Old cards and new scenes

Old cards and new scenes

a festive activity for the winter season

Low card box 83

Having a bit of a fidget?
Nothing to do?
And it’s raining again?

(we posted this activity a while ago but are reposting here our friends at Creeping Toad have just made a little film to promote the activity…)

Why not dig out last year’s Christmas cards from the bundle at the bottom of the cupboard, or stealthily purloin one of this year’s, or the birthday cards you don’t quite want to throw out, or use a cereal packet (good card for making and folding, just maybe not as exciting in images as cards)

Make a little winter a scene to hang on a tree, a branch, a hook on the wall to stand on a shelf, or make a box to put that extra special present  

Low Card box 306(or maybe just the key that makes it go) in

You will need: a card or two, sharp scissors, a ruler, pencils or pens, glue (PVA is good here) and glue spreader, stapler, bradawl (or something for making holes – a pair of compasses would work), thin string

Low card box 91
Stage 1, cut the card in half

1. Cut the card in half along the fold – keep the “plain” half, you will need it later

2. Using the picture half of the card, on the reverse, draw a margin maybe 2 cm from each edge of the card

3. Where the lines cross at the corners, carefully cut along one of those lines to the point where the lines meet

Low card box 94
3, Cut to the corners

4. This card usually folds quite sharply, so now (use the ruler for a straight edge if you want to) fold up along each of those lines and where you have cut in, fold the short bit to make a corner

Low Card box 96
4. folded

5. Before glueing it all together, decide: if you are making a scene, keep the picture on the inside of the box. If you are making a box: you might want the picture inside or on the outside (you could always line the inside with some spare wrapping paper, or make a bigger box to become a lid.). Reverse the folding if you want to change the position of the picture

Low Card box 98
5. Glued and stapled

5. Making sure the sides of your box are sharply upright, glue the corner tabs onto the next side. A staple will hold it all in place. If the outside is too plain, you could colour it in or add some coloured tape. Or sprinkle it with glitter! ( we recommend finding some biodegradable glitter – or using some edible glitter {used on cakes} although this can be distracting….)

6. While the glue dries, prepare the scene to go in the box. Using the other piece of card (from stage 1 above), you could make a little tab to fix a figure to (we used some “embellishments” bought cheaply in a local craft shop), or you could draw your own character. Fix by glueing the tabs into the main scene. Again a staple might help. You might want to colour the tab so it fits into the background of the scenes. Some extra glitter might help again.

7. Use a bradawl or compasses to make a couple of holes (aim for places about 1/3 and 2/3 along the top side – use a lump of modelling clay under the card to protect tabletop or fingers), thread a piece of glittery string or ribbon through, knot it and hang up your scene.

Low Card box 39

Experiment with papers, colours, tapes, sequins. Try different places to hang them: from your ears? on your fingers (and create a fabulous dance around them)? a snowman’s nose?

Send us a picture and

we’ll post a gallery of scenes!


Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

Oak logs will warm you well

Oak logs and pine wood

a final couple of firewood poems!


no words for lime trees?

Our Ash Trees project has been a little quiet over the opening weeks of winter but as the snow closes in on Buxton again today it feels appropriate to return yet again to thoughts of  firewood. Not that we are encouraging you to go out and forage for fuelwood: the fallen branches in our woods are an invaluable resource for wildlife but you could sit by your wood-burning stove, feeding sawdust nuggets to the flames and recite some of the assembled poems we’ve found that talk about the qualities of wood for burning. Some of us will have to make-do with a candle and radiator but we can still enjoy the poems

This little detour has probably gone on quite long enough but I’m going to add a final two “firewood” poems

The first has similarities with Honor Goodhart’s “Logs to Burn”. I don’t know if it is a version of Goodhart’s one – or maybe t’other way round. I first met it labelled as a “Traditional Devon Rhyme” a lifetime ago. It also turns up titled “The Woodcutters’ Poem”. What it doesn’t seem to be is sourced from “The Poem Book of the Gael” as some online sources claim. I have this book and the only firewood poem there that I can find is different again! I’ll add “The Song of the Forest Trees” after Fire Woods…and on this over-extended note I’ll stop posting firewood poems as we have new activities coming up next week!

Fire woods

Oak logs will warm you well.

That are old and dry;

Logs of pine will sweetly smell

But sparks will fly.

Birch-logs will burn too fast,

Chestnuts scarce at all;

Hawthorne-logs are good to last

Cut them in the fall.

Holly-logs will burn like wax,

You may burn them green.

Elm-logs like to smouldering flax,

No flame to be seen.

Beech-logs for winter time,

Yew logs as well,

Green elder logs it is a crime

for any man to sell.

