About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
I am 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.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Huffing and Puffing up Maes Knoll

Maes Knoll. I'd been meaning to climb it for years, ever since I first saw it from the stone circles at Stanton Drew. And so I did, and although this is definitely a TED Walk in the time of Coronavirus, I've decided to give it a blog post in its own right because it was just bloody glorious.

Son the Younger, Ted and I started our walk in Norton Malreward. It was pretty hot - around 25° - so I was quite glad that we'd chosen the shorter, although possibly steeper route. Though the village itself could have been a bit more welcoming.

The footpath up to the summit of the hill is a lot more daunting than it looks in this photo.  My companions loped up it easily ... 

... but every hundred steps or so, I found myself unaccountably interested in the flora ... 

Ooh look, comfrey!

... and this kindly, shady ash, which necessitated a pause that could be construed as a bit of a breather. 

This photo, in which I'm obviously merely enjoying the view, gives you a better idea of its gradient. 

We stopped and sat on a bench for a bit near the top of the hill.
The views were hazy but amazing. I liked that I could see Chew Valley Lake and the transmitter on the Mendips, which made me think of all my poetry friends (and my pottery friend) in Wells, Glastonbury and beyond. 

There was just a little more climbing to do ... 

... to get to the hill fort on the summit.  

And even then there was a fair bit of walking to be done to tour its considerable circumference. 
The ground was dry and crunchy underfoot.

On its northern side, Bristol comes into view, startlingly close on account of the lack of edgelands on its southern side. 
This is a hazy view of Purdown, with its telecommunications tower and the yellow Dower House. 

We could also glimpse all three bridges - the two Severn crossings and Clifton Suspension Bridge - though the newer Severn Bridge is harder to make out than at the other end of the ridge in Dundry.

Here's the Suspension Bridge in the middle distance. 

There's a narrow neck of high ground at the western end of the fort, which is protected by a massive ditch and a 50 foot bank known as 'The Tump'. 

Time for a bit of a lie down.

Top of the world up 'ere

'All these things I will give thee,' saith the Ted, 'if thou wilt bow wow down and worship me.'

Saturday, 23 May 2020

TED Walks in the time of Coronavirus Pt 6 ... or I get locked down (but I get up again)

Actually, we haven't taken full advantage of the relaxation in the rules and gone to Berrow Beach, or my much-missed Dartmoor, or on an all-day road trip to the south coast. It just doesn't feel safe yet to me, and anyway, my car is overdue its MOT and service (though booked in). But Son the Younger, Ted the Dog, and I have been on a couple of walks along the Severn, and enjoyed the huge skies and the slightly misplaced sense of being (nearly) by the sea. 

The first walk was one Ted and I had done before, only this time we were starting our walk from Whale Wharf and heading for Oldbury Pill and the nuclear power station half a mile or so beyond it, rather than the other way around. 

It was so good to feel the breeze, and see and smell the river. And the cows! Lovely lovely cows. 

Some of the local sailors had taken advantage of the relaxation of the lockdown and taken their boats out. 

Spring came early this year, but conditions are harsher on the river and it was nice to see some whitethorn still in bloom on Oldbury Pill. 

And by the sailing club swathes of umbellifers. Instead of continuing to call everything cow parsley, I've embarked on a scratch course -  Know Your Umbellifers 101 - since our lockdown walks began,and can confidently identify this as hemlock ... 

... and this is hemlock water dropwort, from our second walk, starting at Shepperdine and walking down to the power station.

Forget, for a moment, Covid-19. What with deadly plants and nuclear power stations, quicksand and this, everything was always out to get us anyway. 

It was very very windy for our second walk so we cut it a lot shorter than planned. 

But it was good to take a deep breath before diving back into lockdown.

We also made a trip to Badock's Wood, which is local but not within comfortable walking distance from our home. And ooh it was lovely down in the little gorge, among the dark summer trees ...

... and the still just blossoming ramsons ... 

... though Ted was a bit put out at the River Trym's lack of water.

