Running The Stanza Stones Trail

Tom and Luke trace a line across the moors in search of the Stanza Stones; Snow, Rain, Mist, Dew, Puddle and Beck

words and images by tom hill

The stanza stones were created in 2012. Six pieces of gritstone – from quarried edges to placed slabs to in-situ boulders – with a poem carved into them.

Each poem is written by the poet laureate, Simon Armitage, and reflects the landscape and elements of their setting. Snow, Rain, Mist, Dew, Puddle and Beck are tucked away and hidden in plain sight. Simultaneously part of nature, yet also one step away from it. They are introspective while very much outside, very much experiential.

Leg 1: Marsden to Hebden Bridge

One of the things I love...


...poetry; is not just the prose, but the...

...pace and metre.

...The rhythm and structure.

I ponder this as my running stutters along packhorse slabs on the Pennine Way. I skip over ice-encrusted puddles, slip on the deepening layer of snow underfoot. My stride shortens and lengthens in search of rhythm. The hum of the M62 is muffled and deadened almost as soon as I have crossed it. My left-hand side becomes white as the trail gradually disappears. The poetic irony that I started my day on Marsden Moor reading an ode to snow is not lost on me as I take out my compass.

This was my first run of three; joining together six stanza stones along a logical route, stretching northwards from Marsden and finishing in Ilkley. For me, it was an opportunity to travel through home ground with the sense of exploration; new sights on familiar terrain. A reason to just get out and run, despite the grim December weather.

Three days over three weeks, using public transport to ferry me to my start and finish points.

Leg 2: Hebden Bridge to Bingley

A week later I return to Hebden Bridge. My end point becomes my start, and this time I am joined by Luke, one half of Outdoor Provisions.

We climb steep streets, through winter-naked woods, squeeze between field edges and cut across open moorland. A peat-black trail weaves through rust and silver grass. Occasional bedrock protrudes like the rounded back of a whale.

We scamper and skip before being sucked back into a steady, sploshing bog-trot. It takes us a while to find the Mist stone. I’m not sure we would have had the cloud actually been down. Maybe that’s part of the adventure – discovery in more than one sense of the word.

Leg 3: Bingley to Ilkley

Bingley. Last run, but half of the stones to go. Luke joins me again as we climb out of the Aire Valley and on to Rombalds Moor. And yes, dew clings to the grass in front of the dew stone. Technically two slabs of grit, cracked open in the middle, filling the space of a long lost gate.

Then Ilkley Moor… dancing along singletrack, playing high-speed hopscotch between rocks and heather and puddles. Puddles. We almost overshoot the puddle stone. I hate to think how many times I must have run straight past it.

And that returns me to the point of these runs. Not to run per se, but to deepen my relationship with the fells and woods, moors and reservoirs, crags and quarries, landscapes and minutiae. To experience and embrace my home landscape. To pant up climbs. To rediscover my own memories; of runs and rides long since smudged into a singular “I’ve been here before”, but quickly unpicked as I retrace steps.

After two years of mostly local adventures, I worried that I’d grown bored of the doorstep; uncovered everything that could be seen. In reality, I simply needed a new pace, a new metre. Six poems helped me find that.

Each of the stanza stones are accessible via a short walk, or you can connect them all via a 50 mile route. Tom split this into three sections: Marsden to Hebden Bridge, Hebden Bridge to Bingley, Bingley to Ilkley.

Each start/finish point has a train station. For more information on the stones and the route, download the guide here: Stanza StoneS - Poetry trail GUiDe - Ilkley Literature Festival › 2012/05

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