Over the past four months, seven locations along the Tarka Trail have hosted stamping stations for the Peddling Poetry Project. Each were listed inside the Peddling Poetry Passports (of which 100’s were distributed to schools, walkers, writers along the trail.)
The project ran in three simple phases or stages
1 – get your passport and visit the cafes to stamp it
2 – follow the instructions inside to hunt out the poetry along the trail with your family and phone
3 – write your own poem and pin it to the trail for others to find
So how many passports were taken, how many stamps made and how many new poems posted?
About 3500 passports have made it into the hands of the curious over the past four months, a great proportion of the 5000 printed. But how many of these passports made it to the stamping stations is really hard to ascertain. The cafes reported ‘regular visitors’ but thats really vague, and waiting in a cafe to count was really unproductive.
How many people went hunting the poetry is also really hard to quantify, specifically due to how the system (web app) actually works. We can count the number of web hits / downloads to a device (every open is a download!) but I don’t trust this metric at all. For years people have been telling me how many thousands visit their webpage. My belief is that these are all web bots and not real people at all. Real metrics are hard to get!
But what we can count are the new poems when someone pins it to the trail. This adds a time stamp to the database along with the gps location so we know where the author stood when they posted, as well as what they wrote (the poem).
Initially I pinned 150 poems on the Tarka Trail Poetry Pin for the launch this spring, which came from the poetry boxes installed last summer. Those ten little poetry boxes and subsequent poems laid the foundations for the trail as I geotagged each in turn to the very places where the tins had been installed. This meant as we launched in spring there was already content for people to seek out. Now at the end of these four months we have over 300 poems pinned to the trail, not bad at all.
And even though the stamping stations have now retired for 2019, the trail is still open for new poems and will remain so for the foreseeable future. In addition to this, the cafes felt there was plenty of future potential for the project and were keen on doing it again next year.
Doing it all again.
That would of course rest with a few things falling into place but primarily funding as this years project was only possible due to support from Beaford.org who commissioned me in the first place with a residency. Out of this I was able to throw together an additional Arts Council England proposal which really put some gas in the tank and successfully launched the Tarka Trail Poetry Pin.
It also meant I could design and print passports, connect properly with the cafes along the trail, whip up and distribute the stamping stations, and run nine public creative writing workshops plus a further three with local schools. I could also monitor the poetry being submitted, keep the Facebook and Twitter feeds alive (easier said than done) and enticing more and more to play.
So having peddled and walked, chatted and hunted, wandered and talked from tip to tail of the tarka trail; having written poetry about lime kilns, cyclists, tea drinkers, errant yachts, sleepy tunnels, seaweed, sand and the seasons; and having read poetry about old folks, bike spokes, oily spanners, and family clangers, Brexit, boat yards and simple playing cards (actually not too much about Briexit thankyou!) I feel the Poetry Pin along the Tarka Trail has blossomed.
There are poems all the way from Braunton to Torrington, some are nested in clusters (the Instow picnic spot) others are off the trail (Victoria Park in Bideford / the old Rolle tow path near Torrington.) Some are under bridges, others with wide open vistas, some are tagged to benches, others about old friends and long lost loves. There are lots and lots about riding bicycles, all are full of facets, deviations and diversions, with each and everyone fascinating in their own way.
So its with great pride I am able to add these photos of the 2019 Stamping Station hosts along the Tarka Trail. Their part in this project has been essential, but better still they have asked for the project to repeat next year.
But in the mean time, get out there with your passports and tag new poems in readiness, lay a breadcrumb trail of special words for others to seek out and enjoy. Just this morning I had three new poems added along with this email. What a great end to the project.
‘We did the route from Westleigh to Fremington yesterday and picked up 130+ poems! We were told the stamps had been removed, but got the stamp station staff to draw in the passports instead!!’ Andrew
To round off I will finish with a poem as is the form, but go back to the roots of Poetry Pin with the very first trail at Hinkley C in Somerset. This was the rallying chant to get people writing to that trail, may the chant be sung loudly for many years to come. This is the Somerset Hinkley C trail which is still live and ready to receive your words of wisdom. https://hinkley.poetrypin.info
Just bite it, and write it,
word it, then site it.
