Wave breaking on the shore in North Devon by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (

Two thirds of the windows of our half-term holiday let are filled with sky, the remainder with the rise and fall of the tide in the estuary. Just up the road, great rollers unfurl onto the shore with plumes of spray like clouds of steam against an autumn sky that pivots between gun metal grey, rainbow bolts and sheer bright, blue. The children bounce through the surf, jumping and laughing with each dunking. Among the dunes, we pull ourselves free of our wet suits, and rub ourselves red and dry.

The windows of the local chippy are steamed up like the cab of our pick-up truck. We don’t mind. We are warm and tingly happy. We stuff hot chips into our mouths and snuggle up together to watch a film.

The next day I find two conkers and a limpet shell in the rubber seal of the washing machine. There is enough sand in the pick-up to start our own beach. We carve cat faces into pumpkins from the farmer’s field and make pumpkin muffins with the scrapings by the lanterns’ flickering light.

Sometimes I wish I could make time stand still.

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Child holding apple. Photograph by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (

Thursday evening is bell ringing practice in the parish church behind our house. One of my favourite things is to open one of the velux windows in the attic, and lean out, listening. The waning Harvest Moon lights up a cluster of clouds from behind, casting a soft glow over the darkening sky. The bells peel out across the mellow Autumn air. A plate of nasturtium seeds sits on the sideboard, drying. Finch has collected them with plans to stealth seed bomb the park in the spring.

It has been extremely mild here, sunshine tinged with the freshness of the changing season, scented with apples and dry leaves. At the weekend, we joined a local community group to pick apples in steep orchards a couple of miles away. It was warm and still between the trees. As we trundled up and down the grassy slopes with bags of red and gold produce, we soon shed our jumpers and coats. Babies, toddlers and dogs all helped out. It was a festive gathering, picnics spread out in the sun, apple picking baskets on long poles dancing through the laden boughs like jigging maypoles, and regular excited shouts for help with a particularly juicy looked branch load.

Our loving Wren wanted to kiss each apple. Finch and his friend found a badger set. They rolled a few of the best apples they could find down the tunnel so Mr Badger might have breakfast ready and waiting for him outside his front door when he got up that evening.

We lugged the harvest down to the barn where the apples will be sorted, and, in two weeks, pressed in the village hall. The juice will be given out to anyone who comes with a container, sharing the wonderful bounty of Autumn.

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Skeins of geese fly over the roof tops, honking gentle encouragement to each other. It is a time of change in the natural world as creatures all over the planet follow the irresistible, internal tug to migrate. The geese trace the path of the river, so low over our house, we can almost see the colours of their tail feathers. Their call is an atmospheric sound for me, the sound of Autumn. With it comes a chill in the morning air and low mists trickling through the streets around the river.

It is a time of change in the human world too. The children are back to school, new shoes creaking, bringing home the inevitable school-swapped colds and bugs. They are excited about being in a new year, new teachers and new classrooms. It is bittersweet for me. They are another year older, growing wonderfully, just as I would wish, but another year of their childhood gone. Such precious years.

It is bittersweet at the allotment too. This is the last time I will take down the bean poles here. This is my last winter on the plot. I am moving to our new growing space in the spring. It has been a good year with lots of successes. I have jars of dried beans and peas for hearty stews over the winter. Pumpkins are curing on a sunny windowsill. There are leeks, parsnips and beetroots happily bedded in for us to pull up as needed in the cold months. So far, I am winning the battle with the slugs and caterpillars and pigeons for kale and red cabbages. This soil has nourished us in a multitude of ways. It has taught us about belonging, story, hope, nature, the point of human beings and joy. It has set us on the path we are following. We are migrating like the geese. We will be forever grateful.

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I rolled bundles of hay across the slope to make haycocks to keep the rain off and allow the grasses to continue drying. For those that know hay, it’s not really. It’s fibrous weedy stuff from species-rich grassland we optimistically call the Orchard Meadow, left too long and cut now with a scythe. But it will make an excellent mulch for fruit trees and the grass needs cutting ready for tree-planting later in the year.

The children watched the bundles roll over, alert for short-tailed voles. I had spotted one as I’d rolled and managed to catch the snub-nosed little creature in my hands. It peeked out at the children from beneath my fingers, whiskers twitching, one bright eye watching us. After much delight, we released it into one of the newly made haycocks. The kids spotted several more but only Finch was quick enough to catch one, and then only for a few seconds before it scurried out of his hands and away into the grass.

Short-tailed voles feel like a good sign, an important part of a living habitat. Though dear things, they are also important food sources for so many other creatures we love. Coming back through the lanes, we spotted a barn owl swooping low.

