Best of British: Poet's corners

Anna Walker

We take a trip to the corners of Britain that have inspired some of our greatest poetic minds

Ullswater, The Lake District

“I Wander’d Lonely As A Cloud” William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth is synonymous with the Lake District. Inspired by the region’s rolling hills and swooping valleys, the work of this Romantic poet is incredibly evocative of summer days spent by the lakes.

Born in Cockermouth, Wordsworth spent his youth in the Lakes and so beloved was his home turf, that he published Wordsworth’s Guide Through the District of Lakes in 1820. Many credit its publication with the first surge of mass tourism to the region.

"I wander'd lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of golden daffodils"

His most famous poem, "I Wander'd" was inspired by a walk in the woods behind Gowbarrow Park in Ullswater with his sister Dorothy, where the siblings came across a vibrant belt of daffodils.

Dorothy wrote in her diary of that day, “I never saw daffodils so beautiful. Some rested their heads upon stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake.”

 

Highlands, Scotland

“High Land” Jackie Kay

Think of poems about Scotland, and the verses of the illustrious Robert Burns are sure to spring to mind, writing with satirical yet sentimental affection for Scotland’s peaks, valleys and characterful countenance.

But beyond the beauty of the lochs and charm of the glens, today’s national poet of Scotland, Jackie Kay, finds beauty in some more unlikely places.

"All I remember in the highland night - the sheep loose outside, the full moon smoking in the sky – was that you led me and I led you."

Her short poem, “High Lands” pays heed to the more forgotten corners of Scotland, and the quiet moments of intimacy that gain more power by dint of happening in these forgotten spaces.

As Makar of Scotland, Kay feels great responsibility to these outlying Scottish places.

As she explained to The Guardian in 2016, the year she became the Makar, “Often big cities get all of the attention, but I would like to address the people of the islands and the peninsula.”

 

Clapton Pond, London

“On Clapton Pond at Dawn” Kate Tempest

Winner of the Ted Hughes Award, Kate Tempest often draws inspiration from some of Britain’s more overlooked beauty spots.

"All I remember in the highland night - the sheep loose outside, the full moon smoking in the sky – was that you led me and I led you."

In “On Clapton Pond at Dawn”, a tender moment is beautifully facilitated by this small spot of Hackney greenery. The pond itself has been enjoyed by leisure seekers for hundreds of years, a tradition that has continued thanks to great renovation efforts from the Clapton Pond Neighbourhood Action Group in recent years.

Tempest isn’t the first poet to be inspired by the pond. Playwright Harold Pinter wrote some verses in 1977 in memoriam for his English teacher, Joseph Brearley. The wistful verses ended, “I’m at your side, Walking with you from Clapton Pond to Finsbury Park, And on, and on.”

 

Haworth moors, West Yorkshire

“Loud Without the Wind Was Roaring” Emily Brontë

It’s impossible to separate the passionate writing of Wuthering Heights author Emily Brontë from the gloomy majesty of the moors.

Growing up in Haworth, a small mill town surrounded by countryside, a shy, young Emily was fascinated by the austere beauty of the moors.

In a memoir of her beloved sister, who died of tuberculosis when she was just 30, Charlotte Brontë wrote: “My sister loved the moors. Flowers brighter than the rose bloomed in the blackest of the heath for her; out of a sullen hollow in a livid hillside her mind could make an Eden.”

Visitors to Haworth can enjoy exploring the parsonage the Brontë siblings called home, as well as rambles around the moors that inspired their writing.

 

Harrow, london

“Ode to Harrow” Daljit Nagra

Harrow may strike readers as an unusual subject for a love poem, but Daljit Nagra captures the beauty of the north-west London borough in such arresting language, it’s hard to resist its charms.

"All shades to the good in my heartfelt Harrow with its Metropolitan Line for the sticks or the city! Look at us side by side and mucking-in for the graft for Harrow's no one's centre - everyone's home!"

Paying homage to the borough that Lord Byron, Winston Churchill and Jawaharlal Nehru have called home, he celebrates market stalls buckling under the weight of plantain or guavas and the cricket games happening alongside Zumba classes.

Few places offer such a glowing vision of multicultural Britain. Why not pay a visit to the Harrow Arts Centre where every night boasts entertainment from the world of theatre, art and music, or experience Headstone Manor and Museum, which charts an impressive 1,200 years of Harrow history.