Pear-logs and apple-logs,

They will scent your room,

Cherry-Logs across the dogs

Smell like flower of broom.

Ash-logs, smooth and gray,

Burn them green and old,

Buy up all that come your way

Their worth their weight in gold.


any thoughts on maple wood?

O man that for Fergus of the feasts* does kindle fire,

Whether afloat or ashore burn not the king of the woods.

Monarch of Innisfail’s* forests the woodbine is, whom none may hold captive;

No feeble sovereign’s effort is it to hug all tough trees in his embrace.

The pliant woodbine if thou burn, wailings for misfortune will abound,

Dire extremity at weapons’ points or drowning in great waves will follow.

Burn not the precious apple-tree of spreading and low-sweeping bough;

Tree ever-decked in bloom of white, against whose fair head all men put forth the hand.

The surly blackthorn is a wanderer, a wood that the artificer burns not;

Throughout his body, though it be scanty, birds in their flocks warble.

The noble willow burn not, a tree sacred to poems;

Within his bloom bees are a’sucking, all love the little cage.

The graceful tree with berries, the wizard’s tree, the rowan, burn;

But spare the limber tree, burn not the slender hazel.

Dark is the colour of the ash; timber that makes the wheels to go;

Rods he furnishes for horseman’s hands, his form turns battle into flight.

Tenterhook among the woods the spiteful briar is, burn him that is so keen and green;

He cuts, he flays the foot, him that would advance he forcibly drags backward.

Fiercest heat-giver of all timber is the green oak, from him none may escape unhurt;

By partiality for him the head is set on aching, and by his acrid embers the eye is made sore.

Alder, very battle-witch of all the woods, tree that is hottest in the fight –

Undoubtedly burn at thy discretion both the alder and whitethorn.

Holly , burn it green; holly, burn it dry;

Of all trees whatsoever the critically best is holly.

Elder that hath tough bark, tree that in truth hurts sore;

Him that furnishes horses to the armies from the Sidh* burn so that he be charred.

The birch as well, if he be laid low, promises abiding fortune;

Burn up most sure and certainly the stalks that bear constant pods.

Suffer if it so please thee, the russet aspen to come headlong down;

Burn, be it late or early, the tree with palsied branch.

Patriarch of long-lasting woods is the yew, sacred to feasts as is well-known;

Of him now build ye dark-red vats of goodly size.

Ferdedh, thou faithful one, wouldst thou but do my behest:

To thy soul as to thy body, O man, ‘twould work advantage

Trans: Standish Hayes O’Grady

*Fergus of the Feasts: find him in the stories of the Tain Bo Cualinge

*Innisfail: ancient name for Ireland

*Sidh (pronounced “shee”): sometimes means the Faerie peoples but here probably also means the hollow hills where the Sidh live

Ash logs: worth their weight in gold

cold enough to need those logs

“they’re worth their weight in gold”

Firewood songs, 2

Celebrating Ash Trees

In our ongoing collection of firewood songs and poems, a slight change of sequence and here is “Logs to Burn”. You can hear it sung at the link below. It feels like there is a whole woodpile of these poems and songs that all carry echoes of each other, some claimed as “traditional” (like one I met years ago as a “traditional Devon song” that has some similar lines to this one and differences elsewhere) while others are identified with individual poets. A nice bit of detective rummaging for someone there…..

Logs to Burn,

by Honor Goodhart and first printed in Punch, 27th October 1920

Logs to burn; logs to burn;
Logs to save the coal a turn.

Here’s a word to make you wise
when you hear the woodman’s cries;
Never heed his usual tale
That he’s splendid logs for sale
But read these lines and really learn
The proper kind of logs to burn.

Oak logs will warm you well,
If they’re old and dry.
Larch logs of pinewoods smell
But the sparks will fly.

Beech logs for Christmas time;
Yew logs heat well;
‘Scotch’ logs it is a crime
For anyone to sell.

Birch logs will burn too fast;
Chestnut scarce at all;
Hawthorn logs are good to last
If cut in the fall.

Holly logs will burn like wax,
You should burn them green;
Elm logs like smouldering flax,
No flame to be seen.

Pear logs and apple logs,
They will scent your room;
Cherry logs across the dogs
Smell like flowers in bloom,

But ash logs all smooth and grey
Burn them green or old,
Buy up all that come your way
They’re worth their weight in gold.


