Origins is a project to stimulate creative effort collaboratively and/or individually.


The project will run into 2016 when it is hoped we will have material ready for the 2016 Wenlock Poetry Festival.

Other outcomes will be some form of publication and perhaps performances

News about the project will be posted on The Bridgnorth Writers' site.

You can submit ideas and questions to Barbara Chapman at:



Work produced as part of the 'Writing the Ancestors Back to Life' Workshop:


Photo - our day out

by Jeff Phelps 


We do not know where we are -

the Morris Minor jammed in under dark trees

and four deposited on the grass

like teddy bears after an accident.

On the way here the trafficator stuck

and the kids were sick in the back

From uncle's cigars and peppermints.

Three times we had to stop.

Now the sky is white with summer

the car is baking plastic,

the steering wheel too hot to touch.

In the back seat - a discarded jacket and tie,

his copy of The Sun.

The twins peer through the car side window

as if they have a message, 

a blob of sepia like iron

haloing auntie's head. 




The Portrait

by Peter Hodges 


Do we know her?

We think we do and that's the significance

To believe

It's our history so why not make it how we want

We're fond of her

At the top of the stairs patiently waiting

To be seen.

To be admired.

A lady's maid staring out but not at us.

Some may think her the lady

She is a beauty, after all.

And dressed as would a lady

But her father no lord

He was master of the lord's hounds.

But for us lords and masters have no significance.

We like our history to be as we like



by Paul Francis 


for David and Nancy


They don't see eye to eye.

But back to back, hands clenched,

they turn side on to face us, and to share

the intimacy of their smiles.  

So whose idea was that?

His? Hers? Or the photographer's?


For him, at last it's come.

That feeling, from the books and films,

of being "in love". It's always been

inverted, in the commas, not quite real

until this lively Cheshire lass

has opened up his life.


And her? Later she'd say

that she was just a kid.

Knew nothing, stumbled into it.

She got engaged, and then

slowly she did her growing up,

her finding out, finding herself.


This was ten years before

they brought me into it.

But as I grew, I saw them grow

apart; an amicable, gradual shift

as time, work, inclination took

them into separateness.


They were my lesson in old age.

Their tall thin bodies flattened down

to dumpy squatness, as they shrunk.

Their movement slowed, those easy smiles

caught in the world of black and white

dissolved in apprehension, doubt. 



by Paul Francis 

for Rosie


We see this couple in the photo frame.   

Across a century Kathleen faces us,    

hand on her husband's shoulder.

Her handsome Scottish man sits down,

his elbow resting on the polished wood,

his waistcoat, watch-chain, confident.


She stands beside him, tentative

but feeding off his strength.

Warmed by her new, expensive clothes

the farmer's daughter rising in the world

has hopes to match her climb.

She sees their future, as a family.   


She can't see how it ends.

Five children on a bright-lit stage

before the lights go out.

No well-planned swish of curtains

but the harsh clang of emergency

that sends them to the orphanage.



 'The Lady's Maid' by Peter Morford 

                "Have you seen this picture of Lady Cheshire?"

                The part-time violinist and occasional opium-eater carefully examined the sepia photograph and turned it over to read the photographer's trademark on the reverse.

                "While this is undoubtedly the future Lady Chester she was, at the time of this photograph, plain Miss Bella Bennett, Lady's Maid to Lady Margaret Chester."

                "How do you know that?"

                "Look for yourself, Watson.  Her clothes tell me that she is single and in service.  She wears no jewellery. Not so much as an earring. Her blouse is high under her chin and shows off her only adornment, the almost invisible chain and tiny locket. The choker is, I suggest, a subtle sign of her position in the household."

                "So, Holmes, it might have been her engagement picture."

                "Not even that.  I think the first Lady C was alive, if ailing. We know that there was a clandestine affair for several years before Lady Margaret's death. Furthermore, this picture was taken by the town's leading photographer and, judging by its pristine state, kept very carefully packed away.

