As schools and nurseries closed due to COVID-19, parents have faced the daunting prospect of keeping their kids entertained for hours on end while simultaneously keeping them fit, healthy, and educated.
Thankfully there is a growing list of daily activities, products, and initiatives being launched by groups and individuals to help make things a little more manageable. Stickmen of the Enchanted Linear Park Woods is one of these groups making things just that little bit easier.
The lockdown project focuses on brightening the Linear Park Trail by encouraging children and families to create stick characters and fairy doors to hang in the trees dotted along the trail.
Since starting in March 2020, Linear Park Woods has welcomed many families, children, and individuals to join in the fun, with many visiting the trail to search for the hidden creations whilst getting their daily dose of outdoor exercise.
Founder of the project, Karen Poole, a teaching assistant at a local nursery, discovered the Irlam Linear Trail several years ago.
She said: “Living close by to the park we have on many occasions taken walks along its pathways, exploring fallen trees and being charmed by its beautiful hidden treasures.
“My family and I walk through Linear Park every day, being close by it is very convenient for us.
“At the beginning of lockdown, it was part of our daily exercise along the trail but now it’s routine and we miss the days we don’t visit.”
With over 25 stickmen creations placed along the trail, there are no limits as to what you may discover.
“The first set of stick people who went up were key workers – Dr Twig, Miss Linear – who is a teacher, and then a family tree which includes a stickman, stick-lady and their stick children.
“We also have characters like Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Disney princesses and also a Manchester Bee stickman to coincide with the MEN attack anniversary on May 22nd.”
She added: “New additions this week have been minions, Winnie the Pooh, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and also wooden fairy doors”.
With the help of her children – Alfie and Ollie and her Husband – Anthony, they work together to bring the creations to life.
“It’s a family effort! I obtain ideas of characters from my children and then I make my husband scale the trees to hang them up.”
Alongside the stickmen, Karen also runs Pebbleart Salford, which involves the decorating of pebbles and then hiding them around Irlam and Cadishead.
However, due to the risk of passing the virus over through touching the pebbles, Karen had to think of an alternative that wouldn’t put people at risk.
She said: “When lockdown began in late March, I wanted to do something within the community to encourage children and their families to safely get out and get active. I came up with the idea of making stick people and with the Linear Trail being on our doorstep, it was the perfect place for them.
“From the very start we have had lots of children and their families collecting sticks from the woods and making their very own stick people. In recent weeks we have had children hang their fantastic creations within the woods, which is so great to see.”
Outdoor play is crucial for childhood development. It enables children to enjoy the natural environment and explore their surroundings as well as build on imagination skills and provide a form physical activity.
However, a recent study in the UK discovered that children today spend half the time outside compared to their parents which is what makes projects like these all the more valuable for children and families in Salford during the lockdown period.
Karen has noticed the amount of joy that the stickmen bring to the children of Irlam & Cadishead, with one child naming the trail the ‘Enchanted woods’ because of all the stickmen and fairies.
This later led to the Facebook page being named Stickmen of the Enchanted Linear Park Woods.
She said: “The trail hasn’t just bought joy to children and their families, I have had messaged off adults and dog walkers who have said that ‘it doesn’t matter what age you are, it feels magical’ which just shows that this isn’t just for children. It really is for everyone!”
Megan Barlow, from Cadishead, noticed her friends had been to see the stickmen with their children and decided to join the Facebook group.
She said: “I had actually never been to Linear Park before lockdown and it was a really nice place to visit while we couldn’t get to anywhere else.
“I have been a couple of times a month since March and my eldest boy who is four always asks to go and see the stickmen. It makes me happy to go and see them with my children as they get so excited each time we go and when there are new ones added they love it!”
However, on June 29th, vandals decided to destroy the stickmen by tearing the creations down from the trees in Linear park Woods.
Karen said: “Over the last month we have unfortunately seen some deliberate vandalism occurring towards the stickmen characters in the woods. I can’t comment on who has done the damage at this time as we don’t know.
“I find it so disappointing and upsetting though as these people have destroyed stickmen character that myself, my children and others have made for children and their families to enjoy.
Megan also felt upset due to the recent vandalism of the stick creations. She said: “I felt so sad and disappointed about the vandalism and it’s such a shame to see that people would want to destroy something that has been made to brighten others’ days. Especially when so many young children get so much enjoyment out of it.”
The vandalism later occurred again on July 13th, where a stick-lady was ripped out and destroyed from the family tree which is made up of lots of different stick creations. There have not been any cases of vandalism since.
While lockdown hasn’t been easy for many, activities like these can brighten the days for a lot of people. Alongside all of those involved, Karen has found the stickmen creations have helped bring her some calm and a sense of purpose during this time.
She said: “For me during the early weeks of the pandemic making the stickmen was very calming for me and gave me a sense of purpose. I love walking along the Linear Park pathway and hearing the sounds of happy children, screaming with delight that they have found a stick person or fairy door and wanting to tell the whole world about it.
“But best of all I’ve loved spending time with my family and enjoying this creative interest together.”
Want to visit Linear Park and the stickmen creations? To find out more information on the Enchanted Stickmen Of Linear Woods project click here or follow the map for directions below!