Wednesday, 14 June 2017

This blog serves as a record of progress in Cuthill Park over the years.

As of 14.6.2017, this blog will cease to be updated.

Monday, 24 April 2017

A Place to Play – A Story for Cuthill Park, based on an old photograph

Ellie squirmed and pulled away. It was no use. Today, her mother was determined that the children would be dressed in their best, hair brushed, faces washed and shoes polished to a bright gleam.

“Don’t get any dirt on that dress before you get back here - and keep yer eye on Robert,” she yelled as Ellie and her little brother clattered down the stairs. “No climbing the trees or playing in the bushes. Not till after!”

Mr. Menzies, the blacksmith, was already in the park. Ellie watched him run his hands over the smooth black paint of the supports, then push a swing to and fro to check its movement. She smothered a giggle, picturing that roly poly man in his dark suit - swinging up and down, stretching his legs as he went higher and higher and then she blushed when he looked at her and she realised he knew exactly what she was thinking. But he only smiled.
“I wish I could, lassie,” he said. “I wish I could.”
Other people were streaming through the park gates. Not just children, but mothers too, drawn by the prospect of getting their picture in the newspaper. Soon they were all lined up, with Mr. Menzies in the middle, while the man from the paper adjusted his camera to get the best view.
It was hard to keep still on this bright spring morning, with the sun shining in their eyes, but they did their best not to fidget until at last the camera shutter clicked and they were released into freedom. While the photographer packed up his equipment, the children gathered in a circle, each one eager for a turn on the swings. Ellie sighed. She wasn’t allowed on the swings, not until she had changed into her old skirt and jumper.
But first, she went to visit one of her favourite places in the park. Taking hold of Robert’s hand, she led him across the grass to the little wood that ran alongside one of the walls, all the way from the gate at the top of the hill down to the bigger gate at the bottom. The wood was tiny, but it felt like a place filled with endless possibilities.
It was quiet and peaceful beneath the trees, now that all the other children were busy elsewhere.
“This is an oak,” she said to Robert, recognising its raggedy-edged leaves. 

She laid her hand against its trunk, thinking about the life inside the tree, slowly waking from its winter sleep and rising up towards the sun.
“And this one is a hawthorn. Don’t touch!” she added quickly as her brother reached out towards the fresh green leaves that hid the sharp thorns from sight. “It’ll bite you!”
There were other trees she didn’t know. But the trees knew her, just as they knew all the children who came to this park to play. They felt the children’s arms wrapped around their branches, felt the quiver in the air as voices called out to each other and the tremor in the ground from the thud of running feet. The trees were old and they remembered it all.
Even now, at twilight, when the shadows lengthen and the last of the children straggle homewards, when spider webs glitter in the moonlight and the sea breeze sets the leaves rustling, the trees release their memories sending shadow shapes drifting out from the woodland to fill the park with their ghostly presence.
And in the daytime, if you listen very carefully, you might hear what the trees are saying to each other.
‘In Cuthill Park, the children play, some by night and some by day’.

This story was specially written by Annemarie Allan, to mark the official opening of the Woodland Learning Zone in Cuthill Park on Saturday 22 April 2017.

Woodland Learning Zone Opening - a huge success!

The Friends of Cuthill Park are used to completing lengthy and complex funding applications.  Often these involve measuring outcomes, counting volunteer hours and assessing amount of land to be improved.  But how do you measure success?  The width of your children's smiles? The volume of laughter? The speed at which the cake disappears?

By any measure, Saturday 22nd April, was a huge success and we were delighted that so many families came along to celebrate the opening of the Woodland Learning Zone in Cuthill Park.

We were so lucky to have storytellers Tim Porteus, Annemarie Allan and Rachel Plummer join us.
The busiest activity was the Vegware craft table where Emma helped folk make fairy doors, gnome homes and wooden pendants.

Did we mention the cake? Missy's Vegan Cupcakes made a magnificent cake which was hugely popular.

Thank you to everyone who helped make the day such a success!

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The more people who are involved in the park, the more we can do so please do consider helping us.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Woodland Learning Zone Official Opening: 22 April

On Saturday 22nd April, we will be celebrating Earth Day in Cuthill Park with a day of FREE fresh air fun!

Loosely based on the themes of learning, imagination and John Muir, the day will start when storyteller Tim Porteus officially opens the Woodland Learning Zone at 11.45 a.m.
Tim loves sharing the wonderful world of folklore, mythology and legend, but he has also developed an interest in collecting and telling modern urban tales, as well as personal and family stories and reminiscences.  Take a seat on the storytelling bench from 12 noon.
Annemarie Allan was born in Edinburgh, lived briefly in California and then for much longer in London, before returning to Scotland, where she decided it was time to take her writing seriously.  Her first published novel, Hox, won the 2007 Kelpies Prize and was shortlisted for both the Scottish Children’s Book of the Year and the Heart of Hawick book awards. Her third novel, Ushig, a fantasy based on Scottish myths and legends, was shortlisted for the 2011 Essex Children’s Book Award.

Annemarie's latest novel, Charlie's Promise, is set in and around Prestonpans, just before the outbreak of WW2 when the eponymous hero finds a starving German boy called Josef hiding in the woods near his home.  Annemarie will be in the storytelling throne from 12.45 p.m.

We're hoping many of you will enter our miniature garden competition which will be judged at 1.15 p.m. by Caroline Crawford of Greenspace Scotland, one of a team of Community Enablers helping to deliver the Tesco Bags of Help community grant scheme across Scotland.

There are some great prizes to be won thanks to the generosity of sponsors Scotrail, Gardening Scotland and the Seabird Centre.

Bring your miniature gardens to the park between 12 and 1.

