Back in stock!


Happy Monday! After lots of (very lovely) requests over the last couple of years, I’m very pleased to reveal that I have designed a brand NEW range of my greetings cards, inspired by foraging and the wild creatures we share our landscape with.

It’s been a while since I’ve produced cards – the process is surprisingly time-consuming and when I was working full time it just wasn’t viable. Fortunately I’ve now gone freelance, which means I have more time to pursue the things I love! The designs are based on some of our most iconic species of wildlife, and the edible plants that we share with them. These include:

• A dormouse sleeping in a nest of hazel leaves
• A comma butterfly feeding on a wild marjoram flower
• A redwing on the hawthorn berries in winter
• A badger hiding in the wild garlic

I wanted to create a set of designs that accompany my new book Food You Can Forage, which is out now with Bloomsbury. Each of the four designs are matched to a British season, and all cards are blank inside for multiple uses. The packaging is also plastic-free and fully recyclable. They are available to buy through the SHOP tab at the top of my website, or by clicking here. Enjoy!

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Poke Pudding


The BBC told me it would feel like -6°C today, but I assumed I knew better and decided to go for a run in the snow, which was very unpleasant and gave me a headache. I did, however, find a redshank pottering about in the weeds, and the lake looked very beautiful as it started to freeze over. A coot tried to land in the water and slid over an ice float (amusing).

On returning to the warmth of the flat, I spent the rest of the day wrapped in jumpers, writing about rivers and listening to a favourite Poirot (Cat Among the Pigeons). The day was interspersed with lovely snow flurries, and between them I watched the birds seek shelter in our tree. The long-tailed tits were hanging about, also known by the folk name of ‘poke puddings’ due to their round little bodies, and they are usually so wriggly I find it impossible to take their photo. But today, with the poor weather, I managed to catch this one clinging to a budding twig. Hurry up, spring!




It wasn’t my brightest idea to get my hair cut on Friday, on possibly the coldest week of the year so far. I had a good inch or two snipped off to bring me back up to shoulder length (choppy for spring), but now my neck is exposed and I’m feeling very sorry for myself.

This morning we sipped coffee and watched the sparrows on the sofa, revelling in the sunshine without actually facing the subzero temperatures. Eventually the sunshine was too tempting, but to cope with the cold we decided to run a 6-mile loop through Steep and Sheet, where we could see the Poet Stone from the road and the birds called down to us in the winter sun. By the end our bodies were so warm, and the sunshine so bright, that if we closed our eyes we were transported to the pub garden in mid-July.


In the evening I made the warmest, most comforting meal I could think of. In July we’d picked wild marjoram and dried a few sprigs in a jar, to revive the flavour of summer in any season. I ground the dried leaves and flowers into a batch of dough and made a crispy garlic focaccia. With the collection of root vegetables we had rolling around in the fridge, I brewed a spicy soup with carrots, parsnips, sweet potato, onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, thyme, sage, cider vinegar and borlotti beans, with a scoop of yoghurt swirled in for flavour. On the side, a glass of tonic with homemade rhubarb & lime gin infused with the rhubarb glut from June.

Keep warm, friends!


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The Home Office: Threads


I recently made the decision to leave my beloved job, and finally take the plunge to try living as a freelance writer and artist before I’m burdened with a mortgage or offspring. I’m technically still employed until next Wednesday, but I’ve had this week off (holiday to take) – so this is the beginning, really! A new beginning, and a new life.

To celebrate this I decided to take a closer look at how I run my home, from the coffee I drink to the way I wash my clothes. It’s a space not just for sloe gin and bananagrams, but now my office too, and since I’ll be spending so much time here, writing, painting, cooking, keeping warm and keeping the flat tidy, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to revamp my living/working space and make a few more ethical choices.


I decided to start easy. The other day I was trying to get dressed for the pub, and I became so irrationally enraged at not finding something to wear, I declared there and then to revamp my entire wardrobe. Over the last few months I’d been running, cutting down on sugar and booze, and generally trying to feed my belly good stuff, and consequently my body was now smaller than yesteryear. Great! But it also meant lots of my old clothes didn’t fit or flatter my shape, and I’d had enough. Enough of clinging onto horrible old jumpers for nostalgia, and keeping endless pairs of tights because I just couldn’t be bothered to sort through the ladders.

Last weekend, I went through every item of clothing I owned and took two thirds of my wardrobe to the charity shop in big, delicious bags. I won’t pretend it wasn’t hard, trying to decide whether I still needed my lime green Duke of Edinburgh polo shirt from secondary school (NO). But afterwards, with just a few beautiful garments left on the shelves, I felt wonderfully free. I’ve always tried to follow this pearl of wisdom from William Morris: ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ I had rid myself of every item I would never wear, and now I could start anew.

