back to last saturday 3.11 at foxhill

ahh, my last day at the nature reserve, meeting people and dogs , giving them their paw prints, not many people turned up but it had been snowing in the morning and really was cold, so thanks those who did

a bit more swinging on the swing in the old mill owners playground

sadly (for me) I then cut down the bandaged pieces from the trees, as promised, to leave the site as I found it- except for the melted , rained on clay work and the made structures which are still holding, hopefully becoming dens for animals of a creative-bent.

I installed the logs with photos at the centre with a sign to ask everyone whose dog made a paw cast , to pick them up. Also to please take out the photos and slot them back in afterwards.

I dont like endings, and dont like writing about them but this has been a very special and memorable project for me. Foxhill is a truly wonderful space and I know people will continue to enjoy it and keep it safe. The project has allowed me to pick up a couple of threeads that recur in my work – looking at how we play, how we interact with our environment, our complex and delicate relationship to place, the marks we leave behind how the natural environment informs us, and the meshing together of the past , present and future. All these ideas have been clarified and extended by working with other people and by being given this huge and gorgeous  “playground” which is Foxhill.

back to last wednesday 31.10

sorry for the delay in blogging-

my final session with the home educators

gave them the chance to build a den, talked through the issue of den building on nature reserves with a trained forest school practioner

the den had a slow start (I think I left them too long to sort it out themselves) but was great

home ed group given permission!

I bought a mini potters wheel from the Ossy table top sale and we struck it up in the woods, in the “play” area (site of mill owners hse)- balancing on a tree trunk . Not technically a brilliant machine but it worked and the splodgy pots were fun , we left them on the tree trunk for the weather to sort out

mucky pottery pups

yummy  mushroom ! which is EDIBLE!!

then met phil who helped chain saw some shape and notches into my logs, thankyou

i really want to go on a chainsaw course- not to create crocodiles and owls, but to slice open slits, wedges , notches, cracks, chunks, , create opportunities in the wood to intervene with other objects and materials – create spaces for stuffing in metal, wool, lard,fur, leather, plaster other wood. To chop out steps, ramps, ravines, intermissions- closed dark spaces, open wound….its very hard to do lots of sawing in big , green logs like these (and these are not even so wide) and the cuts are a little narrow for the images which I’ll be slotting in


29.10 – going on mill hunt

I went on a mill hunt today with pauline , alison & morgan- we traced the origins of the photo that alison brought for me. We talked for ages about the old mill owners house- it has such a dominant place in everyones memories,

memories of peeping over the garden wall,seeing chandeliers and an umbrella stand, steps leading to the ice house, the delapidated mill buildings where they would have a bonfire on Bonfire Night, swimming in the lodge sitting on a huge tractor inner tube, swinging on a massive swing

and now

casting dogs after that


sunday 28.10

yesterday I went to visit Ted and Pat who overlook Foxhill

their memories of playing were fantastic

Pat remembers a tiny green door, in the perimeter wall by the Mill Hill car park. We discussed the actual green: an old fashioned, true, dark green. Bill, the warden of the old estate, who patrolled with his dog, had a key for this door- it sounded like the door was about a metre high! I am inspired by this tiny, dark green door- with all its closed- door, metaphorical status! ” ‘course, the door didnt keep anyone out, ‘cos we jumped over the wall anyway!”

they talked about the 3 people who drowned in the lodges: a boy fishing on a branch of a tree, fell in and couldn’t swim; a little girl and another boy.

I’m  looking forward to going to Pauline’s house on Monday  and I’m seeing another woman , who is obsessed with the old house because she actually doesnt remember seeing it- her imagination is filling in the gaps ……

cubs-play-den-clay, sat.27.10

foxhills second visit from the cubs- 6 came with their parents

first of all we looked for the sculpture/animal food they made on TRuesday- almost totally eaten, there were teeth marks in the celery!!

they searched and found animal tracks, and made their own tracks by pushing marks into the hard mud with sticks, shining torches into holes….Bear Grylls, Ray Mears, Steve Backshall….

It didn’t taker long for them to decide to make a den so they started to hunt out the fallen branches. The den, in teepee style, quickly took shape,with a lovely camouflage coat of ferns to stop it being instantly discovered. We had chocolate chip cookies inside.

we then went up to the old mill house site where I’ve been “bandaging” and other people have been creating animal shelter. They looked at all the work , then got going on their own- clay animals, figures, real and imaginary creatures, they placed them under various kinds of shelter, as tomorrow it’s going to rain….

I’d talked about my bandaged pieces – the iodea of the nature reserve being a place of “mending”, repare, healing, stiched – as well as imagining children playing in the old garden where we stood….

John made a giant clay snail and rather than just leave it on a branch where ity would disintegrate in the rain, he constructed a shelter, using the cotton material, and a piece of wood.Wrapping the strips of material , binding it to the branch, tying knots to secure.  What was so lovely here was the way he worked  so intently with Michael , cub leader (arcala) putting his knot skills into practice.

Watching these two work together confirms what the project has allowed us to do- be in foxhill, engaging with this amazing environment in a way that you wouldn’t normally, discovering new things, being given permission to create

I’m interested in how parts of the prvious life of foxhill can resurface through the imagination. And how architectural characters have been knocked down, dismantled, and in some way , now, are being put back together, through a creative process.

