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'Stanza Stones' (4): The 'Beck Stone'

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Beck

'Beck' is one of seven poems carved on rock and located in moorland in the South Pennines area of Yorkshire.

All the poems, written by Simon Armitage, feature water in one of its many forms.

To find this one you have to hike up and alongside a tumbling beck on Ilkley Moor. You stumble on it, almost by accident, and there it is. The Beck Stone

(Images: all the photos you will see have been taken by me).

The 'Beck Stone'

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Backstone Beck rises high on Ilkley Moor and in its short course to join the River Wharfe in the valley below it tumbles down deep ravines scoured into the peat. A footpath runs for most of its course alongside the beck and, about half way down the hillside, a path through the gorse leads you to a twist and dip in the stream.

Here the water cascades either side of a boulder, dislodged centuries ago, and now resting upright on the stream bed. A small grassy knoll forms a natural viewing platform for the visitor

On the rock is a poem: 'Beck', written by the Yorkshire poet, Simon Armitage, and carved - ten minutes per letter - by stone artist, Pip Hall. It is one of seven 'Stanza Stones' - poems in stone - and located on Yorkshire hillsides in the South Pennine area. This particular poem was carved in situ, a difficult and physically demanding task for Pip Hall, requiring her to stand at least ankle deep in water on each occasion.

The stone is curved smooth by years of water and the words twist and swirl over its face. Although the poem is less than two years old, the water has already begun its erosion, grinding away at the letters; algae is building up in their crevices.

A heavy flood could cause a landslip at any point in the ravine, so there is a sense of both permanence and insecurity about this work. In this respect, Simon Armitage has said of all the Stanza Stones ""They may be written in stone, but the elements they describe will eventually render them mute".

The Beck Stone and Surrounding Countryside

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The Stanza Stones

Stanza Stones
Stanza Stones

This is the main guide to the Stanza Stones - poems and background information; well-illustrated and attractively produced. Recommended.

 

'Beck'

Simon Armitage's poem is shown below.

Beck

It is all one chase.

Trace it back: the source

might be nothing more

than a teardrop

squeezed from a curlew's eye,

then follow it down

to the full-throated roar

at its mouth:

a dipper strolls the river

dressed for dinner

in a white bib.


The unbroken thread

of the beck

with its nose for the sea,

all flux and flex,

soft-soaping a pebble

for thousands of years

or here

after hard rain

sawing the hillside in half

with its chain.

Or here,

where water unbinds

and hangs

at the waterfall's face,

and just for that one

stretched white moment

becomes lace.

*

Armitage captures the force of the beck after heavy rain: its "full-throated roar"; its destructive power: "sawing the hillside in half with its chain".

Yet it has beauty and beguiling charm too: the water "becomes lace" as it cascades over the rocks; and how, in its quieter moments it is: " all flux and flex, soft-soaping a pebble."

Above all, I like the image of the dipper, strolling by the river: "dressed for dinner in a white bib."

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"At its mouth: a dipper strolls the river dressed for dinner in a white bib".

(Simon Armitage: 'Beck')

Stanza Stones Project

The Stanza Stones project came to fruition in 2012 after two years of planning and hard work.

It was commissioned by Ilkley Literature Festival and financially supported by a grant from the National Lottery.

There is now a Stanza Stones trail of short individual walks, or one that can be extended over 40+ miles, connecting all the stones (link below).

All, that is, except one. There is a seventh Stanza Stone with the simple inscription, 'In memory of water', hidden away on a hillside somewhere. It is yet to be discovered.

Simon Armitage

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A short film: Simon Armitage talks about the challenges of writing the Stanza Stones project, his aims, and thoughts on the way the poems may be received in centuries to come. Click on the link below.

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Wood Engraving of 'Beck'

This wood engraving by Hilary Paynter is one of seven reproduced in a limited edition (186 copies only) book celebrating the Stanza Stones project.

In Memory of Water contains all the poems, details of their location, and the wood engravings. It was published by Andrew J Moorhouse of Rochdale, England in 2013.

Hilary Paynter is one of Britain's most accomplished wood engraver. She visited all the known Stanza Stone locations to make preliminary sketches and drawings for her engravings.

***

Water scenes can lend themselves to wood engraving.

Have a look at six other wood engravings (below) depicting river or stream scenes. Which do you like best?

Wood Engravings of Rivers and Streams. Which wood engraver's work do you like best?

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Engraver: Yvonne SkargonEngraver: Robert GibbingsEngraver: Joan HassallEngraver: Thomas NasonEngraver: Bernard RiceEngraver: Gwen Raverat
Engraver: Yvonne Skargon
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Engraver: Yvonne Skargon
Engraver: Robert Gibbings
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Engraver: Robert Gibbings
Engraver: Joan Hassall
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Engraver: Joan Hassall
Engraver: Thomas Nason
See all 23 photos
Engraver: Thomas Nason
Engraver: Bernard Rice
See all 23 photos
Engraver: Bernard Rice
Engraver: Gwen Raverat
See all 23 photos
Engraver: Gwen Raverat

Which of the six wood engraver's work, shown above, do you like best?

