Mid-September and our poetry competition results are in.
As the Membership and Bookings Officer for Waveney & Blyth Arts, I am busy through the summer months taking bookings from people for the ‘Celebrate’ programme. But early in July, I went to volunteer for seven days with the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd in Scotland. The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre offer daily hill trips for visitors to see the herd and I had been on one of these trips in 2015, fallen in love with the reindeer and since then had wanted to return to spend more time with these charming and intriguing animals, and find out more about what goes on at Reindeer Centre, so I applied to volunteer.
The Cairngorm reindeer herd was established in 1952. Mikel Utsi visited Aviemore in the late 1940s and found that the habitat on the Cairngorm Mountain was perfect for reindeer, and had been surprised not to find any there. In fact reindeer had been native to Scotland but had died out, so Mikel Utsi reintroduced reindeer to the Cairngorm mountainside by bringing eight reindeer across from Sweden in 1952 and today the herd is 150 strong.
Reindeer Centre in Glenmore consists of a souvenir shop where visitors go to buy their hill trip tickets, a small office and accommodation for the herders. There is also a paddock and exhibition space so visitors can learn more about the history of the herd and about reindeer in general. There are craft activities to enjoy in this space and talks by herders. Four reindeer are in the paddock each day so that visitors who can’t make the hill trip still have the opportunity to interact with these fabulous animals.
When volunteering there is no guarantee of how much time volunteers get to spend with the herd as there are a variety of jobs to do at Reindeer Centre but I am tremendously grateful that I got to spend a lot of time with the reindeer, up on the hillside and in the paddock, learning about herding, halter training, health checks, and feeding, all of which I got to take part in, it was very exciting.
I was shown how to put food out for the reindeer in the paddock, these reindeer got an extra treat of lichen with their food, Lichen, birch leaves and blueberries, ‘blaeberry’ in Scotland, are all favourite food for the reindeer. Blueberries grow on the mountainside so are one of the things the reindeer have naturally in their diet. Although the reindeer have everything they need to eat on the mountainside their diet is supplemented with a food mix made by the herders at reindeer centre and so I was shown how to mix their food, and this became a task I did regularly. Included in the reindeer food are dark grains, a by-product of the whiskey industry, sheep food, barley and sugar beet.
In the summer months there are three hill trips for visitors a day. Visits to the herd are a car ride and short walk away from reindeer centre. The herders leading the hill trips carry the bags of feed up the mountainside where visitors are given the opportunity to hand feed the reindeer. Feeding the reindeer is a wonderful thing to do, they have furry noses and you can feel their breath on your hands as they feed. One of the things I loved about accompanying visitors on hill trips was seeing the joy on their faces when feeding the reindeer, the same joy I had first experienced when visiting in 2015. Visitors going on the hill trips will often need to hire wellies, so I would help with getting the right size for visitors and then washing off any dirt from the wellies when they were returned. Other general duties were cleaning and topping things up; stock in the shop, bird feeders, the squirrel feeder, water, and craft supplies in the exhibition centre. I swept up pine needles that were dropping from the trees and ‘poo picked’ the paddock. Where there are reindeer there is reindeer poop so scooping poop from the paddock area was one of the first jobs I was shown. This was not a messy job as reindeer poop is like a cluster of rabbit droppings.
Whilst in the paddock area there were often rabbits and pigeons, and on occasion I saw a tiny little mouse and I was also lucky enough to see red squirrels. I was also shown how to set up and close down the exhibition space and paddock area morning and evening and on my last day completed the set up and feed and let the reindeers in to the paddock by myself which was a real treat. What I really enjoyed and felt very privileged to be a part of was the team spirit at reindeer house, everyone working there looked for jobs to do and everyone helped with everything. It was very inspiring.
The striking difference between the Cairngorms and Norfolk is of course the mountains, and the incredible views that accompany a climb up a mountain. I climbed Cairngorm Mountain, which is the sixth highest mountain in the UK, there is a 360 degree view from the top and it did not disappoint, it was phenomenal. My camera battery had run out half way up but I was relieved in a way because it meant I was completely in the moment, absorbing the view of mountains after mountains after mountains for miles in the distance. There was some cloud the day I went up, not enough to obscure the view, just a few near by and when I reached the top it did feel as though I was in the middle of a cloud doughnut at one point, it was very atmospheric.
