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The Word on the Street

Local artist and storyteller, Creeping Toad (aka Gordon MacLellan) encouraged local people to put their thoughts about the Buxton Heritage Action Zone area into words.

Using old photographs as prompts to think about the space in new ways, poems, short stories, reminiscences and fantastical imaginings were created.

Gordon worked with school groups and established writing groups like Borderland Voices and Buxton Spoken Word as well as having drop-in sessions open to all at Buxton Museum.

Great conversations were had around the changes that Spring Gardens has seen over time; from the landscape in deep history to the fashions of the 1980s! How people experience the area as it is now, picking up on the details of old buildings not always noticed among modern buildings and thinking about wild and wonderful things that may or may not have happened were all starting points for creation.

A selection of the pieces are below. Enjoy!

All photos from Buxton Museum and Art Gallery Collection.


Spring Gardens c.1910

David Carlisle

Rock solid on Spring Gardens


Little noticed, running along the central spine of Spring Gardens are the rows of gritstone, the one-time product of the Council’s Street Improvement Scheme, or so the brass plaque says.


They weave gently, these modern standing stones, echoing the rise and fall of the High Peak’s hills and valleys, themselves carved by ice and water.


Walk along with your shopping head fixed into place and you’ll never see them.

Stop and listen to the wind and you’ll hear it whisper through these musical gritstone teeth.


Once you do that, you’ll appreciate their curving lines, their sheer mass inspiring respect for heavy work done by nature in shaping the landscape and the lives of all living within it.


Gritstone sentinels of Spring Gardens,

Architects have crafted with you,

Builders have captured you and

Shoppers have been oblivious to you.

Yet, you point the way.

Blocky and leaning in honourable respect, they softly nod at the past and smile

encouragingly towards a better future for Spring Gardens, our future.

Jonathan Davey

In the Town, Above the Town


Winter grey washes across the wet stone,

light mist driven away by dark wind

blasting in across from Goyt.

The damp, a gift from the west, comes pouring into the cup of Buxton


From down the town

laughter and the sound of empty beer cans.

General daftness at the end of the week.


A week spent chasing love or exam results or money.

And at the end of that wet week,

although there may be more snow to come,

the curlew and golden plover travel in above the town

Unknown, unseen, unheard.


Above the grey stone buildings,

the shouts, sirens and Friday night shenanigans,

the winds, the mist, the wet, the snow,

for how much longer will the silent wings travel over our town

Mark Johnson

Orpheus and Eurydice in Spring Gardens


That year the flowers were late,

and in Spring Gardens shoppers

wore winter garb beyond the given term.

Warming soup at Waitrose still sold strong

The queues for coffee at Nero stretched hangdog long.


But come late April, the first sun sliced in

carved chunks away from winter gloom.

Slice by slice it whittled down the grey

lifted hands from pockets ‘till…

you heard the shoppers say

I wonder if the frogs and toads have come to Lightwood today?


As if on cue, a trump, a croak

first one, then two, then more

until above the distant traffic roar

a swelling orchestra of sound.


A hop, a crawl, a sudden bound

and there before wide shoppers’ eyes

past Iceland and the Chakra Lounge

a ragged amphibian file came round


the corner of the street, a river running

about shoppers’ feet. A muddy lava flow

of frogs and toads that bubbled, seethed,

divided, recombined, surged on, until – behind,


a frantic, shamanic figure came into view.

The toads, the toads, his plaintive cry

It’s as if some unearthed primeval drive

Has veered them off their normal route!


The toads flowed on, the frogs in sync,

Marched on until, the traffic lights on blink

the river crossed the road, flowed up the slope

then down, slowed to an artful lope


stopped for a moment – one bass profundo croak

rang out. And then as if one, the river made

a turn that would have done a Guardsman proud.

Marched into the Pump Room silently


— and vanished into the well’s fathomless deep.

One lonely figure stood outside, bereft.

What made them head into that cleft?

But then a smile across his face:


What know we, of simple human race

Of frogs and toads, their mysteries?

Nature is a wondrous thing

You never know what joys it brings

One thing only, this I know:

Where go the toads, then there I go…

And so…


(No animals were hurt in the making of this poem, although considerable liberties were taken take with amphibian science and Greek Myth)



Should we plant

Pear trees and pink


In tubs and beds

Neatly along the


Gathering apples and

Red, ripe raspberries might


Everyone, inviting them

Nibble delightedly until



Spring Gardens is known for its shops,

With hats: bowlers, caps or tops.

What nobody knows,

And where nobody goes,

Is the lost world of rivers and rocks.

The snow on the hills is quite deep,

And Terrace Road really quite steep.

The sliding began,

And away we all ran,

And crashed into The Grove in a heap.

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