Explorer Beastie Garcia Beastie Highgate Cemetery - CrawCrafts Beasties

Highgate Cemetery – A Monster Tour

Well hello there, Beastie friends! Today we’re joining Explorer Beastie and his good buddy Garcia Beastie for a visit to somewhere a little unusual – Highgate Cemetery!

As you already know, we had a rather soggy day in Kew Gardens…
Soggy Day at Kew Gardens - CrawCrafts Beasties… During which time the boys found a novel way of staying out of the rain.
Beasties Travelling in Style - CrawCrafts Beasties“Outta the way, camera! This is a Beastie bag now!”

So we were pretty happy when the next day was dryer and brighter. Perfect for a visit to Highgate Cemetery! And doesn’t it look beautiful in the morning sunlight?
Morning Sun in Highgate Cemetery - CrawCrafts BeastiesI love to visit graveyards when I travel. They provide a peaceful respite from any jam-packed sightseeing schedule, and they can help you see another side of the place you’re visiting. As it turns out, Beasties like them too!
Beastie Tourism at Highgate Cemetery - CrawCrafts BeastiesWell, they do find us humans endlessly fascinating. And while there were occasional opportunities for mischief…

Monster Mischief in Highgate Cemetery - CrawCrafts Beasties
I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a horror film that started like this.

… For the most part, they behaved exceptionally well.
Highgate Cemetery Wanderings - CrawCrafts BeastiesFor the first part of our visit, we were in Highgate Cemetery East. Humans and Beasties can wander freely around this newer part of the cemetery for a small fee, and there’s so much to see here! While many of the monuments are fairly traditional…
Traditional Monuments at Highgate Cemetery - CrawCrafts Beasties

… There are a few less conventional ones dotted along the tree-shaded avenues too. This one, which marks the grave of pop artist Patrick Caulfield, especially caught my eye!
Patrick Caulfield's Grave at Highgate Cemetery - CrawCrafts Beasties

You can also find a few famous faces (or at least their headstones) in the eastern cemetery. I liked these two, which commemorate entertainer Jeremy Beadle and artist/impressario Malcolm McLaren…
Jeremy Beadle and Malcolm McLaren at Highgate Cemetery - CrawCrafts Beasties… But keep your eyes open as you stroll around and you could also meet Douglas Adams, George Eliot, Karl Marx or Bruce Reynolds, who masterminded the Great Train Robbery!

Then again, this is only half the story. The older, western side of Highgate Cemetery dates back to 1839 – a time when the “cosy” living conditions in Victorian London were mirrored by the extreme overcrowding of local church graveyards. Certainly not ideal if you’re trying to bury your loved ones… And even less so when nasties like typhoid and cholera come along to join the party.

Enter the London Cemetery Company, who made it their business to offer a higher class of resting place to those who could afford it. With landscaped locations on what was then the edge of the city, and exotic architectural features, these “garden cemeteries” were a big hit. A trip to Highgate or one of its sister cemeteries became a popular day out among the living – you could even buy guidebooks to help you find your way around!

The graveyard fell on hard times in later years, though. British burial customs differ from those of many other countries, in that once you’re buried, your grave is yours forever. As Highgate filled up, fewer new plots were bought, and that meant less money was coming in. The company couldn’t afford to maintain the facilities, and it was a downhill slide from there.

Who knows what might have happened if a charity, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, hadn’t stepped it to get things back on track? The group works hard to ensure that the atmosphere of “romantic decay” that makes this place so interesting is preserved, but doesn’t get a chance to go too far either.

That said, it’s still a bit wild in there, so the only way to see the Western Cemetery is on a guided tour. And this gets a big paws up from the Beasties! Our guide, Brittany (hope I remembered that correctly) was so entertaining and informative that our tour zipped by in a flash… And we totally forgot to take pictures! My camera only made an appearance near the end, so that I could capture this handsome fellow…
Tom Sayers's Grave at Highgate Cemetery - CrawCrafts Beasties

Meet Lion, the beloved mastiff of Tom Sayers, a bare-knuckle fighter who rose to fame in the 1850s. Although he was quite short and lightly-built, he frequently took on (and defeated) much larger, heavier opponents. This is probably what made him so popular – when he died in 1865, around 100,000 people attended his funeral! Unfortunately, due to the acrimonious state of his marriage at the time, it fell to Lion to be chief mourner… So it’s perhaps fitting that the grave commemorates him as much as his master.

