Poetry on the Hoof: The (rail) road to Barra

ALL TOGETHER NOW LADS!

Wind farm blade, wind farm blade,
Everything you want from a
Wind farm blade.

We’re all going on a beer hunt lads!
From hanging town, brief encounters,
To Holke hang out, submariner sheds,
We’re getting our names up in those causeway lights!

HEYSHAM HIGH HOPES

Spot the jogging bishop with a mitre on a Sunday!
We’re talking rhubarb triangle with legs to spare,
A mammoth onion off the old green road.

They’ll split the atom here Bob in the years to come,
There’ll be lock downs, sirens,
Ever Ready for us, the pervasive threat.

Heysham 1, Heysham 2
It’ll be a football score Bob
In the years to come, when we get home.

One goes down, the other goes up
Two little boys Bob, that’s what they’re like,
Seismically protected to Gas Mark 7.

But there’s no more time for:
Haff netting salmon
in the skinny dipping Lune;

No more time for:
Sticking toffee pud
Up the old girls duff.

Cos we’re heading out to Barra,
Prepping for the Somme,
And all her sail in her.

Wind farm blade, wind farm blade,
Everything you need from a
Wind farm blade.

ARNSIDE’S HUNTER GATHERERS

It’s a long way to Tipperary,
A very long way indeed Bob,
You’ll be needing your khaki trousers ,
and a hat to shield you from the blaze.

Hats with fascinators fascinating,
Travel hunters hunting and
Heath and safety instructing:
Don’t forget your shorts.

Don’t forget your sun cream.
Don’t forget to write son,
We’ve got your Grand-dad round at Christmas
He’ll want to see you standing

Arnsider,
Tamesider,
Wearsider,
Humbersider;

Bloody Merseysiders, Scouse not English?
(Always kicking off in their socks and shades,
A disgrace to king and country,
Just who are they trying to kid Brian?)

Scouse lads! Manx lads!
We’re all in this together lads
Cockney lads! Toon lads!
Even Maccam lads can walk on the Kents Bank waters!

Climbing over ledges,
Diving down in gorges,
Geo-physical, geo-logical,
Geo-temporal, neo-natal.

Head line shock,
Culture block.
Road up ahead,
Detour to the Humphrey Head.

Wind farm blade, wind farm blade,
Everything you earn from a
Wind farm blade.

FURNESS FEARS

Grange over the sands,
Wind over the waters,
Steam over the causeway,
Fog on the time and we lose our way;
Lights up ahead and we shield our eyes
From the light on the horizon.

Don’t be daft Bob,
It’s just the moon on the river,
No need to stress, no need to sweat,
It’s just another brick in a wall.
No dark lions in the wardrobe,
No more air girls on the dole.

Ulverston oh Ulverston,
I still see your home fires burning,
I still see your water wheels turning,
I still hear your sea winds blowin’,
I still see the dark coal glowin’,
I was 21 when I left Ulverston.

Last wolf in England,
First turn on the left,
Water catches fire,
The air stops breathing,
But we dig deep down for leading lights
Tractors turning, gas flame burning, submarine yearning.

Wind farm blade, wind farm blade,
Everything you covet ‘bout a
Wind farm blade.

BARROW IN FURNACE

Cor strike a light!
Blow me down!
If ever I cross this side of town
I’m dead, I’m gone,
A shadow of my former self.

The nuclear dump,
The ever present hump,
Of the guy in the trench,
Standing doubled over the stench
Of the lads in the earth
And the girls in the air,
Waving, waving farewell, adieu, auf wiedersehen,
To their boys on a train sliding into town.

Pink Shap granite, Pink Shap granite
Archaeological dig in bullet rich sand;
Turbine, turbine,
Slicing up the seas in a frenzied fit of
Fission, fusion,
Grasping the cushion of a nuclear safety net of
Caste iron furnace, caste iron furnace,
Grenades to launch ten thousand ships to pieces.

It’s just a rumor that was spread around town
By the women and children
Soon we’ll be shipbuilding,
Well I ask you
The boy said “Dad they’re going to take me to task, but I’ll be back by Christmas”
We’re all in this together Bob,
It was like this way back when Bob,
Digging our trenches into the heat of the night.

Guiding lights in Barrow lands.
Trig towers point to trig points in the ground.
Landing lights in the estuary guide boats by.
Staging posts act as half way stops mid river.
Help us navigate this wilderness.

Wind farm blade, wind farm blade
Everything you ever loved ‘bout a
Wind farm blade.

Tracks of the Ironmasters Day 8: let there be dark

It’s the last day on the tracks (or down the line as local Frizington people say) and we’ve been reviewing participants comments on how the visitors experience could be improved.

