Walk the Hogsmill (Meeting the Tree)

Meeting the Tree – a 500 year old oak, the oldest tree in the borough.

It was about as wet a day as it is possible to have in January, without it snowing. Persistent, doggedly determined precipitation meant that, understandably, many people who had been in touch to say they would be joining the walk, cancelled when they saw the weather that morning.

But twelve intrepid adventurers gathered at the white cycle bridge, the confluence of the Hogsmill and Bonesgate Stream! A wonderful turn out for the first walk in our Tolworth Treasure and the Hogsmill Hum series.

The walk began with Alison talking about the sediment that comes into the Hogsmill from the Bonesgate Stream, and how this affects the wildlife, depending on the amount, for good and bad. As with all waterways there are many complex issues with keeping them healthy, including sewage spills, industrial pollution, the level of water, making sure fish can travel and they have places to spawn; how this affects the surrounding and connected flora and fauna- including kingfishers who are regularly spotted on the Hogsmill.

I read a light-hearted John Clare poem, A Ramble by The Riverside, and spoke about how Richard Jefferies, one of our most famous nature writers, wrote about standing on ‘Tolworth Court Bridge’, which was somewhere very close to the spot we were standing on, describing the river, and the brown trout, which he watched in the same spot for three consecutive summers. It became a place of pilgrimage for him.

“It was at the tail end of one of the arches of the bridge over the brook that my favourite trout used to lie. Sometimes the shadow of the beech came as far as his haunts, that was early in the morning, and for the rest of the day the bridge itself cast a shadow…For three seasons this continued. For three summers I had the pleasure to see the trout day after day, whenever I walked that way, and all that time, with fishermen close at hand, he escaped notice, though the place was not preserved.”

Alison talking about Riverhill Copse

We walked along the rainy river to  Riverhill Copse, where Alison talked about the efforts Epsom and Ewell Borough Council has made to create places where people can walk and enjoy nature. Riverhill Copse is beautiful: a lovely little walk through trees, which, if you didn’t know, might assume had just grown there, rather than being purposefully planted in a designed space.

At the other end of our mini-woodland ramble Alison talked about the importance of the yellow meadow ant mounds for birds and small mammals, and some of us were amused by the knowledge that woodpecker droppings, one of the birds which benefit from the ant mounds, look like the crumpled ends of cigarettes!

Chris Packham waxes typically lyrically about woodpecker poo: “Perhaps my favourite bird poo (and I’m sure many other people’s too) is produced by the green woodpecker. Again cylindrical, it can be found on short grassy areas where the birds have been foraging. It is about 6-8mm in diameter and somewhere between 25-35mm in length. Its outer skin is white and the interior, visible at either end, is tan brown and roughly textured, so it can look a bit like a crumpled length of a cigarette.”

Continuing our walk along the path by the river, towards Ewell, we stopped just before the road bisects the path, to listen to the exquisite sound of a song thrush singing.

We crossed over Ruxley Lane and stopped again to admire the hedgelaying along the side of the road. This is a traditional country craft and it is good to see it used as a green boundary along this busy suburban road.

Slightly further on, there is a section of  willow spiling along the river bank. The river looks noticeably different here because of it; spiling is used to help the banks and vegetation to naturally re-generate and helps to prevent erosion. It also creates good habitat for various wildlife.

At Ewell Court Stream I mentioned the the Pre-Raphaelite painters who lived and worked locally, particularly William Holman Hunt, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848.  Inspiration for his most famous painting, The Light of the World came from Hunt following the course of the Hogsmill, and discovering an abandoned hut once used by workers at the gunpowder mills at Old Malden: “On the riverside was a door locked up and overgrown with tendrils of ivy, its step choked with weeds.” Hunt visited the hut at night-time to capture the effects of moonlight – and was suspected by the village policeman of being a ghost!

Pamela watches white-letter hairstreak butterflies, whose favourite habitat is the tops of elm trees. She showed us her favourite elm tree, and told us how she watches them: lying on her back, looking up through binoculars! A good conversation starter for passing walkers if ever there was one!

Alison pointed out the Ewell storm tanks, which, if there is heavy rain, sometimes empty  excess sewage directly into the Hogsmill. It happens more frequently now and there have been big sewage spills recently. It is a facet of life on and around the river which cannot be ignored, and vital to understand the different pressures, due to population growth and urbanisation, which are placed on this unique river, when we are walking and enjoying this space. It is good to know that the river is monitored by volunteers.

We walked on past the stepping stones, halting briefly so that Lucy Sustrans could hop across and Alison could show us the chalk – the Hogsmill is a globally rare chalk river. Pamela searched the blackthorn growing at the side of the path and we looked at the eggs of the brown hairstreak butterly- they are beautiful- like tiny sea anenomes!

