Pavement photography and printmaking

Road sign in the Woolaway Project area. I’ll be photographing more details like this, including views, trees, homes and front gardens.

I’m looking forward to visiting the project area again on Saturday 1st August, to walk around photographing street scenes, front gardens, the houses and views. I think we’ve all been doing more walking lately, as during the national lockdown in April and May it seemed to be our only luxury. A chance to escape the house, get some exercise and have a ‘socially distanced’ chat with a neighbour. Walking and being outdoors in the garden have been helpful activities for many during this time. I’m sure many of the gardens I visited last year are almost unrecognisable now, with flowers in bloom and perhaps edibles growing. One resident has kindly emailed me this photo of her garden, with raised beds full of vegetables.

Resident’s photo of their back garden, July 2020.

This will be my last visit to the area before I start creating the final artwork in August. Though I can’t visit homes or even gardens safely at the moment, during my walk around I’m hoping to create some cyanotypes (sun prints) with small samples of flowers, leaves and plants. I mentioned this print process in my last post. This will be a ‘kerbside’ activity (I’ll be mindful of social distancing). I’ll be carrying the equipment necessary and collecting plant cuttings from any residents that give their consent. I’ll also make prints from the leaves of the roadside trees. The photo below shows an example of a cyanotype print. The first ‘before’ image shows a plant cutting on light sensitive paper. The second image shows the final print which is blue in colour. I plan to include a selection of cyanotype prints as part of the final artworks to be displayed in the new community space. Large artworks will be created showcasing the photographs made during this project. I’ll be documenting the creation of these artworks on this blog next month.

Example of a cyanotype print. The image on the left shows a cut plant laid on top of a coated sheet of UV sensitive paper. The image on the right shows the final print after being exposed to sunlight. The plant acts as a natural stencil.

I’ll be visiting the project area during 10am – 2pm on Saturday 1st August 2020. If you would like me to photograph any plants in your front garden or donate a small plant clipping to create a cyanotype print, please get in touch via woolawaystories@gmail.com

Carolyn Lefley

Reminiscence film

In February I was joined by filmmaker Hannah Earl from Somerset Art Works to make a short film about the Woolaway Reminiscence Project. We walked around the project area and shot some footage taking in the houses, streets and views looking over to the Wellington Monument. We also revisited a resident who very kindly let us film in her home and garden. The film is beautifully shot and edited by Hannah. It gives a flavour of the kind of ideas the project has been exploring; memories of home life and what makes a house a home. I enjoyed hearing stories of building a garden up to be a place of sanctuary, where plants are passed on through the generations and memories become embedded in the leaves. Here is a link to view this short film or watch below.

When I was visiting homes, residents were often keen to talk about their gardens, giving tours and looking at photographs of treasured plants. During the film you can see me holding a hydrangea flower from the garden we were filming in. Later in the film I lay out some of the petals from the flower onto a sheet of blue paper. This is the start of a photographic process called cyanotype printing or sun printing. The plant creates a kind of stencil, and when exposed to sunlight, a white trace of the flower remains. To read more about this process click here. Here is a photograph of a cyanotype print made from the hydrangea shown in the film. I’m currently experimenting with ways I might encorporate this type of print within the Woolaway Reminiscence Project final artworks.

Cyanotype print of hydrangea petals

Outside space is even more precious during these times of lockdown. A resident recently sent me a lovely email update of how her garden has developed over lockdown:

“My garden looks like a scene from the TV programme ‘The Good Life’, as I am growing lots of vegetables. I am growing runner beans, carrots, lettuces, tomatoes, courgettes, French dwarf beans, spring onions, cucumbers and a variety of herbs and all mainly in pots. All that’s missing in my garden are chickens and a pig! My garden flowers and shrubs are all coming to life now it’s spring and I do hope you can visit again when the lockdown lifts…”

I hope you enjoy the film. If any residents would like to send me any special memories of their homes or gardens, please email me at  woolawaystories@gmail.com

Carolyn Lefley

Stills from the Woolaway Reminiscence Project short film, February 2020

Calling home

During this time of social distancing and staying at home, many people are reaching out to family and friends by phone and video calling technology. The whole nation has been instructed to ‘stay at home’. For some this means spending time with their immediate family, but for others, they are having to isolate at home alone. Reaching out to others by phone, text and social media has become an essential way of keeping a sense of community and togetherness. If any residents would like to arrange a telephone call with me to share memories of their life in the Woolaway houses, I would be happy to connect remotely, whilst I can’t visit homes in person. Details of how to get involved with this project can be found below.

