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

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Where will your dragon live?

Dragon Days
Tuesday 9th August
Green Man Gallery

model cave for a dragon's lair

This dragon,
That dragon,
My dragon,
Your dragon.
From treasure caves in mountain hearts,
To ruined castles with crumbling keeps.
From towering cliffs where the seabirds scream,
To dark woods where wolves still howl.
From hot, sand-blown, shifting dune deserts,
To the frozen wastes of the Polar Bear King.

Where will our dragons live?

a dragon in a palace?
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).

Please book a place:
01298 937375

Fee: £6.00

Venue: Green Man Gallery

Facebook link:
Part of the Buxton Family Festival, download a programme for the whole festival here
Family Festival prog
there was a dragon whol lived by a waterfall...


Friday, 29 July 2016

The dragons are coming!, 1

dragon skin as rough as rocks?
Dragon Days 
Tuesday 9th August
The Green Man Gallery 

dragon hearts as green as leaves?

This dragon,

That dragon,
My dragon,
Your dragon.
From sunrise golden to
Midnight black,
From submarine shimmer to
Pondslime green,

What will your dragon look like?
dragon scales as gold as autumn leaves?
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).
Price: £6

Please book a place: 01298 937375
Fee: £6.00

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

The Green Man Gallery

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Rainy days and dragon mornings

Rainy day stories and 

dragon mornings

we began in the wet

Festival season in Buxton and both the main Festival and the Fringe are in full swing and I was telling stories in the Magical Storytelling Yurt for High Peak Community Arts. I’ve been doing this day for several years now: unpredictable days – always enthusiastic audiences but our numbers are very subject to the whims of the weather. Not much has ever rivalled the year we just started at about 11 and told stories almost non-stop for 5 hours as audiences came and went in waves like an over-eager tidal surge….

Yesterday it rained. Not torrential downpours but persistent Buxton drizzle that soaked the grass and squelched it, that slipped down necks and up sleeves and into socks. But we still have visitors, we still have people cheerfully soggying in and laughing, creaking like doors, roaring as tigers, watching for sun, rain and rainbows. We had a cheerful day in the Magical Rather Damp Yurt

sunshine on a peacock tree
So this morning’s dawn was greeted with a degree of trepidation. Stone and Water have been doing Tiny! Days in the Festival Fringe for years. There have been Tiny! Lantern processions, Tiny! Pirates (several times), Tiny! Faeries, Goblins and Trolls; Tiny! Monsters, and today Tiny! Dragons, Wyrms and Serpents (to which we added butterflies, bumblesbees, a tree, a flower, an eagle, several other birds and a peacock)

The Tiny! Days ask people to work within the theme and to make nothing bigger (give or take!) than their hand. They are cheerful, slightly frivolous family events: free, no booking, no charge, easy to find, open to everyone sessions within the Fringe: just turn up, pass-by and drop-in, whizz across the grass on your scooter. 

When asked “why?” (especially when there is no money, no tickets, no background grants, just us being cheerful) our answer has always been that “we live here, this is our home, this is one of the things that we do just ‘cause it’s fun to do and is a summer gift to the people we live among”. And on busy summer days with people playing in the river, picnicking on the lawns, being harassed by the ducks, playing in the playgrounds, watching model boats on the upper pool, falling over, spilling ice cream down their T-shirts,  crying ‘cause the miniature railway is broken down and not running, we offer a still space. Our creativity is contained, personal and quiet. Our laughter is soft, the delight gentle, the satisfaction great.
fire from a dragon cave
Thank you, dragon-makers, peacock artists, bumblebee girls and dinosaur boys.

