Week 13: Words from the Wild. Unlucky for some, but not for us!

Hello!
I can not believe it is our 13th week of Words from the Wild for this term. 13 is traditionally an unlucky number, but I believe that we can make our own luck and our own decisions and 13 can be whatever we decide it to be for us! So this is a hopeful and uplifting session to end this term before we take a week off next week for Easter break.

This week William chose the author Dara McAnulty as our inspiration for the creative writing session. You can see an extract of her work here entitled ‘It’s time to grab the slippery eel of hope’. Dara is a 16 year old award winning author who is known for nature writing, even scooping the Wainwright writing prize.

In the article Dara mentions the first flutterings of hope at the sign of Spring and draws on the way that Nature can remind us that the world keeps going and the seasons keep changing. Spring is definitely in the air here in York. The city walls are full of daffodils, I’ve got an allotment pond teaming with frog spawn and I was lucky enough to hear and see a beautiful Tawny owl a few days ago while on my evening dog walk.

The following four tasks are all designed to help you feel hopeful.

Task 1: (5 Mins) Spend some time outdoors (just twenty minutes or so). Jot down all the things that are different from the cold dark days winter. What do you notice. Are there birds singing, or the sun shining? Are people wearing coats or not? How are the colours different?

Task 2: (5 mins) A changing wardrobe. As the weather warms we are able to pull out our lighter clothing and ditch our winter boots for lighter footwear and sandals. Can you personify (make something have human traits) the Spring? Imagine that you are the spirit of Spring. Describe your new outfit! Remember that the words you use to describe your outfit can make your reader feel refreshed and excited too, really sell it to them!

Task 3: (10 mins) Life cycles. Imagine that you are new to the world. Perhaps you are a tiny frogspawn darting around a pond, or an owl chick in the hollow of a tree. Or maybe a lovely baby bouncy chick or puppy. Can you imagine what it feels like to be in your new environment with lots of new things to experience. Write from the perspective of your chosen subject and the things that interest them. Describe how it feels to be finding your way in the world.

Task 4: (5 mins) Summer evenings. Lately I have been enjoying going out at dusk and enjoying being able to be outdoors and it still being very mild. What are you looking forward to most about the longer warmer evenings? If this is something you don’t usually enjoy, try to think about a change of habit or perspective. What advice might you give to somebody else to enjoy the milder evenings?

Hope you enjoy the Easter break and have some lovely Spring discoveries of your own.

Best wishes,

Emma

Week 12: Words from the Wild. Taking Inspiration from the Railway Children.

Hello Everyone,
Welcome to our 12th week of our online bookclub and creative writing class Words from the Wild. This week we were inspired to look at The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit for inspiration for the class. This was due to showing Abbie my OT student around Poppleton Social and Therapeutic Railway Nursery based on the outskirts of York in Poppleton (for anyone local it is a beautiful place where you can sign up to volunteer to support running the garden nursery either independently or through the Discovery Hub at Converge).

Poppleton Railway Nursery was built in the war to stock the Royal York Hotel with food, after the war it was used for growing plants for the stations and had it’s own little arboretum at one point. Around 2005 it was donated on a peppercorn lease by the railways to the local community as it had fallen into disrepair and was no longer required. Today it has a lovely team of volunteers who run the site and is even home to its own little narrowgauge railway line. Once restrictions allow I highly recommend a visit (all the pictures on the blog this week are from the nursery were taken by myself and Abbie, except for the photographs of train journey views (which were taken by Abbie on a previous train journey!).

We chose the Railway Children because the book references the natural world, the children have moved out to the country side from London after their father has been imprisoned after being accused of being a spy! The children soon get immersed in their surroundings, having many adventures as a result, with the railway line as a central point to the story. So here are todays tasks. We hope that you will enjoy taking a virtual train journey today and we also hope you might be inspired to check out Poppleton Railway Nursery in the future.

Task 1 (5 mins) In the extract of the Railway Children that we looked at a tree falls on the train line, as if it is trying to reclaim land that the line has intruded upon. If you were nature how and where would you like to re claim land?  

Task 2: A lot of train-lines run through the natural landscape. Can you describe your favourite train journey and your favourite view from a train window? (If you haven’t got one describe a train journey that you would like to take and what you would hope to see.) 

Task 3: (5 mins) Write a letter from nature to society describing your feelings and how you would like to work in harmony with humans in the future.

Task 4: Using all five senses describe the growth of a young sapling along the side of an abandoned railway track. In York we have some beautiful cycle tracks running along disused railway lines. What does the young sapling experience growing into a tree, who uses the railway lines now?

I hope that you have enjoyed these tasks. We will be back next week with another creative writing class, before we take a week off for Easter. Look forward to hearing from you and even more so getting back on the St Nicks site at the end of April.

Best wishes,

Emma and my student Abbie 🙂

Today’s finds…

Abbie and I met for a distanced walk around St Nicks! It was so nice to be out in the sunshine and to show Abbie the places that usually inspire our creative writing tasks. I can’t believe that we have been posting online classes for a year now!

Here is Abbie half way round the reserve near the beck. We didn’t see any Kingfishers but the blossom was gorgeous!