At Green Lane stream we stood on the recycled bridge and were treated to an extended visit from a kingfisher- who stopped to perch on a branch over the water, showing the full spectrum of its plumage- the best view I have ever had of the red and orange hues, rather than that flash of iridescent blue as it zooms downriver, over the water.   It then flew around us, around the bridge, to avoid us, bestowing us with another glimpse of its halcyon feathers.

And then, finally, we processed along a muddy path, through an avenue of young trees, which gave way to the oldest tree in the borough. A commanding 500 year-old oak. It was a joyful moment – we delighted in discovering a tree that has endured and witnessed all that has taken place in the last 500 years, since Shakespeare died. I read a poem and we all held hands around the tree. It was magical- our friend the tree!

We continued on again to the source of the Hogsmill, which comes bubbling up in ponds at Ewell Village, by Bourne Hall, which always looks to me as if a 1970s space ship has landed in a pleasant Surrey garden. There we were glad to stop, dry off and get warm in the cafe, talk about what we had seen, and do some writing.

 

Mapping Memories, Over the Fields, on the Isle of Wight

Over the Fields poetry map

I am currently preparing for a talk I will be giving this Thursday, 22nd June at Quay Arts, the Isle of Wight’s leading art gallery and venue for live events.  I was thrilled to be invited to speak about my poetry map, Over the Fields, as part of the events and activities taking place around Richard Long’s show, The Isle of Wight as Six Walks, 8th April – 1st July.

Photograph by Bill Mudge

I will be talking about how and why I came to make the map. Regular readers of my (somewhat irregular) blog will know that this was a process of going for walks with my Dad and my son, over 18 months, beginning in January 2014, and ending in August 2015. The map was self-published after being beautifully designed by my best mate, and printed and folded into a pocket-sized A6 fold out full colour working map, with poems on one side and photos and map on the other.

Since then the map and I have been on quite a journey, and I have been able to achieve some of the aims I had for it, and other things have happened which were unexpected but equally wonderful.

Running Through Six Acre Meadow

I will talk about this tiny piece of greenbelt, and the impact it continues to have on my family. I hope you can join me for a walk through the poems and a chance to think about memory, family and place. And walking itself, and why it continues to inspire creativity.

Information and booking here.

Facebook event here.

Thursday 22nd June, 7.30pm – 9.00pm £7

Quay Arts, 15 Sea Street, Newport Harbour, Isle of Wight PO30 5BD

 

 

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Visual Poetry Show at the Museum of Futures, Spring 2017

This Thursday, 23rd February I am thrilled to be reading a new collaborative poem with Susie Campbell at the Futures Camarade, which is part of the launch of the Visual Poetry show at the Museum of Futures in Surbiton. It has been an absolute delight to work with Susie, and we are looking forward to performing the work together for the first time on Thursday evening.

visual-poetry-poster-v3The Facebook event for the Futures Camarade reading and exhibition launch is here (I think it’s going to be a busy night!)

The show is being curated by the inimitable S J Fowler , with assistance from creative writing students Kingston University, and will exhibit work from a diverse range of artists and poets working across the boundaries of visual / textual art. I am very excited to be part of this and can’t wait to see what promises to be a distinctive and unique mix of work in the lovely space of the Museum of Futures.

I am chuffed to have a piece of visual work in the show, and to go with that, a new chapbook, Villiers Path: Scalloped Time, the second publication on the Seethingography imprint from Sampson Low publishers.

More about Villiers Path coming soon….

On Tuesday 28th February I will be hosting a Seething Writers workshop at the Museum of Futures: Seething Writers Go Totally Ekphrastic, where we will be writing in response to the work on show in the exhibition. More information here.

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Geography Workshop Presents: Her Outdoors

 

This Thursday, 14th April, on the mighty Resonance FM, from 8-9pm:

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Clear Spot

Geography Workshop Presents….Her Outdoors. Geography Workshop Presents questions assumptions about the ways in which our world is imagined. In this first programme, artists and writers Karen Lloyd, Alison Lloyd, Lucy Furlong and Morag Rose reflect on walking as practise, informed by the pejorative phrase ‘Er Indoors’. How does their work and the embodied practise of walking inform the way they narrate, enrich and question the narratives that dominate nature-writing, landscape and psycho-geography? Presented by Dr Jo Norcup. [Repeated Friday 9am.]

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Thanks to Jo Norcup for inviting me to be involved. I had a great time meeting and talking with everyone, and felt inspired and fired-up afterwards.

I hope you enjoy listening in!

