Ways of Seeing, Ways of Writing: Wild Ennerdale Workshop Exhibition

Works inspired by the Wild Ennerdale Nature Writing Workshop with somewhere-nowhere

We are delighted to share the first in a series of three exhibitions of work produced by attendees of our winter visual art and nature writing workshops, based at Castle Howard, Stirley Community Farm, and Wild Ennerdale. See below for a curated selection that showcases some brilliant images and creative writing from participants in the Wild Ennerdale workshop, accompanied by some words and photographs by Rob Fraser of somewhere-nowhere.

Please note that some of the poems in this exhibition have been shared as images. There are alt-text descriptions of these for screen-reader users, or you can download the relevant poems here as a PDF:


A photograph of Kirk Fell dome rising above grey cloud, with pine tree silhouettes and a hill slope in the foreground. The photo is accompanied with text written by Rob Fraser, as follows:

Kirk Fell and clouds

beyond sight, the land is mapped by cows, 
the slow turning of earth under foot

The head of Ennerdale valley is the home of ‘giants’. Beyond the last of the conifer plantations It’s a matter of craning your neck up to take in the u-shaped bowl of Haystacks, Brandreth, Green Gable, Great Gable, Kirk Fell, Looking Stead and Pillar. I made this image from the main forest track on a long lens, pulling the dome of Kirk Fell in to make it feel closer than it actually was. Once again it was a case of waiting for the light and the shape-shifting clouds to do their thing and become ‘right’. Too much cloud and the peaks were obscured, too little and their emphasis was weakened. I chose to keep the darkened fringe of sitka trees in the image to hold the foreground and provide a strong base. In post-production I muted the colour slightly – I didn’t need to do it too much as the scene already had a monochromatic palette – in order to add to the mood. 

Harriet and I have strong memories of walking over Black Sail Pass (just where the clouds are spilling in this image), back in July on day 9 of a 13-day circuit of the Lakes as part of our Sense of Here project. The day that we crossed was clashy, as they say in the north, a mixture of bright sunshine followed by squally showers, some of them heavy. On the other side of the valley we were treated to the fierce magic of a pair of merlins hunting a skylark out of the sky, making their strike just as another veil of showers swept in to hide them from sight.

Image and Text by Rob Fraser @ somewhere-nowhere

 Poems by Hannah Field 
What is wild?

A colonial imagining?
Our true nature?
A diversity of beings and
doings? A flowing to be what needs
to be?
According to who?
To me, to you, to us?
Seeking

Seeking solitude, we find
abundant connection and
community.
Seeking quiet, we find
a cacophony of sound.
A photo of a sheep skull set against bare tree branches.
Photo by M. Rose, used with permission
Remembrance and reverence

Scrambling for light,
not everyone wins.
Losses are mourned.

Seeing the beauty in
death,
preservation isn’t always
best.
We can remember,
write, tell, sing, dance
and draw.
Lifelong, generational,
bone memory
of what has been lost,
what we don’t want again
and what might become.

In reverence.
A poem by Hannah Field titled 'Shapeshifters'. The formatting creates an unusual pattern on the page. It reads:

