Endure 24 – spotting 24 Wildflowers


This weekend I got to experience Mizuno Endure24 for the first time. It’s advertised as `Glastonbury for runners, a 24 hour running party in the woods.’ Hubbie and I set off full of trepidation. I’ve had an ongoing knee problem which has meant I haven’t been able to run for months. Mr Smiles had never entered a race before and had been too busy studying to train. The day dawned with clouds and rain. Not to be deterred I suggested an impromptu trip to Go Outdoors to invest in a bigger, more comfortable tent which would give us shelter from the rain. As it turned out I got thoroughly sunburnt instead of soaked through to the skin.


No soon as we had arrived and our tent was up. A friendly bunch from Harwell Harriers Running Club had the tent up in no time and we were free to eat al fresco and have our drink of choice. Pimms for me from the cocktail caravan and a real Ale for Mr Smiles. Lovely chilled start to the event. New friends were made and our new tent proved cosy and comfortable.

We were `competing’ in a team of six. I say competing. There was no real competing in our team, just a commitment to have fun and enjoy ourselves. Three more team members arrived in the morning and we had their tents up in a jiffy.


There was no time for lunch before the loud claxon went to start the event. No complaints from my behalf as we had had the traditional camp breakfast of bacon roll cooked to perfection outdoors. The Didcot Runners had gone `posh’ and had smoked salmon omelettes instead of our traditional fare cooked by their chef Andrew Casey.

Liz was our team’s Wonderwoman and started the race for our team. The whole event had 3000 runners competing either Solo or in teams attempting to cover as many laps of the 5 mile course in 24 hours.

Before we knew it Liz was back passing on the team yellow tag of power to Mr Smiles. I had trained him well to make sure he smiled and waved for the camera. We are Mr and Mrs Smiles after all!


Photo credit epicactionimagery

Then it was my turn. I had invested in some new shorts and my knee was thoroughly taped up to try to minimise any pain. So off I trotted. Delighted that the sun was shining and I had a spring in my step.


It became apparent that the shorts weren’t very satisfactory and my knee and glutes weren’t as happy as could be. Thank goodness I was in a team with a motto of `Being in it to have fun!’ I settled in to a walk/ gentle jog with the aim of enjoying the experience. It was a fantastic route through open meadow and woodland. I was in my element spotting wildflowers and taking in the view. I haven’t a clue how long it took to complete my first lap, but I’m sure I had as much fun as anyone out there.  Even on the Hill of No Return! I decided to reinvent the event to suit myself. Instead of trying to wear myself out and run as far and as fast as I could over 24 hours I aimed to spot 24 wildflowers over the 24 hour period.



Mr Casey seemed to be putting the effort in at the end of one of his laps and Sera was lapping up the cheers from the crowds like royalty. Some took it fast, some took it slow. Some were in fancy dress and some were decked out in their Running Club kit. Anything goes at Endure 24!

There was plenty of opportunity for chilling in between laps with lashings of Swedish meatballs and mugs of tea.

Photo credit Epicactionimagery

To while the time away I did my usual trick of totting up how many wildflowers I could spot on each of my laps. At one point Laura one of Abingdon Athletics Club members spotted me with my bum in the air photographing wildflowers. A few other runners were concerned that I might have been overcome by the heat instead of getting up close to nature with my camera phone.

In total I managed 3 laps including one which needed my head torch in the dark. This was a magical experience with fairy lights amongst the trees in the Fairy Glen. Sadly the fairies were hiding until later into the night.

Endure 24 Wildflower Count

I set myself the individual challenge of spotting 24 different wildflowers over the 24 hour period. I felt it was a bit like playing Pokemon Go! with flowers and was delighted when I spotted a few I haven’t seen in the wild before such as Tutsan and Yellow Pimpernel. I have seen both Scarlet Pimpernel and Blue Pimpernel before so felt I was completing the set. It was apparent that the Endure 24 woodland run enabled me to see flowers which grow in different habitats than those I visit at home which tends to have more chalky soil. I saw quite a few plants which like deciduous woodland and other moist shady places, usually on mildly acid soils.

Wood Forget-me-not, Myosotis sylvatica

Borage Family

15 – 40 cm tall perennial with no rooting runners.  Stems erect to somewhat sprawling. Hairs on stem. Flowers up to 8mm across, pale blue and flat.  Garden escapes usually have brighter flowers and can be pinkish. Flowers fragrant especially in the evening.


Flowering Season: April to August

Habitat: Light shade in woodland and damp hedge banks. A common garden escape in a wide variety of habitats.


Green Alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens

Borage Family

Bristly erect perennial, 30 – 60 cm tall. Pointed-oval leaves. Basal leaves are greater then 5cm wide and untoothed. Leaves and stems have bristle-like white hairs. Flower heads are very bristly with a leafy bract below. Corollas are bright blue with a white eye, 10 mm wide. The corolla is made up of 5 petals with 5 stamens.

Flowering Season: April to July

Habitat: common in gardens, but very common in light shade on verges, woodland margins and waste ground near habitation.


Red Campion, Silene dioica

Campion Family

Leaves opposite, 4 -12 cm long.  5 petalled red or bright rose-pink flowers, each petal deeply notched. Flower heads 18 – 25 mm across, the calyx tube prominently ribbed, with 5 blunt teeth at the tip.

