Sunday, 2 September 2012


I have been to the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in West Sussex several times recently. Always a favourite place of mine I was tempted by two workshop days led by the marvellous poet James Simpson on the themes of Landscape and Nature in today's world.

One of the group referred to the setting as an impossible village and later I wrote a poem with that title:

An Impossible Village

We breathe in acres of air, shuffle through centuries of moods.
Timber and thatch greet a schoolroom of stone,
a medieval water mill is next to a toll keeper's hut.

Did someone take a nap one lazy Sunday afternoon,
confuse a time warp, dream this place?
Did children summon Puck again, imagine
stinging bees and thorn, a blackbird hen
and sleeping geese?

No one lives here, not a thing makes sense;
Tudor candles burn alone.

A movie for the silver screen?
No, it's a painting: a study in the picturesque
with hills and a woodland agreeably
placed; a claude glass view
with gentle, mellow tinge.

Beyond this tree-green tunnel light
weasels creep after prey into burrows;
rivers are dead-fish tins.

Here are a couple of photos: In this one I am stepping out of the past into the sunshine of 2012

2 more photos:
A re-enactment from the Charcoal Burners' Camp

On the course James Simson was at pains to emphasise that landscape is more than idyllic wilderness with no destructive humans in sight. He referred many times to the book 'Edgelands' by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons-Roberts - I can't recommend it highly enough myself.

I scribbled a few lines, following this line of thought:

Landscape now is its own pastiche:
nostalgic in false green it yearns for wilderness
and a world that never was.

And it's hazardous these fitful days
to write of silver moons and swans, remembered hills or pipes
that flute at dawn.

This river is too fowle says one
who'd rather dig up midden pots, grout
a pale Roman tile, reclaim the country names of gods

than watch the seagull
forage inland or squirrels
dig in brick.

On the course we were encouraged to wander around, being attentive and observant and linking images to personal memories.  It may seem strange that I have taken photos of leaves full of holes but that is one of the things that caught my attention:


This is what I wrote:

Invisible jaws are at work
in this sweet-pea garden where teasels, neighbourly
as visitors to Shallow's orchard, lean over wattle fences
swopping tales of death.

There is more hole than leaf: it's nibbled
to the stalk like a hoarding on a building site
cut to show the sparkling Thames or an old
churchyard where battered angels lie.

I remember a border of marigolds
an an upward colum of caterpillars, gripped
onto pebbledash as if super-glued.

Wherever did they think they were going?

A couple more photos from the cottage garden: