Friday, 26 March 2010

Wild Cumbrian weekend

I was back in Cumbria at the weekend, for my annual 'Wild Women' get together. I joined Wild Women more than 10 years ago, when I first moved to the Eden Valley in Cumbria. This is eastern Cumbria, the bit that isn't the Lake District. Wild Women started out as a creative writing course led by poet and creative activist Vik Bennett. 13 of us would meet every couple of weeks at Vik's cottage in the picturesque hamlet of Whale in the Eden Valley. We would talk, laugh, cry, eat  - and write poetry. It was as idyllic as it sounds! After the initial 10 week course, we all decided we wanted to carry on meeting, so we evolved into a writing and performance collective, and set up our own small press, Wild Women Press, and published our own poetry collections and even did some poetry readings. Gradually, the group dispersed, although some continued and continue to write and be published - see Gill's blogs and   Ruth's blogs - and Vik has set up another press, Blissfool Books. But the original group members still remain connected as 'fellow travellers'.

The one thing that we have continued (thanks to others more proactive and organised than me!) is our annual 'Wild Women Weekend', usually in February or March. We rent a self-catering property somewhere in Cumbria and get together to reconnect with our shared creative roots. It's always a magical, heart-warming experience. Not just to see everyone again, but to spend time doing the kind of activities that, for me at least, everyday life all too easily pushes out. We write, we dance, we paint, we connect with nature, we share rituals, we light fires and candles, we do tarot readings, we make wishes (or spells if that's what you prefer). And of course we eat and laugh and drink! It's a heady mix and my 'normal' life seems a bit monochrome when I come back after the weekend. But of course the challenge is to bring that Wild Women colour into everyday life. Other members of the group are better at that than me - as you can see from the links above.

This year, we were in an isolated 18th century farmhouse, Carhullan House, west of Shap. It was a fabulous spot. Very isolated, at the end of the track, dwarfed by the wide skies and open views across the hills. On the Saturday, I woke to the typical weather I remember suffering when I lived in Cumbria - drizzle, low cloud and grey, dank skies. It used to depress me. By late afternoon, the clouds were lifting and on Sunday we had the weather I remember loving in Cumbria - bright, crisp sunshine, with a big, blue sky stretching out above the fells. For the first time since I left Cumbria, nearly 4 years ago, it felt good to be back. I'm glad I don't live there any more, but the complicated feelings I was left with about that whole life episode, seem to have eased enough for me to remember why I was enticed to move there in the first place. It's called the Eden Valley for good reason.

Typical Cumbrian weather. Sodden.

More rain.

Low cloud.

Lower cloud.

The clouds start to clear.

Wall and sky.

More walls, more sky.

Carhullan House, Sunday morning.


  1. It was a great weekend wasn't it. I'm just about to begin reading the Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall, just because it is set there. Great photos, I meant to take one of that fantastic big tree but forgot so I am glad you did.

  2. I like the fact that we all took photos of different things - lots of different perspectives. Nice reminder of a lovely, refreshing weekend. I came home and tidied and reorganised my study/office/room - whatever it is - to try and make it feel like a more creative space. We shall see!!

  3. I meant to take one of the four poster bed but forgot!

  4. I like the photos of wall and sky - and Cumbrian sunshine!