The comments are many and varied. Suggestions such as installing Cats Eyes down the middle, offering free public wifi the length of the tracks and setting up a franchise to run track side cafes particularly catch our eyes.

They are all very well and in some cases very entertaining (strapping bags over horses bottoms to collect their poo) but these improvements have one thing in common: they’re all about how to make the tracks more like a town high street experience which prioritises customer needs, rather than a rural experience where the ecological needs come first.

The trouble with asking people about how they might improve something is that we tend to ask for more of what we already know – cats eyes down the middle of the road- rather than accept that darkness is something to welcome and face up to, rather than abhor and be scared of.

Tracks of the Iron Masters Day 6: you say immigrant, I say potato.

Weeds for many of us are those plants which happen to find their way into the least desirable places on our front lawns, garden paths or back yards. There we are, sitting on our laurels feeling as pleased as punch with our manicured lawn or tidied up patch when out of the corner of our eye we spot a pesky little intruder which somehow managed to avoid our overzealous strimming and demonic poisoning and has survived against all the odds, cluttering up our neat and tidy view of what nature should be all about. We instantly name the intruder as a weed and set about trying to purge the landscape of it, its related cousins and anything else that could upset the ecological harmony we have established on our land.

Our efforts may be frequently in vain as the intruders tend to be hardy little plants who have experienced far more threats to their livelihood than the occasional misguided Black and Decker strimmer or undiluted paraquat. That weed, which you can’t help see out of the corner of your eye amidst the order you have created, has probably faced off predators, illegal chemicals, drunks out on the tiles looking for the nearest urination hotspot and far worse threats to its existence that you can conjure up in the safety of your potting shed. That solitary weed is here to stay and heaven help you if you think that you an dig it up, transplant it, snap it off at the prime of its life or dead head it. The weed will win every time.

Of course, if you decide that the fruit of that weed happens to make some rather tasteful jam which you can add to your tea time on the lawn, or its seeds happen to make that plastic white sliced loaf palatable, or its leaves when infused in boiling water for a few minutes provide you with a surprising pick you up tonic for the rest of the day, especially when combined with a drop of milk, a spoonful of sugar and a digestive biscuit, then you’ve not really got a weed on your hands at all. You’ve got the potential of a native crop.

So, next time you spot a weed or intruder out of your eye, just ask yourself whether its really as offensive as you think it is. It might just save your life in future.

Tracks of the Iron Masters Day 3. Who you looking at?


There’s no doubt the tracks are seriously under scrutinised. There’s nowhere near enough CCTV cameras to monitor any anti-social behaviour and for a country which prides itself on being one of the most scrutinised in the world, this is clearly a very poor state of affairs. Given every double decker bus in the UK has at least 11 CCTV cameras on board, it can’t be beyond anyone’s intelligence to install suitable technology along the Tracks of the Ironmasters.

Private enterprise is due to step in however and rectify the situation: and instead of employing the same tired apparatus that looks like it was invented in 1984, the firm which is thinking about tendering for the rights to scrutinise the tracks are being environmentally sensitive to the nature of the ecology.

Tree-cams; fern-cams, dead mouse cams, horse dung cams and bridge cams can all play their part in scrutinising the public to ensure that the iron masters tracks are kept untainted by errant humans, their dogs, horses and drinking habits.

Tracks of the Iron Masters Day 1: travelling with (and in) a tent.

I think we’ve got a storm brewing!” calls out the man on the electric wheelchair as he speeds by, pointing up to the gathering clouds, wind in his hair and thick west Cumbrian accent trailing behind him.

The winds been gathering pace all afternoon and what was earlier a brisk thoroughfare of dog walkers, bikes and parents pushing pushchairs, has turned into a vista of pointlessness. Roads are senseless when there is no traffic on them, and likewise, cycle routes are purposeless when there are no walkers or cyclists hurrying their way along them.

More often than not, people navigate these paths with purpose – shopping, work, to get from A to B, to visit family or to achieve a myriad of other tasks which preoccupy their lives. The paths encourage intent-ful travel: but there are no spaces at present which encourage purposeless travel, intent free cycling or walking, or just some space to amble around in without any sense of direction. There are few places to rest or recuperate or take the foot off the intent pedal and relax for a while, free from purpose and intentfulness.

Perhaps that may change in the months to come – it’s certainly something that has been an interesting finding from Day 1 of life on the Ironmasters tracks.

Tracks of the Iron Masters: Day Minus 2 and counting

It’s been months coming and now it’s just around the corner: an eight day residency on two stretches of the railway tracks which have been known for decades as the ‘Tracks of the Iron Masters, so called because their significance in the iron, steel and mining industries on the West Cumbria coastline.

