Back at the end of September we spent the weekend in a shepherds’s hut on Elmley nature reserve, what could be more romantic. Big skies, a cosy wooden home with a big window overlooking the reserve. The recipe for a perfect weekend.

Elmley is based on the Isle of Sheppey and even though I am born and bred in Kent, I have never explored this corner of my home county.

We stayed in The Saltbox, named after the fact that since Roman times the salt marshes have been harvested for sea salt and salt mounds would have dotted the landscape.

We drove down to Elmley Reserve on Friday afternoon, a fairly easy journey out of South London. When you arrive at the main gate it is a ten minute drive over to the farm and the shepherd huts. Passing herds of cattle in the day and later when we popped out to buy supplies at twilight, hares, hedgehogs and murmurations of swallows.

We stayed in The Saltbox and when we arrived we were really impressed by the way the shepherd huts were set up and all the little touches such as Romney Marsh wool blankets, binoculars and bird books to identify the birds through the huge windows.

Elmley Nature Reseve, Saltbox shepherds box

Elmley Reserve, Saltbox, Weekend Away

Bird watching, Elmley Nature Reserve. Salt Box

Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell

We didn’t fancy cooking and ordered a tasty home cooked supper, which arrived in a lovely wicker basket. We put up the table and ate delicious Spinach, butternut squash & feta filo pie. We also ordered egg butties and fresh coffee both mornings.

Later on we took advantage of the fire pit and marshmallows. It was a really lovely and cosy evening.

Elmley Nature Reserve, fire pit. weekend away

The next morning, I attempted to watch the sun rise but couldn’t stay awake! We had a leisurely breakfast and coffee. I particularly loved sitting in the Adirondock chairs and taking in the view. We went off and explored the nature reserve and discovered an unknown love of bird watching. We met lots of bird watchers who told us how much they loved the reserve. I was very impressed by their enormous cameras.

Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell, morning coffee

The views were amazing. We also left the reserve to properly explore the North Kent Marshes, an inspirational place for Dickens. We went to see the beautiful St Thomas The Apostle in Harty before coming back for a nap to recover from the early start.

In the evening we ventured out to the Three Mariners in Oare. A really lovely and cosy pub, but very busy. I would recommend going earlier or later to miss the rush.

All in all a brilliant weekend.

Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell, A weekend away Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell, Weekend away

 

Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell

 

Apologies for the long delay in updating the site. It has been a busy summer/Autumn, with a lot of change. Here are some of my life updates:

Travel

We travelled to the Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides in August, which was magical. We stayed with friends on the Isle of Lewis and hired a car. If any of you are thinking of going, my top tip is to book early, to get somewhere lovely to stay.

I also spent a weekend in Helsinki in October, a really beautiful and mellow city. I love Finland and I can’t wait to go back.

Houses

We tried to move house in September and it went wrong, a long and very dull story.

Hopefully we will move in December with a new buyer and luckily our sellers have waited for us. A big move for us as it will be moving from a flat to a house. I’ve loved living in my particular part of London, Brixton, and I love my flat and garden. But I can’t wait to explore North London and live in a new area. I am particularly excited about having a front door and stairs. A chance to put down proper roots.

A baby

One of the main reasons I have been really quiet is that I am having a baby in April. The first trimester completely wiped me out. I could just about get through the day at work, but the thought of updating the blog was slightly beyond me.

Now I am now into week 18 I am feeling very excited about our Spring arrival. This will be the biggest adventure of all. Big changes in Laura Bluebell’s world.

I promise to get better at updating the blog and talking to you more regularly.

Laura Bluebell life update

 

This time last week, I was just back from a magical four day retreat in Fforest camp with Sisterhood Camp Retreats.

In case you don’t know about Sisterhood, it was set up by Lou Archell of Little Green Shed. The retreats are designed to help people to embrace a slower and more gentle pace of life.

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I spotted the first Sisterhood retreat on Instagram two years ago and I thought it looked beautiful.

Slowing down from my frenetic pace of life really appealed, that and the fact the retreat was taking place on the Welsh Coast over summer solstice. With the opportunity to learn new skills, foraging in flower filled hedgerows and gathering around nightime fires – how could anyone resist?

It was a creative, friendly, and ever so beautiful four days. There was feasting, country walks, wild swimming and plenty of time outside.

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The beautiful and inspiring women I met

The opening ceremony of sisterhood set the tone, where we gathered around the fire to set out our intentions. Mine was to have some time for reflection but the weekend turned out to be more about the connections made. The group I found myself in for jam making was a particular highlight. These wise women made sure I was included, even though they knew so much more. Michelle, who had travelled to Sisterhood all the way from Tasmania, is a cookery writer and her books include one on making jam.

