Friday, 25 October 2019

Between the in-field and the out

Between the in-field and the out

Whispers in the Grass 

July 2019


Back at the start of the summer, a group of us had a lovely day in the fields and garden at the Dove Valley Centre. Out of that Whispers in the Grass workshop have come various poems and pieces of writing (follow this link to see more of them). We also poured ideas and images into a communal pot - or maybe a pond - or maybe we seeded our own flowerbed or left the fields of our imaginations free to grow what they would…..we fed thoughts into a collective piece about visiting the valley….

On the long hill out of Longnor,
The narrow walled fields are interrupted,
The boundary between the gritstone and the lime,
Between the valley and the hill,
Between the in-field and the out.

A steep climb, then,
Changing worlds,
From the hilltop,
Dropping down,
A steep fall,
A winding road,

Buildings ahead, a relief.
Stone steps lead up to a window,
A house holding its own stories and a view across the dale.
A garden,
A man with a coffee cup and a welcoming dog
Wild flowers, bushes, a veg patch, roses, foxgloves
Wine for my soul and a blue spire of a flower,
Tall as a foxglove, that has not told me its name,
A gateway invites,
And a topiary hen guards the way.

I know this place.
    I don’t.
Will it welcome me?
    Will I feel safe?
Will I be noticed?

No time for hesitation,
The dale draws us deeper,
The road dropping again,
Hedges reaching high,
Curving round,
Leaving us by the barns.


Huge trees open gorgeous leaves,
Beautiful flowers catch the light,
A smiling peace, a chance to rest,
I shouldn’t worry, but I do,
Trying to let go and let this tranquility touch me.
Echoes of memories, camping and camping stoves, beans in a pan by a tent.
Naming the hills: High Weeldon, Park House and Chrome,
The villages, Pilsbury, Sheen, Hartington.
Down the dale are Wetton, Alstonefield,
I have been here before.
I remember the peace.
It returns to me and offers itself for the first time to others.
Just pause.

When the world calls me back,
That peace will go with me,
    And the calm,
I may take a painting or a poem.
    There will be friends and photographs.

Whispers was a joint event where Creeping Toad worked with old friends from Borderland Voices  and the team from Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. The event was part of Buxton's Festival Fringe

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery was 125 over this last year and to mark that anniversary, the BM125 project brought together experienced with new and emerging artists with 12 months of artistic initiatives. all sort sof things are still unfolding from animated scimitar-toother cats, to dances celebrating ancient axes and musical crystals. Visit the Museum wordpress site to explore some of our birthday adventures!

Photo credits: images 2 and 3: c/o Richard Egan and Borderland Voices
all others, G MacLellan

Saturday, 19 October 2019

past watchful Toads

Watching Toads

a new Telling Toads piece

There have been lots of poetry posts recently...and here is another. This piece by Cherry Doyle is part of the Telling Toads* project and that is as much as I need to say, i think!

Cherry Doyle
Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam'
Seamus Heaney, Death of a Naturalist

The pond was my flax-dam; black hole into
the centre of the earth, in sticky shade
of conifer and stone, it sucked the light
straight from the leaves. And lurching from the soup
of night and algae, clods of earth upon
itself, with eyes as still as long-dropped beads -
the toads, fat sentinels of rock and pot.

A stoic throb of sides preceded feasts
on garden slimers. Silent plots were formed,
like patient Venus creeping through the dusk
their moon-curved shapes somehow familiar.
And morning, strung along the half-chewed leaves,
cascaded trails of silver carnage, long-
forgotten when the sparkling lace remained.

That summer drifted through the apple trees,
and lingered on the jagged edges of
the greenhouse, lit a treasure map across
the lawn, to crawlers making their escape
from every lifted pot and shifted leaf;
an emerald, a clutch of golden coins,
a secret hoard of gently muddied sun.

*Telling Toads is back to gather new poems and stories celebrating amphibians and reptilesWhy not have a look at the notes about what we are looking for and unleash your inner frogliness across a page or screen…..find out more, here

Photo credits:
Pool and tucked away toad: c/o G MacLellan
Toad's eye: detail from a picture by Kenny Taylor

Monday, 14 October 2019

Lizard's flicker, snake's slide

Puddocks and cruddles

Froglife and Creeping Toad part 2

Lizards flicker, snakes slide and crocodiles lie like old memories on riverbanks.  Frogs hop and toads may creep; a newt can hang suspended in a pool but few can ever compare with the enigmatic smile of an axolotl. Enjoy the wonder of a cold-blooded world!

a friendly frog from North Uist
Try playing with words, on a quiet moment of today, list the names you know for amphibians and reptiles. Then shuffle them, play with them, rearrange and read them aloud. Enjoy language. Recite them to yr friends and alarm your colleagues….use whatever languages you like

Frog and toad and natterjack, 
Puddock, taddies and cruddles, 
Lesair agus nathair, cnadan agus liugair

Over the week 6 - 13th October, Creeping Toad posted (at least) 2 posts a day in  "social media takeover" for Froglife. The first few days' posts became the blog post The Blink of a Golden Eye, the rest have been amalgamated to become this entry. There is an underlying theme of the proximity of hibernation, trying to catch the sense of impending sleep and the call that draws reptiles and amphibians to the safety of cool, dark places....
Froglife twitter: @froglifers
Froglife facebook: Froglife

Globally, many frogs and toads need help. The charity Save the Frogs campaigns internationally, supporting projects around habitat conservation and community education. Saturday April 25th 2020, will be the 12th Save the Frogs day.
Leptopelis from Malawi

