Today I had my second session with residents at Mytholm Court sheltered housing scheme here in Hebden Bridge. They are a really grrrrreat bunch, and the excellent Georgina (pictured here in the pink with her co-conspirators Eileen and Carole) had spread the word, so I had 4 x as many there today as last week!
We shared our experiences on what makes Hebden Bridge a special place - from ladies who had been born and bred here, and could go back umpteen generations in HB, to Bani - an Indian lady who had moved here from London just a few weeks ago, and this week we even had four men attending - a HUGE number for any writing group!
It was great hearing the 16 different views all round the room. And hearing everyone's feelings and experiences of being up on the moors. I had taken in with me a couple of plates laden with 'delicacies' from the moor: crumbled peat, quartz crystals from the millstone grit, burnt heather stems, a clump of charred moor grass, and a section of beautiful trumpet lichen. We all had a good sniff, look and feel at these, and talked about the two 'universes' of the moor - the huge open vistas when you can see for miles and miles, and the much smaller, and much more complex, universe of everything that grows "below the height of a sheep's heart" to quote Sylvia Plath's wonderful poem 'Wuthering Heights'.
Then I got everyone to jot down words and phrases that they feel about the moorland. Here's Phyllis (on the right) - the oldest resident at 97 - with her wonderfully clear handwriting (because she used to be an infant teacher she told me) very busy working with her friend Margaret.
Next week we are setting off together on a minibus trip across the moors - no matter what the weather is hurling at us! - to inspire us all to do some more thinking / feeling / writing about our amazing - and often scary! - uplands.
Here's the wonderful collage of words they created:
Expanse of moorland -
see/hear colours and birdlife - skylarks lifting
our hearts to pylons and big sky.
Exhilarating panorama, sense
of freedom, fresh air, space.
Unfriendly, scary, isolated,
wouldn't like to be alone.
And night-time? No thanks!
Heather, gorse, bog-cotton, bilberries
- and Mam's jam after,
jars and jars of summer
stacked in the cool pantry.
Streams weaving about the moors,
sound of grouse, windfarms, sheep.
Roads follow original tracks, geese calling
as they fly, deer spooked by cars.
Picnics, rabbits, cattle, ants, midges!
The sheer variety of colour and cloud formation.
WE LOVE OUR MOORS!!
Oh, and last Saturday I had my final session with the Oldham Writers group - this time we met in Saddleworth Museum rather than up on the very windy moors. Again, word must have spread that I run a fun session because several more writers joined us! We did a free writing session all about the moors, had a good read-round, looked at useful ways of editing our work, and they all agreed to my challenge to write a piece ready for the Saddleworth Museum's Watershed exhibition which opens at the end of June. I'm really looking forward to reading their Lancastrian 'take' on the moors!
Yesterday we were soooooo lucky with the weather! Today it is absolutely syling down with rain here - the first proper rain we've had in about 3 months (hence all the moorland fires we've been having). But yesterday was perfect - not too cold, but enough wind to enable the deaf children I took out onto Ovenden Moor to fly the kites they'd made, and have fun battling with the wind as we wended our way through the stunning bog cotton, and investigated the strange stone sculptures up there. The kids LOVED it - and all us adults did too! We used our imaginations to ask what was underneath the resevoir; why the moor was so lumpy and bumpy (what giants were buried under there?!); to fight parts of the First World War in the strange trench-like structures; to try to figure out who built the stone sculptures - and why; to think about what the landscape would have been like when the millstone grit was being laid down and the whole place was a jinormous river delta; to roll around in the peat and grass to feel the textures and smell the different scents of the moor... It was too cold to hang around and do writing out there, but it was MUCH more important for the children to really experience the moor with as many of their senses as possible. We had a great time together, and I'm really looking forward to going into their school and working with them to follow up their moor trip with lots of writing, story-boarding, drama and drawing about their trip. The best thing was that all the kids were desperate to come back and get out on the moors again! Only one of them had ever been out on the moor before, so this is a fantastic result!
Patna and me doing synchronised signing!
We ended the experience at the big wind farm just nearby, and - to warm ourselves up! - we all 'became' turbines. I'm sure we generated enough electricity to give their writing and artwork a really good buzz!
Toddling round Heptonstall area with the wonderful Clare Balding was great fun - you can hear the result:
Ramblings (BBC Radio 4 programme) for the next 6 days. Click on the link on my News and Current Events page cos I'm no techie and can't get the link to work on this blog!
And today I've been working with writers from Oldham up on Saddleworth Moor in bright bright sunshine and VERY strong wind. We tasted hawthorn leaves, sniffed orchids we found right next to our car park, flew kites, tasted Yorkshire water (from my kitchen tap!) to decide whether it tasted different from their (red rose!) water, thought about different settings and characters - eg the farmer who forced the builders of the M62 to split the motorway to go round his farmhouse; the helicopter pilot who landed very close to us to do a rescue for an accident... In other words, we threw ourselves into experiencing the Watershed with as many of our senses as possible. It was really good fun, and I'm looking forward to working with them at Saddleworth Museum next week to see what poems and stories they've managed to write.
Now I'm off down to the skatepark festival in Hebden Bridge to see if I can collar any of the skateboarders for a session up on the moors with me!
Last week I went walking with the wonderful Clare Balding on one of her literary Ramblings walks from Heptonstall and up and down various wonderful paths and old packhorse trails. I was trying to give a plug to my work as writer-in-residence for the Pennine Watershed, but not sure what the Beeb will/won't include in the programme. We had superb weather for the walk, and it was great to be out with some of my writing and environmental pals with Clare and her producer Maggie.
I was also meeting the staff at Mytholm Court - the sheltered housing scheme for elderly residents in Hebden Bridge. A really lovely trio: John, Sarah and Pam - and they were all v enthusiastic about me working with 'their' residents, and were sure they'd have some great tales to tell about their moorland adventures and experiences.
Char March - I'm a freelance writer and tutor. I am Writer-in-Residence for the Pennine Watershed Project, and this blog takes you through some of the work I've done in that role