Due to the hot weather in July, the humble ragwort seems rather early this year.  Here in Devon it appears in profusion, even in places where it has been persecuted for years.

Ragwort, thou humble flower with tattered leaves
I love to see thee come & litter gold,
What time the summer binds her russet sheaves;
Decking rude spots in beauties manifold,
That without thee were dreary to behold,
Sunburnt and bare-- the meadow bank, the baulk
That leads a wagon-way through mellow fields,
Rich with the tints that harvest's plenty yields,
Browns of all hues; and everywhere I walk
Thy waste of shining blossoms richly shields
The sun tanned sward in splendid hues that burn
So bright & glaring that the very light
Of the rich sunshine doth to paleness turn
& seems but very shadows in thy sight.

John Clare Society Festival

Helpston : 15th-16th July, 2022


Our Annual Pilgrimage for the Festival is now just days away, when quite a lot of us will be meeting to honour the great man, on the anniversary of his birth, this year his 229th birthday!  All sorts of good things are planned.  As usual we will be travelling up from East Devon and will be staying in Northborough for two nights.  


On Friday 15th -- the first day of the Festival - many will wander up Woodgate together to St. Botolph’s church for the Midsummer Cushions ceremony with the children of the John Clare Primary School.  If you have never been, this is a mini-treat in itself, with the children laying their ‘cushions’ around Clare’s grave, and then we follow the children into the church to hear poems, specially written by the children, judged by members of the Society.  


Later in the day my wife Mary and I will be at the Blue Bell for dinner with a few friends and then we will be attending the Folk Evening.  Always fun.  I might even sing one of Clare’s songs again!


The Festival proper gets underway on the Saturday morning, the 16th with the usual mix of events including the AGM of the Society, an address by the President, Carry Akroyd, bookstalls, and much, much more.  Most of the day, Mary and I will be manning our bookstall in Botolphs Barn (next to the old Exeter pub that was), all my books will be at a discount especially for the Festival.


At around 3pm during the afternoon (meet at the Butter Cross) I will be leading a walk around Helpston, seeking out the old pubs that Clare knew and probably we will read a poem here and there.


We will again be at the Blue Bell in the evening for dinner, and a glass or two I’m sure.


It is always a treat to meet with folk that we have met at previous Festivals, but a special joy to meet new friends, especially those that hitherto we have only known via my ‘John Clare Poet’ facebook page.



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