Wonderful Wildlife

This week at Walton Hospital in Chesterfield, Cavendish Hospital in Buxton and Newholme Hospital in Bakewell, we’ve been looking at wildlife – and talking about some of the stars of BBC’s Springwatch such as barn owl chicks, and feisty fish Spineless Si the stickleback. We read some classic wildlife poems, such as Come In by Robert Frost, The Unknown Bird by Edward Thomas, and The Thought Fox by Ted Hughes, lovely thoughtful poems about our relationship with nature.

As we’re in Derbyshire, with lots of countryside and wild places, the patients and staff have a close relationship with wildlife. Outside the wards, swallows swooped and sparrows chirped as we talked. The world outside is a constant source of inspiration and solace to us, sometimes making us laugh or gasp with exasperation, but always fascinating.

In my garden

In my garden,
The bluetits, robins
House sparrows,
All watch out for the cat.

The foxes sneak cleverly,
A mouse scurries,
The swan’s grey goslings waddle,
Rabbits bob their tails running.

Insects buzz around the flowers
Butterflies crowd the buddleia;
Lavender keeps them happy.
At dusk, moths show beautiful colours.

The hard-working birds start their dawn chorus
Singing from the lilac tree
The elm, the acer, and the holly.
In the spring woods, bluebells grow
Dandelions – bright yellow.
Daisies by the roadside.

The sloe berries and the elderflowers
Are a harvest for us too!

Our wild world

The dog starts barking at the birds,
Chasing and barking but never catching them.
The early light wakes you up –
The wood pigeons cooing,
Getting so full they can’t fly away.
Boys used to catch sticklebacks
Bringing them back in jam jars;
Collecting frogspawn, newt eggs
The tadpoles hatched in the pond.
There were rats in our school.
Kids used to feed them.
All hell broke loose when we saw a rat run
Through the science lab, carrying a banana!
But I’m a farmer’s daughter,
So I’m not scared of anything like that.

Wildlife Watching

He was lying in the grass, quiet and watching.
He saw the badgers hold a funeral
They pulled the dead one out of the set
And all followed; a burial procession.
You can see a lot if you’re quiet and wait
In the hides at Carsington –
The drama of the birds on the lake,
Even the mice finding scraps on the floor.
People come from miles around to watch
Peregrines nest on the tower of Derby Cathedral
And Winchester; watching chicks peep over the parapet.
A pigeon tried to nest on the arm of my satellite dish
And I couldn’t see a thing on TV!

We also enjoyed making some brilliant wildlife collages, using pictures cut out from the wonderful RSPB magazine.

Poppies for Sale – the art of remembrance

Last Tuesday was Armistice Day: the 11th November, when we fall silent for two minutes at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of each year, to remember the day when the guns fell silent, ending the First World War. It’s the time when we remember people who have died in all wars and conflicts around the world.

My sessions focussed on the art of remembrance. The nation has been captivated by the art installation ‘The Blood Swept Lands and Fields of Red’, with 888,246 ceramic poppies planted in the moat of the Tower of London, created by artist Paul Cummins, and stage designer Tom Piper. Each poppy represents a military death in the First World War, from Britain or its Empire.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red


Around five million people have now queued to see the poppies. However, did you know that Paul is a local lad, and an art graduate from the University of Derby? Most of the poppies were made in Paul’s factory in Derby, and the title of the installation came from a Will left in the top pocket of a soldier from Chesterfield.

Here’s some more local art, created at Newholme Hospital to commemorate the centenary of the start of World War One.

And here’s my addition to our remembrance, in poetry, inspired by the things said by patients, staff and volunteers in the hospitals last week.

Poppies for Sale

Poppies for sale
All sizes – paper ones,
Enamel ones,
Big plastic ones
To stick on your car radiator.
They used tractor engines for tanks;
Relied on plough horses and mules
To bring the soldiers food and drag their guns.

Veterans didn’t like to talk about it.
My Dad fought in the First World War.
Round here, the farmers and quarrymen were needed,

To keep going – stayed at home.
The war started fast – and ended slow,
Stuck in trenches, between the shifting mud
The craters of no-man’s land.

And it goes on.
Missing in action.
There’s a war memorial
To mark those who have fallen
Since 1945. There’s a lot of space left on the wall
We shudder to think
Where and when they will die next.

The Good Old Days? Music Hall and Remembrance Day…

Last week at the Cavendish Hospital in Buxton, and at the Riverside Ward at the Newholme Hospital, we looked at music hall and our favourite acts which had grown out of the variety theatres which flourished about the country from the mid nineteenth century, but had all but disappeared by the 1960s, when the British public became stuck to the small screens of their TVs.


Gracie Fields entertaining troops in World War Two

Gracie Fields entertaining troops in World War Two

The Good Old Days

New Mills had a music hall.
I’d always end up sitting behind a lady with a big hat.
For our delectation and delight, the compere would announce the next act
A wonky ventriloquist, too drunk to sit on his stool –
And that was just the puppet.
Then a down-to-earth lass would come on stage,
Singing a gutsy song, ‘The Pride of Our Alley’.
She was a fine figure of a girl, our darling Sally.
Someone would start smoking a pipe
There would be tobacco crumbs everywhere
All over the plush red seats that tipped up.
And then later, it got turned into a grubby cinema,
Closed, and forgotten forever.


At Stanton Day hospital, we started thinking about laying the memorial wreath at the plaque that commemorates the role that Newholme Hospital played in World War One, as an auxiliary hospital.