Poet and storyteller, Rachel Plummer was born in London, grew up in East Anglia and Paris, and has spent most of her adult life in Edinburgh, where she lives with her husband and two young children.  

Rachel received the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writer Award for poetry in 2016 and has recently received a cultural commission from LGBT Youth Scotland, funded by Creative Scotland, to write a collection of children’s poems based around LGBT retellings of traditional Scottish myths and stories.  She'll be performing at this year's Hidden Door Festival but before that, you can catch her in Cuthill Park from 1.30 p.m.

As well as the above timed events, there will be plenty of opportunities for impromptu, drop-in fun between 12 and 2 including:

  • Facepainting by the fabulous Fantoosh
  • Nature activities with The East Lothian Countryside Ranger Service
  • Scottish Water educational activities
  • Foodie fun with Tesco Musselburgh
  • Meet Robin Wood, the artist behind the woodcraft items in the woodland.
  • John Muir's birthday celebrations with  some vegan cake by Missy's Vegan Cupcakes and a selfie with the man himself thanks to the team at John Muir's Birthplace!
  • Have a mindful walk through a birdseed labyrinth
  • Tie a message to the Clootie Tree
  • Vegware  DIY craft table - what will you make using  cups, stirrers and bags?  A tree decoration? a gnome home? a fairy door? a kite? a bird feeder? Or perhaps make a clay creature or a wooden pendant? (grown-up supervision required)
There will also be a limited number of goodie bags to help you enjoy and remember your time in Cuthill Park (bags contain small items not suitable for very wee folk).

Cuthill Park has no wi-fi but lots of trees, slopes, play equipment and wide open space.  

Make the most of Earth Day and bring along a picnic and some favourite outdoor toys for a day of unplugged, screen-free, low-tech fun!

We'd love to see you!   

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

If You Go Down to the Woods Today ...'re sure of a big surprise!

As we reported back in December, we have been awarded £12,000 through Tesco/Groundwork's Bags of Help scheme. 

Robin Wood of Wildchild Designs has been commissioned to carve a storytelling bench, seat and an entrance way.

Today, was a pretty exciting milestone for the Woodland Learning Zone as installation began on the entrance way!

It's going to look spectactular!

Also being installed today was the Phoenix Storytelling throne.

The storytelling bench and one extra artwork is being installed tomorrow.   Robin has been very mysterious about the fourth piece but we think fairies are involved...

There will be an official 'Earth Day' opening on Saturday 22nd April on the  themes of adventure, learning and John Muir. We really hope you can join us between 12 and 2!

Monday, 13 February 2017

Growing a Garden

Back in September 2010, the Friends of Cuthill Park began the arduous task of clearing the overgrown area where the Garden was to be sited.

It became clear quite quickly that this was a bigger job than any of us envisaged.  Fortunately over a dozen families came along to muck in.
After hacking down the shoulder-height nettles, we discovered a horrendous collection of masonry, metal and various material fused together following decades of fireraising in the park.

We didn't realise then that we were about to embark on a seemingly never-ending treadmill of weeding, planting and weeding.  However, we persevered and today have a real garden (alas, the weeding will never be completely finished, it is a garden after all!).

Key milestones:

October 2011:  we harvested our first crop of squash!

December 2011: Community Justice Team installed stone centrepiece

February 2012: Awarded £3,000 from ELC's Environmental Fund - and a plan starts to emerge!

May 2012: Mobex install timber edging for paths.

November 2012: The 1st Prestonpans Guides weeded the borders of the garden and volunteers laid back to create more paths.

June 2013: Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust were very helpful in planning and securing our shipping container.
October 2013: Volunteers from the Co-op built some raised beds.

March 2014: A huge turnout of volunteers helped to plant a Woodland Trust tree pack to form a hedge along the edge of the garden

May 2014: Cockle shells, reflecting the town's fishing heritage, were put down on top of weed membrane in a boat-shaped bed

April 2015: Mountains of earth were moved and a seating mound created thanks to LDS missionaries.

March 2016: Foundations are put down for paths in the garden

February 2017: A new plan start to take shape...  

 The vision is for three distinct areas: An 'outdoor room', in front of the shipping container; a 'growing area' with an assortment of raised beds; and a 'social space' with ornamental flower beds.

Can you help?

Jobs include:
  • Installation of wooden edging around flower beds and paths
  • Installation of posts (to which a shade sail can be affixed)
  • Welding of hooks on shipping container  
  • Waterproofing of canvas
  • Building of pergolas
  • Landscaping
  • Planting
  • Installation of fence and gates
  • Moving of large boulders
  • Sorting out of shipping container
  • Sourcing a ship's wheel
  • Collecting items

and of course...weeding!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Woodland Learning Day!

Robin Wood, of Wildchild Designs, talked us through the process of making the storytelling bench for our Woodland Learning Zone at his workshop near Stenton in East Lothian.

The greatly simplified version: A 20 foot oak log was split with a chainsaw and the sapwood removed.

The remaining timber was cut into four sections to form a long, curving bench.

An interlapping fish design was drawn in pencil and then a relief carving was made using a router.

It is important that no water is allowed to pool on the bench so the edges need to slope away. 

The huge bench is going to look amazing!!!!

Robin has also started work on the entrance feature that will mark the start of the woodland trail.  

The sign bears the famous John Muir quotation "The Power of Imagination Makes us Infinite".  Below the writing is a seascape with boats and sea creatures (monsters?).  Above the text are planets and spaceships - plenty to spark the imagination for any storytellers!

We also got to paint the lettering on the entrance sign which will probably be one of the first pieces to be installed in the Woodland Learning Zone. 

Thank you Robin for a fascinating insight to your work. We can't wait to see the finished items!