The River Avon Poet Laureate Alison Bergqvist feels the muse on board Tess.

A new bard of the Avon

THE Avon’s sparkling new Poet Laureate admits she was lost for words when the Warwickshire river’s guardians offered her the role of her life. But not for long.

The River Avon Poet Laureate Alison Bergqvist feels the muse on board Tess.
The River Avon Poet Laureate Alison Bergqvist feels the muse on board Tess.

Somerset-based Alison Bergqvist, who’d hardly written before being mightily moved by boating on the beautiful river twixt Tewkesbury and Stratford-upon-Avon, says verses poured out for The little ANT book of River Poems.

She is also poised to craft for the Avon Navigation Trust’s (ANT) special events, kicking off with her own launch, which was disappointingly delayed by the pandemic.

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Boxes of the books were delivered in 2020 just before Alison’s birthday… and the first lockdown, which also shut off the trust’s merchandising outlets.

“Now two years and more/ And water galore/ Under Avon’s ancient bridges,” quoth Alison, right on cue.

“But time stands still/ By river and mill/ And my words as ardent as ever!”

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It’s a wonder that the book ever happened at all. A long-time, RYA-qualified, sailing enthusiast, Alison wasn’t that keen when partner Chris suggested cruising the Avon on his little Hardy 20 River Pilot Tess. Meanwhile ANT chief executive Clive Matthews cheerfully admits he’s a poetry newbie.

But Alison immediately fell in love with the ever-changing Avon, the verses started flowing and Clive was hooked.

“I don’t know a lot about poetry, but even I can appreciate the quality of Alison’s work and the fact that our river inspires her so is very worth celebrating by making her our first Poet Laureate,” he said.

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Life changer

Alison had planned just to share her musing with friends and family and admits that the news that her audience will swell immensely was a life changer.

“It is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me,” added the retired literacy and dyslexia support worker who inherited a love of poetry and wildlife from her late father John.

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Avon Navigation Trust’s The little ANT book of River Poems: Written on and about the Warwickshire Avon by Alison Bergqvist.
Avon Navigation Trust’s The little ANT book of River Poems: Written on and about the Warwickshire Avon by Alison Bergqvist.

“I thought pootling up and down the Avon would be boring, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“I love every minute, there’s inspiration everywhere and the poetry gushes out,” said Alison, who lives in Wells but also loves her spiritual home on Tess, moored at Barton.

ANT also has a new vehicle to promote The little ANT book of River Poems: Written on and about the Warwickshire Avon.

The trust has launched former trip boat William James as its River Avon Welcome Centre (RAWC),based predominantly at the Avon gateway at Tewkesbury, which is travelling the river to greet visitors and locals.

The £4 book, which will raise funds for the charity, will be on sale on board as well as via ANT’s website www.avonnavigationtrust.org.

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