Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Old stones and ancient bones

Planning for Wintry presents?

not all stones and bones
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? Why not 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….

£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.
To order direct:
Email me Creeping Toad
Payment: by cheque, Bacs or Paypal (to creepingtoad@btinternet.com)

or from Amazon:

an appetiser

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.”
Blackwater at Calke Abbey, source of the Satyr stories

Friday, 25 November 2016

Skulls, bones and stones

African wilds 
and ancient caves

hand axe

hyena tooth
Then there were bones and stones and teeth. Small hands carefully handling, turning over a flint axe, fresh flaked by James Dilley* in a wonder of precision, laying bone needles on a delicate palm, and wrapping a friend in reindeer hide**  and sitting him down with a wooden bowl and a stone knife and deciding that Stone Age school uniforms look more exciting than contemporary ones

Stone Age Days, Bone Detectives, an avalanche of ancient stories and excitable Reception children. “is it snowing rain or is it raining snow?” They posed the question (Colne-Primet Primary gets its pupils thinking!). None of us could answer it, but we mapped our adventure with snowflakes melting onto card, mud from the squelchy puddle, mud from the plant pots, mud from our boots, muddy wool from our gloves and the wind that whirled the rainy snow around the playground and the wind that threw the snowy rain full into our cold faces….This was a week that ended in snow but began in Africa - at least Africa in Chester with Overleigh St Mary’s Primary school and shaping stories, taking tales and retelling them, adding new detail and extra hyenas, or lions, or whales or sharks or crocodiles….

Buxton Junior School, slid into some stone age work with ease: telling us of their adventures with cave bears and wolves, unfolding Stone age Toolkits. With Bone Detetcives we became more analytical: asking questions, turning over mysterious skulls and trying to deduce their identities - or just lifestyles and challenging each other with our trickiest finds.
flint blade

Rewarding days and 450 children later at the weekend we found the Treasures of the peaks with the Knights of the Chapel. But that is another story.

a well-furnished cave with stone tools, fire platform and a cheerful family

* James Dilley: archaeologist and person of excitement! James will be back with Buxton Museum and Art Gallery in March for a weekend of Bronze Casting. if you would like more information on joining this workshop, drop me an email and i will send you information when details are finalised in the next few weeks: creepingtoad@btinternet.com

** relax, it was fake

Friday, 11 November 2016

Ripples of earlier rains

Ripples of earlier rains
11th November 2016

Our workshops began on 1st November 2016, a year to the day after the rain began that fed the river that spilled into the floods that smashed into Elland Bridge "an elephant stampede”, hitting the bridge on 26th December 2015, a bridge which “crumbled like Weetabix”*

lively days before the flood
Working for the Canal and Rivers Trust with Year 5 and 6 children from Elland C of E Primary School, we set out to explore the impact of the flood by looking at the river before, during and after those eventful days.

It flows, calm as a sleeping sloth

The bridge is nearly repaired now and as work moves towards completion, the Trust were looking for words and phrases to fit onto the sides of the river tunnel by the towpath. We gave them more than words and phrases, we gave whole flowing, flooding river poems

As shy as the fish’s cry

I’m not going to steal everyone else’s thunder just now: I’ll just quote from bits of our poems and leave the full texts for the C&RT to reveal in time….but here are extracts along with some of the folded rivers we made to help shape our word-thoughts….

As calm as rain and as a coconut that fell from a tree

Before the flood,
Calm waters,
A deep river,
Quiet and still.

The river runs through rapids,
A vicious cat of a river
Raging round rocks,
A racing river,
Crazily curling over boulders
Blue, black and brown,
Crooked, old and damaged.

 Flooding playgrounds,
The river roars loud as a tiger,
A stampede of elephants.
A rumbling avalanche,
Fish swim between swings
Calm water reflects a slide,
No children play here now.

waterfall picture notes

A wild waterfall,
Throws the river over the edge,
Water wiggling in streams down,
Diving down, onto deep, dark rocks,
The broken teeth of dinosaurs, of dragons,
Of monsters.

The water bursts,
Waves crashing,
Smashing into rocks,
A crazy bear with stone teeth,
 A bull charging,
An elephant stampede,
Plunging down, plunging onwards
Towards the town, towards the bridge,
Toward the bridge that
Will crumble like Weetabix.

the flood!

Extracts are from the Year 6 and Year 5 poems
* quotes from pieces by individual children

Elland Bridge Open Day
Saturday 26th November,
Details here

There should be a blog post about our workshops but it hasn’t surfaced yet!

I suspect it is better not to know  what is happening to the lone swimmer....

Winter night, winter water,
Christmas night,
The river wakes.
The flood is coming.

With many thanks to Tom and Claire and the C&RT team 
 and to the artists and poets of Elland primary School

Monday, 24 October 2016

Drawing Steam

Drawing Steam, 1

We took ourselves off to the World Heritage Site at the Derwent Valley Mills today for a Big Draw event as one of the Mills' "Discovery Days"

The Gothic Room where we worked
The theme for the Big Draw this year is “steam” and we thought that would fit in nicely with Victorian industry, mill machinery, the canal and the river and the old railway, but of course once you let visitors loose on a long piece of paper there is no telling where ideas will go….