 

Oh By Jingo

I can’t write about Bowie- there are many glorious essays, articles, outpourings, anecdotes, tributes and stories accumulating like gold dust in his wake… they are easy to find, and have been comforting I think for so many of us who feel bereft. I’ve just read this one by Chris Roberts in the Quietus this is interesting too…The Villa of Ormen…  It’s not too late to feel grateful to the Thin White Duke, even if he has returned to the stars. I have a renewed sense of ‘better do it now and better do it the way I want to do it’…and I am sure I am not the only one. What a legacy…. listen to this…Black Star by Elvis Presley- right to the end Bowie was impeccable with his art and his intentions…

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Sheer Zed’s Glossolalic Evocations

Sheer Zed’s Glossolalic Evocations

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One of the lovely things about this year has been meeting and working with some wonderful, talented people. Sheer Zed and I met on Twitter a few years back and so it was a major treat to finally meet him. Especially as the first time we met ‘IRL’ was at the Hesterglock Press launch of my pamphlet clew in April this year, and he was providing ambient soundtracks to my, Sarer Scotthorne and Paul Hawkins’s readings.

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He also sampled my reading of a long poem A Summoning, and turned it into a sweeping soundscape- one of my highlights of the year to have someone use my words in their music. We hope to work together at some point again in the future- which is a very happy-making thought!

This track is available as part of Sheer Zed’s new release Glossolalic Evocations, which is released today. More information on how to get it here.

I was very lucky to receive this as a gift from Sheer Zed and have been enjoying listening to it- it is mind-bending – body- moving – immersive electronic music in all the best possible ways, and is an utter pleasure to soak up. I recommend it.

Sheer Zed has described Glossolalic Evocations as:

“…engorged with various sonic elements such as Bristolized bass, noise, glossolalic utterances, recorded ambience, rugged mechanized beats and a garnish of just a slither of acid.

Here are my, in places, vaguely glossolalic responses to some of the tracks…


Hevvy hypnotic metallic phasing iconoclastic future beats pummelling drop dub sound of dead London stretched out time blip dance loops held in glistening spectral sheets of sonic dance macabre
Clockwork ticking cog turning melodic organic mechanic blocks of reverberating dissonant rhythmic spaces gripped by claws of cubic creaking dub bird swooping through pines surveying silence time breeze on and on and on on on on strike
Deep house depth charge techno funk > Lost in Brixton in the 90s, Derrick May, Carl Craig and dancing next to a tank draped in khaki camo for four quid when Brixton was still like that move your hands in robot blip shapes and no chill out shroom shaking space robot bez haunts loose lose losing your ..it
………………………………….1.27 drop and accumulate repetitive beats Load your quiver……………………..
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Watch the Skies. 3.36
Dark mornings in Bristol walking the cut captured by rust, decay trees. Disappearing tube train to the underworld. Pennies on eyes for the journey.
tell it like Stri ell of sulp hur un der a brid ke mat ches ge sul phur dr it is c o n j u r e a d e v i l hur str ike mat ches un der a brid aw a cir cle ge sm ell of sul phur und er a brid ge sm str ike mat ches sm ell of echo drip

Harvesting A Map, Over the Fields

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A small band of friends and family took a walk Over the Fields yesterday, to help me harvest the new poetry map. A glorious late September afternoon, close to the Autumn Equinox, traditionally associated with the second harvest…perfect timing.
We met at the church and were greeted by the vicar, Kevin, who was very generous in allowing us to wander around the beautiful church that is in his care, even letting Techno the Great Dane have a nose inside, and letting the children have a go on the church organ.

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We rambled down the hill into the valley; along paths, over and under bridges, by the river and through fields, stopping at various points to read poems. Thank you to Dad’s friend Roger White, who grew up and played in the fields too. He read us two pieces of writing he had published back in 1960, which was a great addition to the occasion. One about the Hogsmill River, published in his school magazine, and the other, a small clipping from the Surrey Comet, a news story about a local ‘incident’, which took place in 1959…

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Thank you to the family and friends who have helped me to make this new map, and who have been so kind and generous with their time, skills and support. Thanks to Bill Mudge, who recently took photos of me over the fields as I was finishing the map and taking a last walk there before signing off the final proof at my friend Mel’s studio. (Mega thanks to Mel- the map wouldn’t exist without her) Bill has kindly allowed me to use his photos, and a couple of them are on my web site. You can find more of Bill’s work here – the photos of me and Mel are part of his project 20 in 15.
The map is officially ready to find its way into the world, and with a bit of luck will help people wend their way around this patch of ‘green’…maybe you will be one of them…?
You can buy the Over the Fields map HERE, right now, and the first 25 people to order one will also get a FREE limited edition postcard (1 of 50) with a brand new poem which is also connected to this area, but not on the map… Your journey begins here!
There may be other walks – please ‘like’ my Facebook page for updates.

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