Friday, 26 August 2016

Hoards and Secrets

Hoards and secrets,

beasts and beauties

Dove black.
Dove holes.
Dove Dale.
Old sockets in a mountain skull,
Moss grown and lichen edged,
Drip, dripping, lime-sodden water, and
Water-sodden stone.
From “The Hills are waiting” 

Dovedale has long been a place for secrets. These limestone hills with their deep dales and water-worn caves are ideal places to slip away and set to rest those treasures you would keep safe from invaders or marauders or family perhaps or friends….who knows why someone buried a bundle of 26 coins in that cave high in the wall of the dale nearly 2,000 years ago. Since then, who knows how many thousands of visitors trekked up the path, and under the arch and into Reynard’s Kitchen Cave. Despite all those feet, all those inquisitive eyes, all those weary souls slumping on the floor for a rest, this fox cave* kept its hoard secret and safe until only two years ago.

And then there was us! On a stunning summer’s day with visitors streaming up the path from the carpark to the Stepping Stones, armed with picnic baskets and blankets and inflatable canoes and fishing nets and buckets and excitement, we were there. A pop-up museum and a supply of treasure chests and time to talk.

Hoards and Secrets was a day about discovery: encouraging people to look at Dovedale as that place of secrets: what would you hide? What do you value so much you would make sure none of the above could make off with it? Where would you hide it? 

My colleague Sarah and I were there as part of the outreach events side of the Collections project while Joe Perry and Laura Waters from Buxton’s Museum’s Collections in the Landscape museum-based team were braving the Dale with some “real” treasures (relatively speaking): crinoid fossils, a bison’s tooth, black Ashford Marble plate, pottery sherds, a Blue John egg….

ephemeral treasures, lasting delights
A day for talking and holding and turning things over and getting fingers covered in lustrous pink paint. While some folk talked treasure, we were making treasure chests and sending people off to peer and poke and think and wonder and decide what they called treasure (without becoming a force for the violent erosion of the dale)

some treasures were more alarming than others

Earlier this week, I had another day outside: in the rain this time. A day for Building Beasts and Beauties as part of Ness Garden’s Family Sculpture Week. There, in the shelter of the trees, we shaped leaf strings and leaf roses, and laughed our way into woodland characters that no-one had ever met before. There were swarms of twig-spiders, some cheerful cone-hogs, a giant leaf-python,  a Wood-witch with a most impressive nose and more….

Summer holidays: fun, frivolity and and a chance for some gently cheerful family learning….  

*just a few miles up the dale is Foxhole Cave, another place for secrets and mysteries that I visited back in April. 

Many thanks to the National Trust for allowing us to creatively provoke their visitors in Dovedale

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

what shape would your dragon take?

Dragon Days

Tuesday 9th August 


The Green Man Gallery, Buxton

breathing fire and biting....

This dragon,
That dragon,
My dragon,
Your dragon
From winged wyverns to
Creeping orms,
From pearlescent wyrms
To occasional cockatrices
And the flapping, flying, ferocious splendour
Of a Dragon Queen

What shape will your dragon take?

Join me on a storytelling journey to discover the last dragons of Derbyshire with stories and puppet-making.
Make your own little dragon with its own nest or cave and collection of treasure.

Time: 11am-1pm

Ages: 8-12 (Ages 6-7 welcome with an adult - we will need some dragon food!).


Please book a place:
01298 937375

Green Man Gallery

they might have wings
Facebook link:

Part of the Buxton Family Festival, download a programme for the whole festival here

the beauty of a legless wyrm, the wonder of an adder