A sky sodden with grim intentions. The grass-blasted upward sweep fuelled by white noise. You pulling ahead, like you always do, snout down. And the whole time – the static pop pop pop of rain on my hood. Filling my ears.
Oh aye, poetry in motion (mine and Brodie’s, heading uphill). Actually, really bad poetry, I know.
But I was getting into the poetry vibe and making up some stuff as I trudged (walked would imply a care free demeanour) up the slopes of Pule Hill on Sunday, in search of one of the Simon Armitage ’Stanza Stones’. My appetite had been whetted from the walk across to my Dad’s recently, when we saw the ‘rain’ piece that had been carved into some rocks next to the Pennine Way. I’d heard there was a piece up on Pule and being a local boy and also not wanting to go too far a walk I headed up there. I’ve read a fair bit of Simon Armitage’s work over the years and I like his writing. And it was actually good (perversely) that the weather was so awful.. I needed to get into a stoical mindset just in case the trip to Rum next week is in equally foul conditions.
So, we headed up the flank of Pule Hill from the Mount Road side, not the side that is approached via a lay-by on the always-busy A62. The higher and more exposed it got the wilder it was. I was glad I had taken winter gear, the weather was disregarding the fact that May is so near! In fact it was so horrible that I didn’t want to stay too long on the top without moving - it really was too cold and wet for Brodie. Before we dropped down onto the quarry side of the hill though, I walked up to the highest point where there is one the Heritage Trail Marker Stones (#14 as it happens). I know this is a pet moan but I really can’t find a definitive guide or map of where exactly all theses stones are placed .. and why they are sited specifically where they are. Yes they all have views associated with them but I’m sure somewhere there’s a guide or key as to what each location signifies. Historically, geographically, geologically, sociologically even (industrial revolutions hotspots and all that). Anyway, no. #14 is probably a nice place to sit and look out on a drier day than we had!
Actually Brodie could have sat just below it for longer than me.. fixated as she was by some sheep and lambs far below us:
Back to the poetry.. We dropped down off the summit and walk north along the length of Pule Hill, along a fairly well defined path just below the impressive cliffs of millstone grit (note: will check my stone types later).
I wasn’t sure but I guessed the work would be within the large quarry area itself.. I couldn’t see it on the road-facing cliff faces above me, so we walked up part of the rampart (where the old stone-laden trucks would have trundled down) and had a look about. When I found it I thought it was really good and arresting to see a chiselled typeface on such a large scale in a quarry.. and makes a change from the vacuous scratched greetings you normally get
Whilst I’m thinking , here’s a video giving you an explanation of the Stanza Stones project :
I really admire the skills of the carver, Pip Hall, very talented : http://www.piphall.co.uk/gallery/landscape.php
A lot of people have been involved by the looks of it (and I hadn’t realised till I saw the video but that includes my friend Tom Lonsdale, Landscape Architect (http://www.placecraft.co.uk/).
Full details of those who have invested time and funds into the project are here : http://www.ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk/test/stanza-stones-key-partners/ .
And whilst I’m adding some links – one of the funding partners is Pennine Prospects. I hadn’t really come across the organisation much before but coincidentally they got in touch with me recently about the Walk and Ride festival happening in September in my region, which hopefully I’ll take part in. I like the website and the aims of it – and there’s some walks on there I’m going to make a note of. I’m not sure who did the photos on the header section but they’re great.
The umbrella group / raison d’être for the whole stanza stones trail thing seems to be the Ilkley Literature Festival and Simon Armitage’s part in that. I like Ilkley and have been to the festival in days gone by. But I’m not so sure about having the Ilkley connection both prominently and also kind of ambiguously displayed up in an old quarry in Marsden though (more of that in a minute).
The actual Stanza Stone poem installation / piece itself is tucked into the quarry, you have to have a mooch to see it. And it’s really good and ‘sympathetic’ .. e.g carved into the old stone, the poem itself evokes the winter conditions of the moors (it would read as well in a book of course but being in and off the landscape when you read it is pretty powerful). I’m all for this project and for getting ’Art’ into spaces used by many.
