Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Stories of Sherborne

8th July 2014

By Jack Welch, Volunteer Press Officer

The WITS team got their backpacks and time travel gear on today, as we made an adventure to trace the footsteps of Dorset's famous pilgrimaging Saint, St. Aldhelm and Sherborne's role in early Saxon history. Alongside our familiar friend from Dorset Young Remembers, Pippa Brindley, the group would also participate in a storytelling workshop later in the afternoon which will equip the group with vital skills in creating concise and attention-grabbing tales for our caches. Firstly though, we made our visit to the Abbey in the centre of the town Shown around by Education Officer of the Abbey, Lesley McCreadie, the group observed the magnificent architecture that surrounded the church and because of the later Norman invasion, St. Aldhelm, who was the first Bishop of the Abbey, would not have recognised its features his much simpler Abbey building was believed to have been next to today's building in 705.

Not knowing what the famous Bishop really looked like can pose a challenge to most artists. There were at least three interpretations of the famous Bishop that we saw, some of which you can see here:

The group also witnessed the tomb of Sir John Horsey and his son, the former being the man who had purchased the church after the monasteries were dissolved in the Tudor era and saved the Abbey being destroyed by Henry the VIII. As we approached the end of the tour, the group were also pointed to a Mermaid in the roof of the Abbey, which has now become a phenomenon for the visitors to the historic site.

Thanking Lesley McCreadie for the insightful tour, we ventured down to Pagent Gardens for a well-deserved lunch break (where treats included a mix of tiffin, flapjack and oranges!) As the sunny conditions pressed on into the afternoon, we were able to begin our workshop with Pippa in the gardens. As the session got underway, our first challenge wasn't far behind us, as Pippa put our skills of short and snappy storytelling to the test from what we did earlier in the morning. With a stricken match acting as our stopwatch, the group had to cope with the pressure of this initial challenge. Once the group had shared stories about stray cats, stolen army helmets and lunches, everyone pulled together in smaller groups to use our imaginations in adding descriptions of the Papa New Guinea myth of dogs who came to meet in a large castle. From the bizarre to the elaborate, we all shared some wacky ideas on how the dogs would take off their tails or how the gran castle may look on top of the mountain.

Following that, we all allocated ourselves prescribed words on a story to be fed back to the group once we had written something on paper. With words as wide-ranging as 'cardigan' or 'yellow bush' being thrown in, we all probably did rather well in the circumstances. We realised our stories were more entertaining  and engaging if we worked as collaboratively as a group. With the workshop done for now and the group ready to apply their new story telling skills to set some very interesting stories for our Caches, we made our way back with our imaginations switched on for planning the next stage! From our research we know some very interesting facts about St Aldhelm who was a remarkable character himself,and a great one for adventures, we have his poems and his riddle and with our new story telling techniques we want to bring his time in the Dark ages back to life.

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