Wednesday, 5 February 2020


there is delight in everyday places.....
Taking time to pause: to reflect upon the world we live as part of, the world we are all working in different ways to protect and cherish. Celebration:Earth! sets out to invite people, to challenge groups, to reflect, share, celebrate their activity and to find new partners in environment, community creative and faith groups for the next steps they would like to take

From flowers for butterflies to solar panels, from a new pond to toad crossings, from a campaign to declare a climate emergency to convincing your neighbours to compost….

Is there an environmental success you would share?

From an atheist’s conviction, to an agnostic’s interest, a priest’s belief to a poet’s reflection

Is there a point of inspiration you act from?

Sunrise shining white through the mist that fills the dales, moonshine through clouds. Snowdrops. *

Is there a wonder that gives you strength?

Celebration:Earth! is a project based on hope and optimism. In these times of environmental despair and political melodrama, this project feels it is really important to remind ourselves of wonder. The anger and desperation that often marks environmental action might be great for immediate activity but to be lasting, sustainable and to empower its actions, we feel that environmental determination needs to come from a place of wonder and joy. We need to remind ourselves that this world is a wonderful place. Despite everything we are doing, despite the mess, it is still full of beauty and determination and life that just will not stop, and that can be what keeps us going

Supported by the Worldwide Fund for Nature, UK, and drawing together groups from across society, CE! is building a new network of partnerships of information and support, encouraging environment, community, art and faith groups to all find ways of working together. The “faith” element is important as when we draw on religious institutions or movements or eclectic anarchist networks, we can work with people whose motivations run deep, who can share a different set of perspectives from some of the familiar environmental ones, who care for spaces from small graveyards to tracts of open space and who are often already engaged in powerful environmental missions that the rest of us just don’t hear about

That’s what CE! comes down to: listening to each other: finding ways for groups to meet, to share successes and to find information or partners who might help them take their next steps, reach their next goals
village ponds hold treasures and wodners.....

Over the next few months we are finding people, challenging groups and inviting anyone to join in, building to a weekend gathering at St Albans Cathedral 18 – 20 September 2020 (see the website) but more than that, to connect, to share successes, to remind ourselves that there are good things happening. There is more action that is needed but there aren’t instant solutions and when we are shouting “we need X00 trees” we tend to miss the Y00 that are already being planted…..So how about stopping shouting and starting sharing.

and how can we not marvel at toads...
I am here as an artist – where art can be the vehicle that tells stories and that gives groups and individuals ways of expressing and sharing feelings
– as a pagan, because for me life in all its forms is sacred and I will (try to) work with anyone who comes to us open handed a
and I am here an environmentalist who can’t separate faith from science from creativity….

Within CE!, I am coordinating arts and education development and always looking for projects to share, people to talk to, connections to make

So how about it….
  • Join the growing network
  • Join us at St Albans (you’ll need to register)
  • Tell us what you are up to
  • Or just declare your own Earth Celebration event and find a way of sharing what you are doing with other people….they might come and help you or maybe you will inspire them to go and do something for themselves

determination in short grass

I don’t really care if people say this is too idealist to work (a recent criticism). We will only change the world for the better if we find ways of working together, if we learn to live and to think and to feel ecologically (experience the world as networks of connectedness) and I believe we need to remember that we live in a world that is worthy of celebration……

Rant over!

Visit the Celebration:Earth! website, or our facebook page (CelebrationEarth), or follow us on twitter (CelebrationEarth!)

Or keep an eye on things here…the CE! blog should be active soon as well


* I chose moments from this morning
 Photos: by me other than Toad's Eye: Kenny Taylor, and small toad in grass - Ian MacLellan - with thanks!

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Remembering David Bellamy


David Bellamy

1933 - 2019

photo by Alan Warren

view from Ngara Mountain
It feels like a long time ago, 1986, and I was the new Warden living in a damp old farmhouse in Low Barns Nature Reserve, Witton-le-Wear, County Durham. Not long back from living in Malawi and slightly out of everything, it was good to make a new friend

Just up the river a bit, lived the Durham Wildlife Trust's Trust’s then President*, who, every so often would pop down for a chat and to see how I was doing. Those informal conversations started a friendship that lasted the rest of David’s life. Sometimes the family would come too, a family of so many shapes, sizes and starting points that to this day I am still not sure that I remember everyone. They were a family that simply absorbed people growing, gathering, thriving.

I think there can be few naturalists of my generation who did not know of David Bellamy and his enthusiasm, that larger than life cheeriness that stomped its way across TV screens and inspired so many of us. To meet him as an individual was lovely: to find the enthusiasm was not at all feigned, that the field botanist lived behind the TV personality and revelled in the moss and the wet. 

David celebrated the accessible wild: he enjoyed the everyday places and the wet, boggy and squelchy. His excitement did not need the most beautiful shot, or rarest species, or most difficult to reach places. It just needed somewhere, anywhere. It just needed to be among growing things

We had a friendship that started there on the banks of the Wear but that lasted until David’s death last year. We didn’t see each other often but kept in touch and that cheery enthusiasm was like an ever present smile on the horizon.