Way back in January last year, I wrote here: ‘[We] have other dreams we want to pursue, dreams and hopes that slipped in under the door like the rays of sun on the dawn of the first day of Spring, unexpectedly bright, and unexpectedly right.’

Dreams are strange, slippery things. The dreams I was talking about were old ones really, dreams we had dreamed as young people when we barely knew ourselves and had only the smallest idea of the limitations and restrictions of the world. But they resurfaced and we started to wonder, what if?

And so in June, we became custodians of a piece of land: woodland, coppice, pasture, meadow and stream. Nature, climate and family are some of the words that best encapsulate what this is about for us.

No more voles to find, the children clambered through the dark limbs of a field-edge goat willow and we put the kettle on the fire to make tea.

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Toad in the log pile

I was moving logs from the chopping block to the log store. The wood had been chopped the day before and a toad had taken up residence. I almost didn’t see him, then he was there, and completely impossible to miss. Isn’t that so often the way with nature?

Toads are such soft, ancient, fragile things, not made for the world the way it is now. I can’t bear to think of them exposed to birds, car tyres, polluted waterways, or worse, domestic cats. I picked him up very gently in my hands. He didn’t wriggle or squirm but sat, still and blinking. His warty skin felt soft as brushed leather. I took him down to the log store, where he will do us a good turn munching on slugs, if he decides to stay.

I showed him a gap between the logs. He immediately put out an arm, then lifted a leg, and scrambled in. Instantly he was gone, his camouflage making him look like a fallen leaf which had drifted down from the tree and settled in a crevice. So clever. What a special treat.

I have no picture of him, and there’s no picture with this post. I made a resolution this summer holiday, to rarely have my phone on me or even ‘on’. I realise that is only millimetres away from my parents’ neglectful approach to mobile phones. It’s a slippery slope I’ll happily slide down as I get older, I’m sure, much to my children’s annoyance! But for this summer, I wanted to be present in the moment, mesmerised by a toad, not running for a phone to take a picture. There is a visual image lodged safely in brain after all. I took it out and turned it over in wonder at home afterwards, reading Norman MacCaig’s poem, Toad. One of my favourites.

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My children are growing, I’ve started to get silver hairs in my fringe, and yesterday was the mid-point in the year. In my day job, I am organising some drug treatment regimes for patients for 6 months time. That’s Christmas! Life feels like it is flying by. I was shocked to discover I haven’t posted here since the end of March!

This year, I made a resolution to mark the passing of the seasons with reflection and celebration. One of those markers was going to be a long walk somewhere special with my mum and sister. Mum has a medical condition which means she is slowly losing her sight. We want to walk the high, hilly places with her while she still can.

But she caught a bad chest infection while climbing Pen Y Fan and it’s knocked her. So we put our original plans to one side and marked the Summer Solstice, with a wander in woodland glades, giggling, reminiscing and a top notch lunch in the sunshine. I’m glad it worked out this way. It was just right. And I’m so glad we set aside this day to mark the longest day together.

Whatever you were doing yesterday, I hope you got a moment to salute the sun.

Some of the things I’ve been getting up to since March… visiting schools as part of the wonderful Chipping Norton Book Festival to talk about The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair

Chipping Norton Book Festival 2023. All rights reserved (
Welcome sign outside the wonderful Jaffe & Neale bookshop at Chipping Norton Book Festival

warmer weather finally arrived with a bump and the allotment took off…

Tulips on the allotment 2023. All rights reserved (

I was interviewed for a wonderful Devon-based, Love Devon magazine for their well-being issue…

LOVE Devon article, featuring Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (

And I was part of a brilliant author line-up at The Bookery in Crediton to celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, The Bookery’s 10th birthday and the opening of their new extension.

The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair at The Bookery. All rights reserved (
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Fossil hunting

Last year, as part of my research for The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair, I went fossil hunting along the Jurassic Coast. I took my sister’s little puppy, Brody, to help. Even though he’s part-hound, he turned out not to be very good and we didn’t find any! Luckily, there was an excellent fossil shop nearby 🙂

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World Book Day 2023

This World Book Day I was able to visit several schools on and around the day, delivering writing workshops and my author talk. It was an absolute joy to chat to children about what they’re reading and writing. We talked about The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair, how ideas from the past still influence the way we think about things now, and the power of difference to make the world a better place. We excavated stories from the landscape like the famous Victorian fossil hunter, Mary Anning. Here are some pictures of my wonderful week…

World Book Day 2023. All rights reserved (
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Another Illustrator Insight: Me!

Part of my contract for The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair was for me to produce the internal illustrations for the book. As many of you know, it’s a while since I was actively illustrating for commercial purposes so this really felt like getting back on the bike!

