Silloth Green Story Telling Chair

Woodcarving Guys and chair

The oak story telling chair located in the Community Garden, complete with carvings illustrating the heritage of the Green, was built during late 2013 and early 2014 by the Solway Woodcarving Group in their workshop in the Community Hall in Silloth-on-Solway.

Solway Woodcarving Group sign

The group was started on 16th October 2006 by Clive Firth and Alex Gorman.  Alex had been the first person to be taught the craft by Clive. Soon after, Simon Buckley joined the group. Membership was open to people from the local Silloth community, anyone from the North West Solway coast and surrounding areas of Cumbria and visitors to the town. The main aim was to promote woodcarving and the idea that ‘anyone could do it’ at low cost. The group set out to teach people from different backgrounds. Most important was a wish to enjoy learning and build confidence. Youngsters were encouraged to learn to carve from a fairly young age, although 11 to 16 year olds had to be accompanied by a responsible adult. All participants were  encouraged to show and exhibit their skills at local Arts & Craft Fairs and on Silloth Green. An important aim from the beginning was to encourage projects that would bring some benefit to the Community.

In 2013, Friends of Silloth Green approached the Woodcarvers and asked if they could build a story telling chair, which was to be placed in the new Community Garden on Silloth Green. At the time, the garden was still under construction and the hope was that the chair could be finalised for the official opening at the end of April 2014. Being community minded, the group agreed to the request and Friends of the Green subsequently sought funds to cover the costs.

Clive began with some initial drawings. After the design was set out and the quantity of wood needed was calculated, the green oak for the chair was purchased from Danny Frost, a local bespoke furniture and timber supplier.  The oak was kiln dried with Danny Frost’s computer controlled kiln.


Green oak fresh from Danny Frost Green oak from Dany Frost 2

The woodcarvers milled the wood in their workshop in the Community Hall and cut the joints to begin the process of carving.

Oak for chair Oak for chair 2


Carving tools in workshop  more carving tools in workshop

The design remained fluid as the chair developed and creative ideas began to flow. However, it was considered important to carve figures and icons related to Silloth and specifically the heritage of the Green. The idea for carving Neptune on the back came about after discussion between members in the group, who wanted to illustrate the close proximity between the town and the Solway.


As the chair developed, carvings based on the heritage of the Green were included in the design. Donkeys were carved on one side of the chair, illustrating the donkeys that were exercised on the Green for many years by My Gray. Entertainment has always been important in Silloth and depictions of the pierrots who entertained in an area of the Green known as ‘Happy Valley’ were added. Other carvings included depictions of events on the Green such as the Vintage Rally, Kite Festival, and the Music and Beer Festival. In addition, flowers were carved by different members of the group to represent the plants in the various gardens on the Green.

Members of the Group Involved with the Assembly of the Chair

  • Shona Pape
  • Andrew Pape
  • Martin Cartwright
  • Jack Frost

Members on Carving

  • Clive Firth
  • Michael Faulkner
  • Alison Robinshow
  • Winston Kyoto
  • James (Jim) Mason
  • Cherry Assberry
  • Peter Johnston
  • Jack Frost

Finishing, Sanding and Oiling

  • Clive Firth
  • Alison Robinshaw\Michael Faulkner
  • Cherry Assbury
  • Jean Hill

Final Assembly

  • Jack Frost
  • Michael Faulkner
  • Clive Firth

Siting the Chair in the Community Garden

The chair was exceptionally heavy when the different parts were put together and, therefore, extremely difficult to move. The Council’s Maintenance Team stepped in to help and moved the Chair to Silloth Green, setting it in place with special fittings (supplied by J. Johnston) in time for the official opening of the Community Garden. Some of the finishing was carried out by Jean Hill after the chair was sited in the garden.


Immediately after the official opening of the garden, Tim Barker took on the role of Story Teller, sitting on the Story Telling Chair to read some stories and tell some tales to the gathered youngsters.

Carving work continued in situ for several weeks.



The chair was brought back into the Woodcarver’s workshop at the end of 2014 to weatherproof it with OSMO Oil, with Jean Hill finishing most of this work.

After the oiling and weatherproofing was completed, the chair was transported back to the Community Garden by the Council’s maintenance team and sited once more .

Woodcarvers on the Chair

Clive on story telling chairwoodcarver on story telling chair Micahel Faulkner on Story telling Chair man on story telling chair

Youngsters on the Chair

Since the Story Telling Chair was placed in the Community Garden, many local and visiting children have been photographed sitting on Neptune’s knee.


Little boy on story telling chair  Big brother on story telling chair Little boy on story tellingchair Little girls on story telling chair

A Few Stories

They Forgot to Plant an Acorn on the Moon

The surface of the moon looks a lot like a desert. It’s dry, rocky, and sandy. There are no plants on the moon. Not even a small cactus.

In the year 1969 human beings from planet Earth first stepped on the moon. They walked around a bit and collected some moon rocks to take back with them. By mistake, they forgot to plant the acorn.

They had brought an acorn with them, along with a watering can and some potting soil. They were supposed to plant the acorn a few hundred yards away from the spaceship, but they forgot. They plain forgot.

You can’t really blame them though. They had so much else to do. Every minute of every day they had something important to do. People from NASA were telling them what to do over the radio.

