Breaking New Ground

Reconnecting People with The Brecks

Words in the Walled Garden

Sandlines "Heaths, Warrens and Gardens" Workshop 15th July Brandon Country Park.

The Walled Garden at Brandon Country Park is a riot of colour and scent in July; appropriate therefore as the setting for the fourth Sandlines writing workshop. Although the day started with mizzle, it warmed up nicely for the afternoon, feeling at last like summer. Our workshop was set up in a marquee within the garden so we could relax on the picnic benches and gaze out across bee hung lavender, mints mixing with St John’s Wort and a cascade of roses framing the entrance gate. Taking as its theme, Heaths, Warrens and Gardens, we began the workshop with a discussion of John Clare’s poem, Emmonsails Heath in Winter, showing how Clare used colloquial language and was a detailed observer of the nature of the heath. Participants were encouraged to use their own observations in the garden to create a more contemporary poem.                                                                                                                                

With the start of a poem under our belts, we reflected on an exercise that had been set in the July writing support blog – step out at night and write about what you hear or feel. Only one person had done that and she reported that, where she lived, the noises of the night were rather harsh: tom cats, the hum of industry and the brawl of a busy town. We took this an as opportunity  to consider that all observations are valid and could make good material for writing – and no less poetic because they are dominated by human activity.

Sandlines workshops always feature a walk outside to smell, feel and sense the landscape. We took a meander through woods to reflect by the still, but duck dabbled, edges of the Park’s ornamental lake; a reminder of how man models the land to suit his aspirations and ambitions. Then on to stand by some wooden ‘obelisks’ with long views down the forest ride to the heath. Prompt sheets enabled us to capture lines of thought which we could craft into the afternoon’s poems.


We were delighted to find that July’s workshop was over-subscribed, so to create plenty of focus for everyone we split into two groups at midday and ran parallel sessions.  The first session taught how to build a poem from repeating words, using observations from the garden and thoughts on our walk. The second session explored the whole idea of nature writing and encouraged participants to craft a short nature notes style piece about the Brecks. Perhaps with so much already being written, it was no surprise that most of us descended on the Cooper Beech café for lunch.

In the afternoon, our focus shifted to rabbits and the historic use of great chunks of the Brecks as warrens for producing meat and fur. Using rabbity words, like coney and pelt, and taking a rabbit’s eye view of the world, we fashioned poems about animals from the Brecks. It was all over too soon and we used the last half hour to share some of the emerging work, pleased to discover that many beautifully written poems had already been created. In warm sunshine to the sound of pigeons and hoverflies, we each wrote a line to create a poem for Brandon, a souvenir of our day here. The saddest part of the whole day? It is the last Sandlines workshop in the Brecks.

This was the final workshop in the Sandlines project, however, you can still benefit from the work done. If you’d like help starting or developing your creative writing skills, take a look at the Sandlines blogs which contain hints and tips.