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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.

Monday 6 May 2019

Poetting in Bucks Mills

This year's been generous so far with day-trips to my heartland. Yesterday my destination was Bucks Mills in North Devon, to read some poems at the inaugural poetry festival there. But first a meander down the very steep lane to the beach ...

... except that I got sidetracked by the Cabin on the slipway, which somehow manages to out-boathouse Dylan Thomas's shed at Laugharne as a desirable writing retreat.

The Cabin was originally a fisherman's store, but from the 1920s to 1971, it was used as a summer studio by the painter Judith Ackland and her partner, the poet and painter Mary Stella Edwards, with whom she made dioramas.

When Judith died, Mary shut the Cabin up and never went back there. Since 2008, it's been in the

care of the National Trust, its interior and contents preserved almost as the women left them.

The Cabin is made available by the Trust to artists-in-residence, but as there's no electricity, running water or toilet, anyone applying for a sojourn needs to have somewhere else to stay overnight. 

It would be great, though, wouldn't it? 

I mean, this is the beach from the garden. 

And here's the view looking east towards Westward Ho!, the Taw-Torridge estuary and Baggy Point ...

... and west towards Hartland Point, with a too-hazy-to-photograph Lundy Island on the horizon ...

... and the white cottages of Clovelly tumbling down the cliffs to the sea, in much the same way the ones at Bucks Mills do. 

Not literally, of course ...

... except in the case of this one, abandoned and poised to crumble.
The beach itself reminded me a lot of the one at Kilve in Somerset, only with sandstone formations rather than limestone. And no easier to walk over.

And with its waterfall pouring onto the pebbles, intimations of St Audries in Somerset also.

There was an interesting - if faded - visitors' board on the quay with useful-to-know, local stuff on it, like how Bucks Mills has its own nursery rhyme claim to rival Mells, Holcombe and Kilmersdon in North Somerset; namely, that in 1598, Richard Cole built a quay here which is now only visible at low tide, the cliff having eroded in the meantime. Old King Cole, anyone? ... Thought not. 

And about the Gore and the Gut - the former being the the pebble bank that runs out to sea and then turns towards Lundy. According to legend, it was built by the Devil as a
causeway, but he gave up when the handle of his shovel broke. Whereas the Gut has a far more prosaic history, having been blasted through rocks (Richard Cole, again) to allow small vessels to unload directly onto the beach.

I began to regret nipping down to the beach before the Festival when I realised just how steep it was climbing back up through the valley to the Gallery, where it was being held. Red-faced, sweaty and panting is not a poetic look.

There were lots of interesting things to pretend to look at while I was catching my breath, though.

Here's Dominic Fisher, kicking off the readings, which went well. 

Afterwards, there was just time to pop up to the Church, which is modern by most country church standards, having been built in 1862 in the Gothic Revival style. 

No worries about getting into the church on account of it having to stay open in order to comply with the terms of its covenant. Something to do with supplying shelter. 
Perhaps that's why it's quite plain inside.
There's also a sign which stipulates that all the seats apart from those in the chancel are to be reserved for the use of the poorer inhabitants of the parish. 

And then it was time to drive home again, over the Torridge and the Taw and the Exe and the Tone and the Parrett and the Axe, and all those rhynes on the Levels with names like Blind Yeo and Grumble Pill, and finally the Avon. Home from home. 

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