Grand Designs & Green Heroes

VW-218Any trip to Grand Designs Live starts with a stroll down the Design Arcade, and inevitably I linger at the Vintage Wonderland Chandeliers stand (E7).  The chandeliers are sourced from France, Belgium or Italy and then restored with skill, knowledge and a great deal of love.  Those that are beyond repair are reborn as drops and pendants on new bespoke work.  The chandeliers are rewired to conform to British standards and supplied with ceiling bell and chain.   Alison can also work to create something bespoke to match a client’s colour scheme.    They create a magical atmosphere in a room. This is upcycling at its most glamorous!

BnNUX2zIgAE8CsVA few strides further, Green Decore Rugs, is a riot of colourful rugs made from 90% recycled polypropylene plastic.  Prices start at £42 for a 120x150cm rug that could be used indoor, outdoor, at the park or on the beach.  The bold patterns would brighten any gathering.  I wonder where they get their colour?

nestHappily the Design Arcade is also the most direct route to Kevin McCloud’s Green Heroes.  This year the selection is influenced by McCloud’s most recent series on Channel 4, “Kevin’s Supersized Salvage”, in which designers are challenged to repurpose or upcycle an Airbus A320. The Aircraft Workshop, set up by Harry Dwyer and Charlie Waller after working on the programme, have their quirky bird nesting boxes on display.  The weatherproof Aircraft BirdBoxes (priced from £110, pictured left) are made out of air ducting pipework with back plates made from cabin flooring and an entrance from wing fuel pipe connectors.  The resin-fibre duct pipe can not be recycled an would otherwise be landfill.  I also like their egg cups at a more affordable £22!

01Making good use of the things that they find are TING. They rework leather belts to create a glossy, subtly textured surface material for floors, walls or table tops (pictured right).  The vintage belts, of high grade leather are stripped of buckles, hand cleaned and then carefully made up into panels that balance their pattern and colour.  And if customers should ever fancy a change, then TING will accept the tiles back to recycle them.

From the dark to the bright white panels from 3DWalldecor.  The panels are available in eight distinct patterns and made of bamboo pulp.  Bamboo is often lauded as eco-friendly as it is fast-growing and can be cultivated without pesticides.  The panels are modular, paintable, and bang on trend. 

lightThe eye-catching ceiling lights from Willem Heeffer are upcycled washing machine drums that have been powder coated in a choice of six subtle colours from light pink to slate grey.  The lights are 35cmhx 48cmd, priced 310 euros and supplied with 2m of fabric braided cable.  A literally more domestic take on the industrial look.

bedTaking centre stage is the ‘Eleanor’ bed from the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Company.  This elegant bed is built to last, by hand in Norfolk from part recycled iron tube and scaffolding junctions. The ‘William’ in a raw metal finish is closer to its industrial roots.  Prices start at £855 for a single bed, and it would no doubt withstand a lot of energetic bouncing kids.

For outdoors, Thomas Bramwell are showcasing their ECOLLECTION of modular outdoor seating, loungers, tables and planters made from 100% up-cycled plastics.  The contemporary furniture is chemical, UV and heat resistant.  It would make a striking addition to an urban garden.

From furniture to foundations.  It is often the invisible elements of site design and construction that have the greatest environmental impact.  Screed is what binds a flooring finish to the substrate and incorporates other flooring elements such as acoustic insulation or underfloor heating.  Isocrete Green Screed, from Flowcrete UK, does not contain Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC).  OPCs are a common ingredient in concrete, but at a high carbon price, accounting for 90% of the construction industry’s Co2 emissions, and the cement industry accounts for 24.9% of global Co2 emissions (source the Materials Council).  Isocrete Green Screed is also made up of 40% recycled materials reclaimed from heavy industry, diverting the material from landfill.  A heavy duty product with a lighter tread.  

Groundshield is a self shuttering, lightweight foundation system from Swedish company, Advanced Foundation Technology Ltd.  It is a slab foundation technique based on expanded polystyrene that eliminates the need for screed and is thermally very efficient, so suitable for low energy and passivhaus buildings.  In this context the durability of polystyrene is a benefit!