Our Ash Trees project has been a little quiet over the opening weeks of winter but as the snow closes in on Buxton it feels appropriate to think about firewood. Not that we are encouraging you to go out and forage for fuelwood: the fallen branches in our woods are an invaluable resource for wildlife but you could sit by your wood-burning stove, feeding sawdust nuggets to the flames and recite some of the assembled poems we’ve found that talk about the qualities of wood for burning. Some of us will have to make-do with a candle and radiator but we can still enjoy the poems

Fit for a queen: ash tree firewood songs

Fit for a Queen

firewood songs

Our Ash Trees project has been a little quiet over the opening weeks of winter but as the snow closes in on Buxton it feels appropriate to think about firewood. Not that we are encouraging you to go out and forage for fuelwood: the fallen branches in our woods are an invaluable resource for wildlife but you could sit by your wood-burning stove, feeding sawdust nuggets to the flames and recite some of the assembled poems we’ve found that talk about the qualities of wood for burning. Some of us will have to make-do with a candle and radiator but we can still enjoy the poems

We’ve found a number of these firewood songs so far which we’ll post over several days now. The first was forwarded by the team at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. We can’t find an original writer of this – there is a very similar but not quite identical pieces by Lady Celia Congreve which we’ll post next. Then there is the Logs to Burn song by Honor Goodhart.

We’ll start with this one as it places Ash Trees as “Fit for a queen”

Fit for a Queen 

Tall Ash Trees at King Sterndale

Beechwood fires burn bright and clear

If the logs are kept a year.

Store your beech for Christmastide

With new holly laid beside.

Chestnut’s only good they say

If for years ‘tis stacked away.

Birch and firwood burn too fast

Blaze too bright and do not last,

Flames from larch will shoot up high,

Dangerously the sparks will fly,

But Ashwood green and Ashwood brown

Are fit for a Queen with a golden crown.


Oaken logs, if dry and old

Keep away the winters’ cold.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke

Fills your eyes and makes you choke.

Elmwood burns like churchyard mould

Even the very flames burn cold.

Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread

So it is in Ireland said.

Applewood will scent the room,

Pear’s wood smells like a flower in bloom,

But Ashwood wet and Ashwood dry

A King may warm his slippers by.


We hope you enjoy these first firewood words….more kindling to follow!



Shoebox Pantomime!

Make your own

miniature pantomime!

Shoebox theatre kits to give away

And what if….

After the Wedding, the Dwarves come to visit Snow White and Prince Charming for Christmas? The Dwarves have never had a Christmas before and do not really understand what is going on….Sneezy is found stuck up the chimney where he had climbed to see if he could find Santa. They had never met the tradition of socks hung up on the mantelpiece so they thought that some kind person had left those out as hats for Dwarves and look! there was even room at the end for a satsuma and some chocolate coins as an emergency picnic if a Dwarf woke up hungry in the night….


If you live in Buxton or the High Peak or the Staffordshire Moorlands and would like a pantomime box please contact us directly and we’ll sort out getting one to you

Easiest route is to talk to Gordon directly: creepingtoad@btinternet.com

Or Facebook: @creepingtoad

This year, sadly, there will be no pantomime at Buxton Opera House. So, we at Stone and Water, as makers of things and creators of celebrations, and with help from our friends at the Opera House and the Babbling Vagabonds, are inviting you to make your own!  We have a stack of about 50 Shoebox Theatre kits to give away (you don’t need one of ours – you might have all the bits you need already) and invite you, challenge, prick your finger with a needle, release a dragon upon you and invite you to create your own pantomime!

You can watch the quick version of this post on youtube:

put on some music, sit back and scribble on your own sheet of paper..what are your story ideas?

Your might make up a whole story or just a single scene. You might invite your family to attend (there are tickets in the download pack you could use). You could film the wonderful event and send it to us (facebooK; Stone and Water or stoneandwater@btinternet.com, and where we can we’ll share those films so we can have a Town Pantomime with characters, stories, scenery and silliness from all over Buxton and the High Peak and the world beyond those boundaries!

first steps

Getting Ready For Pantomime

Standing outside your theatre

What theatre will your pantomime happen in? Will it look like your house at home (maybe put a drawing or photograph of your house on the box?) Is this going to the Miniature Opera House? (use the picture in our download pack?). Can you cut a picture and the box so that it opens to let visitors look in?  You might want to issue tickets to your family (there is a ticket sheet in the download pack). You could set up spotlights with torches. You could use someone else’s phone and find some exciting special effect noises….the sound of a hungry giant’s rumbling tummy perhaps, or the noise of 1000 gold pieces falling down the stairs….

Try searching for Sound effects

Good start here: http://bbcsfx.acropolis.org.uk/

Making your theatre

1. Starting your story….

a tiny shiny dancing witch might be helpful

Take time to think: maybe choose your favourite traditional fairytale or similar story and think about what might happen next. Who knows what “they lived happily ever after” really means?  What were they happy about? Didn’t they just get bored? This can be fun with the rest of your family. Just bounce ideas around. Listen to all the ideas: the first one isn’t always the best! Write them or draw them on a sheet of paper. Choose one. Try cutting those notes up and jumbling them around so they become parts of a story. Maybe there was the time that Peter Pan taught Saffra, Aladdin’s Camel, to fly…..

