Worcester Shrub Hill

Many poets have travelled up and down these railway lines over the past 150 years, and here in the beautiful waiting room at Worcester Shrub Hill station, the tiled walls have seen countless travellers come and go. Railway lines across the country have had an enormous impact on the way we travel, the way we work, and the way we connect with others. But there is something special about this line, and the people who have used it.

Railways take us from A to B, and in their own way, poems transport us too. In this poem, Dymock poet John Drinkwater is swept from the streets of Birmingham to the Dymock woods by the song of a blackbird:

Blackbird at Worcester Shrub Hill

He comes on chosen evenings,
My blackbird bountiful, and sings
Over the garden of the town
Just at the hour the sun goes down.
His flight across the chimneys thick,
By some divine arithmetic,
Comes to his customary stack,
And couches there his plumage black,
And there he lifts his yellow bill,
Kindled against the sunset, till
These suburbs are like Dymock woods
Where music has her solitudes,
And while he mocks the winter’s wrong
Rapt on his pinnacle of song,
Figured above our garden plots
Those are celestial chimney-pots.

(Blackbird, by John Drinkwater)

Our journey by train from Worcester to Ledbury will take a little longer than the blackbird’s song in Drinkwater’s poem, as along the way we will be stopping to read poetry, learn about the line and take in the views. 

Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi Shihab Nye

Ledbury Poetry Festival is a very special festival in a very special place. Naomi Shihab Nye served as our poet in residence, and her recollections give a glimpse into the magic of the festival: 

‘Being Ledbury Poetry Festival’s poet-in-residence was the greatest gift of my lifetime. Never before had I experienced an entire community being so invested and graciously involved in a poetry festival. Walking the delicious Ledbury streets morning, noon, and night, between the 89 events I attended, offered lovely little clues, signs, and encounters underscoring the care and joy everyone took in the gathering. From teenagers at the high school to our poetry workshop to art gallery events to concerts and films…one could feel abiding spirits of the Brownings and Masefield cheering alongside in that fragrant air as well – histories of poems, layers of cobbles, spigots of cider, utter richness of language, presence, image and energy woven into miraculous triumph, hour by hour. I took a beautiful train to the north, leaving. But I wished I never had to leave.’

Next Stop: Worcester Foregate Street >>

Find out how a group of poets (including Edward Thomas, Robert Frost, Rupert Brooke and Eleanor Farjeon) assembled in the winding back lanes of the Gloucestershire countryside, and why people come from all over the world every summer to visit the little market town at the end of our trail…