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.

Sunday, 30 January 2022

In the footsteps of poets, the pawprints of dogs

It was a fine, sunny morning and a trip outside Bristol was well overdue, so we decided to try Poets Walk at Clevedon again, following our abortive visit there at New Year. After all, it wasn't a bank holiday, and it's still January, for heaven's sake, so there wouldn't be loads of people there. Except there were and once again Salthouse Fields Car Park was full, though this time we did find a parking space near the old Church of St Andrew's. 

As I mentioned before, I'm not convinced all these people meandering around Poets Walk can be actual poets. Maybe there should be a rule that when you phone to pay your car parking fee, you also have to upload your latest poem. It could then be subjected to Turnitin to make sure you haven't just submitted 'In Memoriam' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and if it then passes muster, you get to park there. Seems fair to me. 

That said, I think most of the visitors were up on the front rather than on the cliff walk as it wasn't too crowded at all. We walked up onto Church Hill and took in the views. The tide was a long way out and the offshore sand bar visible. 

Looking back to St Andrew's

Stinking iris in Salthouse Woods

We cut through the woods and up the coast path, past the Lookout. 

The celebrated views of the town were clearly visible through the bare branches of stunted cliff-top trees.

Cwtch had a run off the lead on Wain's Hill. She hadn't been there before and was really happy. It was harder for us because the last time we were there was just a week before our previous dog, Ted, died. He was so tough and resilient, we didn't even realise he was ill. I felt a real pang in my heart as we walked over the ancient hill fort. 

Back at the Church we paid our respects to the Sheela-na-gig (bottom right) and a very noisy crow on the tower (top left). I expressed dissatisfaction that cockcrow is a thing and crowcrow isn't, even though crowing is clearly associated with crows, what with them having secured the onomatopoeic name for themselves at least as long ago as the mid-13th century. The Northerner quite reasonably pointed out that cockcrow is primarily a time rather than a noise, and if our ancestors had ordered their day by crowcrow, they'd have got in a pickle. 

In the churchyard, Emma Amelia was quite clearly a beauty of Pre-Raphaelite distinction in her prime ... 

... and Hyacinth is in evidence too, despite it being on a windswept cliff. 

Looking back over the churchyard


Friday, 14 January 2022

Pen Park Hole and the Mists of Elsewhere

There's still a bit of the ridge of edgelands I've come to call Elsewhere (because that's what it's been for us during the pandemic, and a godsend too) that I hadn't been to, and that's the little park at the south-western end of it, beyond the golf course and not accessible from it. 

I'm a bit ashamed of this oversight, given how close to it I've lived almost all my life, as it lies directly above Pen Park Hole, which is, apparently, the UK's only known hydrothermal cave system and home to the only subterranean colony of the shrimp, Niphargus kochianus. It's just that there's not a lot to see unless you are a speleologist and have permission to descend into its depths ... 

... which Cwtch and I aren't and haven't. Still, we've seen what we can of it now, and there are always photos of it online, as well as the traditionally far-fetched stories attached to such places to read. 

Otherwise, we've been out and about in the usual spots. I'd convinced myself over time that the reason we didn't go 
over the golf course and around the field and through the woods and along the common much last winter was first, on account of not having a dog because our old collie, Ted, had died, and then, having a new puppy - the aforementioned Cwtch - who was too young to go out much for a while, and then, being a bit prim, decided she'd rather stay on the settee than venture anywhere in anything less than the balmiest weather.  (And yes, it did take a while to get her housetrained.)

It wasn't just her, though. I'd forgotten, as I do every summer, how muddy footpaths get, and how difficult it can be to negotiate them through narrow gaps, gates and thick woodland. How grey and dispiriting December and January can be. How there's less to see and hear and smell.

Nevertheless, we've been getting out anyway, admittedly not quite as regularly as in spring and summer, but as often as not, and especially when a bright day with blue skies lifts our spirits. 

Towards the dreaming spires of El Dub

Chinook overhead

Plus, when the sun does come out, it draws your attention to the colour that's still on show.

Mostly, though, it's been cloudy. Occasionally, this can be beautiful ...

... but when it's unremittingly grey, you need a dog to justify taking photos. 

It's also rained a lot, so even when we're somewhere less frequented and not ankle-deep in mud, the fields are still more soggy than is pleasant to walk on. 

Ditch overflow

That said, I do like mist and there's even been a few days when it's been ... well, foggy. 

Even the commonplace is transformed by it.

I especially love the armadas of plants setting sail across the farmland. 

Stairway to Heaven

Is she still taking photos?

It might seem like a dreamland, but we're never allowed to forget the building of Brabazon that's going on nearby for long, even when views of it are obscured.

In this case we beat a hasty retreat. 

The one thing it hasn't been is cold - or at least, we haven't had a sustained spell of freezing weather yet, just the occasional frost-patched day. 

This means that while birds are already beginning to discuss choosing mates and which hedges to inspect, there's still some fungi about ... 

... and at one of my parking spots, either very late or decidedly early daisies. They think winter's all over, but it hasn't really started yet. 

Monday, 3 January 2022

New Year on the Severn: Brean and Beachley

We decided to walk a little further afield on New Year's Day, as it was New Year's Day and seemed to need observing slightly differently from all the other days during this pandemic. Our chosen destination was Poets Walk at Clevedon, as we hadn't been there since just before our old collie, Ted, died, 16 months ago. Unfortunately when we arrived, there was nowhere to park as everyone else in the locality seemed to have had the same idea. I'm quite sure they can't all have been poets.  

Anyway, we headed on down the M5 and ended up in Brean, where we had a wander on the beach. Cwtch didn't seem that disappointed.  

I decided to climb the steps that lead up the side of Brean Down to take in the view and see how the New Year might pan out. It was quite a haul.

On the way up I stopped to watch a raven, which was being mobbed by three crows. And the view at the top - here looking over to Uphill - was worth the effort. 

Back at sea level, I spotted an unseasonal pot marigold, which, like the raven, cheered me. They - the marigolds - always remind me of my grandmother's garden. 

My walk with Cwtch and Son the Younger today started directly under the old Severn Bridge at Beachley. 

The last time I was there, three years ago, we started to walk around the promontory that separates the Severn from the Wye, but the tide was high and the afternoon short, so this time, we started straight away, without fossicking on the shore for fossils first. 

We decided to heed the small papery sign written in felt pen, rather than the big red one.  

I couldn't make it out, but there was definitely a raven up in the western pylon of the Aust Severn Powerline Crossing.

Once again we were thwarted in our plans, though, as the path around the promontory was flooded at a point where ubiquitous brambles made it the only route round to the River Wye.

We turned back, vowing to return in a drier season.

St Twrogg's Island

View to the new Severn Bridge

We decided to return to the car along the beach, passing some interesting geology.

This involved scrambling over rather slippery rocks. Unfortunately my walking boots didn't have very good grip - nor I proprioception - and I fell over a couple of times. (It was quite funny, though.)

Back at the bridge, a passer-by offered to take photo of the three of us together. A rare capture of the photographer.

Happy New Year.