Blyth Spirit


Back in April I took part in a writing workshop in Suffolk led by Ivor Murrell of Suffolk Poetry Society and Melinda Appleby of Waveney & Blyth Arts. The workshop encouraged the participants to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds and smells of the Blyth estuary and to reflect something of the history and nature of the area. The following is what I came up with on the day.


Blyth Spirit

We followed the estuary path beneath spindly oaks in first flush leaf, the reedbeds rippling in a southerly breeze. Across the water, white-faced cattle grazed on the sloping pasture: a pastoral diorama framed by willows with the Southwold skyline beyond – church, lighthouse, a scaffolded water tower. This once was a place more connected to the sea, to fishing and trade; the town’s lighthouse, no mere curiosity but earning its keep as a warning to shipping. This was before the great silting and scouring of the coast, when Dunwich was a name on every seafarer’s lips and Suffolk was still holy – Selig Suffolk; before the great land grabs of enclosure and dust storm robbery of the sheep walks, before hangings and suicides cursed the brackish waters of the Blyth.

Now only the names on the map gave the clue: Deadman’s Creek, Bloody Marsh. And Angel Marshes – did this expanse of reed and tidal water take its name from the wooden figures that graced the roof of Holy Trinity Church, angels that you might just imagine taking flight at dusk to quarter the marshes crepuscular as owls? A chance to flex stiff wings and dust themselves of woodworm and Puritan shot; a flight to taste the brine of the incoming tide before following the creek back to settle like beautiful bats in their resting place in the rafters. Did anyone see them, even catch a glimpse? Or did they steal between the cracks of the day, visible only to curlew and estuary ghosts?



Three estuary haiku

Through slats of pale wood

Green spears of reed thrust skywards

To taunt passing clouds

Mud oozes over reed

In the shade of green-gold oak

A memory lives

Reeds scratch like tinsel

Piping redshanks stitch the air

A dull groan of cars





About East of Elveden

Hidden places, secret histories and unsung geography from the east of England and beyond
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18 Responses to Blyth Spirit

  1. Anne Guy says:

    Great post, poems and photos! Where is the graveyard in the photo? By the way coming to Suffolk in September and plan to visit Covehithe…where is your header photo of the fab cliffs taken?

    • Thanks very much, Anne. The graveyard is that of Holy Trinity Church, Blythburgh in coastal Suffolk, the aptly named ‘Cathedral of the Marshes’ – not so far from Covehithe. The leader photo is from northwest Norfolk – the cliffs at Old Hunstanton, which face west across the Wash.

  2. blosslyn says:

    Beautiful portrait of photos and words 🙂

  3. dobraszczyk says:

    Love the Blythburgh angels – wonderful writing as always Laurence!

  4. Love that estuary ‘flatness’. Great post & writing Laurence.

  5. Stunning pics and splendid haiku; a much under-appreciated medium. Now that’s the way to make proper use of a limited word count. None of this Twitter nonsense 🙂 Really really lovely Laurence.

    • Thank you very much, Nigel. Most kind of you. I have often thought that Twitter would be better if, instead of having a max 140 characters, there was a strict requirement for exactly 17 syllables instead. I believe there are a few poetic souls out there already who tweet only in haiku form.

  6. Dina says:

    Lovely post, writing and photos, dear Laurence. Suffolk looks flat and beautiful and your Haikus are very good.
    I had to go to awfully warm Germany and will stay here until next week. I do hope you are not planning a visit to Scolt Head before I return though! 🙂
    Take care, see you and Jackie soon,

  7. Alan Nance says:

    Hello Laurence
    Just caught up with this after some days away. Striking images, and some wonderful evocation in word. Great stuff.

  8. Paul Harley says:

    Just spent 2 days in Orford. To come back and read this reminded me. Great writing – love the haikus.

    • Thanks very, Paul. I’m just back from three days in Suffolk myself. I’m very fond of both coasts – Norfolk and Suffolk, each has their merits. I have enjoyed looking at your website and will follow from now on. Cheers Laurence.

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