dappled sunlight falling on bluebells and tree trunks in Grovely Wood

An Artist’s Date in Grovely Wood and a Challenge to Myself

Hey there! It’s good to see you here. My name is Lizzie, and I am the redhead who is always wondering! Wondering about life, about this beautiful world, about words and light and colour and form. And mostly about how I can be the best me that I can possibly be.

I am a creator of hand bound books and of art, in the form of cyanotypes and photographs. I am also an avid journal-keeper and I’d like to share some of my journal wonderings with you today ….

A Kick up the Backside

I’m writing this blog today as bit of a kick up the backside to myself. You see, I used to walk an average of maybe ten or fifteen miles every single week. When I was approaching my 50th birthday I was actually the fittest I have ever been, because of all the walking that I did.

Now, as I am getting much nearer to sixty than I am to fifty, I am not walking nearly as much. The last two years of lockdown have not been good for me. Instead of using it as an opportunity to get out there and enjoy the beautiful countryside around my home every day, I used it as an excuse to spend way too long sitting on my backside (the same one that I am now kicking!)

Oh, I know I’ve been growing my business, and that has meant I’ve spent an awful lot of time on my computer, writing, working on photographs, and creating social media posts; I’ve been making cyanotype prints and hand bound books, etc, etc, etc!

But that is no excuse.

When You Wake Up Really Early on a Saturday

On the Saturday of the May Day Bank Holiday, I woke up really early, I mean, ridiculously early for a weekend morning (before 6am!)

So, after I’d done my morning writing, I made myself a coffee to go, and I headed off to Grovely Woods, an ancient woodland that is about a 20-minute drive from my home.

I knew that if I had opened up my laptop, I’d have ended up scrolling through social media, reading emails, and working on things for my business. But this was a bank holiday weekend (Spring Bank Holiday is one of my favourites!), and I was determined that the Saturday was going to be a day of play, a day of fun, a day of relaxation. And being awake so early meant that I could have an Artist’s Date, while my husband slept on (lucky bugger is always able to have a lie in! Me? I rarely sleep past 6am!)

I’d been promising myself an Artist’s Date to the bluebell woods, and here was my chance. If you’re new to my corner of the internet, then you may be wondering just what the heck an “Artist’s Date” actually is …

An Artist’s Date is giving yourself two hours a week where you do something fun or inspiring (and hopefully both!), ON YOUR OWN, with no other objective than to enjoy yourself.

You’re filling yourself up with good thoughts, ideas, inspiration, all of which can feed into your creative work, or your creative life.

If you’d like to read more, you can read the whole blog here.

The Journey is Part of the Date

When I go on an Artist’s Date, it’s not just the “date” itself that’s important and fun. The whole experience, including the journey, is part of it. Oh, and this date was great, right from the start. It was one of those beautiful, frosty Spring mornings that are so full of promise, so I made sure I had a couple of camera batteries and a couple of lenses, a bottle of water and the all-important coffee!

About four miles from home, I came to the bridge over the Avon at Upper Woodford, and I just had to stop to take photographs. The sun was rising, making the water glisten with golden light; mist was drifting across the river and the meadows; a serene swan drifted by. It was just wonderful.

trailing morning in his wake
good morning, Sunshine

the golden morning

I drove on through pretty villages, past curious lambs, passing hardly another soul, and made my way to Grovely Woods.

Ancient Woodland all to Myself

Grovely Wood is one of the largest woodlands in southern Wiltshire. There have been managed woods here for at least a thousand years. There is Iron Age and Roman archaeology in the area, and a Roman road runs east to west through the centre of the wood.

I love how peaceful it is there. It is vast and there are several paths and tracks criss-crossing it, and you can walk for hours without seeing another human.

spring greens and autumn reds on First Broad Drive, Grovely Woods

Walking in Nature is such good therapy, on so many levels. The exercise itself is obviously so good for you … this walk was quite exhausting at first because it’s all uphill, before you get to the paths into woods themselves.

But walking can also be a form of mediation, if you do it mindfully, if you stay in the moment of each step, and not allow your brain to go running off ahead to the jobs you need to do when you’re finished your walk.

I won’t lie and say that I reach a meditative state when I walk (although I have gotten close a few times). For me though, walking in Nature allows me to become the observer, to stop thinking about my “to do” list, and to simply just be.

And Take Photographs, Natch!

You’ve probably realised by now that I am rarely to be found without a camera somewhere nearby, and when I go walking, my camera is in my hand, ready to capture the things that catch my eye and stir my interest and imagination …

…. the play of light through branches and trunks, as it falls on the bluebells

in the bluebell woods, dappled sunlight through trees
a circle of sunlight

… the carpet of bluebells

…. the young roe deer, obviously not too used to people, who didn’t sproing away at first sight of me, but instead stood looking at me for a while, letting me get a little bit closer;

… and another deer who stopped to bark at me before sproinging off

a young roe deer standing on a track through a woodland
a young roe deer standing on a track through a woodland
the other deer
the path to morning

…. and all the intriguing bends in the path that make me walk on and on to see what is just beyond sight.

A Challenge Issued and Accepted

Walking fills me with words and ideas (like the idea for this blog). Walking inspires me to be creative … taking photographs, picking flowers to press and use in my cyanotype prints.

But on this walk, what I really got out if it, was such a feeling of peace … a feeling of how good it was to be moving through the landscape and soaking it all in.

So, I’m writing this blog to set myself a challenge … the challenge of not only getting out and doing a nice long walk in nature, at least once a week, which I have no excuse for not doing, because I live in this most stunning county, and places like Grovely Wood are on my doorstep.

But also, to set myself the challenge of walking at least five times a week.

A woman my age should be doing at least 20 minutes of exercise at least five times a week, for her heart health.

So, that’s what I’m going to do … I’m going to make my heart healthy, and I’m going to fill myself with inspiration and ideas (and probably take a gazillion photographs) while I’m at it.

As I make my way through the last year of my fifties, I will make my way back to that fit person I was at the close of my forties.

And I’m writing this blog about it, not just to share my lovely walk in the woods with you, nor to share the photographs from my drive through the stunning Wiltshire countryside; but as a means of holding myself accountable … I’ve said I’m doing it (the walking thing!) … so now I have to!!

I love mornings like this, when you know that Summer’s coming

If you’d like to know more about me, and my hand bound books, and my journaling journey, and maybe get some tips for your own journaling process, why not sign up for my Wonders out of a Redhead Newsletter. You can sign up here … Wonders out of a Redhead Newsletter

If you’d like to see more of my photographs, why not check out my Flickr page.

I also share my journaling journey and my photographs on my Facebook page and on Instagram … why not come and join me?!

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