Spinner in the Cellar

Chorley, late 18th C

She sings of a love long dead.
She downs the treadle and sings of another
in a voice that aches and creaks
with the turning of her wheel
and a high, lost note that breaks the cellar’s air.

“Young man, busy in shop windows
with your tailored suit and tight cravat,
do you feel your heart string tug,
a little choking in your throat,
outside the florist, hear petals whisper?

Will you bring me flowers
with steady footsteps and a gaze sincere?
By the cord of my voice, come,
drawn by my slowly turning wheel
to where I lay out my skeins with love and care.

In my forgotten workshop
I shall tell you a story of flaxen flowers,
how I spun them into linen
and wove them into my tangled hair
by this damp mill town’s autumnal air.

How on cold nights my breath turned to mist.
Now I see your breath in my cellar
I just want some company
as I lay out my skeins,
the touch of your hand on my bone-like fingers.”

Spinner, Helmshore Mill









*This poem was written for a Guests of the Earth performance at Chorley Live. After finding out there was a pub there called ‘The Spinners Arms’ soon afterward this came to me.
**Picture courtesy of Helmshore Mill.

Completion of Penwortham By-Pass: Council Meeting and Rescinded Route

On Monday the 7th of October I attended the meeting of Penwortham Town Council for the purpose of finding out where they stood in relation to the completion of the by-pass. I was relieved to hear the majority were against the new route, which will destroy a large area of the town’s landscape with little benefit to its residents.

Another member of the public made the pertinent points that the plans were lacking in adequate data, it wouldn’t stop traffic travelling through Penwortham and would cause further severance between Penwortham, Longton and Hutton. I raised the issue of the environmental effects.

Penwortham Town Council decided they would a second response to Lancashire County Council that they wanted to reaffirm the ‘blue’ rescinded route rather than the new ‘brown’ proposed one. All of this is recorded in the latest minutes (1).

One of the reasons behind the planning of the new route was that it wouldn’t destroy any homes (the rescinded route destroys five) and it would cause less damage to the landscape. However, the functionality of the new route depends on the building of another stretch of road and bridge over the Ribble that will destroy an area of natural coastline then run through Lea Marsh, a Biological Heritage site.

I’ve walked the rescinded route from Broad Oak Roundabout to where it would join the A59 at a new roundabout between Saunders Lane and Chapel Lane.

Penwortham, Preston, By-pass and city deal 024 - CopyIt cuts across farmland and divides Lindle Lane…

Lindle Lane…splits this public footpath…

Public Footpath…then destroys Moor Cottages and runs through Bamfords Wood…

Moor Cottages….at the end of Park Avenue it will destroy more houses and cause noise pollution for Bramble Rest Home…

Bramble Rest Home, Park Avenue….a mini-roundabout will be built on Chapel Lane

Chapel Lane…here it will join the A59…

A59It is clear that the costs will by far outweigh the benefits. I can’t see any reason why people would use this piece of road rather the A59 at all, even at peak times as they’d only get caught up in the congestion headed for Golden Way.

In my reply to the public consultation I have to objected to the building of both roads on account of them causing unneccessary damage to the environment, separating communities and on account of the fact that sufficient data hasn’t been provide to suggest either will be effective or work better than improvements to footpaths, cycleways and public transport.

(1) Penwortham Town Council Minutes, 7th October 2014, p4402 http://www.penworthamtowncouncil.gov.uk/reports_minutes.html

Completion of Penwortham By-Pass: The New Ribble Bridge

Since my last post (1) I have walked the proposed stretch that will join the newly proposed route of Penwortham By-pass to a new bridge over the river Ribble.

By-pass to new Ribble Bridge - CopyWhether this will be built is open to conjecture at the moment. However what makes it significant is that the completion of Penwortham by the new route will only work if it is built. There are many flaws with this.

It needs to pass Howick Cross electrical substation.

Seen in the background, far left.

Seen in the background, far left.

It will destroy an area of natural coastline.

Natural Coastline River RibbleIt will run through Lea Marsh, which is a Biological Heritage Site. I have learnt through LERN (2) that this is a grazing marsh composed of salt marsh grasses and rushes. It is the home of two rare species; long-stalked orache and meadow barley.

Through the Lancashire Wildlife Trust I have found out downstream lies The Ribble and Alt Estuary Special Protection Area. Unfortunately Biological Heritage sites are nowhere near as well protected. In this case, if a bridge was built it would be acceptable for saltmarsh and mudflat to be restored elsewhere.

Personally I don’t agree with the argument that it’s acceptable to destroy a piece of land so long as a similar habitat is created somewhere else. It won’t be the same. In fact this is an insipid cover for the fact a unique piece of land will be ruined, its grasses gone for good, its birds and wildlife dehomed.

I’ve been in touch with the RSPB but they haven’t got back to me about the different birds who live in the area yet. However a walk down the river reveals this is the habitat of herons, cormorants, oyster-catchers, lapwings and a variety of gulls.

Heron and sea birdsIs the destruction of this natural coastline, its vegetation and the homes of many birds worth an extra ten minutes off travel time to the industrial sector at Warton, for those privileged enough to be able to afford to own cars? My answer is no.

(1) http://lornasmithers.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/completion-of-penwortham-by-pass/
(2) http://www.lancspartners.org/lern/

I’d like to thank Nik Bruce at LERN and David Dunlop at Lancashire Wildlife Trust for their quick replies to my e-mails and making this information avaible.

Planting a Woodland Burial Ground

Penwortham Woodland Burial Ground





A handful of oak saplings are mine to plant,
squatting where other feet already wait.
Many hands on the well-worn spade
dig down, hammer in the stake,
nurture the spriggy guardian
into place.

In the rabbit wire’s mirror
I see a familiar face.

Counting down the trees
I do not know
which will be mine,
tomorrow or in fifty years,
when each caretaker will come to sleep
in the shelter of broad oak shadows.

Penwortham Woodland Burial Ground

Blind Hound Over

Annwn, not-world, the otherside
always calls me over,

twitching in my dreams
like the nerves of every animal,

twisting through my veins
like the cords of every tree,

when the horse lies down
and hawk goes to nest

little rabbit cannot run fast enough
nor the girl in the crimson hood,

for the stench of all the wildwood
wrests me from my sleep,

calls the blind hound over,
lures me free.

Fairy Lane


Temple of Nodens 21st C

Dream source comes powering back
over the land in heavy rain,
primal point from which this world emerges

the injured or insane lowered into the abyss,
waves crashing over them
in the sanctity of Nodens’ Temple.

In every bed sleepers descend,
dreaming a storm where he teaches them
how to man a coracle, with catching hand fling out a net,

the unflinching trajectory of a steadfast spear
knowledge of the wound that heals them,
licked clean by his eager hounds,

the necessity of his lost arts
beneath the dizzying calls of two tawny owls
where culverted rivers roar under tower blocks

and roads strain on concrete scaffolds.
In every bedroom lights are out,
windows closed, shutters down,

behind the sheet rain a land of sleepers
is dreaming a panacea in the not-light
of his twenty first century sanctum.