See you next week!

Best wishes,

Emma

Week 11: Words from the Wild!

This week we have a guest blog post from my Occupational Therapy student Abbie who has been joining the course online each week. Abbie chose the beautiful story of Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce for her extract. This is a book written for children that I only discovered as an adult, I still enjoyed it just as much as if I had read it when younger. It tells a magical tale of Tom who is sent to live with his Aunt in a block of flats which have been converted from an old building. Every night at midnight something magical happens and Tom is transported back in time and is able to visit the garden that once belonged to the grand house before it was demolished to make way for the town. If you haven’t read this book I strongly recommend it!

Abbie is also a keen photographer, the first six images on the blog this week are all taken by Abbie to compliment the course.

Task 1: (5 mins)
Describe what a garden is to you and what you do in your own garden? (If you don’t have one think of somewhere local to you like a park or say what you would do if you could have one) is your garden big? Do you play with a pet maybe? Maybe you sit and enjoy sunsets? How do you feel out there? 

Task 2: (5 mins)
Describe what your garden looks, smells and sounds like in a few lines talking about what is in it. What flowers? What trees? Do you grow fruit? (if you don’t have a garden of your own, choose somewhere local to you, like a park). 

Task 3: (10 mins)
In the extract we looked at from Tom’s Midnight Garden, the book described what Tom wanted to do in this garden the second he saw it. 

What would you do in a garden you discovered only appeared at night? How would it change your interactions?

Night, Midnight, Moon, Mountain Garden

Task 4: (5 mins) Describe using all 5 senses what your dream garden would be? Would it be big or small? Would you have lots of trees or just a select few? 

I hope you enjoyed these lovely tasks written by Abbie. My favourite gardens are walled gardens with beds full of fragrant flowers and areas for growing vegetables and fruits. I hope to hear about yours.

See you next week.

Best wishes,
Emma

Central two images of a tree under moonlight and a garden doorway from Pixabay.

Week 10: Words from the Wild….Looking to the Spring.

Hello Everyone 🙂

This week we chose an extract from The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2021 by Lia Leendertz. Every year Lia publishes these fantastic pocket guides to the natural world, giving information on what’s happening in the seasonal calendar and what type of things to grow in the garden or allotment. Each year there is also a theme, last year she looked at what was happening in the hedgerows, this year has focused on Romani culture and the languages for the seasons.

In the book club extract that we chose we looked at the Romani word for March which is Bavalyakero – Month of the Winds. The information that we found will inform today’s writing tasks. I hope that you enjoy them.

Task 1: (5 mins) Lia Leendertz describes March as a transition month when the days start to grow longer and we get pockets of warm air forming, when the warm air rises the cold air rushes down creating wind. Our starting task is to think of as many words to describe wind as possible. For example: as well as words such as blustery and breezy, you might like to think of words that describe what it does to the things that it touches; leaves flutter, grass swishes etc.

Clouds, Sky, Sweeping, Swept, Plumes

Task 2: (5 mins) A natural scene on a windy day. Think about a place that you love outdoors. Perhaps the woodland, or walking around the edge of a lake. Describe in detail what happens to the setting when the wind blows. Perhaps the surface of the lake dances, or flowers bob and sway. Trees rustle and branches knock together. See if you can bring movement to your writing using some of the words from task 1.

Poppies, Poppy Field, Cornflowers

Task 3: (10 mins)Lia Leendertz describes how the wind can cause havoc for a Romani camp, overturning wagons and blowing away feed for the animals. She also points out that it’s very difficult to cook over a campfire on a very windy day. Can you choose one of the tasks below and write about completing it on a blustery and windy day – describe the challenges! If you can use some of the words that you found for task 1.

  • Cooking over a campfire.
  • Walking with an umbrella open.
  • Playing badminton.
  • Sailing a boat.
  • Putting up a tent.
  • Delivering leaflets.
  • Walking home from the hairdressers!
Bunting, Flags, Blowing, Breeze, Wind, Party

Task 4 (5 mins) The say that March is ‘In Like a Lion – Out Like a Lamb’ meaning that the weather starts off harshly but by the end of March we can expect much warmer sunny days. Tell me about the thing that you are most looking forward to when the weather changes….

Rottnest Island, Island, Australia, Rottnest, Weathered

I really recommend The Almanac guides, they are absolutely brilliant at inspiring a deeper connection to the natural world and encouraging us to participate in it. I hope that you enjoy getting outdoors today.

See you next week,

Best wishes,
Emma

Week 9: Words from the Wild – Long Tail Tits and Nest Building 03.03.21.

This weeks creative writing tasks have been inspired by a book called ‘Birds an Anthology’ by Jacqueline Mitchell. We chose a section on the Long Tailed Tit as our extract for this week’s book club and creative writing tasks.

Using creative writing techniques to explore a natural species is a great way of learning facts and attaching a narrative to fact will also help us to remember it. And…. it makes you realise how gorgeous certain species are that you might never have noticed before.