Shapeshifting and morphing
 new and old indigeneity. 
Moving from control to reverence,
 through an ancient wisdom within
  ourselves, our ancestry and our Earthly communities.
Rooted in and braided with place.
We are discovering, remembering and shaping
 our part in cascading, circling systems.
There is no place for intensification, 
 only harmony.
We need ritual to find the words,
 a ceremonial creation of language.
I wonder…
	A community of relatives, of familiars,
	we settle in, 
	sharing the clarity of our water
	above surface and below.
		You give generous gifts
		and I, we, 
		humanity
		give gifts in return.
			We love each other 
			you and I.
			Recognition and acceptance of your love
				is an expansion across our floodplains
			embodying wholeness.
	I remember when we first met,
	you and I
	Me feeling sick from the long and winding journey
 	through valleys
		and over fells.
I saw your shimmering delight 
	and reached out with my own.
I visit you every year, every season
	in body and mind.
Meeting Spring with the comforting and enlivening
			call of Cuckoo.
 		Spending time with white bibbed Dipper, 
			shore dancer.
 		A Pillar of thigh deep snow,
 			white rooms
 			Narnaic nooks.
We imagine when beavers can join the family fold
 	and nuture new life.
Your cold, fresh water on my face, covering my bare feet and in my ears
 	reminds me who I am and my purpose.  
Who am I? Who are we?
Holding plural ways of being and knowing? How many? Yan, tan, tethera…?
Farmer
  Ecologist
   Dancer
    Forester
     Wool weaver
      Parent 
     Coppice worker
   Geologist
     Storyteller
   Basket maker
  Soil scientist
   Midwife
    Teacher
      Cook
       Healer
        Engineer
       Host
      Dreamer.
Change makers, dwellers and conversationalists.
From soil to soul. From hummus to human.
At the top and bottom of it all we are members of community.
                                           - Hannah Field, 6th February 2021

A birds' eye photo of a fern set among a carpet of moss. Accompanied by text written by Rob Fraser, as follows:

Fern and moss detail

there are stories in moss 
written in the alphabet of greens

In our work we often talk about the fact that the grand, wide-opened views that the Lake District is famed for are made up of countless smaller ecosystems and tiny details. Arguably nowhere is this more evident than in a healthy ancient woodland, where the edges of all the constituent parts are wonderfully blurred and entwined – everything is inter-connected.  Wander away from the main tracks in Ennerdale and the land quickly gives way to a lush carpet of green – it’s an often-wet place and moss takes hold easily and quickly. As always for me, making an image becomes an exercise in seeking out the frame - selecting the composition that feels right in its balance and tone. There was a lot of star moss, but it needed something like this emergent fern to set it off. I chose to break with the compositional norms of using the rule of thirds by placing the fern centrally – but rules are there to be broken, right?

The word monochromatic is largely understood in art terms to encompass black and white. It’s worth remembering, however that its literal meaning is single colour. Therefore, this is a monochromatic study in green.

Another point worth mentioning is that if you wander into a rain-sodden clearing in a wood then perhaps put on your wellies beforehand. Decent walking boots will only keep your feet dry up to a certain depth.
Image and Text by Rob Fraser @ somewhere-nowhere

Poems by Sarah Kekus
A photo of a lone pine tree at the bend in a gravel road, with cloudy hills in the background.
Photo by Sarah Kekus, used with permission
Thursday in February: 

Today the valley seems like Mordor
from ‘Lord of the Rings’

The forest looks dark and brooding.

Writhing mist and a lonely tree
amongst the recent felling.

Catkins yellow against a grey sky

A solitary Primrose, soggy but brave.

The ice and blue skies have gone,
replaced by wet

South Westerlies, a rise in temperature.
LISTEN LOOK LANDSCAPE 

Stop a while

Listen.

Look around

See.

Be Still.

water dripping on leaves

a bird call

faint rumblings of forest machinery

towering black rocks

clear icy water

ancient farm steads

wind on your skin

Rain on your face

we are part of this landscape
A photo of a clear pool of water, with brown, reddish and grey rocks lining the bottom.
Photo by Sarah Kekus, used with permission
STORM

Rain lashes

Wind howls

Life huddles, hides and
hunkers down.

Elemental force

Whips up water

Roaring, restless, rock
mover

Sudden quiet

as storm is stilled.

Calm at last.
A blurred photo of a road heading uphill, against a grey sky.
Photo by M. Rose, used with permission
A photo of a muddy path adorned with clusters of white snowdrop flowers.
Photo by M. Rose, used with permission
Snowdrops

pushing up through cold
earth

green Spears of hope

white petals and green
embroidered skirt.

first flowers of spring.
A photo of a ridge set in cloud, with pine trees in the foreground and blue sky just visible beyond. Accompanied by text written by Rob Fraser, as follows:

Long Crag rising to Steeple

only the stones know the lightness 
that comes with shouldering a shifting sky

This is one of the final images I made of Ennerdale as we left, after three days of material gathering, interviews and having fun. I had used my Nikon camera to make 947 files of images and videos and this was number  921. 

