Tag Archives: holiday activities

a summerfull of stories

A summerfull of stories

a simple cardboard, cut-out castle can help set stories in motion, Tiny! 2014


These last few weeks have seen a whirlwind of activity as the Summer Reading Challenge workshops start running through their Mythical Mazes and Derbyshire Legends


But there have been other livelinesses as well…

Buxton Art Trail, 2014

Buxton Art Trail – telling stories surrounded by wonderful artwork in the woods of Grin Low. I was just there to tell stories: so many other people had added so many wonderful creations to the woods: a fleeting moment: 48 hours and they were all gone again. Congratulations to Ruby Moon for holding it all (holding us all!) together

Tiny! our Tiny! adventurers were back for another day of delightful craziness in the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton


Just telling stories: Brownies at Thornbridge Outside near Bakewell (audience over the day of c 150), in the Magic Storytelling Yurt for High peak Community Arts  in the Buxton Festival (total audience: c 280)…and today in New Mills


and it is hardly surprising that in the middle of all this, after an exciting day preparing for Hen Harrier Day (10th August – get out there and soar like a Harrier), I subsided into a heap and slept for 24 hours and decided that i would have to forego the pleasures of Druid Camp. Apologies to anyone there who was dreading a Toad workshop. Another time?


telling stories at the Brownie gathering


I don't sit still for very long when telling stories!

Next August livelinesses:

Tuesday 5th Long Eaton library: Derbyshire Myths and Legends workshop

Wednesday 6th Worksop Library: Summer Reading Challenge workshop

Thursday 7th, Ogden Water Country Park: storywalks inspired by butterflies, bumblebees, bimbly-bees and the wild creatures of the woods (they have booked me, and i will be there even if I’m not on the programme!)

Saturday 9th: Derbyshire Myths project: Killamarsh (10am – 12 noon) and Dronfield (1.30 – 3.30) libraries


Buxton Art Trail, 2014
a Tiny! bird


a bumblebee summer?

A bumblebee summer



– well, we can always hope! Good sunshine, glowing flowers, increasingly friendly gardeners – let’s hope it’s enough

And it is a summer for creeping toads! I’m involved in events through July and August and am going to start posting them in some sort of order now

weekend of Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th and  Sunday 27th July

Saturday 12th


we might not meet the skull under the leaves but we'll still tell a few tales...

“Come and discover works of art along a waymarked trail in Grinlow woods, July 12th and 13th, with storytelling at the end of the trail. A bunch of local creators, dreamers, makers and arty folk have had much fun and frolics dreaming up woodland installations…………”

Grinlow Woods at Poole’s Cavern car park (Fringe Venue 94: on Green Lane in Buxton): 11 Jul 6pm to 10pm, 12 Jul 10am to 10pm, 13 Jul 10am to 6pm. Free 

Further information: 07970 868 018

I am there telling stories on the Saturday: tales of tall trees and stone people, stories from the green shadows and the still pools and the dripping caves. 

Times: I am due “on” in the story tent at 12, 2 and 4pm but this will be approximate!

last year's encampment

Tiny! Wildness: the return of our annual, ever-so-slightly potty Tiny! adventures. Come and find us in Pavilion Gardens: we’ll be the ones sitting under a tree with flags, bunting and lots of bits. This year we’re going for a new set of Tiny! friends: aiming for nothing bigger than our hands. There might be heroic children, dragons, kings, queens and elephants. Who knows? We are sure some Tiny!PIrates will put in an appearanceSunday 13th

Free (and frivolous)

Pavilion Gardens (Fringe venue 33). “Search” for: “Pavilion Gardens, Buxton” and you’ll find us: 13 Jul 10:30am to 12:30pm, 2pm to 4pm Free, Ages 4+
Further information: 07825 177 355

Sunday 27th July

And on this day, I’m telling stories in the High Peak Community Arts Yurt in Pavilion Gardens but at the moment, I don’t know just where or when! Watch for details!


you can always rely on a Tiny! PIrate - for something

Nottinghamshire Libraries with the SRC

Hen Harrier Day! Flex your feathers, m’hearties! We will need all our pirates out there supporting some of our most elegant birds!


Creepy Houses and Limestone Monsters

Creepy Houses and Limestone Monsters


all quiet on the Creepy Houses front...

Wild, strange and dangerous days, these dog days of summer…As part of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, I’ve been doing workshops for Nottinghamshire and City of Nottingham Libraries making creepy houses and spooky landscape pop-ups. These have set out to inspire young people to tell us stories and to use the ideas they find in the books they read and apply these in other situations

soon the tables filled with enthusiastic creepers!


