Elderflower cordial

At this time of year, were the shops freely available for browsing, I would be going mad for anything elderflower-flavoured. I’ve been wanting to make elderflower cordial myself for years but never made time in the right few weeks to go in search of a tree to forage. Would you believe it, I was directed by friends to a few different possibilities, and ended up finding one right at the top of our road. So, here is one of my most favourite flavours in the world, bottled up by me! I also had extra to try making elderflower ice cubes – they look pretty but you have to drink it quick because a mouthful of fluffy flowers isn’t the best texture…

homemade elderflower cordial in recycled glass bottles


Incidentally, as a hayfever sufferer I’m wondering if ingesting very local pollen has the same beneficial effect on allergies as eating local honey? Guess I’m going to have to drink it all and call it an ‘experiment’. I’m really pleased with the flavour of this – I used the BBC Countryfile recipe and the quantities seem just right. I’ve got 3 bottles full from this recipe, and then obviously the syrup is a dilute-to-taste drink (water, tonic, or as a mixer) so you’ll have gallons of the stuff.

1.5 kg caster sugar
1.5 litres freshly boiled water
3 unwaxed lemons
20 elderflower heads
80g citric acid (I had some spare in a cheese-making kit, but you can order online here)
STEP 1: Gently shake the elderflower heads to remove any insects (don’t rinse them, as it strips the pollen and flavour). Remove any leaves or stalks.

: Place the sugar into a saucepan, pour in the boiling water and stir until the sugar dissolves.

: Pare the lemon rind, then slice the fruit into rounds and add all of this to the pot. Add the citric acid and the elderflowers and stir.

: Steep for 24–48 hours, then – with a clean muslin cloth over a bowl – ladle the cordial through to strain the liquid, and decant into sterilised bottles. Store in a cool, dry place for up to a month or freeze.

macro details of elderflower in small jugphoto studies of elderflowerelderflower cordial from foraged plants


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RHS gardens reopen

The Royal Horticultural Society welcomed the public back to their four UK gardens on Monday 1 June, subject to pre-booking. The gardens at Wisley are currently open from 10am-4pm, with guests allocated to hourly entrance timeslots. Due to reduced staffing levels, the gardens close slightly earlier than previously, but the plant centre remains open until 5pm. See rhs.org.uk/gardens for more details and booking information. I visited today from 2pm and found it to be really carefully and safely organised – I was able to find plenty of space to enjoy a quiet couple of hours amongst plants and garden areas that have been kept immaculate in the meantime, as you would expect. Here’s a glimpse.

the jellicoe canal from the laboratory at rhs wisley gardensterracotta pots and entrance to the new wisteria walk rhs wisley gardenswinter by philip haas sculpture by laboratory of res wisley june 2020the jellicoe canal wisley gardens sunny day june reopeningthe new wisteria walk at rhs wisley gardenscornus in flowerwalk to the bowes lyon rose garden in summer at rhs wisleypink roses in bowes lyon rose garden wisley

It’s no surprise to find the Bowes Lyon rose garden looking spectacular in June. The bank of white roses below is Rosa Iceberg ‘Korbin’.

white rosa iceberg 'korbin' at RHS wisley gardens

I always enjoy the display of this one below (as well as its name!) – Rosa For Your Eyes Only ‘Cheweyesup’.

rosa for your eyes only cheweyesup wisley rose gardenRHS wisley gardens in midsummer reopened to the publicthe bowes lyon rose gardens at RHS wisley

The herb garden is one of my favourite spaces – the fragrances trigger the brain’s biochemistry to lower stress and to lift your mood.

bench in herb garden, RHS wisleysalvia and formal gardens at rhs wisleybattleston hill rhododendron in early summer light

Another favourite area is the Trials Field, and these swathes of tangerine-coloured Eschscholzia californica were really glowing in the sunlight.

trials field RHS wisley gardens tangerine-coloured californian poppies

And the peonies – oh my goodness! The colours, the variety, the floofiness… I’ll try and name the ones I remember: below left is Monsieur Jules Elie.

Monsieur Jules Elie again. He is so frou-frou.

Below left is Moon of Nippon; right is Paeonia lactiflora ‘Festiva Maxima’.

Below left is Paeonia lactiflora ‘Cora Stubbs’; right is Paeonia lactiflora ‘Hari-ai-nin’.

Cora Stubbs again.

Below middle: ‘Barrington Belle’ ; below right: ‘Myrtle Gentry’.

New dates are being released each Monday for visiting the RHS gardens – see rhs.org.uk/gardens for more.



