Friday, 25 September 2015

New workshops for winter 2015

Winter tales and Spring stories
activities in school with Creeping Toad
December 2015 - April 2016
marking the changing edge of the year, here are old stories, new adventures, art, history and wildlife to inspire your classes
this year we might meet.
  •  storytelling, and storymaking, treasures, plots, landscapes and thrills
  •   puppets, lanterns, shadows and pop-ups
  •  trees, leaves, nuts and fruit
  •  animals in winter, waking into spring
  • ancient lives, distant land

With stories running from the frozen edges of the world right through to the first flowers of spring and the waking of the bumblebees, here are stories and activities to enchant and inspire.

I am planning and promoting workshops for the winter and spring ahead. Here are ideas, suggestions and throw -away thoughts: all of these are here as starting points. If you are interested in a session in school - or some other place - your youth group perhaps? or as a public event in a library, museum, country park or dungeon, get int ouch! let's have a chat! Let's plan something wild and wonderful!

A day of activity might include:

~ storytelling performances: lasting up to 60 minutes for up to 90 children at a time

~ stories out of anything! usually we might do this outside but given wintry weather, we'll use leaves and pine cones, twigs and stones and shells indoors to inspire words, create poems and 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 those stories 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!

 ~ pop-up storyscapes: allow an hour for a class: gathering ideas, images and words well make quick 3-d landscapes holding the essence of a story or the thrills of a lifecycle in a setting, with characters and the words that set the adventure running

~ Winter lights: finding words and images to hold the essence of winter or the hopes of spring in quick poems, we'll slide words  and pictures into lanterns and make a swarm of small glowing lanterns to glow through the darkest nights or gloomiest days

~ shadow stories: out of my stories might come new stories: drawing on whatever theme we are working with to create quick performances of shadow puppets. Incorporating silhouettes, translucence and transparency, we'll mix science with story to create an (almost) instant set of story performances to show or perhaps to film

~ Ancient Lives and other lands: add a voice from the distant past to your history topics with stories that our Stone Age ancestors might have listened to. Stories. models, artefacts and drawings can feed into art inspired by cave paintings, carvings and jewellery. Similar inspiration runs through collections of African, Rain Forest and Native American material

~ Animals in winter - getting to know your local wildlife from stories to listen to, to models to make, life-cycles, food, homes and habitats

~ Trees? Just how well do you know your trees? Help your class become Tree Detectives and identify local trees through leaves, seeds and twigs. Find out about animal life in different trees and meet some of the old stories that have grown alongside our oak, ash, holly and birch

~ Working with younger children: special sessions for early years where we might listen to stories, invent new stories, find adventures in gardens, make puppet characters to send on quests…enjoy playing with words…

~ 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 Greeks…the wonder of fossils and rocks..where in our school would bears live?…a shadow puppet quidditch match and the Great Fire of London  have all featured in recent Creeping Toad projects

Charges: £250 a day: includes storytellers fee, travel and materials. Can be paid on the day or I can invoice you. Activities can be adapted to suit groups from KS 1, 2 or 3

For further information:
visit the Creeping Toad website at Creeping Toad
( or the blog at
To book: contact Gordon directly at
or by telephone:
landline: 01298 77964
mobile: 07791 096857

you never know who - or what - 
will end up in a Creeping Toad story!

inspired cave drawing

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Migdale Wyrm

The Migdale Worm

It heaved itself up from the floor of the sea, its huge claws digging out the Dornoch Firth as it scrabbled up onto the land. Dripping seaweed and dribbling water, the Wyrm saw something small and shiny fleeing across the moor and struck. Clouds shivered, trees shook and the monster bit down, crunching. But it had lived the long centuries of its life in the deeps of the sea, chewing on rubbery squid and sucking up squishy jellyfish. Its teeth had never met the metal of a school bus or heard the screams of 30 startled children and, in wild disgust, the wyrm dropped the bus which wobbled and rattled and escaped over the hill, leaving a broken dragon-tooth lying there, just lying there like a fallen rock, beside the old road

But the wyrm had swallowed two tyres and they made it feel ill. So ill, in fact, that the monster threw up and its vomit spilled out to make Loch Migdale, there, just there, over the hill. Still feeling ill, the great sea-dragon curled up and went to sleep until she felt better. And there she is, still sleeping while trees grow on her back and heather on her head.

And if you do not believe our story, here is the wyrm's tooth, here, right here, beside us on this path….

That’s it really. We had a day of adventures and stories with the Woodland Trust in Migdale and Ledmore, telling stories and making up tales, spinning delights out of Gandalf’s staff (he retired to the woods here after all the trauma of Lord of the Rings), small chips of painted wood (fragments from the ghost train of Spinningdale), the fairy princess and her pet caterpillars, horses and horrors and general delights….
and we told stories to toads and passing beetles

Take a few new steps....