Flowering Season: April to July

Habitat: Common in woodland clearings, hedgerows and other lightly shaded places, also coastal cliffs and cliff-top grassland and shingle banks

Lesser Stitchwort, Stellaria graminea

Campion Family

Straggling stems grow from creeping rhizomes. Leaves narrow and pointed, stalkless and in opposite pairs 1.5 – 4 cm long. Flowers are 5 – 18mm across.  5 sepals, 10 stamens and 3 styles. The white petals are split more than half way.

Flowering Season: April to July

Habitat: common in rough grassy places and open woodland on neutral to acid soils

Wild Angelica, Angelica sylvestris

Carrot Family

Tall, robust perennial up to 200 cm tall. Very stout hollow purplish stems. Leaves usually hairless, 30 – 60 cm long, leaflets toothed and pointed. Distinctive bulbous inflated sheaths where the leaf and flower stalks join the stem. Flowers white or pink. Umbels 3 – 15 cm across, strongly domed.

Flowering Season: June to September

Habitat: very common in damp, open or lightly shaded places: streamsides, woodland rides, also sea cliffs and upland grassland

Marsh Thistle, Cirsium palustre 

Daisy Family

Bristly erect Biennial, 30 – 200 cm tall. Continuously spiny hairy stem. Often very tall and slender. Branched at the top of the stem. Leaves dark green and often purple flushed. Small flower heads, 7 – 12 mm across, in dense crowded clusters. Florets usually purple, but can be white or pale pink.

Flowering Season: June to September

Habitat: Very common in a wide variety of damp or wet places, including heavily-grazed moorland and wet woodland

White Dead Nettle, Lamium album

Dead-Nettle Family

Erect hairy, tufted perennial, 20 – 60 cm tall. The leaves resemble a nettle but lack stinging hairs. Hairy stems, often purplish. Leaves  3 – 7 cm long. White flowers in dense, well spaced whorls.

Flowering Season: March to December

Habitat: common in gardens, hedgebanks, verges and waste ground

Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum

Geranium Family

Annual or biennial, 10 – 40 cm tall. Strong-smelling. The whole plant is hairy. The leaves are palmate, deeply cut into 3 – 5 leaflets, these in turn deeply cut. The stem and leaves are often red flushed. The pink petals are 8 – 14 mm long and rounded at the tip. Anthers orange or purple.

Flowering Season: April to Oct

Habitat: Abundant in light shade in hedgebanks, woods and gardens, and on walls, limestone pavement scree and shingle. Dry, disturbed wasteland.

Hedgerow Cranesbill, Geranium pyrenaicum

Geranium Family

Perennial, 25 – 60 cm tall. A straggling geranium with hairy stems and leaves. The leaves are opposite, 35 – 90 mm across, lobed up to half way to the base. Dull purple petals 7  – 10 mm long, notched at tip, narrowing at base to a short `stem’.

Flowering Season: May to July

Habitat: Locally common in SE, on verges, banks, field margins and waste ground, often near houses

Rhododendron, Rhododendron ponticum

Heath Family

Tall, hairless evergreen shrub, up to 5 m tall. Large, leathery oval to oblong dark green leaves 6 – 12 cm long. Flowers form distinctive rounded heads. Violet purple in colour with brown spots. 5 unequal lobes and 10 stamens. Flowers 4 – 6 cm across.

Flowering Season: May to June

Habitat: Locally abundant. Woodland, especially on acid soils, also colonises on open hillsides. Regenerates freely from seed and can form dense thickets, excluding other plants.

The Pea Family is easily recognized by its pea-like five-petalled flowers, with a wide, often erect standard petal at the top, two wing petals at the sides and the two lower petals forming a boat-shaped keel. Forms an elongated pod, often splitting into twp valves when ripe to release seeds. Leaves are usually trifoliate.

Clovers form a large genus within the Pea Family. They all have small individual flowers in the flower head, trefoil leaves, flowers with five toothed calyx, wing petals are longer than the keel, and straight short pods are enclosed within the withered calyx.

Red Clover, Trifolium pratense

Pea Family

Hairy perennial, 10 – 60 cm tall. Stems more or less erect. The leaves are grey-green elliptical to oval,  divided into 3 leaflets, each 15 – 30 mm long, often with a white chevron. Flower heads are more or less stalkless, with a pair of leaves immediately below. Flowers pinkish-purple, 12 – 18 mm long. Calyx hairy, enclosing the seed pod when mature.

Flowering Season: May to September

Habitat: common in all types of grassland and waste ground

White Clover, Trifolium repens

Pea Family

Creeping, rooting perennial, up to 50 cm tall. Main stems prostrate, rooting at the nodes and thus patch forming. From the ground hugging stems the leaves arise on stalks. The globular clusters of flowers are held upright on leafless stalks up to 20 cm long. Leaflets 10 – 30 mm long, finely toothed, usually with a pale chevron near the base. Flowers 7 – 12 mm long, usually off-white, sometimes pale pink, rarely reddish. Seed pods larger than calyx.

Flowering Season: May to September

Habitat: common in most types of grassland, although scarcer in tall grass. Avoids very wet or very acid soils. Also found on waste ground and disturbed places.

Common Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus

Pea Family

Low creeping perennial, 10 – 50 cm tall. A sprawling, low growing pea. Leaves divided into 5 oval leaflets with the basal pair at the junction of the stem and leaf stalk. Lacks tendrils. Flowers yellow to orange or streaked red, often reddish in bud, in clusters at the tip of long stalks. Seed pods in groups, resembling a bird’s foot. Flowers 10 – 16 mm long in clusters of 2 – 8 forming the flower head. The introduced sown variety have all yellow flowers, not tinged red or orange.

