'Beck' is one of seven poems carved on rock and located in moorland in the South Pennines area of Yorkshire. All the poems, written by Simon Armitage, feature water in one of its many forms.

To find this one you have to hike up and alongside a tumbling beck on Ilkley Moor. You stumble on it, almost by accident, and there it is. The Beck Stone

(Images: all the photos you will see have been taken by me).

The 'Beck Stone'

Backstone Beck rises high on Ilkley Moor and in its short course to join the River Wharfe in the valley below it tumbles down deep ravines scoured into the peat. A footpath runs for most of its course alongside the beck and, about half way down the hillside, a path through the gorse leads you to a twist and dip in the stream.

Here the water cascades either side of a boulder, dislodged centuries ago, and now resting upright on the stream bed. A small grassy knoll forms a natural viewing platform for the visitor

On the rock is a poem: ‘Beck’, written by the Yorkshire poet, Simon Armitage, and carved – ten minutes per letter – by stone artist, Pip Hall. It is one of seven ‘Stanza Stones’ – poems in stone – and located on Yorkshire hillsides in the South Pennine area. This particular poem was carved in situ, a difficult and physically demanding task for Pip Hall, requiring her to stand at least ankle deep in water on each occasion.

The stone is curved smooth by years of water and the words twist and swirl over its face. Although the poem is less than two years old, the water has already begun its erosion, grinding away at the letters; algae is building up in their crevices.

A heavy flood could cause a landslip at any point in the ravine, so there is a sense of both permanence and insecurity about this work. In this respect, Simon Armitage has said of all the Stanza Stones ““They may be written in stone, but the elements they describe will eventually render them mute”.

The Beck Stone and Surrounding Countryside

Click images for larger view


Simon Armitage’s poem is shown here. He captures the force of the beck after heavy rain: its “full-throated roar”; its destructive power: “sawing the hillside in half with its chain”.

Yet it has beauty and beguiling charm too: the water “becomes lace” as it cascades over the rocks; and how, in its quieter moments it is: ” all flux and flex, soft-soaping a pebble.”

Above all, I like the image of the dipper, strolling by the river: “dressed for dinner in a white bib.”
“At its mouth: a dipper strolls the river dressed for dinner in a white bib”.
(Simon Armitage: ‘Beck’)

Stanza Stones Project

The Stanza Stones project came to fruition in 2012 after two years of planning and hard work.
It was commissioned by Ilkley Literature Festival and financially supported by a grant from the National Lottery.
There is now a Stanza Stones trail of short individual walks, or one that can be extended over 40+ miles, connecting all the stones (link below).
All, that is, except one. There is a seventh Stanza Stone hidden away on a hillside somewhere. It is yet to be discovered.
Stanza Stones Trail

Simon Armitage

A short film: Simon Armitage talks about the challenges of writing the Stanza Stones project, his aims, and thoughts on the way the poems may be received in centuries to come.
Stanza Stones Project
Simon Armitage talks about the Stanza Stones project and recites one of the poems.

Wood Engraving of 'Beck'

This wood engraving by Hilary Paynter is one of seven reproduced in a limited edition (186 copies only) book celebrating the Stanza Stones project.

In Memory of Water contains all the poems, details of their location, and the wood engravings. It was published by Andrew J Moorhouse of Rochdale, England in 2013.

Hilary Paynter is one of Britain’s most accomplished wood engraver. She visited all the known Stanza Stone locations to make preliminary sketches and drawings for her engravings.


Water scenes can lend themselves to wood engraving.

Have a look at six other wood engravings (below) depicting river or stream scenes. Which do you like best?

Wood Engravings of Rivers and Streams. Which wood engraver's work do you like best?

Click images for larger view

Engraver: Yvonne Skargon

Engraver: Robert Gibbings

Engraver: Joan Hassall

Engraver: Thomas Nason

Engraver: Bernard Rice

Engraver: Gwen Raverat

Which of the six wood engraver's work, shown above, do you like best?

