On Friday 10th, I ran a writing workshop at Saddleworth Museum for a group of brand new writers. They were a lovely set, and all worked very hard. Here's some of them scribbling madly everything they could possibly think of about moorland. They came up with a splendid feast of words, phrases and lines. Feel free to use their 'palette' of morrland impressions to inspire your own pieces of writing. Here's how I prompted them to come up with such comprehensive lists...
I asked them to write down:
verbs to describe how you can move across moorland; ways to cross the moors (eg packhorse trails, M62...); all the different forms of wildlife, including birds; think about what's underfoot and what it feels like; what about the plants and the geology; what sorts of modern stuff do you find scattered across the moors; what sounds can you hear and what smells are there; how can you be on the ground but tied to the air; what stories or myths have you heard about moors; what literary references are there to moors; name as many specific places on the moors as possible; list moor weather; ...
Have a go at this yourself and you'll soon come up with MASSES of 'colour' for your moorland 'palette' of material to help you paint your poems and stories.
Here's what Keith, Carol, Di, Karen, Rona and Sue came up with:
Boat Lane, Bleaklow, Standedge, Stone Edge, Pule Hill, Brun
Clough, Lads Hill, Saddleworth Moor, Marsden Moor, Wimberry Moor, Indians Head, Lark Hill, Binn Green, Dovestones, Standedge Heights, Black Hill, Broadhead
Beast of the moor, Daphne du Maurier, Wuthering Heights, Bills o’ Jacks, Moors Murders, Inns with creaky signs, Hound of Baskerville, Sherlock Holmes
Boggy peat damp smell, pheasants moaning, wind in grass, burnt grass, traffic in distance, stones tipped over time, millstone insects, outcrops, heather, empty cans, sky above – kites, hang-gliders, quarry, old rail track for stone, white hare, uneven ground, evidence of camping, wet grass, weathered exposed rock, grass moving, echo of the past, timeless, plane wrecks, magic mushrooms, wimberries
Bird calls – sharp, piercing, soul depth, evocative; distance, horizon, space, openness, wildness, wilderness, undulations; sheep bleats and baas, sheepdog – whistles;
hot sun, gentle sun, gale, breeze, wind, rain, hail, sleet, snow, drizzle; signs, fencing – barbed wire, litter – cans, bottles, plastic, paper, cigarette ends; grass, tussocks, stone slabs, gravel, peat, worn path, beaten track; packhorse trails, packhorse bells, packhorse hooves and shoes, packhorse driver calls, packhorse train; picnic bag/box
Deceptive bleakness; massive micro world; marks of man; reduced colours; grass (a desert of); dotted about sheep; space; big sky; trespassing patches of bog; lost birds; sudden cloughs (hidden); startling stubborn
trees; terrified hares; purposeful people; ankle-breaking tussocks; enticing paths; false horizons; intruding scratchy heather; coarse grasses; terrain; forced entry;
Wet soggy soaking; kites – attached to the sky; Yorkshire;
Lancashire; staggering wandering falling wading wuthering hard work; criss-cross communications above because below is slow; murders; hard sharp mist-piercing low muffled sounds; trails roads cuttings footpaths relentlessly; cotton tops wimberries brambles rushes and reeds roughness; grouse lizards curlew peregrine falcon beetles; cutting edge rocks hard gritstone sharp; plastic bags rubbish lunches debris from people
Earthy peaty muck spread smells; bird song tractor noise;
brittle grasses/shrubs; black plastic left by farmers, beer cans at the bottom of Lark Hill; sense of permanence, history; isolated; vigorous and sturdy walking; fog blizzards; gritstone; thick sturdy sheep; looking up between branches; blue and green; martins catching insects; skylark warble; horse flies and evening midges; roe deer; wimberries purple-stained mouth
And this is Rona’s lovely palette poem:
Walking hard, heather is deep and spicy as the foot bruises the stems.
Holes to catch foot in, then roads left by ancestors.
A supermarket bag waves like a pennant from the lone spindly shrub, the stiff plastic sounding harsh and hoarse.
A privileged glimpse of a mountain hare with its white winter coat
The proud pheasant cock hogging the road once too often, now a pile of feathers, his call no more.
The flightpath to Manchester airport hogs the hill crest.