Flowering Season: May to September

Habitat: common in short, dry , unimproved grassland, also shingle banks and dunes

Yellow Pimpernel, Lysimachia nemorum

Primrose Family

Prostrate hairless perennial, up to 40 cm tall. Delicate, low growing, or sprawling. Bright shiny green leaves are in opposite pairs along the stems, oval and pointed 1 – 4 cm long. Solitary, yellow star-like flowers are on slender stalks arising from the leaf axils, 10 – 15 mm across. The yellow corolla is divided into 5 petals, sepals are green.

Flowering Season: May to September

Habitat: fairly common in deciduous woodland and other moist, shady places, usually on acid soils. In the north by moorland streams and on cliffs.

Wood Avens, Geum urbanum

Rose Family

Downy, straggly perennial up to 60 cm tall. Slender, hairy stems and pinnate leaves. The leaves are usually three lobed with a blunt- toothed terminal leaflet.  Small open, erect yellow flowers turn into slightly prickly fruit heads. The yellow flowers have five well-separated petals, the sepals clearly visible between them.  The petals are 4 – 7 mm long.

Flowering Season: May – November

Habitat: Light shade in deciduous woodland, scrub, hedgebanks and waste ground.

Creeping Cinquefoil, Potentilla reptans

Rose Family

Perennial, 30 – 60 cm tall.  Ground hugging creeping stems rooting at nodes. Sparsely hairy. Basal leaf rosette gives rise to the long runners that root at the nodes. Leaves on stems up to 5 cm long. Leaves palmately cut into 5 narrow leaflets. Yellow flowers 15 – 25 mm across with 5 petals  growing singly on long stems from the leaf axils.

Flowering Season: May – September

Habitat: common on short,rough grassland, verges, dry pastures, woodland rides and waste ground.

Dog-rose, Rosa canina

Rose Family

A climber with strong arching stems to 3m and curved prickles. Leaves with 2-3 pairs of toothed leaflets. Flowers are 4-5 cm, pink or white. Sepals are lobed, spreading at first, but turning down against the hip and falling before it ripens.

Flowering Season:June to September

Habitat: commonest wild rose in most of England and Wales. Hedges, scrub and woodland margins. Avoids most acid soils.

Sweetbriar, Rosa rubiginosa

Rose Family

Straight stems,  erect up to 2 m. A pink-flowered shrub rose.  Strongly curved prickles of various sizes mixed with robust bristles, especially towards the flowers. 5 – 7 leaflets, hairy on the veins. Flowers 2.5 – 4 cm across, in clusters of 1 – 3. Stigmas hairy. Flower stalks covered with brownish sticky gland-bearing apple-scented hairs.

Flowering Season: June to July

Habitat: Fairly common in open scrub and hedgerows, usually on chalky soils

Bramble, Rubus fructicosus

Rose Family

Numerous microspecies of bramble. Differ in stem armament and hair distribution. Brambles are a genus of scrambling, erect or creeping shrubs, mostly spiny, leaves undivided, or usually with 3 – 5 pinnately or palmately arranged leaflets. 1 – 3 m, with usually arching and angled stems bearing hooked spines, prickles and hairs. Flowers are white or pink, in panicles on the ends of last year’s stems. Berries start green maturing to red then shiny black or purple-red.

Flowering Season: May – September

Habitat: Very common in scrub, woods, wasteland, hedgebanks. Often highly invasive if unmanaged.

Tutsan, Hypericum androsaemum

St John’s Wort Family

Shrubby low deciduous shrub, 40 – 100 cm tall. Hairless shrub with branched reddish stems. Leaves oval, stalkless, 50 – 120 mm long. Aromatic when bruised. Typical St John’s wort flowers and black berries. Yellow flowers 15 – 25 mm across, in small clusters. Petals equal or shorter than the sepals. 3 styles. Stamens about as long as the petals. Fruit ripens from green through red to a black berry 5 – 8 mm across.

Flowering Season: June to August

Habitat: Locally frequent, especially in S and W. Damp, shady places in woods and hedgebanks. Also spread by birds to drier habitats. Flowers elsewhere as a garden escape

Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea

Figwort Family

Biennial or short lived perennial, up to 200 cm tall. Densely hairy, unbranched stems. Leaves 10 – 30 cm long, oval lanceolate, pointed, wrinkled. The lower leaves form an overwintering basal rosette. Distinctive spires of pinkish-purple or white flowers. The flowers are tubular to narrow bell – shaped and are spotted darker within the throat.

Flowering Season: June to August

Habitat: common on acid soils, especially following soil disturbance or fires. Hedgebanks, woodland clearings, heaths, moors and sea cliffs

Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum

Dennstaedtiaceae Family

Tall 1 – 2 m fern. Bracken is a genus of large, coarse ferns.  Ferns  are vascular plants that have alternating generations, large plants that produce spores and small plants that produce sex cells (eggs and sperm). Brackens are noted for their large, highly divided leaves. Bracken is typically fern-like, producing triangular fronds, divided into three, that can reach over 1.5m (5ft) in height. It can be easily recognised by its branched fronds which appear in spring and are green when mature. In autumn the fronds turn reddish-brown and die back to ground level, with new fronds unfurling from the base in spring.

