Saturday, 30 July 2011

Activity sheets

Over the last few months on various websites I've been loading copies of a set of worksheets I did a few years ago to accompany the book "Talking to the Earth"

Here, I'm loading most of the previous sheets and the latest ones (there are a couple more earlier ones to come and that puts us about half way through the series). These are there for people to use, and enjoy. If you do use them, maybe you could acknowledge where they come from

The original book' "Talking to the Earth" is still available, either through myself or from booksellers

Talking to the Earth, Gordon MacLellan, publ: Capall Bann, 1995, ISBN 1-898307-43-1

Friday, 29 July 2011

LImeyards Stories

The Limeyards are a stunning area in the grounds of Calke Abbey (Calke) in South Derbyshire. Over several hundred years the land was quarried and the stone roasted in limekilns and an area that must have looked like a dusty nightmare landscape developed. Now it has been left and the wild has reclaimed the place to give a series of sunken arenas, woodland glades, dark reflective pools and others of clear, clear water

I am involved as a storyteller, looking at creating a set of activities that people can download and use to shape a wander through the Yards so that they can build new stories as they go....

To start us off, here are a couple of stories from a pilot project a year ago, more will follow...

Travelling in Time:
remembering what might have been….

Take away tall trees, small trees, and bushes and flowers
Take away woods and wildlife
Take away grass and leave only stone
Take away playing children
Take away people walking their dogs,
Take away birdsong
Take away peacefulness

Add horses and carts
         And thick grey smoke
Add boulders and rocks and crushing machines
         And fires and firewood and dust
Add hard working children
Add noises
Add loud bangs, crunching, neighs and clops and shouting
Add workers trudging through the tunnel
Add naughty children sliding in the snow
Add lanterns in the evening to light the way home

Dame Catherine Harpur’s School pupils

The Satyr’s stories:

“I was born out of the need of old stone and tree roots for a voice.

I began as an idea, shaped by water running through stone in deep caves, gathering a body for myself out of long lost bones, out of stranded horns and hooves and left-over memories. My flesh is earth, my skin grass and bark, my blood the mineral rich, crystal-growing streams of limestone darkness

Now I am here, playing the music of the wind, listening to bluebells ring, and the slow singing of carp in the cold pools. I am the watcher in the woods, the touch of the breeze, the rustle in the undergrowth. I am the shadow that slips away.
Always here. Never seen.”
Gordon MacLellan 

The Satyr’s stories:
The Calling Song
With the fire of foxes, come
With the endurance of limestone, come
With the persistence of tree roots, come
With the passion of orchids, come
With the excitement of children, come

And where the cliff
Crumbles into the grass;
Past Gilbert’s stone
And Sir Henry’s Yards;
Past Engine and Portobello and
Sad Molly Wootton’s Hole;
Beyond Perch Pit and
Over the Limeyards Flats

By the cold, carp depths
Of Blackwater
We’ll watch the moon rise over Margaret’s Close
and gather the woodland on the dancing lawns at
Ridings Nook

Gordon MacLellan


A dream died at Engine Pit,
On a long slow day of misery.
A hoof slipped, scrabbled, caught
And slipped again, wheels sliding.
A hand reached, caught, pulled, and reached again
But the wagon tilted, toppled,

Its load shifting, pulling over,
 Pulling down and Peacock went
With it, desperate, into the
Cold water, deep water,
The delicate, tropical blue water
That claimed load and
Life and

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Still enjoying South African memories

Workshops in Grahamstown and then in Durban Botanical Gardens and down in Cape Town (for VANSA: Visual arts network of South Africa) have been exciting and challenging. I always arrive wondering  what I can offer people living in such a different country so far from all my landscape points of reference but then we get started, relax and I am reminded that everywhere people appreciate the chance to let their imaginations run around, to play with ideas around stories and that little handmade, home-made books are an enchantment and a delight. And working here, it was good to be told by children from township schools that "We could make a book like this at home. Look you've used one-sided paper(*) and I could make a cover from a cereal packet"

