In Praise Of Limestone

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20141006

In W.H. Auden's famous poem, In Praise of Limestone, he wrote about a landscape that he was always homesick for - the remote Pennine Dales. It's a place he returned to in his imagination again and again.

Since reading it at school the poet Ian McMillan has always wanted to explore the limestone scenery that inspired the poem. Ian walks in Auden's footsteps, revisiting the places that so moved Auden when he was a boy and young man.

Ian leaves the train at Penrith, where he meets Tony Sharpe from Lancaster University who's looked at how the area impacted on Auden's development as a poet. Ian meets local writer and Auden enthusiast Robert Forsythe who's researched the links between the Pennine Dales and Auden's poetry. They visit Haggs Mine, near to Alston the highest town in Cumbria. Here they peer into the 375 ft deep mine shaft, the kind that fascinated the young Auden as he walked the land as a boy.

Robert takes Ian further East in search of the places described in a New Year Letter, which was written while Auden was living in America during WW2. Ian meets the mining historian Ian Tyler and local poet Josephine Dickinson, whose own work is rooted in the countryside.

As he travels the Pennine Dales Ian reflects on the unbreakable link between the landscape and the poet.