Back when I was an art student I loved making things and experimented with all sorts of ideas and materials. I was making telephones out of dry-stone walling in an attempt to show people how nature can communicate even back in the 1980’s!
A sculptor and community activist called Jamie McCullough had a vision in 1976 which resulted in the building of Meanwhile Gardens in North Paddington in London. His vision involved turning a piece of derelict urban decay into a useful park for residents. The project was turned over into the hands of the locals for completion. Nearly fifty years later it is still there. Jamie McCullough went in search of a rural base for his next vision, which became ‘Beginner’s Way‘, also known locally as The Magic Walk, built into Haldon Woods near Exeter in the early 1980’s. This is where I met him.
He arrived at Dartington College of Arts in search of help to make this walk. I was a student of David Harding studying Art and Design in a Social Context. Once I had finished the course, went to work in the woods to help Jamie build this walk. We raised funds from The Elmgrant Trust at Dartington, The Arts Council, the Carnegie Foundation and a couple of others to build this story about the creative process. The Forestry Commission at Kennford were also very helpful, providing us with tons of wood that was not up to being milled due to split and shake.
We built ‘scenes’ on the walk to tell a story, such as a maze, bridges, sculptures, walkways, tunnels, steps and so on. On a walk through the wood these formed a ‘story made of places’ based on the creative process. I was appointed Deputy Director, which was a bit of a joke since there were only two of us who were funded! But at least I got to direct myself. I worked in the woods with Jamie for a year and a bit.
It’s here, in the woods around Dunchideock in Haldon Forest Park that I went wild. I became a thing of nature, spending so many hours alone in the forest that I became indigenous. I have never recovered.
We decided that the ‘Magic Walk‘ would not be promoted but over time it became very well-known to locals of Exeter simply through word-of-mouth. The walk caught on and became so popular that the Forestry Commission had to lay down gravel paths, which kind-of killed the woodland silences! In its short life of seven years it attracted over half a million visitors.
Even though it wasn’t promoted I wrote and illustrated a story about the walk based on a character that became fundamental to several of my books – Arthur – a quizzical 15 year old boy fascinated by nature and centred in his innocence. And here is the story:
Arthur gets lost in a wood and is guided in a vision quest by woodland animals. He sees how mankind has become separated from nature in this enviro-adventure and becomes resolved to do something about it. The book contains my hand-drawn images of Arthur’s Adventure along with the accompanying story of places on ‘The Magic Walk’. Its ideal for younger readers who like a nature story and don’t mind naive drawings!
Please download a full-colour .pdf version of this book FOR FREE on this link: Lost in the Woods
You can also purchase a black and white paperback version from Lulu.com right here: Lost in the Woods: The Adventure of Arthur
The follow-on adventure from ‘Lost in the Woods‘ is called ‘Earthkeeper‘ – read more here ‘EarthKeeper‘