Words in the Landscape

So many poets and writers are inspired by their surroundings to weave words into bejewelled tapestries that transport us and help us further a connection to our local landscape and heritage.  Thomas Hardy’s This is the Weather the Cuckoo Likes and Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard are long-familiar to many of us as serene reflections, while Julia Donaldson stirs us to a different take on our walk in the woods with The Gruffalo.  John Betjeman warns us to drive with care on the A30, and Carol Ann Duffy’s The White Horses revels in the history and liveliness of the chalk figures of our landscapes.


The Words in the Landscape project brings together readers, writers, poets and tellers of tales to celebrate the written and spoken word.  Hundreds of local people of all ages will be involved in activities.  There will be creative writing workshops over the next couple of years, with a Poet in Residence in schools and communities, commissioned work, and a Festival of Words to celebrate the best work that emerges toward the end of the project.


Starting this year, we introduced Poetry Boxes.


Sprinkled through the Chase and Chalke area, you may come across one of our six Poetry Boxes. Each box, which is an inspiring object in itself, contains paper and pencils.  We encourage you to breathe deeply and inhale your inspiration from the landscape around you.  Words, prose, poems, songs and sketches are all welcome.  These treasures are being regularly collected and will be compiled into an online resource available on this website through the length of the Chase & Chalke project and beyond. The most notable offerings will be collected and made into a book.

During the Spring, Summer and Early Autumn you can find our Poetry Boxes at the following locations:

Poetry Box

Win Green
Coombe Bisset
Fontmell Down
Tollard Green
Martin Down

We will be removing and storing the Poetry Boxes during the winter Months (Oct – March) to protect them from exposure to the elements.

To learn more about the project contact Charlotte Moreton.





A few personal arch-favourites are listed below; perhaps our current enforced slower pace of life gives room to delve into a few such riches, and to “Wander lonely as a cloud” (thanks, Wordsworth!). If you have more suggestions, let us know!


Photo: Charlotte Moreton

Robert MacFarlane – many acutely observed books of lyrical prose about British wildlife, landscapes and history.  And don’t miss his Lost Words, created with the artist Jackie Morris, treasuring the words of our natural world that are slipping out of childrens’ dictionaries – a delight for all ages!

Anna PavordLandskipping – about our human creative response to the landscape from our earliest known history to modern times, from a west Dorset writer.

Mary Oliver – poetry and prose – nature as a source of joy and wellbeing (USA). Try Why I Wake Early for an uplifting morning mantra to say to your cheerful dog!

Field Days – a superb anthology compiled  by the Dorset-based environmental charity, Common Ground.  The Bright Field by R.S.Thomas will strike a chord with any lover of the countryside and walking.

A Shepherd’s Life – W H Hudson’s wonderful and slightly eccentric glimpse into the lives of shepherds on Cranborne Chase in the early years of the twentieth century.

Nature Cure – The celebrated naturalist and writer, Richard Mabey, on his recovery from depression through a reconnection with nature.

Tom Cox – Funny but profound reflections on landscape and nature pepper his writing. Try 21st Century Yokel or Ring the Hill.

Edward Thomas – the great poet, whose life was tragically cut short at the Battle of Arras, brilliantly summons up English landscapes, in poetry and prose.

Wiltshire – Edith Olivier, resident of Wilton, writer, patron and leading light of the Wiltshire artistic scene, published this charming survey of the history and culture of her home county.