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
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
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,
Stories that grew out of a beautiful autumn day in Plas Power Woods for the Woodland Trust with some 40 people visiting us through the day, along with several friendly dogs, a possible bear and occasional breezes. We listened to tales of animals and children and monsters and learned that we need
to be kind to Conker Trees as they remember when they could still run around the dance and play….
Deep in the woods, an old witch lives
If you are careful you might find her,
Putting on make-up down by the stream
Mud for lipstick,
her hair is leaves and grass
Her eyelashes twigs
Stick eyebrows arch over
Eyes as dark as a forest pool
In skin as green and grey and rough as bark
You might see her there,
A shadow by the rapids
Sharpening stones on the riverbank
Fitting her mouth for teeth
The Lost Fairies
One bright autumn day, two woodland fairies, Stephanie and Jasmine, were out exploring the forest. They should have been busy flying the Royal Butterflies but were fed up up with the Butterflies because whenever the girls took them out, the insects all flew in different directions and the little fairies felt as if their arms were going to be pulled off!
So today, they had tied the butterflies to a bouncy tree branch and gone off looking for an adventure
Stephanie and Jasmine went deep into the woods. Here, they could hear the rushing of the river and the rustling of the leaves. They felt the roughness of bark and smelt the dampness of water and mud and moss
In the middle of the woods, in a pool of sunlight by the river, they met a beautiful blue dragonfly.
The dragonfly told the girls about a wonderful white deer that had been seen in the woods, a rare and magical animal
Through the woods,
Under the oak trees,
Over the logs,
Beside the stream,
Across the river on the stepping stones
The fairy girls went hunting
Between one tree and the next,
Between daytime and night-time,
Between sunset and moonrise,
In the mist and the woods,
Where the squirrels look down from the branches,
And the hedgehogs look up from the bushes,
The fairy girls disappeared and
No-one has seen them again. Yet…
Bob the Duck
One sunny and windy afternoon, a very hot duck was swimming in the river trying to cool down, when suddenly a huge holly leaf blew down on the wind and landed on his head! The leaf was very spiky and knocked some of his feathers out.
Bob the duck went swimming away down the river. At a very loud waterfall he stopped and listened to some birds singing. A girl came to look at the waterfall and the birds. Bob didn’t want the girls to see him so he swam further and further down to the very bottom of the waterfall.
But as swam down, he could smell delicious pie. The smell wasn’t coming from the bottom of the pond but from up where the girl was. Bob decided that he didn’t care if the girl stroked him – he just wanted pie!
Bob swam up to the top of the pool and the girl said, “What are you looking for?” and Bob said, “I’m looking for pie”. So the girl showed Bob the way to the pie. But as they walked through the woods, a giant spiky conker fell on the girl’s head. It hurt.
So Bob helped the girl through the wood and forgot that he was missing some feathers. When they found the pie, they both felt better and stayed together to have pie for tea
Shells, fossils, wonders and marvels: join artist and storyteller Gordon MacLellan (that’s me!) and make your own collection of drawings and prints using tiny treasures, wonderful artefacts and fabulous fabrics from around the world
This is a Big Draw event: part of the world’s biggest celebration of drawing. Buxton saw a colourful draw on Saturday 13th in Pavilion Gardens. For our next pencil-driven adventure, come to the Museum on 31st and enjoy the latest exhibitions as well as our event. Look, peer, handle and maybe even sniff objects to handle: from African masks to ancient fossils, Australian seed pods to deep sea shells: a chance to draw, sketch and scribble your own set of pictures of a fascinating world.
Can you draw your way around the world in 10 pictures?
Or span the history of the Earth in 20?
Or why not just pause in a busy day, take up a pencil and relax for a few minutes!
No booking needed: just drop in (but give yourself 30 minutes to work in so don’t arrive right at the end of a session!
Children under 8 years old need to bring a grown-up with them, please
arrive anytime – after 11, there will be a self-guided storytrail to take you down to our camp in the woods
What are we doing?
I’ll be telling woodland stories and tales of trees: of dancing birch trees and sad cedars, of the dramatic history of horse chestnuts and why we need to be very careful around oak and willow trees
The walk through the woods will give us new stories, as well, building new adventures for visitors to the woods out of the sounds we hear, the smells of autumn, fallen twigs and floating leaves: anything might feed into new tales!
