The Dawnmist Garden - Always Cool for Cats



I hope you enjoy reading about our garden. These pictures and memories are shared from the last couple of decades.

Our garden is an important place where we can relax with friends and cats, spending more time out there than in the house during the warmer months. The lower garden is partly roofed over to allow us to enjoy the sunshine, do pottery and other projects even when it is raining. In the winter as with any garden it is quite cold and bleak out there in full shade but in the summer months a joyful place to spend time and to ponder life, watch the toads and newts in the pond and grow potted plants.


It all began way way back many years ago when Fluffball was still just a kitten (awwwwww, isn't she cute!) and Heather had a little too much wine one evening, got tipsy, fell in the pond and said "Let there be Mud" and suddenly there was mud, lots of it and all wet; well, ceramic artists all begin their journey here in the primitive swamps of mother earth. Gradually over the years Heather added to it bit by bit, and also took some away too but we think she is almost happy with the design now.

As an inventor Natalie will often dabble with new projects in the garden in the warm months while Heather creates her latest vase or statue on the wheel nearby. The design of electronic circuits might be of priority or perhaps ceramic glaze recipes that grow natural crystals during the firing. Sometimes Natalie will prefer to sunbath to get her dose of vitamin D in the longer grasses of the upper garden or she might be reading a book.

Each year Heather likes try something new and to develop themes she has liked from the year before. The garden gradually evolves and matures. In 2008 she bought one of those little bird cages which seem to be in fashion and it looks nice hanging there under the vines with a candle inside it. Candles are another important part of garden ritual here. The Clematis plant Heather chose has 4 petals to each flower head which she found more striking to the eye. It is also highly perfumed and smells a bit like vanilla and while the bloom looks lovely, the vines do grow very fast indeed and need constant pruning.


The pumpkins were grown several years ago back in 2002 for halloween and were inspired by Heather's visit to America in 2001 when she witnessed a Pumpkin festival in New Hampshire where thousands of pumpkins were on display. One of them she grew to 18 inches across which was not bad for a first attempt; even Maeve was impressed and tried to shred her way inside to make a nest but it was not big enough for her cos she was a huge cat, a proper beast! (RIP Maeve).


In the late spring when the apple tree is in full bloom the cats liked to sit on the seat there while the petals fell. Heather grew this tree from an apple core that she planted a number of years back in around 1996. We watched it grow into a mature tree and each year now we get lots of red apples although they are not the best for eating but do make good wine. Kitties liked to hunt the apples when Heather rolled them down the lawn. These days the cats are kept safer in the lower and middle garden.

Heather has a habit of growing trees from seeds and will always plant Traditional English acorns which are gathered when they fall from the neaby farm tree. At times she has planted several of these and nurtured them in pots eventually growing into trees although they take a while to get big. In 2008 when she decided to have a go at making wine for the first time she chose "October Wine" which is an unusual recipe using oak tree leaves! A year later when sampled the wine was amazingly nice and tasted like a rich sherry (Recipe can be found on our wine making pages).


As an artist Heather will often look to nature for inspiration sometimes capturing ideas that can be woven into her ceramic designs or drawings. These aphids laying eggs on a blade of grass had arranged themselves into a cluster which caught her attention. Their positioning suggests the nurturing of a flock with parents giving birth, children helping with the babies and another wandering off.

The sounds of bird life is also varied with pheasants, robins, blue-tits, pigeons, green finches, sparrows, magpies and also bats. A few Tawny Owls and occasional Buzzards also visit and in the winter flocks of geese pass over. One day Heather hopes to blend these sounds into the music she composes.

From time to time our kitties do bring mice back from the wild. One year they brought back a baby which we kept as a pet because she was too young to let go again... she lived for more than 2 years and her story is covered on our pet page which you can read. Most of the mice that survive are given bed and breakfast and then let go again. Over the years we have had a number of fluffy visitors.


There are plenty of cats living in the area and plenty of trees also that they like to climb and scent-mark. The following observations may be made...

  • Generally a tree with some shredded bark at the base means a kitty lives nearby
  • Completely shredded bark means several kitties live nearby and they all want that tree
  • Standing below a tree with shredded bark usually means you are being watched by a kitty not far away
  • Standing below a tree and hearing a "meowing" above you means you are about to have one land on your head, or, there's a kitty stuck up the tree

    Maeve used goes up and get stuck but eventually managed to get down. When we first got Macha she vanished overnight and we found her at 4am up the farmers tree and had to rescue her - we call it Macha's Tree.


  • In 2006 Pheasants sometimes used to visit the benches in the upper garden though these days the number of cats in area means they stick to the farm fields nearby. In 2016 a mother and baby hedgehog were seen in daytime running through the longer grass. During spring in 2017 a large male fox was seen in the upper garden too.


    Many years ago when the upper garden was a lot more wild and there was an artistic hole in the brambles which led to who know's where!


