WILD NATURE POETRY AWARD competition now open.

Sheila Aldous lives on the Teign Estuary and is influenced by the comings and goings of wildlife and tides.


Her career spanned over 30 years in advertising and marketing on national and provincial newspapers and magazines, located in Liverpool, London and Bermuda. Now retired she writes poetry and dabbles in art.


She is a member of The Poetry Society and local poetry groups such as Poetry Teignmouth and Moor Poets.


Sheila has an MA in Creative Writing from Exeter University and has won or been placed in several competitions. She was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize, 2018. Paper Boats is her first collection.




138 x 216mm


54 pages


£8.99+ P&P UK


ISBN 978-1-910834-97-8


PUB: 03/12/2018










Paper Boats

The Burning of Teignmouth and Shaldon, 1690


Sheila Aldous



Paper Boats takes us to a history almost forgotten, bringing to life fictional voices from the past and present to tell the story of the last invasion in 1690 on English soil. This poetry is coloured by the River Teign and its ever changing sky and river scape. She dresses her characters with fear, witchcraft, godliness, gratitude and resilience with hope for the future.


“‘Miracle of miracles, chalice of clay’: in Paper Boats, Sheila Aldous weaves a tapestry of lives through time in the haunting seascapes of the Teign valley. Her evocations are both delicate and powerful, her poems taut and shaped like a butterfly; the careful forms of her language remind us that this is the thread that binds and redeems us in poetry.”

Hilary Davies


"Jump aboard these Paper Boats, let the tide take you to the forgotten story of the last invasion on English soil. The sound of the sea and the far-off smell of smoke permeate poems, which link a tale of terror and destruction with the poet wandering her shoreline, delivering a ‘cry from the past’ and ‘a gleam of fire in the setting sun.’”

Maggie Butt


“From opening reflective, elegiac poems from the present: from a shoe, centuries old, still laced, found half-buried in the mud, Sheila Aldous plunges the reader back to 1690, to an awakening of fire and brutal devastation. Here is a compelling consideration of a tragic moment in Teignmouth’s past.”

Graham Burchell

Only the Ghosts Can Tell


I sit on the banks of the estuary

and listen to geese in their chatter

as they plan to leave, steal a glance

at the swans as they lift their necks,

at the oystercatcher as his long legs

carry him further from me, away

in his world of digging and dipping

for a sea breakfast of morsels.


The sky lifts its morning curtain

as the last of the moon departs

and a red morning glows over the hills

behind me, and I think of the shoe,

the one I found buried in the mud,

the one still laced from centuries ago.


Maybe the ghosts of Dartmoor have a theory

but for the birds, for the tide, for me, it is too early.




Fire and Water


You need to wait for the tide to go out,

enjoy the rocky leavings of the swirl and swim,

abandon your socks and shoes

on the sandy shore and take a chance

on the riverbed.


You could find an oyster shell, find

a pearl, or if not, a starter for dinner;

maybe there would be a smooth

pebble you can finger and wish

on moon’s lucky light.


And when you are out there in the middle

of it all and the squelch is glutinous in your

toes, you may hear a cry from the past, see

a gleam of fire in the setting sun.






Our regiment of houses, our fiery

shields in cloud crackled skies,

our homes flaring hoists of sail

flapping saddened in the wind,


their thatch bonnets lifted, wailing,

roaring smoke trails of goodbye,

until the last was gone, in a dying

snap and pop of burning wood;


then a spring rain pattered down

the empty lanes – once houses stood –

washing clean the hollow alleys

where new footprints marked us out.


From a crevice, rambling wild,

forget-me-nots winked, beguiled.











and I wondered at my ancestors ... at what happened

what they did … what they’d say to me today.

If I listened very carefully

would I hear the

paper boats


to me

No-one Died They Said


Well I’m gobsmacked! I really really am,

a fire like that in Teignmouth, Shaldon too,

how many died you say?


What! No-one, in a fire like that? That cannot

be true. All those houses gone up in smoke;

what sort were this crew?


Poor fisher folk, livelihoods lost, it beggars belief:

just shows you can never tell, and there’s no trace?

Well, I suppose there wouldn’t be.


But look, that many people, you say not one?

You say there is no record, well then how do you know,

I mean how can you be sure?


Oh come on, they died, perished, like victims in

the Great Fire of London, like the Grenfell fire;

not everyone escapes disasters.


Well, I’m truly gobsmacked, I really am,

a fire like that in Teignmouth and Shaldon,

and no one died? Unbelievable.




Painted Lady


In the leak of light from outside,

your body under the duvet

shapes the shadows.

I watch your breath, proof of life

stabbing the dark with night blades

flecking the air, shredding

the fabric that was ours.


‘She was there,’ was all you’d said,

‘she was not you.’


And you pull another thread

that binds me, nails me to the

pinboard of my mind – a Painted

Lady – the fire you hunted,

the nectar already gone,

on our honeymoon in the Dartmoor Hills,

but could not find.


‘Nobody died,’ you said.


A butterfly dies in the cold of a river bed

that moment when what is said is a lie.




It Is


a victim’s

kind of pain,

it takes one shot

and you disrobe me with

your pointed eye, blast

me in my nakedness

exposed. I am finite.

The helix of my heart

pumps veins of leaking sap

sticking sweet under salty sky,

rotting foreshore with that part,

as tangled fingers stretch out in

grace, in prayer to my edifice, my

oaken state – transfigured.

Papyrus rafts on mudflats,





to drift away.

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