Fermynwoods Friday 10 – Hansel and Gretel Audio Walk

In 2008 we commissioned artist collective Metro-Boulot-Dodo to create a series of Hansel and Gretel themed audio walks from Fermyn Woods Country Park to Sudborough Green Lodge, to see the Richard Woods’ installation Stone Clad Cottages.

Sophie Cullinan recounts how Fermynwoods drew her to the region and this abiding memory of one of her first encounters with the organisation.

Fermynwoods Contemporary Art has played a huge part in my life, starting with leading me to live where I do now. Having grown up in East Northamptonshire near where the organisation originated, I spent many years living in Greater Manchester and avidly read the weekly art recommendations in the Saturday Guardian newspaper. I was amazed and impressed to regularly see features about the intriguing rural artworks in the Fermynwoods programme. When I relocated back down south, I instinctively headed to Brigstock, which must, I assumed, now be the contemporary art capital of Northamptonshire. I was not disappointed.

Richard Woods’ installation Stone Clad Cottages had recently been featured as far a field as the New York Times – temporarily cladding the exterior of Sudborough Green Lodge in a unique candy-coloured faux stone cladding makeover. Woods called the Hansel-and-Gretel-on-acid result Shock Tudor.

Despite the coverage, the installation remained enticingly out of reach of most members of the public. The witches cottage tucked away in the woods without a trail of breadcrumbs. Instead the Hansel and Gretel audio walks would lead us to our destination.

Venturing out on a cold wintery day with my three children plus their friends in tow, nothing in our wildest dreams prepared us for the joyful sight of bicycling squirrels leaping out at us in the woods; an exceedingly tall tale told via MP3s and an eccentric lady tour guide leading us through the trees into the heart of Fermynwoods.

However my abiding memory of the event came when we had nearly reached our destination and it was necessary to traverse a bleak, muddy and windswept field to access the cottages.

Absurdly, slap bang in the middle of the field, was a large and ominous figure, seated at a table sitting with their back to us. As we cautiously approached, the figure tilted their head ever so slightly, to reveal a huge, long, pointy witch’s nose. Recoiling in shock and horror, I could feel my small son, who had just turned three, clutching my hand more tightly. He was literally quaking in his boots.

Thankfully for us, our brave and fearless tour guide, with a frying pan held aloft, chased the scary witch across the field and back into the woods. She was never seen again, and we arrived safely at our destination.

Richard Woods installation was taken down after six months but my first experience of Fermynwoods remains a vivid memory to this day.

Sophie Cullinan

hansel and gretel walk

Look out for more Fermynwoods Friday posts each week looking back on some of our favourite projects.