Nation's canals inspiration for poetry contest

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By Western Daily Press | Saturday, June 22, 2013, 05:00

"The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him employment and happiness, whether it be to make baskets, or broad swords, or canals..." So wrote essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson – and one English poet would heartily approve.

She is Jo Bell, the nation's Canal Laureate – who is now challenging anyone in the West Country who loves both poetry and canals to write an ode to the waterways.

Poet-in-residence at the Canal and River Trust – the charity that cares for 2,000 miles of waterways across England and Wales – Jo is launching the nationwide poetry event by asking people to write about their memories of the nation's canals.

Being such a hilly region, the West Country is not quite as rich in canals as some areas. Nevertheless, it can boast the still-navigable Taunton to Bridgwater Canal that flows across the Somerset Levels. There are also several miles of navigable waters remaining of the Grand Western at Tiverton, in Devon.

The Exeter Ship Canal predates what was known as "canal-mania", having been built way back in the 1560s. And the Bude Canal – built chiefly to import lime-bearing sand for agricultural use to the hilly hinterland in the Devon and Cornwall border-lands – is often said to be the most unusual in Britain.

Jo Bell said: "Everyone has a memorable moment from the canals or rivers. It might be a tranquil memory of a picnic by the canal, or a boating holiday – seeing a heron or water vole, or recalling the heritage of the waterways."

To submit a poem by September 14, email writing onwater@poetrysociety.org.uk. Visit www.waterlines.org.uk for more details. The best poems will feature on the website.

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