For a long time I didn’t write anything at all. That’s not to say I didn’t think about writing – I always went around noticing things – such as, fascinating, but fleeting casts of light, couples in the street, not obviously arguing but with faces that suggested, not all was well. A Bristol, or a London hill, its character, buildings, history. The atmosphere of a pub. A bird in a tree, an overgrown graveyard. An unassuming lane…
Later, up on the high downs, I hope to hear skylarks. I always enjoy the pleasing shock in the contrast between the drab brown looks of these small birds and the piping, apparently overflowing joy of their calls, as they come popping out of long grass, like a choir of demented rubber balls, springing for the stars.
I began to wonder, what makes a hill? Did all this tarmac count?
Fences, PRIVATE SIGNS, the houses? Were they part hill as well – landscape like the stone and grass? The buzzard overhead, was that part sky, part bird, part hill?
In my mental landscape, Bristol is a city of hills, not towers. Although, one local tower – the Purdown Transmitter, or BT Tower loomed large in my imagination. Not least because it looked more like some kind of alien space station, than a building that belonged at the north eastern edge of 1980s Bristol.
“Those woods on the ridge,
through the window,
if watched from a certain angle,
will roll over the roads,
untamed the suburbs,
reclaim the shape
of old maps…”
I often find it’s the unexpected encounters, or ‘walk shocks’, that make a particular trip memorable.
That was certainly true of at least three I’ve been on this year – plodding along, looking out for particular views, famous sites, when, wham! something, usually from the more-than-human world, was suddenly present, changing the view, changing the day, changing everything.
I once tweeted a thread featuring a highly abridged adaptation of a folktale called ‘One Tree Hill’ for #FolkloreThursday, which seemed like it might make a poem. Below is my attempt to do just that, with a ballad-style version of the story. I don’t write a lot of poems with fixed rhyme schemes, but it…
A little bit of fun. I shared this recently on Twitter for Black Bough Poetry’s #TopTweetTuesday.
At times I’ve found the last year reminiscent of my teenage years. All those extended periods of longing for something to happen, for life to get going, to have stuff to look forward to. All combined with often intense feelings of boredom and frustration; alleviated to various degrees through reading, listening to music or simply…
For a lover of hills, this small region of the country offers quite the range: steep hills, lone hills, round hills, hills with views of the sea, hills buzzed by kestrels, or patrolled by buzzards, internationally renowned hills with ruined churches on top, hills crowned by stands of trees, hills once topped by hill-forts, hills with winds that land a flurry of blows near the summit and hills disguised as city streets, with houses and shops groaning up and down their slopes.
Is it acceptable to call replica Sphinxes ‘The Guys?’ Who is The Headless Lady with no arms (who has arms)? What terrors await when you stop paying attention in the maze?
Brandon Hill aside, other hills in Bristol have their own distinctively languid charm and grace, such as Park Street, while a few are simply brutes.
One of these is the short and abrupt St Michael’s Hill, stretching from Upper Maudlin Street to Cotham. The lower slopes are dotted with attractive iron street furniture, step-work and historic buildings – including the pretty Colston Alms Houses – but don’t let these architectural gewgaws deceive you – it’s a bastard.
I’m back. It’s been a while. The woods behind my parents’ house on Tickenham Ridge haven’t changed hugely in the last few months – the seasons have cycled through and for now the hill is a shining riot of green in a dozen shades.
An hour earlier I was in these woods in company with my two boys, my sister, brother-in-law, two nephews and my Dad, but this time I am alone and things feel different.
Crystal Palace, geographically at least, is defined by its height: Palace = Hills.
But, hidden beneath busy Crystal Palace Parade, there is something else, a stunningly beautiful place that is usually inaccessible to the public.
It gives me hope a place like this. A small brown sign outside the Queen’s Hotel, Church Road the only local clue. Stambourne Woods this way, down that gravel drive and through the gate. On the house next door another sign gives red framed warning of a moose who isn’t there. This sliver of…
Tickenham, North Somerset is a long village strung along the B3130 road to Clevedon. On the surface, it’s nothing special, a fairly non-descript ribbon development – the kind of place you either live in or pass through on the way to somewhere else.
To celebrate the 256th anniversary of William Blake’s birth. Curiocity – the map magazine –organized a Blake themed walk around Soho, Covent Garden and Piccadilly.
Often its an image, or sense, of the physical presence of a place that draws me to it, but in the case of One Tree Hill, it was the name that attracted me.
A name that seemed so impossibly resonant that I had to see for myself whether the actual hill could ever live up to it.
The pervading spirit of some places hangs quite obviously in the air. Even if you’re only passing through and not looking very hard, the distinctive atmosphere will soon make itself apparent.
West Norwood isn’t one of those places.