Test Valley Tales
From dragons and magical fish to enchanted trees and spectral horses, 'Test Valley Tales' brings the stories and legends of this beautiful borough to life through the Test Valley Tales illustrated book of short stories and its associated podcast.
With 10 story locations to choose from to visit, families can immerse themselves in the stories as they enjoy the wonderful walks and picturesque places Test Valley has to offer.
For information about the project and events, please sign up to our mailing list:
The Project story
In 2019 Test Valley Arts Foundation asked for project submissions to celebrate Test Valley as part of their 2020 Borough of Culture Festival.
I thought, what better way to celebrate this beautiful part of the world than through its stories!
Then 2020 arrived, and the World went into lockdown amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Things were inevitably put on hold.
Patience bore out and, in January 2021, I was thrilled to be awarded an Arts Council National Lottery Grant for 'Test Valley Tales', and for it to be one of Test Valley Arts Foundation's Borough of Culture Legacy Projects.
Test Valley Tales is an integrated project of three parts: An illustrated book of short stories, a storytelling podcast and school storytelling workshops.
For the project, I have researched and re-imagined ten stories, and linked them to ten locations in the Test Valley borough area.
Based on traditional folk tales and legends, the stories bring Test Valley to life,
revealing some wonderful places of interest for families to visit.
I hope the book and its associated podcast will encourage you to go out and find
the story location.
And if it is already one of your favourite places,
I hope its story will enable you to explore the area
with fresh eyes.
Artists, Maija Liepins and Susan Merrick have created original artwork for the book, taking inspiration from both the stories and their locations.
Composer/Folk musician, Paul Sartin has created original music for the podcast, as well as sourcing traditional music from the Hampshire Country Dance Tunes of the Pyle family manuscript of 1822 to complement the story themes and locations.
Test Valley Tales Podcast
The Test Valley Tales podcast is a free resource.
Each episode features one of the tales told by me!
Folk musician and composer, Paul Sartin has created and sourced some wonderful folk tunes to accompany the tales which gives the podcast a distinctive sound and helps bring the stories to life.
After each story, I have included a few facts followed by an interview about the story, the story location or one of the story themes.
'The Deadman's Plack of Harewood Forest' - Historian Elizabeth Norton, where we discuss the role of Elfrida in the story and how being a strong women in Saxon England has skewed how she is generally written about.
(This is a great episode for anyone interested in early English history, the role of women in history, or school projects about medieval history).
'The Baker's Daughter of Amport'- Tom Morath from The Hawk Conservancy Trust. during which Tom alongside 'Troy' the Trusts famous (and very chatty) tawny owl tells me some fascinating facts about owls. (As well as facts about owls, this episode has a Shakespearean link with the story being refenced by Ophelia in Hamlet).
'The White Trout of Stockbridge' - Maggie Shelton from Watercress and Winterbournes (Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust), where we discuss our unique chalk streams, their history and their importance for the area. (This is a great episode for anyone interested in chalk streams, their environment and biodiversity, and how we can get involved and help to protect them for the future).
'The Feuding Farmers of Harmony Woods' - Wendy Davis from Andover Tress United, where we discuss the creation of a new woodland here in Hampshire and its importance for the local community. (This episode has strong environmental themes, its great for school projects and anyone with an interest in the environment).
For a full list of interviews and story themes, please visit the dashboard on Podbean by following the link below.
As well as listening at home, I hope people will use the podcast when visiting the locations to explore and discover the magic of each place as they listen to its story.
The Test Valley podcast is hosted on Podbean:
It can be also be found on all your favourite listening sites:
Spotify, iTunes etc.
To listen to a Test Valley Tale, please Click on the player below.
Or search for 'Test Valley Tales' on the Podbean app, the iTunes Podcast app, Spotify and most other podcast apps.
The Test Valley Tales Book
The Test Valley Tales book is suitable for ages 7 - 107.
It is aimed at families, and anyone interested in folktales and legends, history and folklore.
It was a joy to write this book and to discover and retell these stories.
Choosing to set each story firmly in a real location gave me the opportunity to find a variety of new places locally to explore. I hope, when you read these stories, you will want to go out and explore these places for yourself. And with the inclusion of historical facts, local folklore, and interesting curiosities after each story, I hope you will be given an added dimension to your walks in the area.
The book also includes the links to the story crafts found here on my website.
Working with artists Maija Liepins and Susan Merrick on the book, has been really inspiring. Their artwork has been informed both by my words and the location.
I was keen for the stories to be told in a way that is inclusive and not stuck in a place long ago or far way, and Maija and Susan have used a combination of digital and mixed media techniques. This has enabled us to express the folklore and magic in the stories as well as keeping them contemporary and relevant. I hope the reader can imagine something magical like this could happen to them.
The first, limited edition book, created for the project has Sold Out. The second edition will be available to buy soon. If you would like us to contact you when the book is back in stock, please add you name to our mailing list at the top of the page, and we will be in touch soon! (You won't be bombarded with emails about other stuff).
Prints of Maija and Susan's artwork are also available to buy at:
Maija Liepins: www.TheDreamForest.Maija.co.uk/testvalleytales
Susan Merrick: https://susanmerrick.co.uk
Test Valley Tales Map and Walks
To download the Test Valley Tales Map with postcodes for all the story locations, please click here
To download a list of websites with suggested walks for the locations, please click here. (I will be updating this list and adding some of my own favourites over the next few weeks)
Test Valley Tales Story Crafts
I have created some simple crafts to link in with the stories. All crafts are designed to be made with simple materials I hope most people will have at home. I have also made sure to include some crafts which do not need a printer.
The Ghost Vicar of Vernham Dean - How to make a Posy
All you will need for this craft is an A4 piece of paper, some pens, scissors, glue and a piece of string. To watch my 'How to make a Posy' video, please click here.
The Baker's Daughter of Amport - Owl Mask
For my printable Owl mask template. Please click here.
The Cockatrice of Wherwell - Simple Cockatrice Puppet
To download my puppet template. Please click here.
The Magic Fish of Mottisfont - Magic Fish Puppet
All you need for this craft is an A4 pice of card, some pens, scissors and glue. To watch my 'How to make a Magic Fish' video', please click here.
The Enchanted Flute of Sadler's Mill - Enchanted Flute
This flute is made out of a piece of paper and actually works! To watch my 'How to make an Enchanted Flute video', please click here.
We are keen to have lots of community involvement with the project.
If you are interested in becoming involved or would like further information.
Please contact me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org