Habitat: native British fern commonly found in woodland and heathland.  It is a large fern that favours dry, acid soils

Germander Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys

Figwort Family

Perennial up to 20 cm tall. Creeping and ascending hairy stems. Leaves are oval with a heart base, opposite, toothed and hairy. Flowers are bright blue with a white eye. The stigma points down and the stamens to the side. The flowers are in loose, long stalked clusters growing from the axils of the upper leaves. The flowers are pollinated by hover-flies.

Flowering Season: Mar – August

Habitat: Open Woodland, grassland, meadows, scrub

Buttercup, Ranunclus

Buttercup Family

Buttercups are plants with alternate leaves and yellow flowers. They have 5 or 3 green sepals, 5 petals, many stamens, and many tiny carpels.

Flowering Season: May – August

Habitat: Very common in most habitats

So there we have it – my Endure 24 Wildflower Challenge was complete. 24 wildflowers spotted within the 24 hour period. I loved this event and plan to go back next year. Can I rise to my own challenge and spot a different 24 varieties?!  I hope my knee will be better and I will also be able to run more of my laps rather then take part with a relaxed amble.

As a team we really did enjoy ourselves, crossing the finish line together. Mr Smiles was chuffed with his first ever running medal.  We can’t wait for next year!

Photo credit Epicactionimagery



0 comment

A Fitting Tribute

`I have no regrets. I have lived my life to the full. I have enjoyed my career and my leisure time. I would like to live longer, but there is nothing more I have left to achieve.’ 


Redclyffe Yacht Club

David A. Hills

Eliza James Flowers Nautical WreathRecently I had the emotional task of planning a funeral for my closest relative, My Uncle David. His life was cut short by pancreatic cancer. When my Uncle phoned me to give me the sad news of his cancer he said to me ` Try not to be sad Patsy. I have no regrets. I have lived my life to the full. I have enjoyed my career and my leisure time. I would like to live longer, but there is nothing more I have left to achieve.’

I wanted the funeral to reflect my Uncle’s personality and way of life.  As I am passionate about flowers I wanted to provide a fitting floral tribute.

I looked through the funeral director’s book containing sample wreaths and I thought `Ostentacious and ghastly in equal measure!’ I wanted a floral tribute that reflected my Uncle’s life and was truly personal to him. I really do not like lilies, although they are commonly associated with funeral services. Symbolically, these flowers are meant to show that the soul of the person has returned to a state of innocence. White lilies symbolise purity and appear at funerals more often than other varieties. Stargazer lilies symbolise sympathy, which is why they are often recommended as an appropriate option for the loved ones of the deceased. Lilies just weren’t the right thing for my Uncle or me. I was quite dismayed at the ubiquitous array of floral tributes that seem to be churned out for funerals. From my Bridal Bouquet Paintings I know that a lot of thought goes into the flowers at a wedding and a good florist will strive to create something unique for each and every wedding. Why not for funerals?

I chose Hilary of Eliza James Flowers to provide my tribute for the simple reason that she understood what I wanted. Hilary’s style of floristry is to include as much local foliage, seed heads and herbs as possible in her work. She loves searching the hedgerows for berries and leaves and her preference is to use flowers cut from the garden where possible. I asked for hedgerow style flowers for my mum’s funeral tribute in the nineties. I was very disappointed. I do believe the florist didn’t really get what I wanted and used conifer clippings with a few berries in a very sparse floral sheath. My tribute looked quite sad compared with the others. However the other tributes contained either lilies or commercially grown ostentacious blooms which did not reflect the free-spirit of my mum. I was determined to do better this time!

I asked Hilary James to provide a fitting floral tribute for my Uncle, who loved to walk in the Dorset countryside and along the coast. The design was to be full of rich colour and texture and a celebration of Autumn. 

Hilary was inspired by a walk around Stourhead Estate. She sat peacefully watching the leaves falling from the trees on a beautiful Autumn afternoon.

Autumn GlowSpindle BerriesRed BerriesRosehipsRed Autumn Leaves


Apart from decorating the funeral casket I planned to hold a Funeral Tea at my Uncle’s Yacht Club and wanted floral tributes there too.

Hilary proved to be an amazing florist as she is so passionate about her work. She is a wonderful person to work with as she has such a caring nature, an essential character trait when working on funeral flowers!

Country Walks 

David HillsDavid HillsDavid HillsI have grown up in a family that loves the outdoors and country walks. My Uncle retired to Dorset and enjoyed long walks along the Dorset Coastal Path and in the countryside. He made friends with Kate and his knowledge of wild flowers increased immensely on these walks with Kate as a guide.

When Mr Smiles and I visited my Uncle in Dorset he always planned quite strenuous walks as he knew we were trying to lose a few pounds and get fitter. I often struggled to keep up! We would also walk whatever the weather and last Christmas was particularly vile weather for a strenuous, bracing coastal walk!

Lovely ViewDorset CalmDavid Hills on Dorset CoastWinter Walk

 The floral tribute was made with a lot of love by Hilary James full of references to my Uncle’s life. The casket arrangement was made of hedgerow flowers, berries and foliage which would be seen by my Uncle on his country walks. Hilary used beautiful foliage from the Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall.