Park your mark to this path,
for the next to read
on their digital pass.
The canvas awaits,
what shakes, what breaks?
A trail of traits,
all shapes and mistakes.
Only here can you gather
the rhythm and flow,
the dips in the trail
or the rain on your brow.
Untethered and exposed,
released and refreshed,
juices freshly pressed.
So, stitch it to the trail,
put a notch in the rail,
post it, haste it,
chain it, and paste it.
The canvas awaits,
what shakes, what shakes?
The canvas awaits,
The last of the workshops is now complete and the final snatch of days for the project which launched this spring with just under 150 poems. These were themselves written by walkers in the poetry boxes which I placed along the trail August September 2018. Today we are past the 300 mark which is incredible thanks in part to last Sundays poets firing out some 20 new compositions around the Instow area.
This was our first medley of words from the day and they certainly paint the picture of Instow harbour for me. Usually there are subsequent composite poems too, but the group was keen to build their own works and words and who am I to slow them down!
The workshops generally begin with a simple task of writing what we can see in a 360˚ loop around us. As people are beginning to make marks on their word harvesting cards I like to say ‘focus on detail’. I find, the richer the observations the better, as a little further along the track I asked each poet to throw me a line to write up a composite poem. Not only does this break the hurdle of sharing (they were a great group anyway) but it also shows how easy it is to pin a poem to the trail.
Hand in Hand
Muddy waters lift the blues
Needle stack yacht masts
Whistlin’ sea breeze
Weather vane turning
Faded cormorant illustration
Splattered sea weed bladders
Mud veins reach through sand
Couples stroll out hand in hand
This was a walking workshop (six of the nine public workshop were peddling ones this year) and as such we deviated from the trail, walking down onto Instow beach watching the (controversial) dog walkers (there is a poem pinned about this here!) The wind was whipping sand across the bay and brave families were zipping up hoodies and grasping beach tents whilst their kids dug away carefree.
The Boats Salute
Bideford boats tug at the tide
South they face
as the rivers retract
Ready to switch sides
when the waters draw back
Slapping their keels
and thrumming at the breeze
They jitter at the passing winds
and are hungry for the seas
and are hungry for the seas
Wide open spaces
One eyed warrior
Half buried in sand
We’re here for today
Blow with the wind
Then on to the Glorious Oyster cafe tucked away in the dunes, almost out of the wind but not quite. Here we recharged with coffee, cake, and then a couple of new poems pinned before striding out to the Instow picnic spot. On arriving, a little blown out from the warm wind, we sheltered in the round hut and listened / watched a shower pass whilst writing new poems.
I wish I knew:
The name of the pink flowers
Profuse in their perfect gaudiness.
I know Ivy – she tangles
Her heart-shaped leaves
High into the roof.
Naughty Deadly Nightshade
Nudges my feet,
Snarly snares of bramble
Try to trip the unwary
And the troublesome sky
Frowns darkly down
Into my cob-walled cubbyhole.
Finally back out into the sunshine for a spot of lunch and a few more poems before heading back. All in all, a rewarding and productive day, plus a great session to end on, thankyou to all.
The Poetry Pin trails are open for writing and interaction 24/7 even though the passports and stamping stations are drawing to a close on the Tarka Trail you will still be able to add your poetry to this trail and all the others for the foreseeable future. The first trail began in 2013 which you can still write poems to and read the compositions. If you are a writer, poet, artist, creative and you’d like to put a trail together in your area then please get in touch.
Poem 1 – Hand in Hand – All workshop participants.
Poem 2 – The Boats Salute – Christopher Jelley
Poem 3 – Now – Sara Cheesman
Poem 4 – I Wish I Knew – Julie Sedgman
Incredibly we are past the 200 poem marker now, with new compositions pinned by pupils, walkers and riders along the Tarka Trail almost daily. It has also been very heartening to talk to the cafe owners who are hosting the Stamping Stations about their feedback from customers. Are people asking where the stamping stations are? are they asking for passports?
