Welcome to the first instalment of ‘In The Sticks’ – Offa’s Press’s Arts Council England-funded poetry project focusing on rural life.
In this virtual workshop, we’re focusing on the ‘lost’ village of Cannock Chase in Staffordshire.
Brindley Village started life in WWI as a military hospital built to support troops returning from the battlefields in Europe. After the war, the West Cannock Colliery Company repurposed the hospital buildings to house the families of their mine workers. For thirty years, families lived in the converted bungalows, sending their children to play on the surrounding heathland.
In the 1950s, the village was demolished and the residents were moved to council housing in Hednesford. Shortly afterwards, Cannock Chase was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Today, the area is a mixed woodland, home to abundant wildlife, and is a popular spot for walkers and cyclists. Some of the animals and birds you can see in the woodland include speckled wood butterflies, nuthatches, long-tailed tits, robins, squirrels, fallow deer, and greater-spotted woodpeckers, while the surrounding heathland is home to stonechats, swallows, buzzards, cuckoos, common lizards, and pipistrelle bats.
You can still see signs of the village’s history if you look closely. Domestic plants such as rhododendron and laurel have overgrown to form tunnels, and the trees which were in gardens have grown into a woodland. Foundations of buildings can be glimpsed amongst the undergrowth, and the entrance stone to the hospital is a focal point for floral tributes which are left around the village to remember the former residents.
In this workshop, we’re inviting you to consider how the people who lived, worked, and recuperated on Cannock Chase interacted with the countryside around them, and how they shaped it. What signs can you see today which tell of the history of the area, and what do they tell us about life in Brindley Village?
We’ve compiled a host of resources for you to learn all about the history of the area – and even to visit yourself, if you like! Alternatively, you can take a tour of Brindley Village from the comfort of your armchair. You can still see signs of the village’s history if you look closely.
Take a look through our notes, photographs, and walking guide to get a feel for how the area has changed in the past 100 years, and plan your own visit to Brindley Village.
Read our recommended poems to consider the impact of people moving out of the countryside (on both communities and nature), and finally, work through our writing exercises to get those creative juices flowing.