Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, North Tawton, Devon

We scoured the map for North Tawton and saw it pulse almost in the centre of the county; it was, fortuitously, only miles away from the cottage we were renting. It took minutes to find the village, moments to find the blue plaque commemorating Ted Hughes’ life there. The landlord of a pub, rolling barrels into a thirsty cellar, reluctantly pointed the way, behind the churchyard’s arrowhead spire, to the house. We brushed our hands against the fingernail-thin gravestones on the channelled track and found a view over a lush land lake of a garden.

Hughes’ wife Carol, the daughter of Jack Orchard, who later ran Moortown Farm (subject of the poet’s collection ‘Moortown Diary’) near Winkleigh, still lives in the home but the site is better known as the home he shared with both Sylvia Plath and Assia Wevill. From a horse chestnut tree that leaned from the garden to the graveyard, I unhinged a conker; it looked too juvenile to contain anything inside the fruit.

I saw
The dreamer in her
Had fallen in love with me and she did not know it.
That moment the dreamer in me
Fell in love with her, and I knew it.

Ted Hughes, Dreamers, Birthday Letters

Fumy, spirituous mists inhabit this place

Separated from my house by a row of headstones.

I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

Sylvia Plath, The Moon and the Yew Tree

The Bronte Parsonage, Haworth


Haworth: there is a path that winds from the parsonage door, skirts the school and heads graveward to the Black Bull. Branwell Bronte circled this route like a clock’s arm. 6 o’clock, parsonage, 12 o’clock, apothecary. The vault in the church he was buried in lies within a second hand’s reach of the shop he bought his laudanum.


YES, thou art gone! and never more
Thy sunny smile shall gladden me;
But I may pass the old church door,
And pace the floor that covers thee,

May stand upon the cold, damp stone,
And think that, frozen, lies below
The lightest heart that I have known,
The kindest I shall ever know.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Hampstead


Waiting for my brother to finish in his studio, I patrolled the Royal Mile and its tributaries until I found the Writer’s Museum and its aretfacts on Burns, Scott and Stephenson. Hampstead was home to the much travelled Stephenson as he foraged for good health. A quotation from ‘Kidnapped’:
‘Sometimes we walked, sometimes ran; and as it drew on to morning, walked ever the less and ran the more.’

William Golding, Salisbury


‘Lord of the Flies’ was the book that turned another school subject into the only subject. Golding, himself a teacher, taught at this private establishment under the gaze of Salisbury Cathedral.

‘Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.’

Caradog Prichard, Bethesda, Wales


Un Nos Ola Leuad (One Moonlit Night) is a novel about the unwinding of the narrator’s secure life.  A mother’s madness and the departure of a best friend lead to a ending that unsettles the reader’s certainty this is another Under Milk Wood. Prichard’s life is assembled in this bottomless story, his death crowded in a corner of a wet graveyard.

‘I swallowed the sun; and took the moon for a pillow to my resting place.’


8 responses

3 06 2014
Marcy Erb

Thoroughly enjoyed your literary pilgrimages – do you plan to post more? Now that’s a travel-log after my own heart! Lovely blog – I will be back to check out more. Cheers, Marcy

3 06 2014

Thanks Marcy, we seldom go anywhere without finding some literary aspect. My problem is updating the site when there’s so much to read about. I’ll add something about the Bronte parsonage and Melville’s Liverpool over the next few days. Thanks again.

23 08 2014
S.C. Hickman

Really enjoyed this pilgrimage. Seems a fascinating way to wander the world. I’ve often thought of pack up my dog, frogs, lover, and cat… not all in that order, and heading out across my own lands here in the States to visit the sites of those poets and creatures of literature that have impacted me here. Then one to the Continent and Isles. Who knows if it’ll happen, but the thought is there if the body holds up 🙂

I also wandered round the web trying to find your work in print. Found Parthian Press but seems at least on there current listing they don’t show your works. Being in the states I may go through my local rare book dealer, unless you can direct me to a site even on the Isles that have a listing? I’d like to do a review of your work, it seems extensive now. I’ve enjoyed so far what I see of your blog postings. I really need to find some time to wander blogs more. So busy these days with writing and other family related trivial pursuits it seems time gets away from me 🙂

23 08 2014

If you are short of time then I utterly appreciate how long you’ve spent on the blog and how long you looked for my work. Parthian publish the Cheval series ( ) and will publish an anthology of Welsh and Mauritian poets this year. When it’s in print, I’ll happily send you a link and I’m sure the editor, Alan Perry, would enjoy it being reviewed. Equally, I’d be flattered if you were to review some of my poems.

If you were to travel your USA, what would be three crucial chapters of your journey?

23 08 2014
S.C. Hickman

Well, I’d go south first to the country of Robert Penn Warren, then to Walt Whitman’s world, and above to Robert Frost… that’s three, but I’d also head out west and bring in Stevens, and the Chicago poets, and Richard Hugo, too. That would make for one trip 🙂

23 08 2014

Whitman is the only one of the three/four I’d known before. I’ll look out for and look into Penn Warren and Stevens on your recommendation.

23 08 2014
S.C. Hickman

Yes, Robert Penn Warren was one of the Southern Agrarians, after Faulkner the greatest novelist of the South and its poet. Only A.R. Ammons would come close. Wallace Stevens a contemporary of both T.S. Eliot and Hart Crane was the inheritor of both Wilde and Whitman.

23 08 2014

All of it is interesting; I’ll dig out my Norton Anthology. That final line is wonderfully phrased .

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