What is the difference between pottery and poetry, other than the extra “t”?
I don’t know, though I could go on about how playing with clay, twisting it into shapes, applying glazes in a particular way, to make an object “speak” so that it is more than the sum of its various parts, is not unlike playing with language so that a poem emerges that engages or surprises you. But I won’t.
Instead, I will present you with more reasons to visit Ledbury, including not only a look at the new ceramic pieces now being shown at John Nash but also the opportunities to combine eating and drinking with some gentle therapeutic shopping followed by, say, a walk in the Herefordshire countryside now that the wild daffodils will be in full bloom by the end of March.
This is daff country. As you’ll see, they still grow wild but are no longer picked and sold commercially as they were up to the middle of the last century. Loaded onto train known as “The Daffodil Express”, it was big business, and GWR ran specials for the pickers who were mostly gypsies from Kent and day trippers. Walks are now organised to see them at their best – no picking encouraged.
These small plants appear every Spring and transform the local landscape, specially around the Dymock area which becomes very popular with visitors who can take the various walks designed as circular routes that take in the many associations with the poets who lived in the area at the outbreak of the First World War. Aha, back to poetry.
This was a group of like-minded poets who got to know each other, mostly in London, so that when the best-known of these, Lascelles Abercrombie, moved to Ryton, the others followed. Thus you have the coming together, for subtly different reasons and agendas, of people like the American Robert Frost, Wilfrid Gibson, Arthur Ransome (Swallows and Amazons), W H Davies (the Supertramp), Edward Thomas, John Drinkwater, Ivor Gurney and so on.
Lascelles Abercrombie, by the way, may be largely forgotten nowadays but he was the “go-to” poet at the time, and a man with a sense of humour. When challenged to a duel by the argumentative Ezra Pound and was asked to choose the weapons, he suggested they bombard each other with unsold copies of their poetry.
Back in Ledbury however, peer into the Master’s House, the recently refurbished medieval building that is the Ledbury library and houses the poet laureate John Masefield collection – yes, he was born here. Across the High Street is the Painted Room, another medieval set of rooms which display, among other things, the poet W.H.Auden’s marriage certificate – yes, he got married here to Thomas Mann’s daughter.
But enough poetry, what about something to eat? Try the Malthouse on Church Lane – fabulous pancakes with maple syrup, and Eggs Benedict, and if you’re there for Sunday brunch (booking advisable) get Jim to make you a proper Bloody Mary. The best in the West Midlands.
But do drop in at John Nash’s and have a look at the ceramics, some are a little different from the vases; more sculptural as they are best viewed in the round, and give the appearance of having been made out of different fragments bonded together – in fact they are all made out of the usual stoneware and built up, bisque fired to 1000 degrees, hand painted and then glaze fired at 1275 degrees.
Just in case you can’t wait to sip a Bloody Mary, here’s how to make one:
Place the ice in a large jug. Measure a splosh of vodka, a small tin of tomato juice and lemon juice and pour it straight onto the ice. Add 3 shakes of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco and a pinch of celery salt and pepper. Stir until the outside of the jug feels cold, then strain the cocktail into 2 tall glasses. Top up with fresh ice, add a celery stick and lemon slice to both glasses. Delicious (and surely nourishing).