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It’s been a long time since I have written a post. That’s because it’s been a rollercoaster of a year. It started with a huge dip as my mum died at the end of January – never my favourite month, as it is, and it was made a lot worse by this sad news. It would have been very easy for me to curl up in a ball and close the door firmly on the outside world.

Since then there have been at least as many highs as lows, and as has happened so many times before in my life, it was writing which came to my rescue – and writing which has supplied many of the highs.

One of the biggest highs was when I was asked by the fantastic publisher Nosy Crow to write a book for the National Trust called Nature Month-by Month: a children’s almanac. This was the perfect project for me as I love activities such as going out for walks, going swimming in rivers, lakes and seas and going foraging for wild food that I can cook with. I was excited to get going on the book, but when Mum passed away I wondered how I was going to get the words written.

I quickly realised, however, that getting out and looking up is the best way to deal with feeling sad. The days on which I needed to go outside to get ideas for the book were the days I found my sadness easiest to bear. There is nothing like getting absorbed in watching a heron standing on the riverbank, patiently looking for fish, or running alongside the canal, feeling the fresh air on your face, or standing under a huge beech tree in the park, listening to birdsong – all these things take you out of your thoughts and make you feel connected to something bigger and better than your own worries. I also realised that even in January there are signs of new life: flowers such as snowdrops and even some daffodils come out early in the year and you can already spot the tiny shoots of other plants appearing in the ground. Trees may not yet have any leaves, but there are soft yellow hazel catkins to see, and some evergreens have brightly coloured berries. It is not all doom and gloom out there in the winter.

There is a lot of talk about the healing power of nature. People with anxiety and depression are encouraged to get outside more and to try and take regular exercise in the fresh air. It is also a well-known fact that getting involved in a creative project such as baking or drawing or doing some craft can help to make you feel happier.

The other thing that has made me happier this year is the arrival of my new puppy, Nala! Her cuddles, her enthusiasm for life and the fact that I have to walk her, rain or shine, have all added up to one massive new high on the rollercoaster of 2018.

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Last night I had a party to celebrate the publication of Nature Month-by-Month. I decided to have it The Glove Factory in Holt in Wiltshire near where I live because this is a place that has given me a lot of inspiration and has helped me on the days when I have felt sad. I have spent a lot of time at The Glove Factory over the past year as there is a beautiful lake there where I go swimming all year round. There is also a lovely cafe where I can get a hot chocolate to warm up after a chilly winter swim! The people there are super friendly and have been very supportive of this new book. We had a fantastic evening, making miniature gardens and drinking tea. Here are some of the gardens that were made:

The almanac will be published on 4th October. I hope that you might take a look at it in your local bookshop and that it might inspire you to get out and go wild in 2019! And remember, if ever you are feeling sad, get out and look up – it’s better than staying in and feeling down.