So what’s going on and what do the residencies involve?

The aim of the residencies is to consult with local communities along the West Coast of Cumbria to find out how the heritage of the tracks can be better interpreted and communicated; and how everyone can be included in their future development and use. We’re especially interested to hear about the views of families and young people and what the tracks means to future generations of users of the tracks.

We’ll be ‘in residence’ on the tracks on the following dates:

WORKINGTON BASED RESIDENCY
Sunday 23 August – Seaton Hall
Monday 24 August – Burrow Walls Roman Fort
Tuesday 25 August – Uplands, Camerton – including a mass walk from 2pm: finishing with food, cooked under canvas

CLEATOR MOOR BASED RESIDENCY
Wednesday 26 August – Mirehouse East
Thursday 27 -August Moor Row
Friday 28 August -Phoenix Bridge, Leconfield Industrial Estate –
Saturday 29 August – High Leys National Nature Reserve – including a mass walk from 2pm with food, cooked on site.
Sunday 30 August – Yeat House Quarry

EACH DAY HAS 3 SESSIONS:

10am – 1pm Come and introduce us to your local communities.
2pm – 5pm Come and join us explore the tracks.
6pm – 8pm Come and join us end the day relaxing at our mobile soup kitchen!

You don’t have to stay for a whole session –just drop by at any point for as long as you can!

WHAT CAN I DO IF I COME ALONG?

You can come along by yourself, with friends or with a group. We’ll involve you in lots of different activities such as:

Sharing your knowledge of the histories of the tracks and and hopes for the future
Enjoying a conversation over a cuppa on the tracks,
Helping create a photographic survey with guidance from Art Gene artists
Exploring the ‘hidden assets’ of the tracks
Learning surprising things and share home cooked food with us all!
Preparing the food, cooking and providing refreshments for our visitors,
Managing the visitor experience and the mass walks,
Collecting stories, photos and other memorabilia,
Making the residencies a memorable experience for everyone…

If you’d like further information, or book a place, or book a group, please get in touch with me at the address below.
But for today it’s about packing up your old kit bags, watering the laundry and dry cleaning the garden.  Or something like that.

Now, where did I put those residential galoshes?

 

Tracks of the Iron Masters is being run by Art Gene and funded by sustrans.

How would you design the perfect hand grenade?

It’s not a question you might ask of yourself every day but for the students exploring the air field and gun ranges of Fort Walney in Barrow, it’s something that has exercised their imagination for the last 48 hours.

Clearly, you have to be able to hold it comfortably, get a firm grip and be able to pull the pin and not have it explode in your hand which would be completely counterproductive. It should also, to be a truly effective hand grenade, cause the maximum amount of damage to whomever you throw it at: again, it would be a pretty pointless hand grenade should it just fizzle out. That’s why the surface has all those groove marks in it: when it explodes, the grooves provide natural fault lines for the explosive to detonate meaning that it fragments into thousands of pieces of shrapnel which will guarantee the maximum amount of damage possible for a weapon of its size and weight.

Apparently, the guys who designed the original hand grenade also designed a grenade to fit into rifle barrels. They would be shot out of your rifle and travel a great deal further than the ordinary hand grenade would be able to. Also, distinguished by deep grooves in their surfaces, these rifle grenades were the progenitors to latter day mortar weapons, the kind you see being used in Syria, Afghanistan and all those other theatres of modern day warfare we are accustomed to seeing.

So, our art and design students learn that the weapons of choice of the early 20th century were designed in much the same way as the sewing machine or horse drawn cart: paying full attention to form, function and effectiveness. There may even have been aesthetic considerations at play when it came to designing the hand grenade although it’s hard to see what they were.

It’s also hard to imagine a thought process in which earnest young men and women would sit down at a table and engage in some blue sky thinking about what it would take to design the most effective hand grenade. Did they talk about body parts? Mortality rates? Bang for your buck? Or did they do it with one hand over their eyes, pretending not to know what they were doing and perhaps imagining a use for the hand grenade which didn’t involve blowing people to bits? Is there somewhere, in the Ministry of Defence, a portfolio of uses of hand grenades which weren’t deemed appropriate and so have been confined to the dustbins of history?

We shall probably never know that but one thing we do know is that the military industrial complex that is the far North West of England asks some pretty hard questions of its inhabitants and even harder ones of those who live far removed from its difficult debates about warfare, industry, education, design and jobs. Robert Wyatt’s ‘Ship Building’ has never been far from my mind recently: and like Robert, I have the advantage of living a long way away from the centre of these challenging and difficult questions.