Thursday, 27 June 2019

Whispers in the grass: event

Whispers in the grass
a day of words and art

Dove Valley Centre
Tuesday 9th July
11.00 - 15.00
write a poem, draw a picture, shape a story from a twig, 
a feather and a leaf….bring a picnic and relax

A breeze blows through the hay, a bumblebee buzzes, sun warms the old meadows of the Dove Valley and we all settle into an ease of stories and poems. Join the Creeping Toad and Borderland Voices team for a day of inspiration from the fields and wide skies of the valley

This event is planned as a day for casual creativity. Our artists will support you with ideas and materials and you can do as much or as little as you like. You can just take some time to simply enjoy the beauty of the Upper Dove Valley, chat to new friends or old mates and (maybe? hopefully!) watch the ravens tumbling in the sky over Pilsbury castle

Whispers is a free event: no booking or tickets are needed, just drop by and join in. If you would like to check anything out, contact Gordon on 

Dove Valley Centre: follow the link for directions to the Centre. When you arrive at Under Whitle, you can drive down the track to the Centre (right at the end of the track) but you are recommended to park at the top of the hill and walk, saunter or wander down the hill to the Centre and enjoy the views as you drop into the deep valley

This gentle event is outside Buxton so give yourself a day off from Festival stuff and come out into the Moorlands.

A BM125 event for Buxton Museum and Art Gallery in partnership with Borderland Voices

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Froglets in the grass

"Land calls us from Water"*

latest Telling Toads submissions

Jinny Fisher

Nothing there

at the edge of the pond

until your foot 

heel then toe

treads tiddly-wink close to the poised

back leg of the frog

and nothing seen

plops into the duck-weed

sets the irises swaying

in its wake.

Previously published in
2019 V. Press pamphlet The Escapologist by J Fisher

Have you stood, there, on the edge of a pond? Watching the water, wondering about life below the surface?
Take a moment to pause and dream of life in a different environment

Frogs and toads know both water and land and in these days of high summer (at least in theory) froglets and toadlets are venturing out now for the first time to meet Land. The first months of Water are ending and the surivivors of those underwater perils now face new ones as the wide dry world calls them. At least the grass is wet this week and hopefully the risk of simple desiccation is lower than in some years. But there are still lawnmowers. So please give your grass a rest from trimming for these midsummer weeks and take one peril away from the young, the restless and the brave….

Telling Toads continues to receive new poems and stories (follow the link for details for sending in your own contribution)

In this post there are two from Jinny Fisher to give you something to think about…are you alone as you read this? Or sitting with a  friend? Or in a crowded cafĂ©? Poems often work best when spoken out loud. So why not….go on. Give it a go….

Jinny Fisher

Time was, he’d leap around the pond’s edge, showing off his spring, the length of his tongue, and the size of the flies it could reel in. We’d wag our tails for him, breaking the meniscus calm of the pool. There were so many of us, but not enough: not enough applause, not enough worship.

He had to be first in line for the fairy spell. A great deal, he called it. He promised to visit us from his golden palace on the hill, once the lonely princess had kissed his slimy lips. We didn’t see the sealing—the inter-species Poof, the Wow, the ‘My Prince!’ Our Dad, our Amphibian King, was gone.

Mama whispers to us each night, ‘He won’t forget us, you’ll see.’ But even as our tails shrink and leg-buds swell, we hear news that the palace has plans to drain the pond, to bring in the bulldozers.

Previously published in
2019 V. Press pamphlet The Escapologist by J Fisher

Thank you, Jinny!

Visit Froglife for lots of amphibian (and reptile) news and information

Photographs, from the top of the page
  • Ian MacLellan
  • Gordon MacLellan
  • Judith Bullivant 
  • Gordon MacLellan (line drawing)

* from the Song of the Growing Toad which will emerge from the ponds of imagiantion one day

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Lost Beasts, masks and hats event

the Lost Beasts of Buxton

Saturday 29th June

1 - 4pm

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Making carnival masks and hats inspired by our very own 
scimitar-tooth cats, cave lions, wild horses and mammoths.

