Tongues in Trees

Tales from the Forest
Monday 16 (11am) – (Saturday 12 noon) 21 October 2017
(time is French time)
Outdoor writing, bardic tales, tree lore and expressive arts retreat week
with Roselle Angwin & Michael Fairfax

la-mare-31-aug-2015-copy in the stunning ancient Forêt de Huelgoat, in Finistère, Brittany

The Forêt de Huelgoat, one of the gateways to the Otherworld of the Celtic peoples and a splinter of the ancient Brocéliande, is a mainly-deciduous old enchanted forest rippling with stories and rife with potential poems, and our week here will incorporate writing alongside various other expressive arts, teachings around the old Celtic alphabet, ogham, and tree lore. We’ll also forage for the plentiful sweet chestnuts, which we’ll cook over the fire one evening.

The mornings will be spent in guided reflective and creative relationship and writing with the forest and with individual trees, and in this place, a splinter of the old Broceliande, site of so many of the Grail Quest/Arthurian myths and legends, we’ll be listening for echoes of the old stories, as well as finding our own new ones.

I’ll be joined by my friend and long-term creative collaborator, Michael Fairfax, public, land and sound artist and sculptor, who will be offering afternoon hands-on creative sessions using fallen wood and other found natural materials.*

This will be a ‘with-added-extras’ weeklong version of the day workshop you can read about here (you can also see a little more here).

You don’t need any particular experience in writing or working with wood. You do need to be passionate about the natural world and sharing its elements, moods and weathers.

The week is intended to be creative and playful, and also to enhance a deepening of our relationship with the land and the other-than-human. We’ll be working outside even if the weather’s poor (within reason).

How it works
Our fee for the course only is £375.
Travel, accommodation and food is not included, apart from a very simple bread, cheese and fruit lunch the first day.

The group will be kept small and I expect it to fill fast. I need a deposit of £200 with your booking. The balance is due by August 31st 2017.

Please note that the deposit is non-refundable if you cancel, and a late cancellation after you’ve paid the total means that the balance is refundable – minus £50 admin charge – only if I can fill your place. You might want to take out travel insurance.

You need to make your own travel and accommodation arrangements, but see below, and ask me if you have unanswerable questions about it:

Travel: Brittany Ferries‘ crossing from Plymouth to Roscoff is straightforward and comfortable, with an easy drive of less than an hour the other side, and the roads are quiet compared with English roads. There are also sailings to St Malo from Plymouth and Portsmouth, which is a longer drive on the French side. (Almost everyone, by the way, speaks good English.) I’ll give you directions on booking.

You have to organise your own travel, but I will give you a code when you book with the course fee which will entitle you to 10% off the ferry fare. There is an overnight sailing on Saturday 14, and again on Sunday 15, from Plymouth to Roscoff (this latter should get you to the start venue in time, but you will need to do your B&B check-in late afternoon/early evening in that case). For the return journey, there’s a ferry from Roscoff mid-afternoon on Saturday 21, and a little later on Sunday 22.

I will also share email addresses of other participants for combining travel: it will save you money and hassle and help the environment if you can arrange to car-share from Plymouth, or hire a car at the Breton end. As a rough guide, a foot passenger return ticket will be around £75. If 4 of you share a car from the UK, you might expect to pay £100-ish each return, and of course you won’t be sorting out and paying for public transport.

NB: It is possible to get to Huelgoat by public transport – train to Morlaix from Roscoff, bus from Morlaix to Huelgoat, and then it’s about a 2km walk to where the course begins each day. You are extremely unlikely to get back to Roscoff in time for a Saturday afternoon ferry by public transport, however. For car-drivers, we finish at midday prompt on the Saturday, so you can leave direct to be at the ferryport by 1.30pm latest.

Accommodation: I imagine most people will stay in Huelgoat town. There are links for various B&Bs, mostly English-owned and/or English-speaking, on this site. Huelgoat and its shops is about 2kms from the cottage where we start each day; a lovely walk through the forest or, of course, a short drive. (We may be able to help with lifts in the evening if necessary.) At the campsite you can hire bikes, including electric ones for the hills.


where the path begins…


… and continues through the rocks

Double Locks is on the lake in Huelgoat, about 2kms from the venue.
This one is about 3 minutes’ walk.
There’s a local Campsite here, also 1-2kms from our starting place. Bikes can be hired.

Food: on the assumption you have breakfast where you stay, you will need to bring packed lunch (and water) each day except Monday (plenty of shops in the town open early enough for you to pick food up), or by agreement we’ll have a longer lunch break so that you might visit one of the cafés. In the evenings we’ll eat together, either at the Arts Café nearby, or at one of the crêperies (a local speciality) in town. Neither option is expensive.


* Michael and I have often collaborated with words and wood, and sometimes with the spoken word. Michael’s site has a few poem-pieces by the two of us, including on some of his musical instruments, notably the gayageums. I’ve blogged about our work together many times; we began during the Arts Council England YEAR OF THE ARTIST 2000-2001 on a project at Hestercombe Gardens in Somerset, followed by a stint at the Cotswold Water Park. and have a few times offered a workshop together. Here‘s a prose poem/haibun I wrote at our first joint workshop on the East Devon coast.