Breaking Ground

The National Forest, an area which includes the Arboretum, is a living example of how trees can transform things.

It is home to some of the most beautiful natural spaces in the country. Green spaces such as these provide people with the opportunity to benefit from the rejuvenating effects of the outdoors, reducing stress and promoting our mental and physical health. 

Woodlands, meadows, lakes and riversides provided perfect settings for many of us to escape to during pandemic lockdowns. People took the opportunity to feel the breeze on their faces, to hear the sound of leaves beneath their feet, and to see the animal and plant life around them, thriving and unbothered by the human crisis that was unfolding around the Nation. 

For this project artists Anna Horton Cremin, Natalie Linney, Rebecca Lee and Dawn Jutton worked alongside a Burton social prescribing group, running workshops in woodlands and washlands in the local area, exploring the importance of outdoor spaces for our wellbeing both during and after the pandemic. The eco-dyed textiles and soundscape that were produced by the group and artists represent their experiences in engaging with the living world around them. 

The National Forest

The National Forest is one of the boldest environmentally-led regeneration initiatives in the country – transforming a post-industrial landscape by creating a forest across 200 square miles of the Midlands, linking the ancient remnant forests of Charnwood and Needwood.


Since the early 1990s, millions of trees have been planted in an area that was previously one of the least wooded parts of the country. Today, with the support of partners and communities, the National Forest is continuing to plant trees, care for woodlands, create and manage habitats, and helping to grow a greener, healthier and more sustainable future.

Learn more

Social prescribing

Recognising the impact of social, economic and environmental issues on community health and wellbeing, social prescribing enables health professionals to refer people to local, non-clinical services for support.

Social prescribing might involve activities such as volunteering, creating art, gardening, group learning, befriending and playing sports. By engaging with others in the community, individuals support each other in taking greater control of their own health. Studies into social prescribing have pointed to improvements in quality of life and emotional wellbeing. 

There is strong evidence to show that both spending time outdoors and participating in the arts can benefit our physical and mental health. During the project the participants socialised, made new friends and even supported each other outside of the workshops. Some were shielding during the pandemic and unable to leave the house, and enjoyed the opportunity to build confidence and get back in touch with nature. Many tried their hand at new things, such as poetry and eco-printing, and plan on continuing to explore their creativity further. 

Making the Artworks

Setting out into the landscape of Burton’s Washlands and the Arboretum, artist Anna and coordinator Gulsoom led the group in exploring the ways that nature supports people and the connections between us.

As it developed, the project was shaped and inspired by ideas from the participants themselves. Artist Natalie Linney helped the group to gather natural materials from the Washlands and the area surrounding the Arboretum’s Trees of Life Glade. These materials were then used to dye the 'forest' of hangings in this gallery, and to make ink for the illustrated poems on display. The group also used the Japanese method of hapa-zome to make the leaf and flower prints shown here. 

Poet Dawn Jutton guided the group in creating these poems, inspired by their sensory experience of natural spaces chosen by themselves, and artist Rebecca Lee worked with the participants to gather the sounds of the Washlands and the Arboretum.

The artworks, soundscape and poems created by the group are featured here for all to enjoy.

Sounds of the washlands and the Arboretum

Breaking Ground


Compiled by Dawn Jutton using selections taken from poems written by the group.


I notice muddy wooden steps with welcome handrail

I notice this walk-way parallel the brook, a flowing,





like a wet soup dragon


over drowned rocks.


Listening in on the Trent and those geese

I sling my new ear right into the peace

I notice the cloud of smoke my breath makes

in the mist that rolls in across the river.


I notice the crunch of the leaves beneath my feet

I notice the sound of the wind

lightly swishing the reeds along the river

a hedge-hidden wren chirping -

beautiful in its difference.


A place I feel safe.


I notice delicate snowdrops thrusting

through the cold earth

bringing joy with their beauty


The heron stands proud in our washlands

surrounded by detritus done by my kind

But the sight, oh the sight when the majestic

heron takes to the air.