Durban BG is a beauty! Neat and precise in its city-centre setting but holding some stunning trees - huge, buttress- and aerial- rooted figs. It is free and is used by everyone, it seems: lovely to see people having picnics, pausing in their busy days, chatting to friends. And where I'd see people feeding the ducks here in UK, to watch a mother and her little girl feeding the spoonbills and sacred ibis was just wonderful

In Cape Town, I was taken to the new Biodiversity Garden, growing in the shadow on the world cup stadium there. Another place of wonder and enchantment (the Garden, I can't speak for the Stadium). A fascinating instant tour of the wonders of the Cape where there is more floral variety in a few hundred square miles than I'd meet walking right along the length of UK. Well presented and again well-used. Eavesdropping on visitors had me hungering for a notebook project, inviting people to record their memories of flowers and the uses of plants. Sessions here organised by my friend Wendy who runs her own environmental education company, Ecoactivities

* that confused me too: paper that has been printed on one side

Friday, 22 July 2011

imagining new futures

2 weeks in South Africa, old friends, new friends, new workshops and an exciting new centre to work with

The Re-imagining festival in Grahamstown was part of the annual National Arts Festival exploring new perspectives on the environment and social change in South Africa. I always find when I visit this beautiful country that people are full of new ideas, new ways of looking at issues. Visiting RSA challenges me to look at what I bring to sessions and inspires me to find my own new perspectives and gives me new things to think about

Re-imagining addressed sustainability education by opening up spaces for discussion, space to listen think, talk and share. More of their work can be found at the Sustainability Commons

My role: to work with local children on building stories, not with serious outcomes but to help children (and anyone who wanted to join in) to let their imaginations go, to find a degree of imaginative freedom and confidence in their own value as thinking creative people

So we used our immediate environment for inspiration and shaped new stories, made animals with our fingers, shaped characters out of leaves and scrap card and found adventures everywhere from the centre's leaf-shaped pool to the caves of a rockery and a recess in a wall

and in the quiet spaces between sessions, and between shows and exhibitons in the wider festival,  I let my own imagination wander

1. Head down a hole
Full of sand and hope
Dreaming of aardvarks

2. The aloe lifts fire
To a pale, cloudless sky.
Embrace a flower, ignite your spirit

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Re-imagining: possible futures in South Africa

Re-imagining new futures in South Africa....just back from 2 weeks in beautiful RSA, doing workshops, making new friends, connecting with old friends and having a wonderful time! Based at the new Environmental Learning Research Centre ( ELRC) in Grahamstown as part of their "Re-imagining" strand within the National Arts Festival, and adventuring on from there

Over the next few days, I'll post notes and comments arising from time there (always rewarding and inspiring) but will start today with some images

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Summer events in the Peak District

1. Tiny! A Pirate Adventure
Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd

2 sessions a day
2pm - 5pm: making Tiny pirates with tiny pirate ships and tiny lanterns and planning….
6.30 - 7.30 A Tiny! Pirate Adventure: creating a story to tell as our Tiny! Pirate explore the roots of a tree, the dangers of a puddle or marvels of a flowerbed

Meet: Pavilion Gardens, Buxton: look for the Jolly Roger by the playground
Free, materials provided (a clean 500 ml plastic bottle might be helpful)
Family events: children must bring an adult with them

a Stone and Water event, part of Buxton Festival Fringe

2. Moorland Stories
Wednesday 3rd , Leek Leisure Centre, 10 am - 3pm
Sunday 7th, Tittesworth Reservoir Visitor Centre, Leek

Grabbing excitements from the hills, and streams, the woods and wildlife of the Staffordshire Moorlands to make puppets and figures. Using twigs, leaves, scrap material and lots of laughter we'll build puppets and invent stories.

Later in the month, come and visit our tent and enchanted world at the Just-So Festival

Cost: free,  (car parking apply where applicable) materials provided, no bookings needed
Family events: children must bring an adult with them

Part of the Moorlands Stories project for Borderland Voices