Outings - page 1


  1. Outings in the sense of excursions. (We wouldn't presume to organise the other kind.)
  2. Voluntary, involving groups of four to forty members and friends.
  3. For anyone to suggest and/or organise one.
  4. Of a short, local kind, like the recent visit to the Cecil Higgins Museum, Bedford or wildly cosmopolitan and adventurous - like John's proposed trip to the Rodin Museum in Paris.
  5. Inspired by people's passions - in the case of the two outings mentioned above, passions for painting and sculpture.
  6. An inspiration for new poems - see below for examples.
  7. A source of new understanding of a theme because we can pool our knowledge and challenge each other’s preconceptions.
  8. A source of new insights into the nature of poetry or a better understanding of old insights, like this from Simonides, writing in the 6th/5th century BC:
           "Painting is silent poetry, 
           and poetry is painting that speaks."
  9. Incentives to understand each other's writing methods and ambitions. In this way, they can lead to new friendships and deepen existing ones.
  10. Simply sources of enjoyment because, as Samuel Johnson wrote:
                       "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 orchidPyramidal 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:

    Bradger's Hill

    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.

    Ann Biddle

    Whispering Grass

    (a Rau’ata) grass
    Too hot
    Fine stem
    Cool at Jean’s

    Cheryl Campbell

    Bradger's Hill

    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.

    Brian Biddle

    Bradgers Hill Luton

    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

    Frank Batt

    On Bradger’s Hill - A Police Enquiry

    What's all this here?

        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
        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

    M.E. Ault

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