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For as long as I can remember I have been enchanted by flowers - as a child I was incapable of going anywhere without picking a little bunch of something. It is often written that a parent or grandparent is influential in fostering a love of nature and flowers in someone and for me it was undoubtedly my mother. Every walk from fields to town streets was accompanied by a running commentary on the names and beauty of trees, plants and flowers and I remembered every one.

Photo credits: Britt Willoughby

I left home at 17 to live in London and study to become a registered general nurse specialising on ophthalmology but after having my children I gave this up in pursuit of a job I could juggle around the children and after a chance conversation at school gates I embarked on event floristry. I continued with that for about 18 years, moving to Dartmoor, dropping imported flowers and growing my own all part of the journey.

About 6 years ago just before the unmentionable and within the space of 6 months my husband was diagnosed with a serious illness and a dear friend drowned in a tragic accident. Not surprisingly these had a profound effect on me, and I stopped to think about what in my working life made me really happy, I allowed myself indulgence and truth be told I leaned unapologetically into my childhood joys.  I had been using solely British flowers since 2015 which in turn made me examine our seasons in great detail - week by week noticing small differences in what was available in the garden and wider countryside, changes in light and sound.

Time spent at home gave me a chance to develop and enjoy photography and when we emerged from Covid I knew I wanted to spend time with others sharing in the delight of those subtle seasonal changes and the art that that inspired.

Over the years, I have been to quite a few educational days with Creatives I admire and find inspiring, and as I gained experience, I often fantasised about running something myself but how and where with whom? 2022 was a ‘stars aligning’ summer. I had a week with friends at Prussia Cove in June, and the barns at Trewartha were just being tidied up and made available to rent for creative classes. I went to see them and they were perfect!

Prussia Cove is a unique collection of properties surrounded by unspoilt natural beauty rooted in the Cornish landscape. The cliff paths are full of wildflowers and the light is magical – before you even set foot in the barns you are deeply inspired by your environment.

I am a florist who uses only local seasonal flowers; I grow on a small area in raised beds at my home on Dartmoor and being very inspired by the seasons and the beautiful landscape around us, I forage from the hedgerows to place my arrangements in time and environment. I believe that for us to care enough about our world and environment to save it we need to feel connected, close to and a little bit in love with it.

Every detail: the first wild garlic shoots, the swelling buds, the velvet moss in the winter, the skeletal trees; the feel of salty sea and wind, the unstoppable rush of the energy of spring. I love the Japanese notion of 72 seasons, each lasting for just five days with names like ‘Mists start to linger’ and ‘First peach blossom’.

With all this is mind I asked four other like-minded Creatives to join me for the Beltane weekend at Prussia Cove and invited 10 paying guests to join us. I knew I really didn’t want a traditional kind of learning experience. I wanted guests to learn through inspiration and to leave with a greater understanding of their creativity and a closer relationship with the seasons. I really wanted to transport people to the feeling you had in childhood when you received a new box of coloured pencils and a pad of paper, the endless possibilities, excited to start filling the paper with colour and shape but here it was with barns full of spring flowers, art and photography equipment, and four creative guides to start the projects. No competition or comparing yourself to others, just time, tools and the inspiration to create.

After I’d booked the venue, my next step was to ask fellow Creatives if they would like to be involved; it felt like such a leap of faith to do this, but I had such an enthusiastic and encouraging response it felt like it was all meant to be.  

I asked Bex Partridge, Botanical Tales, whose artistry I had admired from afar for a while; we thought it would be wonderful to use one of the barns to build one of her beautiful installations, and then use the space to feast in on our last afternoon. With the help of all the guests and using the month of April as her guide Bex created a magical space for us all to celebrate Beltane. Flowers were woven and wired, delicately hanging from clematis vine in clusters of spring colours - it was incredibly beautiful.

Britt Willoughby was our photographer - Britt is so talented and I was thrilled when she agreed to join us. She has a particular love of meadows and wildflowers and her photographs of them, celebrating each season, are magical. It seemed that she was the perfect person to guide photography walks, still life and a better understanding of how to capture that wonderful Cornish light. 

I really wanted an artist to be with us for the weekend to spend time drawing and painting flowers - Jacqueline Mills is not only a wonderful botanical artist she also gardens with the very best and teaches how to make natural garden structures. Jacky is wonderfully enthusiastic and humble about all her incredible talent. She arrived at Beltane with car full of paper, pencils, watercolours and inks, books full of inspiration and a great desire to help our guests, however inexperienced, find confidence to express themselves with paper and pencil, paint and ink.

Finally, Grace - Grace Alexander wears many hats: she is a clinical psychologist, writer, gardener and creator of Gather with Grace Alexander. Grace was there at the very beginning of my thoughts for Beltane and with her encouragement and guidance it became what it is. I thought it would be wonderful for our guests to have some of that experience and so Grace came to offer 1:1 sessions of bespoke coaching and mentoring and was generally just a joy to have around with so much insight into the creative process and the natural world.

All these wonderful souls are completely immersed in the seasons, flowers and plants and keen to share their passion and knowledge. We arrived in Cornwall on Thursday the 27th of April 2023 for our first Beltane weekend - cars loaded with flowers and everything we needed for a weekend of creativity. Our guests arrived on Friday evening and what followed was the most amazing weekend. Each day started with a swim in clear Cornish seas; we then foraged, made and appreciated beauty, chatted, ate delicious meals together and felt our creativity blossom. Beltane is all about new growth, and this weekend certainly did that for us all.

This year we are doing it all again! I know it will all be subtly different, the light, the tides, the flowers. These differences will lead to changes in our creativity, new ideas, new lessons learned - exciting and inspiring.


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