I was on the lake shore, near the car park, waiting for Harriet to collect a final soil sample from a birch wood 100 metres away. The sun had already disappeared over the horizon and the day was making its rapid but quiet slide into nightfall. I turned my gaze from the lapping water’s edge to the skyline and saw this, the shark’s fin of Long Fell appearing from the dissipating clouds. The ridge traces a way up towards the flat summit of Steeple and then a little further to the true top, Goat Fell. I felt that I didn’t have time to set the camera up on my tripod and instead quickly ‘set’ myself as stable as possible - sat against a boulder, elbows resting on knees - so I could shoot on the long lens in low light levels. It was a case of making quite a few images to ensure that at least one was free of camera shake. In post-production I have softened the image slightly as I like the mood that this conveys.

As a parting image I feel that this captures the spirit of the place that we had been exploring and hearing about for the previous three days. As Rachel Oakley pointed out, Ennerdale is not a wilderness: every part of the valley reveals management decisions made by humans. Yet there is plenty of wild to be found within this landscape. In an increasingly urbanised society, at a time when rural issues are drifting further away from regularly felt experience for so many, it is vital that places such as these are valued as part of our natural heritage, and that people are actively engaging in their preservation and future visioning.
Image and Text by Rob Fraser @ somewhere-nowhere
Poems by Jessica Wortley
A poem by Jessica Wortley. The words are set against a black background and appear in white boxes. They form a sporadic pattern.

It reads:

stories in           greens
we         talk about the
smaller          details.       countless
edges           ancient
             everything is
                   Ennerdale       the land    gives way to
seeking     – selecting
        balance
I chose to break with the 
                         sonochroastic
           to encompass
this is a          study in        colour.
                                     rain.
(A found poem. Source: Rob Fraser)
A poem by Jessica Wortley. The words are set against a black background and appear in white boxes. They form a sporadic pattern.

It reads:

beyond sight,
          Beyond
                              Great Gable,
               I made            the         forest
pulling           Kirk Fell
closer              again
waiting for the light
                                            I chose
                 sitka trees          to hold
the colour

Black Sail Pass                    walking over
                        The day          was
                                   bright
the valley            fierce
                a skylark
                          swept in
(A found poem. Source: Rob Fraser)
A poem by Jessica Wortley. The words are set against a black background and appear in white boxes. They form a sporadic pattern.

It reads:

                 enter
and leave               No apologies
 time                                This
                                   Scots Pines
stand  at            Silver Cove,

             again

     she needs to look                    to
                         polish
to
        intimate
                                  the weather
          I was there.

                                  at the edge
   
                                            the light
Sketching Autumn 

There is a voice somewhere at the front of the room,

but I am lost in the drawing of a map of Ennerdale,

which currently has only three names on it: Crag Fell, Grike and Boat How.

Now I am sketching Smithy Beck and the bridge we sat upon

as we tried to capture September, our feet reflected

amongst a thousand golden leaves, falling like confetti.

I draw a red squirrel at Woodfoot and Galloway cattle by the lake,

but I cannot draw the sound they make when they enter the water,

a lumbering into stillness. Like the recognition of a child who has paused

having, for the first time, seen themselves in a puddle.

Hawthorn berries and silver birch have grown around the edges of my page

and the scent of larch creeps in. The voice asks if there are any questions.

Someone mentions winter but all I know is the pine marten hidden within the trees.
A photo of a forest floor, with ferns, branches, ivy and water visible.
Photo by M. Rose, used with permission
The Map Does Not Record the Weather 


Beneath the larches, beside the star moss
there was a new type of silence.

It was as if the wind had relinquished,
and handed her power to a late summer sun.