Well the quick answer is yes, generally they are loving it (and whats not to love!) So with new poems being posted, stamping stations being visited and new passports being requested and issued, I think we can safely say that we are finally on our way.
So this is the most recent poem pinned to the trail by Sarah Connor (thankyou). For me it has all the great attributes for a pinned poem, written in the place it was posted, reflecting the natural surroundings through word and rhythm, and nice and succinct.
This boat’s not going anywhere
Stuck in the mud as the tide went out
Ribs intact, skin all cracked,
Beams burnt black, deck peeled back
River weeds are taking hold
In the hold.
The location for this poem is just north of East The Water along the Tarka Trail, at the point where houses finally give way and the estuary opens out in all its tidal glory. Go hunt it out with friends and family and post your own for others to find.
New poems can be posted at any time along the Tarka Trail, just open this link on your mobile phone. But remember that your new words will be tagged and pinned to the place you are standing. Peddling Passports are available from the Cafes along the trail and each cafe has their own unique stamp.
Tarka Trail Poetry Pin link – https://tarkatrail.poetrypin.info
Key parts to the Peddling Poetry Project are finally gently sliding into place; firstly we have some fabulous cafes along the trail who have agreed to host the Stamping Stations. Then we have a selection of poems from the 600 posted into the Poetry Boxes, 150 or so have been carefully selected and geotagged ripe for the hunt. Then there are 5000 freshly printed poetry passports (in blue!) ready to be distributed to bright new poets across North Devon. Each stamping station will have some for you to pick up, plus many schools in North Devon will be supplied with a passport for each child. And finally we have The Tarka Trail itself, 20 miles of stunning scenery from woodlands to heaths, from estuary to nature reserves full of birds, air and sky.
The project went live on May day 2019, designed to coincide with the Beaford exhibition at the Burton gallery called HERE. But this special date reminds me of an old poem recited to me beside a standing stone in Kent. I wonder if this same magic of words in wild places will wash into this poetry project?
The fair maid, upon the first of May
shall walk into the field
upon the the first of May
and wash in the dew
of the white thorn tree
and ever after handsome be
What success might look like is inevitably many fold so from the outset we designed a layered approach to engagement.
Firstly, some families may just enjoy stamping their passports. I just know this will be fantastic fun in itself and kind of wish my kids were a little younger!! But inside each poetry passport are instructions taking you on to the next steps with details of how to hunt out the geotagged poems.
The final major step and the real test of the whole project / concept will be new poems pinned to the trail. I am certain they will, especially with these ingredients of Tarka Trail, North Devon landscape and a new digital toy of secret poetry, will it be just too hard to resist (we hope so!)
How many we will become involved and how many new poems will be pinned, only time will tell. All the stamping stations are now in situ and ready to go, all that needs to happen now is you.
Fingers crossed, and if you want to know when new poems have been pinned to the trail, then follow the Poetry Pin Twitter feed. For each new poem will generate a short snippet of poem on posting.
Finally, a quick thanks to Beaford team who have been un-ending in their support and energy with this project. One of the Stamping Stations is situated at The Burton in Bideford Gallery, who are also hosting the HERE exhibition listed above. A fabulous insight into the recent worlds captured on film by James Ravilious and Roger Deakins.
It is the depth of winter now but plans have begun in earnest to properly develop the North Devon Poetry Pin trail (The Tarka Trail) for spring and summer 2019. The light touch of geolocating text has always been a key ingredient for Poetry Pin projects, the ‘leave no trace’ mantra is well established and Poetry Pin has always embraced this ethos whole heartedly. So when poems are geotagged and then searched, the only impressions on the landscape should be the footprints of the inquisitive. There is no need for more as we all carry the tech required in our pockets, and as Poetry Pin is powered by web app technology it is easy to access and begin the poetry hunt.
‘So when poems are geotagged and then searched, the only impressions on the landscape should be the footprints of the inquisitive.’