A pair of thwarted dancers, we shared many experiences and many delights (moss, frogs, loud laughter, cheerful people, commitment). We disagreed, too. David’s stance on the human role in climate change lost him many friends, but the friendship endured and I always trusted that he acted from the strongest personal integrity. Being arrested in 1983 during protests over the building of the Franklin River Dam in Tasmania was always a good example and a moment he was proud of. He had paid his own way there and again this mattered. He had not been flown out as some celebrity photo-op but had gone because it a cause that mattered, something that should be done. There was always a readiness to act, to do what felt right, to say what he felt was right even if no-one else agreed.

That is what lasts and what I will remember: cheerfulness, enthusiasm and passion, a joy in the world and a readiness to act…

 Photos: all by myself apart from the picture of David himself by Allan Warren on Wiki Commons

·      Not sure if that was the right title….patron maybe?

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Lost dreams

Roe deer orbit
  Lost Dreams 

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery,

Thursday 9th Jan 2020

I have a bit of thing for bones – more than fossils, ancient bones still remember the lives that once filled them. This piece came out of sitting looking at the bones in Buxton Museum and pondering….
Cave Bear skull, Buxton Museum
This is bone,

Not fossil,

Not stone,

But honest-to-goodness,

Ten thousand year old,


A branch, a bough,

A giant’s club,

A woolly rhinoceros thigh.

There was marrow inside once,

Bony jelly,

A carnivore’s feast,

The pulse of life,

Wrapped in muscle and sinew and skin.

This skull,

The bone bowl of an ancient brain.

These were teeth that bit,

Jaws that gripped,

Eyes that saw,

And ears that heard.

The folded scrolls of these nostrils

Tasted a thousand scents,

Traced a thousand stories.

There is a richness of life beneath my hands,

A legacy of lost dreams.

Growing, waking,

Broad head, strong jaws,

Round ears twitch.

My hand on the hairy hump

Of a bear’s shoulders,

A dark mass heaving into movement.

Forest pools, deep and dark and still,

Eyes opening,

And I sinking,

So deep I cannot feel

Which eyes are mine

And which the bear’s...

Fox:whose bones would inspire you?

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Creativity with Christmas cards

A box, a scene, a Midwinter moment?

recycling Christmas cards

inappropriately summery scene?

Having a bit of a fidget?
Nothing to do?
And it’s raining again?


Make a little winter a scene to hang on a tree, a branch, a hook on the walll to stand on a shelf, or make a box to put that extra special present (or maybe just the key that makes it go) in

Why not dig out last year’s Christmas cards from the bundle at the bottom of the cupboard, or stealthily purloin one of this year’s, or the birthday cards you don’t quite want to throw out, or use a cereal packet (good card for making and folding, just maybe not as exciting in images as cards) and make a lovely little box?
You will need: a card or two, sharp scissors, a ruler, pencils or pens, glue (PVA is good here) and glue spreader, stapler, bradawl (or something for making holes - a pair of compasses would work), thin string

1. Cut the card in half along the fold - keep the “plain” half, you will need it later
Stage 1

2. Using the picture half of the card, on the plain side, draw a margin maybe 2 cm from each edge of the card

Stage 2: drawing margins

3. Where the lines cross at the corners, carefully cut along one of those lines to the point where the lines meet
Stage 3, cutting into corners

4. This card usually folds quite sharply, so now (use the ruler for a straight edge if you want to) fold up along each of those lines and where you have cut in, fold the short bit to make a corner
Stage 4: folding

Stage 6: glueing corners


5. Before glueing it all together, decide: if you are making a scene, keep the picture on the inside of the box. If you are making a box: you might want the picture inside or on the outside (you could always line the inside with some spare wrapping paper, or make a bigger box to become a lid.). Reverse the folding if you want to change the position of the picture

6. Making sure the sides of your box are sharply upright, glue the corner tabs onto the next side. A staple will hold it all in place. If the outside is too plain, you could colour it in or add some coloured tape. Or sprinkle it with glitter!

Stage 7: tab

Stage 7: an owl!

7. While the glue dries, prepare the scene to go in the box. Using the other piece of card (from stage 1 above), you could make a little tab to fix a figure to (we used some “embellishments” bought cheaply in a local craft shop), or you could draw your own character. Fix by glueing the tabs into the main scene. Again a staple might help. You might want to colour the tab so it fits into the background of the scenes. Some extra glitter might help again.

Finished scene

8. Use a bradawl or compasses to make a couple of holes (aim for places about 1/3 and 2/3 along the top side), thread a piece of glittery string or ribbon through, know it and hang your scene.

 Experiment with papers, colours, tapes, sequins.

