Peony Seedpods

With our peonies, I much prefer drawing the seedpods to the frilly magenta pink flowers. Peonies are related to buttercups and the other place where I’ve seen pods shaped like a court jester’s cockscomb hat is on the kingcups by the pond.

Unlike the kingcups, the pods on the peony have a furry covering. As they ripen they turn from light green to a light ginger brown. They’ve yet to open but some of the pods on the kingcups have already split to disperse the seeds.

The View from the Terrace


Looking east from the balcony at Filmore & Union, I sketch the terraced houses of Commonside, Crackenedge. A section of the Kirklees Way footpath, a 72-mile circuit taking in the valleys of the Colne, Spen and Holme, which runs along the top of the slope.

The ‘cracken’ in the place name doesn’t refer to the sea monster, the Kraken, of Viking myth, but it probably does derive from a Viking word, meaning ‘crooked’ or ‘broken’; a suitable description for the escarpment of Thornhill Rock, a sandstone. Hanging Heaton Golf Club lies on its plateau, above the 130 metre contour of the outcrop.

With the temperature at 24°C, 75°F, it feels continental out here, overlooking Redbrick Mill’s leafy courtyard garden. When we first visited the Mill about fifteen years ago, Stephen Battye, the entrepreneur behind the project, pointed out a pair of kestrels that were nesting here.

It’s our first time out on the balcony and also the first time that we’ve tried the turmeric and goji berry scones; delicious with a bit of honey and a latte.

Sakura Koi WaterBrush


I bought a Koi WaterBrush because it’s so compact but it’s now my favourite. With some water brushes I can squeeze and squeeze the barrel and not get a drop out, then I squeeze again and get too much. The Koi gets it about right for me.

“I really liked the Koi brush, too.” writes Julana, “My only issue with it was that it didn’t hold a lot of water. I guess you could carry a few at a time.”

I agree, because I’m surprised how soon I get down to having just a few drops left. Luckily, it’s not a difficult process to refill, once you get used to the fact that you turn the barrel right (anti-clockwise) to unscrew it.

I’ve worn the point off my first brush and the current one (top)  is starting to get worn down, so I’ve just bought a third.Sakura recommend that you clean out the brush after every use and suggest that if you’re leaving it unused, you should empty it. This could be why I have trouble with the valves of my less-used water brushes; I always leave them full.

They also stress that you should never lose the black stopper for the barrel, but I’m not sure why this should be so vital, once you’ve assembled the water brush. Perhaps if you were aiming for the ultimate in a compact watercolour set, you could keep the barrel separate but ready-filled with water. You’d fit it into a box that was just three inches long.

Bijou Watercolour Palette

When I replaced some of the colours in my Winsor & Newton bijou watercolour box last year, some of the original selection weren’t available so I thought that it would be worth doing another set of swatches to familiarise myself with the new palette.

I’m always impressed by the variety of colours that can be mixed from such a small selection; basically a warm and a cool version of the three primaries with a few useful secondaries, such as sap green and my go-to colour for so much natural history, yellow ochre. I find neutral tint useful too; more versatile than black.

It’s always good practice for me to paint swatches, and to try and hit that midway point between the two colours that I’m mixing. It’s also rather therapeutic to settle down for a while, listening to Radio 3 as I mix colours.


Winsor & Newton Professional watercolours


Vapourer Moth Caterpillar

The four cream ‘shaving brushes’ on the back of the Vapourer moth caterpillar, Orgyia antiqua, make it easy to identify and presumably make predators think twice about trying to eat it.
This was nibbling away with three or four vapourer caterpillars on willow leaves by the woodland ride at Thorpe Marsh nature reserve. Larger numbers of vapourers can have a devastating effect on city trees.

Wasp Beetle

The wasp beetleClytus arietis, does a good job of mimicking a hunting wasp but is harmless. Its larvae live in deciduous timber.

This one was taking a break on a dog daisy growing at the edge of a woodland ride, once a railway, on the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Thorpe Marsh nature reserve, near Doncaster.


Thorpe Marsh YWT reserve