So last Wednesday saw us creeping in Mansfield Library….


a creepy house?
Dunklosteus, an ancient predatory fish

Then Thursday, I was plunging again into our Carboniferous past and leading  workshops in Buxton Museum and Art Gallery as part of our Ancient Landscapes project. We were making puppets inspired by the animals of those prehistoric seas that gave us the limestone of the Peaks. A lot of creative license was exercised (not least over time periods and dates) and scientific presumptions challenged (how could anyone possibly know that trilobites were not rainbow patterned?)


Next Creeping Toad wildnesses

5th -16th August: summer residency at the Holly Lodge Centre in Richmond Park, Surrey: closed sessions not open for dropping in

20th August: more Spooky Towers and Creepy Houses: Aspley Library, 10 -12, Bilborough Library, 2- 4, Nottingham. Free, drop-in events – give yourself 45 minutes at least to make your pop-up spookiness

21st August: even creepier houses, this time in Mansfield Library: 10.30 – 12.30 and 1.30 – 3.30. Again, free, drop in activities but give yourself time to do the making

a small and rather dismal boggart

22nd August, Sherwood Pines Country Park: away with the fairies, goblins and trolls: lively storywalks! Details, booking and prices: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-98FBDY

29th August: Ogden Water Country Park: more faeries, elves, goblins and trolls: telling stories, making up new ones, finding evidence of terrible enchantments and wild adventures and making tiny goblin puppets to take home and upset the neighbours….Details, bookings and prices: http://www.ogdenwater.org.uk/whatson.php





Next Ancient Landscapes events:

Tuesday 6th August: Winnat’s Pass Walk: exploring the millstone grits of the Dark Peak. Meet: Castleton Visitor Centre Car Park, S33 8WP, at 2pm. Walk 2 – 4pm, some steep slopes and off paved footpaths


4. Wednesday 7th August: Life in Ancient Seas at Leek PlayDay

Brough Park, Leek, 11 – 3: meet the Ancient Landscape team and make your own finger-puppet fossils or ancient seascape


Come and join in…or we’ll send the trilobites round

Hopping around in June!


Events where you just might find this Toad over the next month

telling tales and spinning stories...

 Sunday June 9th

The Big Bird, Beast, Bug and Botany Hunt

When: 11.00 – 16.00

Where: Dove Valley Centre

Under Whitle Farm

(between Sheen and Longnor)

SK17 0PR


setting up at last year's Big B day


Our Ancient Landscapes project will be there among the Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Botanicals. We’ll be there with fossils to look at and draw, models to handle, people to talk to, a wall to stare at (just in case we can find anything!) and our usual exciting, messy, colourful and engaging creative activities


I’ll be there helping on the Landscapes stall but mostly to tell stories of farms and fields and the plants and animals and stranger inhabitants of the Dales and Moorlands




Sunday June 16th

Father’s Day BBQ and Games

When: 11.00 – 15.30

Where: Ilam Park, Postcode: DE6 2AZ. Ordnance Survey grid reference SK132507.

 I’ll be on the Ancient Landscapes team will be at this National Trust event at Ilam Park


finger puppets for parents?

Tempting as it is, we won’t be “fossilizing fathers” but we may well invite you to look at some of the fossils we find in the limestone of the area, to make printed fossil cards for Dads, cast your own fossils (for anyone), make trilobite puppets and personal nautiloids….


Our activities are free but car parking charges apply. There are lots of other activities on at Ilam that day – but come and hunt us out!


Finding the event: Postcode: DE6 2AZ. Ordnance Survey grid reference SK132507.


Big Draw: fossils, bones and exciting artefacts!


Revealing the world through drawing

Wednesday 31st October

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

10 am – 12 noon

1pm – 3pm


hold, stroke, enjoy the feel of old stone!


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. 

be inspired!



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

Free: materials supplies

Where: Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, Terrace Rd, Buxton, SK17 6DA

Word on paper and other places

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


Book details:

The Beauty in the Beast by Hugh Warwick, ISBN 978-0-85720-395-3

Hugh’s website: www.urchin.info


Caroline Hawkridge

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

caroline has also written about bilberries


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


(Opening quote from the Red Book of Hergest)




looking for trolls, a boy goes out into The Woods with his wooden sword and a cardboard shield

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…..)

the adventure begins
a ship sets sail - but the open sea is a dangerous place


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!


two tiny pirates, armed and ready for anything!a small pirate with her flag in her treasure box