This was another fascinating aspect of going part way up the mountain on the hill trips, seeing the incredible views of the landscape, different on a daily basis, affected by the changing weather in the distance. I really enjoyed watching rain, mist, sunlight, clouds, and cloud shadows transform and morph the view, sometimes on a minute by minute basis.
Another difference between being in Scotland compared to Norfolk was the light. To be more specific, the hours of daylight. I don’t think I have previously travelled north in summer before as I was really surprised by how light it was late into the evening. With staying there so close to the summer solstice it was particularly noticeable. It was very striking, and as I hadn’t considered that it would be lighter it was a delightful surprise.
As well as enjoying all of the above it was fascinating to learn more facts about the reindeer too. The herders stop at intervals on route to the herd to tell visitors all about the reindeer, so I picked up lots of interesting facts from this as well as from looking around the exhibition space. The most intriguing thing to me is the ability the reindeer have to conserve energy in the challenging weather conditions. In winter they grow a thick cut with an under layer, the long hairs on the outer layer are hollow to trap warmth. They can locate one another in foggy or blizzard conditions from the clicking noise that comes from their heels which is made by tendons snapping over bone, this saves them losing warmth from their bodies, which would happen if they communicated vocally. As well as having furry noses the reindeer have an internal heat exchange system which means air breathed in is warmed before it gets to the lungs and cooled before it is breathed out. The reindeer are very energy efficient. There are lots of other exciting reindeer facts so if you are interested in learning more one thing you could begin by looking up is about their feet, and one book I would recommend is ‘Reindeer: An Arctic Life’ by Tilly Smith, owner of the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd. In this book you will find out about the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd as well as about reindeer in general. I would of course also recommend a visit to the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd, for more information and the blog they write this is their website http://www.cairngormreindeer.co.uk you can find out interesting things like how they name their reindeer, amongst lots of other things. If you want to see more pictures from my visit you can find them on my Instagram account @katie_ferdinand, but you will need to scroll back as I have posted several other pictures since.
I had an incredible time and am looking forward to going and spending time with the herd at some point again soon, either as a visitor or working with them.
Last week on 14th August, the Pakefield Postcard Auction was held at Hotel Victoria in Lowestoft and, this year, W&BA were chosen as the recipients for the fund.
It was such a great evening and very well attended by contributing artists and supporters of the Ferini Art Gallery and W&BA. The event ran like clockwork thanks to the fantastic team behind the scenes led by Michaela Hobbs. We are very grateful to all of them, and to the businesses and sponsors who gave raffle prizes or support in kind — in particular Cunninghams (our main sponsors) who provided a team of very efficient cashiers, the Victoria Hotel for use of their fab facilities, and to Durrants of Beccles. Thanks also goes to Norfolk Mobility Scooters for sponsoring the arrival drinks.
The star of the evening was Nicholas Rudge, the amazing auctioneer from Durrants, who led the auction for the sixth year, and charmed and cajoled everyone to keep raising their bids.
Prices ranged from £10 to over £400 per item – and a lovely sketch donated (anonymously) by Dame Judi Dench raised £160. We’re very pleased to announce that the final figure of the PPA this year is £3,895, which is a stupendous result! The funds will be invested into our 2020 Bugs & Blossoms programme, which looks at the essential role of pollinators and environmental protect through arts and cultural activities in our locality. Thank you bidders for your generosity on the night!
Image: Will Goodman
On a sultry afternoon in July those who were not felled by the heat gathered in the lovely setting of The Locks Inn at Geldeston to create short poems and haikus.
Tim Gardiner, a wildlife expert as well as a prize-winning published poet and specialist in Japanese short-form poetry, introduced us to the essentials of haiku writing. In addition to the well-known stipulation of a maximum 17 syllables (normally 5,7,5 per line) we were told that traditionally all haiku were about the natural world, reference the seasons in some way, have a break that cuts the poem into two contrasting parts, and use irony, surprise or emotion to ensure that the poem means more than it apparently says. They are, as Tim pointed out, deceptively simple.