O, didn’t I say: there was that time the pirates tried to hide their stolen doubloons in the wardrobe in Wendy Darling’s bedroom but tripped up on the landing and spilled the gold coins, bouncing down the stairs….

Someone finds Cinderella’s glass slippers in a box at a car boot sale and then…..

Fairy Godmothers (good, bad and ugly) decide to have a party for the middle of winter but start arguing about whose magic is strongest…

How do you help a giant (or a dragon) with toothache?

What does a troll’s toothfairy look like?


Basic kit:

  • A shoe box (or something like that)
  • Sharp scissors
  • A sharp knife (use a grown-up for the knife bits)
  • A cutting mat to lean on
  • White card to draw on: a few bits, postcard sized or smaller
  • A magazine with colourful pictures of exciting places
  • PVA glue
  • Lollypop sticks or barbecue skewers (with the sharp ends snipped off)
  • Pencil
  • Coloured pencils or pens
  • Felt pens and ruler
  • Small pot and brush for glue or maybe a glue stick

Useful other bits that might be exciting

  • A picture of a theatre front
  • Some pantomime characters to colour in and use*
  • 2 or 3 Small torches
  • Several lumps of modelling clay
  • Oil pastel crayons
  • A theatre ticket outline to write on for your show
  • Small pieces of cloth (for curtains?)
  • Shiny bits, fringes (looks good for the edge of the stage)

Pantomime sheets: we have a pack of downloadable and printable stuff: a line drawing of Buxton Opera House, some old Opera House tickets to customise, drawings of a few pantomime characters (if this link doesn’t work, let us know and we’ll send the sheets direct to you!)

1. Have a look at your shoebox: does the lid come right off or is it attached at one side? If it is attached, could you let that fall open and become the front of your stage? Sit the box on its side. We need some slots in the end walls of your stage where we can slide scenery and characters on sticks in and out. (see the Decorating bit below before you do this!)Use a ruler and a pen to mark where you would like slits to go: we need maybe 2 on each side (they don’t need to line up across the box unless you want them to). Draw them: they should run from the bottom almost to the top of the side but they only need to be 5 -7 mm wide

Cut these out with a craft knife. A sharp kitchen knife would also work but maybe get a grown-up to do this bit

2. Decorating the outside: you could cover the outside of your theatre with colourful pictures – or maybe pictures of bricks! If you close the box the “front” of your theatre could look like the front of the Buxton Opera House (or somewhere almost as glamorous). You could print out one of the Opera House pictures, colour it in and stick it on. Do you need a sign saying what show will be on tonight? If you want to cover the sides, you might want to do this bit before you cut the slots

Inside: look at the “floor” of your theatre – leave it plain? Add some colour? The back wall? A big picture of where your adventure is happening might be good?

Stick pictures on with PVA – or glue sticks. If you use PVA diluting it a little and spreading it on with a brush is good. Try not to get your box very damp or the card will curl. You could use a glue stick instead?

3. Scenery

While the glue on the background is drying, take some of the white cards and make some scenery. Simple shapes and bold colours work best. You don’t need many pieces: what would help your story? Some spooky trees?  A house. Maybe make enough for two scenes: so perhaps we need that spooky forest and then we need an indoor scene: a table and chairs, a big oven for cooking children in? if you have oil pastel crayons they are good for colouring in quickly – not so good for fine detail but excellent for bit areas of colour and mixing colours as you go

When they are finished, glue your scenery pieces onto lollypop sticks. Attach the stick to the lower edge of the back of the piece of scenery so it can slide in and out through slits in the box with the lollipop stick leaning against the wall of the box and keeping the scenery upright. When the glue is dried you could turn the scenery over and draw it again (or something else) on the back so that it could be used from either side of the stage

Alternatively, you could draw your scenery with a margin at the bottom which could be cut, folded to make a stand and then glued onto another card to make a more solid base. These pieces can then be placed on your stage

4. Characters

Either use some of our download characters or draw your own or cut out pictures from magazines or old greetings cards. Colour them in and if they are not on card already stick them onto some. Then glue a barbecue skewer or other thin stick onto the back to the figure. Do this so the stick sticks out straight from the side of the card so you can slip the puppet in through one of those side slots and onto the stage. This means that the character only really works from one side of the stage. With the download figures you can choose the reversed character, colour that one in and stick it on the other side of the stick so that your character can enter from either side.

Our little character drawings are all unfinished: they need hats and faces and things to carry….

