‘I just love trees because I love climbing them’

The children who came to the Little Asby Hawthorn wove a poem together that talked about so much more than the single hawthorn tree. We began our day at Sunbiggin Tarn where the children soon became captivated by the small details around them. In their notebooks they created words to describe the sound of skylarks singing and grass moving in the wind, and even the taste of clovers. There was curiosity about the tiny flowers in bloom, and plenty of enthusiastic photography.

On our walk up to the Hawthorn we stopped at the Dowly tree: the lonely, melancholy tree that is now a bare bird-pecked stump. Their creative minds spewed out stories of witches and strange night-time goings on and poems began to emerge.

Bark rubbing at the Hawthorn

But the focus of the journey was the Hawthorn which cast just enough shade for the children to rest in. It felt very unusual to be at the tree and not to feel cold, as it is so often windy here. The overwhelming response to the tree and its location was one of gentle relaxation and this fed into the first refrain of the poem that the children wrote as a group back in school:

Underneath a clear blue sky
The view goes on for miles and miles

One of the most exciting things about the Hawthorn’s environment is the limestone pavement, and what this harbours. There were shrieks of excitement when a lizard was spotted and, later, a frog, and the children were peering into crevices to see the plants growing in cool shade. They thought long and hard about the way this single tree had managed to grow so big and strong, when around it other trees are nothing more than small bushes, lying flat against the rock. At the tree there was a reverence, almost, in its presence, and a gentle touching of its bark. Some of the bark rubbings made it into the collage created at school that became the backdrop to their video.

Orton pupil poem

As part of our work with schools we take time to find out what the children think about trees and what they provide. As we gathered their suggestions – from oxygen and clean air to dens, paper and furniture – we realised that many of the children were giving, in their answers about trees in general, a reflection of what they got from their visit to the hawthorn. A sensation of peace, feelings of wonder, a place to let uncomfortable feelings disappear, a sense of freedom.

We’re sharing the video here to show their joint creation made from their drawings and a collectively created poem, just one of the many outputs that have contributed to a  beautiful collection of work.

Orton School video link

The children’s  collectively composed poem:

Little Asby Hawthorn

Underneath a clear blue sky
The view goes on for miles and miles

The sun begins here with the swans and the ducks
But it’s sad that we find some rubbish dumped
So calm and so still, hear the breeze and grass swaying
Birds near and far sound like a band playing
Snipe’s ‘woo-woo’ like a storm in the night
While on Sunbiggin Tarn swans elegantly glide.

Beside the tarn and dry stone wall
Are teeny flowers, miniscule, small
Eyebright is white, and pink thyme grows
Sunshiny goat’s-beard and bird’s-eye primrose
Taste the pink clover, feel the breeze,
In Afro heather, frantic flying of bees.

Dowly Tree, sad tree, depressed stump alone
With melancholy, mystery in a circle of stone.
Old and rotting, beaten by wind, birds and time,
Deathly, but home to beetles, spiders and lice
Disappointed, knobbly, smells sticky and sweet
A living soul giving life, this soft, kind tree.

Up hill to the hawthorn, we’re full of suspense
There’s a refreshing breeze but some of us pant.
Shimmering mirage, a heat haze ahead
We’re sticky, sweaty, and suncream tastes bad!

This limestone hides plants and lizards and frogs
There’s the sound of the sea in the wind on the tops
A sea full of nothing, but ferns, garlic, grass
And in this moment we’re peaceful, open and calm.

Hawthorn in the limestone, dropped seed in a gryke
Branches rough and twisted like claws grabbing sky
Wind shaped and reshaped, determined to fight
Spikes like hedgehog prickles, and one flower, white
So gnarly, bony and crummy, this horned tree is old
Its battles and hardships, stories untold.

Underneath a clear blue sky
The view goes on for miles and miles

Orton artwork