Pen-y-ghent, place in poetry

As we’ve seen in the Future Learn course about William Wordsworth, as well as in other nature writing, place has an important role to play in our lives.  In terms of writing, the setting can act as a character in itself, it can enhance the understanding and connecting we have to and with the characters and place can be holders of memories.

As with Wordsworth’s “spots of time”, sometimes a moment or an experience can turn out to be much more significant than we would have expected.  One of those moments for me was climbing Pen-y-ghent.

My pain was bad, not as bad as it is today by any stretch.  I was not on crutches but it was definetely a big part of my existance.  I was staying at the Women’s Holiday Centre at the foot of Pen-y-Ghent.  I had no ambition to go up.  It didn’t cross my mind that I could.  And then one of the women staying there talked me into it.  So I went up with someone who ran the house, very slowly, lots of breaks.  Panic when we neared the top and realised that my hands and arms were not going to be very useful for scrambling up the last leg.  But eventually I made it.  Hot, sweaty, in agony and on the brink of tears.  But I made it.  And it would be the last time I walked for the sake of walking.

I knew at the time that it was an important moment but I don’t think I grasped the enormity of it.  It was the last hike type walk I did.  I suspected it would be but I wasn’t thinking about that so much at the time.


A while later I attended a course about poetry and illness and it turned into a poem which was published in the anthology which ran alongside the project.  It’s not at all the best poem I’ve ever written and I’d like to revisit it again at some point.  When I wrote it, the emotion was still stinging and I was still figuring out how I could live with pain.  I know that the telling of it today would be very different.


I have not climbed Mount Everest
But I have reached the peak of Pen-y-Ghent
My own, overwhelming challenge
The same aches in my painful joints
The same sense of achievement
And once in a lifetime-ness

Some recipes with your poetry?

Writing prompts


No bread and honey

To the family name, just

Granma’s bees, now Dad’s.



A hello today

Marking tomorrow’s goodbye





Equations untying pasts,

Predicting futures

Bit of a plug:

This weekend I went to the Women’s Holiday Centre in Horton in Ribblesdale. The house is an amazing women’s only space which really feels like home.  They charge on a sliding scale to keep it affordable and the cost includes the food that’s kept in the house (all vegetarian) and available for you to prepare meals with.  It’s about a 7 minute gentle walk from a train station and is nestled at the foot of Pen-y-Ghent.  It’s brilliant!  Go along on your own, with a friend or book the whole house like we did.

Whilst I was there, I also booked into a creative writing workshop as the one I did last year was wonderful. Really supportive, inspiring and positive.

Recipes from weekend

The weekend really played into the part of me that likes to cook for people.  ‘Recipes’ may be stretching it a bit but here you go…

Bananajacks (vegan)
A cross between banana bread and flapjack, hence the name!  In a pan, gently heat three handfuls of chopped dates with two handfuls of brown sugar. Once they start to melt together add six chopped bananas. Once melted into a sticky smoothish mix add as many oats as the mix will take. Bake in a greased tray in a preheated oven (180) for 15-20 mins.

Chocolate brownie (vegan)
Make this recipe but I would replace the sugar with brown sugar (I’m really rubbish at fully following recipes but brown sugar makes it stickier). If you can, add chocolate chips.  Once cool, ice with a fudgy buttercream chocolate topping – two tablespoons of (vegan) butter, 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, a teaspoon of so of (soya/oat) milk and keep adding icing sugar until it’s fairly thick and stiff and when you taste test it, it doesn’t taste too greasy.

Chickpea, lentil and spinach curry (vegan)
70g red lentils per person
80g chickpeas per person
Lots of spinach
Per person, roughly: half a clove of garlic, half a teaspoon of… turmeric, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ground coriander, garam masala, tiny amount of chilli powder (tip of a spoon)
Lemon juice
Fresh coriander

Fry garlic, turmeric, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ground coriander, ground cumin, chilli powder into a paste. Stir in lentils. Add water to cover lentils. Keep stirring. After five minutes add chickpeas. You might need to add more water as the lentils absorb it. Once the lentils have cooked down (15-20 mins after putting them on), taste it. It might need a pinch of salt or some more cumin or coriander. Stir in spinach. It will wilt down a lot so you’ll need more than you think. Stir through a splash of lemon juice and some fresh chopped coriander.

Serve with rice, chapattis and yoghurt.  Reheats and freezes well.