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Love from Besalu and Catalonia

Here’s part two of my trip to Catalonia’s medieval coast, following on from my post the other day showing the wacky world of Salvador Dalí’s house and gardens. Walking down the hilly streets from Portlligat, we spent an afternoon in the coastal town of Cadaqués, a popular holiday resort for locals. Many winding backstreets had beautiful stonework, cobbles and climbing plants, as well as shady palm-filled courtyards and a good number of resident sunbathing cats. In fact, there is a town house owned by a lady who has turned it into a cat sanctuary, providing a home looking after many feline friends. She has a collection pot on the windowsill if you wish to support the Cats of Cadaqués <3

Just off the bay area, our little group had booked a table at the Compartir restaurant – our friend from Barcelona wanted us to experience the best of Catalan cuisine, and this place with its emphasis on providing sharing dishes was a delicious delight! It is Michelin-standard food in a really relaxed garden courtyard setting, for an unbelievably reasonable price. None of us could help taking pictures of our food before digging in!

We left the town in the evening – passing back by Dalí’s house in a strangely surreal twilight that seemed fitting – and headed back to our base. We stayed in the medieval town of Besalú, on the edge of La Garrotxa volcanic park region by the Spanish Pyrenees. It was a fortress town where two rivers meet, with the famous and much-photographed bridge at its entrance, and is very much at the heart of the Catalan identity. You will find the yellow independence ribbons, ‘Libertat’ and ‘Sí’ signs, and poster protests at every turn. It’s so interesting to base yourself in the heart of a town so that you can wander the streets at different hours, and really get the feel of what it’s like living as a local. In the morning, we picked and ate sweet fresh figs from the tree in the garden of our property; we were able to walk into the main market square where there was a book festival with exclusively Catalan translations of a wide variety of books.

Later on we paid a visit to the twin villages of Rupit and Pruit – accessed via a hanging foot bridge (for someone with a bridge phobia, it was something of a personal triumph to successfully make it across!). The pretty, hilly streets are built into the rock of the mountainside. The journey there takes a little effort as the road twists along the hills, spectacular wide views opening up with the increase in altitude. It was hard to imagine living here in the winter with its steep slippery cobbles and remote location.

Our trip ended as we headed back towards the airport at Barcelona. I had one last night to see a little of the city and the Gaudi architecture which I’ve loved for a long time. Casa Batlló, the dragon house, has always been my favourite of Gaudí’s creations but I’d never been inside – well worth seeing, either by booking in advance to avoid the long snaking queues, or buy a Gold ticket from the window for a few more Euro but instant access indoors. Antoni Gaudí’s imaginative design really inspires me. I could have spent many hours observing the meticulous detail of this town house. The absolute highlight is access to the roof, and seeing – in close proximity – the curving spine of the dragon and its scaly roof tiles.

It was more than 20 years since my last visit to Catalonia, but I am very fond of its unique vibe and distinct identity. There is so much to explore and such a variety of landscape – I’d heartily recommend a trip.

cadaqués restaurante compartir sharing menu catalonian cuisinelights and stonework in the courtyard restaurant of compartir cadaquésdetails of the menu at compartirfriends gathered for food and chat at cadaqués restaurant garden courtyard dining compartirdetails from compartir sharing menu restaurant cadaquéshoney air foam and fried accompaniment at restaurant cadaquésdetails of compartir restaurant cadaquésyellow ribbons symbol of catalonia independence movementdetails from fishing town of cadaquésdetails of cadaqués heart of the catalonian independence movementwinding street in the town of cadaqués catalonia catalunyascenes by the cat house of cadaquéscadaqués is a town with a healthy cat population sleeping ginger cat in flower potevening on the bay at Cadaqués cataloniastreet library in a stone alcove Cadaqués cataloniastreets with mopeds and Dali statue at Cadaqués hidden corners in the streets of Cadaqués with palms and climbing plantstraditionally in the Catalan region the climbing plants have their stems knotted as they growstrange light at evening over Portlligat and Dali's housefringes on a curtain in Cataloniacacti and succulents in a Catalonian garden

garden of airbnb property besalu catalonia with freshwater pond and fig tree

freshly picked figs in a garden in Catalonia Catalonian flag in a street in Besaluthe medieval town of Besalu in Catalonia Catalonian book festival in Besalucampaign to release political prisoners Cataloniaone of the squares in the medieval town of Besalustone archway architecture in Besaluarchitecture of backstreets in Besaluthe medieval and much-photographed bridge at Besalu Cataloniatown perched on a cliff edge in Cataloniaa visit to the hanging bridge town of Rupit in the Spanish pyrenees rupit and pruit backstreet in sunlightreligious stonework icon in rupit and pruitview of a sunlit street in rupit catalonia

town of rupit built into the rock of the mountain side La Garrotxa Catalonia

Iglesia de Sant Miquel church in Rupit medieval village nestled in hillsidesupport for catalonian independence in a backstreet of rupit pruitsleeping cat in catalonia rupittwo cafe owners dance in the street in rupit pruit cataloniaa view of barcelona towards la pedrera casa mila and the sea from the rooftop bar at casa fuster hotelcasa fuster hotel staircase architecture art deco

