Manager catches poetry bug

Poetry workshop takes inspiration from the red hut

Some might find the idea of writing poetry nerve-wracking. But in the right environment and with some good support, creative writing can be fun, as well as a great way to understand and engage more with the natural world.

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Manager Dr Barry Yates, who has never written a poem before, talks to us about what it was like attending some recent workshops called Voices of Rye Harbour:

“To begin with, we all went for a walk on the reserve, led by one of the two poets involved with the project, Susan Richardson and Jane Lovell. The idea was that we’d concentrate on something in the landscape and try to look at our surroundings with a different perspective. We were given a theme designed to help us think about what we were hearing and seeing.

An Avocet feeding

I decided to write my first ever poem about the amazing bird, the avocet, and this was what I came up with:

Black and white
on long blue legs
through mud and water
side-swishing a slender bill
to eat another shrimp
another shrimp
another shrimp.

On the next workshop, the theme was ‘colour’. It was a windy day, and when we were near the Red Hut, I heard an oystercatcher’s “peep peep peep”, telling us off for coming too close to its nest and eggs. I noticed that the colours of the oystercatcher and the Red Hut were similar and made some notes.

The Oystercatcher

Once we were back at the cafe with coffee and delicious scones, we had the chance to sit and think, then write down some of our thoughts. This was the poem I wrote about the oystercatcher:

Black, white and red,
the oystercatcher scolds us.
It has hidden two fragile pebbles
amongst the hard shingle
close to the hut that is…
black, white and red.

Those of us who wanted to, then read out what we’d written. I found the group friendly and nurturing. Some people had creative writing experience already, but others, like me, didn’t.

I also found thinking about what to write, calm and peaceful. The process took over my entire mind, and things that have been troubling me were shelved for three hours. Finding the right words could be tricky, and it was really interesting to see that other people saw the world in a different way to me.

Jane encouraged us to use the Places of Poetry website where people can find poems written about particular places.

I think poetry helps you think. And it helps you function better, trying something new. I felt nervous beforehand, but the moment I’d overcome that, I felt good. It’s a very supportive atmosphere.

And it’s been great to introduce an element of creative writing to the reserve. We don’t want to lose momentum, so look out for future developments!”

Jane Lovell organised a series of events at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve under the theme of ‘Voices of Rye Harbour’ as part of June’s 30 Days Wild campaign. These are supported by the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, and each session ended in the Avocet Gallery and Tearoom.

From such excellent beginnings, Sussex Wildlife Trust is hoping to keep a creative writing group going in future – and when the Discovery Centre is open, it will become a hub for groups and workshops such as this.

The Discovery Centre is a joint project between Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Discovery Centre can request a monthly newsletter to keep them posted about build news, sightings of some of the outstanding wildlife at the reserve, and ways to donate to the Appeal.

The Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is a charity whose 2,000 members support the Nature Reserve’s work through subscriptions and volunteering. Since 1973, it has part-funded the cost of staff, land purchase, large scale habitat creation, tools, vehicles and visitor facilities such as bird watching hides and information centres. It provides events for its members throughout the year.

Image Credits: Sussex Wildlife Trust , Barry Yates .


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