I notice the happy joyful children playing in the park

I notice families arm in arm.


I’ve never felt more alone


I notice the unloved mattress

I notice the lack of lovers on it

I notice how fridge and freezer now grind

against each other in their empty space.

I notice no love, only rejection.

Hi I’m me, I’m fine, I shine like the

sunshine so bright, I am the sun. I am light.

all I see through my sight is darkness

a mass that covers me,

shackles me,

makes me feel alone



There is another sky ever serene and fair, where

I notice a sense of freedom from judging eyes

I notice a weight being lifted as though the cold

night air offers its icy hand to carry my troubles.


Sky everywhere, infinite colours

Look up and nothing matters

Sky, endless like time.

Sky full of darkness

yet the stars still shine brightly


like hope does through fear

Hear the group's individual poems as spoken by themselves

Artists and collaborators

Anna Horton-Cremin

Anna Horton Cremin is a participatory artist who works with people to develop artworks together. Her practice draws on ideas of togetherness and tuning in to your environment. Her current work has led her to create collaborative experiences and workshops that encourage empathy with each other and the natural world. Anna's work uses methods from Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening practice and the adventure playgrounds movement to develop playful experiences that encourage people to get out and explore their local natural spaces in new ways.


Natalie Linney

Natalie Linney explores human connection to landscape, nature and place throughout her work. Using textiles, form and print, she produces visual responses to current, historical, environmental and anthropological themes.


With a background in eco prints and natural dyes, Natalie utilises ancient dyeing techniques to make site-specific prints documenting landscape and heritage. Natalie’s practice regularly develops to include new materials and ways of making, and she seeks to fuse traditional crafts with modern concepts to preserve these methods whilst making them relevant today.


Rebecca Lee

Rebecca Lee is a musician, composer and sound artist who produces performances, audio works and collaborative projects with a particular focus on narrative and place. She is also a co-producer for youth arts group Youth Landscapers Collective in the National Forest.


Dawn Jutton

Dawn Jutton is the current Staffordshire Poet Laureate, a role to which she brings over forty years’ experience as a creative professional that includes a career as a photographer, lecturer and social engagement practitioner. 


Alongside this she has maintained her own dual practice of fine art and poetry. The influence of the rich heritage and varied landscapes of the Midlands shines through in both her writing and images, but Dawn also digs deep into her memories of growing up as a forces’ child, feminism and the challenges of discovering your queer identity later in life as inspiration for her eclectic practice.


Gulsoom Aslam

Gulsoom is a Community Development Practitioner and has worked in Social Prescribing. Her work includes empowering individuals, groups and communities to recognise their skills and assets, creating safe spaces to nurture and amplify individual talents and voices, recognising that everyone has something to offer given the opportunity. As a trusted Community Connector, she has brought her local knowledge and established relationships to support this project.

For their invaluable support throughout this project, we would like to thank:


Project co-creators

Abi Hanson, Angela Bentley, Carole Collins Fletcher, Colin Bailey, Duncan Black, Evelyn Syer, Iona Steadman, Laura Brackenbury, Lee Beddoe, Leon Rafferty, Martin Tuck, Nikki Gaunt, Shirley Ashcroft, Simon Gleave, Viv Holland


Collaborators and supporters

Beverley Rhodes, Burton Library, Emma Sykes, In Frame Studio, Mark Knight, Nicola Lynes, Shobnall Leisure Centre, The Brewhouse Arts Centre


Project Coordinator

Gulsoom Aslam 


Sound Designer

Christie Cremin 


Additional underwater sounds used in the artworks were recorded by young people from Vysions Youth Service, Rugeley, Willington Scouts and Winshill Youth Club in Burton on Trent as part of Tales from the River Bank, a Transforming the Trent Valley project led by artists Rebecca Lee and Jo Wheeler.