Take another step: training courses this autumn

I'm doing three sets of training workshops in October and November. For all of these, you are welcome to talk to me about the content and details but to book and discuss money you need to talk to the individual organisers

Workshops like these are aimed at teachers, countryside rangers, environmental educators, youth group leaders….
During a workshop, we will aim to
            explore ideas
            try out (hopefully) new or different ways of connecting people to the natural world
            experiment with materials and techniques
            give you time to think and plan for your own situation
            meet fellow professionals
            remind yourself that working with people and nature is fun, and rewarding!

More details are given below but essentially, we have

October, Norfolk
Thursday 8th: Inspired by Nature: trees, leaves and creative mess
a practical and engaging workshop for KS1 and 2 and outdoor learning educators combining science and creativity

Friday 9th: Adventures Everywhere: using the environment to inspire stories, storytelling and poetry: stimulating creativity and imagination in the outdoors to support younger children's literacy skills

Saturday 10th: the conference "Whatever the Weather" has been postponed to the spring


Wednesday 4th: Botanic Gardens Education Network, annual conference: I am doing 2 workshops inspired by the Celtic Tree Calendar at this lovely event…(at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire)


Thursday 5th: Outdoor Adventures with Younger Children: activities for creative times with younger children - from instant characters to take adventuring to finding treasures, making up stories, looking for secrets…for Wildwise in Devon

More details

1. October: lively times in Norfolk
"autumn's wonders"
explore the world around us with creative techniques for teaching science and literacy

Autumn's wonders brings two days of related but stand-alone workshops offering ways of using creative techniques to explore the world around us

From creating instant stories out of a handful of grass and a stone to lighting a night-walk with lanterns, animating landscapes with puppets or simply capturing thoughts, feelings and impressions in hand-made books, these sessions will instruct, inspire and provoke you into a whole new set of activities

Workshops will invite participants to:
  • discuss the value and relevance of creativity in environmental education
  • experience ways of drawing inspiration from the world around us
  • plan their own workshop sessions using these activities
  • build confidence in working with ideas and delivering techniques to groups
  • try activities for themselves developing their own creative skills

Thursday 8th October, Inspired by Nature: trees, leaves and creative mess
a practical and engaging workshop for KS1 and 2 and outdoor learning educators combining science and creativity
9.30 - 3.30

Friday 9th October, Adventures Everywhere: using the environment to inspire stories, storytelling and poetry: stimulating creativity and imagination in the outdoors to support younger children's literacy skills
9.30 - 3.30

Booking through:
£125 per day

Workshop venue: Catton Park, Norfolk

2. November

2.1 Wednesday 4th: B-Gen conference - find out more here

2.2 Thursday 5th, Outdoor Adventures with Younger Children

9.30 am - 4.30 pm

on the Dartington Estate

£115 / £95 / £70*

 Build your own toolkit of activities and themes to use with younger children. Looking at the world around us as a treasure-trove of stories, to inspire language, encourage communication and foster a deep sense of excitement. Discover the best pizza for a troll, and how to call a dragon from a flowerbed! Using readily transferable techniques and easily sourced materials, this workshop will encourage us to value and cherish the creativity of younger children.

(I feel I should point out that I am an environmental educator, artist and storyteller - not a bushcarft worker so we'll be happily muddied into art, story and leaves rather than bush-crafter stuff! There are lots of other workshops you can go to for this - look at the rest of the Wildwise programme for a start!)

* rates for business/voluntary-charitable organisations/individuals

Bookings: contact Wildwise.
Wildwise office 01803 868269 / 07919 093784
WildWise Events
Dartington Space
Dartington Hall

Monday, 31 August 2015

Wild tales and woody stories

Creeping Toad on tour
August 2015
days begin with beautiful sunrises

the Newtonmore Goblins

a tropical sea, a lost treasure and a desert island:  perfect ingredients for an adventure

I’m not going to try to tell the stories behind these pictures - decide for yourself what is going on if you feel so inclined. That way if you get a horrible fright, you’ll have no-one to blame but yourself!

At Ledmore and Migdale on Saturday with the Woodland Trust, we braved midges and ticks to reveal the hitherto unknown tales of the Migdale Worm and the Spinningdale Ghost Train. There was the Caterpillar Fairy, issues about tooth-fairies for trolls, friendships between kelpies and wolves and a few stray zombies. One of my toad cousins wandered through for a visit and various beetles dropped in and trundled through…..


a fairy and her caterpillers
caterpiller closeup
fairy-teller in action
James Bond in Spinningdale

not quite sure who this is.....
Thanks to the audiences and story makers of my first schools on this autumn tour!
Auldearn Primary School
Dalneigh Primary School
Newtonmore Primary School
the lovely puppeteers and story makers of Ledmore and Migdale Woods

the midges are coming!
a bold storyteller in action!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Hen Harrier Day 2015

above the Dale of Goyt

Hen Harrier Day 2015
9th August

In an ongoing campaign to raise awareness of, and protest against, the illegal killing of Hen Harriers largely on Grouse Moors in England, HHD, in just 2 years, has become a rallying and renewing day. A day to set people fuming again but also to inspire and empower them

Watch the video: HHD2015

More of a weekend than a day (pitched in August to clash with the (in)Glorious 12th when certain people (I’m being very restrained, aren't I) take guns and go and blast the life out of lots of Red Grouse who never did them any harm
There's one thing more needing mention
The ghosts in the grey skies above
The heather-brown harriers floating
The loss of these birds that we love 
(a Calling-on Song for Hen Harriers)

banners in Pavilion Gardens
(I ended up running around too much to take many photos so will start with these few and hope to add more....anyone got some to recommend?)

