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Books from Creeping Toad

my main website seems to be having issues with itself so I’m posting a  list of my books here for your entertainment (and possibly my benefit!!)

Old stones and  ancient bones, poems from the hollow hills

by Gordon MacLellan

Creeping Toad, 2013
ISBN 978-1-291-46593
Price £7.00 (includes P&P for UK, overseas, ask for details)

From ancient tombs on orkney to re-forested limestone quarries in Derbyshire, Old stones takes the reader on a poetic adventure into older, wilder or stranger worlds. Poems invite the reader to watch gannets, to pause and savour the beauty of a frozen pools, to sit singing in the dark of a Stone Age barrow or to be spirited away by the Faeries




The Wanton Green

contemporary pagan writings on place

editors: G MacLellan and S Cross

 Mandrake Books, Oxford, 2011

ISBN: 978 1  906958 29 9

Price £11.99. Order £14.00 (includes P&P – overseas contact Toad for details)

This collection of essays by 20 different authors, offers fresh perspectives on our relationsip with place. here are thoughts from people to whom the earth, our relationships with landscape and with our ancestors are vital, inspiring, often holy processes. With contributions from wrtiters as varied as Barry Patterson and Runic John, Susan greenwood, Emma Restall Orr, Jan Fries and Gordon MacLellan, The Wanton Green hopes to excite, inspire and possibly provoke!

Celebrating Nature

“We live in a world worthy of celebration”

Gordon MacLellan
Price: £16.00
ISBN: 1 -86163-168-5
UK Orders: £16.00 (includes P & P)
direct from Creeping Toad or from publisher Capall Bann
Celebrating Nature takes you on a journey through the process of creating a celebration about people, places and wildlife with school, youth or community groups – or simply with the friends on your street. Here, you can rally your inspiration and planning, go exploring under leaves and wallowing in mud, discover, brood, and make. This book will take you all the way through to the celebration itself and using the excitement it generates to look at what you might do together next.


River and Sea: two new tales of enchantment

Gordon MacLellan
A new booklet from Creeping Toad: 20 pages, postcard sized, wildly illustrated
Price: £3.50 (includes UK P&P) only available from Creeping Toad

…wait for the voice in the sound of wave on sand as you walk along a beach, and hear the tale of Angus who fell in love with a woman made of seafoam and spray.

And in the hills, tread carefully and remember ancient courtesies. The magical people may be seen less often than they were but do not ever make the mistake of thinking they are gone. The Kelpie still dreams in his deep pool, still watches, still waits for those who sleep on sunwarmed stones by the river.


Sacred Animals

Gordon MacLellan

Price: £9.95
Published by Capall Bann, 1997

ISBN 189830769-5

UK Orders: £10.50 (including p&p) direct from Creeping Toad

An invitation to embark on a journey into your personal relationship with the animal world.

“This book is a true wonder! … It is undoubtedly the best step by step guide to meeting a totemic animal that I have ever had the privilege to read.” – Time Between Times


Talking to the Earth

 Gordon MacLellan


Published by Capall Bann, 1995

ISBN 1-898307-43-1

UK Orders: £10.50 (including p&p) direct from Creeping Toad

Environmental art activities for use with groups of young people.

“Stuffed full of inspirational ideas.” – BBC Wildlife Magazine

OVERSEAS ORDERS: We recommend you contact your local book supplier – and encourage them to order several copies from the publisher!

Creeping Toad is listed along with many other useful groups in the Ashden Directory of Environmental Drama

Hathersage adventures

Today was the first of two days building stories in the wide and exciting grounds of St Michael’s Primary School in Hathersage


A few morsels…..

playing with presentation


Journey poems led us into stories and building characters

Under the roots,

And over the trees,

Across the forgotten field

Behind the mossy wall.

Through the holly bushes

And there beside a muddy stream, beneath an old grey willow,

A damp goblin lives


I use an activity “here, there, everywhere, and nowhere” just to get ideas moving. Today with Year 3s it gave two quick pieces that seemed to feed one into the other…

Group A

Here comes a black knight, marching out of the gloomy forest

There, in the mini-beasts’ home, curious ants creep up towards the surface

Everywhere, a strong wind blows from a ghost’s breath

There was nowhere we could escape from this terrifying school



Group B

Here are the children standing quietly by the window

(here are the children, climbing out of the window)

Everywhere the teachers are looking,

because there is something suspicious going on

There by the minibeasts’ hotel, the children suddenly disappear

The children were nowhere to be seen!

a lively mixing of characters....


I like these two sets… this final image (for now) is a bit grimmer, but I love the “dusty old graves”!

Skulls! a book review

Skulls, an exploration of Alan Dudley’s curious collection

Simon Winchester

Black Dog & Leventhal, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1-57912-912-5

A beautiful book. It celebrates bone, with photographs that revel in the curve and the line, the sharp edges and deep shadows that make skulls so captivating.


