Poetry in motion!

UK National Poetry Day falls annually on the first Thursday in October. Poetry has many benefits. It often transports me to a more descriptive and tranquil time, radiating stillness and calm. All good for the soul. This boosts well-being and in turn has positive effects on blood pressure and heart rate. On Poetry day we are encouraged to read poems, write a poem, recite a poem, share a poem or indeed learn a poem off by heart. Whatever the activity chosen, each improves cognitive function and increases cognitive reserve, whilst many choices increase our social connectivity. At this time of the year, there is often nothing better than a wonderful Autumnal walk. So why not combine both activities and take yourself off on walks discovering the poets you love, be it where they once lived, the locations that gave them inspiration for their works or their final resting places.

We are blessed with great Poets and just a cursory look on the internet throws up a myriad of walking options. One of my favourite poems is “Church going” by Philip Larkin, who writes on the joys of discovering old churchs whilst out bicycle riding.

Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off My cycle-clips in awkward reverence
Church Going, Philip Larkin

I have discovered that there exists The Larkin Trail not only showcasing his place of work and two of his favourite pubs, but the promise of the discovery of the poet’s landscape of Hull and East Yorkshire. There are many trail options from remote areas to lively market towns, be it on foot or by bicycle, neatly divided into 25 sections.

Ted Hughes Network promotes organised walks in West Yorkshire. One recent excursion was two days walking in the Upper Calder Valley in Huddersfield where locations were matched to the poems. He often said that some of his poems were inspired by his childhood capers with his older brother on the Yorkshire Moors. Whilst born in West Yorkshire he lived much of his life in Devon. Indeed The Ted Hughes poetry trail in Devon celebrates his links there and on the trail you can find reference to his poems relating to the natural world. In addition, the Ted Hughes society offers a series of occasional walks, one being to his Memorial Stone in Dartmoor, Devon. My favourite Ted Hughes poem is Hawk Roosting. I sit here wondering whether it was the Yorkshire Moors or Dartmoor, which was the inspiration for this poem.

I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
Inaction, no falsifying dream
Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.
Hawk Roosting, Ted Hughes

My favourite poet is the Master, Dylan Thomas! Dylan could not have known that National Poetry Day would be celebrated in October as this annual event only commenced in 1994. But as if by magic he has written the perfect poem for us. Not only entitled ‘Poem in October’ but it details a walk he takes in his hometown; namely, Laugharne in South Wales. The poem is also known as his 30th birthday poem. His home in Laugharne sits on the estuary with breathtakingly beautiful views as depicted above. Laugharne is also the inspiration and setting for the ficticious village Llareggub in his radio play namely; ‘Under Milk Wood’

It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second
In the still sleeping town and set forth.
October Poem, Dylan Thomas

I have undertaken ‘The October Poem Walk’ on a number of occasions. As Laugharne is a coastal village it sits directly on the Wales Coast Path, a designated footpath which follows or runs close to the coastline of Wales. Launched in 2012, the path is 870 miles long and was heralded as the first dedicated footpath in the world to cover the entire length of a country’s coastline. Following the Wales Coast Path north-east from the centre of the village, you’ll pass Laugharne Castle, a medieval fortress turned Tudor mansion that stands watch over the estuary. A short detour and you will pass Dylan’s favourite pub and further up the hill his final resting place at the local church graveyard.