Saturday, 31 January 2009

Writing Circles

Picking up a comment posted by Weaver of Grass, what is your preferred type of writing group? One that meets weekly, fortnightly or monthly? One that concentrates on inspiring new writing, critiquing or performing? A physical meeting or an online group? One for professionals, amateurs or mixed?
What's your choice? And why?

The bronze above is called Three Sisters and is by Patrick Purcell. Below is a link to more of his work.

Do something different

I saw nine long-tailed tits in my garden today - really pleasing as I don't usually see more than three together.

After the usual deep clean (boring I know....I'm sure weekends are made for more than this!) I decided I really MUST do something new so I tried a few new footpaths around Brinscall. Not far because it was already well into the afternoon but there was time enough for a steep climb to the top of Well Lane, then I took the track passed a derelict house and over rough grassland (difficult to locate the path here but there were plenty of landmarks in sight to encourage me to keep going) and then downhill to a quiet lane leading back to the lodge and swimming baths. I got a sense of achievement from going somewhere new. And guess what? I saw another flock of long-tailed tits en route.
By the way, if you ever get the chance to go to Brinscall Baths - do. It was built in 1911 and retains almost all the original art decor features - including the archaic changing facilities. It's in a charming location and has its own ghost.... Below is a photo of Brinscall Lodge which is right behind the baths.

Photo of long-tailed tit is used by the kind permission of Tony Dunn. (See link in side bar to his website). Photo of Brinscall Lodge is by Andrew Livesey.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Big Garden Birdwatch

Yes - this weekend it's the Big Garden Birdwatch. So grab yourself a breakfast coffee, croissant (binocs and bird ID book if you have them) and spend an hour looking the the window. You might be surprised how many species visit your garden.

Many birds will, of course, come to your feeders if you have them. But keep scanning hedge bottoms etc for ground feeders such as the dunnock. And, if you have a lattice fence, watch that too in case a wren appears looking for spiders and tiny insects living therein. Keep your eyes roving over tree trunks for treecreepers and look along branches for nuthatch and woodpeckers. If you have pines or conifers, you might be lucky enough to find tiny goldcrest there.

Open your window to listen for calls that indicate birds you might otherwise miss. Can you hear a song thrush smashing a snail shell?

Count how many of each species you see at one time and submit your results to And just as importantly - enjoy it!

Images copied from the RSPB website

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Group Trust

I met my new classes this week - always a pleasure. One of the many joys of being a creative writing tutor is facilitating the bonding of a group of strangers and watching group trust develop as learners participate in activities designed to do just that. A creative writing group can't flourish without every learner feeling able to trust the tutor and the group. I get a great surge of delight when I'm having to politely tell a group of a-few-minutes-ago-nervous-strangers to 'shut up!' And with a tutor like me - they always do!
That is until I set the next activity to get them sharing again...

I found this image on several sites so I'm not sure whom to credit. But whoever designed it has caught the essence of a class: all focused, all equal and each with a distinctive style and voice.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Fell Walking for Mental Health

Today's I decided to walk for health more than bird watching so I went up the hill from White Coppice and on towards Heapey Moor. I find walking is good for relaxation. The exercise gets oxygen flowing. I listen to my breath and my feet fall into its rhythms: quick, short steps synchronise with short, shallow breaths. It puts you at one with yourself (body and mind).

The rhythms let words and thoughts flow. I don't hinder them but observe them and let them flow like wind through hair. It's the place where poems and lesson plans begin.

It's also a cathartic place. I recall falling into step with strangers and hearing their life stories as they walk up hills and across the fells. When all is said, I subtly take another path and leave them wondering why they've been induced to say so much to a total stranger. It's not me - it's the exercise that releases the toxins in the mind so we can let them fall away towards any willing ear - and there is a place for that.