And the next Creeping Toad summer events can be found here

The very next event is another Dragon Day: a more structured workshop:

Tuesday 9th: Dragon Days
More dragons! Join me  on a journey to discover the last dragons of Derbyshire with stories and puppet-making. Make your own dragon as big as your hand with its own nest or cave and collection of treasure.
When: 11am – 1pm (if we fill up the morning slot, we might be able to run a scaly overspill in the afternoon)
Please book a place: 01298 937375
Fee: £6.00
Where: Green Man Gallery, Hardwick Hall,  Hardwick Square S, Buxton SK17 6PY
Part of the Buxton Family Festival, download a programme for the whole festival here:
dragon mountain, approaching sunshine

Monday, 11 July 2016

Becoming indigenous

From pond to stream, to wood, to hill, to city street, to urban garden, this blog came out of time spent just being and an awareness of belonging that runs so far below the surface of my self, it is beyond debate and discussion and shapes my very being….

When our sense of belonging goes deeper than enjoying a view or appreciating a flower, when it lies so deep that we can no longer separate joy, sorrow and the land, then, maybe, we belong.

The twisted heather stalks of my nerves,
a heart reach from small...

Are threaded with veins,
Pickled by generations of whisky.

Clouded skies reflect in clouded eyes,
And I am bound to these hills,
So closely, i can no longer
Separate bone from stone.

My joy burned out with the heather,
Delight drifting on the smoke
Withering with scorched fur and scales,
But I am still here,
As skin sifts into sand,
And sand into skin,
And flesh slips into earth.

But soul,
Soul and spirit dissolve
Into mist and a sunset
Burning long and bright behind northern hills.

G MacLellan, June 2016

to wide horizons

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Gathering shadows

 Gathering shadows at dusk
impressions of the Southwest Peak

Over the cold, wet reach of last winter, I was working with friends from Telltale to prepare an interpretive plan for the Southwest Peak Landscape Partnership. The Partnership encompasses a sweep of land along the western edge of the Peak District from the Dale of Goyt, down to the hollows of Macclesfield Forest, up to the drags of the Roaches and out over the Warslow Moors. It is a wild, varied and rich landscape that often seems a little forgotten compared to the honeypots of Dovedale, Castleton and Kinder Scout and their hordes of visitors. Climbers clamber over the Roaches, walkers follow ancient footpaths, witches gather on hilltops and by deep still pools, and casual visitors picnic all over the place. The Roaches also hold Lud’s Church about which I ramble without any provocation at all. So I won’t here.

Part of my role in the project was to work with residents and users of the area to gather a more emotional map of the area rather than a sensible map of what and where and how. So we met and talked, told stories to each other, remembered and shared memories and gathered ideas into a series of poems

There are 4 poems. I will post two now and two more shortly. I hope you enjoy them

Ramshaw Rocks brood over the road,
Remembering ancient seas,
And a river runs cool under Three Shires Head,
On a hot summer day,
Music, laughter,
The voices of a village.

Open space on the moors,
Picking bilberries,
The ancient woods
Below the Roaches,
On the last day of summer,
The heather lies purple on Hen Cloud.

Crisp snow
Gathers shadows at dusk,
The aurora glows across the sky,
The Roaches slip into space and quiet,
Sometimes the mist fills the valleys and the hills look like islands.

Cotton grass blows on the moors,
Dandelions burn the fields yellow,
The last hay meadows fill with flowers,
With bees, with butterflies.
With the rain,
The fields slip into mud,
Water on shale soils puddles into,
A haven for rushes,
Always more to explore, here.

A picnic on the grass overlooking the valley,
Connects with other times, other picnics,
A pause in the cutting,
Hay banked up on Whitelow meadow.
Children have run down to the river,
For centuries,
Families, friends,
On the grass overlooking the valley,
Again, and again,
A picnic over centuries,
A long living in these dales,
Under the moors and the bogs and the ridges.

Hen Cloud, Windgather, Goyt
There is always more to explore,
Pilbsury Castle in the moonlight,
Always more to hold us here,
A barn owl flies in the dusk,      
Little owls, deer
The secret lives of the moorlands.
Always more to love here,
The warmth of a form where a hare was lying
And the voice of the curlew heralds the spring.

With thanks to our poets, to Telltale and to SWP Landscape Partnership!