Wednesday 15 September 2010

"Lord of the Forest"

This summer, I puzzled about history, for this term. We study history in a chronological order, well usually, and had just finished the Tudors. The Tudors are exciting and there are plenty of resources, activities and places to visit. The Stewarts are another matter-sorry to any Stewart experts out there. By far the best way of introducing this topic seemed to be to celebrate Guy Fawkes night and then Thanksgiving but they were inconveniently placed at the beginning of the second half of term. I toyed with altering the calendar but couldn't quite imagine Guy Fawkes at the beginning of September.
Thankfully, at this point, my cousin came to stay and suggested using "Lord of the Forest" for the half term.

I hadn't heard of this, out of print, book before. It is written by "BB" who apparently was Denys Watkins-Pitchford who also illustrated the book-under his real name with beautiful scraper-board black and white illustrations.
The book describes the life of an oak from when it was planted in 1272, in the Sussex Weald, until the Second World War when its last acorn is planted. Natural history and scenes from English history are woven together to produce a fascinating book.
The book lends itself to so many other activities which we have scarcely even started. I am indebted to my cousin for suggesting several initially.
Obviously, scraper-board art needs to be followed. I wasn't able to find white but the coloured card is surprisingly effective.

We did think about printing using wood-cuts, as the illustrations look similar to woodcuts, but discarded this idea, on grounds of safety. The younger ones enjoyed printing with oak leaves-a safer option.
We are working on creative writing and map making around an imaginary oak.
Hopefully, ds will create a timeline, perhaps using as a base, something like the oak he painted.
Oaks in the Sussex Weald do, however, have a link with an important part of Stewart history. We have talked about the non-conformists who met in the Kent and Sussex Weald, in secret, prior to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. There were stories that I was told, as a child, about this. The services with no singing and the deacon praying a long prayer, at the end of the sermon. The minister left in this prayer but anyone else who left was known to be a traitor.
We have become much more aware of oaks rather than just the "conker" trees. The children discovered that we have an oak in a corner of our garden and have discussed how best this can be tended and whether some shrubs around it need to be removed.
Future plans may include lino printing, clay models of acorns, planting an acorn-there is some current interest in a bonsai oak, further investigation of what it would be like to have been a villager in 1272, a half term visit to Weald and Downland Openair Museum  
We've enjoyed this project which has been so much better than trying to do the Stewarts without festivals!

1 comment:

  1. This looks great. You have done some lovely activities. If R likes the story then he will probably like Brendon Chase as well. It's a bit like Swallows and Amazons. Paul loved The Forest of Boland Light Railway as well and The Little Grey Men. I think that BB deserves to be much better known as an author. Thanks for your lovely blog. I do enjoy reading it. xx