arena.        His grown children have returned to London, a story I heard several times.     As he pointed out that despite a good internet connection, until the day a bridge or tunnel is built, connecting the Island with the mainland,  life as it is will probably continue.       (let’s hope they never build a tunnel or bridge…..)

After checking into my B & B I had planned on seeing my friend, artist and blogger, Sarah Vernon (First Night Design) however Sarah was taken into hospital on the day I arrived!       I am relieved and pleased to say that Sarah is now home, and will tell you all about her ordeal in her own words when she is more rested.   Get well soon Sarah.

Proving that there is a silver lining in most circumstances,  I did get to visit Sarah in Newport Hospital, which gave me the opportunity to take the beautiful and relaxing one and a half hour bus ride from Bembridge to Newport.

One of the photographs I took of Sandown from the top of the number 8 bus from Bembridge to Newport….it was a beautiful day.  20-11-15 - 1 (991)My overall first impressions were of a much slower pace of life,  of almost going back to how the UK was when I was growing up.    Everyone I encountered was extremely helpful, including the bus drivers.    People still queue.…and of course being a Brit I do like queues :).      There was no litter or graffiti….a sense of order prevailed.      In short it all felt very manageable.

It felt as if the Island has not outgrown its infrastructure.  Life appeared to be integrated rather than fragmented.    The opposite to feeling overwhelmed and isolated – which I believe is a huge problem for many in today’s society.  

Newport, the principal town of the Island, is often referred to as its capital.    Again very manageable, very easy to walk around…..I had a wonderful fish and chip lunch for £4!    Newport Hospital was just a short bust ride away from the town centre – everything felt easy.

Outside the Art Centre in Newport.    20-11-15 - 1 (1009)This visit was about getting a feel of the place.     Would I want to spend time there painting?    These are always my prime questions.     The answer is yes.    I would choose a village location with a bus route.    This would allow me to walk to shops/pubs etc, and with my London bus pass – free bus travel.     So it will definitely go on my list of places to explore and paint.

Part of the beautiful Isle of Wight coastline. 1500-isleofwight-creditNTI returned to the mainland via the Cowes ferry to Southampton where I had the sudden realisation that the last time I was on Southampton dock was  January 28th 1966 when I took the United States Liner to New York!   Talk about deja vu.   My friend Suzy, whose office sits right on the dock then drove me to Dorset.

I stayed with art college friend Maureen….always very enjoyable.       Although I don’t do very well with cars (anyone who knows me will  be smiling at this:)  Maureen took me to Lulworth Cove – part of the Jurassic Coast- and I am so pleased she did.     The weather could not have been more perfect and most importantly it was  visual feast.

Three different views of Stair Hole, Lulworth Cove, Jurrasic Coast  Dorset….watercolours. 20-11-15 - 1 (1235)

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This image of Lulworth Cove is taken a half a mile away from where I painted Stair Hole….61029843I began this post with Thomas Merton’s quote about balance, order rhythm and harmony.…elements I believe we all need in our lives.

Along with Crickhowell Wales, Saorge and other locations in France, the isle of Wight goes on my list of places where these elements are still to be found.

I am constantly reminded as I paint the magical hummingbird of how we can learn from Mother Nature – be it on the minute scale of the hummingbird or the rugged and grand scale of the Jurrasic Coast.       It is at our peril that we lose sight of this.

A magical hummingbird drinking from the sweet nectar of life. – watercolour/gouache20-11-15-1-358A Bientôt

 

Creativity – Use it or lose it….

I attended a gathering this week where I was asked what kind of art I made.    This is a loaded question and one I often find difficult to answer.       I said I love colour and believe that the creative process in all its forms is the key to emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing.      I was then asked if I thought everyone had a desire to create.   My answer was a resounding – yes.

This years visit to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. 6ABA8BCB-D0B8-40B2-859B-17819F7B2564After returning home I thought more about my response.

Our inborn creativity has to be nurtured in the same way that we care for our minds and bodies.      For example, if we allowed one of our limbs to shrivel and atrophy  – we would always be aware of the many things we might have done with the full use of that limb.       It is much the same with creativity.     Not to use it in one form or another, brings frustration often accompanied by a sense of loss.   A loss that in many ways we are unable to identify.     Use it or lose it really does apply. 

Jayanthi Rani at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 20-11-15 - 1 (1131)This beautiful watercolour was painted by Jayanthi Rani who I met five years ago when she came to my painting course in Portugal….and since then it has been my great privilege to watch her work blossom and grow.       You can see more of Jayanthi’s work on her FB page. 25FD0122-DEE0-4FCF-A3C4-22A8C3D69E8AIt seems to me that as we try to fill the ever widening holes within as our collective senses are being deadened through the over use of technology, our frustration levels grow and the need for a creative outlet even more acute.

 

Nurturing my little cottage garden in Wales from a barren, fallow patch, was a creative project I loved.       til August 10 1037Cooking, sewing, knitting, writing, dance, music – I could go on and on.     When I observe people using a myriad of creative disciplines – I see people who in that moment feel a sense of contentment and wellbeing.

I am off to Crickhowell, Wales (AKA The Magical Town of Crickadoon) on Monday and will hopefully return with lots of new ideas and sketches.