Upon squashing the bags into the arms of a fragile old lady in Sue Ryder, I then enjoyed an hour of guilt-free charity shopping as I closed the loop on my wardrobe revamp. I had given my clothes away to someone who would appreciate them, and could restock with second-hand, well-loved clothes from someone else. Each week I now wander into town and hunt for another bargain, rather than feeding the fast fashion monster we are all inevitably drawn towards.

Today’s treat (above) was an ivory Zara shirt in Moroccan print for £4 from Dog’s Trust. Divine!

The Black Redstart


Isn’t February just the worst? This time last year I was in Goa on the west coast of India, drinking piña coladas every morning and swimming in warm seas under soaring ospreys. This year life is quite different; rather than relaxing in the heat and finishing the manuscript for my first book, I’m tying off the loose ends at my job and preparing to go freelance at the end of the month. I am, as someone observed yesterday, ‘chomping at the bit’ to start freelance life, but for now I must absorb the last grey days of February and look desperately for signs of spring.

On Sunday we hiked for eight miles to a small village that lies along the valley of the River Meon in Hampshire. This area has housed a hugely successful conservation project over the last few years, after American mink were eradicated from the river and our native water voles reintroduced. In 2008, water voles became locally extinct to the Meon through pollution, habitat loss and hunting by the non-native mink, released into the countryside decades ago when fur farms started to close. Around 3,000 water voles were released back into the river over a five year period, and the population is now self-sustaining.

No voles for us, but we did find red kites, yellowhammers, long tailed tits, buzzards, kestrels and a grey wagtail. When we reached the edge of East Meon, we stopped to eat lunch on a stone wall beside the stream and watched a wren sneaking through the shrubs on the bank, and as we ate, another bird hopped onto the wall several feet ahead of us. He was slate grey, almost blue in the afternoon light, with a red tail that flashed as he flew past. I am the worst birder in the world – terrible at any kind of identification – but I was sure we’d found a black redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros). After refusing to pose for a portrait, I managed to snap him as he stared across the river, and confirmed through the magic of Twitter that he was indeed a black redstart! With fewer than 100 breeding pairs in Britain, this sharp, little male was the perfect tonic to what is otherwise an absolute slump of a month.


The Zig-Zag


I recently moved back into my old flat after a complicated few months away, and now spend most quiet moments by the window with a fresh coffee, watching the long-tailed tits irritate the pigeons that roost in the tree outside. I’m back where I should be, and it feels cathartic to reflect on the chain of events that took me away and brought me back. When I retrieved all my boxes from various spare rooms, I made a decision to bring all my books with me instead of the stunted selection I had previously kept portable. I feel stranded without my books, but I had always kept a ceiling-high bookshelf in my parents’ spare room, simply because I couldn’t be bothered to move them. This time, embarking on what is known as a ‘fresh start’, I made a new space for them in our little living room, and spent two horrific hours trying to transport a pine bookcase single-handed from my mum’s spare room to our first floor flat. Praise be to our kindly neighbour who helped me up the last few steps before I collapsed in an emotional heap.

One of my new additions is a beautiful clothbound edition of Gilbert White’s The Natural History of Selborne, which I once found in a second-hand bookshop in Alton, near the village of Selborne where Gilbert White lived. He was an eighteenth-century amateur naturalist and ornithologist, celebrated for observing the changing signs of each season – when the swifts returned each year, and when the snakes shed their skins. I’m lucky enough to live in the same area as Gilbert once did, and the village of Selborne has become an entirely happy place for me. We often take tea in the tea parlour, and visit the house to buy plants or skip down the ha-ha in the garden – my favourite thing is the stuffed nightjar in the hall that White referred to as a ‘fern owl’.




The woods, winter to spring

On Sunday afternoon, we drove to Selborne for a walk up Gilbert ‘Zig-Zag’ path. It’s a lightning-shaped track carved into the hill behind the main house, created by Gilbert and his brother. When you reach the top (inevitably breathless), there are views over Selborne and the Oakhanger woods; on Sunday the air was so cold it was painful to inhale, but the sky was bright cerulean and sponged with clouds. At the summit we watched coal tits flit between a creaking birch and the dark fronds of a yew tree, and then descended into the hanger, a sloping, earthy woodland that tumbles down onto the meadow of Gilbert White’s beautiful garden.


View from the top of the Zig-Zag

One month to go!


Today marks ONE MONTH until the publication of my first book Food You Can Forage!

To celebrate, we went foraging for seaweed along Bosham Harbour in West Sussex. Foraging wild food is fun, free and easy – a different way to embrace the outdoors and get to know the plants and wildlife of Britain – and everyone can do it! We found fronds of bladderwrack in the harbour and turned them into crusty rolls for lunch.

