Sunday, 15 October 2017

New toadtales: Ancient as the hills

 Ancient as the hills...

Telling Toads, the next poems

Telling Toads continues to hop slowly forwards (this is a Toad project so doesn’t often do “hasty”).

In this the Froglife Year of the Toad, here at Creeping Toad, I am inviting people to add their own creative ideas to a collection of Toad (and frog and tree frog,) stories and poems.  We hope people will share these beyond the blog where they will appear, to read them aloud, to tell the stories, declaim poems by ponds and generally celebrate Toads and their cousins.*

This is now our third set of poems, coming from the Keele Poets at Silverdale in Staffordshire (best link for more information is through Caroline Hawkridge, the group's tutor). If you are part of such a group, take a look at the opening blog (toad-creep over to it here) and challenge yourselves!

The Difference Between Frogs and Toads
by Mary Williams

Frogs are NOW
Toads are then.

Frogs hop, jump, leap,
Toads clamber.

Frogs are edible. Ask the French.
Nobody eats toads.

Frogs can be beautiful, and poisonous.
Toads are just poisonous.

A cat will never catch a toad..
A cat and a frog, on the other hand, have hours of fun together

Frogs exude their offspring in any old ditch and dyke.
Toads are more choosy.

Frogs are common as muck.
Toads are refined.

Frogs are always active; climb trees, swim lakes,
Toads are more stationary. Contemplative, buddha like.

Toads have a secret weapon.
Australians will tell you. Cane toads,
Enemies of the people.
Frogs will only harm you if you use blowdarts.

Frogs make a racket at night, like motorbikes revving up,
Toads are quiet as the grave.

Frogs get thrown on the floor by angry princesses, just for one kiss.
Nothing like that ever happened to a toad.

I rest my case.

Hackney Squatters
by Mary Williams

When rain storms filled the drains
in the Hackney yard of our old house,
two toads appeared, huddled together
on the back-door mat.
I nearly trod on them.

London toads, golden eyed; ancient as the hills,
their mouths turned down in disapproval
at having to be here.

In my head,
I heard one tell the other to budge up.
Were they a pair, male and female?
It seemed impertinant to consider it,
like Queen Victoria’s undergarments.

In such a tiny garden, how had I not seen them?
What were they waiting for?
For the rain to stop, for me to let them in?

Perhaps they were searching for green ponds,
swarms of tasty flies, safe shelter from the rain.
They carried magic on their warty backs
all the way from Kingsland Road to Christendom.

When the rain stopped, they were gone.
Their mystery stayed with me.

Pucker Up
by John Statham

Princess, please be regal! Don’t kiss that frog
when charming, handsome, eager toads like me
have all the females in these fields agog.

Frogs have their place, and don’t the French just know it,
with mint, a hint of nutmeg, tartare sauce,
but snog a frog – yuck! Every time he’ll blow it.

Your Highness, go upmarket, kiss a toad;
forget Grimm’s fairy stories – so last year.
Pucker up to me, true love’s overload.

Kiss my magic warts: frogs are passé, stale.
Whisper to me that you’ll always love me
and we will write a brand new fairy tale.

* but please do not publish them without getting formal permission first!

Photo credits (with many thanks!)
Frog-strip: Maria van Daalen
Toad 1, Toad 2 and Frog: Shaun Walters

Castles, palaces and horribly spooky houses

Castles, palaces and horribly spooky houses
Sandiway Library

This week, I did a workshop in a Northwich Library as part of National Libraries Week.....lovely people and exciting buildings, now we wait for the stories of the adventures that happened inside them, outside them, around them, under them.....

The creations were so lovely they don't need any commentary....many thanks to all our young artists, supportive grown-ups and welcoming library team!

inspired by ancient piled stone buildings


Sunday, 24 September 2017

Reflections drawing deeper

Reflections drawing deeper
"Unfinished Poems" at Buxton Museum
Part 2
trilobites are rare in Derbyshire fossils - even rarer in rockpools like this!
Our Unfinished Poems postcards at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery continue to provoke the poetry in visitors to the museum….