  Show the poll results

Thanks for Visiting. It's always good to get your feedback and comments

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  • sbpiInc May 27, 2014 @ 3:05 pm
    Beautifully done
  • takkhis May 22, 2014 @ 10:22 pm
    Awesome lens! It is unique and very informative, I have never heard of it before. Thank you.
  • adventuretravelshop May 21, 2014 @ 8:22 pm
    What a great lens. I have given it a boost and added it to my UK Travel lens - I'm sure it'll inspire someone, perhaps from across the pond, to hunt out the Beck Stone. I'm certainly going to! Thanks for this wonderful lens.
  • godfather25 May 13, 2014 @ 4:06 pm
    Very educational! Thanks for sharing.
  • LynnKK Feb 01, 2014 @ 8:46 pm
    Fascinating. I love how the words are melting into the stone, the moss and lichen returning to claim their place. Would love to e able to see this.
  • Colin323 Feb 02, 2014 @ 3:52 am
    Thanks Lynn. Yes, it is the ever changing nature of these stones and poems on them that I like too.
  • rebekah-grelen Jan 25, 2014 @ 4:54 pm
    Lovely lens! Thanks for sharing.
  • Snakesmum Jan 13, 2014 @ 10:35 pm
    Would love to revisit Yorkshire - these weren't there when we lived there.
  • Colin323 Jan 14, 2014 @ 8:58 am
    Yes, they are relatively new - since 2012, when they were put in place
  • hobsdv1975 Jan 12, 2014 @ 3:06 am
    Nice lens, i remember walking to these when i was a little kid, went with my grandparents.
  • DebMartin Jan 11, 2014 @ 1:07 pm
    Poetry and nature just belong together. I'd love to hike to the stone.
  • Colin323 Jan 11, 2014 @ 2:22 pm
    Yes, the stones give a focus to the walks on Ilkley Moor for many people now.
  • sierradawn Jan 11, 2014 @ 1:06 pm
    Congratulations on your LotD! Your Stanza Stones lenses are all such treasures! It is impossible to make a choice on which one I like best, but the Beck Stone is just magnificent!
  • Colin323 Jan 11, 2014 @ 2:26 pm
    Thanks Dawn. I have a particular regard for the 'Dew' stone, as it was the first of the six I visited. But the 'Beck Stone' is the most awe-inspiring, in terms of location.
  • Jan 11, 2014 @ 12:27 pm
    This is a very interesting story - thank you so much for sharing it :)
  • Colin323 Jan 11, 2014 @ 2:26 pm
    Thanks for visiting the lens
  • KarenKay Jan 11, 2014 @ 10:08 am
    Fascinating story and what a lovely poem! Thanks for your work on this!
  • Colin323 Jan 11, 2014 @ 10:19 am
    Thanks Karen, I enjoyed preparing this lens
  • d-artist Jan 11, 2014 @ 9:37 am
    Congratulations on LOTD! What an interesting stone and story..the letter carving on that stone is incredible, hard to believe each letter was hand done so precisely. Thanks for sharing this story.
  • Colin323 Jan 11, 2014 @ 10:19 am
    Thanks Delia. Yes, the carving is painstakingly brilliant on all the stones
  • Miratex Jan 11, 2014 @ 6:29 am
  • Colin323 Jan 11, 2014 @ 7:55 am
  • Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:49 pm
    This is a great lens
  • Colin323 Jan 11, 2014 @ 3:28 am
    Thank you
  • ChocolateLily Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:37 pm
    Very interesting. I've not heard of this. Your pictures are beautiful! Congratulations of LOTD!
  • Colin323 Jan 11, 2014 @ 3:30 am
    Thanks Elizabeth.
  • tfsherman Jan 10, 2014 @ 9:30 pm
    So odd, isn't it, that printing a poem onto rock -- a page torn from the earth itself -- alters our reading in some way? Great lens, such fresh materal and congratulations on a well deserved LOTD.
  • Colin323 Jan 11, 2014 @ 3:32 am
    Hi Travis. Yes, I really like the idea behind this project, as it connects with a long tradition of ancient carving on stone on Ilkley Moor, from Bronze Age inhabitants onwards. Thanks for your comments & support
  • sabaz Jan 10, 2014 @ 8:16 pm
    Awesome story! Congratulation great lens to read
  • Colin323 Jan 11, 2014 @ 3:35 am
    Thanks for checking out the lens and leaving a comment
  • Jan 10, 2014 @ 5:14 pm
    Fascinating story. Congratulations on getting LotD!
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 6:19 pm
    Thanks for your interest and support, Rauspitz; much appreciated
  • The_Kelster Jan 10, 2014 @ 4:51 pm
    This was a lovely lens. Really enjoyed reading about this and learning something new. Thanks :)
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 6:18 pm
    Thank you both
  • Gary_Richetelli Jan 10, 2014 @ 4:42 pm
    Great info and great gallery. Thanks for posting.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 6:17 pm
    Thanks for your visit, Gary
  • grammieo Jan 10, 2014 @ 3:00 pm
    I really like the first wood carving by Hilary Paynter, but that was not an option, so went for the one with the children on the bridge.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 6:17 pm
    Joan Hassall was one of the best 20th UK century engravers. Thanks for your visit, Grammieo
  • kiwinana71 Jan 10, 2014 @ 2:52 pm
    I have never seen anything like this before, but I like it very much. Thanks for sharing it with us.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 6:14 pm