But curiously this very light touch, with no trail signs or notices to catch your attention is also its weakness. Last summer the Poetry Boxes (blog link) caught walkers and riders eyes and they penned over 600 poems, but the boxes were there in full view, out in the field, neatly tethered to benches and grabbing everyones attention. When this ‘sign-post’ is removed, how do you draw attention to the project? How do you go about raising the profile and promoting all these amazing poems people have written, and secondly encouraging more to write and geotag their new poems to the trail?
Initial investigations last year revealed that signage along the trail (which goes against the above I know but we did ask) would not be allowed, the land management team of North Devon are having trouble keeping up with their core tasks, never mind me adding to them. Also, Beaford Arts, the main project partners have signed up to Plastic Free North Devon campaign (which is brilliant and we are totally behind) but this would create a problem too when it comes to welding plastic Poetry Pin logos to the trail or commissioning vinyl banners for the trail gates.
so there will be stamping stations along the trail too
So whats the solution and how will we get people hunting out the poetry, well with Poetry Passports of course! We have been wrestling with this over the winter and think the Poetry Passports might be just the ticket (almost literally!) The concept runs like this, create Poetry Passport booklets – lots of them to be handed out for free along the trail, cycle hire, information centres, local schools and of course the cafes on the trail. Of course passports need stamping, so there will be stamping stations along the trail too, most likely in the cafes which are already keen to support the venture. Inside the booklets there will be simple instructions to access the Poetry Pin poems and also how to add your new compositions to the trail, we may include space for notes and new poems aswell.
‘ . . . responding to landscape within the landscape is the gallery of the future’
We won’t know if all this will actually transfer the audience from the analogue of physical poetry boxes to the more ethereal digital system of Poetry Pin, but there is only one way to find out, and thats to get on with it. Which is exactly what we’ll be doing over the coming months and since we’ve just received confirmation of financial support from the Arts Council England we will get the opportunity to deliver. This means that we will be running more Peddling Poetry Rambling workshops, the passports will be printed and distributed and Mr Jelley will be along the trail to entice passing riders to engage and respond.
The details of new workshops will be promote primarily through the brilliant Beaford Arts web page and portal, so check here to find out more. So spread the word and get writing to tag poetry to place along the Tarka Trail it is open right now, yes right now – open this link on your phone then click allow for the GPS to work and go hunt and tag poetry along the trail. The greatest promotion is always word of mouth and we are passionate that writing words and responding to landscape within the landscape is the gallery of the future.
During August and September there were ten Beaford Poetry Boxes tethered along the trail, each had just a book and a pencil inside and asked for walkers to ‘draw read or write’ within. By the end of the eight weeks over six hundred poems had been added and some two hundred and fifty sketches too. Each week Mr Jelley would check the boxes to keep them looking perfect but also geotagged a selection to the poetry pin channel – https://tarkatrail.poetrypin.info.
As I write there are over one hundred and fifty poems pinned along this trail, and the only way to read them is to walk (or ride) there. So a quick tutorial for those who haven’t used Poetry Pin – firstly open https://tarkatrail.poetrypin.info on your phone, each poem has been geotagged roughly to the spot they were written, travel to this spot and they will reveal when in close proximity. If you are inspired you can also pin a new poem, just click ‘add poem’ and then write your words, but remember when you click submit these words will be geotagged and pinned to the very location you are stood. It is immediate so the next poetry hunter can come and read your words.
But one thing which made this trail different to previous outings of the Poetry Boxes, aside from the geotagging to Poetry Pin, was that each tin had an image taken in North Devon around the 1970’s and 80’s. These were made available from the Beaford Arts archives who commissioned Mr Jelley to run this project.
The idea was multifold, firstly it was a new way for this archive to be shared with a new audience, they would also hopefully seed some great poetry, and connect with local recent history at the same time. By the end of the two months, and judging by the interactions and signatures in the tins, over three thousand people had connected with the project and the Beaford Archive images.