And the trail itself would be a good one to do at some stage to see all the Water based poems in their respective locations.
My camera phone doesn’t really do a great job but you’ll get the gist of the piece :
So , a really nice idea, skilfully executed.
But .. I’m really not sold on the other installation / intervention up in the quarry.
Some new stone (I think) has been brought in to make a curved wall with an integral seat as part of it. I really like the shape of the wall / seat and it is placed at the front of the quarry so you can rest and gaze across the moors (towards Ilkley I presume.. cognitive map says yes). But it kind of jarred with me for a few reasons – new yellow stone isn’t that appealing (I know it will weather in time), it reminds of the faux stone used in housing new builds. Bringing stone into a quarry feels a bit non-green, As in it takes effort / fuel to do that? Unless this was surplus stone from elsewhere and brought in by horse / cart (not being sarcastic .. why not?), then that would be cool. And the words ‘Ilkley 45 1/4 miles” carved onto the front of it. I know (through post-walk research) that it refers to the literature festival and the trail you can follow from Marsden to there. But an information plaque about the whole project would have maybe been more helpful. And it kind of has an element of cultural imperialism about it. Aspire to travel to Ilkely! Why not mention where more local landmarks are? Yep I know it revolves around the actual Stanza trail project and I’m being a bit bah humbug now, but it felt a bit brash compared to the poem / stanza stones themselves and a pretty unnecessary addition I think.
Blame the weather.
But as for the stanza stones themselves .. I’d like to see them all.
I’m away for the week on the Norfolk Broads, which is really lovely but I think I’m a bit of a landlubber as I spotted a long distance footpath that joined where we were moored up one night and I planned a quick recce of it, water should be enough but I liked the idea of a walk to get a different view of the Broads.
It would only be a couple of hours but as I’m now hiking up Scafell Pike on 3rd September, I reckoned I needed to stretch my legs
The Weavers Way runs alongside the part of the River Bure that we were stopped at overnight by Acle Bridge. Acle is a really nice little village if you ever ‘do the Norfolk broads’ , well worth the short walk from the river to it.
Anyway, I spotted on a tourist sign that the Weavers Way came right alongside the boat so I got up early (ish.. I’m on holiday) but within 2 minutes hit a fence blocking the path.
There is a whole load of dyke renovation work going on, so the path had been detoured (with brand new fenceposts and shiny wire) along a few fields. I was corralled into a 2 foot wide fenced run which I have to say felt a real shame as I was taken further and further from the river on the Acle to Thurne section. I’m used to the width / freedom of the moors I guess so this felt odd.
I understand it though, as there were quite a few jcb diggers and a couple of bulldozers working the earth to lay huge big plastic pipes and new dykes (ditches). Enough work to do without worrying about walkers getting in the way, getting run over and inadvertently clogging up the dykes.. Health and Safety and all that.
I couldn’t see much of the river but I did get a minute to watch a Kingfisher sat on one of the pipes before launching itself off and skimming at speed across the surface of the new dyke. An electric blue and red flash of colour. Lovely.
On my return leg back to the boat one of the guys in a jcb had basically unhooked the wires to the path and scooped out a brand new channel to join the larger dyke which was at right angles to it.. as I got closer I realised he had effectively blocked my route back. And there was a herd of curious cows right up to his digger so I couldn’t detour further into the field to circumnavigate. The cows were shuffling nearer to me (to get to the water that was quickly filling the new ditch) and weren’t going to budge. Hmm.
He spotted me and lowered the shovel. So I got a jcb step to use to bridge the new channel. Cool
As I was a bit back from the river I didn’t see much but this old mill (for pumping water not grinding flour) looked interesting. If I’d had more time I would have got back to the river, I’m sure – but a nice walk nonetheless.