                "And now - look again at the lady. She has none of the hauteur of a titled lady. See her sad eyes and down-turned mouth. She is a worried woman. And what do you make of the locket, Watson?"

                "It's a common enough object. Most girls wore them."

                "Exactly. We have a story here.  Hers is the sad face is of a girl mourning her lost love.  Open the locket and you will find the face of a young man, a soldier perhaps, buried somewhere in The Empire."

                "All seems a big far-fetched for me."

                "Lost lover, ailing employer, what is to become of her?"

                "But we know, Holmes, that she married the widower in July 1889."

                "We do.  But in March 1888, when the picture was taken -"

                "Lady C was still ailing."

                "Precisely, Watson. I want you to take the morning train to Chester and meet your colleague, Dr Crippen, the Coroner."



by David Bingham


When they dig a hole

in a road near where I live

they put up yellow boards

with big  black arrows

to show you the way round;

then most often

leave them there

when they move on.


So, over time,

at each junction,

all the routes out

have a diversion sign

and it's left to us,

to use our wit and imagination

to choose the route we need.


It's a bit like life really,

what with all that well-meant,

but conflicting, advice from the past

pointing us in different directions

and everyone driving about

making the best of it

until we run out of fuel

and conk-out on the hard shoulder

or by the kerb side;


left wondering, as the traffic

continues to rush past,

What did it all mean?

and thinking,

If only I'd taken that left turn

on the A442,

I'd be at the Shell Garage by now.


Work produced as a result of the visit to Craven Arms to explore some of the cultural aspects of the 'Origins' theme:  


I am who I am


Lizzie Prudence


 Condensation and anxiety; the one fogging the carriage window,

the other Lucy Adam's thoughts. She clears a patch with her sleeve;

dim fields and hills revealed in a glimmer of low level sun. Sheep

pattern the amber slopes. Willow trees bend low over brown water.

Lucy sits hunched in her coat, nose almost touching the glass, away

from her snoring neighbour. The countryside is dripping, dismal,

dulled by the gathering gloom of a November afternoon. Her

revealed reflection in the clouded glass looks studious and rather



'Watch that for me, would you? I'm going to get a coffee. D'you

want anything?' and a young man dumps his backpack on the

opposite seat. She senses him waiting for her to look at him. Hardly

raising her head she nods assent while refusing any refreshment.

After he has gone she looks at the bag, thinks briefly of terrorists and

tries to picture its owner. She thinks he had dark hair but wasn't

really concentrating. His voice sounded Bristol, like a nurse in Holby

City. She lets the thought go.


Bristol is her destination, recently revealed as the place where she

was born and still the home of her birth mother. Internet images

have given her an idea of the city but she has no picture of her

mother. It has been her choice to make this trip alone and to meet

this woman in a cafe.


It began with the end of year school trip to the new extension at the

county museum. The exhibits were arranged to produce a timeline,

Tracing our Ancestors. The star was the mammoth, its skeleton

assembled as though on the march. In truth it had been excavated

from a kettle hole, one formed by melted trapped glacial ice about

13000 years ago. Lucy assumed it would have been lying down.

Staring at the mammoth, then at the model of Iron Age villagers, she

realised she too must be descended from this past. Only she had no

thread to grasp. No link back through her own bloodline. She had

always known she is adopted. She had always felt loved, wanted,

This overwhelming need for a family tree was quite novel. Only one

more year of school and then hopefully away at university. The time

to find out had felt immediate.


Her parents had been brilliant. It seems they had expected it and

with no sign of resentment had given her all their help. It had been

surprisingly straightforward. Her birth mother had even agreed to a

meeting. Perhaps it had been the ease of discovery which had

plunged her into such emotional turbulence. All the familiar things of

her life, her instinctive identity, now felt unstable, fragile and

uncertain. She found herself looking at her beloved parents with

strange eyes as though they had all been transformed. She became

obsessed with the mystery of her past. Her friends found her

increasingly distant. Teachers began questioning her diminished

enthusiasm. She had kept this new knowledge secret.