In Memorium


Eliza James FlowersEliza James Flowers

Eliza James Flowers






Eliza James Flowers




Eliza James Flowers








Eliza James FlowersCrab apples


I specified that crab apples should be included. On my wedding day I gave away home-made crab apple jelly as Bridal Favours. The crab apples had been picked with my Uncle on a walk in the New Forest and lovingly made into jelly using my mum’s preserving pan. Uncle David gave me away at my marriage to Mr Smiles as he had given away my mum (his sister) years before. In his speech at our wedding my Uncle said of my new husband `Simply by getting to know him a little I knew he was a good man, a hard worker and would take care of Patsy. He also makes her extremely happy and I am sure she makes him happy in return. What more could I ask than for Patsy to be happy with a wonderful man, and a man I welcome with warmly open arms.’   It was a very happy day. He wanted to wear the same suit which he could still get into – his `posh’ suit for formal occasions. I decided to hire him a new suit to be the same as everyone else. My Uncle enquired whether he should wear this suit for meals at the Somerleigh Court Palliative Care Nursing Home, even though his illness had got the better of him and he could hardly eat. I decided Uncle David should wear his best suit for his last formal do of his funeral.

Mum's WeddingPatsy and Uncle D

Crab apple jellyCrab applesThe crab apples were a stunning shiny rich ruby red colour with flashes of orange and yellow. However they proved a challenge in the design as they were on thick stems and were very heavy!


Apart from his love of walking my Uncle maintained an allotment. He hardly ever needed to buy vegetables as he was largely self-sufficient. It was obvious something was drastically wrong when my Uncle’s diet changed in March and he no longer fancied vegetables for dinner. Uncle D was known for his strawberry growing on his allotment. So much so that he couldn’t make a sailing trip as he was harvesting his strawberries and making strawberry jam! I asked for strawberry leaves in the design. They were placed so I could see them in a cluster, like a miniature strawberry patch.


Eliza James Flowers

When Hilary was out foraging for teasels and haws she found a beautiful baby teasel which was bright and green.Hilary decided to use this as her interpretation of new beginnings in the circle of Life.

Eliza James Flowers

The design was heralded by huge Magical Ruby Red hydrangeas in rich burgundy, orange and purple hues. Hydrangeas remind me of family holidays by the coast.

Eliza James Flowers

I also asked for dahlias to represent my Uncle’s allotment.

Allotment DahliasDahliasDahlia

It was hard to source dahlias in November, However Hilary managed to find some deep purple Black Fox and red Red Cap blooms. Viburnum Tinus from the garden was chosen to lighten the design and Eucalyptus Parvifolia shaped the arrangement, a gentle foliage giving movement. Each end of the long sheath was marked by Photinia Red Robin, chosen for its strength to support the heavy crab apples. Red Robin was placed at various focal points to convey a rich Autumn feel and was enhanced with the Red Cap dahlias and the crabs themselves. Light was introduced by Golden Sparkle, a golden tiny leaved foliage.

Uncle David


A love of Sailing and the Coast 

David Hills

Apart from walking as a leisure pursuit my Uncle had a life long love of the coast and the open sea.

Seaside HolidayBeside the Sea


In addition to decorating the funeral casket I planned a Funeral Tea at my Uncle’s Yacht Club and wanted floral tributes there too. Uncle David was never one to sit on his laurels. He used to go out before work and go canoeing for a few hours. This was in a canoe that he had built himself! At the start of his career with Marconi Satellite Communication Systems Uncle David joined their sailing club and purchased his first sailing boat White Lady in 1966 for £60 together with a trailer.This started a lifelong love of the sea and sailing as a leisure pursuit. White Lady was a wooden boat which leaked. Barry Doul crewed for my Uncle and part of this job was to bail out water!

White Lady

White LadyWhite Lady

My Uncle’s philosophy was always make do and mend. He used an old motorcycle engine to run one of his boats. He had a can of petrol in the kitchen which caught fire. Luckily he managed to extinguish the fire before too much damage was done! Other Marconi friends Roger and Jon would also crew for him, having wonderful fun over the years exploring the Blackwater, Stour, Orwell estuaries and even as far as the Swale on the far side of the Thames.

David Hills

Working for Marconi took Uncle David to Trinidad and Tobago where he enjoyed the warmer climate for sailing.

20141206-David Hills West Indies-1 David Hills West Indies-2









In 1972 Uncle David purchased a new boat,  a Vivacity 650 which he named Calypso remembering his trip to the West Indies. Calypso was moored at Bradwell Cruising Club where my Uncle was an active club member, exploring the Essex coastline and the French coast.

CalypsoCalypsoDavid Hills

When his longstanding friend Roger died of pancreatic cancer my Uncle purchased his boat Dubldee from his widow Celia. How ironic that my Uncle should also die of this horrible disease. Dubldee is a Trapper 501 for those of you in the know!

DubldeeRedclyffe Yacht Club


When David moved to the Dorset coast in retirement he joined Redclyffe Yacht Club and became an active member. He joined many group trips and was known there for his strawberries grown on his allotment which he brought along to summer barbecues.