The latest set of poems follows. If you would like to add your own, simply use the Unfinished Poem lines here (or in the earlier blog here) and send your poem to Gordon at: We don’t promise to publish everything but if we can, we will

The Derbyshire landscape the Museum collection draws upon (it does have a wider catchment but a lot of our material is local) is a largely Carboniferous one giving us a world of limestone, gritstone, shale sandwiched like cake filling and the weight of ancient coal in the east. Our limestone yields to water, dissolving into spectacular caverns and then slowly crystallising out again into stalactites, stalagmites and wonderful accumulating patterns that grow like strange colonies over their boulder grandparents

Ancient waves on forgotten seas
Left seaweed and shells on prehistoric sand
Like an imprinted shadow that never leaves
Their traces of existence stamped firm onto land
As rock built foliage shapely scored
Speaks of life and of treasures expansively forged
(Laura Huxford)
crinoid fossils are common
This was the postcard starting point:
Ancient waves on forgotten seas,
Left seaweed and shells on prehistoric sand,

(Possibly useful words: trees, free, years, hand, band, land)

Rain falls and water drips
Stone dissolves and water seeps,
Chemicals blend and crystals shape,
Colour and light glinting,
In darkest blackness,                               
The candlelight flaming
Foxhole Cave
Rain falls and water drips
Stone dissolves and water seeps
Lime and crystal streams no longer creep
Into earth's sunken saltiness vast and deep
Darkness merges with icy cold blasts
Daylight turning into night that ever lasts
Closeted secrets hidden as shadows sleep
Whispered of time-lost treasures forever keep
(Laura Huxford)

the starting point for the cave poems was:
Rain falls and water drips
Stone dissolves and water seeps,

(possibly useful words: fossil, crystal, slips, sleeps, keeps, steeps)

Giant dragonfly wings flutter,
Over the swamp of a tree-fern wood
Irridescent flashes awaken muted shade
As silence stands still amongst the forest glade
Flitting across water and onto dry land
Reflections drawing deeper by an unseen hand
(Laura Huxford)

Unfinished starting point:
Coal Measures
Giant dragonfly wings flutter,
Over the swamp of a tree-fern wood,

Useful words: mutter, amphibian, newt, salamander, coal, good, stood, stutter, clutter
there is even a Derbyshire fossil dragonfly

As the centuries turned, dissolving limestone layers into caves, new life moved into those caves and the Museum’s Cave Lion skeletal paw, bear skulls, hyena memories and growling stuffed bear, all remind us of the long living history of the land here…
Cave Bear skull in Museum collection

 A bear in the darkness growls,
A lion watches from the cave,
Through the woods, a wolf howls,
Through the night, fire feeds the brave

Bones lie on cave floors,
Gathering dust and dirt through long slow years,
We clean the bones, assemble the paws,
Not knowing the fur, the blood, the tears

Unfinished poem:
Cave lions
A bear in the darkness growls,
A lion watches from the cave,
(Possibly useful words: brave, save, prowls, howls)

Most of these poems remain anonymous and we recognise the rights of the named poets of the other poems. We must ask you to respect this and not to reprint them without acknowledging that poet and first publication here in this blog. If you want to reprint poems in physical or other form for sale, please contact Gordon MacLellan at the toadwords email above for written permission.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Plagues, kites and other delights!

Flying kites, festering sores and other delights!

Summer activities and winter plans

Rudheath and Witton 2017

a single stalk of grass can set an activity in motion

horrible ailments proved remarkably popular!
After a summer of liveliness, in the Rudheath and Witton Do It Together project we are turning towards autumn and thinking of winter activities

Over the summer season, we saw the completion of the first of the Lost Tales of Rudheath (with Rudheath Primary Academy) and of art and story workshops at Victoria Road Primary School. In public events we made, flew and crashed a few kites, gave people horrible diseases with associated horrible medieval cures and catastrophes. We made small fluttering windsocks and delicate mobiles of natural materials. In public events we met more than 200 local residents and through school sessions including children and visiting parents,  another 400 folk joined the ranks of the “Did It Together”!

small corners inspired small stories
Our aim is to plan and deliver creative events: inviting people to try something new, preferably something that we hope they can go away and try again. So we have used everyday materials where possible, worked in familair places that people can come back to and used technqiues that are quick to learn and easy to transfer

Now we are looking at a colder season and new ideas. We have some thoughts and hope and plans but would like to hear from our Rudheath and Witton friends about other things they would like to do.

