Boats Amid the Trees – Withdrawn in Leigh Woods, Bristol

We have made our way through Leigh Woods many times since moving to Bristol. Across the suspension bridge and along the road past high towering homes, the path becomes greener and greener as you walk towards the National Trust woods. Over the road from Ashton Court, the bustling noises pass by quickly and Leigh Woods welcomes you in for a refreshing, elongated breath of calm. I’ve loved exploring the woods at different times of year; from dark thick bare bark to flurries of bluebells and the hint of light emerald in the trees, then to even brighter blankets of green and an array of blooms before reds, oranges and yellows take hold in the canopies and create new paths of colour throughout the woodland.

Walking through Leigh Woods during the spring and summer months of 2015 presents a very different sight for visitors. Between the trees in the middle of the woods an obscure scene begins to unfold. ‘Withdrawn’, a significant installation piece by Luke Jerram, begins to take shape in amongst the tall grasses, trees and wild flowers.

Boats in Leigh Woods, Bristol

Boats in the woodland, Bristol

The intangible scene – a collection of boats in the woods. The ships appear abandoned, left to traverse the woodland rather than crashing waves. Their colourful sea-battered sides stand between the sturdy trees with pride. Ready to meet the waters again? Or accepting of their fate away from the comfort of their natural surroundings?

Looking down, the view is full of juxtaposition – the obscurity of seeing the boats sitting amongst the dry grasses and scuffed soil sends a message of confusion and mystery. Still, the way Jerram has constructed the scene, it appears that the woodland floor has accepted the rudders and anchors of the boats. Or maybe the act of time, wind and weather has given the ships a chance to sink into the ground and gradually be surrounded by the blossoming life and sprouting plants of the season.
Boats in the woods

Boats on the wood floor, Leigh Woods

Boats in woods - Bristol

Withdrawn - Leigh Woods, Bristol

Luke Jerram’s installation will stay in Leigh Woods until the 6th September 2015 – and after that, what can we do to ensure we don’t experience the unfamiliar view of ships amongst the trees again?

Everything Bristol does as European Green Capital of 2015 is to raise awareness of our changing environment. Around the city and beyond Bristol we can already make note of the negative effects of pollution and climate change but steps are being made towards a more sustainable city. From the eco friendly homes of Hanham Hall, to Skipchen and the Severn project, Bristol and its inhabitants are happily and actively seeing how many changes can be made now.

Many people have questioned the effectiveness of art installations such as Withdrawn but if we’re talking about it, it must mean we’re passion about its insight.

Ships in Leigh Woods, Bristol

Weathered Boats in Leigh Woods

Fishing boats in Leigh Woods

Boats amid the trees, Bristol

Enjoying Chocolate – Eating Raw

I’m not one to hide it. I like chocolate. I like chocolate a lot.

I know I’m not the only healthy eating buff with a weakness for something sweet – it’s why we experiment over and over again to conjure up recipes that deliver everything we want from a slice of cake, a cookie or a crumble, without the sugar and other nasties we strive to avoid.

As with most things, a little bit of chocolate is okay – and it’s even more acceptable if it’s a high quality dark chocolate, without added sugar and flavourings. Go one step further and you’re at raw chocolate – a popular option that’s tasty for hardcore bitter chocolate lovers but less appealing for anyone with a dominant sweet tooth. But I want to feel good about eating chocolate! For me, it’s all about balance, so I’ll let myself enjoy a morsel or two of decadent dark chocolate but only because I gorge on fresh fruit and veg, nuts and seeds, oily fish and protein packed grains the rest of the time. Chocolate is a treat I like to think I deserve.

healthy chocolate tart recipe

So, to help myself enjoy chocolate, I devised this indulgent recipe for a chocolate tart that’s got tons of nutritional value, thanks to the sum of its parts.

My raw tart recipe hides a multitude of healthy delights in its very short ingredient list. The base is made of nuts and unsulphured dried fruits, with cinnamon for additional depth of flavour. The tart filling is where the indulgence begins. It’s a kind of chocolate mousse mixture… just without any cream or sugar and with a hearty spoonful of good-for-you ingredients. Avocados, almond butter, honey and raw chocolate create a gloriously thick tart filling that’s dairy free, gluten free, refined sugar free and packed with vitamins, protein and fibre.

chocolate avocado tart recipe

I’ve served slices of this raw tart to quite a few dessert lovers now, all of whom were unaware of the goodness inside and assumed it was a homemade chocolate tart with a nutty base. The results? Lets just say that they all asked for seconds! Top the tart with crushed pistachios, flaked almonds , or some berries and believe me, you’ll fool anyone who doubts the winning combination that is avocado and chocolate.

Seriously, it tastes as good as it looks.

raw chocolate avocado tart recipe

Raw Chocolate Tart Recipe


250g of hazelnuts

150g of dried dates

130g of dried figs

1 tbsp of cinnamon

100g of almond butter

2 avocados

150g of honey

150g of raw chocolate


Prepare a tart dish by lining it with clingfilm

Soak the dates and figs in hot water for 10 minutes

In a food processor, blitz the hazelnuts and cinnamon until very finely chopped, then transfer the mix to a bowl

Use a sieve to drain the liquid from the dates and figs, then put the dried fruit in to the food processor

Blitz until the fruit is well processed

Add the processed dried fruit to the bowl with the ground nut mixture

Use a spatula to combine the nuts and fruit, pressing the ingredients together to being forming a dough

Use your hands to continue pressing the mixture together and knead it to form a ball of dough

Press the dough into the lined dish to form the base of your tart

Cover and place the dish in the freezer to begin setting the base

To make the raw tart filling, mix the almond butter, avocados and honey together in a mixing bowl until smooth

Next, if you’re using a bar of raw chocolate, process it until fine, or stir the raw cocoa powder into the filling mix

Remove the tart base from the freezer and fill it with the chocolate avocado filling

Cover the tart and leave it in the freezer overnight until set

Grape Hyacinths for April

Just days after the clocks sprung forward an hour, we saw our back garden begin to come to life. A touch of extra sun and a little West Country rain contributed to the arrival of dabbles of colour and more splashes of green every day- not to mention flourishing grasses that will soon require cutting.

Now, we have a small patch of purple bathing in the sunniest spot of our garden – the grape hyacinths. The collection soaks in the rays, attracting bees and creating our very own plot of wild flowers to enjoy.

With the rest of April sure to offer the usual mix of long bright days and downpours, I look forward to seeing more surprises when I look out of the window each morning.

Grape Hyacinth and Bee

Grape Hyacinth