It’s mid summer -ish and after a lot of hard work, things bear fruit.

Working in a school support role, I admire, from a distance, the work that teachers and classroom staff do. They are at the sharp end (and occasionally blunt end) of education. I am told, and can see, the work is extremely rewarding, but I can also see it’s not for the faint hearted. It can be a challenging environment. I applaud everyone who takes up the classroom role. Keep up the good work. Good work produces good-ness.

After noticing the local allotments over the last year, I have been thinking about the growth and abundance that nature creates… life in fullness.

Syston Allotments – in the heart of England

A lot of dedication hard work is put into these allotments.

Whatever we start with might grow to a certain extent. We can feed, nurture, train, guide, prune, cultivate… and… life bears fruit.

Life is what happens during the growing…
What do we feed on?
Where do we reach towards?
Where do our roots hold?
When do we rest, when do we stretch?
What to control, when to let go…

…fruit is a consequence.

Our daily decisions and contemplations might be… how do we encourage or tend to the ‘growing’?

What fruit do we want in/for our world?

A tree is known by its fruit; a person by their deeds. A good deed is never lost; those who sow courtesy reap friendship, and those who plant kindness gather love.Basil

…plus, after good fruit, might come wine (or vinegar)!

Happy Summer!

Syston Allotments – in the heart of England


Seven Round Walks…

Prescription: Nature…
(a 2020 update original post May 2015)

In this time of isolation from ‘the world’, it seems ‘nature’ has never been more potent. If you’re are lucky enough to be able to get out and about, I sincerely hope you are able to find space to enjoy some ‘nature’.

Em & I have always enjoyed getting out and walking, but it’s easy to say we won’t bother and find another distraction like homework, jobs round the house, or that episode of whatever that we need to catch up on. Yes, the kids groan at the prospect, but once out they really enjoy it.

Thanks to great websites and guides like Leicestershire’s it’s easy to find a good easy round walks near you. Check out their Local Walking Guides. We also recommend the View Ranger mobile app, there are loads of free walks on it, judt type in a postcode – and in my experience, I have found it’s better at tracking and mapping than Strava.

Below are seven easy round walks in North and East Leicestershire

Walk One: Burrough – Somerby Round – 5.6miles.

Added June 2020 (During Social Isolation period)

We’ve walked from Burrough Hill to Somerby a few times, but we’ve never made it past the award-winning Ales in Somerby. With pubs closed we ventured back and found a great circular route! 


Walk Two: our Barrow-Mountsorrel-Quorn Round – 8miles.

Added May 2020 (During Social Isolation period)

We gradually extended this walk to about 8.5 miles, after doing the Barrow to Mountsorrel a few times.

It’s a great walk to do and take a picnic for half-way!



Walk three: our Syston-Goscote Round – 5miles.

Added May 2020 (During Social Isolation period)

Another favourite of ours, about 5 miles from Syston around Beedles Lake and Gosocote and back.


Walk fourWing in Rutland.

(May 2015) This is an easy almost 6 mile walk from the beautiful Wing, to the shores of Rutland Water at and back to Wing and the welcome King’s Arms for a wet and some pork crack.
See the leaflet Discover Rutland’s Wing Walks Leaflet   

Walk fiveRearsby to Brooksby.

(May 2015) A delightful 4.25 mile walk from Rearsby through the fields and the Wreak Valley.
Two pubs to choose from at the end – do both!
See the leaflet Leicestershire Council Parish Walks Leaflet Rearsby

Walk six: Harby in the Vale of Belvoir.

(May 2015) A simple 6 miles from Harby climbing a tad to see views of the Vale of Belvoir.
Nag’s Head say no more.
See the leaflet Leicestershire Council Parish Walks Leaflet Harby 


Walk seven: Harby to Hose, and back.

Added May 2020 (During Social Isolation period)

(Walk 3 of the 4 on the Leaflet Leicestershire Council Parish Walks Leaflet Harby 

A simple 3.5 miles from Harby to Hose and back along the Canal (Vale of Belvoir).

As you may have noticed, we now use View Ranger – much better at tracking and mapping than Strava.





