Wednesday 7 September 2016

Our Woods - The Eloquent Fold - Spinning New Dreams

The Eloquent Fold, artists Phiona Richards and I, were commissioned by Deep Roots Tall Trees to create a walk that captured the spirit of the woods in East Carlton Park. The walk was called Spinning New Dreams, inspired by the Deep Roots Tall Trees song "Brand New Town" which took us on a imagined night walk through Kings Wood and introduced us to a host of spinning, leaping, weaving, dancing characters whilst referencing some of Corby's history as a steel town as well as a place of many woods. 

Our walk took place on September 4th and was punctuated by installations, interventions and activities by The Eloquent Fold, designed to encourage participants to engage both physically and imaginatively with the lovely woods and walkways in East Carlton Park Participants were invited to choose a playing card, Detail of the envelopes inside the mini greenhouse with instructions about what to collect during the walk.

The cards had illustrations of the four seasons on the reverse

Jars of Lore and Legend contained specially designed cups and scrolls containing lore and legends about specific trees. Each scroll was wrapped with the name and illustration of a leaf from a tree. Participants selected their scrolls and after a short walk and a reading from some of the scrolls, gathered in front of the gates of East Carlton Hall.  

The Eloquent Fold invited everyone to choose their walking staff and to wrap or bedeck them with ribbons, threads, found materials. A walk offers time for reflection and observation, the Spinning New Dreams walk was designed to offer the group spaces and places to do both things. 

"I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow
 to keep an appointment with a beech-tree,
 or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines."
 Henry David Thoreau, 1817 – 1862


Walking away from East Carlton Hall 
apparently haunted by The Lavender Lady

and gathering by the bench which 
became our sketching place.

Whilst Phiona watched and timed, I went to set up "Leaves on the Line" a re-working of" Refresh Your Yes." The words and phrases had been copied and applied to laminated wallpaper leaves. Our participants were invited to choose several of the leaves to inspire a piece of writing. Everyone then found a quite space to let the words prompt the beginnings of a memory, story or poem.

During our research for the walk Phiona and I were struck by the following facts about beech trees.

"Beech is a symbol for the written word, and for the wisdom within ancient learning. It is the sum of the wisdom of all the other trees.
It was used to make writing tablets, and thin slices of Beech wood were bound together to make the first book. A great deal of paper is produced from beeches.
The bark is excellent for carving, this practice dates back to Roman times. The Beech tree reminded our ancestors of the need to preserve all knowledge in writing for the benefit of future generations.
Lovers carved their names into the trunk of the beech so their love would grow with the tree."

We were working close to part of East Carlton Park's own Story Trail and we thought that this tree stump would make an excellent Bardic Throneas demonstrated here by Deep Roots Tall Trees Project Manager, Judy Caine.

After sharing their words the group walked into the more densely wooded parts of the park and stopped to enjoy the different trees. We listened and felt the breeze rustling leaves, the drying leaves and damp earth underfoot, the birdsong and the sense of being somehow out of time and in the moment.

On one of our scoping walks Phiona was struck by the traces of names carved into trees, slowly being absorbed back into the bark over time. She wanted to create an opportunity for people to make a wish or inscription in a gentle, creative, non-invasive way.

Phiona guided the group towards a lovely oak free which became our Wishing Tree for the afternoon. She read a poem whilst people wrote their wishes on small, hand made scrolls. These were then tied temporarily to the trees. It seems that this was an auspicious tree to wish upon.

During the Norman Conquest, the English carried dried acorns to protect themselves from the brutalities of the day. The acorn was considered to be an emblem of luck, prosperity, youthfulness and power. An acorn carried on one’s person was thought to counteract loneliness, illness, and pain, aid longevity, bring luck, and preserve youthfulness.

I had to leave the group during the Wishing Tree intervention in order to set up the Woodland Crowns Installation. The woods in East Carlton Park are well used by the public, the car park was full but we felt as though the woods and gathering spaces were inhabited just by us. Even so, it was fortunate that I arrived at the shelter when I did as my trusty trolley, left hidden (so I thought) under a bench, was being pressed into service as a makeshift Go-cart by a rather surprised family group. Thankfully my installation props were still safe in their cardboard box and the trolley survived too. 

The rather unlovely tin shelter became a space for more creative making and doing and I was finally able to explain what the playing cards and all collecting had been for. Using recycled paper backed fabric strips I had sewn together small circlets with slots for collected twigs, leaves etc so that people could make their own Woodland Crown. Woods have been a staple feature in myths, legends and fairy tales, faery folk, Green Men,  and we wanted our walkers to feel that they were both the makers and the characters in the ongoing stories of Our Woods.

The repurposed tiles (borrowed from another project) were used initially to display each crown and together with the Walking Staffs became a larger installation, filling the space in a simple, graceful fashion. We were careful to take small things, found things, things the trees and pathways dropped and no longer needed.

We concluded the walk with an opportunity for each person to sit in regal woodland splendour for a photograph  wearing their crown, before having a well earned break for some sustenance. We were struck throughout the walk by how quiet yet fully engaged everyone seemed to be, just how fully our walkers gave themselves up to the activities, the adventure and the wooded spaces. People loved the attention we had paid to all of the elements of the walk large or small. The Eloquent are looking forward to the second part of Spinning New Dreams which will be on Sunday 11th in the cabin at East Carlton Park. We will be print making in the morning and making a leaf and stitch three dimensional artwork in the afternoon. BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL as we need to know how many to provide making materials for. Tickets can be booked here.

Beechwood fires are bright and clear,

If the logs are kept a year.

Chestnut's only good, they say,

If for long its laid away.

Make a fire of elder tree,

Death within your house shall be.

But ash new or ash old

Is fit for a queen with a crown of gold.

Birch and fir logs burn too fast,

Blaze up bright and do not last.

It is by the Irish said,

Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.

Elm wood burns like
churchyard mold,

E'en the flames are cold.

But ash green or ash brown

Is fit for a queen with a
golden crown.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,

Fills your eyes and makes you choke.

Applewood will scent your room

With an incense-like perfume.

Oaken logs if dry and old,

Keep away the winter's cold.

But ash new or ash old

Is fit for a queen with
 a crown of gold.


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Many thanks to Andrew Rushton and Kate Dyer for allowing me to use some of their images as well as my own.

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