from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 19 May 2014

shepherd's huts

I was lucky enough as to 'win' two nights' stay in a wonderful Shepherd's Hut near the Somerset borders with Dorset and Devon. (When I say 'win', there was no skill involved - merely being in the right place at the right time.)

At Fordscroft Farm there are yurts, and also the four shepherd's huts, each with its own private garden leading down to the lake. The latter became  both locus and focus for me of my time there – I was fascinated by the duckly dynamics and dramas, and very quickly learned the rhythms and habits of the wildfowl there, from which two different-sized ducklings 'belonged' to which hen mallard, and at what times of day each would spend time with her alone and at what time she'd take flight from the lake without them, to the different types of communication calls in the moorhen families.

There is nothing equivalent to being by water (although Dartmoor is a close second), for me. It's something to do with rehydrating the places that get 'dry' in the human psyche when we spend too much time in human environments and daily routines and structures, and in our thinking minds. We were only at the hut from Monday evening to Wednesday morning, but I spent most of that time, when we weren't walking or I wasn't writing, outside mesmerised by the water, the patterns of light, and the lake's inhabitants.

Our hut, 'Shepherd's Keep', was perhaps the most private of the four. It's beautiful. (It's also the newest, and smelled delightfully of wood. There are some good pics on the owners' website; URL below this piece.) The owners have thought of everything: although of course it's small inside, it still has a sense of spaciousness, and is light-filled. It's well-kitted-out, and the little touches of furnishings and adornments, and the bed built-in to have a view of the lake, along with the firepit outside and little shower room whose window opens onto  the bluebell-coated slopes of the iconic Castle Hill (which must surely be an Iron Age fort) behind it make it also the perfect writer's retreat. 

Castle Hill from the lane leading back from the pub at Hinton St George

At the bottom of the little garden the comfrey plants were heavy with bees. Thrusting between them you can see above the lush stems of horsetail, equisetum arvense. These plants, with their strange segmentations reminiscent of lizards' tails, fascinate me.  They're the only remaining survivors of a plant line that can be traced back 300,000,000 years – yes, that's right. Originally their ancestors would have been as tall as trees; degraded, this species is responsible for many of the world's coal-seams. Medicinally, although they have a toxic element as well, they have traditionally been used for kidney and bladder problems. Being high in silica they have some application also in relation to arthritis, gout, joint problems generally, and calcium-deficiency-problems (to be used with expert supervision).

A highlight was our daylong walk through the sunny lanes, bluebell woods and footpaths of this part of Somerset. It's less (fewer) than 100 miles away from where we are, but the area around Crewkerne feels different, in a still-Wessex kind of way. The geology has shifted, and with it the psychogeography; where we're slate and granite with sandstone incursions, that part of Somerset is golden limestone, Hamstone, transmuting to the chalk and flint of the Wiltshire Downs a little further east. There's a continuity of unfoldment, though, the one landscape morphing into the next.

The landscape is wooded, but more open than South Devon; our hills are tightly-folded and the views happen only on the high ridges; in Somerset, the hills are larger and longer and there are distance vistas. Where we have tiny deep lush lanes and the fields are bordered with banks and hedges, they have more open space. 

Everywhere the land is flowering now, in an exuberance of spring.

holly flowers

One day, when I write that bestseller, I'll book a month here for myself (it's not cheap, but then nothing about it is cheaply-done, from the hardwood worktops to the careful planting of shrubs in the garden to ensure privacy).

If you need a few days away, writing or simply being somewhere romantic with your beloved, see  

Meantime, here's one of the seven poems that came out of those 36 fertile hours for me:

after Mancombe Wood

the deep rich notes of the blackbird in the ash
call rain but so far cloud and sun
have chased each other into dryness
we have walked and walked from the hut
with its high bed looking out
at the lake mallards moorhens
through woods and deep rides of beech and bluebell
on roads fuzzed with ploughdust this late spring
past Haunted House, toll cottage, Thoreau cabin
by a waterlily pond deep in rhododendron
and the great old golden hamstone manors
and have come to this shady bench
under the tall candles of horse chestnut flowers
gorgeous in their creamy whites and pinks
at the side of the little leat under its crumble of stone
by the Mill House (‘built by Wm Bellingham 1555’)
where we rest eat a late lunch
enjoy each other again
it could be this simple

© Roselle Angwin, May 2014


  1. Roselle wonderful gentle relaxing strolling writing and the photos are fabulous. Glamping as a lifestyle and exactly as it should be - in touch literally with nature and the outdoors. I like your metaphor of replenishing water that rehydrates the mind that has dried up from our routine human environments. When I left France and the dry, hot, sunny mediterrannean rocky mountains to return to England I could feel myself being rehydrated, soaking in the humid air, dampness of moss, it was so refreshing to be here for the rush of spring. Its a Beautiful poem that flowed onto the page. xJen

  2. Jen, thanks for your kind words and I'm glad it resonated with you. Yes, spring is a season to be in England, non?

    It was great to meet you properly on the Iona course, and a delight to work with you again on Michael's and my Branscombe Day last Sunday. Your wooden sculpture has stayed with me - striking and original.



  3. Really like the poem – its flow, the way it travels without need for dots and commas and colons yet we, the readers, know exactly where to breath. And yes, it can be this simple. A luxurious, celebratory poem in which to luxuriate. Thanks, Roselle.
    Your watery break is well deserved. You'll feel renewed, I hope.

    My writing, by contrast, jerks its way haltingly, but will eventually reach you end of next week, all being well.
    Miriam xx

    PS Hello to Jen, if you read this. Shall never forget our walk back together from St Columba's Bay on Iona. Hope to meet again.

  4. "It could be this simple"
    Aye, and..maybe...for all of us...should? If "shoulds" weren't such dangerous things ;-)
    What a wonderful break though!
    It sounds like a deeply refreshing way to be, for a few days, a watering hole for the soul.
    I would dearly love to see how they've built those huts. A good friend of mine built her own a couple years ago and has lived in it ever since, a smaller, towable 6' by 12' though, not quite so luxurious as these :-) (though having movable accommodation like a gypsy caravan or shepherds hut or your campervan is a wonderful, unique freedom no?) It's a pipe dream of mine to build my own next year, downsize from the yurt, if possible with all this stuff still clinging to me and me to it.
    I hope all's well with you and yours, hope to see you again soon sometime :-)

    1. Hi Na - was thinking of you a day or two ago - leading a course that included Carolyn and Carole from Imbolc (new writing group meeting monthly near Lostwithiel...?) and I thought of you as I drove back from Cornwall.

      Yes, the huts were lovely. AND my friend Joe has built the stunningest ever shepherd's hut up in the Teign Valley - should give you his contact. I'd love one too. Daughter's about to put her yurt up again - she's thrown in her job and is planning on selling her weavings... :-).

      Love to you



Blog Archive