Saturday, 22 June 2013



Thinking about the project I did with photographer Michael Poulter a few years ago, recording images and stories of the Florence Mine, Egremont. How we’d spend time talking with the handful of Miners who’d bought shares in the Mine when it had been made redundant.

How I would tell them of time my Dad spent, working the Iron Ore Mines around Egremont and Frizington. How Mam would tell me about crockery on the dresser that would rattle and shake when there were explosions below their little cottage next to the railway line in Moor Row – now demolished.

But this story is about those who had faith and passion in the Mine. Mining it for iron ore when it had been declared uneconomical, closed, no more.

Michael and I went down the mine several times, he to take photos, me to absorb walls, stories, people, the journey with men and their families, like my own. Men below ground, women and children above.

Their lives. Their stories. Like Mam’s. Like Dad’s.

The story of Mam's, she'd tell me how close one seam was to the surface that on Sundays when people were singing and praying at Mass in Cleator Moor, the men below in the mines would stop. Listen. Start singing the hymns that those above ground were singing.

How an Italian miner could be heard, playing his harmonica, as he came up the incline from the mine then go home from work. 

Miners were drawn from Poland, Italy and before that, from Cornwall. Which is why my paternal Grandma is Cornish and I have Italian and Polish cousins, besides all the Irish.

But this is more than the general. More than my family.

This is about one man’s passion for A Mine Called Florence.  A man who, when feeling in need of solitude, would go down the mine, be silent, be still, listen, or do nothing but be in the presence of himself, memories and minerals.

“water drowns the artefacts,
rails, wagons
and all and
creeps up the inclined adit
as well as the vertical shaft.
I gather it is still rising.”

Michael Poulter


Water drowns this mine called Florence
called after the owner’s daughter
called hell hole, pit of death
called red hole, cathedral called
miner’s pay checks, widow’s grave
called blessed and shit hole called
fucking no man’s land called arse end
of nowhere called Flo, called a prayer
called the curse and the hope
of a town called Egremont.

Water drowns the artefacts
rails and wagons creeps up
the inclined adit.
vertical shaft, still rising

I recall going down the mine for the first time. Helmets on. Overalls, too. And a heavy leather belt with a battery attached, in case the head lamps on our torches failed. Not for the fainthearted, we went down the steep incline, Michael, G. and I. It grew warmer the deeper went. On the way down G. explained the geological stratas and I have them, written down, and will find them in one of my notebooks (more later!)

I have to return to now, as I type this, because the stratas mean to me, right now, the layers of us as we are, us now. Our layers. Our geology. Our connections. Our family trees, our stories… and this means a lot to me. Not just mine, but yours and the non-human with whom we share our earth-home.

How we are who we are. How we came to be how we are. The families, yes, who shaped us, but the rocks, flora, fauna, sounds, images, smells that assailed our senses as we grew up to be who we are.

For G. that mine was a cathedral. For me the Furness Peninsula is a – what? Church, chapel, open air temple? All this, and more. For others it's different, but still the senses shape us: experience, memory, our creaturely selves and our creature-neighbours.

The experience of G. saying to Michael and me “Now, turn off your head lamps” We did. The most silent, soft black nothing I have experienced. 

Nothing. Blackness. Absolute.

“Now, turn them on, but point your heads up!”

We did as G. asked. Did as he asked and saw a glitter of specularite in rock above our heads, saw a ceiling of Aladdin, a dazzle of silver sparklets in haematite kidney ore.

Saw light prickle the dark.

"These are men's hearts in the earth"

Their hands
or grimed
with coal
their eyes
see in the dark
their songs float
up the incline.

Men's arms that
raise the hammer
that strike the rock
that make earth bleed
that give us iron
that give us steel
and coal
this day.

These are
men’s hearts.
Here in the iron
in the steel
in the coal
in the clay
here, now,
in decay.

photos taken by Geraldine Green

Thursday, 13 June 2013


LARK, LORELEI OF AIR AND SKY – jottings from a woman walking her dog

Although it was warm-ish when I fed the birds earlier - amazed to see, peering at me, eye-height through the beech hedge, a mouse parting the leaves - not sure which one of us got the biggest surprise! - it was cool on Birkrigg Common and I thought of John Clare and enclosures, how he'd have loved the wide open space of this common land where larks sing "above below behind beyond", where limestone rocks lie, like sleeping prehistoric animals, some blocks mark a path - or did the path follow those white limestone markers?