In our pictures, we have a sort of Cinderella girl and a boy who has turned into a Not Quite Robin Hood (maybe more Robin Bobble-hat) with his friendly squirrel…

Your pantomime!

Now, we have characters!

Now, we have scenery!

Now, we have a theatre…what else?

Look at your bits and pieces: do you want curtains? Can you make some? Extra shiny bits (a bit of gold and shiny always looks good in panto)….some tinsel round the top? Exciting shapes cut from old greetings cards

small torch held in place with modelling clay

Lights? Small torches held in place with modelling clay can add an extra touch….really good for a dark room and spotlighting your action




Just about there. Now, close the door. Shoo everyone away. Close the door again. Find your sound effects. Recruit a friend to help with the puppets. Have a practice. And you do need a practice because when you perform you really need to be behind your theatre – not at the front looking in!


Remember: “he’s behind you!” or maybe “she’s above you!” or even “You’ve just eaten it!”, “Oh, no I haven’t”….and so on

Write your tickets!

Make a poster!


Find a sound effect for fanfares of trumpets to announce the start and you are ready to get your audience in place!

a darkened room and a stage lit with torchlight

Please, please, please send a photo or a couple of minutes of film of your pantomime to us!

Email: stoneandwater@btinternet.com

Facebook: Stone and Water


We would like to thank the individuals and companies who have given us the bits for these boxes!

  • Buxton Opera House
  • the Babbling Vagabonds
  • Telltale Interpretation
  • Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
  • Peakdale products
  • Creeping Toad
  • Two Left Hands
  • and our own Stone and Water team













Plastic birds and Twirling pictures

plastic bottle lantern

In our town of Buxton this year there is a strong recycled theme running through Christmas and seasonal plans. The Friends of Buxton Station and Buxton Junior School are aiming to decorate the Train Station tree with 200 decorations made from recycled materials. We thought we’d add another activity turning a plastic drinks bottle into a selection of decs….These are all designed to hang. We do lovely freestanding plastic bottle lanterns with tissue paper and electric nightlights but that can wait for another day

You will need….actually you probably won’t need all of these (we get carried away). Read through the activity first and see what you could improvise within your own home!

  • • A plastic bottle – 1./5l is a good size, washed and dried
  • • Scissors: sharp ones or tufcuts for cutting plastic and small ones for paper and bits
  • • Sharpies or other permanent pens
  • • Awl or darning needle
  • • Copydex or other rubber glue (PVA does work but not as well)
  • • Cotton buds*
  • • Narrow Double-sided tape
  • • Thin string
  • • Lump of modelling clay or blutac
  • • Sheet of paper to draw on
  • • Cutting board or similar to work on
  • • Bits for decorating: some of these:
  • Tissue paper
  • Foam shapes
  • Silver foil
  • Wobbly eyes
  • • Left-over greetings card
  • • Small balloon light (tiny battery-powered light

*Think of the environment. This activity is about recycling so do think about the resources you use. We use cotton buds with rolled paper shafts so they will decompose. We avoid plastic glitter (you can use biodegradable/edible versions). Most of what we use is stuff lying around

1. Cut the wrapping off the bottle. Take the top off and squash the bottle flat. Use strong scissors to make a first cut through the side of the bottle. Then let the bottle spring back and cut. We usually use tufcut scissors for this phase but any strong scissors should do the job (maybe a job for a grown up here)

Divide the bottle into three sections: a base (maybe 4 or 5 cm deep), the main body of the bottle and then a bell shaped top section

Cut the middle piece so it will open out. You can leave it curling up if you want or try flattening it (see below)

2. Flatting the sheet of plastic: if you can heat this and press it flat it should become a bit more manageable. Another job for a grown-up here. A) heat the plastic (wear gloves!) – a hairdryer will do it or plonking it in very hot water. Put the sheet between some sheets of newspaper and put a heavyweight on it for a few minutes. Use some books, or maybe get a friend to stand on it. You can iron it between sheets of paper but if you got carried away and the plastic melted there might be unfortunate consequences

3. Hanging picture:

Use the base section. Trim the open edge if you want to. Decorate with permanent pens. Or use the double-sided tape or glue to stick things on. In our example we drew with pens, stuck on shiny foil with the tape and used the glue to stick on some tissue strips (applying the glue with a cotton bud)

Insert a picture if you want: we cut a circle out of an old card – measure with the edge of the bottle and then cut the disc smaller. We fitted it in place with some card brackets held in place with tape (pr glue). You don’t need to use a greetings card. Shiny card works well or maybe a disc of cooking foil

Make 2 holes about 2cm apart: use the awl to pierce the plastic cup, leaning against the blutac so you don’t stab the table top. You might want to use a finger to test the balance of the cup before you stab it (the bottle, not you finger!). Thread a piece of string through and knot into a loop.