It was roe deer quiet, as if the jade of
lichen

and the bright auburn of tree bark had
stolen all sound.

I remember how everything was water,
how it pulsed like a heartbeat

as thoughts were carried off downstream.
A cow wandered into the frame,

filling up the path like ink across a page,
unaware of its importance.

Pinpricks of pink flowers grew
like stitches onto a blanket of green.

White caps of waves slept inside me.
I went down to the lake

to drink in the memory of their spray.
They quenched a need for reflection.
The leaves fell and it was as if
the forest floor was alight.

Soon the trees would become skeletal,
waiting for spring to paint them whole again.
A photo of an aged tree stump in a wood, covered in moss, with an opening at the base, like a small door.
Photo by M. Rose, used with permission
Dandelion Time 

To lie down in a meadow is to feel the earth.

To lie down in a meadow is to be of the earth

and to see the sky as the sun does, like a
canvas.

To lie down in a meadow is to be in the earth

and to see they sky as the foxglove does,

the way the light shifts under the mosaic

of bee and burnet moth.

To lie down in a meadow is to know the earth

and to see the sky as a fox does,

to sniff the night-scented catchfly

and wonder at the gold of whinchat and beech

and how the sound of water permeates
everything.
A photo of a field of dandelion clocks, some bare and some with the seeds still clinging to the stem. The photo is tinged with pink as it if had been taken at sunset.
Photo by M. Rose, used with permission
 
 
Cento for Perception 

When I crunch through those red leaves

and the squirrel dashes back

across the immense valley,

it speaks with flowers and rain,

sun and beasts,

with the skylarks in early warmth.


It is what is meant by belonging

to whatever crosses your path,

a vastness of miniscule,

high-resolution beauty,

where deer and fox graze unafraid.

 

Sources for these poems: Neil Curry, Kerry Darbishire, Mark Goodwin, Ann Grant, Katie Hale, Adam Horovitz, Tanya Shadrick, and Kathleen Swann.


A photo of silver birch trees in autumn, with silvery trunks and yellow-orange leaves. Accompanied by text written by Rob Fraser, as follows:

Evening birches

after all these days of rain, stillness has stepped in

There is something magnetic about a close-stemmed stand of silver birch, particularly in late autumn, when a lot of the leaves have gone. The stark, ghost-white trunks act as wonderful punctuating lines through the image. But they’re not the whole story - they are broken by the warm-hued leaves that give fleck the foreground, and the longer you look at this, the deeper your gaze is taken into the woodland. I have used the long lens of my camera to shorten the perspective, pull all the elements a lot closer together and condense the visual information. In a sense I ‘stalk’ a shot like this, looking through the camera to see where the best ‘frames’ might be, seeking out that perfect balance – discuss perfect – between all the constituent parts. The image was shot near the day’s end, the sun had already set and I was working with the gloaming light. The camera was set on a tripod, the ISO setting was high, which increased the grain/noise of the final image. I accentuated the ‘painterly’ feel that I liked in the post production in Adobe Lightroom.
Image and Text by Rob Fraser @ somewhere-nowhere
Poems by Ian Parker
A poem by Ian Parker, titled 'On Standing in the wood and listening and looking'.

It reads:

Some birds are heard     but not seen
High             in branches above.
Some birds are seen   but not heard
Silently             foraging in the grass.O
What do the heard birds     look like?
How do the seen birds        sound?
If I were an ornithologist    I would know
Untitled (Inspired by Film Clip of the River)

“Why does the Liza look green?”

I asked myself as I walked up Ennerdale

beyond the lake for the first time.

The water must be reflecting

the leaves about the stream.

But in the autumn, winter even,

Still the Liza flowed green.

Someone said, “There’s

copper in those hills;

it colours the water,

come rain or shine.”

But here’s a thing:

the Ehen isn’t green.

But its water comes from Ennerdale Lake!