Sisterhoo women

@littlegreenshed

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I loved laughing and talking to everyone over all the communal meals, around the fire at night and between workshops.  It was fascinating hearing about the different ways people live their lives, such as Flora Jamieson who told stories about messing around on the river as child and how she now takes her children on wild swimming adventures. It was inspiring to learn about people’s businesses set up in all four corners of the UK, including Sam’s amazing fireside banquets and Laurie from A Woodland Gathering who makes  beautiful linen dresses in Scotland.

Wild Swimming

From waking to the bird song to gathering round the open fire. It was amazing breathing in the fresh Welsh air. A big contrast to the fumes of Brixton Hill.

On Saturday we gathered together to learn all about wild swimming and strolled down to the river Tefyn where we all jumped in, remembering to carry on breathing when the cold took your breath away.

Sisterhood Camp Retreat down to the river for swimming
@sisterhoodcamp

The feeling of the cold water and the pull of the current was unlike anything I had experienced before. It did take your breath away.

Sisterhood Camp Retreat Swimming

@littlegreenshed

The beautiful Fforest camp

The setting of Sisterhood was really lovely. When we arrived at Fforest camp you take in the wooden buildings, the beautiful flower arrangements and our dome with a wood burning stove. Sian @coldatnight has thought of all the little details, from the cosy pub with comfortable seats to the beautiful Welsh blankets on our beds. I could have sat outside on our dome’s terrace all day, reading the brilliant books in our goody bags (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Who is the real Joan Ashby?)

Here are some of the details from Fforest that I loved.

Siterhood Camp flowers

 

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One final thing that will stay with me is the delicious food and beautiful styling of all the feasts.

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Sisterhood Camp Retreat

Before the Sisterhood Camp Retreat final night feast.

Thank you for a magical experience, I can’t wait until my next Sisterhood Camp Retreat.

Laurabluebell Sisterhood Camp

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Sorry I have been very quiet on the blog front, I was travelling in April and visited Myanmar and Italy. Since I have been back in May and June, life has rather taken over. How do other people manage to fit in blogging, working and seeing your friends and family? Is it down to better discipline and watching a bit less Love Island?

My mother died at Christmas and we are finally sorting out her house. My brother and I have been sorting through all her possessions, which is heartbreaking on one hand, but bringing back lots of very happy memories of my Mum and Dad (who died when I was 25).

Sorting out crockery

Spending a lot of time sorting out crockery

We are hoping to sell it over the summer but in the meantime I have decided to sell my beloved Brixton Hill flat where I have lived for eight years.

It has many happy memories, parties, endless hours lying in the back garden. It also really reminds me of my Mum who used to come up and help with the garden, often bringing plants.

Garden 2

The flat went on the market on Saturday and apparently 18 people came round to see it, I wait to see tomorrow whether I get any offers! I have loved living here and I am sure someone else will as well.

So on Saturday we got up very early to hide all our possessions away and leave the house spotless before leaving the estate agents to it.

I had bribed my boyfriend to help out with the promise of breakfast. So we strolled down the road to the very lovely Stir Coffee to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. It is on the corner of Arodene Road, with outside seating, and we had two beautiful coffees and bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese. One of the benefits of living off Brixton Hill is all the great coffee shops, Stir Coffee, F Mondays and a brilliant pizza place, Pizza Brixton. We are truly spoiled!

Stir Coffee

They sell delicious coffee and smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels.

So things I have learned so far in the process of selling my flat.

  • Estate agents are very charming and it is difficult to work out who to work with.
  • I went with a local recommendation and the person who seemed to have the best plan for marketing the flat.
  • You need to remove all your clutter to make the estate agent photos work, but the photographer used a bit of creative finesse to dress the space.
  • You need to be patient, I am desperate to know how the viewings went and whether there will be any offers ( I will let you know).
  • You spend a lot of money on flowers, but I love buying them so that is a good excuse.
House for sale

Buying flowers help you sell houses.

I will let you know how I get on tomorrow, next task is working out where we should move to. Anyone recommend their part of London? We are looking at South Tottenham at the moment, do you live there? Do you like it?

UPDATE: The flat is under offer and we are frantically searching for a new home. South Tottenham is still the front runner.

When I was small I spent a lot of time in the New Forest. The New Forest ponies would rest their faces on the gate and you could go down and pet them.

I still love the New Forest and a couple of weekends ago we headed out of London for a forest escape.

We headed out for a walk and made some friends along the way.

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Views across the New Forest

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Does anyone know what this beautiful lichen is called?

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We stumbled across this beautiful house, all very Hansel and Gretel. I would love to wake up and look across the beautiful New Forest.

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When we arrived back at the pub we found this beautiful blossom.

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So if you have a chance to go and explore the New Forest this Spring I would highly recommend it.