Leeds & West Yorkshire

Pennines scenery inspires Simon Armitage's water poems

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Media captionSimon Armitage explains why Yorkshire has influenced his work

Of the many artists and writers who have been inspired by the rugged and weather-worn Yorkshire scenery, Simon Armitage is the latest.

The Marsden-born poet has now stamped his own literary mark on the landscape.

Armitage has written six poems about different forms of water: Rain, Mist, Snow, Dew, Beck and Puddle.

Over the past year the poems have been carved on to rocks along the Pennine Watershed, stretching from Marsden to Ilkley Moor.

The whole project has taken 18 months and is now complete. Known as the Stanza Stones, they form a walking trail that is 47 miles long.

"I think at some level for me it's about giving poetry back to the landscape," he said.

"This is a county which is steeped in literary history and a lot of that is to do with the land, the geology, the environment and I think over the years I have taken from that. Now I want to give something back."

'Moor in coma'

The first of the poems was carved in June 2011. It lies in a former quarry high in the hills above Marsden.

The verse, which is about snow, begins: "The sky has delivered its blank missive. The moor in coma."

Carved by hand by Pip Hall and her apprentice Wayne Hart with a chisel time of 10 minutes per letter, it has taken three weeks for each poem to be completed.

Ms Hall said: "Instead of working on an ornate lettering, we wanted something very simple and easy to read because the surface of the stone is very rough.

"We spend a lot of time drawing the letters first and then a lot of time proof-reading. It has been quite a responsibility."

The second stone to be finished was Mist - carved under a cloudless sky in late September 2011.

It is located on Nab Hill, near Oxenhope, and to get there walkers have to venture through atmospheric old quarry works.

Armitage's poem reads: "Featureless silver screen, mist is water in its ghost state."

'Rock graffiti'

The Stanza Stones project has cost £170,000 and was co-ordinated by the Ilkley Literature Festival.

It was designed to get more people walking and will form part of the London 2012 Olympic legacy in Yorkshire.

But the carving has not been without controversy. A group of Druids in West Yorkshire were worried the project would encourage visitors to leave their own graffiti on rocks.

But those behind the Ilkley Literature Festival disagree and said the carvings had been done with full agreement of the landowners and were far away from any sacred monuments.

Four of the six poems were carved on site, many in landscapes already altered by man.

One of them - Puddle - was carved on stone recycled from a former factory floor and now forms part of the Ilkley Moor Causey Paving, designed to keep walkers' feet dry.

Armitage said: "I thought we should spare a moment for the humble puddle. It's the runt of the whole rain family but there is a place in my heart for the puddle."

The last of the stones - Beck - has been carved in the middle of a stream on Ilkley Moor.

This was the biggest challenge of all for Ms Hall, who said: "I had to draw this one completely freehand.

"It's been extreme carving, I have got very wet and very cold. I've never had to carve in a waterfall before."

The location of the six Stanza Stones has now been released to the public.

A seventh is in the process of being commissioned, but its location and subject matter will remain a secret, at least for now.

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