I have been involved in both of the Peak District HHDs. This year my wonderful friend Susan Cross and I recited poems as part of an evening entertainment on Saturday night - c300 folk in the Palace Hotel! Exciting speakers: Mark Avery, Mark Cocker, Chris Packham, Jeremy Deller - and us! Thanks to the RSPB for an inspiring presentation and the Wilde family for strong young voices and magnificent constructions. There was almost too much going on to capture the moments: an evening of richness on all sorts of levels and unexpected generosities - Jeremy Deller being stampeded when he offered to print and sign pieces of work there and then. I don't think anyone anticipated a bigger queue for Jeremy's work than for the bar!

our Harriers were evocative if not exactly accurate

Susan and I offered a poetic introduction to the Peak District with the Calling-on Song for Hen Harriers quoted here and extracts from Gawain and the Green Knight as a poem that evokes our rocky landscapes and the value of the noble quest - in the original Middle English. My tongue is still relishing   
rughe knokled knarrez with knorned stonez

On Sunday, while some 500 people were gathering the Goyt Valley, Sarah Males and I were down in Buxton's Pavilion Gardens as part of the "what is all this?" team - making finger puppet hen harriers, talking to people, raising awareness…..There was also a "thunderclap tweet" on Sunday morning: 5.7 million tweets

This isn't a campaigning blog and the unfolding of these issues could spin on over days….

Harrier country
Find out more:

Act: sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting if nothing else

Act again: if you are feeling motivated, aggravated and possibly angry, why not write 
  • to your local MP - what is being done to protect such precious animals and their associated habitats
  • to your Local and County Councillors - are they supporting or endorsing Grouse Moors and alleged continued illegal management practices?
  • to local landowners - you do hope, most sincerely, that they are not supporting such practices and that there are more ecologically sensible ways of working with the land
  • If local landowners are titled, and have seats in the House of Lords, write to them there, copy in your MP. 
Act even more: stir things up and keep the cauldron simmering

Act even more than that: talk to people

Hen Harrier country is also good for bumblebees
And then: just get out there and look, listen, touch and sniff: enjoy the landscapes around us - our active appreciation is important - remind yourself that we live in a world worth celebrating - and fighting for

Explore and support: there are T-shirts to buy (and wear), mugs to drink out of, badges to emblazon your lapels with - visit some of the links on this post, or spread your fine long wings and go gliding across the web-worldThere are too many people to thank for the heroic work that put these events together but thanks to all of them anyway! 

And take a look at Birders Against Wildlife Crime!

Coming soon:
a set of posts with our various Hen Harrier activities: finger puppets, origami, flags, kites, standards, and skydancer mobiles

Public event: Wild woodland life

Wild Woodland Life
Ledmore & Migdale Woods, Spinningdale
Saturday 29th August 2015
who knows who - or what - will be waiting for us?

telling stories, making up new stories and building puppets of the characters who now, once or just simply should live in the beautiful ancient woods of Migdale

These are Woodland Trust woods nor far off the A9 near Dornoch
Meeting place: meet at Torroy car park. From the A949 in Spinningdale, turn onto the minor road sign posted to Migdale.  Parking is 0.6 miles on the right (IV24 3AD).

When: there will be two sessions during the day: 10.30 - 12.30 and 1.30 - 3.30

a woodland full of wonders
Bookings: the event is free but please book so we can keep track of numbers (the afternoon is a repeat of the morning so you don't need to do both!)
To book a place, contact Juliet on 07810 027556 or

An event for Woodland Trust (Scotland)

Monday, 3 August 2015

Holiday event: A morning for dragons

A morning for dragons
Dragon Days at the Green Man Gallery

Tuesday 11th August

11am - 1pm

we will make dragons that shimmer and glitter
Join me on a journey to discover the last dragons of Derbyshire with stories and puppet-making. Make your own dragon as big as your hand with its own nest or cave and collection of treasure.

Will your dragon glitter and shine, 
Or slide into darkness as deep as night, 
Lit only by the stars of its eyes?

Will your dragon laugh or growl

Or smile a smile as wide as a river and deep as a cave?

Will your dragon carry you home on its back

Or will you nestle it into your pocket and keep it warm and safe?

Where: Green Man Gallery, Buxton
Who: ideal for: 8-12 years (6-7 year olds welcome accompanied by an adult.), older folk are welcome too!
Cost: tickets are £6 a dragon-maker, materials are provided, (supporting adults are free)

To reserve a place, call 01298 937375 or 07940 333352.

Part of the Buxton Family Festival. There will be events 1 - 16th August. Download the programme

The Green Man Gallery is hosting all sorts of events so you could go direct to their site….
dragon planning

a hand-dragon