It’s with a sense of discovery that walkers venture out into the South Pennines landscape to find the six Stanza Stones sited along the watershed from Marsden to Ilkley.
The 47-mile Stanza Stones trail bridges the expanse of the stunning South Pennines landscape, linking the six stones, which each feature a poem by Marsden born Simon Armitage. Taking water, the element that has shaped the landscape, as his inspiration Simon has added his own reflections to the memorable sites in which the stones reside.
The stones, which were carved by Pip Hall and her apprentice Wayne Hart, describe water in its many forms: beck, puddle, mist, rain, dew and snow. The project was created by Ilkley Literature Festival in collaboration with Simon Armitage, imove the cultural Olympiad programme in Yorkshire with support from the South Pennines LEADER, managed by Pennine Prospects, the rural regeneration company for the South Pennines.
“The walk can be tackled in different ways,” explained Tom Lonsdale, who was asked to develop and wrote the Stanza Stones trail guide. “Hardened walkers can tackle it all in one go but the guide is written for those wishing to walk it in three sections, from Marsden to Hebden Bridge, Hebden Bridge to Bingley and finally Bingley to Ilkley. The stones are also accessible through individual family friendly walks, three of which can be accessed by buggies and wheelchairs. Maps and descriptions of all the walks are outlined in the guide.
“Each stone is sited in a location that has a sense of place and the poem adds extra impact. For those who follow the trail it gives them a real experience of the true nature of the South Pennines and allows them to share the personal reflections of the landscape with a top writer who knows it so well,” added Tom, who also identified all of the carving sites and negotiated the necessary consents.
Whereas the stones are located in lofty and isolated positions the trail itself also highlights the variety of the South Pennines landscape from the industrial heritage of Hebden Bridge to the archaeologically significant Rombalds Moor.
“The Stanza Stones trail offers walkers the opportunity to immerse themselves in this beautiful landscape,” said Sue Leffman, of Pennine Prospects. “The view from the first stone at Pule Hill is absolutely stunning,” added Sue, who also said the maps of all the walks are available from the South Pennines Walk, Cycle, Ride website at www.walkridesouthpennines.co.uk
Rachel Feldberg, the Ilkley Literature Festival director, said the different ways of accessing the Stanza Stones were very important to the project. “By giving people a purpose, a destination, we are hoping that people who don’t go out into the landscape will feel inspired to try. And of course, the full trail helps to link the South Pennines together, bringing the communities closer.
“Everyone has their own favourite poem and people will often take their family and friends to find it. Alongside the stones we have built poetry seats at the beginning and end of the Trail, and early this summer we will be installing a poetry box next to the Ilkley seat where people can post their own poem and receive a different one in return,” Rachel added.
The trail guide can be downloaded from the Festival website at www.ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk or picked up from local tourist information centres throughout the area.