The young man returns, takes off his padded jacket, places it along

with the back pack on the rack above their heads and, getting no

response from Lucy to his brief 'thanks', settles down with his coffee

and a book. Not that she'd given him much thought, but the choice

of book over phone or tablet interests her. She risks a closer

scrutiny. The green paper jacket on the slim hardback announces

'Darwin A Life in Poems' by Ruth Padel. Somewhere beyond the

broodings on her imminent encounter, she retrieves the knowledge

that Padel is a descendant of Darwin. Everyone is descended from

somebody, except her. So once more she plunges into the dark

obscurity of her past, leaning close to the window, divorcing herself

from the coughs and low chatter of the increasingly bright interior.


It is the arrival of the ticket inspector which forces Lucy to sit up and

search her pockets. No ticket. She feels rising anxiety.

Unaccustomed to train travel she wasn't expecting to need her ticket

until she arrived at the station. Her bag is partially hidden by the

young man's coat. Her bulky neighbour now busy on his phone,

allows little room for her to stand and reach over the luggage shelf.


'Here, let me' and the young man effortlessly takes her bag and puts

it on the table. She finds her ticket, shows the inspector and was

about to leave the bag there when the young man whisks it back into

place. She has noted he is quite tall, slimly built. He has strong,

lean wrists and rather beautiful hands. She continues to look at him

as he resumes his seat.


'Thank you,' she says, 'I don't often travel on a train.' She wasn't

going to say that she had never travelled on a train. She hopes she

didn't sound like a child. He doesn't reply and since his initial familiar

manner she is surprised at this failure to capitalise on an opportunity

to talk. But he shows no signs of being unfriendly. In fact he looks at

her with open interest. He is smiling, his blue eyes bright, almost

laughing. Lucy feels a rush of emotion, somewhere between

embarrassment and pleasure. 'Are you a student?' she says.


'I'm first year at Bristol. English and Drama'

'Oh, Bristol is my first choice,.. English.'


And they talk, sharing favourite authors, films, music and what their

dream job might be. His enthusiasm is like a beacon. She feels she

has known him for ever. The imminent arrival at Bristol is announced

pulling Lucy back to the reality of her task. They prepare to leave the

train and she feels a sudden shyness, fearful of explanation. But no

matter. He hands her his details. Maybe meet up sometime?

Outside the clouds have cleared revealing ancient stars. She is

about to meet her mother .




by Rosie Pugh 


Amanda and Jake had been waiting for this moment for quite some time as conditions were never right and now they were here to fly in a hot air balloon over the Shropshire Hills.

Their instructor, Simon, approached with a beaming smile to welcome them and to show them how to enter the basket below the balloon so as not to tip the basket over. Slowly it lifted. Amanda held on tightly to Jake's arm. Many differently shaped hills lay before them. Higher and higher they went. They saw the the valleys with houses like those of dolls and the distant forest where the leaves on the trees were changing colour. Autumn was arriving.

Simon was explaining how the hills had formed. It was all to do with the Iron Age and our ancestors. Some would have had their homes below them. He told them how the Iron Age people lived in tribal communities. They grew wheat, kept geese, pig's, sheep and had large herds. They had precious metal for jewellery and iron to make weapons. It has been estimated that a medium sized hill fort would have taken 200 hundred men 80 days to build. All work had to be done by hand. People gathered to help either freely or under orders from the local chief.  

As the balloon rose they entered what seemed to be a cloud or was it fog?

Simon was very reassuring and smiled, "Don't worry it will soon lift."

 When they finally came through the fog they received a shock. Instead of green hills and valleys, they were surrounded by ice and snow. Amanda felt the cold. But Simon said in his quiet way, "Please don't worry. This is how it was in the Ice Age"

"Ice Age?" Amanda screamed.

We have gone back in time," Jake muttered, "How could that have happened?"