    Thanks for the visit, Elsie
  • stldoesmatter Jan 10, 2014 @ 2:42 pm
    nyc one
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 6:13 pm
  • seahorse60 Jan 10, 2014 @ 1:39 pm
    Congratulations on being chosen for lens of the day! My husband is from North Yorkshire so we will have to go for a hike next time we visit his family. Thanks for an interesting and informative read.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 1:55 pm
    Thanks Seahorse. The stones are quite easy to find with the guide downloaded from my lens
  • MarcellaCarlton Jan 10, 2014 @ 1:37 pm
    What a lovely poem. It really spoke to my heart. I love this lens.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 2:05 pm
    Thanks Marcella. All the Stanza Stone poems are very accessible, and the imagery in them is memorable
  • LindaJM Jan 10, 2014 @ 12:50 pm
    Beautiful idea... to carve a poem on a rock. That's a gift to the people of the future!
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 2:06 pm
    Yes, that's what attracted me to the rocks and the poems
  • RinchenChodron Jan 10, 2014 @ 12:46 pm
    What a unique and interesting idea and execution! Is a Beck a "stream"? Congrats on your Lens of the Day.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 2:11 pm
    Thanks Rinchen. Yes, 'Beck' is from Middle English 'bekke' (stream) and earlier from the Old Norse 'bekkr'
  • LiteraryMind Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:06 am
    What a unique idea. It's such an artistic way to enjoy a poem and so fitting. Thank you so much for sharing. Congratulations on being selected Lens of the Day.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:24 am
    Thanks LM, for your visit and comments; much appreciated.
  • sybil-watson Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:43 am
    What a fabulous lens about such a fascinating site. I would love the adventure of hiking in the moors to find poetry carved on the rocks. Congratulations on your LOTD.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:19 am
    It is great to come upon these Stones in their remote locations; an almost profound experience
  • tonyleather Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:41 am
    What a great lens about both a fascinating, picturesque place and a talented poet! Thanks!
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:18 am
    Thanks Tony. Even people from Lancashire can visit the Stones!
  • DaisyDixon Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:23 am
    Very interesting, you learn so much on Squidoo, thanks for sharing and congrats on your lens of the day!
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:17 am
    Thank you for taking the time to check it out, Daisy.
  • Madelight75 Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:13 am
    First time hearing about Simon Armitage, congratulations on your lens of the day achievement. I love the formatting of your lens and its presentation. It is unique. Well done!
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:16 am
    Thanks, that's a very generous comment; much appreciated.
  • leahjsongs Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:04 am
    I love what Armitage said when acknowledging that though written in stone, elements will mute the voice of the poetry over time. It's a beautiful metaphor and a reminder that "that which is seen is temporary..." (2 Corinthians 4:18a). Well-deserved LOTD honors, congratulations.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:16 am
    Yes, it's an apt reminder of our own transcience and mortality
  • partybuzz Jan 10, 2014 @ 9:36 am
    Thanks for sharing this. Amazing. Congratulations on LotD!
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:20 am
    Thanks PartyBuzz.
  • DaveStone13 Jan 10, 2014 @ 9:27 am
    What a unique and original location. I'd never heard of it before.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:13 am
    Thanks for checking out this lens, Dave.
  • reasonablerobinson Jan 10, 2014 @ 9:21 am
    Working at SHU I ought to go and see these. Enjoyed the article and learned something :)
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:13 am
    They are definitely worth the effort, RR.
  • trevorjb1406 Jan 10, 2014 @ 9:21 am
    Really interesting lens for me as I have spent plenty of time in my younger days on the Pennines & Yorkshire Dales....wonderful countryside. Congratulations on your awards for this work!
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:12 am
    It's a great place. I can see Ilkley Moor from my window as I type this!
  • Susan52 Jan 10, 2014 @ 9:12 am
    How beautiful - and how enlightening! I would love to see this in person. Congratulations, Colin, on your well-deserved Lens of the Day!
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:10 am
    Thank you very much, Susan, particularly for the support you gave me when I first joined Squidoo
  • oldnavyguy12 Jan 10, 2014 @ 9:00 am
