Tales of Oak Wood

Karen Jaundrill-Scott, Geoff Bennett, Elisa Macauley, Karen Elliott

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

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    This project came as a requested sequel to a high profile research and presentation on the history of Taylor Park, a public park-land receiving extensive renovation supported by a large Lottery funded grant. The park was originally designed as a formal estate with sweeping lawns, coppices and tree-lined walks and drives. There was also an enclosed garden stocked with shrubs and plants from around the world in formal display. There was just one small wooded area of mainly oak trees which in earlier times formed a section of the Mersey forest. The Park authorities were keen to open this area as a wild-woodland walk to capture the Victorians’ fascination for mystery amidst the certainty of the new industrial age and use it to capture the imagination of the current community. While gardeners would be tending and nurturing the formal garden, nature would be left to tend the Oak wood. After years of neglect the wood was overgrown, inaccessible and waterlogged. Raised walkways, and seating was provided and much of the invasive ‘foreign’ shrubbery removed leaving an airy woodland feature with a winding path and an open forest floor just right for wild-life and human visitors to observe each other. Karen Jaundrill-Scott lead a consortium of artists, dance-specialist, willow-weavers, actors and writers with a brief to research the woodland history, identify specific plant forms and true to the Victorian dream, discover the mythology and pharmaceutical value of the flora and fauna. A local artist and horticulturist studied the wood and identified the species of plant life populating the area, giving an account of the folk-lore attached. This information was taken up by the dance and drama creatives who used the information to weave a story around each plant culminating in a full drama experience. A willow-weaver was introduced and public workshops were organised to create tree-decoration, a story-telling throne and a witches’ hovel. These would later be used in the drama. Using events from Victorian history and the Midsummer Night’s Dream theme, an interactive promenade play was created in which the audiences of school-children and local community were taken from the formal garden into the wood where they were introduced to Oak Kings, fairies, knights and princesses and woodland herbalists. Evidence of this activity was collected and included all the elements of the study along with visitors and children’s own records of the adventure. The overall consideration in this project was to see the development of the wood not only as a place for quiet solitude but also a stage to inspire imagination and creative thought.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherLocal Heritage Initiative
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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