Thursday, 26 November 2015

Lights a'growin', owls a'watchin'

Lights a'growin', owls a'watchin'
lanterns with Project eARTh in New Mills

After the damp delights of the Buxton Winter celebration (see It's a Horse!, finale pics to follow very shortly), the New Mills Project eARTh group are making their own set of lanterns for a twilight installation on the Hadfield Lantern Parade

Designs and ideas moved around - I was in favour of a completely inappropriate fleet of pirate ships for no reason other than i really like making lantern-ships. Common sense prevailed, however, and we are making a night sky to light the Parade on its way.

"Common sense" didn't necessarily last very long when the Archangel Gabriel put in an appearance alongside a rather large comet and a cheerfully round owl....
careful constructions
delightfully messy
a planet taking shape

and here is that watchful owl....

Sunday, 22 November 2015

December excitements!

Events for the edge of winter


December 2015


Winter comes rolling in with our first snow here in Buxton and as the hills are beautifully white and the trees black as old bones, here at Creeping Toad we are gearing up for some lovely December excitements!

I will post each event separately as details are finalised
can we tempt you to a pop-up tree?

3 events are planned
Sunday 13th December, 
 at the Green Man Gallery
Hardwick Square South, Buxton, SK17 6PY

a) 10.30 – 12: Wintry Landscapes – details below

b) late afternoon: we’re planning some drop-in story sessions – details to follow

Saturday 19th December 
at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
Terrace Rd, Buxton, SK17 6DA
The Last of the Wonders: an event marking the closure (for refurbishment) of the delicious Wonders of the Peak exhibition in the museum. Details will follow but activities will include storytelling to suit the different rooms of the exhibition and the chance to draw your own postcards of favourite pieces of the display – the Bear? The bones? The mermaid? The Blue John window? And to leave us postcard messages of what you like best – or least – of the display

Sunday 20th December , at the Green Man Gallery
Hardwick Square South, Buxton

Mystery and Mulled Wine 7pm – 9 (ish)
An evening of stories for grown-ups. Set your midwinter season off to a chilly start with stories out of the cold northern lands, tales of bold pipers and foolish folk: a chuckle, a twist and a scent of the unknown blown through on a cold wind….
full details will follow with a skull, a snowflake and a falling pine cone...

Wintry Landscapes, more information

Sunday 13th December
Time: 10.30 – 12.00

at the Green Man Gallery
Hardwick Square South, Buxton, SK17 6PY

Add an individual touch to your festive decorations!
Join Gordon from Creeping Toad for a session building some exquisite Midwinter creations

We might
  • capture a scatter of presents, or leaves, feathers and colours, or even a tiny castle on a bottle lantern
  • play with card and colour, pictures and trees building a pop-up world 
  • ...of snowmen and frozen pools
  • ...of lost castles among dark mountains
  • ...of reindoor flying through a starry sky…or we might
  • get carried away with a display lantern of trees and palaces, rivers and bridges and children ice-skating into an adventure

During the session, we will make
  • a bottle lantern
  • at least one small pop-up card
  • a larger pop-up landscape
  • maybe a round display lantern

This will be a deliciously messy, delightfully creative session, giving you the chance to learn quick techniques and go away with your own wintry landscapes and the skills to make more

Cost: £6.00 for each participating person - helpful extra hands aren't charged for
Places are limited, you need to book a ticket
Activities suitable for 5 years and over, 7s and under need to bring their own grow-up with them
Materials provided (but if you’d like to bring a washed, empty plastic bottle that could add to the mix (500 ml - 2l are best))

To Book:
phone the Gallery on 01298 937375, email or call in to book. Card payments can be taken over the phone.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

A present of old stones?

Planning for Wintry presents?
Old stones and ancient bones
Gordon MacLellan
ISBN 978-1-291-46593

Looking for something a little bit different for a present? Christmas soon, and Yule and Mother’s Night and Saturnalia, if you’re of a Classical inclination…Why not indulge yourself and a friend with a copy of my book Old stones and ancient bones: poems from the hollow hills ?

Don’t like poetry? Try again! With poems from the dark, peopled gloom of Neolithic tombs on orkney to the windswept moors of Derbyshire, an excitement of skulls and the beauty of stillness before winter arrives, Old stones might just offer you something different.. And if you really don't like it, why not give the book to someone you dislike as much as the poetry?

You can order from Amazon or direct from me at £5.00 a copy (includes UK P&P) and while stocks last, with Old Stones, get a free copy of “River and Sea” a little book featuring two of my stories (you only get the latter if you order from me)

To order:
Email me Creeping Toad
Payment: by cheque, BACS or Paypal (to

and to whet your appetite, here is a poem from Old stones.

Anticipation, 2
Autumn waits,
Falling into gold, and yellow, and russet,
As mist gathers,
Wool unraveled through the trees.
In the hollow dales,
The lake anticipates winter,
And the rune-cracked ice.
But for now,
Its dark, cold reflective depth
Is divination enough

autumn rosehip

It's a horse!

