When’s the best time to visit Essex?

If anyone were to ask me “when’s the best time to visit Essex?” I would unhesitatingly urge them to jump on a plane today and come straight over without delay because May is definitely the best time to visit Essex.

the farm from across the fields

In May, the wheat fields look green and lush, though don’t walk around them with a farmer because he’ll point out every patch of blackgrass that’s about to break above the wheat crop.

pink hawthorn flowers

Around the fields, the hedgerows are in full leaf with elderflowers and wild roses just opening as the hawthorn blossom starts to fade a little. Most of the hawthorn blossom around here is white but we have patches of gorgeous pink flowers that look like a confection of raspberries crushed into cream. Sadly, their scent doesn’t match their prettiness, being rather sickly and clinging. According to Culpeper “the distilled water of the flowers stays the lax” and if “applied to any place pierced with thorns or splinters, it will draw them out.” Failing that, you could make a cordial with hawthorn flowers, though it’s too late round here to do that  and it would be better to wait a week or two for the elderflowers.

towards blackley lane

Everywhere you go, you can be sure to find cow parsley. Roadside verges, field edges, churchyards and woodland edges are filled with the froth of the white umbrella like clusters of flowers. Cow parsley is one of my favourite plants to use for jelly printing.

bridleway sign against tree

May is the perfect time to take a walk through Essex, when it’s sunny but not too hot and should be firm underfoot. Coloured discs mark the public rights of way – blue for bridleways and yellow for footpaths – that criss-cross the county, along the coast and through the countryside, linking villages and towns.



Or maybe you could find somewhere quiet and secluded to pass a little time. To relax and listen to the birds sing. Perhaps to sip a small fruit gin flavoured with flowers or berries from the surrounding countryside …

Quick! Book your ticket now!

You might also be interested in:

Slamseys Fruit Gin

Hiking the Essex Way for Essex Girls

How to make Jelly Prints





Looking for Inspiration

cow parsley under trees


One of the best things about having a daughter who runs printmaking workshops is that I get the chance to faff about with inks and paper and bits of lino. Ruth will call me to say the heating is on in the barn and she’s printing, so why don’t I pop over and join her. Off I trot, put on an apron, sit at a table, lay out a sheet of clean paper, sharpen my pencil, arrange the crayons in rainbow order, set out a neat line of cutting tools, make a cup of coffee … anything but commit pencil to paper as my mind has gone blank. The recent inactivity here on the blog may perhaps be reflected in my tidy and well organised desk. Even the paperclips are neatly sorted into a tin.

I’m not alone. Some of the people who take part in the printmaking workshops arrive with sketchbooks and folders filled with designs and ideas but there are also others like me who arrive with an enthusiasm to print, but no idea of what to print. We need a springboard to find our inspiration.

Looking for inspiration

This is one of the ideas we’ve had for providing a bit of a springboard.

Consequently, taking a piece of my own advice, I’ve been …

West Mersea seaside

taking a walk by the sea,

drain cover

looking down to find patterns,

horse chestnut blossom on grass

noticing the beautiful colour of the horse chestnut blossom blown onto the grass,


exploring the textures and shapes of the stones beneath my feet,

hawthorn flowers

looking up through the hawthorn blossom at the blue sky (but wishing it would turn grey and rain),

inside old farm building

peering inside empty old farm buildings, feeling the texture of the rough walls and watching the dust dance in the sunlight.

a quiet place to sit

Finally,  finding a quiet place to sit on an ivy covered tree trunk surrounded by cow parsley. I now have some ideas running through my mind for printmaking, though I’m not sure it’s helped much with blog posts.

Next, I need some inspiration for supper. Perhaps a walk first …



Where do you find your inspiration?


Diary of an Essex week

bunch of spring flowers

The Essex House at Wrabness

Sister has rented the Grayson Perry designed House for Essex for weekend and invited selected persons to share experience. Delighted to be one of said selected persons and sally forth to wilds of Wrabness. Amazed and entranced by house. Ponder ways of introducing infinity mirror corridor and moped chandelier into own house.

House party sets forth on walk to Mistley for lunch. Soon realise that map dismissed as unnecessary would be quite useful and inadvertently blueblaze the Essex Way. After few miles, decided not to follow leading sisters and cousins through marshy ground but lead renegade group along byway. Slightly surprised later to discover that sisters hadn’t immediately noticed their slightly ancient mother was no longer following. Less surprised when passing zorbing activity that mother expresses interest in having a go. Noted for future days out. Finally reach destination, meet others who had to retrace steps and are now behind us, have delicious lunch and catch train back.

Later in weekend, discover others have spent Saturday night ramming farm gates and thieving. Consult with neighbouring farmers and discover we were not sole targets. Much swearing and denouncing of certain sort of person. Considerable time spent by all over next few days dealing with consequences and building up further defences.

Relieved that expiring central heating boiler in house is replaced as enormous new red monster burner finally fired up. Downside – can hear money burning as each wood pellet pings into burner. Upside – house is warm. Charming young man explains thermostat programmer. Tells me he has set temperature low and I should turn up thermostat over coming days until comfortable ambient temperature reached. Spend next few days turning thermostat down and still hit by bank of warm air when opening door to sitting room. More fine tuning to do.

spring flowers lino print

Join Ruth on tester printmaking course. Told to arrive with nothing more than open mind. And, if time, please bring cake. Spend two days day making artful displays with flowers, drawing, mixing colours and printing. End course enthused and brimming with ideas for future printmaking. Make Steller story of experience. Ruth very critical of efforts and redoes story.

Upset today when Bill finds one of the guinea fowl has been run over and left dead on farm chase. Not overly surprised as guinea fowl have tendency to run towards and not away from oncoming vehicles but would prefer the driver had stopped or swerved to avoid it. Rather wish it had been the jay that wakes us every morning as it bashes its beak on windows around the house. Resolve to have stiff words about road safety with remaining guinea fowl when shutting them up tonight.



You can read the Steller story here.