Our plans include the following: if you have other thoughts - or particularly like the look of any of these (or don’t like the look…) please let us know! Either leave a comment here or through our facebook page or by email:

the richness of autumn

Celebrating the seasons and the special qualities of Rudheath and Witton
  •     outdoor art with natural objects at Grozone
  •     a wintry storywalk
  •     lantern making: the lights of Rudheath: capturing buildings, shapes, people, activities, the sculptures in Griffiths Park
  •     small lights for houses: join us to hold onto miniature moments of Rudheath in tiny lanterns for table tops and corners, small treasures for the dark evenings
  •     an evening walk with lanterns and maybe some carol-singing in December
  •     Rudheath stories 2: collecting memories, writing poems and stories, working with artefacts from Weaver Hall Museum to remind of activities, games, dreams and promises
  •     maybe finding the next of the Lost Tales
last lights of autumn
Who to work with
  • anyone!
  • older residents
  • new friends: Witton Church Walk C of E Primary School
  • Victoria Road and Rudheath Academy Primary Schools - who feel like old friends
  • families
  • nursery age children either in groups or with parents

Where to do things!
  •     outside? Roker Park, Griffiths Park, the smaller green spaces among streets
  •     The Venue
  •     Social Club
  •     in the schools
  •     any other suggestions?

First activities will start in October and run through October, November and December - so get in touch soon!

Monday, 4 September 2017

The Chicken Cake Bird

The Holly Lodge Centre

Richmond Park

August 2017

birds in the bushes
And down in the woods, something stirred: or rather somethings: small birds, woodland lanterns, occasional pirates, treasure chests, more birds, nests and perches, pirate galleons we had them all during a week at Holly Lodge centre in Richmond Park

Working with children and young people with additional needs, with support groups and family networks, with life-limiting conditions and smiles, we had a lively week of activities

I think the poem we wrote with children from Knots Arts sums up the sense of adventure and inquiry and degree of silliness very well

"all of the children were raving about (the brilliant day) on the way home!
It was so lovely to just let them be able to play and explore " Knots Arts

printing: the growing landscape of the Park


Come into the Park,
Across a big field,
Behind a big tree,
Look up into the sky
Into the clouds,
And there you might …
You might see some big, black Crows
Watching you.

Keep walking.

On the very edge,
Of the very end,
Next to the pond,
If you are lucky,
You might see Fury the Phoenix.

Keep walking.

When you get to the Centre,
Go outside, through the window
Climb over the house,
Walk between the yellow birds,
Carefully, carefully between the yellow birds,
Look in the leaves at the top of the tree
There you might see the Chicken Cake Bird.

And in the woods
You might hear,

A bird in a tree.
I followed that bird and found
An Owl’s House
When the Owl was sleeping.

Under the roof,
Under a bush,
Across the water,
I found some sticks and blackberries,
I found a fallen feather and some leaves,
And a fairy cup for the birds to drink out of.

And there I heard the birds talking,
Singing the Song of the Beautiful Nest.

“Wood and leaves and bark and berries,
Leaves and wood and really cool sticks,
Tiny green leaves and blackberries
Will make a beautiful nest”.

Holly Lodge Centre 21st August 2017
created by children 5 - 8 years old from Knots Arts during the Creeping Toad Arts Week of workshops, 2017

with many thanks to the young people, staff and families of Knots Arts; Me, You and Co; Crossroads and Momentum

Wild words and leafy pages: training course


Wild words and leafy pages

4th October 2017
9.30am - 4.30pm
Dartington Estate, Totnes
£75 | £95 | £120 *

I am leading this day for Wildwise - contact them for bookings but details follow:

playful creativity
A day to play with words, this workshop encourages participants to find “adventures everywhere”... anywhere. It will offer activities designed to draw inspiration from simple observation, fostering confidence in participants own skills and encouraging innovation within supportive activity structures. The activities used will also allow ideas to merge as a number of short activities flow together to give longer more intricate adventures
The activities used here have been tried and tested with family groups, on adult events and with school children - often in situations where Literacy is an issue and activities are needed that remove worry and fear and encourage simple enjoyment of words