art deco window casa fuster barcelona

la pedrera casa mila gaudi architecture of barcelonainterior meringue ceiling of casa mila la pedrerathe dragon house of barcelona casa batllo gaudigaudi architecture and design of barcelonadragon skull balconies of casa batllo barcelonamosaic effect walls and ceilings with feature chandelier casa batllo gaudistained glass details to interior doors gaudistained glass feature windows interior at casa batllomosaic details of antoni gaudilooking upward at undulating balconies casa batllo gaudiinterior wooden details of antoni gaudiinterior skylight corridor details at casa batllo barcelonaholographic image of washing line underwear displayed at casa batllo barcelonaribcage-like interior leading to roof terrace at casa batllo barcelonamosaic chimneys at the dragon roof of casa batllo barcelonaspine of the dragon casa batllo roofcasa batllo mosaic roof and turret spine and scales of the dragongaudi chimney mosaic detailsinterior staircase gaudi shades of blue tilescasa battlo at twilight barcelona antoni gaudi dragon house

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Portlligat and Dalí’s house

In October I was able to travel with friends to Catalonia for a weekend of arty inspiration. There was so much to take in that I thought it worth blogging in two parts. This post details some of the wildly wacky world of Salvador Dalí’s house at Portlligat – I have to be honest, I didn’t expect to be so inspired by it. The colour and light were tremendous; the shadows were crisp and walking among olive groves by the sea made me want to breathe more deeply.

Dalí and his wife & muse, Russian-born Gala, lived here for 50 years. He bought the house when it was a tiny fisherman’s cottage in isolation on this part of the coast. He added to it significantly so that what we see today is a labyrinth of rooms and passages, odd angles and alcoves and corners, housing strange eclectic artefacts and unfinished art. The eccentricities are offset with arrangements of Gala Dalí’s favourite flowers. If you want to visit this museum, you need to prebook well in advance, as they allow groups of 10 at a time to be guided through the rooms and gardens.

I was fascinated to be able to see closely some works-in-progress, alongside artist materials, in his studio with a magnificent view of the harbour – incredible light floods in from the east. In fact, due to the position of the house, Dalí installed an angled mirror below the mezzanine of his bedroom, to be the first to see the sun rise in Spain each morning from his own bed. The whitewashed olive tree courtyards outside lead through to the bizarre playground of the pool with fountains, stuffed animals, Pirelli and Michelin souvenirs and a large pink Mae West Lips sofa. As you climb the garden steps you reach viewpoints looking out over the bay and at more eyebrow-raising Dalí constructions – no wonder that seems to be his permanent expression, in the collections of magazine covers and photographs with stars and politicians.

Portlligat is the bay just up the steep hill from the larger harbour at Cadaqués – worth the effort of making the journey there, as the area is a popular time-off destination for Catalonian locals. Here’s a taster…

view of an olive tree and the harbour at portlligat catalonia spain with salvador dali's house visiblesalvador dali's house portlligat with a view of the harbour cataloniaunusual quirky artefacts of salvador dali's house stuffed polar bearshelves of found and collected objects at salvador dali's house museumstrange religious imagery at the home of salvador daliview of the harbour from the window of salvador dali's artist studio portlligatviews of the artist studio with artefacts dali housesalvador dali unfinished painting in his studiostrange angel salvador dali unfinished paintingnotes and artist materials salvador dali3D glasses and artefacts dali house museumrough sketch of Christ of Saint John on the Cross Salvador Dali house museumrugby ball with dressed statue dali museumsalvador dali artist artefactsstrange collected artefacts with mannequins and candles salvador dali museumhand-shaped door knocker interior of the home of salvador dali portlligatview to the east from the window of salvador dali's home portlligatmirror in dali home to show first sunrise on spain every morningsnail and test tubes of flowers dali homecollection of art and portraits in salvador dali bedroomtwo double beds for salvador dali and gala with matching slipper clogscircular mirror reflects the bedroom of salvador daliphotographer image in the mirror of salvador dali's bedroommagazine covers and features on a wall at the home of salvador daliwindow view of a corner of dali's courtyard garden portlligatemperor bust lamp and artefact collection in an alcove dali housewardrobes papered in photographs of salvador dali with actors and politiciansgeraniums flow over roof tiles at the home of salvador daligarden rooms with bizarre artefacts and winged rhinoceros head dali homewhitewashed courtyard with giant teacup planters, egg shapes, olive trees and geraniums at dali homewhitewashed olive tree courtyard at the home of salvador dali portlligatgeraniums and hand sculpture religious artefacts gardens at salvador dali homeolive yew and geranium home of dali garden courtyardmediterranean olive tree shadows on whitewashed wallsalvador dali pink lips sofafountain in the pool garden of daliphallic pool at home of salvador daliblue pool and orange brick detailpirelli motifs and large pink lips sofa dali gardenstuffed toy snake and lion salvador dali gardentelefon telephone box in dali gardenswan fountain feature dali gardendali garden pool with michelin manolive tree in sunlight catalonia dalipool garden dali house catalonialarge split heads sculpture salvador dali house garden portlligatmatador fountain in the home of salvador dalidetail of spanish ladies on fountain dali gardendetails of pool and fountain matadors dali housedetail of olives growing cataloniafountain sculpture detail with olives dali housegarden details of olives and geraniums dali housemusic room of dali house broken pianolarge egg sculpture on roof of dali house portlligatchrist of the rubbish structure sculpture by salvador dali spainview through the olive groves to the bay at portlligatolive trees in cataloniaportlligat viewpoint and the hill down to cadaques