"Conceived and coordinated by SAVE THE FROGS!, Save The Frogs Day is the world's largest day of amphibian education and conservation action. Our goal is to provide frog enthusiasts with educational materials, ideas and inspiration and empower them to educate their local communities about amphibians. Since 2009, SAVE THE FROGS! staff and volunteers have conducted over 1,400 educational Save The Frogs Day events in at least 56 countries around the world."
(Quote from the Save the Frogs website)

There will be a Creeping Toad StF Day event in Buxton. Plans are still dreaming with the hibernating toads: thoughts are wriggling around small sculptural landscape lanterns or huge pictures where people can draw themselves into a landscape on the same scale as a frog. Why don’t you join in and celebrate the wonderful world of anurans? What you do doesn’t need to be big or wild or ground-breaking. How about a tea-party of frog-shaped cakes? Those terrible rock-cakes your friend makes could easily become cheerfullly lumpy toads! How about a cake iced blue as a pond with marzipan water lilies and silver bauble frogspawn?

But to return to the dream of toads…

After the sleep, did you creep?
Did you hop? Cross a road with hope?
Did you swim? Did you stop?
Did you wait in the pond for the lover who never came?
What does it portend when the water is no longer your friend?

Ponds need care, need tending, need love for the frogs to thrive. And then they will use the ditch by the road!

But now….

The cold calls us now to sleep, folding limbs, closing eyes, toad folds into mud. A long slow silence in the dark and the damp. Winter dreaming is the home that holds us through the centuries. Shadowy peace in the echoing silence….

Photos: all these ones are by me, c G MacLellan

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

The blink of a golden eye

The blink of a golden eye

Froglife and Creeping Toad

Aha! This week, with a toadly creep and occasional froggy hops, Creeping Toad is taking over the Froglife twitter and facebook platforms. The aim is to add a different flavour to the regular Froglife posts and give their regular followers something perhaps a little unexpected to meet. For my regular followers, we hope that connecting to Froglife might bring you into a whole hoppy world of cool damp skin and the dry scales of reptilian cousins….

Because Twitter posts have to be so short and I’m a storyteller with a tendency to ramble, posting is an interesting execrise in shutting up but here I thought I would string those first posts together in their full form as a journey towards hibernation.

The season changes, autumn comes with witner a cloud on a horizon of blowing leaves

The summer is behind her. A spring of swarming waters and wriggling company, a season of damp grass and clambering, the slow learning of dangers and dinners and now a chill on the edge of awareness.

Watch as you garden for the summer’s small survivors: nature takes so many young amphibians, try not to add to the tally.

The darkness calls to froglet, toadlet and matriarch alike, an invitation to sink into ancient dreams, memories drifting down through centuries, through millennia of amphibian feet pressing into soft earth, clasping branches, the chance to step into the long slow sleep that remembers giant dragonflies, tree ferns and the shock  of those first steps onto dry sand

A pile of sticks might be enough. Dead leaves, logs or rocks, a heap and a half, holes and sheter and small tight squeeze points. Our amphibians are heading for hibernation places now. Try taking a look at your garden or the wild place at the end of the street: is there a corner that could be left? A haven for the sleepy? Undisturbed the winter through, a sanctuary to sleep for spring….

Before the winter comes at last, pause. The pond mirrors trees, reflects us, the toad’s eyes mirror other depths, a shimmer of gold, the dream of a damp world, an invitation to see the world at toad height or frog level.


All c/o me apart from the final image c/o Kenny Taylor

Froglife is an obvious link but you might also enjoy We Are The Ark with their advice on turning any space you can find into a sanctuary.....

Friday, 4 October 2019

A mirror reflecting trees

A Ribble Celebration 

Still, dark,
A mirror reflecting trees,
Slow, deep,
A cold safety for trout
the river's king?

Bold, the schools that braved the rain and mud
Brave, the children who read their stories and poems
Lively, the company who performed their animals
Running, rushing, racing, the swirlng spiral of people who made our river.
Muddy, the groundsheets that filed my car afterwards!.
the river's queen?
On Thursday 26th September, 6 classes from 4 different schools wound their watery ways through the streets of Barnoldswick to join the Ribble Rivers Trust and Creeping Toad at Victory Park for a celebration of our rivery creativity of the previous week. Drawing together new understanding of river animals and water safety gained through sessions with RRT, knowledge of the shapes and flow of rivers through school work and a bit of messy creativity with the Toad, our scientist/artists had worked as separate classes to create elements of the river as a whole

We met swarms of small river animals, infesting the fingers of Coates Lane children. There were colourful flags from Gisburn Rd giving us river life to futter and flap above our heads. There was a flood of larger creatures who could carry us down to the river mouth where the sharks and turtles waited for the river to empty its cargo of adventurers into the sea (thank you, B’swick C of E!)
But we explored rivers in other ways, too, and we saw the strange and wonderful legendary inhabitants of the river from festering Mummies to River Princesses, Monsters and Marvels

not a company to mess with...
under the bridge....
Our celebration was balanced between wind, mud and approaching storms and we didn’t hear all that we coulld or see all that we might (extra stories may appear here shortly!) but we laughed together, swam through streams together, and stamped a river’s whirlpool into the playing field together

Thank you all the children, staff and artists of our schools and thanks to Ribble Rivers Trust for setting it all up!

Our River Friends

Ribble Rivers TrustPrimary Schools:
Gisburn Rd
Coates Lane
St Joseph's RC 
Barnoldswick C of E
wind enough to blow the river away
Photos credits:
Artwork on its own: Gordon MacLellan
Photos including children c/o Ribble Rivers Trust