For now I leave you with a happy moment from last year along with a watercolour of the beautiful Use Valley.

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A Bientôt

A Room With a View…….

Sometimes we visit a new place and feel as if we have known it all our lives….That’s what happened to me when I first visited Crickhowell, Wales in 1993, (aka The Magical Town of Crickadoon), and once again this experience occurred when I visited Saorge, a commune located in the Alpes-Maritimes Department of south eastern France.

A sketch from the view to the right of my bedroom window……watercolour/gouache sketch20-11-15-1-558

20-11-15-1-656As I mentioned in my last post – ‘Following Life’s Clues’  – good friends from Wales have been renting a house in Saorge for the past year and suggested that I visit.    They felt that Saorge encompassed many elements of Marmite Heaven..……my place in the sun:)

The view from my window looking to the left…… Oh the glorious light….. 

20-11-15-1-667After being met at Nice airport by my friend Gareth, we drove up into the mountains along the Italian/French border into what is the magnificent landscape of the Roya Valley.   Being mindful that this was a very short trip, I had to gulp in the dramatic scenery.

As we approached Saorge – one of the ‘Perched Villages’ – it was clear to see how this place has survived the centuries.    Perfectly place to fend off enemies and also part of the ancient Salt Route – which fuelled one of the great economies of Europe.

The view looking down the Roya Valley from my room.   ( Note the train coming through the Valley.)     The roar of the Roya River beneath  is constantly present.     This is a place where all the senses are nourished.

20-11-15-1-580We arrived around  4 p.m. and immediately took a walk through the Village where no cars are allowed.   Parking is available at both ends of the Village.

One of the fascinating elements of Saorge is that on the one side of the Village the views are vast and majestic and then on the other side of the houses – you enter the medieval cobbled lanes which lend a sense of intimacy and protection.

The lane outside of the house where I was staying. 

20-11-15-1-542In the Marmite Heaven of my dreams, I will be removed from the madness of our 21st century world.    I will write every day and  paint a series of portraits recording the people living within the community.    Saorge certainly has a lot of wonderful characters to draw upon.

After a delicious Italian meal at Restaurant Lou Pountin just a minutes stroll away, Gareth and I were joined by his friend Simon.    As we sat on our high perch on the second floor of the house, listening to the Roya River way beneath us and looking out onto a seemingly vast open expanse, I observed how ‘detached’ I felt from everything,  and I was.       Wonderful

One of the views of the approach to Saorge.saorge

I will be writing more about my first visit to Saorge in the next couple of weeks, along with impressions of  the very lovely and interesting people I met, plus cats and dogs……       Also I will be making mention of Monastere de Soarge  which looks over the Village and Roya Valley.    Along with its fascinating history and intrinsic beauty, it is here writers and other creatives gather.

One of the many ancient arches, nooks and crannies in Saorge….watercolour/gouache

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Meanwhile, let it suffice to say that the magical hummingbirds were definitely with me….and just how much they were with me will be revealed in my next blog focusing on our visit to Notre Dame des Fontaines where we met beautiful Miriam, a direct connection to the world of hummingbirds, or in French – Colibris.…..

Soaring above all the madness like the magical hummingbird…..

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A bientôt

 

 

 

A magical visit to The Magical Town of Crickadoon

watercolour capturing the light of Wales. 

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The view  from where I was staying high above The Magical Town of Crickadoon 

20-11-15 - 1 (216)This past weekend I stayed with my very dear friends, Sally and Gareth Reese in their beautiful home.     The house sits high up  overlooking the Usk Valley ….part of the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park.

The landscape is never changing and yet constantly changing. 20-11-15 - 1 (208)I met Sally and Gareth shortly after I moved to Crickhowell 23 years ago….and have  been friends since.    They are some of the warmest most generous people I know.

Gareth, Sally and their son David on a walk through the bluebell woods. 

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The bluebell woods….at Coed-y-Bwnydd – As we walked through the only sounds were those of birds singing…..and the perfume from the bluebells……a feast for the senses.

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I am reminded when I return to Wales of just how much noise and light pollution we live with in London and other big cities.      To hear the sounds of nature so clearly is blissful, and to sleep in such peacefulness brings a quality to life that many have forgotten.

Typical of many Welsh people the Reese family are very musical, especially Sally and David…..In this photograph you can see Sally’s harp…..which she plays beautifully.

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There is  even the family kitty kat…..which is guaranteed to bring a smile to my face:)

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I was reminded of the passage of time, and the importance of making the most of every single day…..Twenty years ago, I painted the three children, Becky, David and Nicky….they were all young teenagers….and now are all married with children of their own.

Watercolour – of Becky 1996  – 17 years old…Now a mother with three children. 

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watercolours of David and Nicky 1996 – teenagers then and now both parents with their own children…..

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Of course we talked about my plans for living in Marmite Heaven – which brought up a new recipe using marmite.     Gareth had heard that peanut butter and marmite work well together….Well yesterday, I tried it….and I love it:  which probably says a lot more about me than the mix….    Unless you are a lover of Marmite…it might be one to avoid:)

A watercolour from the weekend…

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I am off to France next week to see more good friends, and to paint  a group of actors as they rehearse for a production on the 29th.      which means I will write my next blog in a couple of weeks.

A Bientôt