In February, I visited a home and met a couple who first met 29 years ago. In the early days of their relationship they used to chat on CB radio and shared with me their humorous ‘handle’ names. I had to look up ‘citizens band’ radio (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_band_radio) when I got home! This was a time of courtship which predated mobile phones and social media. But this couple found a way to get to know each other over hours of chat on their CB radios. They continued to tell me stories of their wedding and making a home together. They have since moved away from the project area, but still remain very close by. Their new home has views over to the local farmland and they seem very happy with the move.

One of the residents creates needle felt sculptures, including mementos and keepsakes of peoples beloved pets, or this wolf pictured (wolves are said to be symbolic of many things, including freedom, wisdom and guardianship). She often creates humorous items such as this homage to the ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. We had a long conversation about how much people love their pets, and often choose to bury them in their gardens. These needle felt sculptures are created with great care and attention to detail. It is was craft learned whilst looking after her husband who was convalescing at home with a long term illness.

Here are some prints shared with me from a collection of old family photographs. Looking at these images led to conversations around family events such as Christenings and the rites of passage linked to family life and the home. The pictures of having fun with siblings and friends in the garden remind me of my childhood. I particularly like this image of the tree being felled, with a child precariously yet proudly standing at the top!

Four ways to get involved in the project remotely

1. Memories over telephone 

During this time of social distancing and isolation for some due to the Coronavirus, I won’t be visiting residents in their homes. However, I would like to offer telephone chats to any residents that would like to get involved in the project. A time could be arranged to have a conversation, to share your memories of your life in your Woolaway home. If you would like to talk to me over the phone please email me to arrange a time: woolawaystories@gmail.com or via Angela Bolitho on 01823 785580 

2. Memories by email

If you have scanned or digital photos to share of past times in and around the area, these can be emailed directly to me at: woolawaystories@gmail.com Please feel free to write a bit about your photos in the email. 

3. Memory cards

Each home also received a Memory card, blank on the back for your own stories. These can still be hand posted to the office at 27 Rochester Road. 

4. View the project book online

Anyone can view the book : Click here

I hope all of the residents are keeping well. Please continue to follow this blog and get in touch if you like to participate in this project. 

Carolyn Lefley

Project in print

Woolaway Reminiscence Project book, February 2020

This month all of the homes in the project area have received one of these small Woolaway Reminiscence Project books. The book contains highlights from the project blog. It’s been put together so those without access to a computer can see what the project is all about. I’ve been updating this blog regularly since the project began late last summer. This book is a celebration of the stories and images collected so far. It has been produced in large print text, to make the book more accessible. I enjoyed the process of putting this book together and reviewing all of the material collected so far. The book is A5, 20 pages, saddle stitched (staple bound) and printed on thick uncoated paper stock.

Spread from the Woolaway Reminiscence Project book, February 2020

Earlier this month I gave a talk about the Woolaway Reminiscence Project to the local History Group, at the Priorswood Community Centre. I enjoyed talking to the group and hearing about some of their ideas for the project. As a group they’ve produced an informative local history book ‘Priorswood Past and Present’, which has been helpful in my research. Giving this talk helped to spread the word about the project to help get more residents involved.

Four ways to get involved in the project remotely

1. Memories over telephone 

During this time of social distancing and isolation for some due to the Coronavirus, I won’t be visiting residents in their homes. However, I would like to offer telephone chats to any residents that would like to get involved in the project. A time could be arranged to have a conversation, to share your memories of your life in your Woolaway home. If you would like to talk to me over the phone please email me to arrange a time: woolawaystories@gmail.com or via Angela Bolitho on 01823 785580 

2. Memories by email

If you have scanned or digital photos to share of past times in and around the area, these can be emailed directly to me at: woolawaystories@gmail.com Please feel free to write a bit about your photos in the email. 

3. Memory cards

Each home also received a Memory card, blank on the back for your own stories. These can still be hand posted to the office at 27 Rochester Road. 