Abundant Life

I was grateful, to be asked in April, to think about the potential for an artwork to contribute to wall-space in a local church’s community space.

In Leicestershire, Birstall village’s Methodist Church buildings are used by many different groups, making them a valuable community space that sees all ages and a variety of activities. A foundation to the many activities and different lives that pass through the space, is an idea of Christian faith. The Christian faith can be multifaceted, the understandings within it can be diverse, but certain ideas are perhaps universal if we look past specific doctrines, ritual, and habits.


  • the value of community
  • the wonder of growth
  • the potential of interactions
  • the nurture of seeds
  • the beauty of all differing ages
  • the blooming of fruit
  • the essence of water
  • the strength of the cedar
  • the core value of parent and child,
  • the strength of light and dark
  • the power of colour and sensation

I worked on this artwork throughout May. Over that time it grew out of initial ideas, it changed, it needed reconsideration and significant reworking until the current final form was reached.

I came to Leicestershire in 1996. I initially found myself living in Birstall and indeed socialised on the fringe of the Birstall Methodist Church community. Over 20 years I moved in to Leicester and back out to Syston. I still recognise and I’m grateful for the part that Birstall and Birstall people have played in my life.

I find the sense of ‘the natural’ is strong in Birstall. Although Birstall sits on the edge of Leicester’s urban creep, it has its roots in the countryside surrounding it. The Grand Union Canal runs along the edge of the village with Watermead Country Park and lakes. The symbol of Birstall is a Cedar tree – a remarkable 350-year-old cedar tree, standing 100ft tall, can be found in Roman Road which was originally in the grounds of the now demolished Birstall Hall. Incidentally, the Cedar of Lebanon was an important foundational building and lifestyle material in many ancient communities. I notice that the central streets in Birstall are named Beechfiled, Firfield, Oakfield, Elmfield. We also have Poplar, Walnut, and Orchard.  These names, and various cultures in Birstall as well as many other English villages and towns, help to remind us of our essential natural roots in this world.

notebookMy artwork started with the idea that we are called to share in the ‘abundant life’ available to us. The piece attempts to celebrate the natural ‘way’ in and around us, as well as reflect on the idea of interaction within the world around us. Many people are seeking their place and a way forward amidst life’s confusions. The wisdom of age and the potential of youth, and all the stages in between are essential to making life work. Life comes alive when we commune in community with others. The natural growth from darkness to light is empowering. The journey from our past through hope to a fruitful future and recognition of the gift of ‘abundant life’, is what I hope we wish and pray for all.

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The artwork is complete, and I hope for it to be delivered at some point in July.

‘Abundant Life’ Jules Richards, May 2016
Mixed digital composition.
Print reproduction, 906 x 1189mm, (2.9 x 3.9feet)




Cornish Woodlands…

We took some ‘time out’ recently (what with the wheels wobbling and such), to reconnect with what ‘matter’s

The substance/s of which any physical object is composed – of what we are made.
A situation, state, affair, or business: a trivial matter.
Something of consequencematter for serious thought.

Matter is the ‘everything’ around you. Atoms and molecules are all composed of matter; anything that has mass and takes up space.
In Middle English mater, and Old Frenchmat materie and Latin māteria: woody part of a tree, material, substance, derivative of māter: mother


And so a ‘walk in the woods’, as prescribed by the ever friendsome Brian Draper.

Brian reminds us of Caroline Leaf‘s ideas; that we’re wired for growth, but alas toxicity around us can hinder, mutate love into a right tangled mess.

Taking every thought captive …
Looking for green shoots …
Whatever praiseworthy … and whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, pure, admirable … excellent …
Think about such things… plant those thoughts, and ‘do‘ …

Life, in all its fullness, can be found in the essence, the heart, the roots of the minutiae.

The big picture might seem tangled and rife with confusion, hewn with a dearth of purpose – the reality is that one is breathing, one can feel, one can smile and one can grow. Simple interaction … fecundity.

You and I can, with a little help from our friends, ‘do’!

Incidentally: Photos from our walks on the banks of the River Cober and the River Fal in Cornwall.