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  • Anna - What an amazing set of photos! You took me back to the memories we share together. You are a fabulous photographer, but most of all: a fabulous personality. xReplyCancel

    • Julie - Oh that’s so kind! I enjoyed this trip so much. What a special bunch of friends you are xxReplyCancel

Limited edition Edinburgh prints for charity

Following requests and the exhibition of my image ‘Arc of Autumn’ at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh, I am releasing a strictly limited edition of ten prints of this image.

The photograph shows the architecture of Royal Circus in Edinburgh, reflected in a leaf-strewn pavement puddle after a sudden rain shower. I’ve had such appreciative and enthusiastic comments about the picture and am thrilled that it’s struck a chord with so many of you.

The print run will be in 20×16 inch size (including a small white border to allow for mounting), limited to TEN only – after which no more of this photograph, in any size, will be produced. It is printed on Fine Art photographic paper (310gsm), 100% cotton, museum grade, with exceptional smooth tone and surface. Prints are supplied unmounted and unframed, with an ArtSure certificate of authenticity. 25% of the selling price is being donated towards a charity project in Mexico with which my son is involved – building a home for a family in need.

Each print will be titled and signed, with the edition number listed. The cost is £150 plus £9.75 for a signed-for postage service.

You can order your print of ‘Arc of Autumn’ using the button below, and be assured that your transaction is protected by PayPal.


arc of edinburgh royal circus photograph

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Classical Edinburgh exhibition

Update: a strictly limited edition of TEN prints of my image is now available here: https://www.julieskelton.com/limited-edition-edinburgh-prints/

Before Christmas, I made a flying visit to my hometown of Edinburgh. An image of mine that I’d entered into a competition had been selected for exhibition at the City Art Centre. The exhibition, ‘Classical Edinburgh‘, is like a love letter to the city’s neoclassical architecture. Photographer Colin McLean set out to recapture scenes first recorded on film by mid-20th century photographer Edwin Smith, and it’s a beautiful set of images to wander round and take in. McLean spent two years reinterpreting the original evocative black-and-white photographs. For anyone with links to the city, it really captures the feel and the heart of the place, as well as documenting changes alongside the constants of the area, 50 years apart.

Along with these, the gallery wanted to showcase work of other local photographers who had captured images of Edinburgh New Town’s architectural heritage in four categories: After Dark, Seasons, Working Life, and Architectural Gems. My photograph is of Royal Circus just after a sudden rain shower in autumn – the curve of the architecture is reflected in a pavement puddle where fallen leaves are floating. I was delighted to be picked as a runner-up of the category; having the work that I do now, on display at an art centre in the city where I grew up, is really a dream come true.

St Giles cathedral Edinburgh in winter twilight at Christmasexterior of the City Art Centre, Edinburgh, with new thistle metal sculptureJulie Skelton architectural photograph 'Arc of Autumn' showing Royal Circus, exhibited in City Art Centre EdinburghJulie Skelton photographer at the City Art Centre Edinburgh with photograph 'Arc of Autumn' showing Royal Circus reflectionClassical Edinburgh exhibition at the City Art Centre Edinburgh, competition winners alongside Colin McLean photographs

Once I’d left the private view evening, I had a lovely wander through the streets after dark, back to where I was staying.

Exterior of the City Art Centre Edinburgh at night during a private viewexterior of the City Art Centre Edinburgh at night

My old school, George Heriot’s, seen from the top of West Bow, and Bertie’s Fish & Chips on Victoria Street which I highly recommend.

I stayed at the Grassmarket Hotel – a fab little place with DC Thompson decor and Tunnocks teacakes in your room. What more could you want?!

details of the Grassmarket Hotel Edinburgh including Dandy wallpaper and Tunnocks teacakes

Classical Edinburgh is on at the City Art Centre, Market Street (just beyond Edinburgh Waverley train station) until 8 March 2020.

I am printing a strictly limited run of TEN 20x16in prints of my image, Arc of Autumn. (Update: NINE remaining).

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National Garden Scheme midsummer party

As it’s a quieter season at the moment, I’m enjoying looking back on some of the work I’ve been doing in the last few months. One of the events that I was invited to photograph was the National Garden Scheme‘s main fundraising evening of the year – ‘Music in the Garden’ – a midsummer’s garden party and charity auction near Newbury, Berkshire. The venue was generously shared by the owners of the private gardens at Hazelby House, and over 700 people purchased tickets to attend.

