Scarily Good Poems for Halloween!

Pumpkin lanterns

Pumpkin lanterns

I haven’t been running my hospital sessions this week, as it’s been half term. Yes, I know that hospitals don’t have terms, but Derbyshire County Council Adult and Community Education does. However, I thought I would save our brilliant poems until this week, just in time for Halloween.

Last week, we looked at Halloween traditions. Until relatively recently, Halloween wasn’t really celebrated in the UK, and people tend to think that the holiday was imported from the USA. However, many of our traditions actually come from the British Isles, although we carved swedes and turnips rather than pumpkins! We looked at local ghost stories as well, and really got into the “spirit” of things, by telling each other about our own spooky experiences.

A Fright at Hardwick

I didn’t think I believed in ghosts
Before I visited Hardwick Hall
I felt cold shivers down my spine
As a woman from another room did call.

There was nobody in that room
But creaking footsteps I did hear
As I stood, alone in fright,
Ghostly footsteps drawing near.

A phantom figure I did see
A lady with a ruff and a silken dress
The figure walked and passed right through me
And left me feeling in distress.

I ran downstairs as fast as I could
And quickly found a volunteer
I said “who’s the lady that lives upstairs?”
They said “It’s been haunted up there for years!”

Hardwick Hall is a National Trust property near Chesterfield

Hardwick Hall is a National Trust property near Chesterfield

Things that scare us (that shouldn’t do!)

Creaking floorboards late at night
Wind whistling through the house
Tapping branches give us a fright
The scratching of a mouse.

The radiator goes “tap tap”
The hooting of an owl
A yowling cat disturbs my nap
The neighbourhood dogs howl

The spooky film watched before bed
Eating cheese before you sleep
Shadows like a horseman with no head
All these things make me want to weep!

But everything can be accounted for
Just imagination running wild
Only weather and a creaking floor
Still makes me feel like a scared child.

Spooky shadows on the wall

Spooky shadows on the wall

Trick or Treat

Will we see some ghosts
On our spooky night-time walk?
The children trick or treating –
Who will get the most?

Everyone’s wearing costumes,
Dressed as witches or ghouls
The night is dark and windy
We won’t be taken for fools.

The ghosts are all gathering
For their midnight feast
The food is looking spooky,
Fit for a phantom feast.

But it’s really all quite tasty
Not horrible at all
There are skulls made out of pastry
And cobwebs deck the hall.

And it’s quite nice being scary
But cold and wet makes us moan.
And Halloween is lots of fun,
But it’s lovely to come home.

A traditional Jack o' Lantern made with a swede.

A traditional Jack o’ Lantern made with a swede.

Poems for Autumn

Last week, we took a virtual walk in the park, taking in the beautiful autumn colours. I set some of my photographs, taken in parks around Sheffield, to Vivaldi’s Autumn, and we enjoyed watching the trees and woodland views.

You can watch my little film here.

We read Keats’ Ode to Autumn, and a contemporary autumn poem. I brought in leaves I’d collected in woods and parks, and we identified the species. In each ward, we finished off the session by writing a poem inspired by our armchair ramble.

I think you’ll like them. They’re all very different. In Chesterfield we imagined we were an animal getting ready for a long winter hibernation. In Buxton, our rhyming poem about autumn was interrupted by a magpie who appeared at the window to say hello (so we had to put him in the poem!) In Bakewell, we recalled the time when every child at this time of year would be absolutely obsessed with playing conquers – and I learned lots of things about this fascinating game. Sadly, it’s true that many schools have now banned conkers on Health and Safety grounds!


If I was getting ready for hibernation, I’d need:
Warm clothes
A cosy nest lined with soft feathers
Lots of food buried under tree roots
A banquet to fill my belly
And soak up the last drops of sunshine
Before going back to bed.
When the leaves are dropping,
Changing to yellow and gold,
And even on a sunny day,
There’s a nip in the air.
When the wind blows, and the rain pours,
It’s good to be indoors,
Curled up tight,
With my fluffy tail as my coat,
Tucked around my neck.
I close my eyes and dream of spring,
And warmer days.
And my heartbeat slows,
As winter grows,
And I’ll wake up to the birds that sing.

Autumn Leaves

The movement of leaves in the trees
Swirling around in the breeze.
Red, orange, yellow and brown.
Admiring the colours, we walk through the town.

Kicking the leaves so crunchy and crisp,
Gathering conkers in a fine autumn mist.
Having a leaf-fight on a golden day.
Strolling through gardens as the children play.

Magpie flies up to say hello,
Heron stands to attention as we go.
The swallows’ farewell as they go on their way,
On their long African holiday.

The orchard trees are bent with fruit.
We brush the mud from our walking boots.
Watching the trees as the wind blows higher,
Enjoying hot chocolate by the fire.


Throwing a stick into a tree
Watch the conkers fall, feeling glee.
Smash the shell so we can see,
How big our champion conkers will be.

To harden the shell, in the oven they go,
So tough, they can withstand the blow.
Let them cool down for a while,
Then drill a hole with a crafty smile.

Take lengths of string and knot them tight.
Make sure the conker’s hanging right.
Our family was quite poor.
So I’d sell my conkers door-to-door.