There was a sad thing, though, namely the deliberate damage done to the carvings, both in the wood and in the fields above it. 

Especially this carving which I liked so much, I had it in my author's photo on the back of my poetry collection, Breadcrumbs, to mark how important the wood was to me at the time I lived the poems.

Otherwise, we've been mostly going up over the golf course, sticking to the public footpaths to access Charlton Common and the meadow. 

Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to block every single desire path on the edge of the course with brushwood, and sometimes barbed wire.

There's also a few new instructions to follow. Presumably this is so that walkers exercising their right to walk on ancient public rights of way can see golf balls heading towards them and catch them before they get hit. 

We've also been walking up the Public Right of Way that hasn't been painted white. There's an arrow pointing to it in the little wood on the edge of the course, but no further indication of where it runs, unless you have a map. I have a map ... 

... and I'm not afraid to use it. It's a useful thing to have in your pocket to wave around in case of challenges. (A friend was told she had no right to walk across the course while she was actually standing on a painted line.) 

Though for now the most concerning thing has been the possibility of transfiguration and ascension to a higher astral plane.

With the whitethorn all but gone, we have instead elderflowers, cornflowers, hogweed and cow parsley, pot marigolds and viper's blugloss, vetch ... 

... plus a field full of pignut. 

The small dark wood of the mind is darker and more impenetrable than ever ... 

... but there are sunsets too ... 

... and plenty of ticks to pick up. Verily, some kind of heaven. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

TED Walks in the time of Coronavirus Pt 5

We marked May Day with a return walk to Splatts Abbey Wood. The Beltane celebrations were especially disrupted this year. The Government had hijacked the Monday bank holiday to turn it into a VE celebration, rather than give the livestock an extra day off. And Bristol's Jack in the Green celebration was cancelled because of the virus situation. (Which is, of course, what they should have happened with the VE Day parties too, but didn't. Hopefully there won't be a spike in Covid-19 cases in a couple of weeks' time.) 

No one had told nature it was all off, though. The bluebells might have all but finished, but the red campion was beginning to bloom ...

... as was this dog rose ... 

... and there was a path of may blossom petals to lead us into the lovely leafy depths.

We went a slightly different route this time and saw some wonderful trees, like this coppiced ash ... 

... and this ivy-covered oak, which was adamant that there was going to be a green man this year, after all. 

On the way back we passed the most recent farmhouse pertaining to Stanley Farm, which dates back to the 13th century. This beautiful building was built in 1860 in the Gothic Revival style by W E Godwin when the farm was amalgamated into a model farm complex with Wallscourt Farm. It now belongs to the MOD, hence the fencing. 

The remainder of the more recent TED Walks have taken us over the golf course, and on and around the golf course while play is suspended, and over the meadow at the back and through the wood to Charlton Common. With a lot of sunsets. 

It sounds as if there are ravens nesting in the magnificent ash tree in the gully at the eastern end of the course.
Whitethorn at its height.

Ted doesn't really understand the monkeys' compulsion to watch the sun set, night after night. 

He also doesn't like it when the female monkey lags behind taking photos. 

One evening it looked as if the buttercups were poised to take over from the lady's smock and the cowslips ... 

... only for the meadow to be covered in pignut a couple of days later.

But mostly it's been trees ... 

The perfect little oak

Another mad ash

The tree straight off a Clarice Cliff plate

The beautiful witchy whitethorn, tree number 2936,  that even Ted knows not to pee on
And skies ...

And above all, sunsets ...

The universe loves us

It's been idyllic.

We've even had a sun pillar. 

Though about a week back, white lines appeared on the grass marking the public rights of way over the course. It made us wonder if the golf club knew something we didn't. And sure enough a couple of days ago an announcement appeared on the club's Facebook page: 'Boris says we can play!!!' As if 'Boris' was their personal mate, rather than the incompetent that has overseen the wiping out of the VE generation. 

We said goodbye to all the trees on the fairway, and let Ted have a last paddle in the small pond. 

It's been fantastic, but it was only ever Fairyland.