The evening was opened by the charity’s president, Mary Berry, with music from the East Woodhay Silver Band as well as soul singer Natasha Watts. Visitors were free to explore the gardens at their leisure – these extensive 12-acre grounds, created in the 1970s by Martin Lane-Fox, are now managed by just two gardeners, and were such an immaculate representation of an English country garden at the height of summer! The 15 garden rooms, divided by clipped yew, beech, hornbeam and box, each have a different feel to them – I particularly enjoyed the newer addition of a sculpture garden, with 4 David Harber creations designed to represent the elements of earth, air, fire and water. There was also an exciting charity auction hosted by Nick Bonham, with 34 lots (plus online bidders) bringing the total raised for the evening to very nearly £90,000.

It really was the most perfect weather, as the sun set on the longest day over the boating lake, bringing its last and best golden light to round off the evening. It was such a pleasure to record the event and to explore such a remarkable garden – do have a look and enjoy some of the selection of pictures below.

view of the formal garden at Hazelby House, Newbury, Berkshire garden photographyNational Garden Scheme sign to an open garden with fundraising eventformal Italianate garden rooms at Hazelby House in Berkshireview of a kitchen garden and greenhouse in a private Berkshire gardenfour David Harber sculptures grace a garden room representing the elements of earth, fire, air and waterdetails of David Harber sculptures in the gardens of Hazelby House, Berkshire Hampshire bordersGeorge Plumptre, chief executive of the National Garden Scheme, relaxing in gardens for a charity eventJapanese inspired bridge in a woodland gardenHampshire garden photography view of a sculpture garden in private groundsdetail of a sculpture by David Harber amongst planting in a private garden, Berkshire Hampshire bordersan open gate leading to a grassy pathway in one of the NGS open gardensdetails of a formal garden open under the National Garden Scheme in Berkshireplant and clipped hedging details at the height of summer in a formal gardenmidsummer planting schemes at an NGS open gardena calm oasis at the entrance to the greenhouse at Hazelby House Berkshiremidsummer light on euphorbia garden photography surreyBerkshire view from Hazelby House out to the formal garden terraces on a midsummer eveningmixed borders on a midsummer evening Berkshire garden photography NGSbidding paddles and items including Mary Berry's jacket ready for National Garden Scheme charity auctionNational Garden Scheme open garden with plant saledetail of a wildflower meadow Julie Skelton garden photographer Surreydetails of different garden rooms on a midsummer evening with rose archformal view towards greenhouse with clipped hedging and stone pillarsdetails of seedheads against sculpture and open gate at a National Garden Scheme charity eveningNational Garden Scheme NGS volunteers manning an information stalldetail of planting against David Harber sculpture at Hazelby House BerkshireNGS charity evening with catering and canapés served to guestsdetail from the rose garden at Hazelby Housedetails from formal English gardens in midsummer garden photographygarden details by Surrey photographerdetails of mixed plantinginside a formal greenhouseguests mingling for Music in the Garden charity event by NGSmixed planting with astrantia midsummer border garden photographera plant sale at one of the National Garden Scheme open gardensfriends relax and chat in a National Garden Scheme open gardensoul singer Natasha Watts performs at NGS Music in the Garden charity eveningGeorge Plumptre of NGS, Martin McMillan OBE, president of NGS Mary Berry, Patrick Hungerford of Hazelby House, and Ed Sugden of SavilsGeorge Plumptre, chief executive of the National Garden Scheme, with president Mary Berry at Hazelby House gardensGeorge Plumptre and Mary Berry welcome guests to the National Garden Scheme charity fundraising eveningMary Berry with the floral jacket - worn on the Great British Bake Off - that was auctioned for the National Garden Scheme the East Woodhay Silver Band perform for Music in the Garden charity eveningtwo guests relax and enjoy the gardens at Hazelby Houseguests explore the open gardens National Garden Scheme BerkshireNick Bonham directs the charity auction for National Garden Schemeguests bid for lots at a National Garden Scheme charity auctionguests at a charity auction with National Garden Schemeevening light on the longest day at private gardens in Berkshireguests at a NGS charity auction led by Nick Bonhamguests able to bid via iPad for lots at a charity auction organised by the National Garden Schemethe East Woodhay Silver Band at Music in the Garden NGS charity fundraiserguests relax and enjoy the gardens at National Garden Scheme midsummer partytwo sisters chat and enjoy the National Garden Scheme open gardens at Hazelby Housethe sun sets on the longest day over a wildflower garden in Berkshireview from a greenhouse out to formal pathways and clipped hedging National Garden Scheme auction paddles and raffle boardNational garden Scheme plant sale at an open gardensunset on the longest day at Hazelby House garden photographer Hampshirelast light on midsummer evening over the boating lake at Hazelby House on the Berkshire Hampshire border

I am a Surrey-based professional garden photographer and member of the Garden Media Guild, available for commissions and collaborations throughout the UK.