IMG_3349Good insulation is essential for energy-efficiency in buildings, and Inno-THERM  (pictured right) is an insulation made from 85% recycled denim and cotton.  It is non-itch and does not contain any chemical irritants. It has low embodied energy as it uses 70% less energy in production than conventional inorganic insulation, and can be recycled at its end of life.  It has a thermal conductivity of 0.039 WmK and very effective acoustic performance. 

And finally, a by-product of a favourite fuel, coffee. Bio-bean collect waste coffee grounds sourced from coffee shops and instant coffee factories in the South-East.  London produces over 200,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds annually, and it generally ends up in landfill.  Waste coffee grounds contain up to 20% oil by weight, and Bio-bean have patented a process to convert this oil to biodiesel that conforms to EU standards. The residual grounds are made into biomass pellets and briquettes which are carbon-neutral and suitable for all bio-mass boilers. Oh and they produce a coffee aroma when burnt.

Grand Designs Live 2014 is currently on at the London Excel centre until Sunday 11th May.

Image credits: Green Decore; TING; Vintage Wonderland Chandeliers and the rest are my own .

And the birds

parkMy window looks out over a park, and as the view becomes steadily more verdant, so the birds find fuller voice. I am far from an ornithologist, but as I ran around the park this morning, I saw a robin, blue tit, thrush, goldfinch, blackbird, magpie, a couple of alien parakeets and the ubiquitous pigeon.  The bird song is simply uplifting, a spring chorus for us all to savour.  It is nesting season, as March to August is the main breeding season for nesting birds, so no wonder they are in full voice.

With the knowledge that the Lawton review of England’s Wildlife Sites and Ecological Network, published by DEFRA in 2010, noted declines of more than 80% of farmland birds since the 1960s, including tree sparrows, corn buntings and turtle doves, I turned my attention to what I can do in my patch.  Over the last 20 years we have lost half to three-quarters of insect-eating birds.  Some of this is due to loss of their homes.  Lots of hedgerows have disappeared from farmland, and fences and walls are the norm in cities.

Growing a hedge with native and trees and shrubs provides food, shelter and somewhere to nest all in one.  At this time of year, the RSPB recommend that you avoid cutting hedges and trees.  It is actually an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use, or being built.  The RSPB website has free guides to growing a hedge and making it a home for birds.

In the last 12 years, 53% of swifts have disappeared from the South East of England, according to Swift Conservation.  Swifts, with their long, scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail, form a familiar silhouette in our summer skies when they arrive to breed.    As they nest under eaves and gables, renovations and new buildings have disturbed many of their nesting sites, particularly as swifts often nest in the same holes and crevices for years.  Swifts are easily disturbed, so try to avoid doing any roof repairs or other work during the nesting season from May to August.

The best place to install a swift box is under the eaves of your roof, or a similar overhang, as this will provide some protection from the weather, in a shaded area. It should be at least 5 metres off the ground and away from climbers or nearby trees, so it is less accessible to predators such as crows, magpies, squirrels and cats.  Once installed, you do not need to clean out the boxes.  Swift Conservation have a number of D.I.Y. designs for swift boxes and information on swift bricks and NHBS sell a large range of bird boxes suitable for swifts and other birds.
bbA Bird Brick House is a permanent home for swifts, sparrows, and many other small to medium sized UK birds.  The box can be included as a new build, or retro-fited without cutting bricks.  The boxes are suitable for render, brick work or weather-boarding, for residential and commercial buildings.  The back box is made from 100% recycled plastic and the removable front with a fascia of real brick can blend the surrounding wall.  Bird Brick House make a range of boxes to suit the nesting habits of a variety of birds and bats.  Prices start from £70 +VAT.

If space is not such premium and you could make your own sparrows nest box to attach to a wall or tree.  The RSPB offers a free DIY guide to building a nest for house sparrows that takes about 3-4 hours.  If you do not have a tree, you substitute with a “Branch” bird feeder handmade in Cornwall from solid English Ash from Green and Blue,  priced at £35.