I’ll leave you with a last look back along the leafy avenues of Highgate Cemetery West…
Highgate Cemetery West - CrawCrafts Beasties… To see the rest, you’ll have to take the tour yourself!

Join us again next week, when I’ll have new projects galore to share… See you then!

Explorer Beastie Meets Chihuly - CrawCrafts Beasties

Walking in a Woolly Chihuly Wonderland!

Hello there Beastie friends! It’s been a wild and windy week here in the North Atlantic, with a couple more storms-with-names (so you know they mean business) battering Ireland and the UK over the last few days. So do you fancy taking it eeeeeasy, and looking at some awesome sculpture? Goody, because I’m excited to share a small percentage (I promise!) of the millions of photos I took of the Dale Chihuly glass pieces at Kew Gardens last autumn.

We were lucky enough to scrape in on the very last day of “Chihuly – Reflections on Nature”, which I was dying to see after reading about it on The Snail of Happiness’s blog over the summer. And of course, I had Beastie help as I did the tour of the grounds. They made sure I didn’t miss anything.
Beasties with Chihuly Glass Sculpture - CrawCrafts Beasties

The Temperate House was absolutely packed with these incredible creations, some of them blending beautifully with their surroundings…
Chihuly Glass Blending In - CrawCrafts Beasties… While others were a lot less subtle.
Chihuly Glass Being Less Subtle - CrawCrafts BeastiesI liked how some of the shapes echoed each other a little, like these two pieces. As above, so below!
Glass in the Pond, Glass on the Ceiling - CrawCrafts BeastiesMind you, much as I loved the unearthly, ethereal shapes, there was something a little unsettling about this one… It looks like those white bulbs are poised for a global takeover, starting right here! It didn’t seem to bother the Beasties though – maybe they’re planning a takeover of their own?
Creepy Chilhuly - CrawCrafts Beasties

But these are just the hothouse Chihuly sculptures! There were plenty more outside, in the wild… And even on a grey English day, they seemed to glow.
Glowing Glass - Chihuly at Kew - CrawCrafts BeastiesThey fitted in especially well in the Japanese garden – I feel more Zen already.
In the Japanese Garden at Kew - CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd when the rain got a little too heavy, we went to check out the indoor exhibition in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. In the dark rooms, each of the carefully-lit sculptures took on a life of their own. They looked like flowers, or shells, or living things… But definitely not glass!
Chihuly Glass Sculptures - CrawCrafts Beasties

Did any of you visit this exhibition during its run? Or is there a Chihuly living in a gallery near you? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

We’ll be back next week with another new Beastie for you to meet – see you then!

The Temperate House, Revisited

Well hello there, Beastie friends! Last week we followed Explorer Beastie as he caught up with his old buddy Garcia Beastie in the colourful surroundings of Kew Gardens. And you might remember that they spotted this place from the heights of the Treetop Walkway…
The Temperate House from the Treetops - CrawCrafts BeastiesThat’s the Temperate House. It looked a little sad the last time Beasties invaded Kew, as you can see.
Temperate House, 2014 - CrawCrafts BeastiesBut what a difference this time around! Look at all this greenery! It’s the perfect place for a pair of woolly monsters to hang out.
Beasties in the Temperate House - CrawCrafts Beasties

We also thought we’d managed to find the lonely statue I photographed through the windows last time (it’s top left in the collage above)… But if it’s the same guy he’s put on some clothes since our last visit! 😉
Statue in the Temperate House - CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd while there were plenty of interesting things to see at ground level…
Beasties Explore the Temperate House - CrawCrafts Beasties“Check us out! We’re flowers!”
Beastie Floral Arrangement - Kew Gardens - CrawCrafts Beasties… The Beasties couldn’t wait to climb up the spiral staircase to the balcony and feel tall!
Garcia Beastie towers over the Temperate House - CrawCrafts BeastiesFrom our high perch, you really see how huge the Temperate House is. It’s the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world today… And it needs to be big! Since “temperate” covers pretty much any part of the world outside of the tropics and the polar regions, 1500 species of plants from 5 continents and 16 islands call this giant greenhouse home.

And when we were there, it wasn’t just plants that were on display…Chihuly Glass in the Temperate House - CrawCrafts Beasties
We were lucky enough to catch the very last day of the Chihuly Reflections on Nature exhibition! Throughout our wanderings around Kew, we enjoyed seeing the bright colours and otherworldly shapes of Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures peeking out from between the plants. Garcia Beastie especially liked this huge tumble of blue flowers stretching down from the ceiling, but look out for more pics in a future post!

