Writing Prompts from Castleton

It wasn’t only poetry that I toyed with in Castleton in the Peak District.

Castleton, Derbyshire

I also jotted down some ideas for short stories and I’m going to share them with you because I know that we’d all produce completely different tales (& submit them to different places) from the same initial prompt.

We stayed in Little Lilac Cottage – a tiny 350-year-old dwelling with a king-sized brass bed, a Victorian rolled top bath and open beams on the ceiling. Reading through the guest book I tried to imagine all the other visitors to this romantic cottage, why they came and whether the holiday lived up to expectations:

  • Honeymooners – young or old? first or subsequent marriage?
  • A couple having an affair – unused to spending so much time together, will they still get on or will guilt take over?
  • A holiday to save a marriage – away from it all, can they get their relationship back on track or will it go up in flames?
  • First holiday for years without the children – do the couple still have anything in common?

We did plenty of walking and one day came across a set of intertwined initials carved into a tree by a waterfall:

  • Who carved them and why?
  • What happens when one or both of them come back to revisit the carving?

There’s also plenty of scope for stories with a historical setting:

  • Think of all the people who were born and died in our cottage
  • A local told us that the last ‘ordinary’ people to live in our cottage brought up 3 boys there – how? The house was barely big enough for the 2 of us!
  • The old coffin route from Edale to Castleton. At one time there was no consecrated ground in Edale and all the dead had to be brought over the hill to the church in Castleton

And that final point brings me to my poem – poetry connoisseurs please look away now. The rest of you can blame Julia, Susan and Alison, who all asked to see it after my post about the poetry writing workshop I attended in Castleton.

A Coffin Route Farewell

My baby, wrapped in sacking and loaded on a mule
a tiny corpse under a pauper’s shroud.

My baby, born mute, motionless and far too early
now travels the path toward Castleton.

My baby, cast out from home to ride with a stranger
in search of consecrated land.

Exhausted from birthing I never even held you.
They snatched you away without time for farewell.

My baby, you never shed a tear but my eyes will never be dry again.


  1. #1 by Frances Kennedy on August 17, 2012 - 10:53 am

    Dear Sally, Your poem made me cry!  Very, very clever…I shall keep it.

    I am sorry that you won’t be able to make Writers much in the near future but do keep in touch. will you be able to come to Shenstone library on 20th of Sept or will you be on call that night?



    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on August 17, 2012 - 12:17 pm

      Hi Frances – I’m glad the poem had that effect on you (but I hope you didn’t spend too long crying!). I hope to make Shenstone library – will be in touch about it.

  2. #3 by Keith Havers on August 17, 2012 - 1:38 pm

    Thanks for those ideas, Sally. You are extremely generous. Very timely too as I’m on a creative day today. I’m constructing my mind maps at this very moment.

  3. #5 by Angela Greenwood on August 17, 2012 - 2:27 pm

    What a sad but beautiful poem. A friend of mine has just celebrated what would have been her daughter’s sixteenth birthday. The baby was stillborn. It just shows you never forget and never stop loving.

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on August 17, 2012 - 7:39 pm

      How sad, Angela. I guess you never forget something like that and what might have been…

  4. #7 by Anne Harvey on August 21, 2012 - 6:38 pm

    Your blogs are always so interesting, Sally. I don’t know how you think of things to say. My blog is so boring!

    • #8 by Sally Jenkins on August 21, 2012 - 7:36 pm

      Don’t put yourself down, Anne! We are always super critical of our own writing. I’m coming over to look at your blog now. (You’re probably much better at romantic fiction than me!)

  5. #9 by theoverberg.com on September 2, 2012 - 3:22 am

    I really enjoyed this – a kick-start for the creative juices, and a really beautiful piece to end off with – thanks!

  6. #10 by theoverberg.com on September 2, 2012 - 3:24 am

    Reblogged this on theoverberg and commented:
    I really enjoyed this piece from Sally in the UK … I thought you would too

  7. #11 by theoverberg.com on September 2, 2012 - 4:55 am

    Just to let you know that I put the word out about your piece … http://goo.gl/mR6le

    • #12 by Sally Jenkins on September 2, 2012 - 6:07 pm

      Overberg – thanks so much for sharing this post with your followers. I hope they enjoy it!

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