Back to Ty Newydd, the National Writing Centre of Wales for a nature writing course with Mark Cocker and Kathleen Jamie (with Horatio Clare as the guest writer/reader) last week. when I was there in the autumn it was late October and quite a different feel to everything. and this was such a different course to the rather alternative storytelling retreat with Hugh Lupton and Eric Madden.

last week it was warm and we had a lot of sun

the lavender in flower and filled with bees – honey, and several different bumblebees

I think this is a carder bee

and this is a white-tailed bumble. One of our morning workshops with Mark had us looking hard at the bees for at least fifteen minutes to write something really concentrated about them.

there were also dragonflies – this is a dead one found in the house

and a few moths. this rosy footman was stranded in the house overnight

having entered and become confused by the glass the night before. there are so many moths with wonderful names; it was great to have someone (Mark) who is an expert on insects to share information.

this time I managed a walk to the beach almost every morning – the circular walk is just over two miles, taking in small paths

through tree-edged fields of grass

under the single railway line

past brambles – ripe blackberries one morning for breakfast –

bracken, grazing cows

a deliciously tarry hut

down to where the river Dwyfor comes out into Cardigan Bay

and along the coastal path

beside burling water (burly water described by Norman MacCaig) that in spate into a high tide must be quite a sight –

but the tide was out or going out in the mornings last week – and one morning a heron flapped across low to the little waves

there’s always a special light in the mornings

and back up to the house, David Lloyd George’s last home

a lawn full of self-heal, and the semi-circular porch and window echoed by lines of flat pebbles set on end raying out in another semicircle before the grass starts

the house is surrounded by mature trees, but this walnut is my favourite, its branch across the stone steps down to the kitchen and utility part of the house.

I omitted to take photos of the wood and the river where we spent one morning making notes, leaving me with a few close-up portraits of Himalayan balsam flowers – extraordinary sexy glutinous objects.

full of thoughts about my own writing and about the very good insights into the poems we worked on, from the whole group of writers, and from Kathleen Jamie. I drove home in a gale, shreds of leaves flying across the road. these damsons blown early off the tree in my garden went into a cake. the next lot will be gin.

those blues seem to have got under my skin

yesterday I tackled a large oil painting (48 x 48 inches) which has been waiting for me to know what to do to it. the large emulsion brush turned out to be the key.

it’s good to have a break from something like painting. doors open, just like that!