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John Lindley, Former Cheshire Poet Laureate

27/05/24
Raw Head, Bickerton Hill
Sandstone Ridge Trust
Ancient oak tree (2)
Beeston Castle from Horsley Lane, Cheshire 5
sandstone-ridge
Frodsham & Manley 130405 004
Frodsham   Sandstone Trail Sign 2
Sandstone Trail Sign 6
Kim Atkinson image for publications
Trig point on Sandstone Trail at Rawhead
Bickerton Geology Walk
Turner possible background for Footsteps on the Ridge
Cheshire Plain from Burwardsley

John Lindley, a former Cheshire Poet Laureate, has written extensively on the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge.

In case you have not read his work, we reproduce a selection below.

Alongside many workshop and reading engagements that John undertook in his Poet Laureate role, he was also commissioned by Cheshire County Council for the ECOnet Environmental Planning project.

The outcome was 'Stone by Stepping Stone' CLICK HERE.

John also worked with pupils at Manley Village School in Frodsham, the Northern Gateway to the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge, to create a poem for a permanent Sandstone Trail way-marker, designed and created by the artist Stephen Charnock. That sculpture, which marks the start of the Sandstone Trail, comprises locally sourced sandstone to represent the Sandstone Trail and wrought iron to represent features in Frodsham Town Centre.

The resultant poem was entitled 'Freedom in a Box'. The marker, with the accompanying poem, was unveiled back in 2005 and the monument is located in the centre of Frodsham. Our image shows pupils visiting the marker before returning to school to work on the poem which we publish below.

FREEDOM IN A BOX
I have arrived with my freedom intact
Listen to my voice howl
down the Trail that has a start
and a finish line that all may cross.
I am freedom compressed in a cage,
one whose veins of cement
are a path that never ends.

I have the boots that walked from Bickerton
and made a footprint on Larkton Hill,
the mushroom that grew in Hether Wood,
the leaf that hung over Long Lane.

I bear the white streaked reminder
of primeval desert,
terracotta skin and the smell of construction.

I have the birds that perched at Peckforton,
the nettles that grew at Gresty's Waste,
the bees that hummed at Hampton Green,
the fir cones found at No Man's Heath.

I wear a fringe of oak leaves
borrowed from a Green Man,
a black pyramided crown
and an unseen vibration of bees.

I have the butterfly that flew to Barnhill Farm,
the binoculars that peered from Simmond's Hill.

I am the Sandstone Trail.
I am freedom in a box.

In 2017 John was also commissioned by the Sandstone Ridge Festival (one of our partners) to write a poem, 'Sandstone Ridge', to commemorate the Festival.

SANDSTONE RIDGE
The 'bought' guide picks out the neat vertebrae
of its spine in the colour of a child's
idea of a beach; the 'giveaway' guide -
in blobs of arterial blood. Both beckon.
To descend this council printed cord
by actual foot instead of traced finger
it's necessary first to ascend,
to rise from a Bear's Paw and trek the Trail's
backbone, kicking free the skin that covers
the past; to go past hill fort and cliff,
wood, common and park, chapel, farm and lock;
to cruise and curve between Bunbury
and Burwardsley, each separated by
two castles and a map's folded crease.
Contour, waymarker, needle, map and grid
are merely man's manufacture of place.
The true reference points are underfoot
and overhead, speaking in a language
of sandstone and sky with the scent of foxglove,
stinkhorn and meadowsweet in your head.
But if a compass point's required, mark this:
From Bunbury and Cholmondeley to the east
lies the quilt of a country crosshatched by
choir, Crimea, castle and shared culture
whilst from Malpas, poetry, anecdote
and dark history blow in from the west.
From Tattenhall comes music and the story
of the then, now and future of the Ridge
you stand on — everywhere fine brushstrokes
splashing and dabbing the landscape in a way
that is indistinguishable from life,
the way art sometimes is. The way it should be.

Our thanks to John for allowing us to reproduce his work on the Website.
We hope you enjoy reading his work and our accompanying images.