  • Engraver: Yvonne Skargon
  • Engraver: Robert Gibbings
  • Engraver: Joan Hassall
  • Engraver: Thomas Nason
  • Engraver: Bernard Rice
  • Gwen Raverat
See results without voting

 Last updated on September 17, 2014

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Thanks for Visiting. It's always good to get your feedback and comments 99 comments

John Dyhouse profile image

John Dyhouse 9 months ago from UK Level 5 Commenter

THis sounds like an exciting project. When I first saw the title I was a little bemused, and seeing the first images, I thought that's not very permanent. I was pleased to see that the artist recognises this fact. It must be great to come across on of these stones on a ramble and from your directions one needs to be careful not to miss it. Thanks for letting me know about this.


MJ Martin profile image

MJ Martin 9 months ago from Washington State Level 4 Commenter

Wow, what an interesting way to expression. I like that there is a hidden one for somebody to by chance come across someday. Quite a project. Congrats on LOTD, thank you for sharing this project with us.


sousababy profile image

sousababy 9 months ago

First of all congrats on winning Lens of the Day. Secondly, I feel Thomas Nason was able to capture the movement of the stream as well as the stillness of the surrounding terrain (and the tree really impressed me). These are fabulous pages that are such a treat to view and learn about.


sunriseblue lm profile image

sunriseblue lm 9 months ago

Wow, this is a great lens! I had never heard of these Stones before but I think it is an amazing project. I love how it captures the idea of the flow of water. The poem 'Beck' is beautiful.


hbruhn profile image

hbruhn 9 months ago

What a great lens! This is one of the many things I never knew I wanted to know :) great work man!


AnuradhaM 9 months ago

Fascinating thing to know about... Enjoyed reading it...Well done!!


esmonaco profile image

esmonaco 9 months ago from Lakewood New York Level 7 Commenter

I learn something new everytime I read your work. All very interesting, Congratulations on LOTD!!!


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@esmonaco: Thanks Sam


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@AnuradhaM: Thanks for reading & liking my lens


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@hbruhn: A generous comment, HB, thank you


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@sunriseblue lm: Yes, it is a very accessible poem. Thanks for your visit Sunrise


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@sousababy: Rosemary. Thanks as always for your generous support; much appreciated. Mason is a superb engraver.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@MJ Martin: Yes, the seventh stone is keenly sought out by local walkers, but it will be carefully hidden, I suspect. Thanks for your visit, Ruby


Grasmere Sue profile image

Grasmere Sue 9 months ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK Level 1 Commenter

I've been lucky enough to see Simon Armitage reading his poems as part of the Wordsworth Trust poetry programme in Grasmere ( my home). What a great idea to follow through with this beautiful lens on the Beck Stone with your excellent photos.Congratlations on LOTD.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Grasmere Sue: We are both very lucky to live in this part of England. Thanks for your generous comments, Whitemoss.


PaigSr profile image

PaigSr 9 months ago from State of Confussion Level 4 Commenter

I have enough trouble writing things on paper. Engraving them in stone is completely different and interesting at the same time. I don't know if I will ever see these in person. So thank you for sharing them. Very nice selection for LotD.


Dressage Husband profile image

Dressage Husband 9 months ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada Level 5 Commenter

I really liked this lens well done on the LOTD! The engraving was really well done and the feeling of the poem really captured the location. I would love to see all the poems and try to find the missing 7th. I rather think that clues to where it might be must be contained in the first 6?


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Dressage Husband: Thanks Stephen, I have written lenses on two other Stanza Stones and will visit the other three in time. What a coup it would be to find the seventh!


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@PaigSr: Thanks for your visit, Paig


Merrci profile image

Merrci 9 months ago from Oregon's Southern Coast Level 7 Commenter

Congrats on LotD. Well deserved. What an interesting lens about an interesting subject. I'd never heard of the Beck stone. It's beautiful. The whole lens was a great read. Thanks for sharing it!


lollyj lm profile image

lollyj lm 9 months ago from Washington KS Level 1 Commenter

Oh, what a wonderful, beautiful, intriguing lens. I would love to visit and see the stones. Well done, and congrats on the well-deserved LOTD.


Diana Wenzel profile image

Diana Wenzel 9 months ago from Colorado Level 6 Commenter

I would love to visit the Beck stone. This is quite the fascinating project. Ten minutes per letter! That kind of carving patience just lends even more to the poetry. That engraving is superb. What a great topic for a lens. Congrats on your honors.