Redclyffe Yacht Club Rally

I was able to sail with him on occasions and came to appreciate why my Uncle liked his boat so much. My Uncle’s favourite place to sail to was Warbarrow Bay on the Dorset coast. He would row out to shore and have a decent walk along the coast.  He often caught a mackerel for his dinner, washed down with a glass of wine. He liked to anchor up for the night, enjoying the solitude of the sea, listening to the gentle waves lapping against his boat lulling him to sleep. My Uncle had lots of interests and friends. However he was also a very private person. He never married, but was very content and chose to live a simple life. One of his favourite musicians was Acker Bilk. It seemed very fitting to play  Acker Bilk’s clarinet piece `Stranger on the Shore’ at the funeral. My Uncle listened to this piece of music in the last hours of his life. I was able to get him to visualise  being moored up in the peace and quiet of Warbarrow Bay as the sun was setting. David then gently slipped his moorings (figuratively speaking) and passed away.

The Unknown Shore

DubldeeWarbarrow Bay

I chose to host an afternoon tea to celebrate my Uncle’s life at his Yacht Club.  Although it was quite a way to drive I was delighted with the turn out . When I visited the Redclyffe Yacht Club I was struck by the peace and tranquillity of the River Frome where my Uncle’s boat is moored.  I provided Dorset Apple cake and a cream tea, my Uncle’s favourites. We managed to get Dubldee moored along side the pontoon by the club house. Hilary then made a nautical themed wreath to be placed on the Yacht. The wreath included bright blue hydrangeas and dark blue anemonies. I had provided Hilary with images of Dubldee so she could compliment the yacht livery. I made a tribute card with my watercolour painting of Dubldee and this was tied to the wreath.

DubldeeEliza James Flowers Nautical WreathNautical WreathThe floral tributes at Redclyffe were vastly different to those on the casket. The aim of this design was to capture my Uncle’s love of the Dorset coast and his passion for sailing. The tables, serveries and the porthole windows at the club were dressed in navy blue, white and natural colours in French grey buckets. The design had a blue and white Nautical theme. Beautiful shiny navy blue Viburnum berries matched the dark blue stamens and centres of the white anemone Marianne Panda.

Eliza James FlowersEliza James Flowers


I chose Eringium Orion Questar, a wonderful blue sea-holly which added texture and fitted the coastal theme. White roses complimented and gave light and there were natural additions of the seedhead Scabiosa Stellata and Myrica Gagel to give interest and height.

Eliza James FlowersEliza James Flowers

Eliza James Flower TributesEliza James Floral Tribute

Eliza James FlowersEliza James FlowersEliza James FlowersEliza James FlowersEliza James FlowersEliza James FlowersEliza James FlowersEliza James Flowers

At the end of the tea I gave away the posies in the French grey buckets to guests. Hilary also re-assembled the flowers from the casket and any remaining flowers. These were given to my Uncle’s nursing home Somerleigh Court, in gratitude for the wonderful care he received there. The blooms and foliage were made into fireplace arrangements. There was a huge blue and white bouquet made from the residue of the massive blue hydrangeas which was placed in the reception area and three smaller posies were given to residents in need of a bit of cheer.
Eliza James Flowers


I am so grateful to Hilary of Eliza James Flowers as her designs formed such a wonderful fitting tribute to my Uncle.

Hilary James ` My brief was done. I was proud that I had executed Patsy’s wishes entirely. I am thankful that Patsy gave me the opportunity to design and construct these most precious tributes and I am glad they gave her comfort at a harrowing time in her life. I hope that the images and notes remind her of her love for her Uncle and her determination that his passion for the coast and countryside of Dorset and her special memories of times shared together, were portrayed in all of the flowers, foliage, fruits and berries that went into the tribute.’


Cadgwith Christmas

Christmas WelcomeMy most favourite holiday destination is Cornwall. The sea is definately in my blood and I adore the rugged Cornish coastline. One place I keep coming back to is the lovely traditional fishing village of Cadgwith. I stayed in a cottage called `Seawatch’ to celebrate my 40th birthday a few years ago with a few close girlfriends. I have since introduced Mr Smiles to Seawatch and we decided to come back again for Christmas as we both now love the area so much.

Seawatch Sign

Seawatch EntranceStanding just above Cadgwith Cove is a row of terraced Coastguard cottages, built in the 1880s to combat smuggling. Seawatch is one of those cottages converted into a beautiful and tastefully furnished house, with the extensive sea views that the coastguard needed. Seawatch is the best holiday cottage I have ever stayed in. Mr Smiles and I dream of a place like this – away from it all with a short walk to the friendly local pub The Cadgwith Cove Inn.


When we move house we would like an attractive entrance area like this where you can comfortably take off your muddy boots and coat or contemplate your next walk with the useful map hanging above the chair.

Seawatch Map



The house is decked out with a tasteful nautical theme and I liked looking at the many paintings by local artists hanging on the walls. Our bedroom had sea views and a pretty Victorian fireplace. The original look-out is furnished with a chair and telescope.

Nautical Theme

Seawatch Telescope









As it was Christmas we spent many a cosy hour cuddled up with a book or a game of scrabble with a glass of mulled wine or Belgian Beer in front of the roaring fire. Mr Smiles was very contented!

Cosy Fireside

The house was even furnished with a small illuminated `Christmas Tree’ for us to arrange our Christmas presents round. The housekeeper had left us a bottle of sparkling Cava for Christmas day and a festive poinsettia plant. It’s the little touches like this which make a holiday special. I must admit though I was glad of my running head torch when we arrived as we had a power cut and I needed it to unpack and find the candles!

Seawatch Christmas TreeChristmas Welcome

The house enjoys a long, south-facing garden with fantastic sea views. This time we didn’t take advantage of the outside seating as it was Winter, but I have fond memories of the garden in previous Summers. I spent a very relaxing afternoon sketching the `Idyllic View’ and numerous afternoon teas were consumed outside with my girlfriends for my 40th birthday celebrations. We had all bought home-made cakes with us on that occasion.

