Friday, 15 September 2017

Around the Harptrees: the Old Cockpit and Smitham Chimney

Number of trees whose branches sound like harps played by the wind? Or whose wood is sought after to make dulcimers for fairies? 

None. Harptree comes from the Old English herepoep and treow, meaning 'the military road by the wood'. 

Number of stone stiles on our route?


Number of former cockpits now masquerading as an enclosure for a wooden house?


The field itself used to be known as cockpits, apparently. 

Number of swallows snaffling the last of the finger buffet before heading off to South Africa.


Number of swallows to be seen when two buzzards pitched up?

None. There were a few very flustered pigeons, however.

Number of very scraggy-looking, perimoulting robins? 


Number of words I've just made up there? 

Also one.

Number of noticeable depressions in the middle of fields?

Many. This naturally-occurring sinkhole in the limestone ... 

... and me every time I realised there was yet another steep, tussocky hill to climb.

Number of overly nosy heifers?

Didn't stop to count but the thundering of hooves coming up behind us suggested many.

Number of bulls, albeit young and scrawny and with as yet rubbish horns?

Isn't one enough?

Number of curious and/or affable horses just wanting to make friends?

Five. And one very un-affable, unfriendly dog. 

Number of Grade II-listed, 70 foot lead smelting chimneys?


Ha, trick photo! There's only one left in the whole of the West Country. 

Number of yellow stagshorn fungi?

Not sure how you count it.

Number of elderberries?

Oh don't be silly.

Number of iron lions?


Number of views on this walk?

One, of Chew Valley Lake.

Number of photos of the one view on the walk?

More than this collage will hold. Clearly, I have a memory worse than a goldfish's. 
Ooh, that's a nice view ... ooh, that's a nice view ... ooh, etc.

Number of Old Mrs Edwardses, a noted laundress, standing white-aproned and white-haired outside her cottage with honeysuckle over the door and two skip beehives among the flowers on either side, looking up at the sweep of Mendip before her and so completing an unforgettable picture?  


Number of wet, smelly, happy border collies?

Just Ted. 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Landscapes for Life with Samuel T Coleridge and Ted the Border Collie

The defining feature of my life for the last 30 years has been the amount of caring involved: for disabled children who, although now adults, still need daily input, a daughter and ex-husband with Type I diabetes, and these days for very elderly parents too. 

Going on forays into the country for a few hours lifts me above the frustrations involved in having to set aside my own interests, and replenishes my not-always-very-deep reserves of patience.
When I go out on a jaunt, more often than not I find myself in either an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or a National Park. We are spoilt for them here in the south-west. 

Which is as well, because as far as my mental health is concerned, these places are life-savers. 

So I am always thrilled and delighted when one of my poems pops up in connection with the bodies overseeing these special places on our behalf. 

My poem Coleridge Changes his Library Books, which is from my first collection, Communion, is currently gracing the AONB's Landscapes for Life blog. This is particularly apt as many of the places it mentions are under their guardianship. It can be read it here

Meanwhile, today's caring duties will take me to one such area, the Mendip Hills. I think I'll take the dog along and make an afternoon of it. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Bristol March: End Austerity - Fund Our City

You wouldn't think anything had happened at all if you watched Points West, but 8,000 protesters marched against austerity and Tory cuts in Bristol today, despite stormy showers and occasional lightning. Here are some photos.

Assembly and speeches on College Green


Getting very wet

Back on College Green, waiting for more speakers

BSL interpreters with ... Bristol poet laureate, Miles Chambers

... Mayor Marvin Rees

... Kevin Courtney from the National Education Union

... NHS consultant, Lauren Gavaghan

... People's Assembly spokesperson, John Rees

... journalist and activist, Owen Jones

Friday, 8 September 2017

I Can See Clearly Now

Having delivered a box of poetry festival brochures to Weston library, we went on to Uphill for our annual walk.

There seemed to be a particular clarity today. Everything looked so close that I wondered if it was going to rain.

Then I remembered I was wearing my new lensed sunglasses. 

The preacher kept right on saying all I had to do was send ten dollars to the Church of the Sacred Bleeding Heart of Jesus located somewhere in Los Angeles, California [said a voice in my ear] and next week they'd say my prayer on the radio and I'd be able to see!

Though, in fact, I couldn't see the oystercatchers I could hear, just black headed gulls in their winter garb and a few crows hanging about, wondering if there was a mythological role for them today. 

Gotta poem we can be in, missus?

They were in turn upstaged by a gang of young, excitable ravens surfing the stiff onshore breeze over the dunes, but I'm only allowed one poem a year with a raven in it and I've already had my quota for 2017. 

It looked a bit stormy over the Quantocks as we headed for the pub. I couldn't help thinking about other islanders a long way to the south and west who are a lot less secure than we are right now.