Old Navy Guy profile image

Old Navy Guy 9 months ago Level 3 Commenter

What an interesting lens. I have not heard of the 'Beck Stone' before, thank you for the enlightenment. Also, congratulations are in order for being awarded the Purple Star award as well as Lens of the day. Nice job.


SusanDeppner profile image

SusanDeppner 9 months ago from Arkansas USA Level 7 Commenter

How beautiful - and how enlightening! I would love to see this in person. Congratulations, Colin, on your well-deserved Lens of the Day!


trevorjb1406 profile image

trevorjb1406 9 months ago Level 3 Commenter

Really interesting lens for me as I have spent plenty of time in my younger days on the Pennines & Yorkshire Dales....wonderful countryside. Congratulations on your awards for this work!


reasonablerobby profile image

reasonablerobby 9 months ago from UK Level 2 Commenter

Working at SHU I ought to go and see these. Enjoyed the article and learned something :)


David Stone1 profile image

David Stone1 9 months ago from New York City Level 7 Commenter

What a unique and original location. I'd never heard of it before.


Faye Rutledge profile image

Faye Rutledge 9 months ago from Concord VA Level 4 Commenter

Thanks for sharing this. Amazing. Congratulations on LotD!


captainj88 profile image

captainj88 9 months ago from East Berlin, PA, USA Level 4 Commenter

I love what Armitage said when acknowledging that though written in stone, elements will mute the voice of the poetry over time. It's a beautiful metaphor and a reminder that "that which is seen is temporary..." (2 Corinthians 4:18a). Well-deserved LOTD honors, congratulations.


Madelight75 9 months ago

First time hearing about Simon Armitage, congratulations on your lens of the day achievement. I love the formatting of your lens and its presentation. It is unique. Well done!


Zeross4 profile image

Zeross4 9 months ago Level 5 Commenter

Very interesting, you learn so much on Squidoo, thanks for sharing and congrats on your lens of the day!


tonyleather 9 months ago

What a great lens about both a fascinating, picturesque place and a talented poet! Thanks!


sybil watson 9 months ago

What a fabulous lens about such a fascinating site. I would love the adventure of hiking in the moors to find poetry carved on the rocks. Congratulations on your LOTD.


LiteraryMind profile image

LiteraryMind 9 months ago from Connecticut, USA Level 2 Commenter

What a unique idea. It's such an artistic way to enjoy a poem and so fitting. Thank you so much for sharing. Congratulations on being selected Lens of the Day.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Merrci: And thank you for visiting it, Merrci.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@lollyj lm: Thank you very much, Lollyj


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Diana Wenzel: Yes, the carving is quite superb, too. And thanks for your generous comments


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Old Navy Guy: Thank you. It's been a good day!


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@SusanDeppner: Thank you very much, Susan, particularly for the support you gave me when I first joined Squidoo


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@trevorjb1406: It's a great place. I can see Ilkley Moor from my window as I type this!


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@reasonablerobby: They are definitely worth the effort, RR.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@David Stone1: Thanks for checking out this lens, Dave.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@captainj88: Yes, it's an apt reminder of our own transcience and mortality


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Madelight75: Thanks, that's a very generous comment; much appreciated.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Zeross4: Thank you for taking the time to check it out, Daisy.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@tonyleather: Thanks Tony. Even people from Lancashire can visit the Stones!


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@sybil watson: It is great to come upon these Stones in their remote locations; an almost profound experience


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Faye Rutledge: Thanks PartyBuzz.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@LiteraryMind: Thanks LM, for your visit and comments; much appreciated.


RinchenChodron 9 months ago

What a unique and interesting idea and execution! Is a Beck a "stream"? Congrats on your Lens of the Day.


Linda BookLady profile image

Linda BookLady 9 months ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA Level 4 Commenter

Beautiful idea... to carve a poem on a rock. That's a gift to the people of the future!


MarcellaCarlton 9 months ago

What a lovely poem. It really spoke to my heart. I love this lens.


seahorse60 9 months ago

Congratulations on being chosen for lens of the day! My husband is from North Yorkshire so we will have to go for a hike next time we visit his family. Thanks for an interesting and informative read.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@seahorse60: Thanks Seahorse. The stones are quite easy to find with the guide downloaded from my lens


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@MarcellaCarlton: Thanks Marcella. All the Stanza Stone poems are very accessible, and the imagery in them is memorable


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Linda BookLady: Yes, that's what attracted me to the rocks and the poems


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@RinchenChodron: Thanks Rinchen. Yes, 'Beck' is from Middle English 'bekke' (stream) and earlier from the Old Norse 'bekkr'


stldoesmatter 9 months ago

nyc one


Elsie Hagley profile image

Elsie Hagley 9 months ago from New Zealand Level 7 Commenter

I have never seen anything like this before, but I like it very much. Thanks for sharing it with us.