 "You took the Mystical Tour and sometimes unforeseen things happen," Simon said. "Can you imagine what the Shropshire Hills were like: ice, snow and the ocean? The Ice Age shaped the hills and valleys we see today,but the rocks beneath the surface are far, far older. As the Ice Age ended the melting water from the retreating glaciers created many of the valleys we see today. The ice, wind, water and frost scoured the Shropshire landscape for 40 million years shaping the landscape we see today. The hill forts are the most visible evidence of Iron Age people living in the Shropshire Hills but we do not know there exact purpose." 

The balloon moved slowly. Amanda and Jake wondered at what they were seeing and hearing. Simon was interesting and good at answering questions. As they drifted slowly, heading for base they turned around going back through the clouds until the green hills and valleys appeared.

On landing, Simon helped them out. Amanda and Jake thanked him for a memorable trip. He smiled and headed into the distance. They made their way to the box office to retrieve their car keys. They thanked the attendant and said,"What a wonderful trip! Simon was a good guide".

The attendant looked confused, "We have no one of that name and we had to call the trip off because of the change in the weather forecast. That's why we thought it strange when we saw you descend from the balloon; but who took you?"


"We don't have a Simon, but many years ago there was a great explorer called Simon, wait I'll show you"

The face that looked back at them was Simon's, the guide who had taken them on their wonderful trip over the Shropshire Hills.


