You wouldn’t have thought people could come up with so much poetry relating to the humble welly, would you – but entries have flooded in for our “Ode to a Welly” contest.
You’ve told us why you love your boots, why they’re so practical, even why they’re things of great beauty. You told us where you wear them, where you keep them, what’s the best (and the worst) thing about them – and even the names you give them.
You’ve told us about wellies in quirky colours, big ones, small ones, wellies with holes in, wellies that have sentimental value, wellies that you work in, sleep in, play in (and even do one or two other things in, as well, that we can’t repeat here). In short, people everywhere have put pen to paper about the countryside’s most iconic and enduring item of clothing.
Our celebrity judge Pam Ayres was also impressed with the standard of entries. She was keen to get involved with the poetry competition, which is just one of hundreds of initiatives going on during Welly Week, a nationwide event raising funds for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.
“I’m a huge admirer of RABI,” she adds, “because I’ve seen the way they come into people’s lives quietly and efficiently and provide things that really help. It’s an admirable organisation.”
Pam’s winner in the “16 and over” age category is Maggie Chaplin of Swerford in Oxfordshire. “This is a smashing piece of work,” Pam says, “the detail is terrific. It’s full of lovely little glimpses of life on a farm, the vocabulary is lovely and it bounces along with a rhythm that is just about faultless.”
In the 15 and under class, Pam named Aled Jones of Builth Wells, Powys, as the winner.
* A new hardback edition of Pam’s book The Works – The Classic Collection has just been published by BBC Books.
WINNER (Adult category)
Ode to a Welly, by Maggie Chaplin
Farmer Tustian’s welly has walked for countless miles,
Squelched through muddy gateways and clambered over stiles
It’s been polished by the morning dew and clarted up with dung,
And up till now its merits have largely gone unsung.
It’s pushed the spade and turned the sod, heeled in the winter kale.
It’s climbed the hill and scaled the fence or lingered in the vale.
On shingle nearly lost its grip and slithered on the brash,
Been stiff with cold and slick with oil or caked in bonfire ash.
It’s been streaked with grease at shearing, splashed with herbicidal spray
And doused with disinfectant to keep FMD away.
It’s trampled dock and thistle and scuffed the autumn leaves,
Stamped on irksome molehills, been trodden on by theaves.
It’s paced both recent furrow and swathes of new-mown hay
And cracked the ice on puddles on a frosty winter’s day.
It seemed this life was endless till its partner split its sole
And was no longer watertight so had no useful role.
The worthless boot was thrown away, but what then of its mate?
Its walking days were finished. It had another fate.
The farmer’s trusty welly now no longer shields his tread,
Transported by an engine, it sheathes tractor parts instead.
WINNER (15 and under age group)
Ode to a Welly, by Aled Jones
Ladies, Gents, it’s time for welly week,
Celebrating the footwear when the weather’s bleak.
I stomp around without a care,
Every farmer should own a pair.
Because he trims sheep’s feet all day,
Dad’s are covered in purple spray!
Mum owns spotty ones, they aren’t plain,
And are perfect for splashing in the rain.
I wear old ones, dirty and green,
A lot of use, my pair have seen.
A friend to the farmers – water they block,
But when mine broke, I gained a wet sock.
Hunters are the best, the king of the shoe
Oh without wellies, what would we do?
Offering protection against water so deep,
Always on our feet when we herd the sheep.
From trekking through marsh, or jumping over heather,
Wellies are perfect, whatever the weather.
Oh I love wellies to no end,
So ode to a welly – a true farmer’s friend.
What is Welly Week
National Welly Week, spearheaded by RABI and supported by Farmers Weekly, began on 11 October. It saw farming families, rural businesses, Young Farmers, colleges, schools and churches nationwide organising welly-related activities to raise money for RABI. “Wear-your-wellies-to-work days”, welly wanging competitions, welly golf and welly discos were just four of the huge range of activities taking place. If you would like to support RABI, or think they may be able to help you, call 01865 724 931 or visit the website at www.rabi.org.uk