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Blackcurrant recipe – Tarte aux cassis

Earlier this month I visited the Hampton Court flower show, which reminded me of the time I won some tickets to the show – along with a rather nice goody bag – entering a recipe competition in Good Housekeeping magazine. If you remember the perfume Anaïs Anaïs, they wanted recipes that captured the main fragrance notes of blackcurrant, orange and rose. Blackcurrants are in abundance in our garden right now so it was a good time to dig out the recipe (which daughter #1 says is one of her favourites of my bakes).

If you have fresh blackcurrants to use – rather than tinned, as suggested in the recipe – you’ll need to gently stew them first. Rinse around 400g of blackcurrants, making sure you’ve removed any stalks, then pop them into a large stainless steel pan with about 3 tablespoons of caster sugar and about the same tablespoons of water. Bring to the boil – keep an eye on them, don’t let them burn – then lower the heat and stew for 5 or so minutes until the skins are popping and they start to release juice. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, here are some blackcurrants being picked in the kitchen garden of River Cottage HQ this week:

blackcurrants being picked at river cottage garden axminster

Tarte aux Cassis

For the pastry:

115g (4 oz) plain flour

70g (2 1/2 oz) butter

40g (1 1/2 oz) caster sugar

zest of 1 orange

1 egg yolk


For the filling:

400g blackcurrant fruit filling (tinned or freshly stewed)

115g (4 oz) butter

115g (4 oz) light brown sugar

115g (4 oz) ground almonds

1 tsp either rosewater or orange essence

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

icing sugar, to dust


8″ loose-bottomed flan case, greased lightly

Preheat oven to 160C

tarte aux cassis blackcurrant tart recipe by julie skelton food photographer surrey

  1. To make the pastry, put butter, flour, caster sugar and orange zest into a large bowl and beat together (I use my Kitchen Aid).
  2. Add the egg yolk, mixing again to bind the pastry together. Leave the dough to rest in the fridge for half an hour.
  3. Lightly flour the work surface and roll the pastry out to fit the greased flan tin.**Confession: I find very short pastry pretty tricky to work in summer, so actually there’s no harm in adding your pastry dough to the tin and then pressing it in with the back of a large metal spoon – still use a bit of flour to stop it sticking. It saves having to patch lots of holes in your rolled pastry and, as long as you’ve lightly greased into the fluted edges of a loose-bottomed tin, you’ll have no trouble getting it out afterwards**
  4. Trim the pastry, use baking beans if you have them, and bake blind for 10 minutes at 160C.
  5. When you have removed the pastry case from the oven, fill with the blackcurrant filling.
  6. For the topping, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar, ground almonds and your choice of flavouring (my original recipe stated rosewater, but the flavour may be too delicate to hold against the blackcurrants. Try orange essence if you’d rather, or maybe save the rosewater and mix with some good crème fraîche when it’s ready to serve). Add the lightly beaten eggs and mix well. Pour the almond mixture over the blackcurrants. Aim to seal the fruit filling inside completely.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes at 160C, or until golden and risen.
  8. Allow to cool before removing from the baking tin. Serve dusted with icing sugar and some crème fraîche.

blackcurrant tart like bakewellhome grown blackcurrants food photographer garden photography surrey

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Orkney Folk Festival

Last month I took a trip to the Orkney Folk Festival with my violin-playing eldest, for a musical long weekend. Orkney is somewhere I first visited as an 11-year old on a school trip – we ate a lot of Smash instant mashed potato and somehow managed to get sunburnt off the north coast of Scotland… There was no Smash this time and definitely not any sunburn weather, but my goodness it was memorable.

Orkney Folk Festival is in its 37th year and has gone from strength to strength – I first stumbled into a gig there many years ago, and since then the committee have managed to attract world-class acts from across the globe, performing at multiple venues throughout the islands. Stromness, though, is really the home of the Folk Festival, with the town hall and community centre hosting a great number of events over the four days.

hills of hoy seen over stromness harbour orkney

I like the upstairs window here displaying what my family would refer to as a pair of ‘wally dugs’…

wally dugs in a window of a colourful stromness street orkneycottages behind stromness museum orkney harbourstreets of stromness orkney scotland

The pubs of Stromness buzz with music every day as bands and instrumentalists host sessions for all-comers to join in.

coig in session at orkney folk festivalbenedict morris performs at the community centre orkney folk festival 2019

The community centre was transformed completely into an atmospheric club with table service and a bar menu that included amazing homemade pies, special Kirkjuvagr ‘Orkney Foy’ Folk Festival gin, and local ale.

coig from cape breton perform at orkney folk festival stromness community centrecape breton's coig orkney folk festivalmain street stromness orkneygraham place stromness colourful houses orkney main street stromness during orkney folk festival as audience heads to an evening gigryan young violin and jenn butterworth guitar orkney folk festival 2019orkney session swanky brewery ale folk festival stromness community centrepies and gin at the folk festival club stromness orkney cape breton's coig perform at orkney folk festival 2019the ring of brodgar standing stones orkney on a rainy day