So with the success of the poetry along the Tarka Trail this summer the trail is already rich with words. We will be running new writing workshops in May 2019 along side the Beaford Arts exhibition at the Burton Gallery, Bideford. But to make things just that more fun, two of these poetry rambles will be peddling poetry rides so bring your bike!
Here are the dates and details for your diary, all of them Sundays – 12th, 19th and 26th May 2019 – pop them in your diary and see you there – no charge, though we do expect you to write a little!
Teddy Spread by C Jelley
Never scrubbed, more tenderly dressed
chosen considered as one
to the n’th degree
This is the moment
drawn from their bedding soil
harvested at peek after tender labour toils
The gauntlet was drawn in generations gone
and the judge
must now be singular and at one
Under tweed control
blood honour rests
for rosettes will be won only
by the best of the best
This spread of platters fit for a King
summon all the Pipers now for the Earl to sing within
teddies in fives as precious angels eggs
await the nod
the mark of the Royal
the marquee of trestles presides today
before the company is mashed and boiled
Beaford Arts – https://beaford.org
And Beaford Poetry Boxes – https://beaford.org/discover-a-beaford-poetry-box/
Tarka Trail Poetry Pin trail – https://tarkatrail.poetrypin.info
Mr Jelley – http://jelley.info
Saturday 4th August saw the installation of seven new poetry boxes along a section of the Tarka Trail in North Devon and they are already getting lots of attention. I’ve maintained many boxes along walking routes over the years but this is the first cycle and walking trail and also my first main commission with Beaford Arts.
Putting images in the books as seeds for poems is also new, usually a blank page and a request to ‘draw, read or write inside’ is enough of a catalyst but we felt that this commission required a little more.All these new images pictures are from the Beaford Archives and taken by either Roger Deakins or James Ravilious during the 70’s 80s. They come from a selection of the archive which has only recently been digitised and made public; between Roger, James (and Chris Chapman) over 80,000 images were taken so it has been no small feat to digitise the lot!
Interestingly these poetry boxes have become a really curious exhibition of sorts, ‘we’ve never exhibited them like this before’ said Sophie from Beaford Arts ‘so it will be really interesting to see how people react and interact.’
Over the next two months we will see what words and poems will emerge from the walkers and cyclists. The boxes will be removed on 1st October if all goes to plan (sooner if not!) so get down along the Tarka Trail (Instow – Bideford section) hunt out the boxes, enjoy the images and write a few lines about place and space.
Everyone asks what are you doing with the poems? Well a selection of the poems are being digitally geolocated to the trail during the project through this channel.
Open that link in your mobile phone browser and then journey along the trail to reveal the poems or even add new ones of your own (they geotag to your specific location).You can also follow a little of whats going on through twitter @PoetryPin and @Storywalks where snippets of poems are automatically generated when a new poem is geotagged to the trail.
So here to wet your whistle is a geotagged poem which was written in the first few days at the beautiful Instow picnic spot. When I found it I immediately geotagged it to Poetry Pin but was so chuffed that imposed myself on the other visitors to the meadow! By odd chance they had been involved with the very construction of this elvish round house some ten years previous and were visiting to show their tiny kids as they now live in Swindon.
What a great start to the project.
Elvish Tricks by MB
Round and solid topper with sticks
I see the elves have derm up to their tricks
A hut in a field they have constructed
In which their magic may be conducted
They dance and sing clap and chant
As they decide which hiker to enchant
The spells they weave bring luck and joy
To any person girl or boy
Now if you’re quiet and act like an elf
That lucky someone could be yourself
After some word generation and storytelling with my shells, we then broke for lunch and re convened on the Cathedral Green. It was crazy hot and felt more like a festival site than the regular city centre. The final job of the day was to write 360° poems responding to the surroundings, each pupil threw some words together on the cards I’d provided, which they then transcribed and geotagged through exeter.poetrypin.info
Hundreds of Tesco meal deals
Mums and dads
Nans and grans
College kids making weekend plans
Cathedral green on its brightest day,
All the bright colours for the gay pride parade,
The old Tudor house,
Beams and stone,
Who once lived there?