Revised copies of The Wanton Green have just come in, so grab your cheque books, or contact me for paypal ideas and give yourself a treat (well, we think it is!)
From original blog posting:
Over the last year, I have been one of a team editing a book that has now been released. The Wanton Green is an exciting collection of essays from (mostly) British pagans exploring their relations to places
From the lost magics and holy waters of London to bleak Staffordshire Moorlands; from childhood adventures in Rochdale to faeries in Devon and Cumbria, a new book, The Wanton Green, offers readers a different perspective on landscape
As our relationship with the world unravels and needs to take new form, or maybe to reconnect with an older pattern, The Wanton Green presents a collection of inspiring, provoking and engaging essays by modern pagans talking about their own deep and passionate relationships with the Earth. With contributions from 20 authors that range from Druids to Heathens, from Chaos Magicians to Witches, Shamans and Voudou Mambo, Wanton Green brings voices from the diverse and growing Pagan community of Britain to the environmental debate and promises food for thought and inspiration for the spirit
Contributors include Emma Restall Orr, Runic John, Robert Wallsi, Jenny Blain, Melissa Harrington, Graham Harvey, Maria van Daalen, Susan Greenwood and Susan Cross. (Visit the Wanton Green blog for tastes of the treats within…)
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.
‘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
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
Where: Bishops Wood Environment Centre, Worcestershire
For further details and information about Bishops Woods courses, please contact:
With stories to inspire, enchant and engage, workshops to captivate, books to make and new adventures to find, Creeping Toad stories involve participants in worlds of marvel and wonder and leave people full of words and images and ready for action
“like dogs who need toys to have fun and be happy, children need fun and to play to be happy. Then we learn well. With Gordon we play and have fun and learn at the same time”
Year 5 pupil, Runcorn, 2011
Gordon MacLellan – Creeping Toad – is one of Britain’s foremost environmental art and education workers…and he tells stories too!
Between 3rd and 14th September, 2012 (and again in November), Gordon will be working in the Highland area (at least) and is available for a few bookings….
A day’s visit to your school might include
storytelling performances: lasting up to 60 minutes for up to 90 children at a time
stories outside! using the school ground, we’ll take storymaking out of the classroom and use the immediate environment, the day’s weather and whatever we can find to shape a set of stories never told before (allow 60 minutes for a class session)
story and book workshops:taking a bit longer (allow 90 minutes for a class) as well as discovering the stories that no-one has ever heard before, now we will build those into the books that no-one has ever read before and leave the classroom with a library no-one has ever visited before!
tales of old Scotland: a collection of stories of Highland folklore and Scottish histories, of heroes and sorrows, bravery and the magics of sea, mountain and moor
your own themes and ideas: or are you exploring a particular theme that you would like to involve some stories in? pirates….tropical islands….ancient cave people…..where in our school would bears live?…castle adventures, have all featured in recent Creeping Toad projects
Charges: £250 a day: includes storyteller’s fee, travel and materials. Can be paid on the day or I can invoice you
For further information:
visit the Creeping Toad website at www.creepingtoad.com
I tend to operate at a gallop most of the time and don’t give myself the time I need – and want – to do more of my own writing and other personal creative pursuits. So, I recognise a degree of envy in recommending to people to go and enjoy these products of other people’s creativity! Never mind! Buy a book, read a poem, visit a blog, regardless of some ol’ toad muttering into his fishtanks!
