Tag Archives: Plumstead Manor School

Tree Trail

Tree Trail Sylv pic 1

A long time in the planning, the Tree Trail was first mapped out in the Autumn of 2014 before the leaves fell. But it was the involvement of the 6th Form Events Management students at Plumstead Manor that brought the site-specific illustrated talk to life with elements of performance. Twenty trees were graced with the presence of an attendant ‘tree spirit’ who drew attention to particular features of the tree, or deposited a clue to its identity – so the rough bark of the Black Locust tree and the characteristic leaves of the Whitebeam tree were caressed tenderly, while there was a bucket and spade by the Beech tree, and a citrus lime by the Lime tree, for example, before the spirits fled at the approach of the over thirty-strong crowd.

Tree Trail Sylv pic 2

To put participants in the mood before the Trail started, Erik led an actors’ workshop which would prepare them for the walking and later, singing, they would have to do. It wasn’t what people expected, but then nobody knew quite what to expect as they were led around a topographically interesting route albeit in a relatively familiar area for local people. Apart from being told which features to look for when identifying the tree at different seasons, there were interesting facts to be gleaned as the tour progressed. There were also references to the myths and legends associated with some of the trees, with witches featuring recurrently. Kevin, the walk leader, was assisted by his psychic sidekick John who was identified as ‘having the gift’ after a dramatic manifestation of ectoplasm near the Rowan tree, the first tree on the walk.

Tree Trail Sylv pic 3

At the penultimate tree, where an apparently discarded ash tray gave a clue to the tree’s identity, everyone recited the Firewood Poem after hearing about the Ash Tree’s sometimes confused sexuality. As the final tree had a German connection (Its wood is placed inside the house to protect against witches), Alison, as the only other person who could speak German, was invited to steal across with Kevin to the tree and take a few red leaves while the tree spirits were engrossed in their ritual under the boughs. Away from the tree spirits, the characteristic milky sap showed the tree to be a red variety of the Norway Maple. It was then that everyone moved across and enjoyed each other’s company while partaking of the refreshments laid on under the newly decorated tree which now sported the Norwegian flag as well as pom-poms.

Tree Trail Sylv pic 4

A Piece of Cake

A small band of APs visited Plumstead Manor School to watch the BTEC performance of Tea Mad A Party, a musical performance loosely referencing The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. But first things first…we convened in The Old Mill prior to the event for a libation. Thus, suitably refreshed, we proceeded to the school next door. Originally the plan had been to put on the production in the open air, but the decidedly iffy weather forecast put paid to that, and in the event, it was performed indoors in The Space, which stands on the site of the Prince Albert pub and the Vicarage. This piece of architectural vandalism has resulted in a valuable learning facility for the students of Plumstead Manor School.
Instead of raked seating there were tables set out cabaret style. We were able to bag the last completely free table. Soon we were offered tea and cake, before the performance began. There was no story as such, rather a series of vignettes, with plenty of breaking of the fourth wall as the actors moved around the audience and interacted with them throughout the performance. Several intervals allowed for more pouring out of tea and bringing round of cake, which was a pleasant diversion. The young actors acquitted themselves well, so that I was left with the impression that had they been given more demanding material to work with they could have risen to the occasion.
At the end of the performance we all peeled off to our respective homes. Everyone had enjoyed themselves, not least of all the young actors and front of house staff. For £5 it had been worth getting out of the house to watch live performance and music in a local setting. And there was plenty of tea and cake.