Poetry, walking and sunshine delight Edward Thomas fans
The centenary of the death of the poet Edward Thomas in 1917 provided many opportunities for celebrations during the 2017 Frome Festival, both to examine his life and work, and also for festival goers to be inspired by his poems to write their own. One of the events was In the footsteps of Edward Thomas on 15 July when 35 enthusiasts spent a sun drenched afternoon walking the three mile circular route along the River Frome from Rode to Tellisford. The sold out walk was organized by Martin Bax, founder of the Frome Festival with help from volunteers. Writer and historian John Payne led the way along the mostly level grassy path and at stopping points Thomas’s prose and poetry were movingly read by local poet Crysse Morrison and Martin Bax (the brother-in-law of this reviewer ‘for the sake of transparency’ ).
The countryside was at its finest with wild flowers in full bloom, a new lamb and its mother in the first field and a charming scene of local children playing on a swing rope and jumping into the river in the second. Adults were picnicking on blankets and the River Frome twinkled invitingly. The walkers were transported back to simpler times with the laughs and shouts of the children interspersed with the bird song.
Crysse Morris started the readings with Words by Edward Thomas
‘I know you,
You are light as dreams,
Tough as oak,
Precious as gold,
As poppies and corn,
Or an old cloak:
Sweet as our birds
To the ear,
As the burnet rose
In the heat of Midsummer:’
Halfway through the walk the merry group crossed a pretty cart track bridge that led to Tellisford Mill where they were treated to tea served in delicate china cups with plentiful cakes and biscuits (including gluten free options). Owners Rachel Feilden and Anthony Battersby gave a brief history of the Mill and explained the present use of the site to generate hydro-electricity and visitors were invited to see the turbines and admire the work of such dedicated environmentalists.
Then it was a climb up the steps at Tellisford and back through the fields at the top of the hill with far reaching views across the valley. John Payne explained the significance of Tellisford being a ‘Thankful Village’ which means that all those who went to fight in both WW1 came back alive.
Thomas’s ‘As the Team’s Head Brass’ had some appropriate lines in the next reading:
‘The blizzard felled the elm whose crest
I sat in, by a woodpecker’s round hole,
The ploughman said. ‘When will they take it away?’
‘When the war’s over.’ So the talk began —
One minute and an interval of ten,
A minute more and the same interval.
‘Have you been out?’ ‘No.’ ‘And don’t want to, perhaps?’
‘If I could only come back again, I should.
I could spare an arm. I shouldn’t want to lose
A leg. If I should lose my head, why, so,
I should want nothing more…..’
Progress was slowed by a couple of challenging stiles but everyone arrived back at Rode feeling as if they had a glimpse of the countryside through Thomas’s eyes. I predict that this form of entertainment could take off as it provides fun for all, modest exercise, plus poems in the places that inspired them, and, with the inclusion of tea and cake for the modest price of £3, Frome Festival is certainly on to a winner.
Editor, Ambit Magazine,
Poetry Editor The New European