BLOGr&rLN25AOr follow this fun and thifty suggestion from LoveBessie to reuse a milk or soup carton as a home for our feathered friends, reproduced here by kind permission.  The reduce and recycle projects are on the backs of cards from LoveBessie’s Lolita Nolita collection.  ‘No lita’, get it? The playful designs share Love-ly messages. Simply wash out your old carton thoroughly; draw a window on each of the sides 60mm up from the base; cut out the windows; punch a hole in the top to loop the string and tie with a secure knot; fill the base with birdseed; and voila enjoy the spectacle.

For those not so confident of their DIY skills, I love the colours of this bird house (pictured below) from Traidcraft, that has been woven from rope made from twisted, recycled, misprinted sweet wrappers (priced at £10).31086

Bird food is widely available from supermarkets, garden centres, and of course the RSPB (all profits support their work).  Many household scraps are also a suitable and inexpensive way of feeding birds, but while suet, dried fruits and rice are popular, there are a few don’ts, such as milk or fat from cooked meat. The RSPB provides a comprehensive round up of what to feed, to whom, how and when!

So if you have a few spare moments this long Easter weekend, create a home for some real eggs to hatch.

Photo credits: LoveBessie, Traidcraft

Sowing the seeds of biodiversity

bbka_album_12_1364148653_thumbSpring is in the air, and the birds and the bees are a buzzing.  But the cacophony is more subdued than it once was.

We have known for sometime that our ecosystems, globally, nationally and in many cases locally are in decline.   The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, concluded “over the past 50 years humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and more extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber and fuel.  This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth.”  Our own UK National Ecosystem Assessment, published in 2011, found that about 30% of our ecosystems services have been assessed as currently declining, with many others in a degraded state.

All of this matters, as we rely on these ecosystem services for our survival.  Provisioning services of food and fuel can be easily understood, and valued.  Others are less tangible: regulation services such as trees providing local cooling and carbon capture (yes a shady tree); or the non-material benefits we derive from cultural services (put simply, enjoying a walk on the beach); and  supporting services, such as soil formation and  nutrient recycling (or composting).  Biodiversity underpins all of these services, and the greater the biodiversity, generally the more resilient the systems are.  The Lawton review, Making Space for Nature, (2010) concluded unequivocally that England’s wildlife sites are too small and too fragmented to provide a coherent and resilient ecological network.

bbka_album_12_1393322838_thumbAs for bees, over the last 20 years there has been a 50% decline in honey bee colonies, while at the same time, the areas of crops dependent on insect pollinators grew 38%.  84% of European crops rely on insect pollinators, and pollination is worth £440mn per year to UK agriculture (The Natural Choice: Securing the Value of Nature, DEFRA, 2011).  So it is worth our while in every sense to act.

What is more, as 80% of our population live in urban areas, the green in our cities matters, but over the period, 1999-2008, London alone lost, on average, 500 gardens each year (London: Garden City? ,2010, London Wildlife Trust).  Some of the loss was due to development, but changes in garden design and management are also responsible, with a a 26% increase in hardstanding over the same period.

OlympicParkImage1-1A wide range of evidence suggests that contact with green spaces improves our well-being, so incorporating green infrastructure into urban design reaps wide social benefits.  Speaking at Ecobuild, Blanche Cameron, Founding Director of RESET, reminded us “Nature in cities is something we can all do – and is everyone’s job to do” as cities provide great opportunities to support biodiversity by integrating nature into our habitat.  Given the shortage of ground, choosing living roofs and walls, rain gardens, tree pits, or even a window box, are a great way to provide some green infrastructure to punctuate the grey.

As Toby James from Wildflower Turf, suppliers to London 2012 (pictured left), noted at Ecobuild, green roofs help filter air and water pollution, provide opportunities for rainwater capture and harvesting,  and reduce energy demand by providing insulation, creating better public and private spaces where we can all thrive.  They are also low maintenance, needing a trim only once a year in the autumn, and watering only in case of drought.The wildflowers also provide essential fodder for pollinators.