The Gatehouse

by Adam Rutter

 The Gatehouse, timber-framed

A gateway to Seventeenth Century Shropshire

Its gable frames

Quarter-circle braces

Second floor frames

Diamond shaped

First floor frames

Cross plank

Its door opens to medieval England

Leading into the courtyard

Entering the Hall

Lord and Lady dine here

They sit at the High Table

Watch entertainment

You smell venison on the plates

See crucks along the roof

Shutters fly open

Feel the wind blowing through pointed windows

Feel the chill

On the floor

The hearth glows

Feel its warmth on your face

Army break through The Gatehouse

The castle, besieged

Run up the stairs

Into the tower

Close the drawbridge



Wenlock Edge

by Adam Rutter 


South of the Equator

Coral reefs

Flat discus

Living, growing

In warm oceans

One generation dies

Another born

Building layer after layer

Marine snails live among the reef

Its spiral shell winds down a hole

Pushes against the currents

Brachiopods, grooved oval shells

Sinks towards coral shelf

Crinoids, lily-like creatures

Sway back and forth with the waves

Volcanic ash rains down

Falls onto the reef

Builds a layer of clay

The reef, cast

Embedded on sea floor

Becomes a solid crust

Moves with the earth

Leaves the tropics

Journeys to the north

Rise with a continent

Joins an island

Meets the Stretton Hills

The solid crust, Wenlock Edge


The Long Mynd

by Adam Rutter 


Church Stretton Fault Zone

A crack in the earth

Molten magma

Spits through the crack

Fires into the air

Building hot mounds

Hardens to conical hill tops

Ragleth, Caer Caradoc, The Lawley, The Wrekin

A volcano throws out ash

Cascades to foothills

Grows into a giant heap

Builds Shropshire's large peak

The Wrekin

Two tectonic plates collide

The ground creases and jolts

Squeezing rocks

Between West Midlands and Wales

Closing the Fault Zone

West plate sinks below east plate

Piling up sediments

Forming the Long Mynd


Water Damage

      by Toli 

There's change in the waters that will rid any lingering doubt

That this day is the beginning and the end of an ancient rule

The oceans swell, heave and lull, rise and fall in a prelude to this battle

Fingers larger than ancient warships rise from the deep

Foretell of the hand and arm that's soon to follow

Rising and rising again from the depths dwarfing coastal cliffs

The sea rushes from the shores leaving an unseen older coastline

The arm is now complete and the torso follows looming

The head is atop, regal and divine in resplendor in a wet kelp crown

He is made from water and all manner of things from the sea

Towering above cliffs he rises still, seagulls swirl and shrill in avoidance

In hand a trident grasped, another stretches out over his aquatic realm

Poseidon stands to protect his name, now ready for this final combat

New waters now stir afar with a storm as another step's upon this stage

The swell vast once again as another rises from the deep ocean floor

This master who will not be defeated ascends now to greet the sun

A barnacled chest and a crown of drift wood, a regal plain adornment

There's room only for a single trident, yet two are in evident sight

No pact or promise can abate or salve the loss of kingdom or realm

What is to pass will last forever in the hearts of both gods and men

Neptune opens his mouth roaring steam and fishes for speech

In reply Poseidon's wrath is not wanting, birds falling from the sky

He readies his pronged spear and casts it long at Neptune's essence

Neptune is struck in the side; his wail shadows the mighty thunder's roar

In his vast hand he tightly grasps and plucks the spear from his side

Bleeding flesh hanging from the barbs that would feast a shoal

Neptune returns the trident passing through low cloud to reach its mark

The shoulder of Poseidon is pierced by tri prongs sharp and keen

Poseidon's body arches back but the muscular tail stays his intended fall

He lunges an arm deep into the chest of Neptune for a heart to find

Neptune arms not at rest clutches the throat of Poseidon tearing away flesh

Locked now in a deathly embrace the ocean reflects the tumultuous battle

Waves felt on many shores dwarf tall mountains and hills

Sky's once blue are now dark with a tempest not seen before

Time passes, was it just a fleeting moment or a lifetime of a god?

A man in a chair at the seas edge, arms outstretched and fingers splayed

His head also crowned and his shoulders adorned in royal splendour

Tears in his eyes and a heavy heart weighing his mind with melancholy

He raises his head to watch the shafts of light bring the world a new day

Saying ...."I could have lived with two, but I cannot live with none."


At our BWG meeting on 15th July 2014 we explored the possible topics that might be covered in the Origins project. Here is the list we came up with:




Status - Heraldry - Normans

DNA (identity) - Genes - Neanderthal



Nuclear - surprises/shocks - "Who do you think you are?"


Ethnic - sense of family - Ethnicity


Locality - Black Country/Birmingham


Mormons (retro-baptism)







Origins of Life


Natural resources


Northern Lights


Elements - Fire - Ice




Migration - Land - Air - Sea


Mankind - Pollution


Flora - Botany - Fauna


Instinct - Nature - Nurture


                                                     Fight or Flight


Geology - Minerals


 Chemistry - Periodic Tables


Physics - BIG Bang


Other Sciences


Biology - Psychology - Zoology - Astronomy - Maths - Agriculture

                             |                                                                              |

                                           Evolution / DNA             Everest / Babbage


Elements - Earth - Air - Fire - Water


Discovery (curiosity)


Observers & Measurers


INVENTIONS - The Wheel - Cars/Transport - Metal: bronze/iron






Scientists - Greeks - Arabs - Enlightenment


Einstein - Galileo - Crick etc, etc


Geology - Fossils




Stories - China - India - Norse




Roots of story


Anthropological / Psychological


Distortion of story


Adam and Eve (sex)


IT - Technology


Modern Films / Traditional Myths


Technology / Printing - affecting the story


Modern Off-shoots (Urban Myths)


Greek / Roman - split between races / populations


Neanderthal / Modern humans


Rapid spread of stories


Twitter, etc





Learning to create


Pictures - Hieroglyphs -Writing


Myths - Creation myths




Shamanic - Spirit World - Healing - Dance


(Birds / Animals) Courtship




Cave People




Dress (who we are expressed through dress)


Holy Books


Cave Painting


Body art - Tattoos - Polynesian


Destruction - Creation




Martial Arts - Weapons - Armour


Egyptians - Pyramids


Green Man - Buddhism - ...


Sculpture (Earth Mother)


Stone Age - Fertility - African





Song - Voice - Nature


Wind - Water - Animal calls - Drumming - Heartbeat