4. View the project book online

Anyone can view the book : Click here

With home visits not possible for a while, I will still be visiting the area to take photographs of the streets and outside areas. Especially whilst some of the trees are blossoming. I hope all of the residents are keeping well during these uncertain times.

Carolyn Lefley

Putting down roots

View out to a resident’s garden, with a view over the hedge of neighbouring houses and distant hills

This month I was joined by filmmaker Hannah Earl from Somerset Art Works to make a short film about the Woolaway Reminiscence Project. We walked around the project area and shot some footage taking in the beautiful views looking over to the Wellington Monument. We also revisited a resident who very kindly let us film in her home and garden. Once the film is ready I’ll put a link up on this blog. 

A subject that came up this month was the idea of ‘putting down roots’. Many residents have lived in their homes for decades. Neighbours become good friends and a support network is built. Generations stay in the area and ‘roots’ of family and friendship grow deep. Homes are well kept and gardens are nurtured and treasured. Some homes have stunning views over to the distant hills. 

Here are some comments made last week about a resident’s beloved garden, which she has carefully designed over many years to create a private and peaceful outdoor sanctuary: ‘It’s not just in the house that has memories, it’s outside too, in the garden… and sometimes more meaningful ones … It’s like another room”. She continued to describe a communal green space behind her garden: ‘My children used to play out there catching butterflies. Children from across the road used to come and play together’.

Woolaway Reminiscence Project memory cards

Some lovely memories have been returned on the back of the Woolaway Reminiscence Project memory postcards, which have been sent to each house in the project area. Here are two extracts from two generations of the same family:

‘Moved in when new in 1954. One of the first houses built. Had three youngsters under ten, and I thought the house was like Buckingham Palace! At last we had a home we could settle in and make it a family friendly abode. We were so happy’.

‘We played in the streets and loved to play football after school on the patch of grass in Dover Road. We also loved to go climbing trees in Lyngford Lane. I remember the “big freeze” in 1962-63 when we were snowed in and each morning when we woke up the bedroom windows were covered in ice as Jack Frost had visited. Mum had the gas taken out as she didn’t like it, so we only had storage heaters downstairs not upstairs!’.


I’m looking forward to visiting more Woolaway homes and will continue to share photographs, stories and reflections on this blog. If you would like to get involved, a home visit can be arranged by contacting Angela Bolitho on 01823 785580 or emailing Carolyn via woolawaystories@gmail.com

Woolaway home

Souvenirs and Mementos

As we head into a new year and decade many of us are looking to the future and making plans. It’s also a good time of year to hibernate and reminisce about happy memories of our loved ones and perhaps time spent in warmer climates. Many of the homes I’ve visited for the Woolaway Reminiscence Project are full of mementos: souvenirs, family photographs and ornaments. Fridges are often decorated with magnets from around the world, perhaps gifts from family members or keepsakes from holidays.

Fridge magnets

The word ‘souvenir’ comes from the French souvenir which means ‘remember’. The word ‘remember’ is from the Latin: rememorari to ‘call to mind’. Which in turn is where we get our word ‘Reminiscence’ – the action of remembering. We often surround ourselves with visual prompts to fondly remember significant life stories.  

‘Nana’s Home, where memories are made and grandkids are spoilt’

Gifts are often given by family members and proudly displayed in the home. This cushion pictured reminds me of hand embroidered furnishings and decorations with slogans such as ‘Home Sweet Home’ or ‘Bless the Home’. This ‘Nana’s Home’ cushion is one of the first things this resident sees as she steps into her home. I noticed it straight away, then my eye was drawn up to the opposite wall to this kingfisher plate. 

Kingfisher plate

Printed plates, either as souvenirs or for decoration, are also popular in the Woolaway homes I’ve visited. Bird motifs on plates are said to be popular as a symbol of hopes and dreams. Kingfishers are also said to symbolise peace and prosperity. They are beautiful birds which I’ve been fortunate enough to spot whilst walking in Somerset. This kingfisher plate faces out to the front door and the street beyond. We fill our homes with objects that bring us hope and help us reminisce. 