Skulls is as rich and as stark as the bones it holds. There is minimal text. For each skull, we get the basic zoological information and that’s it. But that’s all that’s needed. I find myself drawn in, turning pages, skeletal browsing and brooding a bit. The collection itself presented is intriguing. These are all from the collection of a single man. Alan Dudley has a collection of 2,000 skulls and a passion for collecting that eventually brought him into court with a handful of skulls that had slipped into his possession in breach of international and national law


A reminder not to lose one’s own perspective perhaps. But then, open the book and revere the animals brought to you here, through the temples of their bones and be inspired.

Natural History Book Shop – you could get a copy here


Black Dog and Leventhal – the publishers


my own bones tend to end up a bit more festive...

A December Lantern Workshop

When: 1st and 2nd December 2012

When? 10am – 2pm

Where: Hadfield Hall, Hadfield, Glossop, SK13 2AA

What: a lantern making workshop, using willow and tissue to make simple processional lanterns with the opportunity to maybe be a bit more adventurous!

What? just come along and join in. Drop in during the session – give yourself at least 45 minutes to make your lantern (more for the more intricate ones). We’ll provide materials and give you the chance to end up peeling glue off your fingers

leaves, pictures, patterns can all be

fixed into our lanterns


Cost: it’s free! (I think)

Who: High Peak Community Arts have brought Creeping Toad (me!) in to lead lantern sessions with local schools and now with the public

lanterns might be fish, pirates ships…


What’s it for? We are making lanterns for a procession on Friday 7th, meeting at the Hall at 6pm and then processing through the streets of Hadfield before the switching on of the Christmas Lights



and even party girls

So come and join in, be creative, make a mess and then join the procession on Friday and add your light to lift the winter darkness!

a procession at Calke Abbey last December

Stories for a lonely Beast

Over the last 3 weeks, I’ve been working with children from Whitefield Infant School at Wycoller Country Park.


Wycoller Hall is ruined now


Each of three Year 2 classes has had a day at the Park working with musician Steve Brown and myself, using the wonderful Wycoller environment to inspire stories, poems songs and music about the Lonely Beast. In the book by Chris Judge, the Lonely Beast goes all over the world looking for other beasts to befriend…we picked up on his arrival in Wycoller….here are a couple of the children’s poems


the beautiful arches of the Packhorse Bridge

Arriving at Wycoller

The Lonely Beast went to Wycoller and saw


1 ruin where there might be dangerous ghosts, and saw

2 dogs barking loudly behind the gates, and heard

3 birds singing in the trees, and saw

4 slippery, mossy rocks beside the river, and saw

5 parked cars with nobody in them, and saw

6 houses full of frightened people, and took

7 big steps to get up the steep hill, and heard

8 chattering children splashing through the river, and heard

9 quacking ducks racing across the pond and saw

10 leaves drifting beside the high trees

climb up the long stair....







How to find a Wycoller beast

Look under the bridge over the fast, stony river

For trolls in the shadows and slime,

Creep beside the river, with the tall trees dropping leaves,

Run up the long stairs where the goblins hide,

Then back down the path, sliding in the mud,

By the pond where the ducks play

And in the ruins, inside the fireplace,

Maybe Beasts hide there



Training courses coming up

Training has suffered a bit in our current distressed times so when there is a chance to do something exciting, we can only hope that people will  dive into the opportunity.

Why not seize the moment and find new inspiration, activities to use and renewed delight in the work we share.


stories can grow out of anything.....

‘From Apathy to Empathy – Reconnecting People and Place’


featuring leading international and national experts in place-based education

22nd-24th August 2012, The Burren, Ireland

This unique event will bring together leading local, national and international thinkers and practitioners who specialise in the theme of place-based learning (jncluding your very own Creeping Toad). Place-based learning encourages the use of the local environment as a learning resource. It immerses individuals in local heritage, culture and landscape, encouraging them to become more aware of and engaged with their place.

Follow this link to the Toadblog for more information


improvising mantids

Monday 15th October 2012

Leaves, grass and plastic bottles: creative ways of using natural, found and recycled materials

activities and inspiration using natural, found and recycled materials with groups to encourage a creative exploration of the world around us

Description: with resources that fit in a single bag, quick activities to use natural materials in sculpture, storymaking, puppetry and mess on a walk through the woods with a group. Later, we’ll add more recycled materials and make masks, bigger puppets, illuminated sculptures, hanging mobiles, drifting ghosts. A chance to experiment, improvise and inspire yourself and your groups with the resources around us

Cost: £135

Where: Bishops Wood Environment Centre, Worcestershire

For further details and information about Bishops Woods courses, please contact:

Bishops Wood Centre

Crossway Green, Stourport-on-Severn


DY13 9SE

Telephone: 01299 250513 Fax: 01299 250131


Visit our website at:


good training courses draw inspiration and concentration together (and hopefully some sunshine)


My Forgotten Forests

Old trees and young trees, Red Fox Valley

Picking up on the lovely “Forgotten Forests” project, I made a point of going back to some of my personal “Forgotten Forests” when I was visiting my parents a couple of weeks ago. They still live in the house where we all grew up, in the ‘concrete jungle’ that is Cumbernauld New Town. Out of that visit, came the following….



