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

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

Carolyn Lefley

Woolaway memories

I’ve been visiting the North Taunton Woolaway project area for a few months now to develop the Woolaway Reminiscence Project. I’ve met with several residents who have been kind enough to invite me into their homes and share stories over a cup of tea. I’ve really enjoyed listening to local people’s memories and thoughts on what makes a house a home. As a photographer I’ve loved looking at residents old photographs of their precious memories of events that happened at their home. Such as the excitement of sending a daughter off to the church to be married. All of the homes I’ve visited take real pride in their gardens and have photographed them over the years to include in family albums. Another resident often grabs her compact film camera to photograph sunsets and snow scenes, then takes the films to the chemist for processing and printing.

Here are a selection of her snow scenes. We talked about how the familiar area is transformed by the magical blanket of snow. And how the heavy snow brings the community together, clearing paths, making snowmen and having snowball fights. 

A familiar theme at my home visits was how life has changed over the years and residents became nostalgic, telling me some great anecdotes. Such as this one:

‘My neighbour used to leave me her key, and if her wash load finished while she was out at work, I’d step over our low fence, take her washing from the machine and put it on the line for her. And I’d take it in if it rained’. 

Another family I visited have lived in their home for 48 years and are just in the process of packing and moving to a different area. I heard lots of lovely stories, such as being the first paperboy on the estate, making ‘dens down the lane’, remembering the area when it was an orchard. Travelling to Devon on holiday in a bubble car with three children sat on the back shelf. So many memories! Some poignant quotes from this visit were: ‘This house has been good to us’. And towards the end of the meeting ‘How do you make a home (up again)?’. The overriding feeling was ‘home’ is where family and friends are. 

The houses I’ve visited so far all had a well kept, traditional front room, with many ornaments and family photographs. A treasure trove for a photographer! It’s been lovely to hear some of the stories behind the objects and photographs. I’ve been making audio recordings of our conversations. Snippets of these memories might be transcribed into a final output for this project. It’s most likely going to be a book comprising of photographs and text forming a reminiscence project around the Woolaway houses. However, as I keep visiting residents and getting to know the area, the project might evolve into a different outcome such as a film or exhibition. 

If you would like to get involved or want to find out more about the Reminiscence Project just call into my next open meeting on 15th October 11am – 1pm at 27 Rochester Road. Alternatively a home visit can be arranged by contacting the Woolaway Project Team on 01823 219 159 or

I’m very grateful to everybody who has participated so far and look forward to meeting more residents this month.
Carolyn Lefley

Share your stories over tea and cake

Residents are warmly invited to share their memories about life over the years in the North Taunton Woolaway houses.

The project will celebrate personal stories and shared social history. Plans for recording and sharing these stories will evolve in collaboration with residents.

Artist Carolyn Lefley is hosting three friendly, drop-in meetings at 27 Rochester Road – free tea and cake provided!

13th August
17th September
15th October
11:00am – 1:00pm

Please come along and share your stories, bring along any old photographs or objects to share.
Home visits can be arranged for less mobile residents.

If you would like to get involved or want to find out more about the Reminiscence Project just call into one of our meetings or contact the Woolaway Project Team
Community Office: Open Tuesdays 13:00-16:00 & Thursdays 10:00-12:00 and 13:00-16:00
* Email:

Telephone: 01823 219 159 / 0300 304 8000
Facebook: northtauntonwoolawayproject

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