Each home in the project area should have received a Woolaway Reminiscence Project postcard, with a blank side to write down your memories of your home and the local area. These memories written on the cards will be used to create a collaborative artwork or book project. In 2020 I’m looking forward to visiting more Woolaway homes and will continue to share photographs, stories and reflections on this blog. I would love to hear more stories of life in and around the North Taunton Woolaway houses. If you would like to get involved, a home visit can be arranged by contacting the Woolaway Project Team on 01823 219 159 or northtauntonwoolawayproject@somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk

Carolyn Lefley

A Christmas tree and a Rowan tree

Earlier this month I attended the Priorswood Christmas Market, to meet more residents and promote the Woolaway Reminiscence Project. My stall was 1950s themed, as the Woolaway homes were built in the early fifties. I had 1950’s Christmas music, wore festive vintage clothing and the stall had a handmade wooden Christmas tree.

Woolaway Reminiscence Project stall, Priorswood Christmas Market, December 2019
(photograph by Hannah Earl)

I invited people to stick a paper bauble to the tree, inscribed with how many years they had lived in the area, as a conversation starter. Years ranged from an impressive 85 years down to only a few months in the area. I gave out many of the ‘memory postcards’ I’ve created for the project. It was a wonderfully festive event, with a lovely community feel. I met several residents linked to the Woolaway homes. One resident in particular is worth a mention as her front garden was unwittingly featured on my memory postcard.

Woolaway Reminiscence Project – Memory postcard. Residents are invited to write their memories and stories of life in the Woolaway homes on the back of these cards.

Back in July I walked around the Woolaway project area and took several photographs of the streets and houses. I remember being particularly drawn to this Rowan tree with red berries. At the Christmas market the resident shared a bit of her life story, including moving into the property in the 1990s and being offered a choice of tree for her front garden. Over the years she has been delighted by her choice of tree, with its nearly year long display of red berries. We had a great conversation at the market and I hope to visit her home in the new year to listen to more stories. 

Rowan tree, Rochester Road, Taunton. July 2019.

I’m looking forward to visiting more Woolaway homes in 2020 and will continue to share photographs, stories and reflections on this blog. I would love to hear more stories of life in and around the North Taunton Woolaway houses. If you would like to get involved, a home visit can be arranged by contacting the Woolaway Project Team on 01823 219 159 or northtauntonwoolawayproject@somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all the residents and the project team 🎄

Carolyn Lefley

Photographs and memories

Family photographs are something that have a shared visual language that crosses generations and cultures. In the homes I’ve visited so far, some wonderful memories have been shared by looking together at people’s family photographs. Photo albums, framed prints, drawers and boxes of photographs and increasingly digital cameras or mobile phones house images which trigger memories of our past.

I recently visited a resident who has been in her home for 35 years, having moved to the area in her early thirties with a young family. She told me all about her life in the area and what her home means to her: ‘This house is the first place I’ve settled. I have roots here and have made lasting friendships with my neighbours, building up trust over the years.’ The image above shows a beautiful print, hand coloured by the resident’s grandfather. The photograph is of her as a young girl. It’s a striking portrait and unusual to have such a large hand coloured print. It started a conversation about the historical technique but led on to how much her grandfather had encouraged her in the arts, which in turn shaped her adult life, as she became a primary school teacher who encouraged her pupils to learn in a creative way.

As we talked I looked around her living room and noticed several small paintings. It transpired they were all hand painted by the resident from family photographs. This was described as both an inexpensive way to decorate the walls and a chance to be creative. It’s also a way to treasure those memories, and the act of painting them might aid that reminiscence. 

Participants in the project so far have been so generous with their time and welcoming me into their homes. I’ve enjoyed looking through photo albums and boxes of unsorted photographs. Whatever the archival method, it’s a lovely way to trigger memories.

I’m looking forward to visiting more Woolaway homes and will continue to share photographs, stories and reflections on this blog. I would love to hear more stories of life in and around the North Taunton Woolaway houses. If you would like to get involved, a home visit can be arranged by contacting the Woolaway Project Team on 01823 219 159 or northtauntonwoolawayproject@somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk

I will also be at the Priorswood Christmas Market, Priorswood Place, 3-6pm, Tuesday 3rd December. I’ll be there running a stall with a Christmas activity linked to the project. Come along and enjoy a free mince pie and find out more about the Woolaway Reminiscence Project. 

