Simon Armitage’s Stanza Stones – Rain.
15 miles of scenic driving on open moorland roads and then through densely knit and gritty Pennine communities brought us to the White House Inn on the road out of Rochdale. We have just come from Marsden where up in Pule Hill quarry we found and admired our first Stanza Stone, Snow, a water themed poem by Simon Armitage skilfully inscribed by Pip Hall. This is one of six, or maybe even seven, scattered on the rugged Pennine Watershed between Marsden and Ilkley. There is a 45-mile walking trail between them all, but we have chosen to use the car and visit them individually. We have resisted the idea of visiting each stone according to the weather depicted. Let’s enjoy today’s sunshine.
The White House is an iconic moorland inn situated where the Pennine Way crosses from the peaty horrors of the Peak District peat to the pleasanter Yorkshire Dales. Many long distance walkers have been known to give in here. Most people today are either enjoying lunch in the pub or doing short walks from the road, as are we.
The Pennine Way is followed alongside an aqueduct connecting several reservoirs. All level walking. I camped along here once with my young son on a Lancashire Borders Walk. Sensibly we had eaten well in the pub beforehand and only needed water for a brew. The brown peaty solution didn’t need a tea bag, today my tea was already brewed safely in my flask along with a picnic lunch.
A miniature arch took us over the water and into Cow’s Mouth Quarry. This is where I become boring once more as I try and trace routes climbed way in the past. They are mainly slabs, with often little protection available, needing a steady head. Nowadays with bouldering mats the picture has become blurred between a roped route and a high ball boulder problem.
But I’m not here to climb today, I’m with Clare and JD looking for the second of Simon Armitage’s Stanza Poems – Rain. This one is easy to spot being at the base of a rock face right by the path. Pip had a lovely canvas to write on, but advice was first taken from climbers so that no footholds were destroyed, or new ones created. Pip’s carving seems more pronounced than on Snow back at Pule Hill, this rock, being more compact, maybe helping. The letters are imbued with gold. We read aloud the poem marvelling at Simon’s turn of phrase.
Again here is the poem in case you can’t make it out in the pictures.
Be glad of these freshwater tears,
Each pearled droplet some salty old sea-bullet
Air-lifted out of the waves, then laundered and sieved, recast as a soft bead and returned.
And no matter how much it strafes or sheets, it is no mean feat to catch one raindrop clean in the mouth,
To take one drop on the tongue, tasting cloud pollen, grain of the heavens, raw sky.
Let it teem, up here where the front of the mind distils the brunt of the world.
We find a sheltered spot for lunch. I forget to take a picture of the extensive views across the moors with distant reservoirs, wind farms and mill chimneys. I am on too much on a high from the poetry – tasting cloud pollen. We wander back with shared tales of moorland adventures.
Fellow us farther on our poetry quest.