Alnwick Creative Walk group poem

On Saturday I led a small group of hardy souls on a creative walk in Alnwick, Northumberland – out through the pasture on the other side of the river from the castle and back again. Although we’re in one of the few areas of the UK currently free of snow, it was bitterly cold and windy, so I wasn’t sure if anyone would be prepared to walk or whether they’d get much out of it if we did. But in the face of adversity we developed a collegiate spirit, and the participants responded well to the creative task I had set them, to come up with phrases responding to the landscape and their experiences as they walked. As one of the group pointed out, the task made the walk occupy a strange middle ground between lone and group walking: the focus on producing an individual response meant we walked as a loose group, both together and separate. 

Back at the Bailiffgate Museum I collated the phrases the group had produced into a draft poem, a kind of group poem of shared experience:

River Aln walk
on a very cold day in late March

we’re so keen on
lapwings flapping
the lion’s tail and the 
noise of the trees
a bare wire fence
a bleached landscape
yes keep walking
struggle against the wind

five or maybe 
six seagulls swirling
cold on the cheeks
a landscaped landscape
it was snowing, uneven 
road and frozen fingers

yellow flag flying
brown river flows
moles live here
a red tasselled bag
and wind ruffled water
keep walking briskly
sheep being sheep

sheep getting on with it
slow wagons turning
lost gloves spread 
in chill bewilderment
whose idea was this?
many-bearded trunk
hedgehogs in the trees
hi hello there
risk assessment: done

bleached with cold 
spray-painted lichen
white plastic roofs
soldiers at attention
look out: red jacket
had a daschund
trying to describe
a river flowing up
and swathes of clart
unfriendly gorse and 
witches’ fingers

discarded Foster’s can
cold for the heron
walking’s about walking
when you walk
it belongs to you
windlashed eyes and
lapwings feeding

Shrove Tuesday football
there’s a film online
man with a dog head down 
nice black dog
boiled wool works
grey cloudy sky
what’s that diving hemmed in 
by the water 
rubbish catching branches
a constant hum
the aristocratic weir
water patterns frothing

ochre stone scar
the wide castle 
new pipeline
flotilla of terns
back to the bridge
gloves still there
at the kissing gate
grey slatey stones, jackdaws 
and cold, cold water

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