“These people work in the mill. They have sad faces because they don’t like working in the factory…a boy and girl are smiling because they do like the factory…”

“Get out of my tree!” shouted the monkey who guarded the orange and banana tree

Moorhen, grassy field, feather and tree

By the river near the church

And so we cut them down,

Because we can –

We cut the sycamore,

And oak,

And beech,

Because we can,

We’re man,
And have dominion over all we see

But these the trees have weathered storms

The cold pinched winds of winter Derbyshire

-       And yet we cut them down –

Because we can.

autumn river

On this bright but chilly autumn day, 60 people joined us in the Gothic Room at Cromford Mill and scribbled and sketched, drew, rubbed and muttered and gave us a richness of pictures
trees: an exercise with oil pastelles

This is Drawing Steam, 1, DS2 will follow when we've unravelled the 6 metre long drawing from the back of my car! 
an optimistic red squirrel
With many thanks to all our artists, drawers, 
sketchers and scribblers!

Our next event: Wednesday 26th October: 
with the National Trust

Collections in the Landscape
This event is one of a series organised as part of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery’s Collections in the Landscape (CITL) project. With a grant from the Heritage Lottery, the Museum is changing the way people can access the Collections. As well as physical changes to the Museum itself, collections are going on-line and a series of apps will encourage people to connect places with Museum treasures even when they are out walking in the Peaks. Within the wider project, Creeping Toad is coordinating public events both in the Museum and out in the Peaks, offering people to explore aspects of the Collection in creative, engaging and often rather messy ways. Creeping Toad events are advertised in both the Museum events guide and on this blog

crow in charcoal and pencil

Sunday, 23 October 2016

From Winnatts to Chatsworth, by camera

From Winnatts Pass to Chatsworth House:

Reimaging the Peaks

Buxton Opera House: Val Dalling
On the 8th October a group of bold photographers set out with Chris Gilbert of Raven’s Eye to explore a connection between 18th and 19th Century prints of the Peaks and those same views seen through a 21st century eye and 21st century technology….

our team at Cressbrook Mill, Sarah Parkin
Clapper Bridge, Sarah Parkin

In their own words:
Sarah P:  
I like the idea of trying to recreate previous artists’ views or reinterpreting a view.  A historical ‘Proloco’ type thing…something I may revisit. Exhibitions inc historical imagery alongside current, appeals…

One of the things that the workshop has really made me think about is focal length and the role it plays in composition. It's something that I talk about a lot in my workshops anyway but working with the old prints really emphasised it for me.
a 19th Century view of Winnatts Pass
I thought this would be an excellent learning curve for me, and it certainly proved to be the case. as I continue to discover what the Peak District has to offer. This day was without exception one of the best I've attended, it was not only intellectually and historically informative, but it was also a most relaxing day where I felt completely at ease and with a great picnic into the bargain...perfect.

Winnats Pass, now: Nigel Slater

 Chris' advice about simplifying techniques to allow more opportunity to think about composition was really useful. I tend to work on manual, so using aperture priority and exposure compensation was really refreshing and allowed me to think more about what I was trying to capture.  

Spencer: The historical context provided by looking at the prints was also really interesting.  As someone who works in a museum I am aware of historic images of Derbyshire as photographs, on paper and on porcelain but it was nice to link them with my own photography…

Monsall Head viaduct in the early 20th Century
and almost the same view 100 years later, Nick Hillman

It's certainly reignited my desire to get out into the Peak District and do more photography.
view from Monsall Head, Nigel Slater
Another participant has posted on his own blog about the day - thank you, Nick

This was one of our Collections in the Landscape Knowledge Seeker 
Workshops. Others include a Poetry Workshop while on the horizon is an opportunity to work with Flint Knapper James Dilley, to walk the ancient landscape of Arbor Low with archaeologist Bill Bevan, 21st December, a whole day of maps, walks and the exploring the layered history of Castleton and Hope: date to be confirmed, in the spring of 2017
After that there will be another 2 similar workshops within the Collections project
another take on Winnatts Pass, Spencer Bailey

Collections in the Landscape
This workshop is one of a series being organised as part of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery’s Collections in the Landscape (CITL) project. With a grant from the Heritage Lottery, the Museum is changing the way people can access the Collections. As well as physical changes to the Museum itself, collections are going on-line and a series of apps will encourage people to connect places with Museum treasures even when they are out walking in the Peaks. Within the wider project, Creeping Toad is coordinating public events both in the Museum and out in the Peaks, offering people to explore aspects of the Collection in creative, engaging and often rather messy ways. Creeping Toad events are advertised in both the Museum events guide and on this blog

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Apples, woods and troll-tales

In a clearing in a wood....

Light up the Night and Apple Day

some pictures after a busy weekend...

