Wintery road home
Winter in Ryedale

I live in the beautiful countryside of Ryedale in North Yorkshire with my partner. We have lived here for six years after previously living in York. We moved to Yorkshire from Worcestershire at a time when house prices were incredibly high and rising. We thought it was a good idea to be near my partners parents as they are getting older and in need of more assistance and it would be a cheaper place to buy a home together. As sometimes happens in life things take unexpected turns and our plans have altered many times to accommodate unforeseen challenges. Particularly when we ended up renting in York for a time something we definitely didn’t want to do. This wasn’t a pleasant experience but the city itself is beautiful and a great place to visit.

Now we find ourselves in a place where we feel more comfortable, we can be ourselves and strive to build the life we want. We can grow lots of plants and food and try to live a life in tune with the rhythms of nature and cycles of the year.

I’ve always been drawn towards art and design and from a young age I remember getting my father to pick projects for me. I have a fond memory of drawing apples, it taught me to really observe things. I learned about nature and from these beginnings it instilled a lifelong love of the natural world and the outdoors. I am at my happiest immersed in nature. It seemed a natural progression to go onto study art and design, so back in the 90’s this is what I did for several years. First at Leek College in the Staffordshire Moorlands then to Cumbria and Cardiff each place bursting with nature and an artists and walkers paradise. I particularly enjoyed Cumbria and the college of art and design, as it was then. I graduated from Cardiff in 1997 with a BA Hons in Ceramics.

It's a mile from the village to our home
The road home

As you can gather I enjoy being outdoors, walking and observing the surrounding landscape. There is something refreshing and energizing about going outside particularly when your heads in a whirl or if you feel burdened. Being able to breath in wonderful fresh air, look at all the colours and textures and listen to the sounds of the wind in the trees or birdsong. It’s a real boost to the soul and I feel very lucky. I love the natural landscape and I have a keen passion for plants. I find their infinite variety and intricate workings fascinating. How our lives are dependent upon them for survival and how they have adapted to suit a variety of habitats. I am an avid photo taker and I particularly like taking close up photos of plants. It allows me to see them in a different way and I would love a microscope to be able to look at them in more detail. I also enjoy taking landscape pictures and trying to take abstract pictures of the landscape although this is very much a work in progress. Having a decent camera at some point is on my bucket list.

I attribute my love of the outdoors to my Gran and Dad whom I’d accompany on numerous walks. Even though we lived in a bustling city there were numerous parks and lots of green space, always something to look at or somewhere to explore and they both had a keen interest which they encouraged me to pursue.

Pulmonaria against a brilliant blue sky.
Blue Pulmonaria echoing the colour of the sky

In 2006 my partner started a gardening business in York and after a short time I joined him in this venture. After a while I desperately needed to be more creative and decided to try and find an educational course which would allow me to combine my love of art and design and my growing interest in plants. It took a lot of searching but my partner happened upon the BA Hons course in Garden Art and Design at Leeds Metropolitan University. I had reservations about the Garden Design bit and thought it wasn’t for me but it could be studied part time which was good as I still needed to work in the business.  We were still living in York at this time so Leeds was just a half an hour journey by train so not knowing what to expect I decided to attend an open day. I had never been to Leeds before so it was a good opportunity to explore the city. It was a busy place and at the time the faculty was in a different building to where it is now. I needed to take two or three bits of work along and ended up taking a whole portfolio. Why take three when you can take three hundred. Ha ha. A tour of the facilities and a introductory presentation was given and the rest is history as they say, I was still uncertain if it was the right thing to do but with my partners support decided to go for it. That was in 2009.

Leeds Beckett University
Oluwale Garden, Design and Community module 2014, Leeds Beckett

The course was six years, part time, double the amount of time it takes as a full time student as one year takes two. I ended up being the final student participating on it as the university decided to stop running it. The course did not differ much from the Landscape Architecture course. I was studying alongside the full time students on this with only one or two modules being different. Over the years it has been full of highs and lows, challenging, at times extremely stressful, rewarding and difficult to fit in around other commitments. I have met and worked with some great people over the years, made lasting friendships, furthered an interest and developed knowledge in landscape in ways I never imagined and gained valuable interests in other directions. I have also gained an appreciation and understanding of the need for design to create urban environments which encompass humans and the natural environment. It has taken up huge amounts of time and I have sacrificed many things but I can honestly say it was worth it. I graduated in July this year.

The university moved to new buildings and we moved to Ryedale in 2009 so the journey to Leeds was an extra half an hour. I got to travel though some beautiful countryside on the train and I enjoyed going to the city, it’s a vibrant, hectic place with exhibitions to visit and things to see and do. I did like to come back home to our bit of countryside though and what I learned in Leeds gave me a greater appreciation of the world around me, urban or natural.

Broadcasting Place clad in corten steel.
Broadcasting Place, university buildings

Our business has continued to change as I have changed. We still provide select garden maintenance work but the main focus is to provide design work. The name has changed to Damson House Designs (which is a story for another time) and we are in the process of creating a new website which can be found at www.damsonhousedesigns.co.uk. This site is a work in progress but we’ll get there, hopefully. I am a student member of the The Landscape Institute and now my degree is at an end I have a number of options to consider regarding the direction I go in.

So that’s me, I have lots of other interests to many to mention on this page. So far life has taken some surprising twists and turns…

…but I wouldn’t want it any other way.