Try different places to hang your scenes: a picture hook on the wall? from your ears? on your fingers (and create a fabulous dance around them)? a snowman’s nose?
box with picture on outside

Sunday, 15 December 2019


This blade of a beak celebration of ravens 

Raven, c/o Chris Foote
I like corvids. Big, black and thoughtful; smaller greyer and jesters or flamboyantly jay-bright and magpie striped, they are birds to command attention. They scare some people, annoy others and wake ire in still more but as a family they are a success story. And they have rook-walked into our stories across countries and centuries. They tend to turn up regularly in both the traditional stories I tell or the new poems and stories I write

Ravens, especially, are often sitting there, looking over the shoulders of my imagination and making “helpful” suggestions as I write (even more distracting when they do that when I am ‘telling!).  This is for them…


A blade of a beak
To slice flesh from bone
And shave hair from skin,
To free from blood from body
And hope from hearts.
A bright, black bead of an eye
To see now, and then, and maybe.

A dark, silent flight,
A snow fall of crows,
A blizzard for the dying,
To lift soul from pain
And into always.

Watching life’s beginning
And roisterous ending,
Ravenboy shakes a cloak of
Midnight feathers into wings, while
Ravengirl combs hair into quills
And Huginn and Muninn
Fly back to the claw-worn shoulders
Of the All-father’s throne.

And down in the woods,
On the rocks,
By the sea,
A woman,
All glamour and seduction and threat,
Rattles the bones in a bag
Of her own crowskin
And sings the hero to his fate.

The pictures used here are from members of the Facebook group “For the love of crows”
Many thanks to both Chris Foote (portrait) and Faye McNiven (flight). The raven strip pic is my own and is from Orkney
Ravens, c/o Faye McNiven

Friday, 22 November 2019

Cold mountains, hot deserts

Cold on a mountaintop

I spent a lively day this week in Our Lady and St Edwards Primary School in Birkenhead. We shared stories: Hiram Bingham and Machu Piccku ran alongside ancient stories of giants and the beautiful mountain sisters of Kintail with their dresses of green and winter cloaks of white. After stories from me,  our young artists and storytellers plunged into a world of extremes. We were writing about deserts and - or - mountains. There were discussions about camels, of when to walk across the hot sands of a wind-blown desert and whether the ancient goddess Sekhmet stands in the centre of every  whirling dust-devil. The red sands of Autralia might have been the blood-coloured beer that lured Sekhmet to sleep. Mountains like dragons. Mountains to fear, to wonder over. Mountains to climb and slide down.....

Mountains called up many feelings and the following grew out of a quick discussion….

This wind is bitter, cold on this freezing, beautiful, snow-covered mountaintop

I am so high up now, I am proud but exhausted, too, and anxious. The height overwhelms me when I look down, and down, and down. Going down goes on forever. And I am frozen, petrified by the knowledge that I need to climb all that way down. Why didn’t I pack a parachute?

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Bumblebee Lantern Workshops!

Bumblebee Lanterns!

a procession of buzzing excitements!

Public events in November

a bumble lantern row

balloon bumble colouring up
Do Bumblebees fly at night? Yes!

Do Bumblebees glow!Yes!

Or at least they will in the Bolsover Lantern Procession on Saturday 30th November

Creeping Toad is working with the Bumblebee ConservationTrust’s Pollinating the Peaks Project  to make a set of bumblebee lanterns for the procession

Over several days we are aiming to make a whole colony of bumbles with lots of small personal lanterns ready to fly around a giant Queen (or two). There will be quick balloon bumbles ready to decorate. Or you could take a bit longer to make a small willow bumble or a willow pyrmid dorated with lots of bees and maybe some bee-friendlyflowers! Then there will be our big Queen Lanterns that we'll will need somehelp to make. 

Why not join us for a buzzing good time of willow, tissue, glue and laughter in Chesterfield? 

Find out a bit more about Bumblebees, as well! Maybe over the winter as our Bumbles sleep you could plan a bee-friendly garden for them to wake to in the spring?

willow lanterns need glue and tissue!
Lantern making

We have two days of lantern making workshops

Dates: Saturday 16th

Sunday 17th November

Place: At Loundsley Green Community Centre, Cuttholm Rd, Loundsley green, Chesterfield, S40 4QU

Times: 12 – 4pm

Cost, etc: this event is free. No experience is necessary - materials, help and guidance in lantern-making are all provided!

Children: should bring a grown up with them
Wear: clothes to get messy in!

decorate your lantern!

Make 1: your own small bumblebee or flower lanterns to carry in the procession

Make 2: help us make our large bumblebee queen lanterns

Can’t join the Procession: don’t worry! Make a bumblebee to light the winter evenings of your own home!

The Procession: organised by Junction Arts, this colourful event starts in the grounds of Bolsover Castle before heading through the streets of the town

Date: Saturday 30th November, 6 – 8pm

Meeting point: Bolsover Castle
What’s happening: Parade entry: 4pm
Lantern Competition: 4:30pm
Parade starts: 5pm
Carols at the Cenotaph: 5:45pm

come bumbling with us!