In August Clare Balding joined SDNPA’s Amanda Elmes, June Goodfield from the Write House and author Lynn Truss to record an episode of her Radio 4 programme Ramblings. Clare joined the group to find out about the South Downs Alphabet, an HLF-funded project celebrating Sussex heritage and the South Downs.
The project was inspired by the work of writer, Eleanor Farjeon, who wrote the words to the much-loved hymn, Morning has Broken and published a book of poems for children called A Sussex Alphabet in 1939. Since January 2016 the Write House and National Park Authority have been working with school children and members of the University of the Third Age, encouraging them to write their own poetry inspired by the South Downs landscapes, wildlife and people.
A new ‘South Downs Alphabet’ of poems created through the project will be published in March 2017 alongside a reprint of Eleanor Farjeon’s original collection.
After her day out Clare was inspired to write and contribute her own poem based on their walk:
D is for Damselfly by Clare Balding
Summer’s golden glow started to fade
With a walk ancient footsteps had made
Regular steps along the grassy path
To the rythmic beat of a wooden staff.
Gentle chat as we looked far beyond
When we spotted a stray from the nearby pond
A long insect lying on the ground
Not making a movement or a sound.
Pairs of bright blue spots along its back
Like eyes shining on a cloth of black.
Wings open, their delicate filigree
Paused and framed for all to see.
“What is it doing?” I began,
Ignorant of their brief lifespan.
“It’s dying” came the instant reply
I swallowed hard and tried not to cry.
A beautiful creature swift and fast
Living the day that would be its last.
Without a whimper, minus a mess
A Damselfly in silent distress.
The programme was broadcast on 13 October 2016 and is available to listen again on the BBC I-player