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

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Pirates in Mottram

The Mottram Pirates
30th July 2015
pirate ships racing across a treacherous tabletop sea

the quiet village on Mottram St Andrew, tucked into the shadow of Alderly Edge in the leafy lanes of the Cheshire plain, harbours a dark and terrible secret

the pirates were generally a cheerful bunch

but one poor pirate was stranded on a desert island with his boat - but no sails

It was once the home of the terrible Mottram Pirates who, in their ship, the Mighty Mottram, pillaged their way across the high seas (and the low seas and various damp and swampy bits in the middle)
the Mermaid Judges at Pirate's Got Talent
a mermaid on her throne

A palace full of mermaids was involved as well but no-one is quite sure how
a pirate in his rowing boat

And one princess who annoyed everyone else, when her family wouldn't pay the ransom, ended up locked in a dungeon

the princess...
...and her prison
a pirate speed-boat
even with only one sail, a pirate ship can glide across the skies

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Ice Age life and adventures

Ice Age life in old Buxton
a workshop at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, 
29th July 2015

Evidence - but of what we're not sure!

With many thanks to all our artists and makers this morning - just over 100 people joined me and made puppets and pop-ups in a stampede of mammoths over two hours

There are activities every Wednesday through the summer holidays. Contact the Museum for more details - or look at this post for details o a couple of other ones...

A fox lurks in a cave: Fox Hole Cave on Wheeldon Hill perhaps - or maybe Reynards Cave in Dovedale where a hoard of Roman coins was found...

 The inhabitants of this cave kept increasing....the owl moved in unexpectedly... (see top of the page)
We were also making folded-card animals. Two cave bears....

A small boy and his camp-fire
 A beautiful cave by a river, under a steep, sharp hill
Some of our cave-people were a bit was quite sure what the batmobile would have looked like, Ice-Age style, but we were sure Batman and Robin looked much the same. A Bat-sled with huskies perhaps?

 Unexpected inhabitants: a dragon!

An owl flies over the mouth of the cave, and an adventure begins...

Autumn's wonders: workshops for educators

autumn's wonders
explore the world around us with creative techniques 
for teaching science and literacy

In conjunction with the Outrageous Nature Company, I am leading two workshops in October and throwing myself into their "Whatever the Weather" Conference (Saturday 10th October, Holt Hall, Norfolk - details to follow) as well....why not come and join 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 are aimed at teachers, outdoor educators, forest school leaders and just about anyone who works with groups of children in outdoor learning situations. Activities are flexible and ideas adapt to suit different circumstances - so join us and decide how those ideas and techniques could shift to suit your own situations

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

Inspired by Nature: trees, leaves and creative mess
Thursday 8th October
practical and engaging workshop for KS1 and 2 and outdoor learning educators combining science and creativity: stories out of stones and river flow, printed leaves in lanterns, biodiversity books, not-quite-scientifically-correct animal puppets, prehistoric rockpools....

Venue: Catton Park, Norfolk
Times: 9.30 - 3.30
Cost: £125
ffi and booking:

Adventures Everywhere: using the environment to inspire stories, storytelling and poetry 
Friday 9th October
Instant stories, counting poems, riddles and wordplay and your very own book...Stimulating creativity and imagination in the outdoors to support younger children's literacy skills. This will focus on activities for KS1 but techniques can apply to older and younger groups

Venue: Catton Park, Norfolk
Times: 9.30 - 3.30
Cost: £125
ffi and booking:

Whatever the Weather
Be prepared to be Outstanding in your field
one-day outdoor Learning Conference
Saturday 10th October
outdoor learning conference at Holt Hall, Norfolk - more details