'I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out 'til sundown, for going out, I found was really going in.' John Muir

I've seen the top of Everest (from a long way off), smelled the breath of a whale (from way too close) and lived on a boat in Greece (for a few years), but I continue to experience some of my most precious moments right outside my backdoor.

If comments are proving difficult to do, please email me; sleepysparrow@yahoo.co.uk

Monday, 22 December 2014

Winter Solstice Celebration

On the shortest day the dawn chorus filled my bedroom and for a moment I thought I was lying on a mossy woodland floor looking up at the bud-thick branches of oaks against a spring-blue sky, but it was only my CD alarm clock, set to wake me slowly and easily at 7.30am. I stretched and smiled thinking; from now on, little by little, the days will get longer. 

Clutching lemon tea, I watched the birds on the feeder – mostly blue tits and sparrows, swinging and clinging and swapping places like an acrobat troupe, I could almost hear circus music.  And then, in a flurry of pink, a puff of long-tailed tits appeared.  With slight-of-wing, they landed, lifted off, landed, criss-crossed each other and seemed to alight on each branch of the old cherry tree for seconds. Then suddenly, they were gone.  Fleeting, exciting, breathtaking – a bit like life.

A plump female blackbird maintained her dignity as she balanced on a thin branch of the new crab apple tree, leaned across and plucked a tiny yellow fruit.  She brought it to the patio and chased it over the paving slabs before stabbing it with her knife-thrower's beak.  Later I found the empty skin glowing like a tiny sun amongst the dark and slimy leaves.

A ringmaster dunnock strutted around the base of the tree, piping in the next act.  I glanced around to see who would enter and spotted a nuthatch in its steely-blue cape, mousing down the tree trunk before it completely disappeared –no drum roll, no smoke, no mirrors.

Ambling around the garden I found some early Christmas gifts...


Saturday, 13 December 2014

More Slow Adventures from Home.

We had a hard choice this morning, fight our way to the shops and get mixed up in craziness or wrap up warm and head for the hills.  No contest.  And when you only live a hop, skip and a jump from an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the sky is as blue as a robin's egg and the earth is all crunchy, it's even easier to choose the hills.

We didn't take a flask and buns this time, we knew the Shepherd's Hut would be at the top car park at the start of the walk up Moel Famau in the glorious Clwydian Hills.  

The little corrugated hut was tucked into its usual corner and the chimney was smoking.  But we had to earn our treat, though it was no hardship walking up that lovely hill.  We had plenty of smiling company as quite a lot of people had chosen to walk the wide aisle to the top of the hill rather than struggle up the supermarket aisle.

In the distance, the hills of Snowdonia glistened.  We watched a kestrel looking for a meal.  He hung in the ice-blue sky like he was being dangled from invisible wire. If it snows, he'll find it very difficult to find food.  Kestrels see in ultra violet and they hunt by following the ultraviolet light reflected off the urine trails of dribbling voles!

And then a human kestrel came into view!

Back down at the welcoming Shepherd's Hut, we had thick hot chocolate with gooey marshmallows and THE most delicious little cakes.  I had lemon, Charlie had chocolate.  We were supposed to share but they were so good, we didn't. 

The wood burning stove was full on and even though we sat outside in the icy air, the lovely Hut owners had thoughtfully placed the table and chairs next to the nifty little hole in the side of the hut and we could just feel the heat from the cosy stove. I rummaged through the fabulous local products they have on sale, rubbed on some muscle and joint oil (smelled delicious), flicked through the stunning hand made cards then picked up leaflets about wilderness skills and the history of Moel Famau before leaving, with the promise to return on New Year's Eve when the hut will be twinkling and serving warm fruit punch to welcome in 2015.  Fancy joining us?





Friday, 5 December 2014

December's Slow Treats...

No Black Friday in the Clwydian Hills, only gold and copper and red and lilac.

And if you half closed your eyes, the landscape could even look a little like this collage I made at a lovely community art class in my village...

with scrunched up magazine pages, hand-inked paper and Ferrero Rocher wrappings, which of course I had to eat first!

Monday, 10 November 2014


The Flintshire coastline in winter is lovely, there's a castle, a lighthouse, an old ship and wide,wide skies.  I love ambling along the shore picking up driftwood, stones, shells, listening to the 'kleep,kleep' of oystercatchers and the soft 'tew' of redshanks, watching rafts of common scoters bobbing like bath toys on the calm blue sea.

