This week… Mr MacGregor’s potting shed and rabbits

I continue to enjoy the delights of regional locations with historic sites and glorious English gardens in all their summer finery, right on my doorstep. I’ve had a few wobbles, days when the news was sad, scary or downright frustrating, but on balance I’m still here, scribbling in my online journal with one eye on that light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you for joining me again this week, and I hope you enjoy my latest ramblings and photographs.

Here’s five things I liked this week.

Leiko Ikemura: Usagi in Wonderland at the Sainsbury Centre

Trees Out Of Head image credit: © Leiko Ikemura and VG Bild – Kunst 2021. Photo by Jörg von Bruchhausen.

A new exhibition opens today at the Sainsbury Centre at University of Anglia features works by Japanese-Swiss artist, Leiko Ikemura, in her first UK showing.

Leiko Ikemura: Usagi in Wonderland includes 50 works – paintings, sculptures, drawings and photography – spanning three decades. Ikemura’s fantastical figures and primeval landscapes explore the connectivity of all aspects of nature, animal, plant or mineral as well as human, the fragility, transience and slow evolutionary change.

Her work explores mortality in that death is not an end but rather a new beginning. Usagi (‘rabbit’ in Japanese) is a recurrent motif. Usagi Kannon (Rabbit Bodhisattva of Mercy), a bronze sculpture produced in response to the Tōhoku earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident of 2011, ‘emanates compassion, engendering hope rather than despair.’

L to R: Usagi Kannon 2012/19. Image credit © Leiko Ikemura and VG Bild – Kunst 2021. Photo Andreas Lange; Single-Eyed Baby 1994 Glazed terracotta. Image credit © Leiko Ikemura and VG Bild-Kunst 2021 . Photo by Jochen Littkemann .

Ikemura’s ceramic and bronze figures, paintings and drawings of ‘Girls’ from the 1990s depict ethereal figures that ‘swoop and dive’. Sculptures in clay display branching torsos, multiple limbs and fragmented bodies are otherworldly. The landscape paintings, ‘cosmic-scapes’ showing desolate scenes populated with otherworldly figures, involve the ongoing process of transformation.

Internationally recognised, Ikemura grew up in Japan, studied in Spain, and later moved Switzerland where she began to exhibit regularly in the 1980s. The artist currently lives and works in Berlin. Leiko Ikemura: Usagi in Wonderland at the Sainsbury Centre in collaboration with the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures to coincide with the Japan-UK Season of Culture (18 July – 12 December 2021). Tickets £8/£7 at

Wild washing

Online bathroom retailer Plumbworld reports a growth in website searches for outdoor bathing increased by 200% in the last few months.

Most of us have heard of wild swimming and recently I tried forest bathing. But have you discovered wild washing? Years ago I visited friends who lived off-grid in remote Mallorcan countryside. Showering outdoors with absolutely no walls or cover other than the trees was liberating. No steamy mirror, fresh outdoor breezes in high summer temperatures and being surrounded by nature was a very sensual experience. News in this week claims that outdoor bathing is apparently becoming a thing. “What could be better than bathing under the sun or the stars…” James Hickman, CEO Plumbworld. Limited application in the UK summer I would have thought but if you haven’t tried it coolstays has some suggestions for unusual places to stay offering an outdoor bathing area.

Discover the Benefits of Forest Bathing

I recently tried forest bathing with Swedish expert guide, Helena Skoog, and it made me cry. To find out more, as well as suggestions for places to try forest bathing read on.

City Gardens

The Hospital of St John’s Cross, Winchester a green oasis open to the public.

The Master’s Garden at the Hospital of St John’s Cross in Winchester is one of those little oases, a green space open to the public and offering a respite from traffic and city noise, and time to benefit from the beauty of nature. St John’s Cross, one of the earliest UK charities dating back to the 12th century, is actually surrounded by water meadows. The grounds and the Master’s Garden is once again open to the public, as well as the little cafe with a pretty courtyard with tables, chairs and sun parasols. I visited this week and the borders in the garden were a riot of stunning summer colours and the splashing fountains in the lily pond were relaxing and felt refreshing in the current hot temperatures in the UK. Entry ticket £4 adult.

Hospital of St John’s Cross, Winchester. L to R: this quiet corner made me think of ‘Mr MacGregor’s potting shed’; and the church and lily pond with fountain in the Master’s Garden.

Lunch at the Spread Eagle Hotel, the terrace in summer attire; the writer through the arched window at St John’s Cross.

That’s all for this week. The move to step four of recovery from the pandemic is being received with mixed enthusiasm and some trepidation. Wish us luck! Stay safe and well wherever you are in the world.

As always please check the for the latest on domestic and international travel guidelines. It’s also a good idea to check individual web sites for the latest of opening times and safety requirements.

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