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!