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Blog posts originally featured in Cornwall's what's-on magazine: Blackbird Pie. Click on logo to go to their website.

Sticks and Stones

If ever you find yourself wandering the foreshore of one of Cornwall’s inlets early one morning, or stumbling through local woodland at night, you might be inclined to bump into a man donning wellies behaving rather oddly. He’ll often be bent over filling his pockets with stones, or buckling under the weight of a fallen branch carried upon his shoulder. Well I’m sorry, I just can’t help it; I like to collect sticks and stones!

I’ve been doing this since I was a child, only in more recent years I have a usage for these items. Stones often go into a tumbling and polishing machine and come out the other end all shiny and pretty, before joining other sparkly companions in a glass vase, while sticks undergo a more vigorous transformation, emerging as either a carved wizard’s staff or a love spoon.

Of course, you don’t need expensive tumbling machines or carving sets to enjoy a few of nature’s gifts, pebbles from beaches will often have gone through their own organic tumbling process, and many sticks are already twisted into magical forms that need little more than a coat of oil to enhance their inner beauty. And it goes without saying that the collectors among you should limit your pebble picking to just a few so as not to leave those watery environments naked of all their defences – besides, many of those pebbles currently serve as habitats for other creatures, and one day will serve a playful purpose for your ancestors; they’ll become magnificent sand castles!

Likewise, unless you’re fortunate to manage your own woodland, I wouldn’t go rambling through public tree-lined spaces carrying a hatchet; you tend to get arrested for that sort of thing! More importantly, trees generally like to keep their limbs intact, so instead talk to landowners, arborists and local authority workers and ask them to save a few lopped branches when they undergo clearing activities.

And finally, unlike the children’s rhyme, sticks and stones needn’t break your bones, but can instead provide hours of creative pleasure. But please do be careful with the carving tools, unlike the strange man with stone-filled pockets buckling under the weight of timber on his shoulder – a couple years back he spent an afternoon having his hand stitched up by doctors for not pointing the wood chisel in the right direction!