A PASSION FOR POETRY: BETH MARY FENDER (née Cox) 1924 – 2002

Beth was a Londoner, evacuated during the war, then returning to the capital to train as a nurse and midwife at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Marriage and family life took her to York for many years. After being widowed, she moved to Shortlands near Bromley. Beth joined the Shortlands’ Poetry Group, (founded 1911), to discover a love affair with poetry which was to last the rest of her life, writing her first poem at the age of 63!

A few years later Beth moved to Belper in Derbyshire to be near her daughter and grandchildren. On discovering there was no poetry in the town, she set up two groups, and helped set one up in nearby Ripley – all still thriving. As well as sharing her enthusiasm for poetry, Beth exuded a zest for living that astounded people half her age. Involved in St Peter’s church, the Historical Society, as a volunteer at Strutt’s North Mill and visitor centre, the WEA, and much more, Beth came to love her adopted ‘retirement’ home and its people. Beth died in 2002.

Beth was a little lady who made an enormous impression wherever she went. She was enthusiastic, encouraging and interested in everything going on around her. Poetry was her great passion and she loved to share it. Her lively, quick-thinking mind belied her age, and she seemed to have boundless energy.

In addition to contributing to various poetry anthologies, Beth published three collections of her own poetry: “Time Goes By”, “Cords of Love” and “Open Choice”- this last one being completed as a distraction from chemotherapy during her final illness. She also edited “Belper in Poetry”, an ambitious look at local poetry over the last 150 or so years. Profits were divided between various charities.

Beth’s life and achievements are being paid tribute to in a unique and exciting project, Beth’s Poetry Trail. This is being developed in the market town of Belper in Derbyshire, situated in the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage site.

Why a trail?

Beth herself had introduced the idea of a poetry trail or walk to the poetry groups, having visited two in North America – for Robert Frost, and for William Stafford in North Washington.

When discussing ways of establishing a memorial, all the usual ideas such as a bench seemed too dry or static somehow. It is felt that she would have loved the trail and that it will be a fitting and appropriate tribute to a remarkable woman.

Members of Belper’s two poetry groups are developing a number of permanent poetry sites, to form a roughly circular trail of about three miles. Walking between the poetry sites will take the visitor past Belper’s most scenic spots and to some less well-known places, giving a chance to meet both familiar and new poetry interpreted in different ways.

More information?

More information about Beth, her publications, Belper’s poetry groups and the poetry trail, can be found on the trail’s website: www.bethspoetrytrail.co.uk