I attended a poetry workshop based around the theme of the River Wyre on Saturday (June 7). It was organised by the Walking Wyre Group and the Lancashire Dead Good Poets Society and it was a lovely event. It started off with a short walk along the banks of the River Wyre at Scorton. After that we met at The Barn to discuss what we'd seen and to use our findings as inspiration for poems.
It poured down when we were doing the walk, which meant we all arrived back at The Barn feeling soggy and bedraggled. But interestingly the rain added to the charm and beauty of the river scene and made for some lovely words. It was as if, as one of our leaders pointed out, the rain made us looked at the view microscopically - rather than seeing the wider vista of landscape as you might normally do on a fine, clear day.
Our poems will be included in the Walking Wyre blog and a panel of judges will choose a selection of these to be included in a commemorative booklet which is to be launched at Garstang Arts Festival, on Wednesday August 20. Visit http://walkingwyreblogspot.co.uk
What was interesting about this event, for me, was how the River Wyre features as the backcloth to my own life story. For example, I can remember going across the old Shard Toll Bridge, at Hambleton, as a child. This was a narrow toll bridge and it had its own unique charm, linking the rural villages of Wyre to the rest of the world. Each Christmas, my dad would drive us to Thornton to pick up my Auntie Lizzy so that she could spend the festivities with us. As a five year old, that journey was part of the mounting excitement, because it meant Christmas was nearly upon us.
At one end of the bridge there was a toll booth, and there was always a queue of cars waiting for tickets, slowing traffic down to a snail’s pace. I have clear memories of a tall, bespectacled elderly man (in reality he probably wasn’t old, but to my child’s eyes he was), in a bright yellow sou’wester coming out of the toll booth in the driving rain and wind with his ticket machine, ready to take money. I can’t remember how much it cost to buy a ticket. (Mental note: need to find out toll charges).
When Shard Bridge was placed by a new, modern road bridge in the 1990s, there were some who felt the Over Wyre community would never be the same again. Locals feared an increase in traffic, bringing with it an end to a quiet and tranquil way of life for the rural villages. In reality, the creation of a new bridge has made it much easier for motorists to get over the river, but it can’t be denied that the old bridge was part of the character and history of the area.
I can remember the new bridge opening in 1993. Just before the bridge was opened to traffic, the council allowed primary school children to make history by being the first to walk across. I was working as a reporter on the Garstang Courier at the time, and I can remember interviewing the excited children from Hambleton Primary School as they walked across on a hot summer’s day.
Of course, I’ve also got lots of memories of going across the Wyre on the Fleetwood to Knott End ferry. As children, it was a treat for my brother and me to be taken across to Fleetwood on the ferry boat by our Granny. We would stop and have an ice cream in the Marine Gardens before going to the playground. During one visit, my wiry, agile brother caused huge consternation when he decided to walk down the helter skelter rather than slide down on his bottom. I have a memory of him peering precariously over the edge, while Granny shouted in horror.
More recently, the River Wyre has featured in my leisure life. For the past few years, I’ve been signing up for walking events during Garstang Walking Festival, which takes place in May each year. For me, the highlight was taking part in the wonderful Wyre Way Walk three years ago. This four-day walk follows the Wyre from its mouth at Fleetwood to its source as a stream in the fells above Tarnbrook and Marshaw. It’s a delightful walk, incorporating all of Wyre’s diverse scenery, from the seaside and low-lying pastures of the Wyre plain, to the scenic Bowland fells, with their commanding views of the Fylde Coast.
So, thanks to the inspiration from the poetry workshop, the River Wyre will be woven into my life story.