Remember to remember

Do the young remember to remember?
The fallen of the two World Wars,
Their great grandparents who fought in World War Two;
Made do, mended and sheltered,
From the bombs that wrecked the city streets.
Who remembers the female pilots, daring and clever?
The resistance helpers, who told no one of their bravery,
Just helped the hidden safely on their way.
And as the wars slip into the history,
There’s no one alive to tell their story.
Old, cracked voice recordings talking about the trenches.
Letters, postcards, artefacts from the past.
Their courage and suffering stretching back centuries,
And into the future, in strange lands and deserts.
We lay a wreath, to remember all wars.
In the hope that one day, all wars will end.

Dales Tales Anthology Launch

I’ve just come back from an exciting time at Newholme Hospital. The Dales Tales poetry anthology has now been officially launched! With a gathering of patients, hospital staff, the Friends of Newholme Hospital, and some dignitaries from Derbyshire County Council and Derbyshire Community Health Services, we introduced the project, read some of the poems, gave out copies of the beautiful looking anthologies, and enjoyed a good buffet!

You can buy the book here, as a paperback or an e-book! Just click this link. All the proceeds go to the Friends Of Newholme Hospital.

The hospital also officially unveiled the sculptures that staff and patients have been making to commemorate the centenary of the start of World War One. The patients have been working on a statue of a soldier and a nurse, to represent the work of Newholme Hospital as an auxiliary hospital for wounded soldiers.

Guests at the launch were invited to write lines of poetry for the soldier and the nurse:


The Soldier

I never knew what my paternal grandfather looked like.

He looks deep in thought.

I hope you recover from your vital but difficult time-service.

I hope you get home safe to be with your family and friends.


The Nurse

The uniform looks very smart, but I’m glad I don’t have to wear the hat.

Thank goodness we do not have to do your horrific training, to look after the sick.

It must be heartbreaking, seeing so many young men

Whose lives and dreams are shattered.

As you dry their tears,

I hope that someone comforts you too…


The Story of Private William Henry Rowbottom

The soldier is not anonymous.Riverside Ward’s Occupational Therapist Lorraine Turner has written this wonderful introduction to him, and what he means for the hospital:

“Hello, I have been given the fictional name of Private William Henry Rowbottom. I have been created by the patients and staff on Riverside Ward as part of the Newholme Hospital commemoration project to mark the 100th anniversary of WWI. This seems especially fitting, as Newholme Hospital in Bakewell was one of the WWI auxiliary hospitals (60 beds), set up to care for the thousands of wounded soldiers returning from the Front.

Well, suddenly, I appear to have risen up through the “ranks” from a mere Private to “ambassador”, almost overnight! An ambassador for patient experience, especially for those who have dementia.

My role, on this occasion, is hopefully to make an important contribution to helping Health Professionals, carers and families to recognise how opportunities to participate in creative expression are essential to those people who have dementia, in order for them to continue to lead meaningful and fulfilled lives.

In particular, I want to highlight how my “creators” were given the opportunity to work alongside their peers and the ward staff, to achieve a common goal, i.e. creating me! The wider goal, most importantly, is to honour those who served and died in World War One. This “collective and community” approach, generated a creative energy that actually allowed the Riverside patients to do and subsequently achieve things that perhaps, if they had been approached to do on their own, might have struggled to do. Riverside believes that this is an illustration of the power of connectedness and belonging.

I hope that by story that we can enthuse and inspire others to embrace the Arts and promote opportunities for creativity across all healing and care environments, promoting not just innovative interaction, but also a sense of community, vitality and sense of belonging.

I ask only one thing of my “readers”, and that simply is that they consider dismissing the term disability when considering dementia, and embrace creativity and think of the possibilities that can be unlocked and developed when we consider what Kitwood (1997) referred to as “Rementing”, for his theory that a nourishing care environment can create new brain growth and capabilities even in the face of advancing dementia.”

For further information, please contact the therapy team on Riverside Ward. Tel 01629 817962. or email Lorraine.turner@dchs.nhs.uk or Alexandra.green@dchs.nhs.uk


Macbeth – as performed by the patients of a WWI rehabilitation hospital

On Saturday, a friend invited me to an open-air Shakespeare performance at Sheffield’s botanical gardens. Macbeth, performed by Heartbreak productions.

It was one of those wonderful moments of serendipity to discover that the setting and “framing device” for this production was a World War One rehabilitation hospital. Using a pared-down cast, supplemented by an atmospheric choir for background atmosphere and sound effects, the cast of professional actors were playing the parts in Macbeth via the characters of the patients, soldiers recovering from physical and mental trauma, and the efficient but kindly Nurse Ruth Jones.

Before the play started, the patients and their nurse introduced themselves: gallant, troubled Captain Laurence Smith, who recited poetry about his experiences of the First World War, jovial Private Charlie Thompson, and lovable buffoon, gardening expert Major Cecil Harvey. This introduction set the scene for Macbeth as a “play within a play”, and enabled the audience to see the value of the therapy that the hospitals provided: woodwork, literature, gardening and country air to sooth traumatized minds and bodies.

It was an excellent setting for the play, and made me think about the soldiers who recovered from their injuries at Newholme Hospital in Bakewell in the First World War. Although Newholme was officially a workhouse, a far cry from the Brighton Pavilion and the grand Clivedon estate, the fresh country air and the peace of the Derbyshire Dales must have seemed like a miracle after the madness, mud and misery of the trenches.


Walkley's Well Dressing Commemorates the First World War

Walkley’s Well Dressing Commemorates the First World War

And I’ve been to see the well dressing at St Mary’s in Walkley, the suburb of Sheffield where I live. In the First World War, our area of terraced houses and hills would have been densely packed and very close-knit. The loss of fathers, brothers and sons in the First World War would have hit the community  very hard. This year’s well dressing commemorates the young men lost in that war. The Walkley Community Centre, a beautiful Edwardian building, has a stained glass window with a list of Walkley men who were killed in the First World War, which is being restored and re installed this year.