Right, let’s get back downstairs. Well, once I’d managed to get the Beasties out of the rafters… Honestly, they find their way into places you’d never even think of!
Beastie Invasion in the Rafters - CrawCrafts BeastiesBut they were soon distracted by many more curious plants and idyllic quiet corners.
Plants of the Temperate House - CrawCrafts BeastiesEventually though…
“I think we’ve seen everything now!”
“Looks like it. Let’s go!”
All Done! CrawCrafts BeastiesBut the weather outside the Temperate House is decidedly less temperate…
Soggy weather ahoy - CrawCrafts BeastiesWhat now? Should the Beasties stay indoors, or risk getting their paws wet as they explore the rest of Kew? We’ll find out next time we catch up with them… But be sure to join us next week when I’ll have some new Beasties for you to meet!

See you then!

Explorer Beastie in the Memory Palace - CrawCrafts Beasties

Monsters in the Memory Palace

Well lookee here – it’s Tuesday again already! And what better way to spend a January Tuesday than to pretend we’re all on holiday? So let’s step back in time to the end of October, when Explorer Beastie and I took advantage of the pre-Christmas lull to get away to London for a couple of days. And thanks to our local guide, we discovered a real treasure we wouldn’t have known about otherwise – Pitzhanger Gallery and Manor in Ealing, W5!

After fortifying ourselves with a very delicious lunch in Soane’s Kitchen, we went to check out the exhibition.
Explorer Beastie in Memory Palace - CrawCrafts BeastiesWhat’s this then? Perhaps it will help if we zoom out a little.
Pyramids, Bodhi Tree and Roman Forum - Memory Palace at PitzhangerThis is “Memory Palace”, an 18-metre-wide sculpture by British designer and artist Es Devlin. It’s named after the mnemonic technique where memories are preserved by mentally linking them to familiar locations – I’m sure any fans of “Sherlock” out there will recognise the idea! In “Memory Palace”, each feature on this curved white landscape is a place where a significant societal shift took place.

The memories are organised chronologically, so we move from the Pyramids, the Buddha’s Bodhi tree and the Roman forum…
Roman Forum, Memory Palace - CrawCrafts Beasties

… To the New York skyline and the Berlin wall. Can you spot them?
NY Berlin Wall - Pitzhanger Gallery - CrawCrafts BeastiesMirrors on one wall and the ceiling expand the boundaries of the sculpture, and slightly change the way you see the individual elements… The same way memory can, I suppose!

There was so much to see, we could have stayed for hours.Memory Palace at Pitzhanger Gallery - CrawCrafts Beasties

Explorer Beastie also quite enjoyed the Godzilla-like feeling of striding around this miniaturised landscape.
Explorer Beastie at Pitzhanger Gallery - CrawCrafts Beasties

If you’re interested in checking out “Memory Palace” for yourself, good news! Its run has been extended until the 9th of February 2020. I’d definitely recommend getting there early, or going at an off-peak time – I’m sure we would have missed a lot of the incredible detail if it had been busy.

You can also learn more about the significant moments captured in the piece at the Pitzhanger library, which has been specially stocked with all the books that informed the installation.

Or, for anyone who isn’t planning a jaunt to London in the next couple of weeks… Es Devlin features in season 1 of the Netflix documentary series “Abstract: The Art of Design”. I watched it a couple of years ago and found it fascinating… But only made the connection between artist and artwork today while I was researching this post. Clearly my own Memory Palace could use a spring clean!

We’ll be back next week (if I remember…) with some more travelling Beastie pics! See you then!

Explorer Beastie with Rosehips, by CrawCrafts Beasties

Autumn Fun With Explorer Beastie!

Oh, poor Explorer Beastie! We were hoping to get out and about this week, but both the weather and my work schedule were against us… Still, at least we have some great photos from previous years to look back on. I hope you all enjoy this trip down memory lane as much as we did!