It was a beautiful day- we walked back through the plantation to search for the old ice house , or cellar, in the banking, which Michael remembers seeing the entrance to, when playing as a kid.

friday, 26.10, ice, eskimos writing on branches

today was cold: 1- 3 degrees

took ice to Tinker Brook, just to make my hands a little bit colder and worked with painted figures

the ice block would work really well if I could film it melting right down but I dont have enough time to wait with a tripod and camera in the brook- but even with a still image the ice introduces the element of time, because we all know it is melting……there is an ice house in the woods close to the brook, it’s been filled in and a great stone placed over the entrance, so I will have to guess it’s location. I’ve had a thing about ice houses for along time now

Derek and his dog Jodie kept me company while I waded in the brook – I told Derek about the big commission and that I wanted to give out the paw casts next week at the sharing event in the park (Saturday 3rd, 1 til 3).He walks Jodie a couple of times a day and is lonely living on his own since Margaret died, so Foxhill is a lifeline for him.

made a new sling-swing-hammock-cradle in the location of the mill owners house. Sat the ice block on it with the eskimos I bought from Ossy table top sale last weekend. I want to place a drawing of the mill or the mill owners house underneath the sling-cradle, so the ice drips onto it and “bleeds” it out of focus. I met Brenda, with Mitzi and Sacha (2 lovely crazy, hyper speedy brindle whippets that charge around Foxhill almost in formation- I must get a photo). She used tpo play here as a kid, they weren’t allowed in the grounds of the old house, so they used to look over the wall. She will bring me a photo of the house tomorrow and a book, hopefully, which is perfect for my drawing, that she will leave on the tree.

I drew her comment in clay onto a branch in the space, the tree is a great old gnarled, complicated, quirky beast – maybe some kind of ornamental cherry?  but oversized and with a broken branch. Below is alink to the video of the clay text drawing, I’ll see if the cubs want to do any of this clay drawing tomorrow when we meet in Foxhill , I want to take my drill into the orchard as well for them to join bits of wood together with natural dowelling…..

“we used to….”

Derek 2 – remembers climbing the trees,a rope swinging across the river. he remembers pens (allotmentswhere people grew veg and in the paddock, people kept horses. There was the assault course, which he thought was “alright”.



Broadfields School, shelter, architecture, Thursday, 25.10

met a wonderful group from Broadfields today- we talked about the themes of shelter, habitat, playing in relation to the nature reserve… here’s some of  the responses….

and a couple of mine later on….

very lovely purple plastic stuff that had been tramped into the ground near the site of the old ice house- remnants and traces of how people have used the landscape

the model scale is bringing out the theme of shelter and making a hoime or habitat which is something that runs through my work and has come to the surface through thinking about the mill owners house and architecture





24.10, Foxhill- shelter and play with home school

I spent the morning blissfully casting the dog paw prints in plaster (images 2moro), thinking about how the combination of the dogs and the nature reserve act as a double healing tool for all kinds of ailments like coping with the loss of your wife, dealing with stress , combatting the onset of a migraine, aleviating the boredom of being unemployed….

in the the afternoon I joined the home school group who I met last week- we walked up to the site of the old mill owners house, an area I’m feeling very close to . I talked a little about some of the themes that are seeping through: the element of play that has surfaced via the talk about the old 70′s “unsafe” adventure playground, the healing potential of nature, picked out by my “bandaged” sculptural interventions, bonding elements together; the intrinsic presence of wildlife/ the onset of autumn/ hibernation and the building of shelter.

I let them loose to make whatever they wanted with the knowledge that they would be invited to a circle time crit of each other’s work at the end….

it works! kind of…

also using pottery found in the brook- which has inspired me to go snuffling down there tomorrow- apparently lots of foreign stuff gets dragged through foxhill via Tinkers Brook, lots of treasure

most of the work picked up the theme of playing

Thankyou everyone- sorry I havent featured everyones work , but it was all gorgeous!

Tuesday , 23.10, Foxhill- Dog Paws and cubs at night!

Back in foxhill, talking to lots more dog owners and casting their paws, pressing into clay – ready for the plaster.”Never work with children or animals”? that’s completely not true for foxhill- ALWAYS work with animals! it’s a great way to hi-jack the humans who come with them! This place is a dog walkers and dog lovers paradise.

many thanks to:

Angie with Denzel (brindle smooth lurcher) and Alfie ( blonde, long haired lurcher)

Barry with Jess (cute black staffie)

Mick with Murphy (handsome ginger Irish Terrier, sulked when Mick tried to take him home- had to be dragged- thought it was because he wanted to stay with me but actually because he’d just had a hair cut!)

Derek (lovely man- 82-  with an ipod full of love songs to remind him of his beloved wife, they got together with when he was 16) and Jodie his Collie

Cat with her little BOY Leon

Guy with Beaumont (the bouncy springer spaniel)

Andrea and Charlotte with Enzo (border cross) , Tallulah (labrador cross) and Lola (smooth Jack Russell wearing a lovely grey coat because it stops her trembling- it’s a very exciting place Foxhill!)

Mick with Rio (Patterdale Cairn- gorgeous little black shaggy mutt!)

All dogs and owners were really obliging and I didnt get bitten- probably because I had dog biscuits

aren’t I handsome!

named after Jodie Foster


Later on I met the CUBS in the scout hut just outside the park- we made animal food sculptures- I brought a load of fruit n veg , to cut up and piece together with cocktail sticks. They were asked to think about creatures that might use foxhill, or imaginary if that didn’t inspire. The boys absolutely loved it, the cub leaders were brilliant.

some sculpture they made :

then we took the sculpture out into the woods for the foxhill foxes and squirrels- a torch lit walk- high energy levels- it was a beautiful dry , calm still autumn evening.

they told stories, and looked for animals with the torches- we also had a minute of silence so they could listen to whatever sounds were hanging on the evening air. they found this difficult, they were so excited, but managed it the second time

THANKYOU cubs and thankyou Michael, Stephanie and  Rebecca (sorry is that right?)- it was a wonderful evening seeing the magic of Foxhill after dark.