    What an interesting lens. I have not heard of the 'Beck Stone' before, thank you for the enlightenment. Also, congratulations are in order for being awarded the Purple Star award as well as Lens of the day. Nice job.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:09 am
    Thank you. It's been a good day!
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Jan 10, 2014 @ 8:46 am
    I would love to visit the Beck stone. This is quite the fascinating project. Ten minutes per letter! That kind of carving patience just lends even more to the poetry. That engraving is superb. What a great topic for a lens. Congrats on your honors.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:09 am
    Yes, the carving is quite superb, too. And thanks for your generous comments
  • lollyj Jan 10, 2014 @ 8:39 am
    Oh, what a wonderful, beautiful, intriguing lens. I would love to visit and see the stones. Well done, and congrats on the well-deserved LOTD.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:08 am
    Thank you very much, Lollyj
  • Merrci Jan 10, 2014 @ 8:17 am
    Congrats on LotD. Well deserved. What an interesting lens about an interesting subject. I'd never heard of the Beck stone. It's beautiful. The whole lens was a great read. Thanks for sharing it!
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:07 am
    And thank you for visiting it, Merrci.
  • StephenJParkin Jan 10, 2014 @ 7:31 am
    I really liked this lens well done on the LOTD! The engraving was really well done and the feeling of the poem really captured the location. I would love to see all the poems and try to find the missing 7th. I rather think that clues to where it might be must be contained in the first 6?
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 7:50 am
    Thanks Stephen, I have written lenses on two other Stanza Stones and will visit the other three in time. What a coup it would be to find the seventh!
  • PaigSr Jan 10, 2014 @ 7:27 am
    I have enough trouble writing things on paper. Engraving them in stone is completely different and interesting at the same time. I don't know if I will ever see these in person. So thank you for sharing them. Very nice selection for LotD.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 7:51 am
    Thanks for your visit, Paig
  • whitemoss Jan 10, 2014 @ 6:09 am
    I've been lucky enough to see Simon Armitage reading his poems as part of the Wordsworth Trust poetry programme in Grasmere ( my home). What a great idea to follow through with this beautiful lens on the Beck Stone with your excellent photos.Congratlations on LOTD.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 6:52 am
    We are both very lucky to live in this part of England. Thanks for your generous comments, Whitemoss.
  • esmonaco Jan 10, 2014 @ 5:09 am
    I learn something new everytime I read your work. All very interesting, Congratulations on LOTD!!!
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 5:36 am
    Thanks Sam
  • AnuradhaM Jan 10, 2014 @ 3:51 am
    Fascinating thing to know about... Enjoyed reading it...Well done!!
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 5:38 am
    Thanks for reading & liking my lens
  • hbruhn Jan 10, 2014 @ 3:30 am
    What a great lens! This is one of the many things I never knew I wanted to know :) great work man!
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 5:39 am
    A generous comment, HB, thank you
  • sunriseblue Jan 10, 2014 @ 2:52 am
    Wow, this is a great lens! I had never heard of these Stones before but I think it is an amazing project. I love how it captures the idea of the flow of water. The poem 'Beck' is beautiful.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 5:41 am
    Yes, it is a very accessible poem. Thanks for your visit Sunrise
  • sousababy Jan 10, 2014 @ 1:06 am
    First of all congrats on winning Lens of the Day. Secondly, I feel Thomas Nason was able to capture the movement of the stream as well as the stillness of the surrounding terrain (and the tree really impressed me). These are fabulous pages that are such a treat to view and learn about.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 5:43 am
    Rosemary. Thanks as always for your generous support; much appreciated. Mason is a superb engraver.
  • RubyHRose Jan 10, 2014 @ 1:00 am
    Wow, what an interesting way to expression. I like that there is a hidden one for somebody to by chance come across someday. Quite a project. Congrats on LOTD, thank you for sharing this project with us.
  • Colin323 Jan 10, 2014 @ 5:45 am
    Yes, the seventh stone is keenly sought out by local walkers, but it will be carefully hidden, I suspect. Thanks for your visit, Ruby
  • artyfax Jan 08, 2014 @ 12:53 pm
    THis sounds like an exciting project. When I first saw the title I was a little bemused, and seeing the first images, I thought that's not very permanent. I was pleased to see that the artist recognises this fact. It must be great to come across on of these stones on a ramble and from your directions one needs to be careful not to miss it. Thanks for letting me know about this.

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