First up – Explorer Beastie and Garcia Beastie hanging out in the olive trees at Kew Gardens a couple of years ago!
Beasties Climbing Olive Trees - CrawCrafts BeastiesThey also took a stroll through the first fallen leaves of the season…
Beasties set off for adventure!… And some of the leaves that hadn’t fallen yet, too!
Explorer Beastie scaling the fenceHere’s another photo from later that year, when Explorer Beastie found a perfectly Beastie-sized toadstool. This has to be one of my favourite monster pictures!Explorer Beastie with ToadstoolWe got lots of other great shots on that trip, too!
Autumn Days with Explorer Beastie - CrawCrafts BeastiesThen last Hallowe’en, he bravely ventured into an isolated graveyard!
Explorer Beastie in the Arched Doorway - CrawCrafts BeastiesYes, okaaaay, it was daylight… But all the same! We really enjoyed this view from the wall – it was so peaceful!
Explorer Beastie Admires the View from Lissonuffy - CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd nothing could have put him and Crablet off dressing up later on for some trick or treating…
Beasties at Hallowe'en - CrawCrafts Beasties… Not even a furry gatecrasher!
Gizmo the Gatecrasher - CrawCrafts BeastiesI wonder what we’ll get up to this year? Hopefully we’ll have some new photos to share with you soon – weather permitting, of course!

Here’s wishing you all a super weekend… We’ll be back on Tuesday with another new Beastie! Care to guess which Famous Monster will be joining the gang here at Beastie Towers this time around?

Statue in the Temperate House, Kew Gardens - CrawCrafts Beasties

Weekly Photo Challenge – “Grid”

Explorer Beastie scaling the fence

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Grid.”

Turns out that I didn’t need to look too far for pictures for this week’s Photo Challenge! Going through the holiday snaps from the trip Explorer Beastie and I took to London last year, I found a surprising number of grids – in Kew Gardens (above and below)…
Statue in the Temperate House, Kew Gardens - CrawCrafts Beasties
… At Shakespeare’s Globe…
Explorer Beastie at The Globe - CrawCrafts Beasties
… And on the banks of the Thames!
Explorer Beastie on the Millenium Bridge - CrawCrafts Beasties
Lucky we decided to take a city break, isn’t it? Grids are a lot harder to come by in the country!

See you next time!

Beasties Climbing Olive Trees - CrawCrafts Beasties

Explorer Beastie’s Day Out at Kew Gardens


OK, so I had a go at making a Mesh Gallery for this week’s challenge… let me know if it works for you all! I decided to use photos from Explorer Beastie’s trip to Kew Gardens last year – he had a great time hanging out with his buddy Garcia Beastie, as you can see!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Today Was a Good Day.”

My London Yarn Haul

Mirasol Sulka Yarn

By popular demand (well, one person asked… thank you, The Snail of Happiness, for this idea for a quick’n’easy blog post!) I thought it might be fun to share my recent yarny purchases – souvenirs from the trip Explorer Beastie and I took to London recently.

By the way, let’s keep these delectable fuzzy goodies a secret from the Beasties – I’m going to be using this yarn to make something for ME!

First up are a couple of skeins of oh-so-lovely Mirasol Sulka… a tasteful mix of merino wool, alpaca and silk. How could I leave THAT in the shop?
Orange and Black... YUM!

Try as I might, I couldn’t get the photos to show off the incredible glossiness of this yarn – but at least you can get a feel for the colours. I love the bright orange, and when I pair it with the super-classy raven’s-wing black it will really pop! That’s this autumn’s neckwear sorted, then.

Because funds and suitcase space were limited on this trip, I had to curb my (natural) impulse to buy one of everything in the store. After much deliberation, I chose this little beauty…
I Knit or Dye - Hand-Dyed Yarn

I Knit stock a range of their own hand-dyed yarns, which I wouldn’t be able to pick up at home, so that was all the incentive I needed to put a skein into my shopping basket. I picked this one because its cheerful yellow hues look like spun sunshine… perfect for getting me through the Irish winter!

Ready for the extreme close-up?
I Knit or Dye Hunky Dory

Lovely stuff!

If Explorer Beastie is very good, I might consider making him a scarf out of my leftovers… Here’s another photo of him with one of the dogs at I Knit, just to keep this post vaguely Beastie-related!

Explorer Beastie at I Knit

Has anyone else some classy yarns that I need to know about?

Explorer Beastie’s London Adventures (Part 2)

Explorer Beastie at St Paul's Cathedral

Oh dear, a new post is looooong overdue! At least I have a reasonable excuse this time – I started a new job last Monday! Between that and moving house over the summer, it’s been quite the eventful year… I figured I’d better check in now before something else happens!