Seawatch Garden




As it was Christmas Mr Smiles was very happy to put his feet up. I on the other hand tend to get stir crazy if I don’t get out in the fresh air. On our second day I took myself off for a run along the coast path to Kennack Sands and back. I took up running last March and love it! I may not be the fastest runner out, but I adore the exhilaration of running cross country with the wind in my hair. I adapted a published walk to make a slightly longer circuit.

Cadgwith to Kennack Sands Circular (5 miles)

Cadgwith to Kennack

Cadgwith Circular

I started in Cadgwith walking up the road as it curves past The Cadgwith Cove Inn. Cadgwith Thatch

Moored Up

Cadgwith Cove

Christmas Day Sea

Cadgwith Coast

I took the first turning on the right and followed the coast path onto the cliffs towards the old coastguard signal station (known locally as the huer’s hut). I continued along the coast path climbing up to Kildown Point. WindsweptThe path curved around the deep hollow of Kildown Cove and then up to Enys Head with views of Kennack Sands in the distance.  I must admit the Cornish coastal path has much more of an incline than the gentle rolling hills of Oxfordshire so my run consisted more of a gentle jog/walk, sliding in the mud and being buffeted by the wind. Exhilarating at the top though!

Cadgwith to Kennack View

I turned right down the steps and over a bridge and out amongst the ruins of Poltesco serpentine works at Carleon Cove. The Poltesco works operated from 1855 until 1893 on the site of former pilchard cellars. The round, roofless, building housed a capstan, a man powered winch used for hauling boats up the beach. The ruined buildings are the remains of the Victorian serpentine factory, which made ornate polished stoneware, including mantelpieces and vases. This was once a bustling and noisy place, employing 20 men, with workshops, showrooms, a forge, boiler house and water wheel. Flat bottomed barges ferried goods out from the quay to waiting ships.

Poltesco Ruins

Poltesco Serpentine Works

The serpentine pebbles,rocks and boulders on the beach at Carleon are beautiful with lovely greens, red, yellow and white lines running though them. It was a magical moment. The sun was shining and surfers were enjoying the waves. I had a little sit down to take in the view.


Carleon Cove

After my sit down I missed the coast path so did a little unneeded detour up to Poltesco and back down the valley and onto the coast path. Oh well a little extra exercise meant I could have a mince pie with a big dollop of brandy cream when I got back! The coast path skirted the golf course of Sea Acres caravan park. The views from the top down to Kennack Sands  were breathtaking.

Kennack View

 I must admit Mr Smiles and I didn’t really take to Kennack in the Summer. It was packed with loud unruly holiday makers and we prefer a bit of peace and quiet. In the Winter it is a different story. There were a few dog walkers and surfers but the vast sandy beach was largely unspoilt and there for me to enjoy in peace. Stunning!

Kennack Sands

I then climbed up the wooded valley to Gwendreath Farm and then over the fields to the hamlet of Kuggar. My route kept to the footpaths so avoided the road to Kuggar. I did encounter an enormous stallion which seemed to be rather attracted to my flourescent yellow jacket and seemed to want to charge at me. I decided that calmly walking at that point was probably the best course of action.  I did check my route and I was on a clearly marked footpath. I think in hindsight perhaps the horse thought I would feed him, but I had nothing to offer!

My route followed the road and then through the wooded valley back in a loop to Poltesco. I passed the medieval Poltesco Mill and then up a steep hill to Ruan Minor. I remembered the hill from the previous Summer. I was walking with Mr Smiles and needed a lot of encouragement to keep going as I was unfit and overweight. It made me feel good that I was jogging up the same hill now! My run then took me past the chapel and to Ruan Minor. I then followed the wooded valley back to Cadgwith and my longed for mince pie!

The Cadgwith Cove Inn 

Cadgwith Cove Inn

The inn is at the heart of the community in Cadgwith. It’s the kind of pub we like – where the locals are still welcome and not pushed out by invading tourists.  If you like fancy gastro food then it may not be for you. As the Inn is at the heart of a fishing community fish  does feature strongly on the menu. I really like freshly caught fish and the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming. I came back from a bracing Winter walk one day and tucked into a fantastic seafood chowder. Seafood ChowderWe even had a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings on Christmas Eve which was excellent. We felt slightly self-conscious pulling Christmas crackers and wearing party hats in the middle of the pub when others were just having the regular menu.  However  after drinking a glass of wine we felt at home! In previous years we have chatted to one of the former fishermen Sharkey and heard his tales of the sea. The Cadgwith Singers meet one night a week in the pub and there is folk music on another.

Cadgwith Night

We really appreciated the fabulous Nautical Christmas lights all around the bay. On Christmas Day there is an annual Christmas Day swim in fancy dress. This year the sea was far too rough to swim but the whole village turned out in fancy dress and then had a swift pint in the pub to warm up. What a lovely atmosphere! Mr Smiles felt the real ale was well kept, but there could have been a bit more choice with a Guest ale.

Cadgwith Christmas Day Swim

Christmas Swim

Fancy DressCadgwith Cove Inn

I loved the mulled wine and found it very warming whilst taking photos at dusk down on the beach.

