This week saw me finally meeting Patrick Norris from Footsteps in Northumberland to walk across the Pilgrim’s Way, a pathway that only becomes available when the tide is out, to reach Holy Island. This is a nature reserve rich in resources for rare and special wildlife. It was such an amazing walk, as we set off at 5.30 across to the island. getting over there, in the rain and wind at times, we were getting by the howlings from a gathering go grey seals hauled out onto the sand flats. They were grey, but also mottled white, and black and brown, and had such a way of moving across the sand. Patrick called it ‘garlumphing’. And to hear them sing. Their haunting cries carried to us within the wind, in harmony with the wind. It was like the sound when there’s a window left ajar and the wind comes inside. Like a draught coming inside. After a picnic on the island, for the way back, we saw the setting sun. It was all about the light.
Just as we stepped off the causeway, as dusk was starting to settle in for the night, out from the long grass, flying low across the tarmac to the banks of seaweed on the other side, was a beige-tawny, wide wing span of the curlew. The curlew, featured within the Northumberland National Park’s logo; this was my first sighting of the bird. It was a wonderful way to end the evening with it’s evocative ‘curlee-curlee’ call sending us off home.
For the online nature journaling workshop which took place on International Earth Day, 22 April, we had five participants. It was a lovely group of women with different experiences of writing, but everyone brought their enthusiasm to the table. It was so lovely to have Gill Thompson, the Park’s Ecologist, there presenting around the different landscapes, fauna and flora to be found within the National Park, as well as giving it a personal flavour with insights into her personal delights.
The workshops was part writing and then going out into the landscape on the participants’ doorsteps. If we were meeting within the Sill, National Landscape Discovery Centre, we would have been able to walk out together, probably up to Steel Rig and along the crags for a bit of a jolly, making sure all our sense were open to the surroundings and what they had to offer.
But I think it worked well, with the hour outside alone and then coming back to the group online for the final task of creating something from the outing. What I used to structure their musings while out there, was something I picked up a few years ago from the book Writing Wild by Tina Welling. There’s three parts to the exercise; naming, identifying and interacting.
NAMING – serves to alert our conscious awareness to our senses. Name what you see and then move into the other senses, notice the smaller things – e.g. the clouds, the tree, the straw coloured grass.
DESCRIBING – engages our senses and body responses on a deeper, more intimate level. Choose one thing that attracts your attention and describe in detail e.g. lichen – the feather tangle, delicate filigree, soft against the finger, pale snowy green in colour.
INTERACTING – invites us to create a relationship with our surroundings. It’s when you open yourself to place and allow an exchange, or interaction , between the outer works of nature and inner world of emotion, experience and memory.
Try it next time you’re outside and want to get some words down, record some kind of reaction that you can work on later once you get back home.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some of the women’s writing, as well as some of my own, once the Park has created a writer in residency page on their website. More details to follow soon.
Just over a year ago, the writers involved in Black Nature in Residence met at The Sill, National Landscape Discovery Centre to launch the project. The next week, identity on tyne, the coordinator of the project went into a self-imposed lockdown ahead of the national lockdown that was called a couple of weeks later. Black Nature in Residence has been put on hold since then. Even though we tried to restart happenings in October 2020, things have been taking place virtually and very piecemeal.
Yesterday, as writer in residence for Northumberland National Park, I was able to return to The Sill and walk around the landscape again. It felt good to be back and just enjoy the open views safely.
Hopefully moving forward, I’d be able to continue to explore this vast and amazing county each week leading up to the end of this project in October 2021.
Bring the #OutdoorsIndoors on International Earth Day
Northumberland National Park’s writer in residence Dr. Sheree Mack loves immersing herself in nature. She has learnt to destress through nature and found inspiration for her creative writing in the great outdoors.
Date And Time
Thu, 22 April 2021 11:00 – 14:30 BST
Join Sheree and National Park Ecologist Gill Thompson on International Earth Day to discover how to get the most out of your personal nature experience. From some hints on where and when to find hidden natural delights to practical tips on capturing your own precious memories through journaling, this online workshop will prepare you for a meaningful connection with nature.