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



Poetry News

My poem “Scop-sweg: The Beowulf poet considered his composition” was commended in the South Downs Poetry Festival Binstead Prize 2019, and has recently appears in the anthology of winning poems. Scop-sweg is Old English for bard-song. The poem is about where the Beowulf poem came from (perhaps!!).


“Eidolon”, which won the Edward Cawston Thomas Prize in 2017, has come out in “A Nest of Singing Birds”, an anthology of winning poems from the competitions 2017-2019, and published by The Edward Thomas Fellowship.

Bridging the Gap

DSC_0079.jpgIt is really beginning to feel as if Spring has really arrived – “Suddenly you are voluble” as R S Thomas said. Just spent a reflective and illuminating week co-leading a CARM retreat (www.carmretreats.org/) on poetry and prayer at Holland House, near Pershore (www.hollandhouse.org) where these joyful cyclamen were sparkling on the lawn. There was also a woodpecker dinning his brains out on a tree – I found the tree from which that unmistakeable burrrrr of the beak was coming from, but he/she was too well hidden.

We spent the week looking at those gap times in life, those moments between happenings, the time-out, respite, wilderness moments and explored poetry not only by Thomas, but also Denise Levertov, Kathryn Simmonds (her “23” is a masterpiece in “owning” a psalm), Luci Shaw, Malcolm Guite and others – poems that took us into the gap, taught us to find the extraordinary in the everyday, and to adjust perspective to enjoy the here and now, instead of lingering over the past or hastening to a new beginning. It is amazing how a few days “out” of the slipstreams of life put you back on an even keel ready to paddle on. Of course, the wonderful company, caring attention of Holland House staff and the ballast provided by the generous and delicious meals also helped!