I stuffed my pockets with enough flotsam to make these things for the village Xmas Fair.


Sunday, 9 November 2014


The church bell chimed 100 times then the bugler played the last post as the Red Dragon fluttered in the soft breeze and a couple of gulls wheeled in the clear blue sky. 100 years since the start of WW1, 70 years since D-Day.  We go to a Remembrance service every year, this year it was noticeable how few veterans from WW2 were present. 
When Charlie's Dad died aged 86, we were clearing out his things from the old coal shed where he used to keep his fishing tackle and work boots. His cap hung on a nail on the back of the immaculately painted door and on the top shelf, amongst neatly labelled tins of drill bits and washers, I found this little pot of sand...

I struggle to imagine him landing on that beach in June 1944 and stopping to scoop up some sand.    Back home in Liverpool, his wife was pregnant with their third child (my husband, Charlie).  Had he taken a bullet that day, as many of his comrades did, my Charlie would never have known his Dad.
 Thanks Pop xx

Friday, 7 November 2014

And Today...

... I've been a Guinea Pig, for the Health and Beauty Department of my local college.  For £10 I had a muscle melting Swedish Massage.  Ceri spent an hour loosening the knots between my shoulder blades, formed after helping to construct a giant storytelling chair on Wednesday.  I've booked in for two more sessions and put my name down for a course of Reflexology treatments in January. 

Explore your nearest college and see what they have to offer, hairdressing, beauty treatments, holistic therapies, all at a fraction of the cost of a salon. 

I floated home like a cloud

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Thursdays are good...

Yoga with Birds
Pose of a tree
For an hour every Thursday
I’m a cat, a dog, a mountain, a child.
While I breathe wide and watch the sky
through the space between my knees,
goldfinch, robin, wagtail and gull,

wrap me in a rainbow of song.



Wednesday, 5 November 2014


The sky was the colour of a blue tit's wings.  Hawthorn berries glistened like rubies. Goldfinches tinkled overhead, reeds rustled in the soft breeze and the damp earth smelled like wild mushroom soup and crusty bread.  My senses tingled.  But what if my senses were impaired in some way? 
I tried to imagine not hearing the soft whistle of a bullfinch, the mewing of a buzzard, not being able to see berries and gold autumn leaves...
These were my thoughts as I helped in the construction of a sensory garden in my local nature reserve.  Today we made a giant story telling chair and raised beds to be filled with plants to touch and smell.  There'll be lots more features when funding allows.
And when I came home at 4.30pm, the moon was already glowing behind my favourite birch tree so I went for a walk up the lane, with my moonshadow and a tawny owl for company.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Snow - or is it?

Today the first snow fell in the mountains of Snowdonia, not far from where I live.  The white capped hills reminded me of another white-capped rock I saw back in the summer...

It’s hard to describe but imagine the sound of 1000 people gargling; the smell of old spilt milk, the taste of wind-blown salt on your lips, the warm feel of varnished wood under your fingers and the sight of 100,000 gannets swarming like white flies over a huge iced bun.  
That was a boat trip to Bass Rock, thirty minutes from Edinburgh and one of the best wildlife spectacles in the world according to David Attenborough, and me.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Night Bird

Autumn is a time of movement, leaves flutter, conkers thud, spiders speed across the carpet, birds come and go.  So far it’s been kind of slow and mellow and filled with mist and robin's song.  Even some chiff-chaffs have
loitered and I saw a high swarm of swallows the other day, reluctant to leave whilst the weather’s soft and insect clouds linger. 

Outside, a couple of robins are trying to out-sing each other.  One warbles, there’s a second’s silence before another trills - louder. This birdie X Factor is lovely for me, sitting on the step nursing a cup of tea, but it’s a serious business for them, whoever wins will get my garden and a steady supply of worms, berries and the odd bit of cheese.  I watch one in our rowan tree, head thrown back, elderberry eyes glistening, red throat pulsing, spilling song from its needle beak.  He sings at 5 a.m. and is there again at dusk when I close the blinds. Of course, it could be a ‘she’ they both look the same and both sing in winter apparently.
These robins are lucky, it’s peaceful here and there aren’t many street lights, though they may be fooled by the moon into thinking it is daylight every now and again.  I heard a robin singing at 3 a.m. during the September Super Moon. City birds aren’t so lucky.  Streetlights make it seem like daylight, their body clocks get confused and they wake up.  Once awake, they sing and when one sings, the others join in, to defend their territories.  And as if that weren't confusing enough, a study in Sheffield found that birds in noisy areas were more likely to sing at night as their songs could not be heard during the day.  It seems that birds are having to adapt their behaviour to cope with modern life.  They can’t hang black-out blinds and wear wax ear plugs like me. Singing burns calories and such a tiny bird needs to conserve energy, especially during the winter.  Small birds need their sleep, maybe not the 8 hours I need but I’m sure it can’t be healthy for them to stay up singing most of the night. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Vitamin Sea

