By Lelia Ferro
This week I have been reading Wanderings with the Woodman by Hugh Brandon-Cox to help inspire me to write a series of poems for my Writing Workshop assignment.
The book was originally published in the early 1900s and is of particular interest to me as Brandon-Cox grew up in Elmstead Market, very close to the University campus and my home town of Wivenhoe. I first encountered him many years ago when I found four of his beautiful prints depicting almost cartoon-like birds in a charity shop in St Albans. Later when I lived in Brighton, I discovered an old copy of his book in a secondhand bookshop. Now I am studying an MA in Creative Writing at Essex, and also taking the Psycho-geography module next term, I am so pleased that I have at last found a way to put this amazing piece of work to good use.
It documents his travels around the countryside, probably on the East coast of Norfolk, and his encounters with game keepers, gypsies and poachers. It is vividly rich with knowledge that I imagine is now long forgotten around here. For example, Anglo-Saxon words like ‘Wind-monath’ which means November, details about the parenting characteristics of birds, and countryside crafts such as making besom brooms from birch trees (what we would probably now recognise as a witches broom) and building skep baskets (which look a bit like beehives) from carefully stripped bramble bushes.
I spend a lot of time walking around the local countryside taking in every detail, but Wanderings with the Woodman has highlighted how little I really know. My next step will be to attempt to write a poem as if it is spoken by Hugh Brandon-Cox, and I would also like to incorporate the strange coincidences where our lives have crossed such as in the charity shop, in the Brighton bookshop, and when I moved to Wivenhoe only to find out that this is the area where he grew up. One of the things I love about literature and writing is the close personal ties we can form with people and places we don’t know in the true sense, and I look forward to sharing with you soon how I get on with bringing Hugh Brandon-Cox back to life.