I spend a lot of my time “on the road”, travelling around, visiting schools, telling stories, leading workshops. Emotionally, I’m very self-contained but once in a while, I find myself wishing I was travelling with someone else, someone to share experiences with. And this time, to share these woods with. For these are the woods that shaped me, gave me the chance to become who I am now. These trees, stones and pools offered solace and shelter and inspiration to my teenage self. These forgotten forests were my refuge as I grew into an awareness of myself as both gay and pagan.


the reflective waters of the toadpool in Blackwood

Red Fox Valley. Blackwood. Here I watched my first roebuck, encountered the scarab-excitement dor beetles for the first time, caught my first Great Diving Beetle, met wood anemones and the sharp, sour leaves of wood sorrel. There are pools at the heart of both places: ponds for exploring, offering palmate newts and common toads and a richness of delight.


Blackwood in spring sports bluebell clouds among the rubbish that is scattered through the trees. The bluebells suggest age and some of the trees hold a century or two, predating the quarry and somehow surviving the devastation of the rest of the hillside. Now the trees have claimed the quarry site as well, branches knitting over awkward hollows and sudden drops. The main quarry flooded at some point. A deep, dirty brown pool with fish that moved the water but that I never quite saw. The water gave no clues, reflective but with no clarity, it could have been bottomless or maybe just waistdeep. Mysterious. Kelpie waters, full of invitation, promise and threat. The oldest trees are on the edge of the woods. Their offspring crowded inwards, to the very banks of the pond. They are not big trees, but hefty, gnarled and twisted, holding their own mystery with their moss and lichen and those defiant, enchanted bluebells. The faerie trilogy of trees: Oak, Ash and Thorn.

old trees in Blackwood


To walk through Glencryan Woods, along the edge of Red Fox Valley is to look down into a forested depth. A canopy view from the rim of the glen, peering down into the burn’s cut, layers of sandstone quarried by water and tunnelled by men looking for fireclay. The old mine workings were always a temptation and a threat, unstable tunnels, dropping bricks. There were caves too, to scramble into and dream of wildlives, living rough, foraging Crusoes; the lost, unknown, mysterious wildmen of the woods. For me, greater and more lasting than adventure, Red Fox Valley woods brought stillness. The pool at the head of the glen was where “meditation” moved from exercise to experience with the reflections in that water and the trembling leaves of birch trees.  Back down in the glen, line of old, old beeches taught me patience, with branches to scramble onto and there to sit and simply stop. The beeches’ presence kept clear the earth beneath green-filtered canopy, offering a space for my first dances of transformation, My first, adolescent, ceremonies were here, opening myself, giving myself to a green world.


a path through the woods, Red Fox Valley

These were the forests that shaped me, that held my heart safe in their wooden treasure-chests until I was ready to leave, a sapling myself, and go out into the world beyond the woods. My own Broceliande, a faerie land where I could disappear and be safe from that other world from a while. They are still there, these woods. Maybe not forgotten anymore. They look more cared for now. There is less rubbish, but more people. Blackwood is ringed by some new estate of smart houses but the old, twisted trees have survived; while the woods in Red Fox Valley have grown, are growing, swallowing the old sneaky tracks through the trees, offering sensible gravelled paths instead. But a wildness is still there, in both woods; a freedom of toads, adventure and stillness. A wildness at the heart of things.

Red Fox Valley


Activity sheets

In an ongoing bit of giving away….here are the next 3 worksheets from the original “Talking to the Earth” set from back in 1995…..The book is still available (with lots more activities, as well as my most recent “Celebrating Nature”



Forest stories: a workshop in Hampshire

,,,and the trees themselves can shape our artwork

Friday 8th April, 2011

Sustainability Centre, East Meon, Hampshire

from traditional tales to brand new stories: a chance to get to grips with words about trees, woods and wildlife and the adventures that we find under the canopy. An ideal preparation for Year of the Forest events, here you will gather activities to plan a storywalk, create your own forestbook, or simply enjoy using words to help people take hold of the inspiration trees offer us

Why not use this workshop as part of your development of  The International Year of Forests? Join us to explore ways to celebrate it with this day on words, poems and stories .

Non residential £70.00

For further details please contact Raina on 01730 823166 or email her at

Or visit their website:



just who you need to meet sitting on a bench in your woodland!