4. Hanging flower

Use the top section of the bottle

Again, trim the edge if you want to: petal shapes look good, or a wavy line, or just neaten up your original cut. Again, decorate with pens or tissue or foam

Think about where your finished decorations will go:

Indoors: tissue paper works well

Outdoors: tissue will disintegrate in rain or snow. Foam and foil best here

Hanging flower: tie a string round the neck of the flower: you could always have some streamers cascading out of the open neck of the bottle.

Adding a light: if you use a balloon night, thread this on a string and hang it in the mouth of the bottle so it hangs in the middle of the bell-flower

5. Bird (or angel or tree!)

Use the flattened middle section of the bottle. You do not need to do the flattening bit. The bird we’re showing here was made with a curly bit of plastic. You can work with it like this but it is tricky, often annoying and you end up with a decoration that keeps rolling up!

Press the sheet flat on a piece of paper and mark out the size of your plastic.

On the paper, draw the shape of the decoration you want to make. Fold the paper in half so you can cut out a symmetrical shape if that helps. Asymmetrical shapes don’t need cutting out.  Lay the plastic back onto this and trace the shape onto the plastic with permanent pens. Cut out the plastic shape

Decorate as before

Add some eyes if that feels right

Hanging: where should this shape hang from: birds: a wing tip maybe or by its shoulder; a tree from its topmost point.

Hang your decorations and applaud

your messy creativity!

Apple Day 2020

Apple Day 2020

Usually sometime around now in mid-October, working with the Dove Valley Centre in Staffordshire, the Stone and Water team would be preparing for, getting excited about and then plunging into the excitements of an Apple Day in the Upper Dove Valley. Given all that is happening this year, there won’t be an Apple Day at the Centre. There will be Apple Juicing Workshops at the Foxlowe Centre in Leek on 11th October. Follow this link to find out more.

Given our apple-absence this year, we thought we’d repost this blog from our friends at CelebrationEarth! about Apple Day…

Originally designated 21st October when it was founded by Common Ground in 1990, Apple Day has grown to be one of the most successful of the “new” environmental festival days. Combining a sense of harvest richness with autumn fires, roasted apples, apple games and just having a good time outdoors in the autumn, Apple Days happen all over the UK through mid-October. Specific dates depend on local circumstances, but Apple Days offer ideal opportunities for CelebrationEarth! events: opportunities to share, reflect and respond to how we feel about the world around us.

Apple Day activities might include:



food – apple cakes and recipes are always well received

advice -on old fruit varieties, on cultivating apples or any garden fruit

new initiatives – working on, for or towards community orchards

tasting traditional varieties: revelling in wonderful names and rainbows of flavours

juicing: increasingly there re community presses that can be borrowed or rented for Apple Days and allow people to bring their garden apples for juicing

a wassail: a traditional procession to and through an orchard, with toasting trees to thank them for their bounty, singing wassail songs and possibly making lots of noise to scare away any evil spirits or mischance loitering among the autumn leaves

In 2020, there will probably be few Apple Days happening but we would love to hear of any that are taking place

Apple Day orchard and people from a workshop with Sue Blatherwick

Helpful resources
The Common Ground Book of Orchards,
ISBN: 9781870364218, published in 2000 it is out of print but turns up in second hand lists fairly regularly

The Common Ground team also wrote: Community Orchards Handbook by Clifford and King, ISBN: 9781900322928

Then there are lots of websites and books about orchards and old fruit varieties while folklore and tradition sites will provide descriptions of wassails and their songs

The essence of this, however, is celebrating your own fruit trees in a way that suits your selves as individuals and as a community and supports your work and your trees so research, explore and improvise!

And tell us what you are doing! An event might becomne one of our 100 Celebrations, individual poems, or prayers or other moments of reflections might become some of our 1000 Prayers

Email: arts@celebrationearth.org

stand fast root, bear well top!

Pray God send us a howling good crop!

On every twig, apples big!

On every bough, apples enow!

(traditional Wassail song)

An Orchard Summoning

orchards invite us to join in, to help, to let go of “this is mine” and recognise a longer term and stronger communal ownership



Bring me a beetle,

A chafer, rose or noble,

A dark shimmer of green

A maybug blunder in a spring twilight.

Bring me a yaffle,

Ant bathing and talkative,

The warm apricot blush of bullfinches,

Feasting on the buds of April.

Bring me the roe, the chestnut ghosts

Slipping without sound, shadows within shadow.

Bring me the bats of the deep night,

A flicker of moth and hunger.

Bring me the children who steal

The windfalls from the wasps,

Bring me the laughter under the leaves,

Picnics sprawling between sun and shelter,

Bring me the tales knotted into the roots,

Of the oldest trees

As Apple Tree Man whispers through the branches.