Harvest, the visual cornucopia of autumnal fruiting, the deciduous passing of rich natural efflorescence can’t fail to touch most people in some way. The celebration of this season has been part of cultures for millennia.

But our festival of harvest these days tends to be packaged and sealed in tins and preservatives. The kids took a tin of grapefruit to school and probably sang something poetic about fruit, corn and thankfulness.

We are thankful for what we have and we think about those who do not have what we have.

Who are they? Poor people in other parts of the world? Hummm.. Perhaps a collection for charity will make us feel better. After all, almost three million children are thought to die annually because of poor nutrition.

Our celebration seems to be a ‘feel good’ moment and yes I can imagine farm labourers celebrating at the end of a hard season in days gone by, rightly so.

“We plough the fields and scatter…”

Our food and bounty increasingly comes from post-colonial poorer countries where our lust has arguably raped and enslaved. Curiously, Helen Walton, the wife of a founder of Wal-Mart, one of the richest women in the world said: “It’s not what you gather in life, but what you scatter in life, that tells…”

Yes I believe we should truly celebrate and express ourselves regularly: “Alas, for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them” Oliver Wendell Holmes

But I fear our cultural train ploughs on: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation under games and amusements of mankind” Henry Thoreau

I’m reminded of the story of Zaccheus who gave back four times as much as he had gathered.
Yet, still I pop to Tesco ‘cos we’re “out of fruit”.

Happy harvest.



Escape and the wild…

StIvesBayEscaping; can you and I make a difference? Construct or constrict?

I was talking with someone recently about people’s vulnerabilities, accepting and opening up to ‘others’, and how perhaps space that might allow our essential selves to simply breath ‘with others’ is increasingly less available in our current culture.

We build mechanisms, we wear uniforms, we sedate and stimulate ourselves, we clothe ourselves; to fit in with cultural norms.  Essential feeling and thought can be built on, weighed down, swamped, suffocated, buried or sealed in with synthetic habits and routines. Perhaps.

wackyracesOne could describe a ‘rat race’ is an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit.

Perhaps similarly the 1970’s entertaining ‘Wacky Races’ stories see numerous characters racing against each other hoping to win the title of the “World’s Wackiest Racer.”

A recent spate of TV ‘entertainment’ programmes have focused on escaping to ‘the wild’ and nature.

Kevin McCloud in his ‘entertaining’ Escape to the Wild (Channel 4), talks about the “Crazy hamster wheel existence… there’s a bigger world out there…”

He suggests that at some level we all seek escape, beauty, paradise

AutumnAtSeaThe program follows people ‘resilient’ and ‘prepared’ to pursue a pared down existence… in pastures new.  It highlights various people quitting wacky/rat races, often for a much wilder, more natural existence…  People moving towards a ‘wilderness’; the wilds, an uncultivated, uninhabited region?

While the human mind is significantly shaped by our culture, perhaps it must also be inspired by the wild natural world.  One could argue; we cannot understand ourselves without including our relationship with a wider natural. As Emerson said, “The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.”

But what of the ‘civilisation’ that we try to escape from? The people that we love, the people we hate, the people that have helped provide our education, our nurture, our bread, water, our trophies and treasures. What of the meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly shadows we attempt to leave behind.

We are essentially breathing, when we stop, we die. Perhaps when we just forget about simply breathing we also die a little. Perhaps our natural breath is all around us, both in the sunshine and the shadow.

It seems to me we often focus on the natural to see outside of our (constructed) selves… We can be like Beckett’s Hamm and Clov and pine that Nature has forgotten us… There’s no more nature…” or perhaps we have forgotten the natural and just need to find it once more?

I recently watched Maidentrip, Laura Dekker’s truly inspiring film about her decision to pursue her dreams and to sail alone around the world at the age of 14!! Intriguing – lots of questions!

A choice; construct or constrict? Only you and I make a difference.


Kevin McCloud and Escape to the Wild (Channel 4), can be seen here:

Ben Fogle and New Lives In The Wild (Channel 5), can be seen here:

Arthur Williams and Flying to the Ends of the Earth (Channel 5), can be seen here:

Laura Dekker’s truly inspiring story Maiden Trip can be seen here:



2015-06-25 19.35.23-2
an east-midlands sky…

i do wonder do u …?