He then advised us not be overly constrained by the rules, apart from the overall length, and to concentrate more on the rhythm, alliteration, metaphors and imagery. With that liberating message we wandered into the adjacent cool, shady woods (thanks to River Waveney Trust for securing this little gem for public use) to take inspiration.
After a few hours and a very productive group ‘crit’ we each had a couple of poems we were happy to share. Thanks to all who took part, a combination of more and less experienced poets, and to the laid-back but effective Dr Gardiner.
Fallen not felled
Willow will not weep
Poet seated on her muse
Inspiring summer breezes
Footprints in duckweed
Scatter surface waters
Only to close over
duck weed blanket
holds our shadow
before we drown
wren stabs a warning
near nettles laden with
their own venom
bark fissured skin
Poplar grows old
wears moss socks
Ashley St Clair:
In the woods
void of leaf or flower
poet rests on stump
breathing sultry woodland air
nettle brushes arm
feeling love’s keen sting
Holding life in a tiny orb
Blushed with colour
Silver slug trail
Earth patterned with shadows
Calligraphy of twigs
A Place Found
two soaring willows
ancient trunk roots joined
a sacred seat
Kilbran’s Marriage Guidance
room to grow respected
a brown moth zigzags
rises before the mower
sharply cuts the path
And, last but not least, Tim Gardiner:
wild hops intoxicated by the view
filling the hours taxidermist
in the far field
in the cabinet
beware the hunter
Some of us stayed on and were joined for the second event of the day – a talk about moths and a walk led by renowned naturalist and nature writer, Mark Cocker.
Mark had promised to set a moth-trap in his garden the previous night and bring a few specimens from the nearby Yare valley for us to look at. What he brought was the most amazing cornucopia of moth life. He revealed hundreds of the creatures, from the flamboyantly colourful pink and green privet hawk-moth and eerily spectral poplar hawk-moth to dozens of pretty little rosy footman moths and their more restrained cousins, the common footman, as well as arches, cinnabar and gypsy moths.
We watched in fascination as he brought out these treasures and shared information and statistics about moths, a group of insects related to butterflies, belonging to the order Lepidoptera. There are thought to be approximately 160,000 species of moth, many of which have yet to be described. Mark pointed out that only 3 or 4 of these are the type of house moths that eat our clothes and textiles and are not greatly loved by humans. In common with all other insects moths have a vital part to play in a healthy ecosystem.
Once all the moths had been released into their new habitat we went for a short guided walk spotting a brilliant blue-green banded demoiselle (damselfly), spiders and other often overlooked wildlife elements feeding and breeding around us.
As the temperature dropped a little some of us stayed for a delicious supper in the garden of The Locks. We are very grateful to Grain Brewery, the new owners of the pub, for giving us use of their lounge, free run of their grounds and a warm welcome. It was the perfect setting for this fascinating day, and well worth a visit for anyone who loves the quiet beauty of the Waveney Valley and its unspoilt grazing meadows.
Has this summer inspired you to write about Bugs & Blossoms?
On what turned out to be a record breaking hot day, 7 intrepid adventurers set out to acquaint themselves with the quiet serenity of the little-walked Blyth Valley footpath. The original objective was to walk the whole path from Blythburgh all the way to Halesworth in order to ‘scope’ ideas for what should be included in a possible official Trail with information available to encourgage much greater use of this wonderful right of way through time and space. In the event it was decided only to walk the first third of the footpath from Blythburgh to Blyford and conclude at the delightful watering hole provided by Blyford’s Queen’s Head.
The walk was led by Simon Raven, an inveterate project facilitator, ably supported by Adam Burrows of Natural England and (although physically absent) Vic Gray of the Halesworth & District Museum. Vic provided well researched and illustrated information on heritage aspects of the valley while Adam responded to the river, its landscape and ecology, all in the moments of what we actually saw.