I am the sea

This may be the last of my creative writing retreat posts.  We were asked to think of ourselves as a place.  We then split into small groups and had to answer questions about our place eg what’s the weather like, what colours are there etc.  My first poem is my response to this.  My immediate thought was the sea, upon exploration with my group it turned out I was the middle of the sea.

The second poem was cobbled together on the train home from Horton in a post writing retreat euphoria.

I am the sea

Ocean bleeds into sky

Grey waves crash

Into clouds



In a boundary-less



I am unreachable


From the bleak desert


My waves crash down

Shatter upon contact

I am breaking myself


Somewhere between murky

Waters and misty skies

I sink heavy and numb


The mystical power of salty air

Was my saviour

But now I’m too far from shore.




A patchwork of beech, ash, elm

Each a unique shade of autumn

Boney fingers curl into tired mist

As two parallel lines gently rock me back to York


A slow transition into the rest of the world

Taking with me a small part of Horton

Crumbing stone buildings become housing estates

Purple grey darkness closes in


The man and woman next to me

Break off a piece of chocolate each.

Are they leaving somewhere too?

Or is their journey just beginning?


Eyes close in denial

As the supermarket approaches

A beacon that home is close

Passengers gather belongings


Step down onto solid York

I am home

With Horton magic

Still visible on my skin

Creative Writing Retreat Part 3

In case you missed them:

We looked at a poem by Lao-Tzu (translated by Timothy Leary) called All Things Pass.  Once we’d read it, we wrote a list of things that pass and then used that to write a poem.  It was a really interesting exercise and it was great how varied everyone’s work was.

All things pass

All things pass

Stars, even

Constellations now ghosts of myths

Rock solid North Star

Guiding sailors for lifetimes

No longer hangs

In the tapestry

Of the sky

All things pass


All things pass


Autumn steals the summer’s warmth

Hibernation tugs at souls

Slowing into desolate months


All things pass


Skelton trees, bleak shadows of former selves

Finally, Orion, Greek hunter, pierces the dark

Pinprick beacons of hope


All things pass


Sunlight revives winter weary bones

Fresh, vibrant shoots burst through soil

A patchwork quilt of colour surrounds


All things pass


At last, sunrise to sunset stretches

Ahead with possibility and energy

Perseid meteors scatter short-lived nights


All things pass

Creative writing weekend part 2

The atmosphere at the creative writing workshop at the Women’s Holiday Centre was amazing as it has been on previous occasions when I’ve visited the house in Horton.

If you’re a woman and you haven’t been, go! It’s a five-ten minute walk from a train station and is served by trains from Leeds and Carlisle. Plug for Horton over, the weekend was brilliant. Janine led the group through various exercises and everyone had really positive, encouraging and genuine things to say to each other.

One of the exercises we did was very similar to something I did earlier in the year whilst I was staying at the house.  I sat in the garden and, paying attention to all my senses, wrote down words and phrases which I then combined into a poem.  For the exercise this weekend, we were asked to spend three minutes in three different parts of the garden.  Then we chose three phrases each and we wove it into a collaborative poem.  It was a beautiful piece but as I don’t have other people’s consent I won’t share it here.  I also created a poem with my list.

From the summer:

An afternoon in the garden

I sit, sun on skin

Gazing at the garden.

Insects dance in a daisy ballroom

Swallows rush by

The sound of their wings

Above the faint river flow.

White butterflies skim the vista

Chasing, spiralling

Out of sight.

The heat of the afternoon

On skin until

Clouds, hints of grey

Obscure azure.

A blue tit flies

Almost within reach.

Peace, the loud sound of peace.

From this weekend:

Winter falls on Horton

Leaves crush to compost

On uneven ground.

Dregs of autumn

Fight impending darkness.

Icy stone penetrates bones

Grey clouds roll in

Carrying winter’s bitter chill.

Surprisingly, a sunset orange

Calendula smiles up.

Hope flutters in the breeze.

My almost sanctuary

From a mind

Which is self destructing.

Creative writing weekend part 1

We’ve done a number of exercises so far including one where we already had the first word of each line.

If colours were sounds
If sounds were colours
I would hear melodious rainbows
I would see technicolor symphonies
Needed new perspectives
Needed topsy turvey freedom
You painted me jazz
You sang me Monet

I struggled with the word needed. I don’t like needing. I wrote a second poem with the same structure:

If there had been no one
If a hand hadn’t been offered
I wouldn’t have reached out
I would have let myself drown
Needed a flare to be sent
Needed someone to see
You threw me a lifeline
You taught me to swim