I recall, at about 7 years-of-age, from my bedroom in west Cornwall, looking up out of my window at the sky.  I remember it as a significant moment where I perhaps first consciously pondered ‘stuff’. But as often is the case when in proper Cornwall, it was my perception of the ‘natural’ that I was in awe of.

I looked out again last night, 40 years on, at a similar sky, from our bedroom in north-east Leicestershire (“A cloud is a cathedral without belief”. Mark Strand). Again, nature enchants me both in its fruitfulness and its aimlessness.

Something eternally elusive about the immaterial mesmerism of life and a sense of biggerness.

It puzzles me that (it seems to me) the dominant forms of what is wonderful or beautiful is the ‘natural’ – Nature.

From traditional religion through modern-day spirituality and current mindful psychology, glory is found in our perception of the sunset, the bud, the delicate, and the magnificent, natural world.

Human efforts to build on nature’s tapestry can sparkle and excite but often they fade, or fail or are tainted with underlying pretension and oneupmanship.

Am I wrong? Generally, it seems ‘stuff’ (art & craft, song & dance) created to celebrate ‘goodness’, rarely involves human achievements and or activities?

Being-Alive-2If a spirit of go(o)d exists, empowering human goodness, why do we not more frequently see celebration of this?

  • Religions routinely celebrate all things beautiful, bright, resonant and mystical.
  • Infotainment celebrates “The Blue Planet” and “The Magical Forest”.
  • Visual Art celebrates our relationship with waterlilies, mountains, high seas, light, water and flesh.
  • Entertainment might play with the human condition and our constructs might have moments where a hysterical hand-clapping and synthetic mirth-laden joy cause ecstatic behaviour but more often than not “Beautiful Day” is followed by “how long must I sing this song?”.
  • ….perhaps it’s only in physical theatre and dance that we see celebration of human endeavour? I digress…

It seems to me we often focus on nature and the natural to see outside of ourselves…

As Emerson said, “The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.”

Margaret Fuller writes of Thoreau “He says too constantly of Nature, ‘she is mine.’ She is not yours till you have been more hers.”

Beckett’s Hamm and Clov deliberate “Nature has forgotten us… There’s no more nature … “

I long to see more than nature but alas…  “Is it not time for my pain-killer?”


A few days later I find a hint of the type of thing i am thinking of…





Tadpoles – an update

An update to the last post… the wigglers are growing…



Bike Uncategorized

Still on my bike…

Today’s ride home was wind-assisted* with a rare west-sou-westerly coming up from the homeland pushing me home.

Feeling the wind carry me along today was edifying – I was assisted onwards by natural forces… the same natural forces that are wreaking havoc elsewhere in the country.

When outside forces are against us, we often feel it; we feel the pressure, the agitation, the discontent. We struggle to move forward, we bemoan the conditions, we blame the others, ourselves, the past… yadda yadda…
When we’re assisted by outside forces we rarely celebrate the achievements, the ease, the enlightenment, the freedom, the power, the glory… it’s often not so noticeable.

Then again, was the natural force moving me onward a blessing? Was it wanted? …it pushed me on, increased my speed, my usual jaunt home became braced and different from the norm… who knows?

Nature is a raw wild thing. Nature can be magnificently unforgiving, hard and cruel, as well as gloriously healthy and healing.

How ‘natural’ are we, I wonder?

As you know, I stopped tracking my rides with Endmondo back in July last year.

I have of course still been getting to and from work by cycle (75miles a week). Bowing to peer pressure I started tracking my rides with Strava. Not sure why I’m tracking again, ‘cos I’m not really interested in the competition, but the record is good to have.


*at least I think I was wind-assisted – however it could have been the mother-in-laws’ leeks-in-cheese-sauce. And very nice it was too!



We looked a little closer at the grey cold damp wintery hedgerow this weekend…  it’s all going on!

Male catkins releasing pollen to the pretty pink female flowers…

My pics:

There’s a video showing the process here: