Outings - page 1
"Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks."
"To a poet nothing can be useless."
On a very hot day, Barrie Hicks, a local wild-life expert, photographer and conservationist, led us round this Prime Site of Nature Conservation Importance. He showed how grazing restrains the growth of scrub, especially hawthorn, to retain the floral diversity of this attractive area of chalk down-land. On the walk, we saw evidence of a fox earth and a badger sett. Four different species of orchid in flower were found. We would never have spotted two of these (the twayblade and the bee orchid) without his help, amid all the other flowers and grasses.
|Marysia noting a bee orchid||Pyramidal orchids|
After returning to Jean’s for refreshments, we were treated to a slide-show. Barrie’s outstanding photos of landscapes, flora and fauna served to reinforce the appeal of the area, and to emphasise its fragility
Here are some of the follow-up poems for you to enjoy:
We stand upon the chalky hill where horse-shoe vetch and milkwort grow. Quaking grass is dithering every time the breezes blow. We feel remote as cirrus clouds far from the urban sprawl below. The yellow rattle parasite preys on tangled roots of grass and greater pignut lodges here although elsewhere it's rare and sparse. That clever mimic, a bee orchid attracts attention as we pass. Up in the trees a chiff-chaff calls his name, his name in high-pitched song. A blackbird's fluting notes ring clear and almost out of sight among the clouds, a skylark tosses down a melody five minutes long. We see a one-time badgers' sett converted to a foxes' den holes where the scurrying rabbits bolt, and nearby fields to visit when the March hares madly chase and box as next year Spring comes round again.
Too hot Fine stem Lilac/pink Quivering Cool at Jean’s
Barely a spit cut through the hill's skin will reveal its heart – a tilted mile of white rock. Flints may blunt your spade as you break the bed chalk, the unnumbered remains of sea death. Fight your way through elder and dense bramble and the hill's memory bank will reveal striated terraces, like a giant's staircase, where a meagre harvest grew above the marshy valley of the Lea. Summers ago we cut away the scrub with gloved hands, reversing time's arrow, and made an ellipse, a miniature down. The hill recalled its past, welcomed seed and carpeted the glade with golden rock rose and wild thyme. But now around its edge thorn enemies muster and with their hostile shade usurp the secret haunts of bee orchid and twayblade. In only a few years, if unopposed, hawthorn will reassert its mastery and in the Autumn dogwood will stain the slopes the colour of wine.
In the cloudless blue An inferno grew On the slopes of Bradgers Hill Where the solar power Of that mid-day hour Made the whirring brain stand still On these rounded downs Of our chalkland town Where the flocks once roamed all day The red brick creeps Over hills for sheep And the past has seeped away Where the shepherd’s horde Kept a close cropped sward And a home for the marbled white The fescues fade And the scrub invades And the dogwood gains in height But this shrubland fades In the woodland glades As the ash and the beech take hold And the Chiltern downs Don a sylvan crown To submerge the hills of old But the town preserves This chalk reserve In a conservation scheme So the lynchets thrive And the herbs survive In the old agrian scene So beside the hedge Grows the glaucous sedge Where the furtive ferrets dwell And the eyebright shines Where the kestrel climbs To a height for the final kill And the skylarks still On Bradgers Hill Trill – and the field mouse thrives. But the best laid plan Of mouse and man May sadly not survive For in the cloudless blue An inferno grew That may yet consume us still So heed the warning Of global warming On the slopes of Bradgers Hill
We are here to look into reports of poems lurking in this meadow. Grasses whisper: they may be hidden by wild orchids. Hello, hello, hello! What's this? A common orchid, supported by his friends with spotty leaves, breaks cover. We take down their particulars. "Are there any more about like you, flower?" They stand, exposed and pale, saying nothing. But further up the path are other gangs we bring to book, some in purple mitres try to stun us visually. It's dangerous work - quatrains may be detonated where we plod. And look! The Chief Detective points to quaking grass: why's it afraid? See, still and near, that thin figure is the Twayblade: thought he'd escape us, did he, coming armed to this innocent hillside? We pursue new leads. "What's the buzz?" we ask a bee orchid, and in our notebooks write unlikely observations. First the legwork then hours of shifting paper - if they are shielding stanzas we will find them. For we are the poet police and know our orchids: our work, too, is largely undercover and when it's done may pass unnoticed.