I almost didn’t go to the workshop – I’d had a busy morning school-run with grandchildren and felt putting my feet up at home would be my best option. But, as my car emptied and my head cleared I changed my mind. I’ve never been to Winterborne Monkton before, though I have driven on the main road to Weymouth many times, I have never turned off – it’s a different world.
Feeling very unsure of myself I marvelled at everyone else’s skills, as we introduced ourselves around the table. As time passed I felt an upbeat comraderie in the room and felt comfortable among my fellow work-shoppers.
Last summer I attended four poetry work-shops based on the South Dorset Ridgeway – run by Greta Stoddart. I became intrigued then by the significance of the varied and wonderful landscape of the South Dorset Ridgeway, and the knowledge that the paths we trod had been trodden by our ancestors for more than 2000 years.
I was unaware that the South Dorset Ridgeway extended beyond the immediate environs of the South Dorset Ridgeway path until our workshop. When I looked at the field where Winterborne Farringdon was once a bustling medieval village and closed my eyes I could hear what might have been the noises of their everyday life. The fenced-in remains of a church wall seemed somehow to be incongruous and hard-edged compared to the undulating fields. It seemed to me that the implacability of the stone remains somehow contributed to the loss of the village. I tried to reflect this in one of my poems.
My appreciation and understanding of the significance of the South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape increased and deepened over our two days exploring and absorbing the area. I felt the beauty and soothing nature of the landscape we experienced during the two days of sunshine, was made more poignant by the knowledge that suffering and hardship had once been part of it. I feel drawn to this landscape and will visit it again in different seasons when I will be likely to experience different emotions. I would like to learn more about this area and its people.
Experiencing William Barnes in the setting of Came church where he was once the vicar was enlightening for me and listening to his poems being read in the church was very special.
I feel a connection with the South Dorset Ridgeway landscape as someone who enjoys the experience of being there, and walking in a beautiful and varied landscape. I also feel a fascination for our ancestors who lived there, the solid evidence they left behind as well as the mysteries they have left for us to unravel – albeit creatively.
The people of Winterborne Farringdon
We sing and sigh
and learn a little wisdom –
as our lives spiral around self
with pendular relentlessness,
so cruel and heartless acts
reverberate in the silent soil
and powerlessness is empowered
by a child’s echoing cry piercing
the pity of it into a thousand fragments
of distant indignation.
We are back to a pinpoint of time
when all that mattered was a mindless
creature, white and woolly,
feeding the greed of a land owner.
The people had a church
– a small stone church –
flesh on stone they knelt at its altar
pleading for their lives
for their children’s lives.
Didn’t they know the man
who owned their land
also owned their god?