An inspirational poet, the glorious countryside, a medieval limestone quarry and a toxic rubbish dump

An NWR EA06/07 Area day conference offers so, so much for the price of a shop-bought sandwich and a plate of food for sharing with old and new friends.  That's how I like to think of the adventure that the Area day conferences never fail to deliver.   This year it was organised by the tiny Glinton Group with the help of the ladies in Peterborough.  Squeezed into the Helpston village hall, we were delighted by the speaker for the morning Mr Richard Astle from the Langdyke Trust he enthralled me with his breadth of knowledge of the life and poetry of John Clare  1793 - 1864, Helpston's native son.  More importantly Richard wove the modern day legacy Clare leaves through his inspriational poetry which led to the creation of some of England's earliest Nature Reserves.   It's hard to summarise how special this community organisation is to this small part of our countryside.

The toxic rubbish dump is the remant of chalk upland that Clare immortalised in his poem of over 1,200 words 'The Lament of Swordy Well'.  He was writing with passion of a beauty spot encroached by the Enclosures and damaged by the greed of landowners.  Here is one verse :

The bees flye round in feeble rings 
And find no blossom bye 
Then thrum their almost weary wings 
Upon the moss and die 
Rabbits that find my hills turned oer 
Forsake my poor abode 
They dread a workhouse like the poor 
And nibble on the road

It's remarkable that Clare's observations and concerns for the condition of nature were so acute and modern in for a self-educated poor man.

We went on to learn how the area had even worse to suffer in the 1970's until eventually its fortunes changed when the local community purchased the site and removed the rubbish and scraped the soil back over the site and miraculously the seeds in the soil flourished and now orchids are flourishing at Swordy Well.

Clare's penultimate verse errily foretells that resurgence :

And if I could find a friend 

With no deciet to sham 
Who'd send me some few sheep to tend 
And leave me as I am 
To keep my hills from cart and plough 
And strife and mongerel men 
And as spring found me find em now 
I should look up agen



Recent comment in this post
Mavis Leverington
Oh well done Julie, thank you,lovely to have your comments on our day and to know how much you appreciated our speaker, he does th... Read More
Wednesday, 12 July 2017 19:39
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Calne & Derry Hill and District visit to Sevington Victorian School

A delightful joint visit was made in May to the Sevington Victorian School, by Calne and Derry Hill and District NWR groups. We first went to Leigh Delamare church and were greeted by a lady (Dinah Starkey) in a beautiful, black Victorian costume complete with bonnet. She told us that the remains of the original derelict church were carefully removed to build the school. This work was arranged by Joseph Neeld, local land owner and philanthropist, who wished to build a school for his worker’s children and then rebuild the church in a similar style with a decorative Gothic interior. This has resulted in the School having the unusual features of a  dominant bell tower, massive entrance archway and an interior wall made of a 15th century reredos.  He also built cottages for his employees.

On returning to the school we were sternly greeted by Miss Elizabeth Squire, who taught at the school for 53 years.  She was played by Celia Jennings who took her role very seriously and informed us we all had to pay 1d for entry, fortunately Victorian coins were provided.  We were lined up for hand inspection, those with nail varnish being duly reprimanded! We entered the classroom and sat at traditional benches and desks with inkwells. Demonstrations showed us how finger stocks were used to stop boys dipping girl’s plaits into inkwells and other naughtiness, and back boards, to ensure upright posture. Class started with the issuing of slates and pencils for us to practice writing the date and a verse written on the board, a very squeaky process. We read moral verses from reading books learning such sayings as ‘If one lie is told several more will follow’.  The classroom is full of material actually used by Miss Squire including a framed demonstration of how to make paper, items such as a cowrie shell and shark’s jaw , brought back by Joseph Neeld’s brother from his tropical expeditions, a chalk written attendance board and a dunces cap. The floor is also unusual being made of shaped edge-on regular logs wedged together.  Finally we were somewhat intimidated by the demonstration of 3 canes!

We were then invited into Miss Squire’s parlour where a parlour maid (Sylvia Wright) helped by the other ladies, served us with tea and very tasty home-made cakes.

This was a very successful outing and we cannot give enough credit to the three ladies who reminded us of what it was like to live in Victorian times, both as children and a school teacher.

Recent comment in this post
Liz Valette
Sounds like a great experience ladies. We can find out more about the school by copying and pasting this link www.sevingtonvictori... Read More
Tuesday, 06 June 2017 16:09
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NWR celebrates women's literature in Wales

NWR celebrates women's literature in Wales

Recently, we were treated to an excellent programme at this regional NWR event: three authors, a publisher and the dynamic CEO of Literature Wales. 

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The joy of being an NWR Area Organiser

The joy of being an NWR Area Organiser

Jill Smith of Cambridge NW has recently retired from her position as Area Organiser (AO) of EA06/7 NWR areas in the east of England. She tells us about her time as an AO.

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You won't find our events entered into the system but our termly programmes are available as downloads if Phillis has remembered to upload them.

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