But what if they had remembered to plant the acorn? What if they had dug down a couple of inches in the loose soil, dropped some sweet-smelling potting soil into the hole, and gently placed the acorn in its new home? What if they covered the acorn with some more sweet-smelling potting soil, and gently watered it with their watering can?

An acorn doesn’t need a lot of things to grow. It needs water, it needs soil, it needs sunlight, and it needs carbon dioxide gas. Now, there’s plenty of soil and plenty of sunlight on the moon. But water and carbon dioxide are in short supply. That’s why the astronauts brought a watering can with them.

They also brought a small plastic greenhouse with them. The plan was to place the greenhouse right over the planted acorn. Then the greenhouse was supposed to be filled with carbon dioxide gas.

After the acorn sprouted, it would pop up through the soil right in the middle of the greenhouse. There would be lots of water, soil, sunlight, and carbon dioxide for the small plant to grow tall and strong.

Plants both produce and consume carbon dioxide. A plant placed in a closed bottle, with good soil, sunlight and water, can survive for years without any care from human beings. (If you don’t believe me, you can try this yourself at home.)

As the little oak tree grew, it would produce more and more carbon dioxide from its leaves. Its branches would reach out and bump into the walls of the greenhouse. One day, the top of the oak tree would poke its way through the top of the greenhouse.

When that happened, some of the carbon dioxide and oxygen would escape through this hole. But the strong plant would continue to grow and continue to produce more of these two gases.

So if you think of the moon’s atmosphere as a small glass bottle in space, it might be possible for an oak tree to grow in its soil If only the astronauts had not forgotten to plant the acorn.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Story by Phil Shapiro. . Marcomedia Director creation by Gary Dauphin. Artwork by Maria Lyles.


Saul’s Question

Saul needs to know how many feet a caterpillar has. He didn’t even have to think about it. He went straight to the public library with his question.

He walked straight up to the young man at the big desk in front of the library. “I have a question about caterpillars,” Saul said. “Are you the right person to talk to?”

The friendly young man smiled and said, “Not really. My job is to sign out books from the library. The best person to talk with would be someone at the reference desk. They will surely help you find an answer to your caterpillar question.”

So Saul sauntered over to the reference desk in the other room and walked right up to the desk. “I have a question about caterpillars,” Saul asked politely.

The reference librarian smiled and said, “Tell me your question and I’ll tell you how to find an answer.” The reference librarian really looked as if she knew a lot about a lot of things. She looked as if she knew the answer to hundreds and hundreds of questions.

Saul spoke up loud and clear, “I’m writing a report about caterpillars for school. I need to find out how many feet a caterpillar has.”

“Hmmmmmm,” said the librarian. “That sounds like an interesting question. I bet we could find the answer to that question if we looked for it together.” Saul was so glad that she was going to help him find the answer to his question. Sometimes the library seemed like such a big place that a little boy could get lost forever in between two big stacks of books.

“Let’s go over and look at the encyclopedia first,” said the helpful librarian. “We can look in the encyclopedia with the letter ‘c’ on it. Since the word caterpillar starts with the letter ‘c’, the best place to look in the encyclopedia would be in the ‘c’ book.”

This sounded like a fine idea to Saul. He was secretly hoping to find a big color picture of a caterpillar, but he didn’t say anything to the librarian about his secret wish.

So the two of them walked over to the shelf with the encyclopedias. Saul helped the librarian find the book with the letter ‘c’ on it. The librarian helped Saul lift the heavy book off the shelf. Together they were going to find the answer to Saul’s caterpillar question.

As the librarian flipped the pages of the encyclopedia, Saul could see the book had many, many color pictures. The book also had lots and lots and lots of writing beside the pictures.

“Here it is!” shouted the librarian. I found the place about caterpillars in the encyclopedia.

And sure enough, right there on the page were three whole paragraphs about caterpillars. And a picture too! A color picture of a caterpillar.

You could even see the caterpillar’s face. Would you believe the caterpillar’s face looked like old Mr. Olgar at the grocery store? Of course you had to use your imagination to see the resemblance.

Now while Saul was dreaming of imaginary caterpillars and grocery stores, the friendly librarian was carefully reading everything the encyclopedia had to say about caterpillars. “Here’s what we’ve been looking for,” the friendly librarian said. “It says here that a caterpillar has twelve different parts, and that each part has three legs. Gee, that sounds like a multiplication problem to me,” she said.

“But I’m afraid my arithmetic is a little rusty these days. They completely forgot to teach multiplication at library school. Perhaps you could help me with this part?”

Saul thought it over and decided he could lend a hand at this point. Besides, he was pretty handy at doing math problems in the classroom.

In no time at all Saul whipped out his trusty pencil. He yanked a piece of scrap paper out of the trash can beside the desk. He wrote the multiplication problem exactly as it was supposed to look.

Then he took a deep breath and got to work. The friendly librarian peered over his shoulder as if she might be able to learn a little arithmetic, too.

“Thirty-six!” Saul blurted out. “A caterpillar has thirty-six legs.”

And with that, the librarian slammed the book shut and walked off with a big smile on her face.

Saul was feeling might fine himself…

Phil Shapiro
Copyright 1995

All Rights Reserved

[This story may be freely copied and distributed for noncommercial purposes. In particular, it may be freely used for any freeeware or shareware software projects. (I’d love to see a copy of anything you make with this.)
I’d be happy to communicate with any software development companies interested in producing multimedia stories. I’ve written a bunch of stories that lend themselves to multimedia presentation.



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