Cadgwith Dark

Cadgwith Nights

On Christmas Eve we enjoyed Poldhu and Church Coves. The sun was shining and the sea was making waves of sea foam which had the appearance of festive snow. We warmed up with coffee and a cake in the handy cafe afterwards.


Sea foam snow

Polldhu WavesPoldhu Winter

I also have fond memories of Coverack Harbour. Before I met Mr Smiles I used to take myself off to Coverack YHA on a weeks windsurfing holiday with Robin Hobson at the Coverack Windsurfing Centre. I no longer windsurf but it brought back memories walking Coverack Windsurfing Schoolround the bay.

Windsurfing Coverack

I was amazed how calm Coverack was compared to the rough sea at Cadgwith and Poldhu. Sadly Roskilly’s ice cream shop was shut for the Winter. I always had an ice cream as a `reward’ for a days windsurfing. I’ve just found my diary for June 2001 ` I’m getting into the habit of having  a yummy ice cream every day. The ice cream shop is just up from the windsurfing centre and sells amazing ice cream made at a local farm with 30 different flavours to choose from. My favourite is orange and mascarpone with a dollop of cornish clotted cream on top for good measure.’ My love of ice cream hasn’t changed then! For my 40th birthday whilst staying at Seawatch I was photographed enjoying a delicious ice cream too!

Ice Cream Shot

Coverack HarbourCoverack BoatsThe Old Post OfficePeaceful Coverack

However that was high Summer and this was Winter. We had a roaring fire to get home to and a nice meaty sausage with red wine gravy and mash. Yum! I hope you enjoyed my pictures of our Cadgwith Christmas. Happy New Year!

Cosy Fireside

0 comment

My Favourite Cornish Walk

Towanroath Engine House

I have just got back from a lovely cottage holiday in Cornwall with Mr Smiles. I thought I would share with you my favourite walk of the holiday. To me a holiday isn’t complete without a bracing walk along the coast and this was an exhilarating walk along the cliffs at St Agnes.

Chapel Porth,  St Agnes and Wheal Coates Mine

St Agnes Head Walk

We chose to start the walk at Chapel Porth Beach car park as there is a Seasonal Cafe there. We began our walk with a hot cup of tea and a home-made flapjack. Walk books tend to start at St Agnes Head but we preferred to set off from Chapel Porth and take advantage of the facilities available.

Start of the Walk

Chapel Porth is what I call a `proper, Cornish beach.’ Flushing village, where we were based, is on a tranquil Estuary. It was good to see the contrast of the more dramatic  Atlantic Coast.

Low Tide - Chapel Porth BeachFrom Chapel Porth we crossed a stream at the back corner of the car park and followed a path up Chapel Combe. During the 19th century the entire valley floor that leads down to the cove was given over to the processing of the mineral ore that came from the tin and copper mines, scattered across the surrounding countryside. As we walked up the valley the landscape is now overgrown by nature, but it was once taken over by the mining industry and there are still visible signs of this industry. We passed below a mine building.

Chapel Coombe

The path then leads through peaceful woodland. I enjoyed listening to the enormous variety of birds chirping in the trees.

We then made our way uphill to the summit of St Agnes Beacon where there were fantastic views of the surrounding countryside and coastline.

View from St Agnes Beacon

View from St Agnes Beacon

Having stopped to take in the wonderful views we made our way to St Agnes Head and then followed the coastal path. The track down to the headland was bordered by typical Cornish high walls full of wild flowers and butterflies. Stately purple foxgloves were everywhere. The lanes were alive with foxgloves, red campion, buttercups and cow parsley. I like the fact that Cornish walls, verges and hedges are allowed to take on a life of their own. In Oxfordshire a lot of the daisies have been mowed down and the hedges are butchered `neatly’. Apart from the hedgerows the coastal path is awash with wild flowers in June including lovely pink clumps of sea thrift. I also spotted blue sheep’s bit and pretty English stonecrop which I haven’t noticed before in Cornwall.

Cornish Wall

Cornish Foxgloves

 St Agnes Head is a vast 300 ft high wall of rock soaring above the Atlantic sea. The walk traces the flat clifftop tracks past the little promontory of Tubby’s Head, once an Iron Age Settlement. From here the landscape becomes typical mining country. We passed the abandoned Wheal Coates mine whose buildings can be seen uphill from the Coast Path.

Wheal Coates

 The tall Towanroath mine engine house towers above you. Towanroath Shaft is a granite building with the appearance of a castle keep standing directly above the sea amidst swathes of pink thrift. Towanroath was built in 1872 as the pumping house for Wheal Coates mine.

Towanroath Engine House

Towanroath Engine HouseTowanroath Engine HouseAs I gazed up at Wheal Coates I realised what a hard life being a Cornish tin miner would have been. It would have been quite a walk to work. In the Winter the conditions would have been bracing on the coast and then dark and damp down the mine. You would definately have needed a large Cornish pasty for lunch!

Towanroath Engine House

Beyond Towanroath the path descends back into Chapel Porth. We didn’t have a pasty but did have another cup of tea and a fabulous ice cream called a `hedgehog’ from the cafe. The Hedgehog is a Cornish Ice cream, rolled in Cornish clotted cream, and coated in honey roasted Hazelnuts. Delicious and a very good reason to finish the walk at Chapel Porth!

Hedgehog Ice Cream

The tide had come in so we had a last look at the sea before heading home to Oxfordshire.

Chapel Porth Beach