Capturing a saltmarsh in words

TidelineI’m taking time out this weekend to do something a little different. Cumbria Wildlife Trust is running a creative writing day this Saturday, 19th May, led by writer, novelist and WordPress blogger Ann Lingard.

The day is taking place at RSPB Campfield Marsh in north Cumbria, where England and Scotland face one another across the Solway estuary. Cumbria is usually thought of in landscape terms as a place of mountains and high moors, The Lake District, and the inspiration for the likes of Arthur Ransome, John Ruskin and William and Dorothy Wordsworth. But this part of the Solway coast is a very different prospect, a flat expanse of saltmarsh, mudflats and creeping tides, with its own special atmosphere and wildlife.

The purpose of the day is to spend time in this environment, being and observing, before translating these observations and impressions into words. Not only have I never visited this part of the world before, I’ve also never taken part in this kind of immersive creative writing event. I’m really looking forward to the experience, and to working with Ann, and meeting some other enthusiastic writers. And to seeing what I’m inspired to write by being in what sounds like an amazing place.

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Eels

eels

As it’s Father’s Day, I wanted to repost this.

 

Eels

Me and dad sometimes fished a murky stretch of the Brant,

marshalled between levées of belly-high grass and nettles.

Unless you’d pulled one out yourself, you’d never know

the river hid writhing knots of eels in its catshit-coloured waters,

that barely moved as they searched the edges of the fen for

a gradient to follow, still forty pancake miles away from the sea.

It was always hot. Everything was a shade of green, yellow or blue,

and the man at the Royal Oak would swap a netful of live ropes,

with their angry, pinprick eyes, for beer, and a lemonade for the lad.

 

first published in Message in a Bottle, issue 30, 2016

Eels

eels
Eels

Me and dad sometimes fished a murky stretch of the Brant,

marshalled between levées of belly-high grass and nettles.

Unless you’d pulled one out yourself, you’d never know

the river hid writhing knots of eels in its catshit-coloured waters,

that barely moved as they searched the edges of the fen for

a gradient to follow, still forty pancake miles away from the sea.

It was always hot. Everything was a shade of green, yellow or blue,

and the man at the Royal Oak would swap a netful of live ropes,

with their angry, pinprick eyes, for beer, and a lemonade for the lad.

first published in Message in a Bottle, issue 30, 2016

Border

border

Border

He didn’t sleep again last night.

It could have been the shouting from above,

the hard fist of concrete under their hips,

or just the endless hum of emptiness.

 

One day he’s going to cross the river,

when the low tide catches the cup

of the moon on the horizon, with nothing

but a tall, rigid stick to steady him,

 

his money knotted safely in a bag,

and a length of blue rubber pipe for air.

From under the water’s urgent flow,

he’ll aim for that point where the fence

 

appears to droop wearily, where there are

trees lashed behind with dense vines.

The rattle of dogs, straining against their

rope collars, will announce his arrival.

 

first published in The Homestead Review, No. 36, 2016