Bring me sharp apple juice and sweet,

The delicate scent of quince.

Bring me bitter rowan and dripping elderberry,

Well jellied for a winter feasting.

Bring me those branches,

Twisted by centuries of skill.

Bring me an orchard to feed

Body and soul and story.

Bring me it all.

Victorian black and conference

Grenadier and quince

Damson, bullace and sloe

Mabbott’s Pearmain, Gascoyne’s Scarlet

Tydeman’s Early, Rossie Pippin

Fillbasket and Qarrenden

Bring me nothing,

But let me share

A joy, a hope, a bounty.

Bring me nothing,

But let me offer

Strong arms and a willing heart

Bring me nothing

But let me offer my love.

Victorian black and conference

Grenadier and quince

Damson, bullace and sloe

G MacLellan, 2018


thanks to CelebrationEarth for the use of this post

Thanks to Sue Blatherwick for an Apple Day workshop a few years ago and all her help over the years

Photos: all photos are c. G MacLellan

The ash tree from my window

The ash tree from my window

Susan Cross

From my window I can see an ash tree. It has overlooked my life for more than 20 years. I know it well. In fact, it is so familiar, I hadn’t noticed it for years – until I heard that the ash trees were dying.  

‘Our’ ash tree is not ours at all. It’s outside our garden, over the track. We share it with our neighbours. We all ignore it, together.  

We build informal communal bonfires under it. People from this terrace put our larger garden waste there and every so often, maybe three times a year, someone (not me!) lights it. When we get ourselves organised, more often when there were children around, we manage to light it on November 5th and bring food. Sometimes we have singed the tree. Not good, but it has survived.

Once my partner rescued a neighbour’s child from it. The boy had slipped while climbing and was caught by the ankle. No harm done, just a small, everyday drama.

This summer I have worked from home and have watched it more closely. There is a lot to watch. I have seen young squirrels learn to jump from it – it is quite a leap down to the alder. They are good at it now, nonchalant even, but that’s not how they began. I guess the young jackdaws that left it one by one, with markedly different levels of confidence and competence, are all good fliers now too.

This is a very ordinary ash tree.  It would win no beauty contests. It is a part of my life here. It will leave a gap.

I am watching it more closely now because this could be its last year. I have seen Ash Dieback Disease at the end of our road. I am watching ash trees around Buxton and out in the dales where the picture is worse. It is like watching the tide come in, knowing it will wash away parts of our lives here.

Ash trees are so much part of our Buxton townscape, it is easy not to see them. This feels like a good time to start looking at your local ash tree.

If you are not sure what you are looking for this tells you how to recognise an ash tree:  https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/ash/.

Buxton Ash Tree Project

Where is your nearest ash tree? Is there one you see every day? We are collecting impressions of our Buxton Ash Trees, what they mean to us, what they meant in the past and how we will remember them. We are building a collection of words or pictures.

Send your picture (a selfie or a sketch maybe) or your words (maybe a bundle of Five Ash Words or a sentence or two about an ash tree memory ) to stoneandwater@btinternet.com

Our first Ash Tree Stories can be found on this blog

To find out more about the Ash Trees Project, visit:


Buxton woodlands in general:

Buxton Civic Association

High Peak Borough Council

Ash Dieback in the Peaks


Thanks to Susan Cross for these lovely words

Photo credits:

Ash trees< main pictures: c. P Phillipson

Ash tree strips: C. S Males

Dappled light and old trees



Elegant branches

And wrinkled bark

Lifting tall skies,

Feathered with clouds,

While through fingered leaves,

Dappled light falls into

Whispering avenues. 1

Quietly, insidiously, with spores carried by the wind, the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxinea is spreading across the UK, bringing Ash Dieback Disease to our Ash trees. In Buxton in Derbyshire, the fungus reached the town about two years ago and we are now expecting to lose most of our Ash trees over the next year or two.

(This is a guest blog from CelebrationEarth!, first published on their blog 9/9/20)

In response to this, a number of community groups have joined forces not so much to fight the disease but to raise awareness of the changing landscape of our town trees. Buxton Civic Association, Two Left Hands, Babbling Vagabonds, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and ourselves, Stone and Water have been working on a project that aims to

  • raise awareness of the importance of ash (and other urban) trees
  • Encourage people to find out more about the trees around them
  • Encourage people to share their own tree experiences (we’re not expecting everything to be about ash trees!) – memories, photos, mapping significant local trees
  • To think for themselves, to reflect upon what those personal relationships with trees mean to themselves
  • To collect ash keys and to set up backgarden nurseries in the hope that we might harbour and protect a new generation of trees some of whom just might prove resistant

Autumn’s Ash keys rattle,

Dry as bones,

As snake scales,

As lost promises.