Once upon a time and not so long ago there were wolves in the Peak District hills, wild boars in the woods and beavers in the rivers. Once there were wild ponies here, and cave lions, reindeer and bears. There were scimitar-toothed cats and straight-tusked elephants. 

Before that, long and longer ago there were strange sharks swimming in ancient limestone seas.

What wonderful animal would you celebrate?

Join us at the Museum to make animal masks and hats to wear in Buxton Carnival - or just to wear and enjoy and relish the animals that lived here once (or, for unicorns, maybe "should have lived here once").

Celebrate the ancient animals of the Peaks and join Two Left Hands in the Buxton Carnival Parade. A BM125 workshop as part of the celebrations for the Museum’s 125th anniversary


 This event is free, no booking or tickets needed. Children under 7 should bring a grown-up with them and you need to allow 45 minutes to make an animal hat


Sunday, 9 June 2019

A distraction of frogs

A distraction of frogs

Telling Toads 2019

new toadwords

damp moss, a shady hollow, a palace for a passing amphibian
 In a small walled garden, frogs may still bring enchantment. You just need to let your garden run wild a little, a bit of long grass there, a pile of leaves and twigs here, a damp sheltered corner and even the smallest pond can invite wonders…..

Take the time to be quiet, to simply sit and watch, or let a small amphibian movement distract you….

Hopping Past
Susan Greenwood

She hops past me, quickly today,
a glimmer of tawny gold amidst the lavender.
I sit for a moment, thrilled,
at seeing her on her way back to the pond,
too excited now to read.

I cannot turn back to my book,
she calls me to the water, dark and shining.
Standing looking into its depths, I see her
stretch her long, graceful limbs
as if to say, ‘Come in and play’.

Wet and Watery
Susan Greenwood

Little frog, little frog
where do you go?
Down to the pool 
where nobody goes.

Little frog, little frog
what do you see?
Wonders untold
where you can feel glee.

Little frog, little frog
what do you dream?
A place wet and watery
where all can be free.

Telling Toads is an initiative inviting people to tell us about their reptile and amphibian experiences (we hope good, but we acknowledge not always!). We are looking for words: poems, stories, anecdotes....Notes for contributors can be found here

Email for contributions or questions: Toadwords

and for more toady, froggy, newty stuff, visit Froglife

And to read some of the other contributions search "Toadwords" on this blog. poems often work best when spoken out loud, so read these to a friend or to a frog or just to a summer evening and a passing bumblebee...

And thanks to author Susan Greenwood for sharing these froggy moments with us!

frog: c/o S Greenwood
moss, pond: G MacLellan

Thursday, 6 June 2019

a Mermaid season

A season of Mermaids in Buxton

30th May - 1st June

our Museum Mermaid inspires all sorts of responses
It might have begun with a “make your own mermaid or sea monster" workshop last Thursday afternoon
~ or before that in a conversation between Rob Young and myself about how many mermaidy things we were thinking about for a day of activity
~ or before that with Rob writing a mermaid story
~ or before that with a trip to Blake Mere one snowy December afternoon
~ or before that with Rob meeting our museum mermaid for the first time

Or before that with someone gifting a slightly life-worn and stare-weary sideshow mermaid to Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Or longer ago and further away in time, this mermaid tide began when people met the spirits of water in rivers, on sea-washed rocks, by kelp beds and in our wild upland pools

But itself got going with a splash of puppets in the Museum last Thursday

Then on Friday there were mermaids on rocks to be made in a “Hand-made Mermaids” workshop in the Green Man Gallery

Interview with a mermaid
Have you ever met a professional mermaid? Have you wondered about this as a career? If you can hold your breath enough, if you can swim with a wriggle and a flick and if the sea fills you with a passion for its life and wonders, maybe you could consider it. Anita Jasso works betimes as a mermaid and challenges perceptions and stereotypes and invites us as watchers, listeners, thinkers, to consider how these modern mermaids might contribute to the current awareness of the fragility of oceanic ecosystems. Can a mermaid become a conservation tool? Can she, he, or it, by the stories they embody challenge us to respond, to remember the wonder the seas bring both ecologically and culturally, and how important they are at so many levels of our being. Mermaid tails are also very heavy

