WWI Centenary Wood immortalised in writing by NI poet

A new poetry collection by local writer and poet Sam Burnside pays tribute to a special First World War Centenary Wood in the beautiful Faughan Valley.

The Woodland Trust-owned Brackfield Wood, not far from Derry/Londonderry, is one of just four flagship woods taking shape across the UK to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. Still in its infancy, Brackfield will be home to some 40,000 native trees – a flourishing, respectful and lasting reminder of those lives lost, from across the island of Ireland, during the war.

Burnside – who was Verbal’s founder and first director – has released By Brackfield Bawn: On being in Brackfield Memorial Woods, showing his deep-rooted love of the natural, rural world, with the famously scenic Faughan Valley, its river and wildlife, at the core. The acclaimed poet gives his nod of approval for the creation of this new memorial woodland. The thousands of saplings, a thriving tribute, will one day link the fragments of ancient woodland that dot the banks of the beautiful River Faughan; the strength of nature – from the longevity of the valley’s centuries-old trees to the predictable cycle of the seasons – in stark contrast to the frailty of human life.

Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust, said: “The poems are ready and waiting to be enjoyed by anyone with a love of words, nature, and the countryside. They are also incredibly poignant and, alongside the beauty of the natural world, there’s a real sense of sadness and loss that many of us can relate to. We’re so grateful to Sam for capturing and immortalising the essence of Brackfield through his unique style of writing.”

BBC presenter Helen Mark, in the Foreword, said: “From his words you’ll know that Sam’s been at Brackfield in all weathers, through all seasons and has drawn both inspiration and pure joy from the character and beauty of wood and vale, of the river and wildlife. His deep sense of place for this landscape is palpable and I relish walking in his footsteps with this collection in hand.”

Dr Sam Burnside MBE added: “Spending time at Brackfield became a true learning experience. The most important thing for me was the discovery of the profound silence that lies at the heart of this – and indeed any – woodland.”

Extracts from some of the poems will also form a poetry trail at Brackfield Wood. Eight stone sculptures, strategically placed and each carved with lines of poetry, will lead visitors into and through the wood, finishing at a central commemorative feature.

With almost 30,000 saplings already springing to life and new entrances, pathways and benches in place, a visit to Brackfield is an absolute must.

By Brackfield Bawn, published by Lapwing Publications, is available to purchase at www.samburnside.co.uk or at the Warehouse Gallery, 1 Guildhall Street, Derry/Londonderry. Below are two extracts from the collection.

Nurse

Working under canvas,
Against the cackle of gunfire
She thinks off and on of rainbows
Wiping stuff from her fingers
Looking out, remembering
Soft rain blowing in across distant Ulster fields,
+++their smell,
Its washed trees, its mist-nourished hillsides.

The Great Oak Tree of Ardmore
Follow me, into the Birch wood, among trees
To secret places, down hidden ways
To where the Faughan’s onward flow is thwarted,
Turned, folded into serpentine coils.
We come, we go; the river flows.
The great Oak of Ardmore remains
The same, silent and sane.

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