Dumfries and Galloway has three National Scenic Areas (NSAs) – the Fleet Valley, the East Stewartry Coast and the Nith Estuary. They are recognised as some of the most scenic places in Britain and are a major asset for the region. Focused on river estuaries and bays, enclosed by surrounding hills and farmland, these landscapes have a wonderful range and variety of views both from and into the areas.
Views are important as they are one of the principal means of enjoying the scenery. They can also be used to promote the areas and the wider region. Since 2004 a network of viewpoints has been developed across the NSAs to encourage people to visit, enjoy and find out more about these special places.
Writers and artists have been inspired by the NSAs over the years, and the Year of Creative Scotland in 2012 provided an opportunity for local people to be inspired by them too through the Viewpoint Voices project.
Building on a successful workshop held in 2011 at Knocktinkle Viewpoint in the Fleet Valley, as part of the ‘Day of the Region’ event, funding was secured to run Viewpoint Voices sessions at a further five locations in the NSAs.
Pupils studying Advanced Higher English from schools across the region, and groups from the University of the 3rd Age (U3A) took part in the project. Some were experienced creative writers and others had never written a poem before. Participants visited the viewpoints with award winning poet Jean Atkin, and at the following workshop wrote cinquain poems inspired by their visit.
Cinquains are short five line poems that have a particular structure and rhythm. Their strict form results in poems that capture the essence of place as experienced by each participant. Once the poems were complete they were recorded and the voices can now be heard in a series of short films.