I hope you enjoy today’s class:

Task 1. (5 mins) Long tailed tits are unusual in that they do not stick to one area for nest building. They have been know to build nests in low bushes such as the Juniper and also high up, such as nestled in the fork of a lofty oak tree branches.

Answer this question: if you were a bird where would you choose to build your nest? Would it be in the heart of a hedgerow, or in the lofty branches of an old oak tree?

Task 3: (10 mins) We are going to have a go at personification (giving something human traits) and also creating characters. Imagine two long tail tits. One is an early bird who wants to build a nest in a lovely Juniper bush, the other is a night owl who wants to build their nest high up in the branches of a tree.

Write down their conversation, which nest do they settle for. What are the pros and cons for each area!?

Task 4: (5 mins) The book mentions that up to and around 1700 feathers have been found lining a Long Tail Tit’s nest. I’m sure this will make it warm, soft and cosy. What materials would you use to build a nest? Would you use the soft down of a thistle head, or the cushioned moss that grows amongst grass lawns?

I’m so glad to have discovered more about these gorgeous little birds, I hope you are too.

See you soon,
Best wishes,
Emma

Week 8: Words from the Wild. Taking Inspiration from The Lost Spells.

In 2020 nature writer Robert MacFarlane and fantastic artist Jackie Morris published The Lost Spells, a book of poetry about the natural world lit up by beautiful illustrations.

The poems, or spells, are designed to be read out loud, to bring to life the magic of the natural world. It is a truly beautiful book that I would highly recommend.

This week we chose two ‘spells’ which were Oak and Jay. Jays love to eat acorns and live compatibly with oak trees! This weeks creative writing tasks are designed around the Oak and the Jay as inspiration. I was even lucky enough to meet a 200 year old oak tree as part of my research!

Task 1: This week I used an excellent chart from the Woodland Trust to guesstimate the age of an oak tree. The oak that I found was estimated to be around 200 years old. That meant it germinated around the time that the first ever railway line was built and before the first air flight had ever taken off. Write a letter to the Oak asking any questions you would like to know about what it has observed over the last 200 years, let the Oak know your hopes for the future.

Task 2: Sprouting acorns. Did you know that only one in every 10,000 acorns actually germinates? That makes you realise just how special each tree is! If you could plant one oak tree somewhere, where would it be any why? Would it be watching over a special view? Or in the garden of a special place? See where your imagination takes you.

Task 3: The Jay. Jay’s are part of the Carrion Family of crows. Their staple food are acorns, so where there are Oaks there will also be Jays. Jays also have beautiful blue feathers that are reported to be magical. Write for five minutes reflecting on a special plant or animal that you feel attached to or identify with. Perhaps it is a type of flower that holds a special memory, or a type of bird that you enjoy the colour of? If you can’t think of anything spend some time out in nature and choose something that inspires you.

Task 4: Sketching an Oak Tree. The opening of the Oak poem reads as follows:

‘Out on the hill, old Oak still stands:

stag headed, fire-struck, bare-crowned,

stubbornly holding its ground.‘

(Robert MacFarlane)

Can you find a tree that you look out on, or from one of your walks? Describe the tree using metaphors as Robert MacFarlane has done in this second stansa comparing the branches to a stag’s head which immediately makes you think of the shapes of antlers. In five lines can you compare aspects of the tree to other things? E.g what does the texture of the bark remind you of? What is the shape of the overall tree like? What patterns do the branches form?

See what other spells you can find this week!

I look forward to hearing from you, do email me your words, or leave me a note in the comments.

Best wishes,
Emma

Images of Jays all taken from Pixabay.

Week 7: Words from the Wild 17.02.21

Today’s class is inspired by Way Making – An anthology of women’s adventure writing, poetry and art. There are some sample pages of the book here, for anyone interested in getting a little flavour of the writing.

This week we chose poetry by Imogen Cassels as our inspiration – For anyone that has the book the poem is titled: ‘Last Night I Dream We Walk Up To the Point Again’ .

Imogen uses short stansas, each one a little sketch of a scene. This week we are going to use this as inspiration to work through creative writing tasks from the ground to the sky, creating written postcards of what we see. You can either use my photos as prompts, or use a place of your own to inspire your writing.

Task 1: (5 mins) Under my feet. In ten lines write about what you find under your feet outdoors… if you are stuck take your feet for a walk!! Describe the journey through the senses..

Task 2: (5 mins) Within reach of my finger tips… What could you reach out and touch? Today I met a Robin of who I could have touched – he was within arms reach. I could touch the different textures of the bark on the trees. The new buds appearing along branches….

Task 3: (10 mins) Taking in my view. Now thinking of the bigger picture of a special place, what is your whole view? Tell me what you can see on the horizon, or if you are somewhere enclosed what is your 360 degree view or impression? Use the senses to put me in your shoes and bring the scene to life (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell).

Task 4: (5 mins) Looking skywards. Now lets finish with the sky. Imagine writing a postcard from your special place in nature to a friend. Take a line from each task to create a short piece of prose describing where you are. Finish with a line describing the sky and what type of day it is.

As you can see, I wrote this blog from the woodland. I hope that you find some inspiration in these tasks and I look forward to reading your words.

With best wishes,
Emma