The Old Courthouse

Creative Writing Group

Writers celebrate their connections with Wordsworth at Shap
18th March 2024

Shap Writers at The Old Courthouse met to celebrate their successful partnership with Wordsworth Trust which commenced soon after Shap Community CIO took over the running of The Old Courthouse  from  Cumbria County Council in 2015.   Jeff Cowton, Principal Curator and Head of Learning at Wordsworth Grasmere and Susan Allen, Community Outreach Officer for Wordsworth Grasmere were present.  Susan was instrumental in setting up the Shap Writers group and has facilitated it for over 8 years.  She retires from her post at the end of March.

The evening showcased the group’s special partnership with Wordsworth Trust.  Members of the writing group read a selection of their own poetry that had been inspired by session prompts, workshops with visiting poets or from visits the group made to places including Dove Cottage,  Blackwell Arts and Crafts House and St Mary’s Church, Wreay.   Images provided a visual backdrop to the poetry and illustrated the wide range of activities and opportunities that the group has been involved with;  Writing the Weather pamphlet, writing for exhibitions at The Old Courthouse and poetry for the annual calendar. Members have had the opportunity to read their own poetry at evenings shared with poets including, John Hegley, David Johnson and Kenneth Steven.  Music has usually been an integral part of the poetry evenings and ‘Tyan’ (Peter Rowan and June Swift) delighted the audience with their musical interludes.

Jeff Cowton commended the Shap group and Susan on all that they had achieved together and confirmed his commitment to seeing the partnership continue.  Victoria Stevenson thanked Susan and  presented tokens of appreciation on behalf of the group.  Shap Writers meet monthly and have an interesting programme planned for 2024.  For further information about the group email;

Links with Wordsworth Trust are also extend to the younger generation in Shap.  They provide  Rucksack of Rhyme sessions with Shap Playgroup and the Nursery and Reception class at Shap C of E School. Recently Years 1 to 6 spent a day visiting Dove Cottage, exploring the garden and woodland and taking part in creative arts followed by staff from Wordsworth Grasmere having a day at Shap School doing follow up activities.

Pale sky full of cold

red & black blazing a trail

old snow lines the tracks


Feel the packman’s ponies tread

from parish to parish.


Clear cold blue day

frosted branches

decorate the lane


Another winter over,

with spring comes

hope for the next generation


Look on these hills, these skies

my ancestors, like yours,

steeped in spring’s coming.


Feel the packman’s ponies tread

from parish to parish.


A hand of white cloud

rests over sheep land, palm down,

quieting, calming




Spring sings with her



Paper white petals

small way markers edge the path

all through the green wood


Clouds feather the sky

ghosts appear on the water

bloom in broad daylight


Shout, you can shout at the wind

and tiny flowers a thumbnail high will quiver,

tiny flowers will quiver.


Sheep do safely graze at Keld

below the distant hills


Over, under or through, leap

the water, stone and moss

river and bridge, flow and lode


Feel the packman’s ponies tread

from parish to parish.



Life-giving water in tranquil shade

gushing forth from its mossy glade.


Remnants of rainforest


water falling


‘Epiphytes and bryophytes enjoy the moisture of the woods.

Living layers drip with green.’


Curiosity killed the cat

          but fortunately

          not the cows!


Curious bovine gazes at human.

Are my earrings nicer than yours?


Sheep gently graze by a rippling beck

beneath a blue, cloud ridden sky


Steep-angled bedrock,

furred in green sedge, holds a stag

antlered in velvet


Mine! Mine! Mine!

Monarch of all I survey!


Now the winter bushes bloom again,

with branches decked in finest lace.


Shout, you can shout at the wind


Snow of last night’s storm

waits hushed, bids you step

across the river, flowing still


Limekilns ride winter

like old ocean liners, streaming

steam through the sunset


Stepp this way to a

winter wonderland


White of snow, grey of steam

nature versus man in harmony


Feel the packman’s ponies tread

from parish to parish.


Passing Shap station –

years ago children returned here,

school day over.



A Calendar Renga poem created at our January meeting using all the captions submitted to accompany the selected images for the 2024 calendar by members of the Wordsworth Writing Group at The Old Courthouse.

Alex, Henry, Jane, Janet, Jean, Juliet, Lania, Peter, Phyllis, Sue, Susan, Victoria

Thank you to everyone who supplied photos and writing for the calendar and to Wordsworth Grasmere for their sponsorship.


Poetry produced by members of the Old Courthouse (Wordsworth Trust) Writing Group 
some of the poetry was written in response to the ‘Our Common Heritage’ exhibition staged as part of the YDNP Westmorland Dales project in June 2023.
Royal Fell Ponies
Rhythm of the Commons
Restoring peat bogs
Oak Ink
Selling natural capital
Measuring cultural value
The Mountain Answers Monbiot