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Leave the city behind this Halloween October 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Entertainment.

Sporting a latex skeleton suit or immersion in a bucket of apple-festooned cold water at a fancy-dress party may be all very well, but the Tweed Valley Forest Park offers a truly authentic, and informative, Halloween experience this late-October.

With its rolling landscape of forested hills and rushing rivers, the area between Galashiels and Peebles is one of Scotland’s most evocative, and the organisers of the Tweed Valley Forest Festival plan to harness the unique ambience of this wooded wonderland to provide a packed few days of, often spooky, thrills for the entire family.

While Halloween-related events are far from the only show in town over the course of the four-day festival, which runs from Wednesday 25 to Sunday 29 October, they certainly have a strong presence on the programme.

With a history dating back to 1107, Traquair House is Scotland’s oldest continually inhabited house and has played a key role in the country’s history. It’s no surprise then that the walls of the venerable old building have plenty of tales to tell (not all of them pleasant) and members of the public will get the opportunity to hear these on Friday and Saturday when the stately home hosts twilight ghost tours.

If that sounds a bit too chill-inducing for little ones, there’s more child-friendly Halloween fun on Sunday with owl and falconry demonstrations and spooky face painting.

Another spooky highlight will be the Halloween night at the Hub in Glentress Forest near Peebles. Experts will take guided cycle nightrides for kids and adults from the Hub, a nationally renowned centre for mountain-biking, out into the forest night. There will also be a fancy dress competition, apple-dooking drinks and a barbecue.

The Halloween chills reach their peak on Sunday in the imposing surrounds of Neidpath Castle near Peebles with a dramatic, adult-only storytelling of the first Scottish Witch trial, entitled the Brewing Storm.

On a more informative note are several events designed to enhance visitors’ appreciation of the area’s natural attributes.

These include the Wood Market, a guided walk around Dawyck Botanic Garden, an illustrated talk on remarkable trees and a heritage tree safari, both by expert and author Donald Rodger. There’s also a long horse ride and children’s mountain bike rides in the stunning autumnal beauty of the Forest Park.

In addition to the public events, Borders Forest Trust is working with local schools and the Forest Education Initiative (FEI) to involing hundreds of local children in forest puppet shows, a lantern procession and fireside stories in the woods.

Iain Laidlaw, spokesman for festival organisers, the Treefest Partnership (a group that includes Forestry Commission Scotland, Borders Forest Trust, and Tweeddale Tourist Consortia) anticipates a great week.

He says: “Our Treefest partners have laid on a fascinating blend of indoor and outdoor events. I’d urge everyone to get a real taste of the history and culture in this stunning part of the Tweed Valley.”

• See www.forest-festival.com

School of block
Formed in Jedburgh in 1996 by Eoin Cox MBE and the late Tim Stead MBE, the core business philosophy of Woodschool was to make local hardwood in useable forms available to Scottish end-users. Another was to provide workshop facilities for young designers and makers.

Woodschool is a facility where the skill of furniture designers and makers is used to create high value from medium and poorer quality local hardwoods. In this timber yard and large workshop, individuals design and make their own unique furniture that can compete favourably on price with imported products of the same quality.

Woodschool has a gallery, BuyDesign, in the nearby Harestanes Centre, where furniture is displayed, together with other designer craft items. This sells well to the public, but the reputation built up by the business has spread further afield, and now commissions are undertaken for private customers too.

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