Flights of Fancy

We were invited by North Devon Coasts AONB to run school projects over two years, to foster curiosity about nature and to provoke a sense of stewardship of their local habitats.

1: East-The-Water Primary School

We took two Year 6 classes on a walk in Northam Burrows, to where the Taw and Torridge Rivers meets the sea – a beautiful, buffeted, shape-shifting and uplifting place.

Working in small groups and equipped with a digital camera and a sound recorder, pen and paper, we invited them to be curious, viewing up close and at long distance, touching the sand and mud with their hands, smelling the salt in the air. We asked them to record their memories and feelings of the day in words, images and sound.

Back in the classroom we helped them to create stories in groups, to spin these into poems and to record them, with foley effects. The results were shared in the form of an exhibition at Northam Burrows Visitors Centre and the creation of a very characterful sound walk.

The exhibition and sound walk will be shared with the public during our Stepping Out mini Festival on April 30 2023, as we bring people to nestle amongst the dunes and listen to the poems.

The images and words shown here are a small selection of their work. Click on the audio clip below to hear the group poem, ‘Walking on the Burrows.’

This project was facilitated by Fiona Fraser Smith, Ed Jobling, Amanda McCormack and Kim Tilbrook.

2: Hartland School

We took pupils from Years 5 and 6 from both schools on a walk from Hartland Abbey to Blackpool beach. Accompanied by wildlife specialists, we adopted the perspective of the explorer – looking, listening, feeling, smelling – in order to gain a thorough impression of the place. We focused in on four habitat zones that are found here: the Pasture, that has likely been grazed for some 600 years (ever since the Abbey was founded); the rare treasure of the Temperate Rainforest, the waterways of the Abbey River; and the and the rugged Cliffs, where only the hardiest of species can thrive. We used handmade notebooks to record our impressions and incorporated playful exercises to create a fun experience.

Back in the classroom we reflected on our journey and findings and began to ask, ‘How can we communicate a feeling of each habitat to people who weren’t there?’ The pupils worked in groups to make mood boards and costume designs. We worked out how to overlay the environment of the walk onto their playground.

Photographs by Amanda McCormack

Together we designed the performance, to be presented to other pupils, parents and carers. Each habitat would be represented by a tribe of people who, together with a puppet figure, represented the ‘spirit’ of the place. The audience would encounter these in turn and would travel around the playground, moved along by the River itself.

While significant preparation was made by the company, the pupils made and decorated costume elements, created sound recordings and choreography, making and presenting the piece in only 3 days.

The project was facilitated by Paschale Straiton and Kim Tilbrook, with support from Joe Newberry and Lowenna Arnold from North Devon Coasts AONB.