    During 2015 the pond was full of breeding newts and here is a tiny egg stuck to some pond weed with a embryo inside!


    The lower garden pond and steps in 2015. The steps took a whole summer to make as what was there previously was not such a good design but the newer steps really added a new dimension to this area and are enjoyable to sit on as well. As they were constructed Heather built in little ceramic figures she had made or pieces of 17th, 18th and 19th century pottery and glass as well as coloured beads and crystals. Some items contain time capsules.


    The lower garden in 2015. Each year I grow night scented stock in hanging baskets which smell nice in the evening.


    Red clay tiles which I designed and made to pave an small area underneath the iron chimney


    The upper garden in August 2015 with all the field daisies in flower


    The middle and part of the upper garden with apple and hawthorn tree's


    The red berries of the hawthorn tree in the autumn 2016


    As the years pass either frogs or toads visit the garden pond. They appear from nowhere so we never know what we will get from year to year until they are heard or seen. The newts usually hibernate under the rockery and way back in 1997 when Heather first began building the pond area she made sure there were lots of secret tunnels and chambers behind the ponds so toads and frogs can hibernate.


    The cats have always enjoyed the garden over the years - more lovely pics of the cats on the cat page


    A statue I bought for the garden in 2016. Originally I had wanted to make one myself but never got around to it then saw this one at a nearby garden centre which looks nice.


    This was taken back in about 1993 before the waste land was bought and turned into my upper garden. Sheep would escape the nearby farm and graze on the slopes.


    On one occasion back in the 90's some cows also got out of their usual field and ventured onto the slope which is now the upper garden. The black cow in this pic stands where one of the upper garden seats now is.


    This pic shows how the garden looked when I first moved in and before the pond had been put in. The pond was the first feature! I think the inspiration always came from my grandmothers garden in the late 60's in Manchester which had pond weed on top and to a small child seemed a magical place with depths that could not be reached.


    Another pic in the mid 90's when the pond was first installed and the cows came to look.


    1999 was the main time when Heather began to work on shaping up the garden. This was in the days when the pond was the centre feature and ideas for water features around the pond were keen. Back then there was a stone fireplace and a deep pit cut into the solid rock which was going to be a well then became a cave with pottery stalactites.


    As the rockery began to take shape over the years the pond got swamped with mud a few times and the little stone fireplace looked lovely. Back then Natalie had bright red hair too!


    Another view of the lower garden in 2000. Experimenting with ideas.


    During 2000 we had coloured lights built into the rockery and in the fish pond as well! The pottery stalactites were in places and the rockery also had a few porcelain toadstools which we made specially.


    During 2000 the additional water tank with painted cat design allowed spare water to feed to the features in the rockery.


    In 2003 when the BBC came to film we used what was then a really overgrown upper garden and sat on the bench while the camerman did a balancing act behind the young apple tree.


    In 2003 Heather grew Rustica Nicotiana in the garden which is the first kind of tobacco plant ever brought back to England in the late 16th century. It worked really well.


    In 2004 we were given some old fibreglass decorations which we sprayed silver and hung around the garden. The fence was blue and there was a locked gate leading into the upper garden.


    In 2004 The upper garden was really beginning to take shape behind the blue fence. Note the introduction of one of several cat ladders


    Flowers Heather enjoyed in 2005


    During 2005 the local council took over pockets of waste land including that which our upper garden was on and we came to an agreement to have a shorter wider upper garden. They created a footpath for walkers, we bought some of the land officially and they fitted a free fence. It was a time of changes and a time when the farmers sheep got out again.


    The upper garden in 2007 with the apple tree in blossom


    2009 The upper garden in a further state of change as Heather converted the wider portions from bramble into more of a grassed meadow as well as very slowly forming the middle garden within which was a gated area to keep the cats safe. The older blue fence eventually came own.


    2010 when the upper garden was beginning to settle down as a grass meadow and the cats played freely.


    2010 the year when we had heavy snow and Sammy (another local cat) dropped in to examine the snow-cat that Heather made


    2011 the first year when we harvested much larger red apples on the tree that Heather had planted as an apple core back in the early 90's. These were made into wine.


    2012 the upper garden in spring and what we call Middle Earth which is the steep part with more steps and seating just beyond the lower rockery.


    2013 Some of the field buttercups which grow on long stalks. Heather gathers the seeds from these each year and scatters them so that the upper and middle gardens get more and more of them as time goes by. These give more height and colour to the natural grasses and attract butterlies. Other plants in the upper garden are vetch, ribwort plantains, self-heal, bluebells, field daisey, tulips, primroses, cow-slips, celadines, grape hyacinth, hawthorn, ash tree's, plum and cherry tree.


    2017 A local squirrel takes a detour from its usually route through the farm tree's in search of some bird food in a nearby garden


    Clematis