Simon Armitage’s Stanza Stones – Mist.

We, Clare, JD and I, are well on schedule for our quest to visit the final Stanza Stone for today. After the Snow and Rain along comes the Mist.

The scenery changes on our onward Northern drive, deep wooded valleys crowded with solid stone terraced mill houses.  Cragg Vale, Mytholmroyd (birthplace of Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate 1983 – 2008) Hebden Bridge, Pecket Well. We start dropping off the moor into Oxenhope when a steep narrow lane brings us back into the hills looking for somewhere to park under Nab Hill.


A muddy track leaves the lane, we check GPS that it is the correct one, a Stanza Stone waymark is soon noticed. Passing small quarries, no soaring climbing faces here, the rock is softer and splits into thin slabs possibly to be used as stone roof tiles common in Yorkshire at the time. We are on the lookout for a larger quarry on the right and then a stone cairn. Wind turbines look down on our wanderings. The problem is that there are several piles of stones on the edge of the moor, when is a pile of stones or a stone shelter a cairn? I dismiss the first stones and head farther towards an obvious larger cairn, ignoring smaller ones on the way. There is doubt in the team. The clue we have is to drop below the cairn to find slabs of rock. Nothing obvious here, how far down the slope should we go? We repeat the process under the other ‘cairns’. JD wanders off to pinpoint the OS map’s indication of the stone with his GPS, that doesn’t help. Clare scouts the lower ground, there are lots of slabby rocks about. I ponder that not being able to find the Mist Stone in the mist would be ironic, we are having difficulty on a perfect day. At last back at the first pile of stones we discover the correct slabs. P1000198P1000218



The story goes that one slab was lifted in situ for Pip Hall to carve, it had a hairline crack down the centre and as the stone was moved it split, much to the consternation of the workmen. Undaunted Pip carved each one independently to later place them together, so that the lines hopefully read as one. (The picture of the split comes from their book) One has to give some thought to this lady out on the moor in all weathers carving away. These slabs are of a softer grit than the ones previously visited, Snow and Rain, and the lettering paler. Simon’s poem is equally evocative though, looking out over the valleys and moors where the Bronte Sisters once roamed for inspiration. Lichens are spreading out over the letterings giving them a more ancient look than their mere 12 years – come back in another 12 years. Someone’s ashes are scattered around and will slowly be blown across the moor or crushed underfoot.


The split slab back in 2011 before repositioning.  



Who does it mourn? What does it mean, such
nearness, gathering here on high ground
while your back was turned, drawing its
net curtains around?

Featureless silver screen, mist
is water in its ghost state, all inwardness,
holding its milky breath, veiling the pulsing machines
of great cities under your feet, walling you
into these moments, into this anti-garden
of gritstone and peat.

Given time the edge of
your being will seep into its fibreless fur;
You are lost, adrift in hung water
and blurred air, but you are here.

The three Stanza Stones we have visited so far have exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to return with our team to the Ilkley Area, home of the Literature Festival where the idea was born, to discover the remaining three, Dew, Puddle and Beck. Wouldn’t it be great to find the fabled seventh, but I suspect that will only appear to an alert walker somewhere on the Stanza Stone Trail.


My navigation skills have improved for the drive home, – these are roads I know well up above Wycoller. We even have time to stop off to look at one of East Lancashire’s  Panopticons, The Atom. Both a shelter and a viewing point over the valley and to Pendle Hill. I am sure from memory that when it was first installed there was a stainless steel atom in the centre of the ‘Molecule’ – no sign of it now.

(The other three are Colourfields in Blackburn, The Singing Ringing Tree above Burnley and The Halo above Rossendale.) P1000231


The day couldn’t have gone better. Sunshine, excellent company and three poems found and enjoyed.

13 thoughts on “PENNINE POETRY – MIST.


    Interesting. There is another sculpture called the Water Cut I passed ages ago on Lady Anne’s Way near Wild Boar Fell:

    Gleaned from The Internet:

    “The sculpture, designed by Mary Bourne, symbolises the power of the river Eden cutting through the rock on its journey through East Cumbria and our own human journeys through the rural landscape and through life. It is made from materials taken from the nearby Shap quarry and resembles the gate posts and stiles in drystone walls.”

    Further on I understand there is also an Andy Goldsworthy pinfold at Outgill which I have not seen. Maybe worth a re-visit taking in also Hellgill lForce at a time with good water flow.

    1. bowlandclimber Post author

      You have got me going now.
      The Eden Valley Sculptures look interesting and there is a poetry trail at Kirkby Steven.
      I’ve in Mallerstang a lot in the last year, hint hint, didn’t realise I was passing an Andy Gouldwsorthy installation!
      Just ordered a book on the Eden by Dick Capel.
      I walked the ‘Eden Way’ in !984 long before the artists had started their installations.

    1. bowlandclimber Post author

      So far the stones have been up there in situ., the artist has to suffer. Must have taken a lot of exploration to find the ones they wanted, a great collaboration between the three of them, poet, sculptress and landscape expert.
      The next stones on the list were carved in her studio.

  2. Eunice

    I must admit I’ve never been very keen on this sort of poetry – I had to compose non-rhyming stuff in English lessons at school and hated it – so I wouldn’t go out of my way to find the stones but it sounds like a good way of doing a bit of orienteering and the scenery looks pretty decent.

      1. Eunice

        Something I’ve always been pretty good at as long as it rhymes – I can write one within five minutes once I get the first line in my head.

  3. ms6282

    Damn it – having read your posts on the stones you’ve made me determined to get out and see them as I intended to do some years ago when I first heard of them! Not a day to do it today, though – I can see the mist as I look out through my window – the damp stuff, that is, not the Stanza Stone.

    1. bowlandclimber Post author

      It has taken us a while to get organised to visit the stones so far. Trying to arrange for the last three before the winter weather sets in. It’s difficult to coordinate when you have three people all with different responsibilities. Left to myself I would have finished them, but it is a good team we have assembled.
      I’m just reading ‘The Stream Invites Us To Follow’ by Dick Capel about the Eden Valley and guess what there is another sculpture trail.

      1. ms6282

        Yes, there is a sculpture trail along the length of the Eden, so the stones are quite far apart. We saw some of them during our autumn holiday in Appleby a year ago.
        I read the book you mention a couple of years ago and it gave me the idea of exploring the area more resulting in holidays in Appleby and Kirkby Stephen

        1. bowlandclimber Post author

          I walked the lenght of the Eden probaly 40 years ago – long before sculpture trails were thought of.
          One ofmy friends now lives between Sedbergh and Dent so have been going tothat area more frequently, the quiet Dales as they were 50 years ago.

  4. Pingback: ROMBALDS MOOR STONES AND POEMS. | bowlandclimber

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