The side streams must dilute the flow;

But where does all the copper go?
A photo of a river in a woodland, with a tree bending over the water.
Photo by M. Rose, used with permission
Things written outside (and tidied up a bit indoors out of the wind)

Blue tit

Blue tit scavenging in the grass;
why does he bother?
Is the peanut feeder empty?
I better fill it up soon

Snowdrops

Snowdrops in a line
Edging the terrace
I put them in the line
last year when I planted them
But only some have flowered
Will the others flower next year?
Will they spread, becoming irregular?
Time will tell

Snowdrops thickly clumped
Under a bush.
I didn’t plant them;
Who did? They were here when I came.
Only some of them have flowered
Perhaps it isn’t a great year for snowdrops.
Time will tell.

A photo of a broken pine tree, with half of the trunk leaning against the remaining branches. Accompanied by text written by Rob Fraser, as follows:

Broken tree

beneath our feet: dens, burrows, sets open into the earth
where decay is life, and life renewed

Oftentimes an image has to be teased out. I can see that something is there, but I need to move around a bit – or a lot – to find the right composition and the right light direction. However, this is one of those images that just shouted out to me straight away – everything just worked as I saw it from where I stood.   We had just come out of the woods after recording the Outdoor Writer’s Toolkit short film. We had emerged from the close-knit world of glowing beeches and golden larch onto a rain-sodden path and we were heading back downhill when I was struck by this scene: I instantly saw how it could be framed. The red tear of the huge larch limb was mirrored by its obvious wound, set against the soft green moss. The dark of the broken branch helps to hold the main subject, this larch, as the central viewing point. Once again, I used a long lens to pull the elements together. In fact, I think that I used a long lens on six of the seven images I have presented you with in this series. 

We came to realise that this broken branch would probably never be removed or tidied up, it would be left to rot in place and fall to the floor when the supporting branch finally gave way. The dead and decaying play a vital role in supporting this always-evolving natural system. There is a continuing cycle being played out here, assisted by the light touch of humans reminding us that we are a part of nature and not separate from it.
Image and Text by Rob Fraser @ somewhere-nowhere

Poem by Kerry Darbishire
A poem by Kerry Darbishire titled 'Wild Ennerdale – West Cumbria'. It reads: 

Wild Ennerdale – West Cumbria

I sink my hands into soil    imagining       
    soft threads of fungi    worms    moles –     
         soil dwellers
             weaving conversation    
through leaves and seed   
      loam that knows darkness
         how to survive drought    always    
             thirsty for the taste of rain.

A mistle thrush cuts the air    I breathe in birch    
     sitka spruce     scent of galloway – a herd let loose to roam.
         Clouds scud    sun splashes my back 
             a searchlight through trees – 
woods drawing spring to branches
     buds waiting to unlock summer
         spill gold to the floor
             in the chill of November

when birdsong gives way to the shining river – 
    Liza     wending her way through this steep-sided valley
         spawning arctic char    salmon    brook lamprey
                 building nests in gravel and silt.

Kerry Darbishire
Note: The name Liza derives from the Old Norse meaning of light or shining.

A photo of a heron on a branch silhouetted against a sunset sky. Purple clouds and orange sky in the background. Accompanied by text written by Rob Fraser, as follows:

Heron silouhette

if we were inside, we might believe darkness had arrived
but there is brightness in the shining remnants of day

We were leaving the valley to head back to Ennerdale Bridge. It had been a long day, we had got very wet and cold, but we were happy, having had several walks and gathered a lot of good material. The pub was calling and we were ready to answer that call. 

I was driving, heading west, when Harriet called: ‘Stop!’ I rolled the car back to a gateway - at this time of the evening the road is empty - to get a better view of the heron she had spotted hunched on the branch of a dead oak, wonderfully silhouetted against the orange sky. I got out of the car as quietly as I could and crept to the wall. The capping stones were cloaked in a thick bed of moss, perfect to nestle my camera into. The trickiest part of making this image was keeping the camera still enough to create a sharp image. Any movement when using a long lens is accentuated and the image becomes disappointing, unusable. Thankfully, I made some images that I was happy with. 

