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Art Trip to Moor House/ Upper Teesdale Natural Nature Reserve

May 23, 2012

On Saturday I led a group of creative artists on an art trip to Moor House Natural Nature Reserve in Upper Teesdale.  We were invited to participate in the reserve’s 60th anniversary celebrations by Heather McCarty, Lead Outreach Advisor for National Nature Reserves Delivery North Team.  I was keen to participate as this is the land of my maternal ancestors and I have never been onto this remote part of the reserve before.

Moor House Natural Nature Reserve 60th anniversary gathering     As you can see, the event was well attended by people of all ages who are dressed for the winter weather despite the fact that it is mid-May.  I discovered that the cold wind penetrates through even five layers if you stand still for more than a few minutes but at least we did not have to contend with the swarms of midges that come out once temperatures start to climb.

Different activities were arranged for different groups during the course of the day such as sessions on; haymeadows, scientific littter and sphagna.  We artists were taken on a guided walk by one of the reserve’s volunteers who talked to us about the flora and fauna that thrive in this seemingly barren landscape.

Our brief was to soak up the atmosphere and produce  art work inspired by the day. Below are my early musings which will evolve into a poem for my new collection ‘From the land of my ancestors’ during the course of the next few weeks.

The land of my maternal ancestors

is windswept, water-logged, remote

tundra that reminded them of their Viking

homelands where the climate

was influenced by such icelandic currents

as those sweeping across the snow-clad summit

of Cross Fell today, in mid-May 2012.

When the wind drops I stand still

experience the silence as my feet

seep into the peat bog.  For a moment

I shift to a younger part of myself

reconnect to deep-rooted genetic memories.

I scan the barren crags dissected

by burns and sikes hidden

beneath layers of moorland heather

soak up the feeling of being

on the roof of the world.

I do not stop to appreciate

the mosses and grasses,

the grouse, curlews and lapwings

but I have seen into a deeper

part of my self.

As the wind strikes my left cheek

I come back to the barren landscape

that reflects my family’s history.

I shrug my black woollen hat

over my ears and plough my way back

through the blanket bog like a sheep

lost on a bouncy castle.

My musings continue but I think that’s enough to give you a sense of where the poem is going.

June Redfearn, another artist who took part in the day was inspired to paint one of the sikes and would like to share the following thoughts with you.

‘I last visited Moor House over 50 years ago and felt very priveleged to be able to go there again for the 60th anniversary of the Nature Reserve.  There is a great appreciation for all the work and research that has been carried out over the years through the Nature Conservancy and later Natural England on Moor House Nature Reserve.  To me, the place is so remote and yet so beautiful in terms of its landscape and flora.  I found Rough Sike with the dark limestone outcrops and the woodland and moorland background an inspiration for my painting.’

Rough Sike by June Redfearn

  1. Some wonderful material for your poem here! I love the sound of the collection you’re planning. I think walking, especially in this wild landscape, can be such an inspiration for writers and clearly for artists too.

    • Hello Avril. Yes, I agree about walking being a source of inspiration for writers. I also find that swimming has the same effect. They both provide opportunities for mulling things over.

  2. I created a few sketches. One of which is at the end of the day, when the organisers retired to the pub for a glass of lemonade. I’m going to post to my blog tonight. I enjoyed your poem greatly.

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