IMG_2009So what can you do to make space for pollinators, in gardens and on roofs?  The London Wildlife Trust‘s Garden for a Living London campaign has come up with six gardening actions to turn your backyard into a mini nature reserve.  They have ‘how to guides’ for each available for free download, from planting a mixed hedgerow to ‘wild up’ your decking.  RESET run one day masterclasses on DIY small scale green roof construction, or suppliers such as Wildflower Turf can provide installers’ details.  A video on Wildflower Turf UK’s website shows how quickly the wildflower turf can be established.

As Jane Moseley of the British Beekeepers Association says, “We don’t all have to be beekeepers, but we can all be keepers of bees”.  In London, for example, there are plenty of bees, but not enough for them to eat.  Just mowing the grass less often so that clover, dandelions and other pollinator fodder can flourish, would help, and how lovely to be implored to be lazy for a change!  BBKA provide a range of resources and advice on how to help bees and beekeepers.  Here are their top 10 ways to help the Honey Bee:

1. Adopt a beehive

seeds12. Make a bee-friendly habitat.  Plants they like include sunflowers, larkspurs, and foxgloves.  Vegetables like peas and beans, and the flowering herbs, such as mint and rosemary are also popular, along with most native wildflowers.

Perfect-for-Pollinators_RHS_P4P_LOGO_LWLook out for the RHS Perfect for Pollinators symbol at your local garden centre, or ask for advice, as now is a great time to sow your (wildflower) seeds.  I am not sure we followed all the instructions on preparation, but  Thompson & Morgan, and Sutton Seeds both stock pollinator-friendly mixes.  Packets of wildflower seed mixes make a great party bag filler and thoughtful alternative for wedding favours. Or sign up for your Bee Cause, bee saver kit from Friends of the Earth.

t440_7ace90caf718423162690a916f788d22Provide bees in your garden with a home.  Wildlife World have a whole range of options, from a simple bee log  (pictured right), via the functional Kinsman bee nester (made from rice husk and bamboo  and priced £18.99) to the palatial Highgrove Solitary Bee House, which is inspired by the design of classical temples in the Highgrove gardens, there is an option to suit all tastes!

3.  Encourage your local authority to cultivate bee-friendly, wildflower spaces. Local authorities manage a huge amount of space, so a policy change can have a real impact.  Eastbourne Borough Council has formally backed the Bee Cause and planting in all their parks and gardens now aims to be pollinator-friendly.

bbka_album_52_1375983647_thumb4.  Consider letting  a local beekeeper use your spare space. Your garden will get a boost from good pollination, and you might get some honey too!  Contact your local beekeeping association to find out more.

5.  If you spot a swarm, report it to the police or a local authority.

6. Do not keep unwashed honey jars outside as overseas honey can contain spores and bacteria very harmful to honey bees.

7. Contact your MP to urge their support for research into the decline of honey bees.

8. Invite a beekeeper to your local school or club.  Bees have been on Earth for around 30 million years, and cultivated for around 5,000 years.  Quite a history!

9.  Buy locally-produced honey.  It will taste different to foreign supermarket honey, and the flavour will reflect your local flora.  It is also a boost to pollinating local crops.

10.  If it sparks your interest, try a beekeeper for the day taster course, or become a beekeeper’s buddy and see if you are keen to take on a hive!

Simply let some native colour back in!

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Photo credit:  British Beekeepers Association, Gardenvisit.com, Wildflower Turf UK, Wildlife World

Happy New Year from Stuart Gardiner

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To get us all a buzzing, Stuart Gardiner Designs are offering a 25% discount code on their entire range of joyful, informative, and absorbent products, for the whole of January.  There are tea towels, aprons, mugs and mitts to choose from.

This bee friendly tea towel is my favourite after a recent trip to the National Beekeeping Centre in Wales where my daughter picked up the poster version.   The tea towel is a collaboration with Friends of the Earth (a 75p donation is made to FOE for each tea towel sold)  to encourage bees and other pollinators into your garden.  The tea towel’s  jaunty illustration of plants particularly favoured by bees is a 6 colour print on organic unbleached cotton. The tea towel is made & printed in the UK, and priced £10.  The Happy New Year Y’all! discount code is: ‘Dry January’!

