Bowland Explorers Club – Burnley Branch – The Big Draw

Artist Cath Ford is working with Bowland Explorer members, Mechanics at Home Craft Group from Burnley, on the group’s explorations and considerations of the Forest of Bowland. 

Following the inspiring trip to Beacon Fell, the Mechanics at Home Craft Group returned to our usual base the following week, to create work inspired by our visit and to make those who hadn’t been able to attend extremely jealous!  We were full of tales of our adventures and already planning more – ideally a return to Bowland to experience different times of year and weather, but also thinking about places in Burnley we could visit. I think the visit really changed our outlook, inspiring us to be more adventurous both in our activity and our creativity.

2.10.15 - Fifth interaction day 5

The many photos we took (I think we whittled it down to about 150 in the end) meant we had masses of source material for art work, and decided to use the ‘Big Draw’ as our focus, using our photos and memories as source material for drawing in different forms. The work created showed real quality as each group member drew on their own experience of the forest, creating individual visual responses that will be brought together to form one piece for the final Bowland Explorers event in the spring.

After 12122445_990337121022830_5171908341831604242_na couple of weeks working on our own pieces, we were fortunate to be able to work with artist Ivan Liotchev on a collaborative drawing piece linked to The Big Draw. Ivan had been working with primary schools in Burnley creating large drawings on11036799_990337211022821_4740569231793013752_o

the theme of ‘Home’ and invited the craft group to build on these using our photos of the forest and some of the drawing techniques we had developed over the previous sessions. Working on drawings on such a large scale and drawing in to the work already created by children challenged us, yet again, to look, think and work differently.


The collaborative work was exhibited at the Mechanics for the Big Draw Event at the end of October and, following the success of our last piece together, Ivan has returned to the group with a proposal that we work with him again on a collaborative piece with a group based in Doncaster and a Native American community in North America. We have, of course, said yes and this work will begin in the New Year. Our horizons continue to broaden!


Web page: HERE


Bowland Explorers – Burnley Branch – Expedition to Beacon Fell

Artist Cath Ford is working with new Bowland Explorer members, Mechanics at Home Craft Group from Burnley, on the group’s explorations and considerations of the Forest of Bowland. 

The Mechanics at Home Craft Group has been meeting for around a year now, getting together every other week at Burnley Mechanics to make, learn and chat. In all that time we have never ventured beyond the building, and this seemed an ideal opportunity to get out and about and get inspired. We planned the date weeks ago, and swore that whatever the weather, we would still go. In fact, what we got was a beautiful, warm and sunny day.

IMG_1911We set off from Burnley in two vehicles and headed in the general direction of Beacon Fell. We probably should have followed the signs in Longridge to ‘Beacon Fell Country Park’ but we carried on in the direction we thought we ought to be heading, and a combination of some pre-visit map checking, good luck and Annette’s excellent memory for landmarks got us there in around an hour.

The great thing for us was that everything at the visitor centre was really accessible. Disabled spaces were clear and near the path, the facilities were all level access and within easy reach and even the paths through the woods were pretty clear.

In true craft group style, our first thought was brew and lunch! We had brought a gas burner and kettle and a lovely picnic (which cost around £10 to feed six of us) and settled at a bench with a great view across the landscape. We’re not sure which bit of the landscape though – it definitely wasn’t towards the sea and we couldn’t see IMG_2011Preston so we think probably back towards Ribble Valley. True Explorers would have worked it out using a compass or the sun, but we were too busy lunching. What we all noticed, and was quite shocking, was the pink haze of pollution that we could see from that height. A couple of the group had been to Beacon Fell before and shared memories of previous trips, but for most of us it was a first visit and it was quite exciting to be finding our bearings and seeing Lancashire from a fresh perspective.

IMG_1922We felt relaxed immediately. The warmth of the sun on our skin, the wide open spaces and all the green that surrounded us had a really positive effect on all of us. It was lovely, and to be honest we probably could have sat there all afternoon chatting and reminiscing, but there was exploring to be done.

We set off up the hill into the forest carrying with us a selection of objects brought from home, each of which we would photograph in the forest. We had teddy bears, jewellery, a knitted owl, a statue and some rosary beads. The light in the forest was stunning and our progress through was slow as we spent so much time taking photographs of shadows, trees and each other.IMG_1932

Taking photos helped us to look at things differently. We found ourselves crouching, looking up and down and looking through the trees. It felt like stopping and taking the time to take a photo meant that we connected more deeply with the forest and sometimes we just stopped to listen to the sounds of the birds, the wind in the trees and the very distant sound of traffic.

IMG_1917We didn’t walk far, but we ventured far enough away from the world to feel like we had been away, somewhere new. For me it felt like I had pressed a reset button. Even though we spend time together, this was different. We talked about things we’d never talked about before and I feel like we all know each other a bit better.

A few of the group expressed an interest in photography as a result, and that’s IMG_1915something we will look in to doing as part of the craft group. We will be editing our photos at our next session as well as using some of the objects we collected as inspiration for drawings, paintings and collage.

We got lost on the way home (again, probably should have followed the signs!) but that has become part of the story of our adventure now!

It might have taken us a year to get out of the building, but this has definitely inspired us to get out and explore again.


“It’s been magical, every bit of it.”

“There’s not enough there for a mucky mouth pie.” (we spotted one Winberry.)

“I am going to bring my niece and nephew here next time they come to stay with me.”

“I have learned so much about taking photographs.”


Web page: HERE