It’s a horse!
Lantern making for a wintry evening
It was going to be a person, a Guardian, or maybe a Herald for the Peak District with lantern-skin clothes of printed images of the Peaks. It became a deer, instead. Then a unicorn. Now, at the end, it’s a horse. 
it all begins to feel almost surgical

Over the last few weeks, working with members of the Buxton Project eARTh team we have had a cheerful time experimenting with lantern techniques and letting ideas evolve gradually and watching what emerges.

This sort of time is a luxury. Often lantern workshops are hectic public events with lots of people and a whirlwind of glue and tissue and dripping.

waiting for eyes

We’re almost done. There are a few birds still taking shape, and some small characters lurking around, but, come Friday and the Buxton Winter Celebration and all will be glowing!
big birds, small birds, and at least one fish

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Workshop: Adventures with early years

 Working with younger children?
a training course
Thursday 5th November,
Wildwise, Devon

Who shall we send on our adventure?
Where shall we go?
What shall we find?
Who shall we meet?

The questions that spark stories, that have little fingers finding little treasures, that send us creeping through the bushes, building tiny houses out of twigs, telling stories. Telling stories: stretching language, finding new words, discovering descriptions through movement, through holding and handling, through being in the middle of our own adventure

Great ideas to further the excitement and opportunities for the children*

Do you work with younger children? I have another training course coming up in November aimed at creating these storytelling and art adventures with young groups. 

If you are interested in joining us, you are welcome to talk to me about the content and details but to book and discuss money you need to talk to the organizers, Wildwise

Workshops like these are aimed at teachers, countryside rangers, environmental educators, youth group leaders….

Confidence in working with stories and making them! Inspiration for activities to use at home and work. Ideas to carry forward to others

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 youself that working with people and nature is fun, and rewarding!

LOADS! My head is buzzing with ideas that will encourage all ages and abilities to engage in writing starting from the outdoor environment. Great way to get children outside without an excuse

Outdoor Adventures with Younger Children

Thursday 5th November: 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
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 bushcraft 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

* the quotes are from participants at my October workshops for the Outrageous Nature Company

Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Lost Tales of Old Milngavie


The lost tales of Milngavie

Douglas Academy,

8th September 2015

card, ready for action
back in early September, I led a workshop day at Douglas Academy in Milngavie, working with mixed groups of children drawn from the feeder primary schools and S1 students from the academy (Years 6 and 7 for English folks!)

Our brief was to create some of the lost tales of the academy: stories pulled out of stone, tree and artefact, creating stories as pop-up landscapes and instant performances…..

artifacts to inspire
The workshops grew into excited, hectic sessions: 100+ young people for a 2 hour session, trays of Useful Bits, cardboard to work with, stories to hear, retell, invent

Children from Milngavie Primary School have added their own comments…

"The part of the afternoon that I most enjoyed was when (we) had to create our own story…My group's story was about a knight who had to defend his king's treasure" Raj

a room full of storytellers
"My favourite part of the afternoon was when we got to make our own pop up story scenes. That was different and new. It was amazing to see how you managed to get us to turn a story into art"  Rory

"I also enjoyed making the pop-up pictures. Mine was about an old man who lived in a barrel of walnuts"  Sam

"I liked how you had a natural style and were very creative in your ideas"  Nicola

"I also enjoyed making the stories in groups and I think all teachers should give us items to write about rather than telling us what to write"  Myfi

"I found it lovely that you included natural things in our stories" Keziah

With many thanks to:
Douglas Academy for organising this lovely day
Academy S1 students for becoming my workshop assistants
the storymakers, artists and inspirers of
(schools: if there are any photos that need editing, let me know)

Monday, 5 October 2015

Apple Day: autumn riches


Apple Day

autumn fruits

Sunday 18th October 2015

12 noon-4pm

autumn colours
Bring the family for a day of apple-related fun

·      Apple tasting & identification

·      Orchard wildlife

·      Apple juicing with Leek Food group (bring own apples & bottles)

·      Story telling

·      Appley fun activities for children

·      Bake apples in the fire

·      Raw food demo with 'Raw Appetite'

·      Bring jars of jam and chutney to swap

·      Barn owls in the Moorlands- slide show

·      Bring your apple recipes and apple dishes to share and taste.

autumn seedheads
Creeping Toad and Stone and Water will both be here adding our own distinctive touches. We'll be telling stories, making apple-y bunting, inviting people to print their own autumn cards and making some of the strange little Peg People who might fill an autumn orchard

Stay for the day - bring a packed lunch and warm clothes!

A free event - donations will go to Staffs Barn Owl Group

Supported by Borderland Voices, Stone and Water, 
The Leek Food group, Raw Appetite
and volunteers

autumn stories

Dove Valley Centre
Under Whitle, nr. Longnor, 7m. south of Buxton. SK17 OPR

Tel: 01298 83282, 
celebrating the riches of autumn