However, walking at its best should leave folks refreshed. So when folks find themselves falling into a downward spiral of negative thoughts, I find the most helpful exercise to do is 'grounding'. By that I mean control your thoughts. Instead of concentrating on the negative, listen to your breath, feel the muscles in your calves - and listen some more. Listen out for the scrape of boot on rock, listen for the burbling of streams, the rushes rustling, and pinpoint the direction of bird calls, scan sky and bracken tops for them and revel in the pleasure of being one with the moor.

Top photo is the edge of Heapey Moor by me. Bottom photo is a juvenile stonechat by Richard Spence.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Brown hare

A few more photos from this morning - thanks to Chris Ray. First up was a song thrush.

And secondly a well camouflaged brown hare.

Bretherton Eyes

A magical name - and we were all eyes as we assembled at a very frosty 9am watching thousands of woodpigeon depart the woods fanning the icy breeze. (If you click on the photo, you'll see we all had a dozen layers on!)Fieldfare, redwing, song thrush, nuthatch and many more fluttered around the wooded lane. When we reached the Mean High Water embankment, we looked down on flat, open fields (many of them deeply ploughed) and threw up flocks of singing larks, meadow pipits, a few lapwings, heron, kestrels hunting and more. A kingfisher perched in the grass by a water channel.

Into Back Lane, we were greeted by Dartmoor(?) ponies. Gary pointed out a brown lying low with ears down well camouflaged in a field. A small flock of yellow hammers flitted over and obligingly perched in a nearby hedge along with some goldfinch.

Back in Eyes Lane, some beaters returned and a dozen red-legged partridge ran into the safety of an off-limits field just as the shots began...

Thanks to Nigel Faiclough for this morning's photos. See link for more of his landscape and wildlife photography.

Below is a photo of Bank Hall which is also in this area. It opens during February for 'Snowdrop Sundays'. Find out more at wrote this last year. Just let it resurface today. It still needs some editing but here it is so far:

Bank Hall 2008

Her carriageway has known no carriage
for years. She twisted an ankle,
tripped over time, sat ageing and aching,
slates slipping from her head.
Emptiness has flaked her,
wrung its hands across the lawn,
shook out bouquets of snowdrops,
unveiling her unrequited love.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Frozen Reservoir

Upper Rivington reservoir was 95% frozen over this afternoon. It must be the lie of the land and the tilt of the sun since both Anglezarke and Lower Rivington (on either of it) remained mostly ice free. Strange too that the gulls and ducks chose to congregate on the frozen reservoir (on the thinnest ice by the unfrozen centre). Maybe they felt safest there?

Below is a poem that didn't make from the field book.

In their threes, fives and sixes, they land.
Shake. Expand the flotilla.
From time to time the whole congregation rises,
reels, reshuffles as the sun drags more small parties down
to roost.

Pushing deep into my armchair,
squeezing a Horlicks mug,
I wonder how they cope
as ice crawls from its hiding place,
encircles their legs,
traps them as they rest
with eyes under wings,
sheltered by nothing but themselves.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Ready to fly?

Regular readers will recall I took part in Robert Lee Brewer's poem-a-day challenge. Now it's time to submit.

Does each rhyme, consonance etc. connect the right words? Are the any unintended rhymes / near-rhymes that mislead? Do the rhythms flow and only jerk where intended? Have I teased meaning and associations out of the words? Will the collection hold together when it flies? (Will it fly?) And when it lands, will it bear up under scrutiny and offer something more? I hope so....

I enjoy reading other poets and observing other tutors - there's so much to learn from watching others. At the moment I'm reading Ruth Padel's 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem. (Many thanks to Crafty Green Poet who gave it to me.) A reminder to writers as well as a guide to readers. A useful resource and one I would recommend.

... and we can depend upon November

to edit out the the opulence of autumn
as she starts to define the winter clime,
strips nature back
with a long, cold stare,
slashing it
to food,

These kestrel's were taken by Mike Atkinson. Follow the link in the side bar to more photos that fly....

from the field book

from the field book
An inspiring gift for anyone who enjoys watching nature.