I always say that any great image needs to be a fine balance of three things: subject matter, composition and light. This simple image of a heron manages to tick all these boxes, at least I think so.

After making several images and checking them on the display I tried my hand at capturing a video. I would have preferred to set the camera up on my sturdy tripod but did not dare to go back to the car and risk spooking the bird. So, I got the camera as settled as I could and pressed Play. You can see the results in the resources pack in the file marked Land Films.
Image and Text by Rob Fraser @ somewhere-nowhere

Poems by Nina Ludgate
Wild: 

She is wild!

Wild and overgrown

Wildness offered
freedom

Untouched rocks,
nestling for millions
of years

Wrapped in lichen

Small plants nestling
in the crevasses
Exposed to everything

Rain beating down Snow parcels

Heat of the sun

Wild wind whipping
again and again
Soil: 

My hands delved deep

The mud engrained my skin

And my nails

I scrabbled and clawed

At the goodness

I scattered it on my land

It was the goodness to feed my
plants and me

Full of micro organisms

The very food of life
Liza: 

Solid rocks on the bed

Holding still despite the
power

Of flowing water

Bubbles aerating, taking
oxygen below

To feed the flora and
fauna


Moss forest: 

Below the canopy of the moss
forest

The creatures bustle

Unseen to man

They are the inhabitants

Of a microcosm

Without which our planet would
perish

The bright green trees of moss

Tower above

The dense rusty moss woodland below

The varied species of tiny moss

Grow around and through each
other



Water: 

The fells filter

The rainfall

The ghyll gathers

And gushes a white
streak

Down to the beck

Which carries the water

Down to the lake

Feeding the level

Over the weir

To the river Ehen below

On and on

The water goes

To the sea

rocks
Photo by M. Rose, used with
permission

People of Ennerdale
A black and white photo of Rachel Oakley, Wild Ennerdale Partnership Officer, in front of a river with pine trees in the background.

Rachel Oakley 
Wild Ennerdale Partnership Officer
(Photo by Rob Fraser)
A black and white photo of Richard Maxwell, a farmer at Howside. Richard stands in front of a quad bike.

Richard Maxwell 
Farmer at Howside 
(Photo by Rob Fraser)
A black and white photo of John Rickard, a volunteer. The background is a lake, with cloudy hills.

John Rickard 
Volunteer 
(Photo by Rob Fraser)
Anonymous Poem
An anonymous poem, titled 'Wild Ennerdale – River Liza'. It reads:

Holding my breath as 
			we
				go
					under 
The water is so clear it could be sky
We’re flying past the rocks 
			surface 
		we
	when
And 
I’m not sure which element I belong to

Poem by Sarah Davy
A poem by Sarah Davy, as follows:

How to travel (after Tanya Shadrick)

Sink your arm, 
fingertips to elbow in dirt, 
leave its traces under your fingernails. 
Let wind take your breath, close your throat 
and force salt tears. Submerge yourself, head before 
heart has chance to change its mind. Let your waterproof 
layer glisten, cast off ice water and carry you upstream. Walk barefoot 
in sharp sand to find grains tomorrow, the next day and the next. Listen with 
the hairs on the back of your neck until you know, yes, that is a great tit, 
a song thrush, a wren beneath the hawthorn. See shades of green in 
full sun and in shadow. Collect cast off seeds, pods and leaves
to store then scatter. Return to watch them bud, unfurl 
and reach for light. Make your mind a shrine to 
borrowed details, a map marking
the way to your wild.

A landscape photograph of brown bracket fungus growing on a tree trunk.
Bracket Fungus – Photo by Sarah Kekus, used with permission

The creative workshops, and the creative work produced as a result, were organised as part of the Tipping Points project, funded by the UKRI via the Landscape Decisions Programme. We are thankful to our funders and partner organisations for supporting this project.

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