The best one I would keep myself.
And not give it away to anyone else.
A match with friends, the best one remains.
If you lose, you’re out of the game.

I stand poised with my conker aimed,
To smash my opponents for a good game.
I watch the conker split and fall.
I’m the champion – the winner takes all!

Shake their hand to say “hard luck”!
Off home for tea, to see what Mum’s cooked.

Time for Tea!

This week, in Cavendish Hospital in Buxton, and at Newholme Hospital in Bakewell, we’ve been talking about tea. From elevenses to afternoon tea, we passed around different kinds of teabag, discussed facts and questions about tea, and even drank some!

We wrote two very different kinds of poems. At Cavendish Hospital, we imagined ourselves in Hargreaves Edwardian tearoom in Buxton, enjoying a posh afternoon tea.

A posh afternoon tea

A posh afternoon tea

Posh Tea Time

No need for mugs and beakers
Only the finest bone china for us
We’ll go to Hargreaves Edwardian tearooms
Enjoying ourselves just like the Queen does.

We’ll make our choice of the finest tea
Peppermint, assam, ginger or Earl Grey
Cucumber sandwiches without the crust
Scones with jam and cream – we could eat all day!

Victorian sponge and lemon drizzle
Buttered teacakes are a must
Fondant fancies and chocolate fudge
Feel so full, you think you’d bust.

Tablecloths and lacy doilies
Waitresses’ frilly aprons and hats
Silver spoons tinkle in china cups
We feel we’ve got the cream, like the fat cats!

At Newholme Hospital, we wrote a more free-form poem, based on our discussions about tea, and our tea-related memories.

The Art of tea making

In the old days, they warmed the pot
People don’t bother these days.
Grandma has a huge brown teapot,
Warmed next to the range.
she would make cups of tea for anyone
The bin men filled their billy cans
And warmed the cockles of the Italians –
POWs, clearing the snow, in that harsh winter of ’47,
Even though the tea was on ration.
2 oz per person – PG Tips, Typhoo, Brooke Bond
Later, chimps drank tea on adverts. TV was black and white
And ITV had just begun.
We stuck pictures from tea cards into scrap books.
Sugar lumps came in packets of two.
There was no artificial sweeteners or sickly saccharine.
Now you can get all sorts of tea everywhere,
And the choice is rather overwhelming.

The archetypal "Brown Betty" teapot.

The archetypal “Brown Betty” teapot.

A Harvest Festival

This morning, I took part in the harvest festival held at Walton Hospital in Chesterfield. The hospital chaplain talked about the power of love, and the love of humankind, which was very powerful.

Harvest festival

Harvest festival

After the ceremony, while we drank tea and ate biscuits, I asked the patients to tell me what love meant to them. I think you’ll like the poem that we wrote together.

I brought in my 1960s typewriter and used it to write the poem.

All about love poem

All about love poem

All About Love

It’s all about love,
The things we do.
What does love mean to you?

Caring for all humankind
Like the staff and nurses in the hospital
Kind words and cups of tea.

Love is bringing warmth to a wet autumn day
Holding hands together
Memories of childhood holidays
Sitting next to someone and having a chat.

Talking books and fresh air in the countryside
Keeping in touch with friends and family,
Increasing the love in everyone’s life.

I know what tha means – its true
Love is everything
Everyone should love one another.
Some people are at each other’s throats all the time.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.

It’s your health that counts.
Money’s no good if you’re no good.
Love means home and the wife, son and daughter.

It’s the small things – the moments of time
And the things for love we do!

Here are some more of our vegetable haiku too!



Unwrapping layers
Dried paper and silken threads
Discover yellow gems



I think it’s our cat I can smell
It’s round, red, ripe
Salads, chutney, mmm…



Dark green like tall trees
Fresh smelling and compelling
Should be tasty steamed.

Harvest Festival Poems

This week in hospitals in Chesterfield, Buxton and Bakewell, we’ve been talking about harvest, and writing our own vegetable poems. We talked about helping out with the harvest as children, picking blackberries, scrumping apples and noisy cockerels.

Here are some of our poems. Some of them are haikus – a Japanese poetry form with three lines, of five, seven and five syllables (sometimes we cheated, but everyone seems to do that).

Harvest time

Harvest time

Harvest Poem

Help bring in the harvest fair –
A supper that we all can share.
Collecting harvest festival gifts
For those in need, their hearts we lift.

Apples and berries sweet and ripe
Some like tomatoes served with tripe!
The baker makes the harvest bread –
With a mouse running up to its plaited head.

Butterflies and bees have a final feed
Before the flowers go to seed.
Leaves that turn to brown and gold
Too soon, now the weather turns cold.



Like tiny green trees
We cut down each one to eat
To cook with cheese sauce.

Broccoli tree trunk
Solid and heavy clumps of
Green, and tasty steamed.

sweetheart cabbage


Heavy green teardrops
Give the outer leaves to bunny
Salt and pepper – delicious!



Dirty orange root
But the rabbits still love them
Goes in any stew.



Makes you cry when chopped
Unless you leave the root intact
Strong-tasting flesh.



Green peels like petals
Hairy brown, tangled top-knot
Smooth and shiny seeds.