As for bees, they pollinate 75% of our main food crops worldwide.  In the UK, apples, plums, pears, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, red currants, gooseberries and strawberries all depend on insects for pollinations, and so do some vegetables, such as broad bean, runner bean and the pumpkin family.  It is estimated that the value of insect-pollinated fruits and vegetables is more than £200million a year in the UK alone.  And, there is the immeasurable value of wildflowers and ornamental garden plants reliant on insect pollination that brighten up our gardens, hedgerows, parks and woodlands.  However in the past 50 years many British insects such as common butterflies, moths, hoverflies and bees have been in decline.

In the UK, bees have lost 97% of their grassland habitat in the last 60 years and wildflower meadows. There is plenty you can do to help in your garden, window box or roof terrace this spring.  Friends of the Earth have a Bee Saver Kit complete with a pack of wildflower seeds, bee ID, garden planner and bee guide.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has a BeeKind Tool to score how bee friendly the plants in your garden.  By adding your garden’s score to the Beekind map, the BBCT is beginning to build up a picture of bee friendly habitats across the country.   There are also top tips for identifying bees, fact sheets about suitable wildflower seeds for different soil types and suggestions on how to make a bumblebee nest from an up-turned flower pot, piece of tubing and a piece of tile or slate.

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The Royal Horticultural Society provides lists of both garden plants and wildflower plants that attract pollinators and tips on how to support bees in your garden.  Closer to home, your local garden centre will have plants labelled as “Perfect for pollinators” and packs of wildflower seeds. Naturally the British Beekeepers Association is a hive (pun absolutely intended) of information on bees, keeping them, or adopting a beehive.  For kids, there are some fun products available, from seed bombs, to BeeMat, a biodegradable mat filled with wildflower seeds that controls weeds.

There will be more blogs about green gardening as spring approaches.

A breath of fresh air in the garden

perhIf you have been looking for an excuse to get out into the garden, there is no more gentle reminder of the seasonal fruits of your labours in the allotment than the delightful ‘Perpetual Harvest’, a set of 12 prints illustrated by Claudia Pearson (£14.99).

Each individual print, one for each month of the year, has a list of what to plant and what to harvest that month with fresh, colourful illustrations of the produce.

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Even December tempts the taste buds with a note to harvest kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, carrots and beets. There is a reminder to plant cabbage, broccoli, bare-root apple, peach and walnut trees.  The prints would look fantastic framed and hung together across a kitchen wall.

There are more comprehensive reminders, but few as attractive!  Quickcrop, for example, has an online growing calendar with sowing, planting and harvesting information as well as plant guides.  They specialise in providing ready to grow planters, particularly for the urban gardener.  Their plug plants have been organically grown, with out the use of peat.  A low maintenance gift to get the patio garden going.

As well as an encyclopedic  gardening calendar the Royal Horticultural Society’s website also has guides on how to attract more wildlife to your garden, establishing a wildflower garden and which plants attract pollinators.

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Bold and Noble fuse pattern and nature to create clean, contemporary prints.  Pictured is ‘Bee Kind’, which is  a hand-pulled screen print of bee-friendly plants on recycled off-white card.  The print is 50cm x 70cm (so fits ‘off the peg’ frames), and £43.  15% of retail profits from  ‘Bee Kind’ will go to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and if you order before 31st December you’ll get a free A4 special edition Christmas print.

For something more tactile, and textile, Stuart Gardiner Designs produces a range of seasonal calendars on tea towels, aprons and mugs, as well as screen prints. There are guides to fish, fruit and vegetables, and besgr_smalle-ing friendly.  There are also even more inspiring guides to plan your foraging for fungi, nuts, herbs and other edibles, and notes on which wild and garden flowers for creating a seasonal bouquet.  If it all seems a bit like a Gantt chart,  rest assured such useful information is rarely so beautifully presented.  Tea towels are £10 each. What perfectly practical stocking fillers!

Window shopping at the New Craftsmen

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You can’t exactly window shop as the New Craftsmen pop-up store is in a garage in central London, but I have been trying to find a moment to peak behind the big black doors for a while.

I was immediately struck by the beautiful turquoise glazed, embossed tiles on the walls. What beauty, and expense, to adorn what would have been stables and a  carriage house.  The tiles reflect an attention to detail that is the essence of the New Craftsmen.