Robin Barr (below) was a violin tutor, who – to mark his 70th year – embarked on climbing 7 Orkney hills and composing 7 fiddle tunes to play on each of the summits.

robin barr fit as a fiddle talk orkney folk festival 2019

The ‘Between Islands‘ collaboration showcased music from the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, to present their common heritage as well as their unique differences.

julie fowlis kathleen macinnes jenny keldie saltfishforty perform at between islands orkney 2019

My fiddle-playing daughter (left) was able to hire an instrument thanks to the fantastic Reel Life Foundation in Kirkwall, and was thrilled to be able to join in on a session with Dermot Byrne, Éamonn Coyne and John Doyle

orkney folk festival pub session evening

…as well as Sunday’s Fiddler’s Rally at Stromness Academy.

Some images of capital Kirkwall’s 12th century St Magnus Cathedral. It is awe-inspiring – striped layers of red and yellow sandstone that have stood through hundreds of years. Founded as a resting place for the relics of St Magnus, and at that point under the Norwegian archbishop of Trondheim, the Norwegian connection is strong. My family tree traces ancestors who had settled in Orkney from Norway, so this historical richness of Orkney is fascinating to me.

st magnus cathedral orkney kirkwallstriped sandstone at the doorway of 12th century st magnus cathedralst magnus cathedral interior kirkwallview of st magnus cathedral kirkwall from orkney librarythe poozies orkney folk festival 2019

The Folk Festival really does offer a welcome to all – not just to listen, but to participate. This community choir had downloaded music online to learn at home, and met together for the first time on the morning of the day that they performed several times for the public. Here’s their first set of songs outside the Stromness Museum.

Experimental trio Lau create their music not just with traditional instruments and voice, but with ‘Morag’ the sound machine which is programmed – by all three – to deliver the sort of other-worldly accompaniment that makes their gigs stand out.

Before we left, we had a spare morning to pay a visit to the neolithic village of Skara Brae – uncovered from the grassy dunes during a storm in 1850, and so beautifully preserved due to the stone (rather than wooden) construction.

Another historical site that fascinates me is the chapel built by Italian POWs during the Second World War, when they were constructing sea barriers as part of the naval defence. The construction workers, housed in Nissen huts here, had more freedom than many prisoners and were paid for their labour. They requested a place to worship, and were granted permission to construct it themselves, from the materials that were available to them and the skills they had. The resulting church, from scavenged materials and with intricate paintwork, is testament to both their faith and their artistry.

Sunrise over Stromness Harbour and the hills of Hoy from our accommodation, on the morning of packing up to leave.

And home via a stopover at the best city in the world – do you recognise it, its most famous landmark reflected in the window of my favourite gelato shop?!

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  • Kat - Gorgeous collection of images. I’m definitely putting the folk festival on my must visit list. ReplyCancel

  • Jo Koszel -  Brilliant images, Julie. You have taken me back to the Festival and captured the magic – thank you!ReplyCancel

BBC Gardeners’ World Live

The twin summer shows of BBC Gardeners’ World Live and BBC Good Food have been in full swing over the last four days, at the NEC in Birmingham. I was invited to photograph a preview of the exhibition gardens, as well as the awards ceremony, prior to the show opening to the public earlier this week. There was some fantastic inspiration in planting ideas and layout to take away – but the fact that the gardens were completed in time, and to such an exceptional standard, was a huge credit to the gardeners and landscapers who had to work through some of the most atrocious weather in the preceding days.

You can watch the Gardeners’ World round-up of the show here, and I have some more glimpses of the corners that drew my eye while I was there.

Award-winning garden designer Alexandra Froggatt won Platinum, and Best in Show, for her exquisite Watchmaker’s Garden. Based on Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter of the late 1800s, and including loaned antique watch parts laid out on the workbench, it was an inspired nostalgic mix of vegetable allotment and dahlia border that many of us remember grandparents aspiring to – and now very much the self-sustaining goal of today’s gardeners, as well. The fact that the dahlias, self-seeded native plants, and heirloom and heritage vegetables were in such perfect condition, only added to the charm. Many of us were drawn back several times for another look around.

watchmakers garden alexandra froggatt gardeners world live 2019details of native and self-seeding flowers in the watchmakers garden birmingham necvegetable and dahlia plot with reclaimed materialsself seeded wildflowers and native flowers in a corner of the watchmakers gardenwatchmakers garden birmingham necallotment vegetables in trug gardeners world liveheritage and heirloom vegetables in rows

Reclaimed materials and a handpainted sign were eye-catching features of the Watchmaker’s Garden.

indoor details from the watchmakers garden including antique parts to represent birmingham's jewellery quarterindoor details of watchmakers work bench at birmingham nec gardeners world livereclaimed materials and native self seeding plants at BBC gardeners world live

Garden designer Alexandra Froggatt with her Platinum-winning ‘The Watchmaker’s Garden’.