Watched and listened to numerous larks and thought they’re like Lorelei, luring the walker away from their nests and young with their song. Larks, Lorelei of air and sky, Lorelei, lovers of wide open space and freedom

Why Tudors & Elizabethans ate larks’ tongues in aspic is beyond me! Must've been tiny tongues, and how many would you need to make you feel full? and did they believe that eating the tongues would give you good voice, sing matins and psalms, Capella, luminous and clear as the star of that name?


Pondered on free form poetry: roaming and gathering whatever comes along, gathering far and wide instead of harvesting boundaried crops in enclosed fields; thought of imaginative space and travelling to  other places, freedom to dream, the write to roam. Thought of balance between the two, "good, wild, sacred" land as Gary Snyder calls it - which is partly where this thought came from. My roots are in Cumbria, the Furness Peninsula, attached to one place I also love to travel to others, share other people's stories, memories, love of their own patch. Gather them up, write in response, weaving the real and imagined, myth and dreamtime, telling the 'truth', telling it slantwise:

"Whether through poetry or prose, anecdotes or travel notes, the aim in writing ‘Salt Road’ is to share the wonder I feel in my encounters with others on my journey through this bewildering, messed up, yet still astonishing world." (extract from Introduction to 'Salt Road')

Snyder, who states: "for hunting and gathering peoples who draw on that spread of richness, a cultivated patch of land might seem bizarre, and not particularly good, at least at first. Gathering peoples gather from the whole field, ranging widely daily. Agricultural people live by an inner map made up of highly productive nodes (cleared fields) connected by lines (trails through the scary forest). a beginning of 'linear.'"

(extract from: 'Good Wild Sacred' Gary Snyder, Five Seasons Press 1984)


“Let my eyes at the last be blinded

Not by the dark

But by the dazzle.”

- Norman Nicholson

Saw the Isle of Man clear in the distance under thin blue sky, while Black Combe's bulk was cotton-woolled in kettle-steam cloud.

For some reason today Birkrigg seemed higher, whether the clouds low down in the middle ground on the fells made a difference, I don't know, but Bardsea village and spire looked way below me to south and east as I swung round on the homeward path to check for Ash die-back on the trees I’d photographed at dawn one morning.

One tree looks as if it has this disease. It's three-quarters in leaf, but leaves and branches at the top and east part of the tree look dead, branches bare.

Before I get back to work, preparing for this weekend's creative writing course ‘Writing the Wild’ at Brantwood and Monday's workshop with children on Walney, - encouraging them to engage with nature -  I must check for Ash die-back in south Cumbria.

Geraldine Green, 12.6.2013
photos: by Geraldine Green (copyright) 'Dawn from Birkrigg', 'Irish Sea looking south from Nethertown', 'Hawthorn and Limestone - Birkrigg, Early Evening' 'Green Lane to Urswick'

Limestone Outcrop, Birkrigg

You can sit on any
of these limestone outcrops
watching Meadow Browns land on
harebells, Alpine ladies slippers
or tormentil, listen to the wind
shushing bracken
as you sit sheltered, dog to one side
panting, waiting for a stick
to be thrown.
Listen to larks rising, 
pulling scent of thyme from earth,
their song falling like water.

Should you ever get bored with tormentil,
Meadow Browns or harebells, raise your eyes,
look at horses on the horizon.
Sea-Jay or shire mare, Annelise,
or white ones
folding over mudflats and marram
as the tide licks its way
into gulleys and channels.

Don’t be fooled,
it may look as though it’s creeping -
each wave searching
for a foothold
but underneath lies its venom,
quicksand and currents.

Watch it
rush in under the viaduct at Plumpton,
or sit near the hide at the south end of Walney
when it empties the Bay,
returns to the Irish Sea.

- Geraldine Green, from 'Salt Road' pub. by Indigo Dreams Summer 2013