We learnt something of the strange history of the ‘Cathedral of the Marshes’, and in particular it’s connection to the late C19th Arts and Craft movement which rescued it from what would otherwise have ended in dereliction. Next we talked about the narrow-guage railway that once passed along the valley to Southwold with stopping off points which included the village of Blythburgh. It was then the turn of the river to become the topic of conversation – everything from the creation of the Navigation linking Halesworth’s maltings to the coast to its eventual demise owing to the activities of local landowners anxious to confine the river as much as possible in order to maximise the agricultural potential of the land – thus gradually silting up the river and slowly strangling the wherry trade. We marvelled at the herd of Red Pole Cattle and flock of Suffolk Sheep seen grazing the meadow and heathland, and talked about the swans, little egrets, otters and mullet that still swim in the flowing waters of the river. Simon described the little-known but seminal C7th battle of Bulcamp fought between the local Christian King Anna and the poweful marauding warrior King Penda of Mercia. Finally we stopped in sight of the impressive Bulcamp complex to hear about its history as a House of Industry, then Poor Law Work House and subsequently life as a Cottage Hospital and finally its present incarnation as a residential upmarket housing complex.
By this time, two hours into the walk, the heat was feeling more oppressive and so we took the final section of the walk at a smartish pace to arrive at The Queen’s Head in time for a sitdown and a well-earned drink or two, or three! Despite the heat everyone seemed to agree that it had been well worthwhile, and some even suggested that they would like an equivalent guided opportunity to explore the history and ecology of the remaining unwalked section to Halesworth – but perhaps at a cooler point in the life-cycle of the year!
PS. And it should be mentioned that the walk was only made possible by the invaluable 99A bus servide which neatly coincided with the end of the pub break to take some of the party back to their starting point in Blythburgh.
Organisers are delighted that the first Two Rivers book festival (16 – 30 June), taking place across the Waveney and Blyth area, is going swimmingly.
The opening event in Halesworth saw three distinguished publishing figures reveal inside stories, past and present, about how books get made. Since then there have been book signings, workshops in letterpress printing, book-binding and folded book-art and other bookshop activities.
Brian Guthrie, of the organizing group Waveney & Blyth Arts, commented “The festival celebrates all things book-related and is promoting the process of publishing, printing and getting books to people, as well as the writing of books. We have had very positive feedback about all the events to date and there are many more happening before the book festival closes on Sunday 30th June.”
Still coming downstream are How Books Get Made, in which book designer Will Webb and illustrator Jeff Fisher will discuss why books look the way they do with the Two Rivers festival patron, co-founder of Bloomsbury Publishing and current Booker prize judge, Liz Calder at the Cut in Halesworth, Tuesday 25 June.
On Friday 28 June, in association with Southwold Arts Festival, Connecting Books and People will see Henry Layte of Norwich bookshop The Book Hive, Philip Langeskov of UEA’s Creative Writing department, local self-published writer Emma Bacon, and owner of Halesworth Bookshop Abbie Clements discuss the decline of independent bookshops, the expansion of self-publishing, and how books get to us.
The Bookshop, a film based on Penelope Fitzgerald’s book about her experience of running a bookshop in Southwold is being screened on 28th June at Southwold Picture Palace. Workshops in Letterpress printing and Folded book-art take place at Halesworth library on Thursday 27th June and at Beccles library on Saturday 29 June.
To conclude the festival in style The Low House in Laxfield is hosting a stimulating weekend of book stuff. Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 June will see no fewer than 18 authors (four of them children’s) talking about and reading from their work. They include Melissa Harrison, Frank Gardner, Rachel Hore and Zeb Soanes. Interviewers include BBC Radio 4’s Paddy O’Connell and writer India Knight.
For more information, take a look at our Two Rivers Book Festival page.
The launch weekend at Palgrave is drawing to a close. It has been an inspiring, educational, colourful, companionable and successful start to our Bugs & Blossoms campaign.
We are a week away from the publication of a major report into the global loss of nature – the first comprehensive overview for more than a decade about global biodiversity and the contributions of nature to people. The Global Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services will be considered by representatives of 130 Governments in May.
Sir Robert Watson, Chair of the convening Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warns: “The loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is already a global and generational threat to human well-being. Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge of decades to come.”