Programme will include:
  • first words: setting out on an adventure 
  • adventures everywhere: short activities with minimal equipment for use outside 
  • holding onto adventures: ways of recording our words 
  • bigger stories: working in groups to make quick, longer pieces
celebrate wonder
Activity options:
  • developing story characters,
  • deriving adventures from found objects or artefacts
  • making your own books
  • the value of treasure
  • story bundles
* rates for individuals / charities / businesses

For late availability and/or last minute bookings please call 07919 093784
 BOOK NOW: here

Sunday, 27 August 2017

A purple shimmer with peacocks

A purple shimmer of Blue John,
a peacock flare hidden in crystal :
the Unfinished Poems project at
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Dig and chisel and quarry and flake,

Polish black or shimmer blue,

Of languid tale or unslumbering wake,

Minerals glinting with a different hue,

Of rock and earth for sorrow or mirth,

For times gone by and of memories new.

(Laura Huxford)

The Collections of the Artists project is reaching its final stages now. Exciting pieces of work are poised to appear among the treasures of the Wonders of the Peak gallery in Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.

this landscape offers a lot
I have been writing poems and stories inspired by the collection. There have been earlier pieces here (links at foot of page). One of the latest pieces I have been working on is not a single bit of writing but is rather a set of unfinished poems: 2 lines that might provoke a response relating to different aspects of the collection. There are 8 of these poems, printed on postcards with a picture to colour in and some possibly useful words scattered around, inviting people to complete the poems as they explore, colour in the picture and send the postcard to a friend (but hoping they will send us the poems as well!)

The first poems are coming in now so I thought I would post these and invite readers of the blog to add their own responses to the opening lines. You may never have seen our Galleries but then you might have your own history of over-enthusiastic diggers, beautiful stone and prehistoric tool makers…

There are 8 Poems in the set: I’ll do the 3 here that we’ve had responses to and post others over the next couple of weeks
(uncredited poems are ones handed in by visitors with no name attached)

If you do write your own completed poem: send it to
I can’t promise to use everything but will try to

Ashford Black Marble with inlaid decoration


Starting points here are the Ashford Black Marble pieces and our Blue John carvings and window

these are the line drawings visitors have been colouring in

2. Dig and chisel and quarry and flake,
Polish black or shimmer blue,
In everything I seek,
None can compare
To the Wonders of the Peak

Unfinished poem:
Dig and chisel and quarry and flake,
Polish black or shimmer blue

Useful words: new, wake, make, bake, flew, blew


those cairns didn't stand much chance
A lot of our collection grew from the efforts of those Victorian enthusiasts who went out across and under the Peaks

3. Shovels and spades dig piles of earth
Burrowing into the ancient mound
Where my ancestor lies undisturbed
Until I pull him out.

 4. Shovels and spades dig piles of earth
Burrowing into the ancient mound
A spade is a spade by no other name
So, it is plain to say, just shovel away

Unfinished poem:
Shovels and spades dig piles of earth
Burrowing into the ancient mound

Useful words: worth, hearth, treasures, found, ground

And largely as a result of those Victorians above, we have a large collection of prehistoric tools including delicate Mesolithic flints that lie like notes on the staves of their display cards. There are careful arrowheads, polished stone axes and more…
mesolithic flints
5. A hammer blow splits flint from stone,
A firebow wakes embers from the wood,
A knife splits flesh from the bone,
The echoes sound throughout the wood.

6. A hammer blow splits flint from stone,
A firebow wakes embers from the wood,
The branch bends, the sinew sings,
That flint on an arrow
Brings the goose to the fire
And the family rests.
(Creeping Toad)

Unfinished poem:

A hammer blow splits flint from stone,
A firebow wakes embers from the wood,

Useful words: moan, groan, alone, bone, good, food

With many thanks to the writers, known and unknown, of our finished poems!  

Blogs connected to this proejct: