New Troubadour Poems from Clenchers Mill

In late May, as part of the Troubadour of the Hills project, I led a workshop day based at Clenchers Mill, near Eastnor, under the west side of the Malverns. A dozen wonderfully enthusiastic poets arrived. Together we wrote poems for the mill, and I’m really pleased to publish the ones that have been submitted to me in the weeks since the workshop – start reading below the photos!

Give us this day

Except for days like this
when history, briefly resurrected,
leaps into life to catch us unawares,
they’re stilled and silenced now –
wallowers, brayers, bridge trees, tuns.

They are alien to our generation,
those names our great grandparents knew,
whose daily bread depended on them –
stone nuts, runners, damsels, shoes.

But in this soundscape of the miller’s world –
the clank of wheel, the scrape of stone –
we haul them back like sacks of grain,
dust them off, reclaim them for the moment –
launder box, penstock, layshaft, flume.

Gill Garrett


Clenchers Mill

Poplars are printed on a parchment sky,
fields quietly spread, unfolded,
full of buttercup shine;
looping ripple of birdsong,
deep call of the ewes
sound over Herefordshire hills.
Gleaming leet mirrors the mill.

The great wheel begins to turn.

Flume and launder
shoe and damsel
penstock and wallower
bucket, ladder, trapdoor, beam and rafter
rock and shudder –
with all the racket of a storm at sea.

Sailing out in the undulating meadows
this little wooden ship
stands firm
against the churning water,
a sturdy, ancient, wooden tower,
its catch, its harvest, fine, white flour.

Liz Teague


Clenchers Mill

Chirrup, drips, then swoosh and thunder,
full sail catching the wind, decks shudder in the storm,
mast turning, ladders judder —

and the trap-door snaps open
with the weight of the sack,
a bulging, beating heart of flour.

It’s all about smoothing —
but smoothing isn’t easy,
it takes force to grind the grain,

the millstone needing flow,
the race of water,
the weight to drive the wheels and gears.

It takes the flint-hard French Burr stone,
stitched with lands and furrows,
to grind grain smooth,

flowing past the chattering damsel,
knocking the shoe hopper, through to top stone,
eye to edge against its bedstone floor,

until it is silt-soft enough
to float between the rafters,

as dust in flour-webs.

Kathryn Southworth


Clenchers Mill

Glinch Brook water supplies mill leat
Water eddies above the mill
Pen Stock opens, flume splashes
Big wheel stretches into action
Turns to power the little building
Water falls gurgling and splashing
Turns the runner stone to grind the grain
Brayer, bridge tree and chirping yew
Tail race returns to Glinch Brook
Work is done

Everything circular, the wheel, the water, the stones, life

Tim Toghill


Clenchers Mill

Last of the three
The flour mill sleeps,
With eight legged makers of
Lace groaning with dust.
The millwright, keeper of mill pick
Releases penstock, gathered nature strength, The dark, dank, contained water shed Breathes life and movement into buildings bones.
Diamonds, glass slivers of light
Pierce the darkness
Connecting the turning, the grinding, the lifting, the heaving.

Masterman, journeyman, apprentice,
Masterman, journeyman, apprentice,
Together in perfectly judged harmony,
Circular, recreating.

The millwright, keeper of mill pick
Adjusting the damsel to contain her chattering, Resisting the blocking, assisting the flow and procedure.
The grain dripping through.
Interconnected, each helping the other,
Vibration and tension,
Relationships hour upon hour.

The millwright, keeper of mill pick
Fills bags of life – for life,
Bags breathe with the life blood
As lungs, filled to bursting,
Are the start of the new.

Maggie Mcgladdery


Water Mill

Capture the brook
tame him, contain him
deep in the leat.
Make him wait.
Push open the gate.

Now he splutters, he dances
cracks crystalline lightning
drags, drags on the wheel
so it plunges and thunders
and spins the black hole
of its pitiless power.

Alison Falls


Lie of the Land

As the heartbeat
of iron and wood
grows strong
listen to what
the furrowed stones say –
their tale
of what it takes
for a grain of truth
to rise and fall

The Kraken

as the Glynch dances to destruction
in the buckets
of a wheel of fortune

iron / wood / leather

rock-and-roll belting out
as tension raises the tempo

rope / chain / ladder

the race turns to a gallop
and grain-smoke scents the air

rats / wasps / swallows

a damsel nurses thoughts
of how the Mill flours

creak / clatter / chirrup

Roger Hare


water and mill and repetition

hills and trees green the valleys
out of the window framed
on the other side
the stream builds a head
over and over
potential builds to take
paddles into action as power
works its magic to drive
the woods and stone in mill
ash constructed screeners
pick out our useful life
giving flour
over and over

Adrian Davis


Sketch of Clenchers Mill by Liz Teague

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