So I’m spending the weekend on a Wild Art retreat in deepest Dorset. It’s not too scary because I know the leaders and at least a number of the participants, but it will be different. Exploring the countryside and walking is involved, this worries me slightly as I am not a fast walker and when we are on group holidays am usually at the back running to keep up with the others. (This is usually made worse by the fact that I am also try to take photos).

It’s about an hour and a half’s drive and the last bit is down single track lanes, which I hate as I’m rubbish at reversing, but fortunately I don’t meet anything. Eventually I arrive at Kingcombe Nature Reserve with a sigh of relief. I am greeted by Catherine one of the leaders and shown to my room. The accommodation is lovely ensuite, single rooms with everything you need for a couple of nights stay. After a few minutes I venture out to join the group who are assembling. I know all but one, so it is a reunion of old friends (the new recruit quickly becomes a new friend).

After a cup of tea we head out onto the reserve to visit the first of the hay meadows that are its crowning glory.

Fortunately we all walk slowly – there is so much to see and photograph. Kingcombe is truly a special place. Catherine explains to us about well ground which is full of deep-rooted herbs that draw up beneficial minerals from deep in the ground giving rise to heathy cows and extra nutritious milk.

After supper (which was rather a surprise, roast turkey and all the trimmings!) we went to the studio and Lisa showed us how to make our Wild Art nature books, then before bed we had a session round the fire (so impressed with Catherine and Lisa’s fire making skills) and shared stories using Andrea Scher’s storybowl method.

We were up bright and early the next morning and out on the reserve soon after breakfast visiting hay meadows with a stunning array of plants and wildlife. On the way back we pick up bits and pieces to use in our journals. My best find is some fallen rose petals, more of which later.

Now we really begin to get down to populating our journals using mixed media techniques such as collage, different mediums and solar plates.

In the evening we have another fireside session this time singing and using the percussion instruments that Sue, one of the participants, has bought with her. It’s a beautiful evening and we watch the stars come out one by one.

On Sunday the weather isn’t so great and we mostly stay in the studio. I have made the pleasing discovery that if you put rose petals on paper using gel medium and than blast them with a hairdryer you get a kind of instant pressed flower effect which is greatly enhanced by some rose oil Sue gives me to put on it – it still smells delicious. Katie gives everyone a little slide into which you can insert tiny bits of vegetation to be pressed. Everyone is sharing.

After the end of course ‘show and tell’ and some fun with bubbles, it’s time to leave this beautiful spot and head for home. As I drive back I reflect on the fact that 5 years ago I would have thought you mad if you had said to me I would be attending an art retreat, and on how much richer my life is now.

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