Posts Tagged Castleton Derbyshire

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.

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Writing Poetry in Castleton

“When you write poetry, imagine looking through a small window. Focus on just one aspect of the scene,” advised Alison Riley on a recent  ‘Poetry Stroll and Write’ which I stumbled upon whilst on holiday in Castleton, in the Peak District.

, viewed from the edge of Castleton (Derbyshir...

As I’ve said before, I am not a poet but anything remotely writing orientated always grabs my attention, so whilst my husband took himself off for a walk, I joined the poetry session.

Alison was full of good advice.

Whenever I attempt a poem I immediately start worrying about its form – rhyming? free verse? sonnet? etc.  Alison suggested that I forget all of this and instead let myself go with some free writing about what was around us.

“Don’t worry about form or rhyme,” she said. “That can all come later.”

I managed some disjointed phrases about the mountain rescue van parked nearby. It definitely wasn’t poetry but Alison reckoned that with a bit of polishing it could become a reasonable poem.

Alison then showed us the poem ‘Resolution‘ by Jo Bell. It’s about Castleton at New Year and, sitting there in the quaint old village where it was written, it was extremely evocative.  I began to feel that maybe I too could write a poem and, back in our rented cottage, I did. It’s about the ‘coffin route’ from Edale to Castleton (before there was a church in Edale, the corpses had to be carried over the hill into the next town for burial) – at the moment it’s just a rough version in my notebook but maybe one day I’ll dare to bring out into the light of day…

Thanks for the inspiration, Alison!

Alison Riley organises the Derbyshire Stanza of the Poetry Society.

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