Woodland Words – The Woods of Hazel – out now!!


Woods of Hazel Promo

The first volume in the Woodland Words series published by Wytham Woods is now available. I was lucky enough to be invited to collaborate with Sarah Watkinson,  the inaugural Writer in Residence at Wytham Woods, funded by the University of Oxford. Our collaboration with the Woods resulted in this collection of poetry exploring the science, archaeology and natural history of the Woods. It uses a Renga form of ‘poetic dialogue’ to explore the many ways in which we are connected with yet distanced from the Woodland world.

Look out for the artwork too – the ‘Spirit of the Woods’ aka a ‘Landwight’ is tucked in the cover. Landwights are Old English immanent preternatural spirits of place and this one looks very much at home at Wytham. Woods of Hazel Poster (1)

THE WOODS OF HAZEL is available from: https://www.oxforduniversitystores.co.uk/product-catalogue/wytham-woods/wytham-woods-products/the-woods-of-hazel

Wytham Woods Website article about the pamphlet, by Lucy Kilbey, with Epilogue poem. https://www.wythamwoods.ox.ac.uk/article/the-woods-of-hazel-poetry-booklet-launched

See here for The Laboratory with Leaves with a video of the Hill End Charitable Trust.  It explains Hill End, its history and current work with schools:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6o66W7LswA

A Firesome Day

DSC_0974.jpgAfter being postponed in February, Forge, Furnace and Kiln at Wytham Woods (https://www.wythamwoods.ox.ac.uk/home) managed to wedge itself between meteorological and viral storms. We enjoyed a wonderful demonstration of smelting green malachite into shiny copper, and tin ore into silvery ingots by Pete Hommel (University of Liverpool). The little furnace and hand-pumped bellows brought the alchemy of smithing to life before our eyes. We spent time writing myths of smithing, enjoyed profound and evocative poetry right on point by Joe Butler from his collection Hearth Stone about his time as a blacksmith. As if that wasn’t enough, we ended our writing workshop early in order to visit the Anagama kiln at Wytham (https://www.wythamwoods.ox.ac.uk/oxford-anagama-kilns), which just happened to be firing that day. These films are based on a fifth century Japanese design – thanks to all there for letting us wander in on a non-public day. Thanks also to Pete and Joe for fantastic contributions, to all those who came and took part and to Lucy Kilbey for making it all run smoothly. Participants – don’t forget to send Lucy your poems!

Sadly for now, future poetry and other events have had to be cancelled. The woods are still open though – enjoy a little social distancing immersed in nature to stave off the cabin fever!

Wytham Woods in Winter

Splendid day led by Keith Kirby looking at the history of Wytham Woods, including the trenches dug as training grounds for WW1 recruits, now with beech forest regenerating and the promise of bluebells spiking out through the dead leaves. I ran a poetry workshop in the afternoon on winter woods.


A rainbow over the chalet at lunchtime… looking forward to Fire, Forge and Kiln, a day of smelting and forging and using the woods on 9 February 2020. Keep an eye out on: https://www.wythamwoods.ox.ac.uk/home


Liturgy for St Frideswide

A “Liturgy for the Feast of St Frideswide” will take place on 19 October (her Feast Day) at 6pm, St Frideswide’s, Botley. This is part of my on-going PhD “Encounters with Frideswide”.  All very welcome!


The image is from the remains of St Frideswide’s shrine in Christ Church Cathedral. At St Frideswide’s, Botley, there is a wooden door carved by Alice Liddell, the Alice of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The same book contains reference to a “treacle well” based on the well St Frideswide is said to have struck in answer to prayer. The well is still at St Margaret’s, Binsey. Interestingly, “treacle” is derived from the Middle English “triacle” from the Latin “triacle” from the Greek “thēriakē” meaning antidote to poisonous animals. Perhaps there is something that has stuck to legend of the well’s curative powers.

Calling Villa fans…


North Leigh Roman Villa is always open, nestling on level ground near the river – they certainly knew where the nicest sites were! This weekend the shed constructed over the mosaic floor was also open so I finally got to get a good look at it. The stone piers supported a brick barrel vaulted roof. The pattern includes typical knotwork panels and arrangements of lamps “hanging” from central medallions. In a rather Escheresque way, they look like pie-eyed birds when seen the wrong way up! Interestingly, this fancy dining room was abandoned when the  occupants decided to build something newer and grander next door – the foundations that you see now. Some things don’t change…

Science and Poetry 2019

Fantastic line up at St Hilda’s in July of people enjoying once more the interaction between science and poetry. Perhaps the most engaging and interactive session so far – Adam Horovitz, Frances Leviston and Michael Symmonds Roberts in the hotseats with Sarah Watkinson gently steering them trough interesting avenues of thought….

See here for a fuller blog post on TORCH at the University of Oxford: https://www.torch.ox.ac.uk/article/scipo-2019-plants-brain-and-the-imagination-0