You can find more tips, photos, illustrations and recipes in my new book ‘Food You Can Forage’ – published with Bloomsbury books on 8th March and available to pre-order today here.

Votes for Women!


The centenary of women’s suffrage has been a real cause for celebration this week, as 100 years ago British suffragists campaigned to allow women over 30 (who were married or property owners) to vote in parliamentary elections. This was, of course, the result of decades of protests and just the start of equal rights for women, and I think most forward-thinking people would agree we still have a long road ahead in terms of gender equality.

However, this centenary marks the triumph of the men and women who fought to rid Britain of inequality, and I was very proud to be asked to speak at the Petersfield Museum‘s fantastic centenary event on the ‘Inspirational Women of Petersfield’. I spoke about my journey from a blogger to published author, and it was an amazing start to a busy year of talks for me as I look forward to promoting my first book which is published in just one month(!)

It was also a privilege to hear from the other speakers who explored the lives of celebrated artist Flora Twort, Bedales school founder and suffragette Amy Garrett Badley, and renowned conductor Kathleen Merritt. The museum have an awesome programme of walks, talks & events this year, so take a look at their website for more information. I’ll be talking there again later in the year, and you can see the rest of my events calendar here.


Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas


I’ve been keeping this quiet since filming in September, but last Monday I appeared on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas on Channel 4! I took part in the ‘Christmas Hamper’ episode of the new series, creating a ‘Wild Winter Feast’ themed selection of items all based around foraged and natural foods. It was lovely to be able to champion wild food and ingredients found around the countryside, and I’m delighted to reveal that I won the award for best hamper!

My items were a sticky wild cranberry & orange cake, spiced elderberry mead, fresh goat’s cheese with chives, seaweed & rosemary crackers and blackberry chutney. The three ladies I ran against provided fierce competition and I’m amazed I managed to win against such a brilliant selection of original and delicious hampers. You can find Tahmina’s Kookcha Afghan jams here, Karen’s amazing blog Larder Love here, and Emily’s Modern Family Food here.

Watch the episode on catch-up here – and if you liked the look of my recipes you can now pre-order my book Food You Can Forage here!

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Mullein for Moths


I’m still recovering from an awesome weekend at Spurn Bird Observatory for their annual migration festival – tons of amazing birds (wryneck was my fave), plus a chance to hang out with my favourite nature nerds and drink too much ginger wine (no regrets). Go there if you can – it’s wicked.

So this morning I was happy to escape the office and work outside on a project with Fiona Haynes, Conservation Officer from Butterfly Conservation. Our farm is in the South Downs National Park, and due to the surrounding farms restricting their use of pesticides, we have a load of cool species that make their home here. One of these is the rare striped lychnis moth (Shargacucullia lychnitis) which only feeds on the flowers of dark mullein (Verbascum nigrum).


One of the caterpillars found earlier in the year

After posting a photo of a striped lychnis caterpillar we found in the summer, Fiona asked if we wouldn’t mind distributing the mullein plants further to make the farm into a local stronghold for the moth. A nationally scarce species, they are on the UK BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) priority list with declining populations, mainly due to loss of habitat. They can only be found in West Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, where dark mullein grows on disturbed, low-nutrient ground.

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Dark mullein flowers

We first collected seeds from the mullein flowers that already grow here. Some were still in flower, but the majority could be shaken into a bag to release their tiny children. Most were growing in our pig paddock, where the pigs spend all summer uprooting the ground, spreading seeds and trampling them into the soil to germinate. For this reason, pigs are sometimes used for woodland management, where they remove larger competitive plants and help make room for wildflowers.


Petra collecting dark mullein seeds


Bag o’ seeds

Once the seeds were collected, we found new spaces to plant them around the site. As we’re open to the public and schoolchildren, we do usually strim long patches of grass to keep the place safe and tidy. To combat this, I’ve marked on a map where we’ve planted to ensure we leave these areas longer before cutting back, allowing them time to drop their seeds and regenerate. We used mattocks and trowels to clear little patches in the ground, drizzled the seeds over and stamped them in with our boots.


Clearing scrapes across the farm

Hopefully, this will bring a little boost to the mullein flowers that tend to pop up across the farm! Next spring I’ll be setting up a moth trap to see if we can find a striped lychnis hanging around, although they are extremely rare to find. They are also very brown and I’m terrible at moth ID, but we must all seek to improve ourselves! A lovely morning out of the office in the autumn sunshine… You can find more on the striped lychnis moth at Butterfly Conservation here!


Fiona’s pups Shep, Mist & Woody enjoying the sun


The striped lychnis moth – photo by Butterfly Conservation