Pensarn Beach, Abergele is a fine place to go for a dose of Vitamin Sea.  It’s an SSSI, site of special scientific interest - because of its vegetated shingle bank, which is the best example of this feature in North Wales.  The smooth, rounded pebbles are all shades of grey, green, blue and plum and strewn with blue-green sea kale, silvery sea holly, sun-yellow trefoil, paper-white sea campion and sweet smelling wild roses. 
At the tide line, bickering oystercatchers flicker in black and white like the end of old movie reels.

Rafts of black ducks bob in the green water.  The information board confirms them as Common Scoter. They’re not that common really but they get thousands and thousands here over the winter.

I keep an eye out for the splash of porpoises.  A group of sea-skimming cormorants fly across the lenses of my binoculars, followed by two kleeping oystercatchers and a peeping ringed plover.  A small section of beach is roped off to protect the ringed plover nests and I watch a fluffy mottled chick whizzing over the stones like a clockwork toy.

Off shore, windturbines slice through the sky like circus knife throwers.

The pebbles are lovely to play with and before I know it, two hours have passed and it’s time for a chip butty on a bench with a view of bright plastic spades, twirling pink windmills and blue beach balls. Beaches are good places to be Slow.


Friday, 4 July 2014

River of Time - a landscape art project connecting past and present

Facebook flashed up a message from Discover Flintshire about a special evening event at Loggerheads Country park so rather than fall asleep in front of the telly, I pulled on my wellies and headed into the dusk.
It’s exciting to be out in the woods at night.  Even the house martins were tucked up in their nests above the shop.  After the rain, the air felt heavy and wet and the pungent smell of wild garlic made my nose twitch.The trees dripped and mist hung over the lime stone cliffs transforming the woods into a mystical rainforest.
At the candle-lit Mill, we watched Sean Harris’ animation of
ghostly reindeer, inspired by a 12,000 year old carving. 

We were given tiny tea-lights and followed a trickle of people along the rain-swelled River Alyn.  There’s something magical about candles, lots of them had already been placed along the path and the woods twinkled.  A grey wagtail danced on river stones, its tail flickering like the candles and screens, suspended across the River like a magic lantern, showed flickering images of reindeer, elk and aurochs, animals that would have roamed here thousands of years ago.  Their bones have been found in caves only a mile away.
We lit our candles and were invited to place them wherever we chose.  I spent some time selecting just the right spot, noticing where other people had put theirs.  Some were tucked in tiny crevices in the limestone, some in tree holes, some on mossy logs, some stood alone and others in family groups.
Standing in the peaceful glow of candles, fat rain drops rolling off glistening leaves and bats flitting through the misty tree canopy, I felt connected to the ancient past.  The River bubbled and gurgled, carving its way through the limestone as it must have done for centuries, and if I half closed my eyes, I could definitely imagine an elk lowering its huge head to take a drink.
Thanks to Sean, Ruthin Craft Centre and Denbighshire Countryside Service for a lovely event.
More about Sean Harris www.wildboarpress.com

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Wild World Cup

I walk to Coed y Felin to avoid the football, but even there there’s no escape.  I see leaping squirrels, more agile than any goal keeper and gangs of sparrows like noisy footy fans, rampage through the hazel hedges. A grey wagtail in its high viz jacket struts and flicks like a crowd marshal. A crow watches from the side lines, hunched and frowning, like Roy Hodgson.  Then a sparrowhawk makes a lunge at its pigeon goal just as a swift swoops in like Suarez, the pigeon escapes and the wren referee sounds its ear-splitting whistle.

So I go to the beach at Gronant where it’s wide and wild and I might see little terns.