We will never know,
Thousands of years know as the capital
Poems all around,
But yet to find
How long it’ll take
For the city to come alive.
All in all, it was a great session, very simple but effect and interesting for the pupils to actively use their mobiles as part of the session. Their words are now tethered across Exeter Cathedral green and around Exeter Central library, so if you are in the city then hunt them out and add your own 360° poem.
Behind the scenes over the past few months long designed plans have been starting to come to fruition with respects to the Exeter Poetry Pin and the Royal Clarence fire on the Cathedral Green. Daisi – the Devon Arts Consortium have been putting a team of artists together including Poetry Pins’ Mr Jelley to create a new set of works which will be ready for the second anniversary of the fire in autumn this year.
Last week all five artists finally came together to begin this process with the company of Todd Gray who unraveled the history around St Martins Parish, the block of medieval buildings of which the Royal Clarence was one. It was an incredibly enlightening and essential session with reams of notes being taken by all the artists as a great basis and grounding to begin the Re-Boot project works.
In autumn, after all the workshops have been completed Cara Roxanne will create a hoarding (possibly three) to go on the fence which surrounds the building site of the fire on Cathedral Green. These large banner prints are to include augmented elements which will come to life when scanned with your phone, revealing details of the workshops through slide shows and films cleverly triggered by the static images.
Exeter Poetry Pin will be integrated also, firstly through the workshops and secondly during this exhibition to encourage people to add words to the Exeter landscape, especially around the Cathedral Green and St Martins Parish island area. The Exeter Poetry Pin is live and has some beautiful poetry tagged across the city, it is free to use and add your own words which become tagged to the very location you are stood.
Open https://exeter.poetrypin.info on your phone whilst in the city and see how many poems you can hunt out.
The artists commissioned are and in order of images depicted
Tanya Morel – Artist printmaker and actor
Cara Roxanne – Illustrator / Multimedia artist
James Lake – Sculptor
Monica Shanta Brown – Multimedia artist
Christopher Jelley – Poet technologist plus Poetry Pin
Ash, oak and willow herb
Woven flight of swift bird
Smell of green in warmth pervading
Circle songs of birds uplifting
Happy Moment by Gaby Armstrong
Those attending or just passing by and curiously drawn in generally don’t consider themselves as poets, but when they leave after tagging a few words to the landscape, they feel a little less ‘not a poet’ if that is at all possible. I am constantly surprised by the ingenuity and creativity of strangers, and it is rare they don’t surprise themselves a little too!
Minky Mostly slide slinky not slowly
Two whippets fast darting past fluttering butterflies
Lazy through the towering willow lying on a grassy pillow
In a lattice of shadows the two dogs eventually rest.
Longrun Whippets by Hannah and Jess
There are about two dozen poems tagged to Longrun Meadow now, of which these posted are part of, but I will leave you with this one of my composition which was drawn from a list of plants which have become resident in the meadow as only a few years ago this was arable farm land. The names of these plants lends to poetry with ease, and so there are a few compositions on this theme.
Wavy Bitter-cress is here
Down by your knees beside the Common Mouse-ear
Or over near the Smooth Hawks-beard
Aside Dandelion and the Crested Dog’s-tail
Or was that the Meadow Foxtail
No definitely beside the Ribwort Plantain
But you’ve got to root and scour through the brush
And careful you don’t squash the Bulbous buttercup
Not to be confused with its sibling of course
Its a little sensitive to naming
Miss spelling is rude, inconsiderate and a little shaming
It must be identified right and true
This is the right plant, through and through
But I think I am more convinced as to what it is not
So yes, right here
It’s definitely the Bitter-cress we’ve got
Wavey Bitter-cress by Christopher Jelley
The day was facilitated by Arts Taunton and InspirED – the educational arm of Somerset Arts Works and designed to engage with individuals and families with word and place during National Meadows Day 1st July 2017
More about National Meadows Day
All poems written on the day were also geo-located to the meadow at
and are available to view for free in location they were posted at this web address.
More info about Poetry Pin – get in touch for your own Poetry Pool
More info about Arts Taunton