The report, to be published on 6 May 2019, is expected to highlight the threat to humans if the devastation of nature continues. “I want people to know that nature is really important, and we shouldn’t destroy it, and it is absolutely essential to food, water and energy security,” said Sir Robert Watson. Some might say that nature is important anyway, not just as a ‘service’ provider for humans.
The arrival of our summer migrants, the cuckoo, swallows and swifts, remind us how globally interlinked we are. Advances in science mean we can now track birds on migration. PJ, The Kings Forest cuckoo, arrived back in Suffolk on 25th April having spent our winter in Angola. Several tagged cuckoos are still making their way through Spain and France. What do cuckoos eat?
What has that got to do with Waveney & Blyth Arts?
We launch, in May, Bugs & Blossoms our programme of events exploring, celebrating and promoting action for our plants and insects. See our Bugs & Blossoms page for details of walks, talks, workshops and exhibitions.
The global dimension of the loss of nature can make it feel impossible, as an individual, to make a difference. But Waveney & Blyth Arts likes a challenge. Let’s make our two river valley landscapes, inspiring nature rich places to live and work. What can we, as artists, do to bring people closer to nature, to inspire action and to help reverse the decline in nature locally.
Join us at one or more of our events and share your thoughts and ideas. Let’s bring Bugs & Blossoms back.
This year Waveney & Blyth Arts is the beneficiary of the Pakefield Postcard Auction. We are delighted to be chosen and to confirm that monies raised will go towards Bugs and Blossoms, our new themed activities.
Our native insects and plants are in catastrophic decline. Recent reports have shown how many species are disappearing. Our children will not have the rich and diverse landscapes of their parents and grandparents’ generations, nor the vocabulary that goes with them. We are losing the intricate mix of species that gave the natural world such richness and inspired poets, artists and writers.
In response, Waveney & Blyth Arts is launching Bugs and Blossoms, using the creative arts to celebrate our native insects and plants, but also to inspire people to notice what we have, understand what we are losing, and take action.
We will be promoting lots of events and activities over the next few years inspiring people to take action to protect wildlife under this umbrella title of ‘Bugs and Blossoms’.
We do not receive any regular grants so have to generate income through event charges and membership fees to cover our costs, and the general overheads of a small organisation. Without the time and effort donated by many committed volunteers none of this would happen, but we still need cash, too!
We are really grateful to all the artists who donate their original artwork to the auction, and recognise that this is a very generous gesture to support W&BA. The artwork is of a very high standard and over 100 individual pieces have been donated in previous years.
This is a last reminder, if you have not already done so, to please consider submitting a postcard sized artwork to this year’s auction and to help raise money for Bugs and Blossoms. To find out how to submit, contact Ferini Art Gallery – Pakefield. The opening hours are 11am- 4pm Fri/Sat/Sun 01502-562222 or email:
The closing date is 28th April 2019 so still a month for creative inspiration. You can create whatever you like on your postcard – submit a painting, pen and ink, pencil sketch, cartoon, textile, poem etc etc. It must fit within the dimensions of a postcard (6 x 4 inches) – oh and it doesn’t have to feature bugs and blossoms – they are just the beneficiaries!
If you don’t feel artistic, then put the auction date in your diary and come along and support us by bidding for your favourite(s).
The live auction is on August 14th @ 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm at The Hotel Victoria. Look out for details on our website.
All the Bugs and Blossoms events will be featured in our brochure Celebrating Waveney & Blyth 2019 which will be available from at Palgrave, in the Ferini Gallery and elsewhere from Easter onwards. There will be a Launch Weekend (24 – 27 May) at Palgrave, near the source of the Waveney, with a talk and workshop on nature photography by leading BBC wildlife photographer Nick Upton, plus a walk inspired by the writings of Roger Deakin around Mellis, an art exhibition, sculpture workshops and a film. Over the summer there will be themed walks, Meadows Open Days with artists and writers, and an event focusing on moths and butterflies at Geldeston Locks.
Please join in and do your bit for nature. Be inspired to create artwork or create habitat and let’s make sure the Waveney and Blyth River Valleys are still buzzing with life.