The much loved former Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, spent much of his later life living in Devon, and cared deeply for the natural world and the landscape he found there. Visitors to Stover Country Park near Bovey Tracey in Devon, can follow the Ted Hughes Poetry Trail, and enjoy some of his work in a setting created to benefit the wildlife that he loved, and worked to conserve. Along the two mile trail, specially designed posts display Hughes’ poems, each with a nature or wildlife theme. There is also a children’s trail, guaranteed to spark an interest in poetry. There are sixteen poetry posts and the walk takes about two hours, longer if like me, you’re on a photography walk as well! Some of the Ted Hughes poems around the trail are An Otter, A Cormorant, Nightjar, Trees, The Lake, The Kingfisher, The Thought-Fox, and Dragonfly. I didn’t see all sixteen, so I’ll have to go back! There are beautiful wood carvings, and the constant sound of woodland and water birds, with little rustlings and shufflings in the woods to keep you company. Ted Hughes found the countryside inspiring and his unique voice continues to inspire both adults and children. If you don’t know his work, I hope you will try to discover it, especially the poem ‘ The thought Fox’, you can hear him reading it on the poetryarchive.org this is what he said about it.
Long after I am gone, as long as a copy of the poem exists, every time anyone reads it the fox will get up somewhere out in the darkness and come walking towards them.
Every year around this time I see my blogging friends around the world, mostly in the USA and Canada posting about autumn and yet here in England it can be rather elusive. We have an Indian summer followed by mild, wet weather and often its way into November before autumn arrives.
I went to Killerton recently and found a little autumn, but much more late summer flowers. So this weekend I went to hunt it down again. Stover country park was the place, and this is what I found.
Some woodland birds
Things to watch out for
and some water birds.
Stover has another tale to tell, a wonderful connection between nature and one of our great poets, I’ll try to share that soon.
Ponder the season
with crispy leaves underfoot
of gold and copper
when you tiptoe cross the grass
to an autumn pleasure dome
This weekend coming is apple time at the National Trust’s Killerton estate, just east of Exeter. I won’t be able to make it but I popped out last weekend for a walk and found that the orchard was being readied for visitors.
There was an abundance of apples, lots of windfalls and still many to pick.
Families were strolling around looking at the different varieties and children were given little wheelbarrows to collect the fruit. I sampled some Killerton Cider, quite dry and strong, I didn’t dare have more than a very small cup as I was driving.
The bit I enjoyed most of all was watching a dead tree being brought back to life and colour, being yarn bombed
I hope this lovely work has survived the heavy rain we’ve had all week, and tonight’s lightening storm, there are sure to be lots of visitors this weekend, to watch the pressing and learn about orchards!
Wading up against the flow
cygnets hungry and waiting
for eel grass supper
It is believed that Dartmoor was almost completely covered in forest thousands of years ago, but it was gradually chopped down and used by the people living there at that time. Nowadays there are evergreen plantations and just a few natural woods remain, Wistmans Wood for one. It is a small, remote wood, just eight acres at a height of 1300 feet above sea leve,l with mostly oak trees, stunted by the poor soil and altitude. The surrounding area is open moorland, grazed by sheep, cattle and ponies. Without the clitter, fallen from the tors further up the hillside, the grazing animals would have put paid to Wistmans long ago. As it is, the clitter makes it impossible for them to gain foothold there.
Wistmans is one of many Dartmoor sites that is shrouded in myth and legend. Its name derives from Saxon wissen, to know, so Wissman’s or Wistman’s Wood, means wisemans wood and refers to the Druids and their sacred grove. You may indeed encounter the ghosts of druids past, if you dare to visit in the dark of the night. Far worse might be an encounter with the devil and his pack of fearful wisht hounds, Wistmans may be where he keeps them.
Rumour has it that adders lurk between every boulder, ready to strike if you dare clamber over, to find a path through the wood. What’s more likely to happen is that you will slip on damp moss and break an ankle, or worse, between these ancient granite rocks.
So brave traveller is you visit, listen for baying hounds, keep your eyes out for serpents, be careful what you turn your back on, and most of all if there’s a red flag flying stay away – the military have a firing area nearby and you don’t want to get shot!
Watch out for adders
The wood on a bright day
Ferns, moss and lichen
Beware the Serpent
Gnarled and twisted
Wizened and moss covered oak
Scarce hoarier seems the ancient Wood
Whose shivered trunks of age declare
What scath of tempests they have stood
In the rock’s crevice rooted there;
Yet still young foliage, fresh and fair,
Springs forth each mossy bough to dress,
And bid e’en Dartmoor’s valleys share
Sophie Dixon -1829.