Mermaid CSI
Anita Hollinshead then took us into a world of detection and strange dissection, x-rays and manipulations…I missed the crucial bit of this talk about the composition of our Buxton mermaid and my head is still full of a recitation that was growing, complete with MacBeth’s Weird Sisters skipping round the Green Man Gallery

Monkey bone and salmon skin,
A child’s hair and slender shafts
Of wood and nails,
And glue and paint,
Shell eyes and someone’s teeth,
And a liberal dose of varnish….

Our mermaid tide was still running, as Rob took over with Mermaid: the Movie: a 1 hour masterclass in film-writing that resulted in exciting “treatments” involving penguins and knitting needles, personal challenges and changing hopes and despair.
Maybe one of the participants would like to add a comment about their ideas!

By the evening, the tide was fully in the we settled down on the beaches of our imagination to listen as the magnificent young actor Sarah Day read Rob’s story D E E P. Reaching from Blake Mere’s dark waters to a young man’s dark thoughts, running like our tide in and out of excitement and anger and laughter, D E E P gave us all images to turn over and think about. Rob’s work and the development of D E E P can be followed if you start here

who waits in the deeps of Blake Mere?

By Saturday, the tide was turning and a final “Mermaid Museum” workshop on Saturday afternoon in the museum was quieter and gentler, a wash of people and smiles and ideas on wet sand in the sunshine…..inspired by Anita’s CSI Mermaid, we had visitors designing mermaid fossils and thinking about those grim sideshow worlds with our own mermaid Aquaria (Merquaria?). Ours proved to be a bit more cheerful than a “pay a ha’penny and gawp at the freak” sideshow booth and echoed more the other Anita’s work around celebrating and protecting the seaworlds

quiet company
By the evening, the mermaid tide had definitely ebbed and I settled down to leave the jetsam of workshop resources in my car to have a chat with my own December Diamond mermaid and not think about anything else for a bit!

A good idea. A good event. A good tide to look for next spring with maybe different mermaids swimming through it but a wave of the same flavour……


With many thanks to all our visitors at and especially to our workshop and leaders and speakers, to the Green Man Gallery and Buxton Museum and Art Gallery for their enthusiasm and support

And thanks to the artists who donated their merwork to give us a series of big mermaid pictures to display
Jo Thilwind (look at Dreamspaceart on Facebook) was organised by Rob Young and Gordon MacLellan (Creeping Toad!) as part of the BM125 project celebrating 125 years of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. Visit the Museum page to find out more about this project and other work the Museum is doing 

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Frog words and toad tales

Frog words and toad tales

The Telling Toads project

Watch a toad wake to wariness, a slow unfolding of limbs and thoughts, the blink of a golden eye. The gulp of a soft throat. The careful positioning of a small foot. Then the sharpness of hunger, a movement to draw that golden eye, a heavy body leans forward. Tongue strike and recoil and the an has gone

But the words remain…TellingToads is back to gather new poems and stories celebrating amphibians and reptiles. A few of our earlier contributions follow. Why not have a look at the notes about what we are looking for and unleash your inner frogliness across a page or screen…..

c/o Judith Bullivant
Walking a long road
Gordon MacLellan

Toad Whisperer.
Frayed boots on a hard road,
Fingerless gloves and a long coat,
Black hat shades darker eyes.
A measured step, 
An ageless amphibian patience,
And a bag of toadbones in his pocket,
The Toadman will tell
The secrets you hid,
The treasure you lost,
The love you hunger for.
He’ll tell, he’ll always tell,
Your tale to the toads.
But bribe him well,
Pay him with coin,
With food,
With favours,
Never to let the frogs know.

