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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Jelley

The Beavers of Porlock

When it comes to dams I am a high achiever

A deep chamber lodger dreamer

Chunky tail flaps like a lever

I have no hibernation fever

I burrow family and kits deeper and deeper

I’m a woody engineering river geezer

What am I?

A Beaver

Storywalks has been working with the Holnicote Estate (National Trust) for the past few months, specifically with Porlock St Dubricius school. The project is interreg funded and focused on the riverlands of the estate, being the woods which nestle the banks of the Aller and Horner rivers and flow down to the Bristol Channel at Porlock Bay.

In some respects the works are very simple; to engage with the local community about our local natural heritage and biodiversity on this edge of Exmoor. Celebrating kingfishers, voles and otters, along with trees like alder, oak and hazel and the broad life teaming world beneath the canopy.

So on the first session the group was split in to two with Sammy Fraser, the Holnicote Engagement officer taking half river dipping (think nets and jars catching dragonfly larvae and stomping in he mud!) Whilst I worked with the other half, focusing on what they could see, hear and smell in the forest.

That first session was really more about poetry responding to the environment, each pupil was armed with a piece of card and a pencil. These I call word harvest sheets, with which the pupils note down everything they see, hear, smell and touch along the trail. The first session was a little lumpy as the pupils took time to get the measure of me and the task in hand, but the second session was like pushing an open gate and their responses and observations just naturally flowed. When they understand that there is no wrong answer then they begin to really enjoy the task at hand, especially being out of the classroom!

At Bossington beach the pupils then take their favourite phrases so far (which they had just harvest as we walked along the track) and wrote them on pebbles on the beach in chalk. I personally love this gentle graffiti, the rain washes away the words in an instant so nothing is left behind but the benefits of the pupils staking their claim to their words in the landscape is really rewarding. It is as if they are writing a love letter of sorts to the landscape on her very skin.

Not all the poems are fully formed (as you can see by the photos) but their enthusiasm to write even when cold and windy is unstoppable. This point of the walk is on top of the shingle bar at Bossington beach and the most exposed point. After which we did a quick little Riddle Storywalk a little out of the wind to wet their whilst for the next task ahead - which was Riddle Writing!

Interestingly in the time I've been working with Porlock pupils, the landscape has seen the re introduction of beavers. When we began there was hushed talk about he possibility which we were told to keep under our hats but now it has actually happened and the beavers are happily installed which is amazing.

The riddles are written and the plan is to laser etch these onto oak posts along the new public trial which leads down to the beaver enclosure. Lets hope that gets the go ahead, and to wet your whistle here is another riddle from my work with the pupils.


A flash of thunder bolts along the river fast

Crownless flight out of the past

No throne for my wing, no crown for my head

Catching fish along the river bed

What am I?


Credits - These riddles were written by all the year 3/4 pupils at Porlock St Dubricius School.


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