My last post might have given the impression that London begins and ends in Kew Gardens – at least for Beasties. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Explorer Beastie managed to see a lot, given the short time (and short legs) he had. Our first port of call was the Victoria and Albert Museum – this has to be one of my favourite places in London, and I always try to visit when I’m here. Every time I go, I find something I hadn’t seen before! I enjoyed introducing Explorer Beastie to the Dacre Beasts…
Explorer Beastie and the Dacre Beasts

… And he loved the massive glass sculpture in the entrance hall!
Explorer Beastie at the V&A

He even made a friend!
Explorer Beastie with Owl

Of course, we were at Kew all day Saturday…

Explorer Beastie in the Palm House
…But on Sunday we found ourselves in the City, next to St Paul’s Cathedral.
Explorer Beastie at St Paul's
We took a walk across the Millenium Bridge, where we able to check out some of the newest additions to London’s skyline… and a few older ones as well!

Explorer Beastie and the ShardExplorer Beastie and Tate ModernExplorer Beastie on the Millenium BridgeExplorer Beastie, the Cheese Grater and the Walkie Talkie












We had to pass them all by though, because we were on the way to… Shakespeare’s Globe! Explorer Beastie even made it up onto the stage…
Explorer Beastie at the Globe

On our last day, we made a pilgrimage to I Knit in search of woolly treats. It was just a short hop on the Tube…
Explorer Beastie on the Tube

… And Explorer Beastie turned it into yet another networking opportunity. He had a great time chatting away while I made some very important purchasing decisions!
Explorer Beastie at I Knit

All that left me with just enough time to cram my suitcase full of yarn before dashing to the airport. After all that, I might just need a holiday… see you soon with more Beastie adventures!

Right on Kew… Beasties Explore the Gardens!

Explorer Beastie & Garcia Beastie

My trip to London over the weekend wasn’t just for me… It was also the perfect opportunity for Explorer Beastie to catch up with an old friend! Garcia Beastie left his skis behind for a day to join us at Kew Gardens for a spot of horticultural exploring… as you shall see.
Beasties set off for adventure!

Luckily for us, the Great British weather decided to show its finer side! We got one of those perfect early autumn days for our visit – warm, bright sunshine with just a hint of coolness in the air. Lovely stuff! Also, it turns out Beasties get into Kew Gardens free of charge! But of course, it wasn’t long before they were up to mischief…
Beasties Climbing Olive Trees

I turned my back for five seconds, and the pair of them were halfway up one of the gnarly old olive trees in the Mediterranean Garden! Since they were so intent on climbing, I thought they’d enjoy the Xstrata Treetop Walkway…

Beasties in the Treetops
Up here, you can stroll around in the treetops to your heart’s content! Explorer Beastie scaled the barriers to make sure he got the best views…
Explorer Beastie scaling the fenceExplorer Beastie surveying the lie of the land…And he did get to see some surprising things!

Sweet Chestnuts on the treeGreen Parrot at KewSweet chestnuts growing at the very top of the tree, and an unusual bird having them for lunch! Kew Gardens is full of these green parrots, which are actually wild – they’re the descendants of escaped pets. We saw several large groups doing fly-by displays during our visit, and they’re hard to miss… they’re pretty noisy! The scenery up there wasn’t bad either…

Treetop walkwayTemperate House from the Treetop Walkway

Back on dry land, we made Beastie-sized tracks towards the Pagoda, a 10-storey Chinese-style folly that has been standing in Kew since 1762!

Beasties Walking to the Pagoda

The building is doubly impressive up close…

Pagoda at KewPagoda Closeup







…And there is also a Japanese-style gate and zen garden nearby!

Beasties with Japanese LanternBeasties at the Zen Garden







But we couldn’t stop for long, because there was plenty more exploring to do! Our next port of call was Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, where Garcia Beastie helped out a lady who seemed to have lost her head over something…
Garcia Beastie StatueGarcia Beastie Statue Closeup






And then, a spot of lunch.

Giant Picnic Table
Suitably refuelled, we took in some of the Intoxication Season exhibits…

Explorer Beastie with Hallucinogenic Cactus… had a wander around the Princess of Wales Conservatory…

Explorer Beastie with Cactus
… explored the world of underwater plants…

Underwater Plants at Kew

…And took a trip to the top of the Palm House!
Explorer Beastie at the Palm House

As the light began to fade, there was just enough time to take some final pictures with the rather imposing Plantagenet Falcon, one of the “Queen’s Beasts”. These ten heraldic-inspired sculptures line the path outside the Palm House, and are replicas of statues that stood outside Westminster Abbey during the Queen’s coronation in 1953. Perhaps I should arrange something similar along the street outside Beastie Towers…
Beasties with the Plantagenet Falcon

And so ended another monster day out! More London-based Beastie adventures next time!