Before popping-up, the founders spent two years  touring the country, meeting exceptional makers of traditional crafts, masters of skills that are often centuries old, and capturing their stories.  New Craftsmen is the result.  A selection of beautiful, and useful wares presented to customers in a place, and space that also shares the stories of the people and processes that make them.

Some pieces are produced just as they always have been, such as the Sussex trugs (gardening basket) handcrafted from locally coppiced sweet chestnut and willow by Thomas Smiths since 1829.

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Other things are a contemporary take on a classic piece, such as the Coventry chair, pictured.  Made by Sitting Firm in Coventry, the chair is one of a number of variations on the classic Windsor chair that are stocked by the New Craftsmen.  Chris Eckersley designed the chair during a green-woodworking (also know as bodging) project at Clissett Wood, in Herefordshire.  This intensive designer mash-up, now named ‘Bodging Milano’, inspired spin off events such as the ‘Elves and the Chairmakers’ in the Lloyd Loom factory in Spalding when seven chair concepts emerged over two days.  I love the notion of designers’ creative energy sparking off one another to hot house new concepts and experiment freely with materials in their environment.

Bashot_0466_copysmallercropped_compactck to the New Craftsmen, where my eye was caught by a Taylor’s Eye Witness lambsfoot pen knife.  Sheffield, the City of Steel, has a tradition of knife making dating back to the 14th century, and Taylor’s Eye Witness have been fine exemplars of the local skills for over 150 years.  The knife is made entirely by one craftsmen (and comes with a certificate bearing its maker’s signature) from stainless steel and an ironwood handle.   To see how,there is a video on the Taylor’s Eye Witness website. The knife has a reassuring weight in your palm, and yet the wood grain on the handle has a delicate beauty.  Pen knives remind me of my grandfather making all manner of things for us, from whittling sticks to rope ladders. It would make a special present for someone.  A thing of beauty to enjoy forever.

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Christmas trees that are greener than meets the eye

logoAt last a seemingly simple alternative to a real, cut Christmas tree.  My Mum has been planting her Christmas trees for years, but then she is in North Wales.  For those of us, in urban areas, our options have not been as green, so I was delighted to come across Lovely Branches.  If you are living in Greater London, you can rent a Christmas tree from Lovely Branches.  They will deliver a tree that has been grown within a 100 miles of the M25, and then collect it and replant it after the festivities are over, to grow for next year.   You can also rent decorations in either a red, silver or pearl theme.  If you are overwhelmed by the whole enterprise, then Lovely Branches premium service includes installation and decoration of your tree.  You could order a decorated tree for an infirm relative or friend, or to brighten up your office.

Of the 8 million real Christmas trees sold in the UK every year to retail customers, about 5 million are imported from abroad, so if you prefer a cut tree, Lovely Branches offer those too, only theirs are grown here in the UK.

I placed our order yesterday, and it was a swift, straightforward process.  Prices start at £38 for a 4-5 ft tree + delivery and collection (from £16 combined).  I can’t wait to see the Norwegian spruce we have rented.  It was sobering to watch my daughter’s face when she saw the enormous pile of discarded, fading trees striped of their magical decorations being marshalled by tractors and fed into the wood chipper in our local park last January.  Returning our tree to be replanted is a much more positive prospect to start the new year.

Halloween’s Golden Fever

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A little note on pumpkins from the experts at Kew Gardens, ‘Golden Fever’ variety makes an excellent lantern.  And a reminder to hang on to the seeds when you carve the pumpkin.  Roast the seeds with a sprinkle of sugar for a tasty treat for the trick-or-treaters.  Trick or treating is apparently a tradition that originated in Europe in the Middle Ages when people sang songs and begged for a ‘soul cake’.  Each cake represented a soul being freed from purgatory.  By extrapolation, does that mean that heaven is a chocolate bar of your choice?

If you need some pumpkin carving tips, Tony Finch, master vegetable grower, is showing off his traditional pumpkin carving skills at Kew Gardens all week.   There are also Halloween-themed activities taking place at National Trust properties around the country this week, from make your own bat kite or owl mask, to spooky woodland trails or ghastly, ghostly stories.  For information on these and other family-focused events taking place over half-term near you check out the Events page on the National Trust website.

