About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
I'm co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

The 2023 Kennet and Avon Canal Christmas Floating Fayre

 And so to Bradford-on-Avon for the Christmas Floating Fayre on the Kennet and Avon Canal. We could have gone on Saturday, which was a cold but sunny day enhanced by the winter's first frost - a Frost Fayre! -  but someone had football to watch, and so we found ourselves east-bound on the M4 on Sunday, in pervasive mist and drizzle. 

Fortunately it was - well, not clearing up exactly, but at least not quite as wet by the time we arrived, found a parking place on Trowbridge Road and walked to the wharf. And although I've made enough winter visits to friends living on the cut to know that it's the most unromantic of lives, up to your arse in mud on the tow path, the last few autumn leaves reflected in the water, the coloured boats and woodsmoke did look very picture-rescue, as someone I know said without a trace of irony the other day. 

First, a quick chat with Dru, who was in pole position on the Lower Wharf visitor moorings, doing a roaring trade selling her art and poetry books. As usual, I'd bought enough of her calendars for the people on my present list who appreciate them, but had forgotten to get one for myself, so I needed another of those. I also couldn't resist a pack of cards featuring a frozen-looking heron on Widcombe top lock in Bath. 

Looking down at the River Avon

Then we wandered half a mile or so west to see our friend Jinny, and meet - for the first time - her dog, Millie, a Macedonian rescue who joined her on NB Netty earlier in the year. 

First glimpse of Millie

After hugs and a catch-up, we wandered back to the pub for cider ...

... and then headed up to the Upper Wharf, where there was a Barber Boat, complete with revolving pole. I have to say, I remember the ones from my childhood being just red and white, and have laboured all my life under the impression that the red represents blood. No idea, then, what bodily fluid the blue might stand for.

Back at the Lower Wharf, Dru's stall was about eight deep in customers so we sidled past without managing to say goodbye. A lovely couple of hours out, though, and a welcome change of scene. 

Tuesday 21 November 2023

In which Cwtch the Collie gets her paws wet

Since the school I work in relocated over the summer, it's felt strange not to head for the part of Bristol I worked in for 24 years. I have been back a couple of times, though - or at least, to the unnamed road the school was on, as it's a good place to park for a walk in Badock's Wood. 

The main reason for visiting Badock's Wood, apart from enjoying a change of scene, is to convince Cwtch the Collie it's quite safe, actually, for her to get her paws wet, in this case in the River Trym. This is something I've been trying to do for some time, ever since she was a pup and learnt, abruptly, that once ice has melted, water doesn't hold you up. I think it's fair to say that so far, my efforts haven't met with much success.

Now it's autumn and the Trym's fuller, I've started wearing wellies, so I can get into the water myself and show Cwtch it's fine and even fun. 

Our first visit, in October, she needed a lot of persuasion even to get a claw wet ... 

... but on our second visit, three weeks later, she ran on ahead to the little beach where it's easy for the less than nimble to scramble down to the water's edge and waited for me to join her, for all the world as if she'd decided to enjoy this game, and as I crossed from side to side over the stream, she followed me. 

Gotta love the ostentatious shake at the end, as if she's just swum the Channel.

She still likes the bridge best, though.

As well as Cwtch's progress, I've been well placed to watch the progression of autumn, from green mostly ...  

... to mostly gold and copper.

spindle berries

Down in the little wooded gorge the Corvid Wars are in full flow ... 

... and there's an array of fungi.  

I've made some tentative identifications: brittle cinder, perhaps, and sulphur tuft; lumpy bracket fungus; turkey tail; candelsnuff fungus, and along the bottom row, ooh ooh ooh my favourite jelly ears. 

Unlike where we usually walk, there are lots of beech trees in Badock's Wood, and it's a tonic to see their lovely colours as the leaves turn ...

... alongside the occasional ash tree ... 

... and equally spectacular oaks. 

I even saw some holes belonging to bank voles in the river banks, though their inhabitants were most likely steering clear of Cwtch. Standing about in shallow rivers can give you a whole new perspective on the familiar. 

'All right, all right, I'll sit on it but I'm not going to smile!' 

Tuesday 14 November 2023

Bonfire Days

The last time I posted about the edgelands where we walk most days it looked as if this year's late, slow-burning autumn was about to catch alight.

Then I got Covid and didn't go anywhere for ten days - literally, in fact, as my partner omitted to catch it at the same time and, since he's self-employed, was keen not to miss work. So I sat in the bedroom for most of that time, with only a walk-deprived collie for company. 

While we were in seclusion, there was some wild weather, including storm Ciaran, so when we finally rejoined the world, it was a wetter one. 

And since the rain has continued, Cwtch and I have spent some time exploring The Small Dark Wood of the Mind, which affords some shelter.

The Small Dark Wood of the Mind is a feral, largely untended wood that wasn’t where it is now in the 19th century. Along with the Field of the Hollowing Oak and Rooky Wood to its east, it’s part of the edgelands sandwiched between the golf course, a housing estate, Charlton Road and the Airbus campus. The trees in the above photo grow on top of a bank or dyke alongside the footpath, which clearly isn’t a natural feature of the landscape and also doesn’t feature on the Victorian map. 

There’s another similar bank, also marking the boundary of the campus, where the rookery grows. You can see it in the recent video I took of a muntjac running up and down the wood.

I’ve been trying to work out why and when these earthworks were undertaken. I wonder if, because the factories have been used to build aeroplanes (or parts) and weapons for decades, they were put up during the war to make it harder to infiltrate the hangars and workshops. (Presumably the footpath would have been blocked for the duration.) I like this theory but haven’t been able to verify it online. Maybe I’m using the wrong search terms. And the people I might have asked who worked there - my father, my godfather, poet John Terry - are all dead, although someone on Facebook did suggest they might be bunds, designed as blast protection walls, also during the war.  

Haws barring the way to the Grove of the Silver Chair (and Ruby Crown)

Rubbish adopting an effective camouflage

Cwtch in the clearing where so many trees were felled about a year ago

Even though there’s a fence with razor wire and keep out notices running through the part of wood on the factory side of the footpath, paths running through it are still routinely blocked with branches at the junction with the footpath, presumably to deter German spies still. Doesn’t stop Cwtch and me having a nosey about every now and then, though I’m mostly interested in fungi and feathers, and she squirrels.

Of fungi, there are a few, most of them brown. I'm not skilled at identifying them, but might hazard, clockwise from top left, inkcaps x 2, milkcap maybe, candlesnuff fungus, waxcaps x 4, potato earthballs.

As for feathers, the falling season is over, apart from woodpigeon feathers. There are always woodpigeon feathers, and no sooner have disparaged them, than the God of Fallen Feathers says hey, these are beautiful too. 

As for flora and fauna, I again glimpsed the hindquarters of a muntjac scuttling into Rooky Wood (they definitely seem to have taken up residence there), while flowers have been restricted to the occasional hogweed (this one with a soldier fly) and common vetch valiantly having another go at blooming.  

Far more spectacular are the colours of autumn, which did indeed advance while my back was turned.

field maples

The ash trees in the Small Dark Wood of the Mind are starting to carpet the path with yellow leaves ... 

... while the oaks are stunning.

Looking towards the new Severn bridge

Oak and ivy on Golf Course Lane

Of course, my most fervent admiration is for my beacon tree, the hollowing oak.

One other big change during my absence ... the golf club has removed a wooden fence and an entire hedgerow at the top of the lane. It now looks like Colditz, instead of a lane with the occasional vestige of its rural past. 

As we were leaving, we watched a jay pick up an acorn, perch on the fence and drop it a little further away from the tree. Nature will prevail, in the end.