Rough pencil drawings by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (

The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair is a book which revels in natural history and found objects, so I decided to focus in on still-life images of the many every day things and natural findings featured in the words. I went back to my favourite, good old pen and ink with ink washes for media, which felt so apt for the Victorian elements of the book, particularly.

Here’s a photo of my makeshift (and very dusty!) light box. I was illustrating these images throughout the drought we had last year. It felt like all kinds of wrong to be shutting out the sun so I could get the best from the box!

Ink drawings on the light box by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (

Zephyr produce such beautiful books and I’m delighted with how they used my illustrations across the pages. I hope you like it too!

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Illustrator Insight: Lucy Rose

One of the things that is soooo exciting (among many!) about having your book published, is having a wonderful illustrator use their incredible skills for the front cover of your book. Although I had seen the final version of the cover of The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair on the proof copies, the Zephyr design team had a fabulous surprise for me… a turquoise foil picking out leaves and other elements on the cover! It was the best surprise ever and I love the cover even more! It twinkles on bookshop shelves.

I got the chance to meet up with Lucy Rose, the cover illustrator of The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair, before Christmas. She kindly agreed to answer some questions about her work and her process…

I’ve had so many people comment to me about how special the cover is for The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair. I think it must have been quite a hard book to design a cover for because of the dual time line and the sensitive themes but you’ve done an incredible job. Could you tell us about your process for illustrating a book cover? When I received the brief and manuscript I start my process by brainstorming ideas and making very quick, rough sketches. This allows me to experiment with composition and elements to include in the illustration. I also research particular elements, for example for this cover I did do lots of research on Tigers and flora/ fauna found on the Jurassic Coastline. I then create a couple of detailed sketches which I will send to the designer and then there’s discussion and adjustments made until everyone is happy with the sketch. I sometimes receive the type for the cover at this point so I can work my sketches around the text- making sure there is space and if the illustration can interact with the type in any way. After this, I can start on the detailed colour illustration; mainly by drawing on my iPad, making sure I create lots of texture and detail. This is also the stage where I can experiment with colour palettes. When I am happy with the illustration I try and send a couple of colour options back to the designer so they have a few options to choose from. The final stage would be fine-tuning small details and colour so everyone is happy and that the final type fits well with the illustration.  

One of the things which I think is particularly special about the cover is the way you’ve managed to convey both power and peacefulness in the tiger. He has a real weight to him. You illustrate lots of animals. What is your favourite animal to draw and why? I love to illustrate animals and capturing their particular characteristics, whether it be their power, beauty or elegance. Animals are absolutely my favourite subjects to draw. I’m not sure if I have one favourite that I prefer but I do especially love exotic animals with striking and colourful markings. I also am pretty obsessed with dogs so drawing any breed of dog makes me particularly happy. 

Another thing I love about the cover is the intricate design of the plants. Your illustrations often incorporate detailed patterns. I can’t imagine where you begin! What is the process for designing a pattern? When I design a repeat pattern, I spend a most of the time experimenting and playing around with composition and lots of colour options rather than creating sketches first. I like this process as it is very experimental and I never really know what it is going to turn out like – this process is fun and brings out my spontaneous side. 

Could you tell us about your working day? When and where do you work? For the last 5 years I have been a full time illustrator so I work Monday to Friday – recently trying hard to give myself weekends off (something I have struggled to do for years being self employed)I work from my studio at home most of the time with the company of my wonderful dog Tyson but I also take my work into a local gallery where I work once a week to keep sociable and sane. If I have a big deadline coming up I do tend to work into the evenings too, especially if I am working with clients in the U.S as there’s a big time difference. 

Could you tell us how you came to be an illustrator? I knew I wanted to go into an art profession quite early as both my parents are practising artists. This definitely heavily influenced me and drawing was something I knew I was quite good at. But I think it was only when I studied for my Art Foundation that I really took an interest in illustration, maybe because I learnt what types of jobs I could go into. I consequently ended up at Falmouth University completing a BA in illustration. At our final degree show The Artworks agency in London reached out inviting me to join their ‘Startworks’ programme (their very own programme to help guide new illustrators into the industry) and I absolutely loved it. I managed to get a few big jobs quite quickly from this and once a year had passed I was officially represented by them and have been getting exciting, varied jobs ever since! 

What are you working on at the moment? And what should we be watching for which will be coming out soon? At the moment I have some exciting and quite diverse projects in my schedule with a few adult book cover projects, a coffee packaging brief and a couple of children’s books – one that I have just finished about my favourite animals… dogs! The really great thing about my job is that I am never quite sure what kind of brief may pop up next. 

If you would like to find out more about Lucy, you can visit her website here:

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