In Plas Power Woods near Wrexham,
there is a pool on the river in the woods where....
 Stories waited
ready for stories
and as the evening closed around us...
....the lantern fish began to shine
and tiny lanterns glowed among the fallen leaves
That was Saturday, on Sunday, the morning rain cleared and...
there was an orchard to story...
and instant orchards to make
This is a quick update...more details and new stories will follow....

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Wild words workshop

Wild words and leafy pages
a training course
there are stories everywhere

Tuesday 8th November 2016
at Dartington
a workshop for teachers, artists, storytellers, playleaders, Forest School leaders...

Organised by Wildwise 
Cost: £115/90/70

Booking details from Wildwise

simple activities can capture a whole story
This workshop will include activities that can be used to help groups of all ages use language to explore, enjoy and celebrate their environment.   We will play with words: creating stories, poems, instant adventures and terrible tales. We will explore exciting ways of holding onto written words with bog books, folded libraries, mapsticks, pop-up storyscapes and tiny, runaway characters.   

A day to enjoy 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
mapping a class' adventure
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

            Activity options:

                        developing story characters,
                        deriving adventures from found objects or artefacts
                        making your own books
                        the value of treasure
                        story bundles
characters are always waiting for their story...

Apple Day, bones and stories

Autumn adventures
public events in October:

Apples, wheels, steam and scarings

Creeping Toad is out and about and all over the place in the next few weeks. Come and join me somewhere and celebrate the natural 
and unnatural richnesses 
of this autumn

Light up the woods

in Plas Power a year or two agao
Saturday 15th

Plas Power Woods, Wrexham

Mixing lanterns, with woodland storytelling, campfire warmth and the thrill of wandering through a wood at night. You will find me deep in the woods, on a log by a stream telling stories of enchanted owls, tree-magic and occasional bears. This event is becoming a hugely popular annual event. Tickets are limited and advance booking is needed!

Follow the link for more information:

Apple Day
Sunday 17th

Another regular feature and another annual delight. Join us for an afternoon of delicious apples, orchards, stories, art, and baking apples and potatoes in the fire. Bring your own apples and you can scrunch them into the juice - bring your own chutneys and swap them or their recipes. I am here to tell stories and lead some Museum moments: we’re collecting apple thoughts and orchard stories.

12 – 4pm


Just come and enjoy an afternoon deep in the dale

Dove Valley Centre, Under Whitle, SK17 0PR (between Longnor and Sheen)

Drawing Steam

Monday 24  11am-3pm

The Gothic Warehouse, Cromford Wharf, DE4 3RP

Get inspired by the landscape of Cromford Mills and High Peak Junction and sketch, scribble or draw your favourite bits onto our big drawing. Using a variety of materials, we’ll work together to create an amazing picture, 20 metres or more long, that tells the story of this special place: the birthplace of the factory system in the valley that changed the world. Part of Derwent Valley Mills Discovery Days. 

An event for the Big Draw

Calacas: make your own tiny Day of the Dead characters
Tuesday 25th

Green Man Gallery, Buxton

In the final days before Hallowe’en, join me for an afternoon with tiny skeletal people. Inspired by Mexican Day of the Dead ideas, we’ll make little skeletal people doing everyday things…there may be skeleton footballers, musicians, ladies in ball gowns, gentlemen in tophats and tails – or ladies in tophats and gentlemen in ballgowns…who knows what way the bones will inspire us!

Green Man Gallery, Buxton (Hardwick Square south, , SK17 6PY

Booking needed.
Cost £6.00 (accompanying adult free – but adults could always book a place and make their own Calacas!)

Drop in in person, or call: 01298 937375 (card payment).

And if you survive that, you might like to call in for

Boggarts and Freetings: spooky stories for Hallowe’en week
Still on Tuesday 25th and still at the Green Man Gallery, between 5 and 6pm (more or less), £3 a ticket and stories for laughter, shock, delight and dismay and a nice shiver or two for the arrival of winter!
Booking details as above

Bone Detectives
Wednesday 26th October

Ilam, National Trust

Explore the secrets of the skulls, learn to read the clues hidden in eyesockets, teeth and the bony curves of zygomatic arches and sagittal crests. Meet some skulls, draw some bones, take your own bone-folder home. (Bring your own mystery bones with you, if you like to baffle us – only nothing too drippy and messy, thank you!)

Buxton Museum’s Pop-up Museum will be there too, so come and see some of the Treasures of the Peak and talk to museum experts…

I’ll be there at the bony end of things!

National Trust, Ilam

11am – 3pm. a family event, these sessions are free but car parking charges may apply

No booking needed – just turn up and join in

Pavilion Pictures

Thursday 27 October, 11am-3pm

Pavilion Gardens, Buxton SK17 6BE

Draw, colour, collage, etch and sketch your way around Pavilion Gardens as wecelebrate the Big Draw in Buxton. Collect some materials from us by the Pavilion, then get exploring around the gardens and see what inspires your artwork. If it’s raining, there’s plenty to do and draw inside - from the wonderful winter garden to the bustle of the cafe and gallery.