Simon Armitage's Stanza Stones fuses poetry, landscape and stone carving in Yorkshire

By Frederick Harris | 26 May 2012
a photo of carved words on a stone
Poems written in stone. The Stanza Stones trail fuses landscape with literature across the Yorkshire Moors© Courtesy Pip Hall
"Dead-wall, dark railing, fenced field, gated garden, all passed away like the dream, of a prisoner; and behold, far as foot or eye can race or range, the moor, and cloud. Loveliness at last". So said Ruskin about the Yorkshire moors in his own lapidary prose. 

Ruskin shared with Wordsworth, Coleridge, Turner and all those English Romantic poets and artists the love of pure nature, particularly if it was raw and bleak and transcendental.

Their appetite was surfeited by that stretch of northern England of rolling sandstones, treeless, corrugated limestone hills and high lakes stretching from east to west across Yorkshire and Lancashire.

The area remains popular for walkers and poets, both seeking that same sense of escape and peace that drove the Romantics.

A new project now links both passions together. Along a new path, the Stanza Stones trail, following for 47 miles the Pennine Watershed between Ilkley and Marsden, walkers can read six new poems by Simon Armitage, carved into stones along the way.

Letter carver Pip Hall engraved each poem into stone, either in situ - once spending two weeks knee deep in a gushing brook - or in her studio in Cumbria.

She continues an ancient tradition on the Yorkshire Moors for stone carving; from navigational and devotional crosses to commemorative plaques and boundary markers (though she and Armitage have been decried as vandals by some local Druids).

Simon Armitage was born and still lives in Marsden, and these poems have been inspired by his native landscape. They describe water in its different aspects - beck, puddle, mist, rain, dew, and snow - all in their own way shaping the geography or powering a traditional industry.

A seventh poem is etched and hidden somewhere in the area, for walkers to discover unexpectedly. 

Six separate trails, from a 600m amble to a 4km trek, lead walkers past moorland, wooded valleys, canals and reservoirs to each poem.

  • Ilkley Literature Festival, the North’s liveliest, most prestigious Literature Festival takes place between September 28 and October 14 2012

  • The ‘Stanza Stones’ project is part of the Cultural Olympiad, the four-year, nationwide, cultural celebration of the London 2012 Olympics. 

More pictures:

a photo of carved golden letters on a stone
© Courtesy Pip Hall
a photo of a stone with poetry carved into it
© Pip Hall
a photo of a woman stone carving on a slab in a landscape
© Courtesy Pip Hall
a photo of a stone with words carved into it
© Pip Hall
a photo of two slabs on a moorland
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