I’m welcomed by a choir of skylarks. Their endless song is too sweet to be compared to a footy anthem.   I pass ponds that shelter newts and natter jack toads, swallows swoop over rippling grasses and I feel like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road as I follow the boardwalk towards the sea.  Pyramidal orchids glow either side of the boardwalk like the solar lights along my garden path and blue-grey sea holly is about to burst open, providing a sweet feast for red and black burnet moths. 
Then I hear the familiar high-pitched creaky chatter and I look up to see a little tern flapping jerkily above me, luminous and glowing in the white hot sun.  I love these little birds, they’re feisty for their size and with black zorro masks they seem to slice up the sky.  And they need to be feisty, during their short breeding season, they have to contend with crows, gulls, foxes and high tides.  The warden is out doing nest counts, he says they’re doing OK but there’s a kestrel around causing problems.

Today the tide is far out and the birds have a long way to go to find food.  I watch one fly back from the frothy sea with a tiny silver fish in its beak.  But distance is no problem for little terns; they fly 4000 miles from the West Coast of Africa to nest here every year. 

Escorted by creaking little terns, I make an epic journey of my own, all the way down to the sea to paddle. The sun burns my ears and the wind ruffles my hair and when I eventually arrive at the water’s edge, the shenanigans in Brazil seem far, far away....


Monday, 2 June 2014

No Place Like Home

Sometimes I need help to appreciate my own backyard.  Like Dorothy, it takes a journey over the rainbow and a few adventures before I remember ‘there’s no place like home’.
It’s good to be still after 4000 miles in the campervan.

I'm not the only one who's come home.Wading through bluebells at Coed y Felin I hear a pied fly-catcher.  I’m always startled at how they find their way from Africa to this small patch of Flintshire woodland.  A dapper male sings, 'tree-tree, once more I come to thee.' 

While shopping for plants in Mold market, I hear swifts screaming overhead. Young swifts spend their first two or three years in constant flight.  I grin at them charging up and down the high street sky like a gang of teenagers. 

I visit Moel Famau where
the call of a cuckoo fills the spaces between the clouds. People stop on the hill,tilt their heads to one side and smile. Skylarks sing high over acid green bilberry shrubs that promise a tongue-staining bounty in late summer. 

Drinking tea at the welcoming Shepherd's Hut, I watch small children tumble down the heathery hill as a willow warbler tumbles down the scales. 

At my Yoga class we do an invigorating sequence that involves firing an arrow and hurling a thunderbolt. It’s about aiming for goals and achieving them.

Right now my goal is to simply ‘BE’ and there’s no better place to be than at home in Flintshire.
Dru Yoga  www.druworldwide.com

Thursday, 22 May 2014

A Bit More of Greece (final blog from our slow campervan trip)

Having zig-zagged up and up from Corinth, spent a night with singing frogs, chattering warblers and gliding marsh harriers at Stymfalia Lake (or was it the Ngorongoro crater?)

and another night at snow level, (1400m)

 we helter-skeltered our way down again, 

and our last day in Greece, Good Friday, found us on the coast in Diakopto, overlooking the Gulf of Patras. 

Easter in Greece is magic.  The village church was full and people spilled out into the courtyard. Kids zoomed around like the screaming swifts above them, men flicked worry beads, women linked arms under the darkening sky, the air was heavy with the droning of the priest.  At 9pm the church bells rang, not a joyful peeling but a sad, flat clanging.  A procession filed out of the church and the crowds of people lining the road side tagged on to the back of it.  Four men carried a funeral bier decorated with creamy orchid fronds, a dozen singing girls led the way and the solemn-faced priest followed.  We followed too, around the village, up and down narrow streets. The procession stopped outside a bar,the byre was turned full circle,the priest chanted and then all went slowly back to the church.  We stayed at the bar with two 5 star Metaxa brandies and were presented with nutty chocolates wrapped in silver paper. 
Next morning, our last in Greece, I took some orchids I'd found on the pavement to the tiny beach-side chapel.  As I placed them in an alcove, a woman shouted and pointed out into the Gulf, 'Dolphins!'  Five broke the surface, silver and shining, like the chocolate wrapping from last night. A parting gift from Poseidon.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Greece, wonderful Greece.... (more from our slow campervan trip)

Greece is –  

Poppies so vibrant they seem to crackle and buzz like an electricity sub station.

Sea, blue and wavy as the Greek flag outside a sleepy taverna .
Ice cold retsina wine that makes your mouth shrivel and purse like a sea anemone when the tide has gone out.
Wild flowers that dip and sway in the breeze like dancers  at a Greek wedding.
Finding secret mountain churches with faded blue and gold frescos, and a peace like nothing on earth.
Sunsets the colour of the amber honey sold at the roadside.
Oranges so fresh and sweet it’s like sucking the juice from the sun.