garden designer alexandra froggatt with her award-winning watchmakers garden at bbc gardeners world live 2019

dahlias and vegetables allotment details of dahlia border on allotment with reclaimed materialsnative flowers and heritage vegetables for mixed planting at gardeners world live alexandra froggattdahlias and mixed borders watchmakers gardenheritage and heirloom vegetables BBC gardeners world livemacro photograph of bee at gardeners world livemixed vegetable and dahlia bordersalexandra froggatt is presented with a platinum award and best in show for her watchmakers garden at bbc gardeners world liveassociation of professional landscapers mixed borders gardeners world live

Over the time of the Press Preview and opening day of the show, filming of Gardeners’ World was taking place – always nice to see behind the scenes!

filming of gardeners world with monty don and frances tophillfrances tophill and monty don film a segment for bbc gardeners world at birmingham nec

The New York- inspired Highline Garden, designed by Lucy Bravington, blended cool green planting with burnished metal structure and railway-style benches.

adam frost films in the new york inspired highline garden for bbc gardeners world

These details might give an indication of how wet it was at times!

paeonia peony and costa with raindrops at bbc gardeners world live

This South-East Asian inspired garden for Timotay Landscapes would be perfect for someone wanting to reminisce over the places they’d visited in their time! Secluded lounging areas with lush planting, and the sound of a waterfall, fused ideas from the landscapes of Indochina.

Inspired by trips to Australian rainforests, Dr Catherine Macdonald and Rhiannon Williams designed- for Gadd Brothers – a garden featuring metal, stone and lots of green textural forms.

Joe Swift films a segment for bbc gardeners world live at birmingham nec

I really enjoyed the Canal and River Trust Garden, designed by Chris Myers. Birmingham has more waterways than Venice and so it seemed a fitting way to celebrate life on the water. This calming garden looked as though it had been there for decades – in fact, the build had taken no more than 10 days, a tribute to the volunteers who had added many authentic touches to the wildflower-strewn scene.

canalside garden by the canals and rivers trust to represent birminghams extensive canal networkthe canalside garden by the canals and rivers trust gardeners world livecanal and river trust canalside garden representing birmingham's extensive canal networkmacro detail of kale 'kalbri' in dahlia and vegetable garden at bbc gardeners world livedahlia and vegetable garden bbc gardeners world live birmingham necpeter seabrook mbe, veteran garden writer and broadcasterdetail of white dahlia in the watchmakers garden with rustic fencing

Inside the Floral Marquee, a display by collaborative Flowers From The Farm was really eye-catching. and showed the versatility of styling with cut flowers.

display in the floral marquee by flowers from the farm demonstrating many different ways with cut flowers

The Gardeners’ World show runs parallel with BBC Good Food, and for me appreciate the chance to tie the two together – particularly where health and wellbeing cross over, and when gardens and farms are put to work – with home-grown produce being turned into fantastic-tasting, environmentally conscious products such as these crisps by Herefordshire-based Two Farmers. Award-winning potatoes cooked in top-quality oil, with locally-sourced flavours and a fully compostable crisp bag (even in sea water) – one to keep an eye on. The audience really enjoyed the taste test!

bbc good food presentation by two farmers herefordshire crisps homegrown with compostable packaging

Celebrated and Michelin-star winning chef Raymond Blanc gave a passionate interview about the benefits of eating seasonally, eating local produce, and avoiding chemically-treated food – all things I heartily believe in.

respected michelin star award-winning chef raymond blanc is interviewed on bbc good food stage

Roxy Pope and Ben Pook signed copies of their cookbook ‘So Vegan in 5‘ at the WH Smith bookstall. Their aim is to show that it’s possible to put together delicious vegan meals with only 5 ingredients or less.

roxy pope and ben pook sign copies of their cookbook so vegan in 5 at the WH Smith bookstall BBC Good Food summer

Nadiya Hussain demonstrated a couple of dishes on the Big Kitchen stage – someone I admire for encouraging her audience in family lifestyle, mental wellbeing, and good food!

cookery demonstration by bake off winner nadiya hussain at the bbc good food summer eventnadiya hussain chats with marcus bean while demonstrating on the big kitchen stage at bbc good food summer

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  • Sharron Gibson - Oh wow theses are gorgeous and so inspiring. Beautiful photos. I want all the gardens now! ReplyCancel

  • Angela - There isn’t one of these gardens I wouldn’t love to soak up the sun in – but those horses! ❤️. Gorgeous report & images to die for ReplyCancel

  • Helen Lisk - Gosh Julie, these are so gorgeous! What wonderful spaces to photograph – you get such a sense of calm through these images – just such lovely gardens. ReplyCancel

  • Kelly Green - ooh these photos make me wish I was more green fingered!!ReplyCancel

  • Nicola - Oh wow, I love these photos! These gardens are sensational aren’t they. So so beautiful., and full of inspiration. Thank you for sharing these. ReplyCancel

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