Welcome to the third instalment of ‘In The Sticks’ – Offa’s Press’s Arts Council England-funded poetry project focusing on rural life.
Our previous workshops were inspired by Cannock Chase and the Wyre Forest – but for this exercise we’re thinking about activity which happens all over our rural areas during winter. Many of us see winter as a time when we slow down, stay indoors away from the cold weather, and perhaps even have some time off work over Christmas. However, lots of activity takes place in the countryside, even in the depths of our coldest, darkest months.
Lots of activity takes place in the countryside, even in the depths of our coldest, darkest months.
Non-hibernating animals and non-migratory birds carry on feeding, hunting, and breeding. Badgers, foxes and many types of deer mate or carry young through winter. If you leave food out for the birds in your garden, you may see an increase in visitors such as long-tailed tits, robins, blackbirds, and dunnocks as their natural food sources (such as berries) become scarce.
Agricultural work carries on through winter too
Farmers must feed and house their animals instead of relying on grazing as they can in the summer months, while dairy farmers still need to milk their livestock every day. Ploughing work is usually done after the harvest and before frost makes the ground too hard. Although hard ground is ideal for spreading slurry, farmers have an annual window over winter where this is prohibited, which comes to an end in January. Other tasks can be completed around the farm, such as machinery servicing and repair, dry stone wall maintenance, or building work.
Winter can be stressful and isolating for some people, especially in rural communities. Bad weather can make it difficult to travel away from home – heavy rain can cause destructive floods on farms and in villages, while snow and ice can make country roads impassable. Those with mobility or health problems may also struggle to get out and about on foot.
Now we’re in lockdown again, you might wish to take your daily exercise on a walk around your local countryside. If you’re shielding or unable to visit a rural location, take a look through our winter photos, poems, and writing prompts, and examine your relationship with winter through poetry. As with our previous workshops, you can send us your poem for feedback, and we’ll consider all submissions for our upcoming anthology.