Seeds fluttering into new hopes,

These trees are part of our history,

These trees are not a dumping ground,

These trees are sanctuary,

Are part of our story. 1

Find out more about Ash trees, here, and Ash Dieback, here

Find out more about the Buxton Ashtrees project on this site

It was that sense of personal reflection, creativity and shared experience that attracted CelebrationEarth! to the project. Without coming from a faith or expressly spiritual perspective, we felt that combination of aspects was producing a celebratory project that drew together sorrow, reflection, creativity and hope

Inevitably with this summer the project plans have had to keep changing but over the last month, as quietly as a tree grows, ideas, artwork, glue, paint and phrases have been pooled, stirred and stuck, growing into some beautiful puppets and powerful words that tell the stories of the trees and the sense of peril approaching and of the people who have rediscovered their local woods during Lockdown. There will be more activities and events as the project develops. In the autumn there are plans for a Gathering of the Keys day which will link to advice on keeping, planting and nurturing a new generation of Ash saplings

The images here are from a filming day with a team from Off the Fence making a minidocumentary about the project for CelebrationEarth! We’ll let you know when the film goes live!

We are the people
Who climbed the trees,
Who ate the picnics,
Who watched the birds,
Who fed the squirrels,
Who ran the paths,
Who were still in the shade,
Who sang,
Who built faerie doors
At faerie dens,
For faery tribes in
Faery glens.2
We are the trees,
Where the spores settle,
Where the fungus spreads,
Where the fingers wither,
Where the bark splits,
Where branches break.
We are the trees holding onto hope
In seeds and seedlings,
In long breaths held and
Hearts clenched against the dread.
We are the trees who
Grow the keys of hope 3
We are the people
Who walked,
Who wondered,
Who laughed,
Who talked,
Who held hands,
Who strolled,
Who held their hearts and loves and hopes
Under Ash trees.2
Poems are from three poems that have grown out of words and phrases contributed by many people!
1: The Ash Woods
2.: We are the people
3: We are the Trees

Ash Trees in Spring: c Peter Phillipson
Ash Keys: c. Sarah Males
All others, c. Aidan Rhode

with many thanks and much gratitude for all the enthusiasm, creativity, words, ideas, paint, glue and patience from Two Left Hands, the Buxton carnival teams, Stone and Water and the creative people of Buxton!

Ash Tree stories

Telling Ash Stories

The Ash trees call for our words, as the wind blows and the rain lashes down. The ground is strewn with fallen twigs and bunches of Ash keys. We asked for your words, for maybe 5 words, and we are delighted to share some of these with you.


Haiku: buds

Fingerbuds shrivel,

Leaves retreating as trunks split,

And hope withers too.

Haiku: keys

Wind touches branches,

Lifts keys, floating, flying, falling,

Promise under moss.

5 lines of Ash Trees

Black buds,

On slim, grey twigs,

Tall trunks lifting bright clouds,

Catching light, glow golden green at


Gordon MacLellan

2. Ash


Your buds are

Dark as sea-jet

Or a crow’s feather


They see out winter


Your flowers

Are fairy stag’s horns,

Fine and intricate

No bees for you:

The wind’s your go-between


Your leaves fall

When still green:

Not for you the blaze of autumn

But a small, almost silent



Tassels of keys

Grow wings

Pick one and it spins:

What will it unlock?

Whose future?


By stream and ford and meadow

Woven into language

You’re going would leave ghosts

Across the landscape

An emptiness on our tongue

Sara Fletcher

an 1880s map of Under Whitle: most of the scattered trees in fields (marking older field boundaries) are Ash Trees and many are still there

3. In a Dry Valley

Deep in a ravine once scored by water

through the limestone plateau, a sapling

grows. The water is long gone and the

old Ash, too, but here in this sheltered gash

a slim trunk, branches and doubled leaves new

and bravely spindle to the sun. Hung

on their stripling journey are the hopes

of many and the fears that they will

never see again a landscape once held dear

see the leaves the last to come in spring

the first to go, or breathe the sappy smell

of care-cut trees. But they will, and we will

thrill once more to the whipped play of ash

against the breeze seize the delight of pale bark

that wraps around our hope: Ash Grow Back.

Mark Johnson

Our invitation is still open, we welcome more words, in whatever form you wish.

Send your ideas:

Twitter: @stoneandwater3 (please, #5ashwords)

Facebook: @stoneandwater

Email:  stoneandwater@btinternet.com

Thanks to our poets for their words. All poems remain copyright of writers. Contact us for permissions and contacts

celebrating the people and wildlife of the Peak District