I met Eleanor a few years ago via a mutual friend and was instantly drawn to her sense of humour, warmth and quick wit.
Eleanor, who lives just around the corner from me here at Toolerstone, came over one Summer’s evening last year for a catch up in the garden. At the time we had just been released from lockdown but were still required to meet in an outdoor space; not a great hardship in this garden it has to be said. We shared a few gins and a few tears. I hadn’t been able to see many people at all following Andy’s death, so there were usually tears to be shed when meeting up with friends again. I began to talk to Eleanor about how I had been wanting to find a way to ‘share’ the gardens at Toolerstone, and to use them ‘for the greater good’ in Andy’s memory.
Both Eleanor and I had previously been involved with organising events and, as the evening grew on, so did our visions of what we could arrange in the gardens of Toolerstone. We conjured up all sorts of fantastical ideas, (most of them far too much fantasy as that was the effect the gin had on us!). I think we even had mythical creatures coming out of the pond, a real life Mr Tumnus teetering about on stilts and a string quartet floating on a boat serenading ice skaters on the rink!
In the clarity of the following morning, the seed had been well and truly sown. It will be just over one year later that we open the doors to ‘@:Toolerstone’ . Eleanor (who has a background in engineering and management) has been working with me since October last year to pull together a varied programme of workshops. They include gardening, art, textiles, floristry and much more, and all are focused on making the most of the beautiful garden setting. We will be offering these day-long experiences to care workers in our home county of Cheshire and, as far as I am aware, what we have set out to do has not been done before and that is what has made it so exciting for us to create.
In addition, we’ve been busy ‘making spaces’ for outdoor and indoor teaching, spaces to relax and enjoy small social gatherings, even areas for cooking and eating together, as well as making sure there are lots of places to ‘hide’ and to sit and reflect. We want Toolerstone to be a true escape for our guests; we want them to feel welcome when they arrive and leave feeling inspired, with a full belly and a big breath of fresh air!
The real test for us will be to see the reaction from those who attend our workshops when we open the doors to @:Toolerstone for the first time in September 2021, and the anticipation of that feels truly thrilling. Whilst our calendar of creative workshops is quite a bit different to our original brain-storming session, I truly believe that anything is possible……..
So, you never know, you may well get to meet a real-life stilt walking Mr Tumnus one day soon! Watch this space!