Carolyn Lefley

Decorations and ornaments

How we choose to decorate our homes often reveals our sense of identity, interests and past. Ornaments, paintings, furniture and even room decor choices often have unique stories attached to them. Ornaments can form part of collections and can be added to by the inhabitant as well as gifted to them or inherited. One resident I visited recently has a beautifully presented sitting room, which is filled with hundreds of ornaments. The vast majority are housed in a large glass fronted display cabinet. The cabinet was divided into three sections: her own collection and those of her mother and father. Other ornaments were then carefully arranged into groups, nearly always with a story behind each item. To be surrounded by these items is a comfort, especially to those living alone, as a lot of the objects have been gifted and bring to mind celebrations, milestones and occasions with family and friends. 

The walls of the homes I’ve visited have been decorated with a mixture of family photographs and pictures of the natural world. I have noticed that there is a trend among the Woolaway homes for bringing nature into the home. For example this autumnal scene pictured above. This was in a home where the occupants were preparing to move house. The walls were nearly empty, but this landscape painting remained, perhaps left up so the room didn’t seem so bare for the final days in their home. These residents remembered when the area was only trees, before the houses were built.

Colour is also important in people’s homes. When I walked into one kitchen I instantly noticed the yellow theme: yellow walls, kettle, tins, ornaments, mats, pictures, post it reminders and even the Utterly Butterly tub. The resident explained, ‘Yellow is a happy colour and it brings the sunshine in.’ 

The home is a person’s private sanctuary and net curtains are often used. They let the light in, but afford privacy and also allow more identity to be expressed in the choice of pattern, which often references nature. This last photograph shows some floral net curtains with a suspended sun catcher, which apparently enthralled the resident’s grandchildren with rainbow lighting effects which played across the front room. 

I’m looking forward to visiting more Woolaway homes in November and will continue to share photographs, stories and reflections on this blog. I would love to hear more stories of life in and around the North Taunton Woolaway houses. If you would like to get involved, a home visit can be arranged by contacting the Woolaway Project Team on 01823 219 159 or northtauntonwoolawayproject@somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk

Carolyn Lefley

Seeds, sheds and stories

All of the homes I have visited so far have included a tour of the garden, as an extension of the home. Even those in flats with shared gardens have fond memories of tending allotments and sharing herbs and vegetables with their neighbours. People’s gardens seem to be their sanctuary and joy is found in nurturing and growing plants. One resident has grown a fruit tree, from a seed from her native country, some thirty years ago and the tree now reaches up to her first floor flat window.

Another resident designed a fairy themed rockery for his wife which illuminates at night. I’ve also had glimpses into potting sheds, greenhouses and most interestingly, hobby sheds. One resident kindly showed me his ‘boat shed’ where he enjoys time to himself building intricate, miniature boats.

Walking around people’s gardens and looking into different sheds has triggered fond memories for the residents of gardening triumphs and family gatherings. But people are also now thinking ahead and beginning to pot up plants, preparing to take them on to their new homes. These plants, garden ornaments and sheds are part of people’s homes and they want to take these treasures with them. With the seasons changing and the leaves turning, residents will be tending their gardens less. Last month I was proudly shown a beautiful passion flower hedge in a front garden.

This month I walked through a front garden with a grapevine archway, with which the resident makes his own wine. The front gardens in the area are also seen as extensions of the home, with occupants sitting out to catch the sun, or in some cases chatting to neighbours passing by. 

I’ll finish this post with a lovely story recounted this week. I was sitting with a gentleman looking out of his window to his front garden and the road beyond. He started to reminisce about when he first bought his family to see their new home thirty years ago. Then he recalled his old job and its frequent proximity to his home!

‘I used to work on the buses and the route came past my house. If I was thirsty, I’d stop outside my house and pop in for a drink. Those were the Rhubarb and Custard buses, Ford Transit 16 seaters, the old B route’. 

I would love to hear more stories of life in and around the North Taunton Woolaway houses. Memories of what home means to you, homemaking, your family, your neighbours, what the area was like before these houses were built and when the houses were new (or new to you). If you would like to get involved a home visit can be arranged by contacting the Woolaway Project Team on 01823 219 159 or northtauntonwoolawayproject@somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk

Carolyn Lefley

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