Friend Frog
Tessa Strickland
c/o Jane Millum
Friend Frog, your eyes are water jewels.
   Looking at you, I see orbs
of liquid mineral looking back.

You are as inscrutable as a Buddha,
    and I wonder, what is it that you see
gazing out of your frog world

at this bulky, shadowed being-thing
    which has arms and legs, like you,
a heart, like you, but a breathing apparatus

that can no longer live amphibiously,
    a body that can no longer leap
between river and hill.

Friend Frog, you who can
    hear the earth talk, who can sense
the shifting tremors of the underworld

with your small, exquisite body,
    you who can see and hear and interpret
the elements in ways that are lost to me,

Forgive me, Friend Frog,
   for the way I trample through your domain
in heavy boots.

c/o Shawn Walters

Ode to a toad
John Roff

O waddling lump of cold porridge,

bulging your way across the lawn like
you own it…
Why do you insist on invading my
barefoot garden privacy with that
lazy excuse of a hop?
At least you could have had the delicacy of
a smooth-skinned reed frog,
piping on the evening breeze like a water flute;
or even the swift, purposed elegance of
those green river frogs with the stripe down their backs.
But instead I must contend with amphibian arrogance,
wrapped in a slack skin of warts,
and entirely unsmiling.
I even found a toad in one of my gardening shoes once,
probably plotting the downfall of the human race;
I cannot stand them –

(title bar photo is from Maria van Daalen. Thanks, Maria!)

Monday, 3 June 2019

last scatterings of coins

A last scatter of coins

events for

Hoards: a hidden history of ancient Britain

from our "Curious Coins" morning

"sow's ears and silk purses"
The coins have scattered across the board, fallen on the floor, jingled into purses, rattled into chests. Anxious haste or determined greed has wrapped our treasures in rags and wood and buried them deep or hidden them sneakily…..

Hoards: a hidden history of ancient Britain is nearing the end of its visit to Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. If you haven’t been yet, you only have until 16th June to rush in and soak up some of that gleaming golden light or take in the fascinating tales behind the finds

Pirate Nancy (see below)

the Bee-guarded box of the Horrible Pirate nancy with her hover-board go-cart....

Our events programme is reaching its end as well.

Still to come
Thursday 6 June,
Managing modern hoards!
Buxton Museum, 12noon–4pm
Drop into the Museum to get information on handling household finances and managing debt from the money advisors at Citizens Advice Derbyshire District. 

a certaing piggy quality to the hoarding of hoards....

Sunday June 9th Pottery Piggy Banks with Sue Blatherwick at Dove Valley Centre: this event is now sold out but you could keep an eye on the Eventbrite list (or let me know if you could take a last minute place:
Work with potter Sue to design and make your very own pottery piggy bank. Sticky clay and messy hands, fascinating colours and exciting shapes, our Piggies will add an extra delight to our season of Hoards
Venue: Dove Valley Centre, Longnor
Places: free but must be booked in AdvanceBook at:

Torcs from the Leekfrith Hoard
Wednesday June 12th
Talk: Talking Torcs: the Leekfrith Hoard
Buxton Museum, 11 – 12
Teresa Gilmore, Finds Liaison Officer for Staffordshire & the West Midlands, will talk about this fascinating collection of Iron Age gold jewellery found in 2017 in the Staffordshire Moorlands.

No booking needed – just come along and settle down for an interesting hour!

Saturday June 15th
Talk: The Goldfield - Iron Age Hoards from Snettisham, Norfolk
Buxton Museum, 15.00 – 16.00
Julia Farley from the British Museum is visiting Buxton to talk about the spectacular Snettisham Hoards:

For over 60 years spectacular discoveries have been made at Snettisham, northwest Norfolk. At least 12 separate hoards of artefacts including torcs, coins, rings, bracelets and ingots have been discovered. Collectively they are known as the ‘Snettisham Treasure’ and form the largest deposit of gold, silver and bronze artefacts dating from the Iron Age found in Europe.

flip a coin....