Decorex highlights

PETDecorex International was the long tail of my London Design excursions.  A design show that is definitely established, decidedly high-end, and distinctly for the trade, I was curious to see what it offered for carefully curated.  The ‘feature’ entrance, designed by Kit Kemp, was worthy of the superlatives.  ‘Beautiful’, ‘stunning’ and ‘luxurious’ can be overworked in the Decorex environment, but they are were fitting adjectives for the the display inspired by the Silk Route.  I loved the hanging pendants from PET Lamp.  The clue is in the name, as the lamps are made from recycled plastic bottles and woven using traditional artisanal techniques in Colombia.

Once into the fray,  I was spoilt for choice. I went to admire the new designs on the stand of Fine Cell Work, the social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework to foster hope, discipline and self esteem, where a needlepoint demonstration was underway.   Another organisation with a strong ethical purpose is GoodWeave who are working to end child labour in the carpet industry and boost educational opportunities for children in weaving communities in India, Nepal and Afghanistan.  Their website has a directory to find rugs ethically produced by GoodWeave approved producers.

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Then onto textile companies, and the riot of colour of at Timorous Beasties (seen here on their Omni Splatt cushion, £144), was in glorious contrast to the cool, clean botanical prints at Ivo Prints.  Ivo Prints have been producing textiles and wall coverings under license to The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew at their small factory in west London since early 2011.

FABRICSThe Kew Collection also includes  home accesories, cushions, bags and other gifts and a share of proceeds supports Kew’s conservation work .  The collection is closely connected to its subject matter, with evidence of the seeds in the weaving as a reminder of the natural and plant based origins of the cloth.  Only water-based, non toxic pigment colours are used to print the collection.

Water-based paints and pigments feature highly at Little Greene.  Little Greene Dyeworks started in 1773 making dye solutions to the cotton trade.  Today, all their products are still manufactured in the UK, with a determination to produce high-quality paints and papers that are environmentally-friendly.  They use only natural, organic and safe-synthetic pigments.   Oil-base paints use vegetable oils, making them child-friendly.  And a contribution for every paint and wallpaper sale goes to English Heritage, with whom they have collaborated to develop a range of authentic historical paint colours.  I particularly liked their sculpture, pictured below, which reminds me of the children’s song, “we’ve got the whole world in our hands”.

hands

Elsewhere, I was drawn to the tactile display of woollen fabrics on the Moon stand.  Established in 1837 in Leeds, Abraham Moon & Sons Ltd, remains the only vertical mill left in Britain.  From fleeces to final dispatch, they control the entire manufacturing process with dyeing, blending, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing processes all taking place on one site.  Their Natural Wool collection makes extensive use of un-dyed wools.  As well as furnishing fabrics, Moon also produces throws and fashion accessories including cushions, baby blankets and scarves under their Bronte by Moon label.   N.B. Abraham Moon fabrics are used to upholster the Moonshine footstool from Galvin Brothers – see my Tent London post.  Gorgeous!

Other highlights were the reclaimed antique tiles from Bert and May.  Bert and May are also able to make reproductions of any tile in their antique collection or your own design or specification to complete a project.  Their new showroom is opening next month.   Finally, and relax, in the folding rocking chair made from sustainable steam-bent beech by Wawa.  It folds to 15cm wide, and weighs only 5kg.  Perfect for confined spaces!!

chair

London: Hidden Nature

London’s landscape constantly surprises me, even after more than a decade living in the big smoke I am still finding patches of green, whether a tucked away garden, living wall, overzealous buddleia.  Later this month, 21st September, professional photographer, Roy Matthews is leading an adult learning event at the Royal Academy for photographers of all abilities and camera types to capture London’s hidden natural landscape.  The shift of season into autumn will no doubt only add to the atmosphere.  The day workshop, London: Hidden Nature, runs from 11am meeting at the Royal Academy for a practical session outdoors, followed by a critique at the RA.

Capture an unfamiliar image of London to savour at home or share.