Magic lanterns

In October we worked alongside woodlands creativity guru and all-round top bloke Andy Bailey (official title: Community Outreach Adviser for Natural England, based at Yarner Woods on the edge of Dartmoor). Andy has run a number of excellent workshops this summer for children, focusing on using natural products from woodland to create games and crafts, encouraging youngsters to be resourceful and more engaged with the natural environment. Nice one! The woods at Yarner are lucky to have a great classroom for activities:

This summers’ activities culminated in a brilliant Tree of Life Lantern Walk..more later on that..which started with children creating a range of their own lanterns. It’s a lovely way to get kids to work with natural materials and create a real lantern that can be used for various festivals or events.

All you need is some willow or hazel twigs of various sizes:

These can then be shaped into the main form for your lanterns, using masking tape to hold twigs together into joints:


The next stage is to use craft glue mixed with water, brushed onto tissue paper, to wrap the structure:


And hey presto, you have a bunch of lanterns, that then need hanging up to dry for a few hours, before being decorated with creatures of the night, or leaves or anything you fancy..:


We managed a few standard pyramid shapes while Vicki succumbed to a burst of imagination and crafted a giant hawk moth. Remember to cut a small hole in the side to place a candle inside. Andy supplied small battery-powered candles to prevent mass immolation in the woods later on – a good idea……

The main event that our lanterns contributed to was the amazing Tree of Life Lantern Walk, arranged by Andy and a crew of helpers. One October evening  a huge crowd of kids and their Mums and Dads congregated at Drakeford Bridge, near Lustleigh. As the light faded, we followed a beautifully lit path through the woods to an enchanted glade, where stands an ancient rudge oak. Many of its skeletal limbs are now naked of leaves, but tonight they were resplendent with long tendrils hung with many lanterns. The magnificent old tree was dressed in celebration of its longevity, its potency as a symbol of strength in traditional English folklore and as a powerful reminder of why woodlands should remain precious and protected.


Other lantern structures dotted the glade where traditional story tellers wove their tales for the children. Andy had created an extraordinary seven-foot high Firewoman, who guarded one edge of the glade, glowing with fiery oranges and reds:


A huge stickman sculpture then took centre stage around the oak tree, as a story was delivered to the gathered families…before another sculpture was finally burned, lighting up the now dark glade.


We then all trooped home, elated and very, very impressed at all the hard work Andy and his crew had put in. The kids had a brilliant time and we look forward to coming again next year!


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