Just south of York lies the pretty village of Stillingfleet and at its heart is Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens, a beautiful, natural garden owned and run by Vanessa and John Cook.

I will be exhibiting there from 1st–29th September, and will be visiting the gardens throughout the year to record it with sketches and paintings. This post will be my ongoing record of my work through the year and will be updated regularly.

The exhibition will consist mainly of my graphite and watercolour works on paper, and will also include works from my recent Rhinogydd series.


My first visit was on a freezing cold February day. Lynne (Roebuck) and I managed about four hours before losing feeling in our feet, but managed to get a feel for the place. Donald, the Bengal cat kept us company, as did the very stylish bantams. The guineafowl proved elusive and kept running off as soon as I got my sketch pad out, but I remain determined to get the little devils before the year’s out!

Witch Hazel at Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens

Witch Hazel. I love the ragged forms and bright shots of yellow on bare stems

Snowdrops at Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens

Snowdrops. The gardens were filled with different types of snowdrops, forming carpets of white under the trees

Snowdrop Walk at Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens

Snowdrops and aconites under the trees in the Woodland Walk

Crocuses in the lawn at Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens

Crocuses in the lawn of The Avenue. Bright purples next to bare trees

Chickens with attitude! This little lady kept me company for most of my visit

Funky chicken (Silkie) at Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens

Funky chicken. The Silkie bantams rocked this do!

Chickens at Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens

I really love chickens! Their shapes are never quite as you image them to be

Eating worms at Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens

Eating worms

Winter grasses and seed heads at Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens

Winter grasses and seed heads. This might become a more abstract piece

All I managed to catch of the guineafowl! Acrylic and graphite on paper

Guineafowl feather (detail)

Guineafowl feather (detail)


After being ‘rained off’ for most of the spring, I returned on a hot day in June. Ironically, after such a wet spring, the ground was now bone-dry, but the flowers were out in abundance. The guineafowl could be heard, taunting me, from the other side of the fence. I didn’t try and draw them this time – I’m still determined to get them before I’m done though!

Front garden in the sunshine

The Front Garden in the hot June sun

Hot red and purples

Hot red and purples

Blue thistles

Blue eryngiums

Ornamental hogweed

Ornamental hogweed


I went back to draw the gorgeous white eryngiums. It was a bit cooler this time, so I could sit in the Pear Tree garden without burning (it’s a sun-trap). I love the graphic shapes or eryngium flowers, and the negative spaces they create against the darker backdrop. They are almost luminous.

Black and white graphite study – the flowers are almost luminous against the darker background, and I love the graphic shapes (and negative spaces) they form

Black and white graphite study

White eryngiums

White eryngiums

Back again on an overcast, humid day and the midges were biting, but the garden was as beautiful as ever. Particularly drawn to the fat, red cherries on the ivy-clad wall by the house and the fragrant sweet peas with their wild tendrils.

I still want to paint the huge thistles, but I’m aware that I’m naturally drawn to drawing spiky or dead things(!), so I forced myself to paint softer subjects this time.

Ripening cherries on the ivy wall.

Ripe red cherries on the ivy wall of the Wattle Garden

Sweet peas

Fragrant sweet peas

Summer border

Summer borders in The Avenue