A Bushey artist who lost her life's work when her garden studio burnt down has spoken of her grief and devastation.

Heather Highman, of Great Grove, lost more than 40 years of work when a neighbour's bonfire caught a tree in her garden, burning down the shed in which she painted.

Although she attaches no blame to her neighbour for the personal disaster, the 65-year-old artist says she needed professional help to cope with the loss.

The divorced mother-of-two said: “I still haven't quite come to terms with it. The neighbours were also very upset, it was just an accident. It is hard to explain, it was my life's work. I have painted all my life and I lost everything. It is obviously not as traumatic, but I felt like I'd lost a child because I had created it.”

Ms Highman spent her life painting, drawing and sculpting, selling her work at exhibitions across the county but, on May 28, she lost all but a few pieces in the fire.

“I could see the flames from the fire next door and the next thing I knew the whole of my back garden was ablaze," she said. "I had a mature garden and it caught very quickly. It was actually terrifying – I thought it might come towards the house.”

The fire caused about £5,000 worth of damage. Ms Highman says she is keen to continue painting and is hopeful she can begin rebuilding her career.

She said: “I can't get it all back but I can carry on. I am already looking at an exhibition at a Watford school and perhaps holding one in my home. Everyone mourns a loss in a different way and, having started to get over mine, I can think about the future.”