Common Words: Greenham Common Poetry by Steve Wallis

Common Words

Newbury storyteller & poet Steve Wallis introduces this wonderful book of prose and poetry with a brief potted history of Greenham Common from its Ice Age origins to now, a place to escape, relax, exercise and a home for assorted wildlife whilst housing a fund-raising business park.  For a local girl who’s overriding knowledge of it is as a military site during the Cold War and a place to dog walk, this in itself was a revelation.

Taking the assorted historical chapters of the common and its features Steve has cleverly broken down the book into sections using the idea of one of the common’s residents, the Magpie using the associated nursery rhyme, thus covering One For Sorrow, Two For Joy all the way through to Ten’s A Bird You Never Should Miss.

The book encapsulates all the highs and lows of the Common’s history.  With beautifully crafted pieces, the natural world is presented in its many seasonal guises, with atmosphere and reverence.  For those who love their birds, humour is a key feature, a laugh out loud acknowledgement of their characteristics and behaviour.

Naturally, the American presence is included.  Peggy a short sad burst of a poignant love lost is simply written and moving whilst Service Numbers is a factual, hard hitting piece about lost lives.  The plight of the Peace Woman is addressed from the point of view of both the women themselves and the locals, some of whom opposed their presence during their long ‘occupation’.

Steve’s approach to the writing in this book is varied.  He reveals a love of his surroundings and sensitivity to the history of the common, a keen sense of humour and a love of the natural world.

I can highly recommend this book for locals, nature lovers or just those who enjoy words.  It is a delight.

Common Words costs £5 and can normally be bought from West Berkshire Museum in Newbury, Newbury Waterstones and Hungerford Bookshop. It is also available for £2.99 on Kindle.

Steve Wallis

Steve Wallis is 53, and came to poetry through the performances of punk icon John Cooper Clarke.  A professional storyteller, his own style has changed somewhat over the years, though he can still occasionally be found shouting in rhyme at audiences who say they ‘don’t like poetry’.  Steve has lived in Newbury – and walked on Greenham Common – for 12 years,  and only now got round to writing about it.


Hilary Stockwell



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