Three places and ideas to recommend
The Beauty in the Beast
A new book by my lovely hedgehog fried Hugh Warwick. Following A Prickly Affair (his book about a lifetime interest in hedgehogs), he has gone out and talked to people as interested (or as obsessed?) in other animals as he is in urchins. It is a wonderfully unexpected selection of (British) wildlife from solitary bees to otters, dragon flies, and house sparrows to foxes. I’ve hopped in there, too, as an amphibian voice
The Beauty in the Beast by Hugh Warwick, ISBN 978-0-85720-395-3
Ona quieter, and dare I say, more elegant note, why not visit Caroline’s site. Poet and delighter-in-wildlife, Caroline writes beautifully and has just launched this site about her work. The site includes “Peregrine” a poem inspired by the falcons nesting on Derby Cathedral and Highly Commended in the 2012 York Open Poetry Competition
And then I did manage to get some writing done! Hoorah! (well I enjoyed it) and then we had to edit the piece down, so I’m going to post the missing paragraphs below. These were the opening sections for a piece for the Summer edition of an on-line magazine, “Native British Spirituality”
“The purpose of this website is to provide a focus of re-connection with these islands – so that we make the land well, and the land makes us well. Our intention is to share our lived experiences of these islands, their cycles and seasons, the elements, sacred places, spirits of place, and native flora & fauna, defining ‘spirituality’ as ‘connection with Spirit’, or ‘alignment with Nature’.”
My piece is on the Air page and originally was due to start:
“Bright are the willow tops,
Playful the fish in the lake
The wind whistles over the tops of the branches
Nature is superior to learning”
All of a sudden, “getting out there and connecting with nature” seems to be the thing to do. BBC Wildlife is advocating “52 wild things to do this year”, the National Trust has “50 things to do before you’re 11”. Even staid Natural England is trying to get 1 million children out into the countryside (but not all at once). There is also another strand which turns the need to make connections with nature into an intellectual discussion with debates on “nature deficiency disorders” and the problems of environmental disassociation.
Of course, none of this is new. A lot of us have never stopped “connecting” with the world around us. Simple test: are you still breathing? Connected! Have you stopped breathing? Still connected. Cynicism aside, of course it is good to encourage people to go out, to get out, to enjoy this beautiful world we live in
And it is so easy. Renewing connections doesn’t need trips to National Trust houses or Natural England Nature Reserves. A garden would do it, or park or even shut a walk along a street….
As “Creeping Toad” a lot of my work is about celebrating the relationships between people and places and encouraging individuals, groups and communities to explore their connections to those places around them. We use activities like these, simple light-hearted adventures to invite people to step back into an awareness of the world
Ancient Landscapes is a partner project to Exploring with Stories and we thought you might enjoy the delights of a project bringing limestone to life
we’ve had a busy few days as the second phase of this project begins, or maybe as the tide runs again toward the full. (PIctures from the first phase can be found on my own Creeping Toad blog – I am Gordon MacLellan, is one of the workshop artists and disorganiser of a lot of the Stone and Water projects)
With Ancient Landscapes, we are looking at the limestone of the Peak District where we live and the fossils that rock contains. Then mixing observation, deduction and wild imagination, we work to create the original environments that spawned our limestone as installations in crochet, knitting, clay, beads, felt and anything else that takes our artists fancy!
Meanwhile, a new group has taken up the challenge of extending the ancient landscape and a session at Buxton Museum last week, led on to a workshop at Fairfield Community Centre today. Five more sessions will follow and then we’ll see just how our coral garden grows before it unfolds its glories again in the Buxton Art Trail in the summer
Our use of crochet in Ancient Landscapes was inspired by the global Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project (http://crochetcoralreef.org/) whose influence we acknowledge even though we couldn’t afford to sign into their network as a community group.
The connection between those techniques, other artforms and our Peak District landscapes comes from Stone and Water, a Buxton-based community group dedicated to celebrating the creativity of the people and landscapes of the Peaks.
Working with young people, and very young children in particular, teachers, group leaders and other artists often shout about the value of working on large things. While I don’t dispute the excitement of big things and the value of changing scale and perspective, I find that little things have their own special delight and fascination
I think children (and adults, if I do a miniature books, tiny stories or very small treasures workshop) love the intimacy and secrecy of the small. Small activities can call just as much intensity and creativity as something huge and sprawling. It might be less cooperative and communal (but then there is still a sharing of ideas and helpful fingers to hold a fiddly box or fix the undergarments of an awkward pirate…..)
And Tiny! activities can give you Tiny! celebrations – so this year the Stone and Water team are back in Buxton Festival Fringe doing some Tiny! workshops with very small faeries, goblins and trolls. After Tiny! Pirates (2011) and Tiny! Lanterns (2010), who knows what delights, or horrors, some Tiny! Faerie Tales might bring!
Environmental storytelling, art and celebration – Education, Training & Workshops