GrammieOlivia profile image

GrammieOlivia 9 months ago from Toronto Level 7 Commenter

I really like the first wood carving by Hilary Paynter, but that was not an option, so went for the one with the children on the bridge.


Gary_Richetelli 9 months ago

Great info and great gallery. Thanks for posting.


The_Kelster 9 months ago

This was a lovely lens. Really enjoyed reading about this and learning something new. Thanks :)


anonymous 9 months ago

Fascinating story. Congratulations on getting LotD!


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@stldoesmatter: Cheers!


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Elsie Hagley: Thanks for the visit, Elsie


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@GrammieOlivia: Joan Hassall was one of the best 20th UK century engravers. Thanks for your visit, Grammieo


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Gary_Richetelli: Thanks for your visit, Gary


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@The_Kelster: Thank you both


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@anonymous: Thanks for your interest and support, Rauspitz; much appreciated


sabaz 9 months ago

Awesome story! Congratulation great lens to read


tfsherman lm profile image

tfsherman lm 9 months ago Level 1 Commenter

So odd, isn't it, that printing a poem onto rock -- a page torn from the earth itself -- alters our reading in some way? Great lens, such fresh materal and congratulations on a well deserved LOTD.


ChocolateLily 9 months ago

Very interesting. I've not heard of this. Your pictures are beautiful! Congratulations of LOTD!


anonymous 9 months ago

This is a great lens


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@anonymous: Thank you


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@ChocolateLily: Thanks Elizabeth.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@tfsherman lm: Hi Travis. Yes, I really like the idea behind this project, as it connects with a long tradition of ancient carving on stone on Ilkley Moor, from Bronze Age inhabitants onwards. Thanks for your comments & support


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@sabaz: Thanks for checking out the lens and leaving a comment


Miratex profile image

Miratex 9 months ago

Nice


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Miratex: Thanks


delia-delia profile image

delia-delia 9 months ago Level 5 Commenter

Congratulations on LOTD! What an interesting stone and story..the letter carving on that stone is incredible, hard to believe each letter was hand done so precisely. Thanks for sharing this story.


DreamingBoomer profile image

DreamingBoomer 9 months ago from Jackson, MS Level 1 Commenter

Fascinating story and what a lovely poem! Thanks for your work on this!


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@delia-delia: Thanks Delia. Yes, the carving is painstakingly brilliant on all the stones


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@DreamingBoomer: Thanks Karen, I enjoyed preparing this lens


anonymous 9 months ago

This is a very interesting story - thank you so much for sharing it :)


sierradawn lm profile image

sierradawn lm 9 months ago Level 1 Commenter

Congratulations on your LotD! Your Stanza Stones lenses are all such treasures! It is impossible to make a choice on which one I like best, but the Beck Stone is just magnificent!


DebMartin profile image

DebMartin 9 months ago Level 3 Commenter

Poetry and nature just belong together. I'd love to hike to the stone.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@DebMartin: Yes, the stones give a focus to the walks on Ilkley Moor for many people now.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@sierradawn lm: Thanks Dawn. I have a particular regard for the 'Dew' stone, as it was the first of the six I visited. But the 'Beck Stone' is the most awe-inspiring, in terms of location.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@anonymous: Thanks for visiting the lens


hobsdv1975 profile image

hobsdv1975 9 months ago

Nice lens, i remember walking to these when i was a little kid, went with my grandparents.


Snakesmum profile image

Snakesmum 9 months ago from Victoria, Australia Level 5 Commenter

Would love to revisit Yorkshire - these weren't there when we lived there.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 9 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Snakesmum: Yes, they are relatively new - since 2012, when they were put in place


rebekah-grelen profile image

rebekah-grelen 9 months ago

Lovely lens! Thanks for sharing.


Lynn Klobuchar profile image

Lynn Klobuchar 8 months ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota Level 5 Commenter

Fascinating. I love how the words are melting into the stone, the moss and lichen returning to claim their place. Would love to e able to see this.


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 8 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Hub Author

@Lynn Klobuchar: Thanks Lynn. Yes, it is the ever changing nature of these stones and poems on them that I like too.


CoolFool83 profile image

CoolFool83 5 months ago

Very educational! Thanks for sharing.


Adventuretravels profile image

Adventuretravels 5 months ago from London UK Level 7 Commenter

What a great lens. I have given it a boost and added it to my UK Travel lens - I'm sure it'll inspire someone, perhaps from across the pond, to hunt out the Beck Stone. I'm certainly going to! Thanks for this wonderful lens.


takkhisa profile image

takkhisa 5 months ago Level 5 Commenter

Awesome lens! It is unique and very informative, I have never heard of it before. Thank you.


SBPI Inc profile image

SBPI Inc 5 months ago

Beautifully done

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